The Weekend Warrior: After Earth & Now You See Me

It’s the last weekend of May and for whatever reason, someone thought it would be funny/ironic/weird/strange to have two movies by directors who repeatedly get a bad wrap from the fanboys open against each other, so that’s why in this corner we have M. Night Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender, The Happening) taking on Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans, The Incredible Hulk), although really this is going to be about whether one star (Will Smith) can take on an ensemble cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson and others. I have a feeling we already know the winner in this match-up, but it’s a slower weekend regardless compared to Memorial Day, and both movies will have to face much more high profile summer blockbusters.

After Earth (Sony)
Starring Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Some Other People Not Named Smith
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Last Airbender); Written by Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Science Fiction
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Danger is Real, Fear is a Choice” (but I was hoping it would be “In space, nobody can hear your movie was directed by M. Night Shyamalan”)

Since it’s the summer, it only makes sense that the bad boy of summer, Will Smith, is back with a new movie, although After Earth is very different from most of what he’s done in the past (except maybe I Am Legend) and it’s really more a showcase for his son Jaden whose work in The Karate Kid gave Smith the idea for the movie… which let’s face it, is just a little reminiscent of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, which has an actual adaptation coming out later this year.

Back in 2006, Jaden made his big screen acting debut opposite his dad Will in the drama The Pursuit of Happyness and apparently it’s taken seven years for them to work out the contracts to work together again, but they’re back and homeless again but this time they’re homeless in space as the premise for this futuristic action flick is set on Earth 1,000 years after the end of humanity. As mentioned above, Jaden starred in the remake of The Karate Kid back in the summer of 2010 and it was a huge hit for Sony, opening with a whopping $55 million and going on to make $176 million proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to star power. Sony is hoping that pairing father and son will add to the potential for After Earth, although coming so soon after Tom Cruise’s Oblivion might make some think they’ve already seen this movie before.

Smith got Book of Eli writer Garry Whitta to write up a script and at that point, he could have worked with any director he wanted on this project and he chose M. Night Shyamalan, who already had a knack for working with child actors such as Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense and Noah Ringer in The Last Airbender.

Possibly the strangest thing surrounding the movie is how hard Sony has been trying to hide that it’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan. This seems kind of odd when you take a look at Shyamalan’s track record at the box office. It’s been three years since Shyamalan’s last movie, an adaptation of the popular cartoon The Last Airbender, which did decently at the box office, grossing $131.7 million, but was so poorly received by the fans. Then there were the famous stories of the trailer for the Shyamalan-produced and presented Devil being shown in Hall H at Comic-Con and the entire place cracking up when his name appeared on the screen. Suddenly, “The Night Chronicles” was removed and the film’s distributor Rogue tried to distance itself from Shyamalan.

So yeah, it’s probably a wise move for Sony to not put too much behind marketing the movie as a Shyamalan joint even though he is a name director and for every guffawing fanboy who has turned against him, there are a probably a lot of Signs and The Sixth Sense fans who might go see the movie based on his involvement. In our opinion, that’s lost business. Even though this isn’t a PG movie, one would assume it will appeal to boys from age 8 to 14 or 15 since it’s a young boy’s adventure and bringing in a younger audience could definitely help it over more adult-oriented competition.

The biggest issue is that this character isn’t the smiling wise-cracking Will Smith and he probably has a smaller role in the movie than the trailers and commercials are letting on. That’s not going to make people happy if they’re going to see the movie just for him. Either way, having Will Smith behind the movie and a lot of “Avatar”-ripoff CG will probably be enough for the movie to bring in audiences this weekend, probably a solid number as well. Friday’s going to be a close race between this and last week’s hit Fast & Furious 6, but I expect that one to end up picking up business over the weekend and taking the #1 spot. I expect it to have a big drop in its second weekend if it doesn’t live up to the commercials and trailers.

Weekend Est.: $33 to 37 million; Est. Total Gross: $90 million

Now You See Me (Summit)
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Common, Melanie Laurent, Dave Franco
Directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans); Written by Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Ed Solomon
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “The closer you look, the less you’ll see”

Interview with Louis Leterrier

7/10 Review (Coming Soon!)

We’ve talked a bit about the abundance of magic, magicians, witches and witchcraft in 2013 so far, and while the Steve Carell comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was one of the biggest duds of the year, we have much higher hopes for this new action heist thriller based around a group of magicians called The Four Horsemen who use their magical act to commit bank robberies before distributing the money to the audience members.

This is the new movie from Louis Leterrier, who started out in the Luc Besson camp with movies like the first two “Transporter” films and Jet Li’s Unleashed before moving onto bigger tentpole franchises like The Incredible Hulk and the remake of Clash of the Titans.

This is a smaller movie from him which harks back to movies like Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 and its sequel, and he’s assembled an incredible cast for it, led by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo and Dave Franco, but the real coup had to be getting Morgan Freeman–who Leterrier worked with on Jet Li’s Unleashed–and Michael Caine, Bruce Wayne’s support team from the “Dark Knight” movies.

Eisenberg and Harrelson previously appeared together in the zombie comedy Zombieland, a similarly lower budget movie that grossed $76 million back in October 2009, and fans of that movie will probably be excited to see them reunited even though they’re in different roles. That was a big movie for Eisenberg but even bigger was when he starred as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher’s The Social Network, which opened with $22.4 million nearly a year later and went on to gross almost $100 million while getting numerous Oscar nominations including one for Eisenberg. The following year, Eisenberg provided his voice for 20th Century Fox’s animated hit Rio, but his reunion with Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer for the action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less, didn’t fare as well as some hoped.

Harrelson probably has a bit more of a draw especially with older moviegoers, and Morgan Freeman has already proven multiple times he can bring audiences in due to his contribution to the box office for Olympus Has Fallen. Wisely, Summit has been prominently featuring Freeman in one of their campaigns, and he and much of the rest of the cast have been doing the talk show rounds to get the word out…something that Will Smith won’t necessarily do. We also should mention super-sexy Isla Fisher and Melanie Laurent who give the movie some much needed strong female presence which tends to be lacking in the summer.

The good news is that having a premise based around magicians could help the movie appeal more to women, who are desperately underserved right now, which means they can give it a nice bump and if they like it, they’ll tell their friends allowing the movie to have legs. Either way, it’s a tough weekend for this to open, having to take on the second week of two sequels as well as a new Will Smith movie, and it’s probably going to open on the weaker side and then find its audience in the coming weeks. For whatever reason, Summit is advertising 7pm screenings on Thursday night, maybe hoping some people will see it early and generate word-of-mouth for the weekend.

Weekend Est.: $20 to 22 million; Est. Total Gross: $70 million.

This weekend last year, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth faced off against Charlize Theron’s Evil Queen in Rupert Sanders’ fairy tale reinvention Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal) which opened big with $56.2 million in 3,772 theaters, putting it among their Top 11 biggest opening movies. All the way at the bottom of the Top 10, the Mexican historical film For Greater Glory (ARC Entertainment) opened nationwide in 757 theaters but only brought in $1.9 million or $2,500 per theater. The Top 10 grossed $132 million and while the two new movies may not make as much as Snow White and the Huntsman combined.

This Week’s Predictions -

1. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) – $41.8 million -57%

2. After Earth (Sony) – $36.3 million N/A

3. Now You See Me (Summit) – $21.5 million N/A

4. Epic (20th Century Fox) – $20.3 million

5. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) – $18.6 million -50%

6. The Hangover Part III (Warner Bros.) – $16 million -62%

7. Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $10.6 million -45%

8. The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.) – $7.3 million -46%

(Everything else in the Top 10 will make less than a million.)

This week’s CHOSEN ONE is James Marsh’s Shadow Dancer (Magnolia), a movie that I first saw at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, and it’s a film that’s even more timely now following the Boston Marathon bombings although it deals with a very different conflict, the one that had the people of Northern Ireland and Britain living in fear throughout the early ‘90s.

The film opens in Belfast, Northern Ireland where a girl sits quietly working on some jewelry before the body of her brother is brought in having been shot by the police. This is the young Collette McVeigh and decades later we’ll see her riding in a subway in London, acting suspiciously as she drops her handbag and ducks into the tunnels. She’s caught and brought before Clive Owen’s “Mac” an agent assigned to infiltrating the IRA, and he releases her under the condition that she’ll act as a mole to help put a stop to the bombings. By doing this, Collette puts her life in danger, knowing how the IRA treats those who betray them.

On returning to Belfast, Collette is dragged from one bad situation to another by her brother and his friends as she tries to sneak around her family while feeding info to Mac. Mac’s also caught in a tough place since his agency are doing things behind his back that put Collette’s life and those around her in danger.

This creates for a really strong and tense thriller especially as those around Collette start to think there’s a mole, yet the film is quieter and more subdued than you might expect. While it never feels the need to throw in needless action, it doesn’t shy away from it either. It also makes the film an interesting counterpoint to Steve McQueen’s Hunger, which took a look at the IRA’s struggles through the hunger strike by Bobby Sands that eventually killed him.

As I stated in my Sundance write-up, “Riseborough is just riveting to watch” and that’s still true on a second viewing. The best scenes are the ones between Owen and Riseborough and surprisingly, they’re not in the same room/scene together as much as you might think since a lot of it follows Collette trying to sneak around her brothers to get Mac information. Some of the subsidiary performances aren’t as strong but Marsh definitely has the right cast for this.

Most people are used to Marsh making great documentaries like the Oscar-winning Man on Wire and Project NIM while his narrative work hasn’t quite been up to par, but this is clearly Marsh’s best narrative work to date and Andrea Riseborough gives the type of performance that defines a career but will sadly go unrecognized at year’s end due to the low-key release, just like Mike Fassbender in the aforementioned Hunger. But this is just a powerful and effective film that really gets across the tense situation in Northern Ireland in a way unlike any other movie except maybe Paul Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday.

Shadow Dancer has been playing on VOD but will open theatrically in New York at the Landmark Sunshine and in Santa Monica. You can read the full list of theaters here and we definitely recommend seeing it on the big screen to really get the full effect of the landscape.

Video Interview with James Marsh from Sundance

Interviews with Andrea Riseborough & Clive Owen (Coming Soon!)

One of the big buzz movies out of Sundance this year was Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ The Kings of Summer (CBS Films), but for the life of me, I have no idea why. It stars newcomer Nick Robinson as Joe Toy, a young man who gets fed-up with his relationship with his widowed father (played by Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation”) so he and his friends Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the eccentric Biaggio (Moises Arias) run away to the woods where they build their own house. It also stars Alison Brie from “Community” as Joe’s sister. I’d love to tell you what an overrated piece of Sundance crap this is but my review was quelched by CBS Films, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. In the words of the great Public Enemy, don’t believe the hype.

Another on the growing list of movies I’ve been dying to see all year but haven’t had a chance is Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling’s The East (Fox Searchlight), their follow-up to the excellent Sound of My Voice, in which Marling plays a former FBI agent who starts a new job at an elite private intelligence firm and is sent deep undercover to infiltrate an anarchist collective known as The East, which includes Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell and Shiloh Fernandez. Patricia Clarkson plays Marling’s handler and boss. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Next week, the month of June kicks off with two very different movies, the Wedding Crashers reunion of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson for The Internship (20th Century Fox) and Ethan Hawke continues his horror run following Sinister with The Purge (Universal).


You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas

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