The Weekend Warrior: Grown Ups 2 & Pacific Rim

At this point, having gotten past the 4th of July weekend with only a few casualties–namely Johnny Depp’s box office reputation–we’re moving into the second half of the summer box office where there are a few more chances for hits, though we’re also just weeks away from August when the box office takes a noticeable downturn leading into the slower fall months.

But let’s look at the bright side of things and with the summer in full swing and moviegoers ready to pay good money to get out of the sweltering heat, we have two new movies, one from a true auteur of the craft of filmmaking bringing together some of the biggest monsters and biggest robots in epic clashes in cities around the world, a movie by an Oscar-caliber filmmaker, a true visionary, that monster movie fans have been anticipating since it was first announced …

… and then there’s Grown Ups 2.

Not that either one of them matters too much since we fully expect the animated hit Despicable Me 2 to be #1 for the second week running.

Grown Ups 2 (Sony)
Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello, Nick Swardson
Directed by Dennis Dugan (Grown Ups, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan , Jack and Jill, Just Go With It); Written by Fred Wolf, Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy
Genre: Comedy
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Just because they’re a little older doesn’t mean they’ve grown up”

Ah, yes. It’s the summer and so we’re getting sequels, lots of sequels, some of them more wanted than others, although Grown Ups 2 falls into an interesting category where it’s the sequel to a hugely successful comedy THAT NO ONE WILL ADMIT THAT THEY LIKED!!! Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of the movie at all and you’d probably find it hard finding someone who saw the movie and liked it enough for another one… and yet, it’s probably going to do huge business this weekend anyway.

Let’s face it. It was a really smart move for Sandler to create a comedy that surrounded himself with friends like Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade, creating an Avengers-like Sandler-verse movie where people who liked that sort of comedy could see all their favorite comedians together in one movie together. It opened to $40.5 million in late June 2010 against no less than Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in Knight and Day, and it went on to gross $162 million domestic and $272 million worldwide. That’s up there with two of Sandler’s biggest hits, The Waterboy and Big Daddy in terms of domestic box office although those would probably be higher with inflation taking into account they were released in the late ‘90s.

Three years after Grown Ups and things are different for Sandler as his star seems to be on the descent with a number of out and out bombs since Grown Ups. The comedy Jack and Jill opened with $25 million before winding up with $74 million total and then last year’s That’s My Boy, which teamed Sandler with his “Saturday Night Live replacement” Andy Samberg, opened with a pitiful $13.4 million before ending up with $36.9 million total. That’s a far cry from the reliable $35 to 40 million openings that Sandler used to deliver, which may be a little worrying for Sony that their cash cow may be drying up. Then again, Sandler also had a huge hit with the animated Hotel Transylvania, which opened to the tune of $42.5 million and grossed $148 million domestic and nearly $350 million worldwide, showing that he’s finding a new audience of kids. The sad reality for society is that most people probably won’t remember those awful movies Sandler made over the past few years and will only remember how much they laughed at the first Grown Ups… and honestly, I wish I was able to slap those people upside the head right now…but no, that wouldn’t be nice because Grown Ups fans have rights, too, even if I don’t personally know any.

That be as it may, Grown Ups was an interesting case because it was a solid PG-13 movie meant for teen and older men-children but there were aspects of the marketing that made it look like it could be a family film—maybe because it had kids making comments like “I want to get chocolate wasted” and having a scene of the guys peeing in a pool. I mean, we’re not talking about MENSA level comedy here. It’s Adam Sandler.

Even so, the key to why a comedy like this works is that it does offer a lot of variety in terms of humor for a very large audience. Sandler has his audience of somewhat dedicated fans (see above), while Kevin James has a somewhat different audience due to his popular show “The King of Queens,” possibly appealing to more women. Chris Rock has built up quite an audience for himself with his stand-up specials and David Spade? Well, he’s just happy to be included, unlike Rob Schneider who couldn’t make the sequel and is replaced by Sandler’s “new best friend” Nick Swardson. Somehow they also convinced Oscar-worthy actresses like Salma Hayek and Maria Bello to come back and take part in their shenanigans so clearly Sandler’s pockets are still quite deep and full of money to “name any price” and fill the cast with more respectable supporting women.

Anyway, I’ll stop grumbling about having to write about another Grown Ups movie because no matter what I say, the same Americans who went to the first movie will probably go to this sequel. Because Sandler and company’s audience hasn’t really grown (or grown up) too much since the last movie, we probably can expect to see an opening around the same general area and probably less legs because there is no way this sequel can possibly be as good as the original movie…. And that movie was AWFUL!

Weekend Est.: $40 to 45 million opening; Est. Total Gross: $115 million

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures/WB)
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Clifton Collins, Jr., Burn Gorman, Larry Joe Campbell, Brad William Henke, Diego Klattenhoff
Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Blade 2 ,The Devil’s Backbone); Written by Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Giant Monsters Fighting Giant Robots (which should be a new genre that we see more movies in)
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Go Big or Go Extinct”

Mini-Review: As literally my #1 most anticipated movie of 2013, it’s really hard not to go into Guillermo del Toro’s first movie in five years without tremendously high expectations that could never possibly be met. Surprisingly, his monsters vs. robots action movie ends up delivering on so many more levels than just the simplest of primal entertainment promised.

The first ten minutes are used to introduce the concept of the Breach, a dimensional portal in the Pacific Ocean that’s been emitting giant creatures or “kaiju” that create wanton destruction on coastline cities. To fight back against the monsters, the affected countries band together to create giant robots or “jaegers” piloted by two pilots interlinked via a neural process known as “The Drift.” This allows the two pilots to act as one in controlling the giant robots in battles against the seemingly unstoppable monsters.

Twelve years into the battle, things are getting tougher as the kaiju are getting bigger and more frequent, creating real high stakes as the governments are planning to stop the Jaeger program in favor of building giant coastal walls to stop the monsters.

Most of the story focuses on the journey of Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket, a pilot who lost his brother in a particularly vicious kaiju battle that destroyed their Jaeger, Gypsy Danger. Five years later, Raleigh is working a menial construction job when he’s pulled back into the battle by Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, as they plan to make one last effort to destroy the Breach. Hunnam is fine in a fairly generic hero role, but we were more impressed by “Babel” star Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, a young Japanese woman who lost her family in a kaiju attack and wants nothing more than to get revenge by piloting a Jaeger into battle. While it’s no surprise Kikuchi can handle the dramatic moments, she also does decently in the action sequences.

Even so, it’s Charlie Day who tends to steal the movie as one of two scientists trying to find a way to beat the kaiju by linking a human brain to a kaiju’s so they can learn more about how to destroy the Breach. Ron Perlman is a little over the top as Hannibal Chau, an underground crimelord dealing in kaiju organs, but it does make for another great Ron Perlman character, and he has great scenes with Day that bring out the type of humor that makes movies like this more memorable.

What’s good is that the human characters aren’t just considered fodder and they all have solid backstories that are slowly revealed, not through long-winded exposition, but using other clever means like their time spent in “The Drift.”

But you’re not going to see “Pacific Rim” for the humans, you’re going to see it to watch giant robots fight giant monsters and thanks to the expert craftsmanship of Industrial Light & Magic, they do not disappoint. The kaiju have real weight and personalities, transcending the fact that much of the battles are 100% CG. It’s sometimes hard to tell what’s going on in the fights as it cuts to the pilots inside the Jaegers, but those battle really are quite fantastic and you’ll definitely find yourself cheering certain moments.

The design of every aspect of the movie and the attention to detail is on par with everything Del Toro has done previously, but having so much of it established early and then sticking to those “rules” really helps to make all of the fantastical elements more believe.

“Pacific Rim” shows how a fairly simple concept and plot can be transformed by a master storyteller and filmmaker into something that’s almost literally one of the most entertaining and fun movies of the summer. Rating: 8.5/10

If the summer is all about sequels and remakes and rehashing old ideas, every once in a while, summer also offers some new ideas and this has been a great one where movies like This is the End and Now You See Me overperformed because they offered something different. With that in mind, here comes the first movie from director Guillermo del Toro in five years, his last movie being the 2008 sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army. That opened with $34.5 million, about $11 million more than the original movie, but it also had a little movie called The Dark Knight opening a week later, which cut off its legs so it only grossed $76 million.

Del Toro’s latest venture is a big move for him, because unlike the “Hellboy” movies, which were based on a popular comic book series by Mike Mignola, Pacific Rim falls somewhere between the bigger studio franchise movies Del Toro directed and his original Spanish language movies, although this is a much bigger budget movie than anything he’s done before.

Del Toro has assembled a really interesting and unconventional cast for the film starting with popular actor Idris Elba of BBC’s “Luther” who has appeared in many comic book and genre movies over the years. He co-starred as part of the ensemble in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus last summer and played Heimdall in Thor. He also had key roles in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and The Losers. The movie’s bonafide lead though is British actor Charlie Hunnam, whose starring role on the FX biker show “Sons of Anarchy” has gained him a lot of fans, and he’s joined by another guy named Charlie from a popular FX show, that being Charlie Day of the comedy show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Day’s generally been doing more impressive translating his TV success into a movie career, having starred in the hit Horrible Bosses and having recently provided the voice of Art for Disney•Pixar’s Monsters University. The other main role is played by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, who broke out into the international awareness with her Oscar nomination for Babel back in 2006, although she’s mostly been doing smaller Asian films in recent years. Oh yeah and Hellboy himself Ron Perlman also has a role in Del Toro’s new movie which probably surprises no one, least of all Perlman himself.

The fact is that few of these actors would bring in an audience on their own, which is probably why more of the focus is being put on the big budget FX done by Industrial Light & Magic to create the monsters and the movie’s epic battles. While Pacific Rim hasn’t quite achieved the “event movie” status it needs to really explode this weekend, it certainly has done a good job marketing itself as the cool movie to see this weekend, which should help it get some teen and older guys away from Grown Ups 2.

So far, comparisons have been made, both favorably and not, to Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, because essentially that’s what moviegoers do these days to justify whether or not to see a movie. That comparison also may be since there haven’t been many giant monster movies in recent years, practically none, except maybe the Korean import The Host and going back way further, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla, which most monster movie fans would probably like to forget. (And in fact, Godzilla is already being rebooted for the summer of 2014 by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. so they’ll be very anxious to see how Pacific Rim does as a lead-up.)

The buzz for the movie has been greatly hyped up by the online entertainment community over the past year, firstly because it’s GdT’s first movie in a long time, but also because as mentioned above, we haven’t seen a big monster movie in a very long time. In some ways, Pacific Rim is in the same boat as Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 movie District 9 where it doesn’t have any stars but it has such a cool premise so that average moviegoers will give it a look based on the marketing and word-of-mouth, assuming the reviews are positive.

In fact, one of the bigger hurdles facing Pacific Rim may be its title, because it says very little about the movie, which means it’s relying on people having seen commercials or generally being aware of the movie before showing up at theaters. Fortunately, the marketing has been strong enough especially in recent weeks that we don’t think that will be a problem.

While it doesn’t have the advantage of Hellboy II in terms of being a sequel to a movie that probably found a large audience on DVD and cable, Guillermo del Toro’s name will go a long way to getting movie lovers into theaters, combined with the fact that there’s few other options for fans of big action spectacles with Man of Steel and World War Z both having been out for a month. While we don’t think Pacific Rim will open huge in North America, we think that an opening weekend in the mid-$30 millions (probably frontloaded to Thursday/Friday) is possible, so that’s what we’re going with.

Weekend Est.: $34 to 37 million; Est. Total Gross: $105 million

This weekend last year was the first of two weekends in a row with only one new movie and somehow Blue Sky Studios got a weekend alone for the fourth installment of their hit animated series Ice Age: Continental Drift (20th Century Fox). Although earlier installments had all come close to $200 million in terms of grosses, the fourth movie opened weak with a disappointing $46.6 million and ended up grossing $161 million, the least of the four movies. The Amazing Spider-Man dropped a reasonable 44% to take second place with $34.6 million followed by Ted with $22.4 million with the Top 10 amounting to $150 million. That amount should be easily attainable if Despicable Me 2 holds as well as we think it will and the other two movies gross more than $50 million between them.

This Week’s UPDATED Predictions -

1. Despicable Me 2 (Universal) – $47 million -43%

2. Grown Ups 2 (Sony) – $44.5 million N/A (up 1 million)

3. Pacific Rim (Legendary/WB) – $39.0 million N/A (up 3.2 million)

4. The Heat (20th Century Fox) – $16.0 million -36%

5. The Lone Ranger (Walt Disney Pictures) – $14.5 million -51%

6. Monsters University (Disney•Pixar) – $12.0 million -39%

7. World War Z (Paramount) – $11 million -39%

8. White House Down (Sony) – $7.5 million -46%

9. Man of Steel (Warner Bros.) – $5.8 million -45% (down .7 million)

10. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (Summit) – $5.3 million -48%

Mads Mikkelsen from NBC’s hit show “Hannibal” stars in this week’s CHOSEN ONE The Hunt (Magnolia), which I first reviewed out of the Toronto International Film Festival. I’ve found even further admiration for it on second viewing, mainly for Mikkelsen’s performance as a schoolteacher accused by one of his wards, the daughter of a friend, of wrongdoing. It’s another incredibly strong drama, this one from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, who was one of the original Dogme filmmakers with his movie The Celebration, and this is easily his best movie since then.

We first meet Mikkelsen’s Lucas while he’s with his cadre of friends having fun at a lake before seeing him at his job as a kindergarten teacher where he’s generally loved by the kids including a little girl named Klara, the daughter of a neighboring friend who is having problems at home. She gravitates towards Lucas, but when it becomes obvious her affections will not be returned, she lies to a teacher, saying that Lucas did something horrifying in her presence. Clearly, a little girl wouldn’t lie about something like that, and Lucas is immediately assumed to have done the worst.

Klara is a troubled girl who may have serious abuse problems at home, but The Hunt doesn’t really get into that as it follows Lucas’ confused journey as he tries to figure out which of the kids would say something about him and why, while his life slowly unravels. It’s actually hard to watch at times since we the viewer think we know that he hasn’t done anything wrong and Klara’s lie and its repercussions basically ruins many of Lucas’ relationships.

Up until recently, Mikkelsen generally has gotten more interesting roles in his native Denmark than in Hollywood movies, everything from the “Pusher” trilogy to last year’s A Royal Affair, and he’s absolutely amazing here. If you remember how great Jackie Earle Haley was dealing with similarly difficult material in Todd Field’s Little Children, then you get some idea of the power of Mikkelsen’s performance as he plays a proud man facing adversity who stands up for what he believes to be true.

It’s definitely not going to be a movie for everyone since parents with kids may be too creeped out by the realities of actual pedophiles and their kids’ safety to watch a movie that puts the innocence of one man under fire, but it makes for solid drama.

Vinterberg has done a bunch of English language movies in recent years that didn’t quite hit the mark, but The Hunt is really a solid drama up there with some of his peers like Susanne Bier and Lone Scherfig. During the second half, it turns into a “Straw Dogs”-like thriller as the entire community turns against Lucas and he can’t even walk into the supermarket without being attacked. Don’t believe us? Check out an exclusive clip of just that by clicking here.

Unlike some Danish (and many other foreign) films, the movie has a much stronger resolution rather than leaving things open-ended although there’s definitely a lot of questions left unanswered in terms of Klara’s home life and whether anything really did happen between her and Lucas.

The Hunt opens in New York and Los Angeles and other cities in the weeks after that. You can see when it plays near you on Magnolia’s site.

Magnolia is also releasing the second installment of the found footage horror anthology V/H/S/2 (Magnolia), this time with four segments and a framing sequence, the latter by Simon Barrett, writer of the upcoming You’re Next, in which a private detective goes looking for a missing student and finds him in an abandoned house full of VHS tapes. On those VHS tapes are four found footage shots including one by Barrett’s filmmaking partner Adam Wingard, who directs and stars in “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” about a guy testing out a mechanical eye that has him seeing all sorts of crazy things. The Blair Witch Project director Edúardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale team for a zombie apocalypse sequence, but easily the best of the bunch is Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans’ “Safe Haven,” an incredibly sick and twisted look at a filmmaking crew visiting a cult that’s close to achieving its leader’s greatest goal. The last segment from Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisener is the self-explanatory Slumber Party Alien Abductions. It opens in select cities on Friday following its VOD run.

Michael Cera stars in Crystal Fairy (Sundance Selects), the new movie from Sebastian Silva (The Maid), in which he plays Jaime, a self-centered American visiting Chile who goes on a road trip with three Chilean brothers (played by Silva’s brothers) to find a San Pedro cactus with hallucinogenic properties, joined by a mysterious free spirited woman named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman). It opens at the IFC Center on Friday. The movie was made as a sort of interim project while Silva and Cera were trying to get money together for another project called Magic Magic and you can kind of tell by the fairly haphazard way it was put together compared to some of Silva’s other work. It’s not a great role for Cera as Jaime is only slightly less arrogant and beligerent as playing himself in Seth Rogen’s This is the End, though Gaby Hoffman’s performance as the free-spirited Crystal Fairy is definitely one of the film’s high points. In general, the story never really seems to go anywhere.

Desperately Seeking Susan director Susan Seidelman returns with The Hot Flashes (Vertical Entertainment) starring Brooke Shields, Wanda Sykes, Virginia Madsen, Daryl Hannah and Camryn Manheim as a group of middle-aged women who try to raise money for breast cancer by taking on the girls’ state championship basketball team. Also starring Eric Roberts, it opens in select cities Friday.

And as usual, the movies that for some reason I didn’t get a chance to see or weren’t screened for me:

The toast of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury prize as well as the Audience Award, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company) stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old from San Francisco who gets a headstart on his resolutions for the following year on December 31, 2008, unaware that he’ll be shot in cold blood by BART police officers at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day. Also starring Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz, it opens in select cities this weekend and will probably get a wider expansion sometime down the road.

Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider, Daredevil) directs the thriller Killing Season (Millennium Entertainment), starring Robert De Niro and John Travolta as survivors of the Bosnian War, one American, one Serbian, who reunite in the Appalachian mountains where they resume the war in private.

South African director Wayne Kramer (The Cooler, Running Scared) returns with Pawn Shop Chronicles (Anchor Bay Films), an ensemble action comedy starring Brendan Fraser, Elijah Wood, Vincent D’Onofrio, Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Norman Reedus, Thomas Jane and Lukas Haas in three stories centered around a small town Southern pawn shop involving desperate characters.

Argentine filmmaker Matías Piñeiro’s Viola (Cinema Guild) remakes Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” in present day Buenos Aires and that’s pretty much all we know about that one.

Next week, we have a crazy four-movie weekend which is something that hasn’t happened in a long time and the choices are an animated action adventure like Turbo (DreamWorks Animation/Fox), featuring the voice of Ryan Reynolds, James (Insidious) Wan’s new horror film The Conjuring (New Line/WB), the Bruce Willis action sequel RED 2 (Summit) co-starring Mary-Louise Parker or the zombie comedy R.I.P.D. (Universal) starring Jeff Bridges.. And Ryan Reynolds… and Mary-Louise Parker.


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

From Around the Web

monitoring_string = "df292225381015080a5c6c04a6e2c2dc"