The Weekend Warrior: RoboCop, About Last Night, Endless Love, Winter’s Tale

Friday is Valentine’s Day and it’s also the start of the second four-day holiday weekend of the year, this time celebrating President’s Day, which in the past has been a pretty strong weekend for the box office, first because couples will go see any of their choices of romantic movies on Valentine’s Day but then school is out on Monday so movies for kids will thrive as well. What’s odd about this weekend is that we have not one, not two, but three remakes…or at least movies with the same title/premise of movies that were released in the ’80s… as well as an adaptation of a book also from the ’80s.

That’s right, it’s Retro Week here at the Weekend Warrior where all sense of originality and uniqueness gets thrown out the window as we revisit the era moviegoers under 24 have never experienced, so maybe all of this will be new to them.

Opening early on Wednesday is Sony and MGM’s reworking of the Paul Verhoeven 1987 sci-fi action classic RoboCop, starring Joel Kinnaman from AMC’s “The Killing” as the title character and a great supporting cast that includes Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, James Earl Haley and the ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha (Elite Squad), the movie hopes to capture the exciting action-adventure of the original but putting an even more modern spin on it by inserting politics and how the news media puts a spin on it.

The original RoboCop, starring Peter Weller, was a relatively big hit for its time, grossing $53.4 million in the same year as Predator–it opened a month later—and while that amount might not seem like much it fared decent for the year, it went on to be a popular movie on VHS and eventually DVD and cable, so one imagines that many moviegoers under 40 have had a chance to see it, or at least know about the character from comics, etc.

There’s little question that “RoboCop” is still a great title for a movie, offering a certain namebrand value from the previous movie but also being fairly self-explanatory, which will help make it a first choice for most guys of a certain age, both those who saw the original and younger males. Having a name brand value didn’t help another Verhoeven remake as Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell, which opened with just $25.6 million in a prime August slot a few years back, grossing only $59 million domestically (but another $140 million overseas to cover its budget). Having a known name also didn’t help last year’s remake of Carrie, which opened even weaker with $16 million on its way to $35.2 million. Obviously these are telling signs that remakes just aren’t very popular these days.

On top of that, Kinnaman is not particularly well known, having starred in the Swedish crime-thriller Snabba Cash, which ironically has a sequel called Easy Money: Hard to Kill, released this week (see below). Peter Weller wasn’t that known at the time and this movie’s really being sold on the concept/premise and action more than anything.

There were some concerns about the movie when people started seeing leaks of what RoboCop would look like and there is that growing backlash to remakes, especially of a movie that has become such a popular hit in the decades since its release. Sony really turned the marketing around on this one, especially with the most recent trailer, though again, anyone who is going to see this already has their mind set, and the question is whether they’ll rush out to see it or wait till the weekend.

Originally RoboCop was supposed to come out last summer, but for whatever reason, it was delayed to February while Sony was having one of their worst summers ever. The Wednesday opening is a little mystifying, but the movie was moved back to make room for Clooney’s The Monuments Men. Its just hard to determine whether the guys who really want to see the movie will rush out to see it or even will know it’s playing Wednesday. People are still working and going to school and there is a long weekend coming up so Wednesday and Thursday probably won’t matter much in this case. I can see it bringing in $33 to 38 million in its first six days, including the holiday Monday, but with somewhat mixed reviews, it may be hard for it to make over $100 million total since it seems like a movie that will get anyone who wants to see it in that first week, rather than them waiting or seeing it over and over.

Kevin Hart returns for his third movie in as many months, playing the best friend to Michael Ealy in the remake of the 1986 comedy About Last Night (Screen Gems/Sony), starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore and James Belushi, and of all the remakes this weekend, this one probably has the most potential, not just due to Hart’s presence but just the fact that it has a romantic angle that will target an audience who’ll have no interest in the other two romantic films.

Admittedly, I don’t remember having seen the original movie but like Neil Labute’s Death at a Funeral remake , this is another attempt to take a premise from the ’80s and create a new version with an all-black cast – something that Tyler Perry might want to try ’cause most of his original ideas for his movies aren’t very good. Basically, the movie follows two couples from when they first meet at a bar to the bedroom and trying to have relationships, and while Hart is definitely going to be used to sell the movie, the three main actresses—Regina Hall, Joy Bryant and Paula Patton–are all vets of these kinds of movies so the women who want their husbands and boyfriends to take them to something romantic will already be on board.

One of the “secret weapons” behind this movie is none other than producer William “Power” Packer, who has already proven his track record at the box office with the recent hit Ride Along, the Steve Harvey movie Think Like a Man, dance movies like Stomp the Yard, the holiday hit This Christmas and the thriller Obsessed. Honestly, I don’t know how Packer does it, but he just seems to have the magic touch for making movies that black audiences want to see. With that in mind, About Last Night should be a first choice among African-American couple on Valentine’s Day giving it a nice boost for the weekend despite it opening in the fewest theaters since its business will be pretty well focused in big urban cities.

Now we get into dicier and more unpredictable waters. The third remake of the weekend is based loosely on Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 teenage romantic drama Endless Love (Universal), which starred Brooke Shields. It’s somewhat more mystifying as far as a remake since the only reason it’s getting released this weekend is that Universal hopes the title will bring in younger couples. Like above, I personally don’t remember the original but this one stars Gabriella Wilde (who appeared in the aforementioned Carrie remake) and Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike) and it’s a pretty straight-ahead teen romantic drama about a rich girl being chased by a guy her parents don’t approve of.

This is an odd movie to gauge because it doesn’t seem particularly original or interesting but when Valentine’s Day hits, all common sense goes out the window and all bets are off. It probably doesn’t have the same sort of remake stigmas as RoboCop though the original did decently for what it was, but most of this movie’s audience, which will be teen and slightly older females and their dates, will probably not even realize that this is a remake or have seen or heard of the original. The question is whether any of them will care or whether the obvious title will just instinctually get the young lovers into theaters?

Before we get too into that, we have another movie out this week, as Colin Farrell, Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe star in Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut, an adaptation of Mark Helprin’s 1983 fantasy-romance novel Winter’s Tale (Warner Bros.), which is also hoping to play on those genres in order to make it a Valentine’s Day date choice on Friday and over the weekend. I have to be honest that I know next to nothing about the book and very little about the movie but the description we have is that it’s “Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century and that it’s a story of miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil.”

Winter’s Tale is also somewhat of reunion for Ron Howard’s drama A Beautiful Mind, which Goldsman wrote and it starred Crowe and Connelly, and back in 2001, both Goldsman and Connelly won Oscars for writing the movie and her supporting role, respectively. Unfortunately, neither Colin Farrell nor Russell Crowe are the box office draws that they used to be. Crowe’s last two hits were 2013′s Man of Steel and 2012′s Les Miserables, which were more ensemble pieces and a box office phenomenons, and before that he had hits with Robin Hood and American Gangster, which both could be attributed to the properties, his long-time collaborator Ridley Scott or his co-star Denzel Washington. Farrell recently appeared in the Disney hit Saving Mr. Banks (not that you’d know it from the advertising which focused on Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson) and though his Total Recall remake flopped, he had a pivotal role in the comedy hit Horrible Bosses.

The real question for the last two movies is how audiences will be split between them, with this one presumably going for the older moviegoers, but one also wonders how much business these movies might do on Valentine’s Day or Saturday night date night vs. the rest of the weekend. Winter’s Tale probably can spread its business out if word-of-mouth is any good while Endless Love probably won’t do much after the holiday weekend. (The lack of reviews for any of the movies besides RoboCop is not a good sign though.)

That all said, Winter’s Tale seems like the weak link of the weekend, because it just doesn’t seem very interesting and it’s opening against much stronger new and returning movies. It should still bring in some money on Friday and maybe be helped by the holiday weekend to at last bring in $10 to 11 million but not much more. Expect Endless Love to do closer to $14 or 15 million but both of them end up in the $35 million range when all’s said and done.

Not that it really matters how any of these new movies will do, because The LEGO Movie is going to destroy everything at the box office once again, especially with no school on Monday. There’s a chance that RoboCop will beat it on Friday and maybe even Wednesday, but Saturday, it will probably double its Friday, then do big business on Sunday and Monday. It could even do as much as we predicted for its opening weekend over its second four-day weekend.

Last year’s Valentine’s and President’s Day combo also saw the release of four movies in wide release, three of them opening on Thursday which was Valentine’s Day. Last year offered just as much variety with the one action movie being balanced out by a family film, a romantic drama (from Nicholas Sparks no less) and a Young Adult adaptation. Apparently, Bruce Willis’ action favorite John McClane had worn out its welcome by the showing of the fifth installment of the “Die Hard” franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century Fox), which topped the four-day weekend but with only $28.6 million, quite a bit lower than the previous installment a few years earlier. Maybe it was just the premise or that it just looked bad (because it was), but that’s a pretty dismal showing for such a popular character. Apparently it did better overseas, so unfortunately we may see Willis drag this character back again for another payday. The Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven (Relativity), starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, took third place behind last week’s winner Identity Thief with $24.5 million over the four-day weekend, although it had its biggest day on Thursday, which was Valentine’s Day on which it brought in $8.8 million (besting “Die Hard’s” $8.2 million opening day.) Opening on Friday, the animated family film Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) took full advantage of school being out on Monday to bring in a surprising $21.1 million over the four-day weekend, while the latest attempted Young Adult novel adaptation Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros.) bombed –but not nearly as badly as Vampire Academy last week–grossing $8.9 million in four days for sixth place. The Top 10 made $143.6 million over the four-day holiday, an amount which should easily be topped with The LEGO Movie playing strong and four more movies opening the marketplace.

This Week’s Updated Predictions -

(Below all are four-day predictions)

(UPDATE: The major update is that it’s getting pretty obvious that the snowstorm that hit the East Coast of America is probably going to at least affect the pre-weekend box office of Robocop in those areas, going by its weak $2.8 million opening which probably will be lower for Thursday. Things might pick up on Friday with the storms having passed but since the movie isn’t getting great reviews or anything, it may already have problems going into the weekend. On the other hand, the romantic comedy remake of About Last Night seems to be gaining strength even with a lot of its audience in the SouthEast in cities like Atlanta being snowed in. But they’ll probably do their best to get out for Valentine’s Day and this will be the first choice of African-American commercials leading to a big Friday and Saturday and possibly enough to surpass Robocop by Monday. The other two romantic films may also do decent business Friday and Saturday but probably not much beyond that.

1. The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros.) – $50.5 million -27% (down 1 million)

2. About Last Night (Sony/Screen Gems) – $24.2 million N/A (up 2.7 and one place)

3. RoboCop (MGM/Sony) – $23.7 million N/A (down $7.3 million!)

4. The Monuments Men (Sony) – $15 million -32% (same)

5. Endless Love (Universal) – $14.8 million N/A (same)

6. Winter’s Tale (Warner Bros.) – $12.4 million N/A (same)

7. Ride Along (Universal) – $6.5 million -33%

8. Frozen (Walt Disney) – $5.8 million -16%

9. Lone Survivor (Universal) – $4.2 million -25% (down .1 million)

10. That Awkward Moment (Focus Features) – $4.0 million -3524%

This Week’s Limited Releases:

Don’t think we’ll have a “CHOSEN ONE” this week…

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

RoboCop star Joel Kinnaman also returns this week as business student JW in the sequel to the Swedish crime-thriller hit Easy Money: Hard to Kill (Cinedigm). Since the last movie, he’s been serving time in prison and trying to get his life back from being a criminal but is finding that it’s harder than he thought. It opens theatrically on Friday then will be available on VOD and ITunes on March 11.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

Manuel Carballo’s The Returned (Level Film) is set in a “post-zombie world” where something called the “Return Protein” can stop the spread of the virus, allowing the “Returned” to live normal lives. And you know what? That’s probably all you need to know about this one.

Also coming out this week is Down and Dangerous (Artis Entertainment) from filmmaker Zak Forsman. It’s a crime-thriller about a smuggler named Paul Boxer (John T. Woods) who eneds up having to smuggle cocaine across the border when he meets a woman who tries to get him out of that life. Like most of the movies this week, it’s out on VOD Friday and getting a nominal theatrical release.

Drama:

French filmmaker and auteur Arnaud Desplechin returns with Jimmy P. (IFC Films)–a movie co-written by the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Kent Jones, oddly enough–and starring Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Amalric. It’s based on George Devereux’s “Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian,” a study of Jimmy Picard, a Blackfoot Indian that fought in WWII and suffered psychological distress.

Comedies

Scott Coffey’s Adult World (IFC Films) stars Emma Roberts as an awkward poet living with her parents in upstate New York and trying to get enough money to move out so she takes a job at the local sex shop, Adult World. At the same time, she finds a mentor in the reclusive Rat Billlings, played by John Cusack. After debuting at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, it gets a limited release on Friday including New York’s IFC Center.

The comedy Date and Switch (Lionsgate), formerly called “Gay Dude,” is a coming-of-age comedy about two high school friends who make a pact to help each other lose their virginity before Senior Prom, which becomes more complicated when one of them comes out of the closet. The supporting cast includes Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”), Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”), Megan Mullaly and Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids).

Jeremy Leven’s romantic comedy Girl on a Bicycle (Monterey Media) involves an Italian tour bus driver trying to propose to his girlfriend Greta when he meets a mysterious “girl on a bicycle” (French model Cécile) who he becomes obsessed with… and then he knocks her off her bicycle with his bus. Okay, then.

Foreign Films of Interest:

This week’s Bollywood offering is Ali Abbas Zafar’s Gunday (Yash Raj Films) following the lives of two boys who become refugees and then gun couriers in Calcutta during the ’70s.

Documentaries of Note:

Yoruba Richen’s The New Black deals with how the African-American community has dealt with the gay rights issue and how legalizing gay marriage has been received. It opens on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum.

Next week, the shorter month of February continues with two new movies, Paul W.S. Anderson’s attempt to recreate history with Pompeii (TriStar/Sony), while French action filmmaker Luc Besson and Charlie’s Angels director McG team with Kevin Costner for Three Days to Kill (Relativity Media.


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 2014 Edward Douglas

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