March, the month with no nationally-recognized holidays except maybe St. Patrick’s Day–which may not even count–continues with two very different movies, each trying to find polar opposite audiences while also trying to get business away from the strong returning movies that opened over the past few weeks.
Back in 2001, Universal Pictures had a breakout summer hit with the street-racing movie The Fast and the Furious, which led to a number of movies trying to rip-off that successful formula. With the continued success of that franchise in recent years, it was only a matter of time before another studio tried to cash in on the success of Universal’s racing movies. Along comes DreamWorks with a movie based loosely on the EA video game franchise Need for Speed (DreamWorks), starring “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger), Imogen Poots, rapper Kid Cudi, Michael Keaton and more, which hopes to bring in the same young male audience that made the “Fast and Furious” franchise so successful.
Need for Speed is interesting because by it’s title alone, it’s a video game movie, but other than the racing, there’s really nothing about it that makes it seem like one. It’s directed by former stuntman Scott Waugh, who co-directed the military action hit Act of Valor a few years back and because of that, most of the interest will be in the action sequences, which are quite impressive. That said, he has a fairly solid cast including Aaron Paul in his first major feature film since the ending of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” last year, and he’s certainly very popular these days because of how popular his character Jesse Pinkman was on that show.
That’s two things going for the movie right there, but the one thing working against it is that it does look a lot like a “Fast and Furious” rip-off and there’s no one in the cast who is enough of a proven draw to bring in anyone specifically for them. DreamWorks has been doing a bunch of promo screenings to try to drive up interest and word-of-mouth and maybe that’ll work, because it’s actually quite an entertaining movie, but it’s hard not to feel that DreamWorks just doesn’t have the full support of distributor Disney these days, especially when they have their own “Muppets” movie to promote for next week.
Either way, Need for Speed should fare decently among young males–in fact, they may be the only ones interested in seeing the movie for its adrenaline-fueled driving stunts–and there should be enough to do somewhere in the mid-$20 millions this weekend though it will be tough for it to get anywhere close to $100 million total, especially with the “300” sequel still in theaters.
Not to break the Weekend Warrior’s ongoing tradition of writing about a new Tyler Perry movie every six months, this week we get Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club (Lionsgate), starring Nia Long, Zulay Henao, Cocoa Brown and token white girls Amy Smart and Wendi McLendon-Covey playing the club of the title, as well as Perry, Terry Crews and a bunch of other guys pursuing them.
As with any other Tyler Perry movie, you have to ask a couple questions: Does Madea appear in the movie and if so, does it have “Madea” in the title? And the second question is whether this is based on one of Tyler Perry’s hit plays. Once you do that, you probably can throw the Tyler Perry rules away ’cause December’s Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas, which one would expect to be a huge hit, only opened with $16 million, his third-lowest opening ever. Maybe it was overshadowed by the recent The Best Man Holiday, but it’s lack of even opening with $20 million shows signs that Perry’s audience might be moving on after horrible movies like Madea’s Witness Protection. (“Madea Christmas” went on to make roughly $52 million, which is more than many of his non-Madea movies, so it could have just been the pre-Christmas opening that hurt it.)
As things go, The Single Moms Club doesn’t have Madea, which may be a good thing, but it’s also not based on one of Perry’s plays. Even so, the good thing going for Perry’s latest is that this has a Waiting to Exhale kind of vibe and it’s opening in a market where there’s practically no direct competition for older women, and mixing it up with a Latino mom and two white actresses is certainly a smart way for Perry to try to branch out from his core African-American female audience. One can probably assume that the biggest audience interested in this will probably be single moms who might form their own clubs to see the movie.
Lionsgate is giving Perry’s latest movie a slightly more moderate release in less than 2,000 theaters, although those theaters will be concentrated in the prime urban locations where his movies play well, so expect a decent per-theater average and an opening somewhere between $15 and 18 million. How well the movie fares after opening will largely be determined by whether the movie itself lives up to the premise ala Why Did I Get Married?
It will be interesting to see if 300: Rise of an Empire is able to well enough in its second weekend to stay on top at #1 or if it has the typical massive drop from its strong opening weekend and settles for second or even third place, but this weekend really is just a transitional one before the opening of Summit’s next big Y.A. adaptation Divergent.
This weekend last year also saw the release of two new movies that tried to knock the Disney blockbuster Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, out of the top spot with no luck whatsoever as it remained #1 with $41.2 million. Of the two new movies, Halle Berry’s thriller The Call (TriStar Pictures/Sony) fared decently with $17.1 million in 2,507 theaters for second place, but the Steve Carell-Jim Carrey magic comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (New Line/WB) tanked with just $10.2 million in over 3,000 theaters for third. The Top 10 grossed just under $93 million and this week’s offerings should surpass that.
This Week’s Predictions –
(Note: No updates this week–we’re keeping all of our predictions the same!)
1. Need for Speed (DreamWorks) $27.2 million N/A
2. 300: Rise of an Empire (Legendary/WB) – $21 million -54%
3. Mr. Peabody & Sherman – $19 million -41%
4. Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club (Lionsgate) – $17.4 million N/A
5. Non-Stop – $9.0 million -43%
6. The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros.) – $7 million -30%
7. Son of God (20th Century Fox) – $5.3 million -49%
8. The Monuments Men (Sony) – $2 million -35%
9. Frozen (Walt Disney) – $2 million -32%
10. 3 Days to Kill (Relativity Media) – $1.6 -47%
This Week’s Limited Releases:
Because we’ve been quite busy at the SXSW Film Festival, we’re probably not going to be able to write very much about all of the 20 movies coming out in select cities this weekend, but you can learn more about them by clicking on the titles.
THE CHOSEN ONE:
I haven’t seen nearly enough of this week’s limited releases, but the one that had the most impact on me was the documentary Exposed, No Wave filmmaker Beth B’s look at the New York burlesque scene that’s thrived in the East Village thanks to venues like The Slipper Room.
I was invited to see the movie at the Museum of Modern Art of all places and the screening of the film was bookended with performances by the legendary Dirty Martini, Mat Fraser and his partner and fellow performer Julie Atlas Muz as well as others. (And for the sake of full disclosure: Filmmaker Beth B is the wife of a good friend, Jim Coleman, who also did some of the music for the movie and who I’ve known since his days playing keys in the band Cop Shoot Cop – I’m still convinced he was the only sane one in that band in fact.)
I’ve heard about the burlesque scene for many years through friends and of course I was familiar with the performance art scene that thrived in New York City during the 80s thanks to the likes of Karen Findlay and Ann Magnuson, but I’ve never checked it out myself. The current scene is where stripping, burlesque and performance art come together in something that’s strange and horrifying at times, but also quite beautiful in the expressiveness of the art coming from the performers. And yes, much of it involves full frontal nudity and pulling things from places where they shouldn’t be put, which may make some people uncomfortable.
What makes Exposed more than just a sideshow of artsy strippers is that Beth B really gets the performers to talk not only about their backgrounds and how that has inspired their performances but also about their sexuality, which in some cases is even ambiguous for New York City. Among those interviewed and shown performing include crossdressers, transgenders, and male burlesque performers, but one of the more interesting performers is the World Famous *BOB*, basically a woman pretending to be a male crossdresser. Matt Fraser is also an interesting case of someone who grew up being bullied for his disabilities but found a way of using them as part of his act which mixes comedy, music and stripping.
The whole film is just fascinating, especially for a novice to the scene, and while it’s true that a lot of the performances involve some sort of shock value to wake the viewer up, Exposed cuts through that to really get to the people behind the performances, and some may be surprised by how intelligent and grounded many of them are, as well as how comfortable they are in their own frequently-exposed skin.
Exposed will play exclusively at the IFC Center for a week starting Friday with live performances from various New York burlesque acts after every 9:30 PM show; you can see the full schedule here. It will then roll out into other cities across the country.
Jason Bateman stars and makes his feature film directorial debut with the dark comedy Bad Words (Focus Features), in which he plays Guy Trilby, a 40 year old who has figured out a loophole in the rules for spelling bees that allows him to compete against studious kids a quarter of his age. Along for his journey to the prestigious national Golden Quill is a 10-year-old Indian contestant (Rohan Chand) who tests Guy’s cynicism with his enthusiastic attempts at being friends. Also starring Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall, it opens in six theaters in select cities and then expands over the next couple of weeks before its nationwide release on March 28.
Seven years after it was cancelled by the fledgling CW Network, Kristen Bell returns as Veronica Mars (Warner Bros.), the teen detective now looking for a job as a lawyer in New York City when she learns that her ex-boyfriend Logan Ecchols (Jason Dohring) has been accused of the murder of his pop star girlfriend. Veronica reluctantly returns to Neptune, California where it just so happens that they’re having Neptune High’s 10th anniversary reunion, which means that she’ll be running into all of her old schoolmates. Co-written and directed by the show’s creator, Rob Thomas, the movie opens in select cities on Friday along with a similtaneous Video on Demand release.
Video Interviews with the Cast (Coming Soon!)
Kurt Russell stars in Jonathan Sobol’s crime-comedy The Art of the Steal (RADiUS-TWC) playing motorcycle daredevil and art thief Crunch Calhoun, looking to pull off one last art heist wit his brother (Matt Dillon) as they reassemble their team to steal a priceless historical book. It opens in select cities on Friday.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star in Le Week-End (Music Box Films), directed by Roger Michel (Notting Hill), reteaming with Venus writer Hanif Kureishi. In the dramedy, they play a British couple who travel to Paris for the first time since their honeymoon to revive their relationship, something that goes awry when they encounter his old friend, played by Jeff Goldblum.
Documentaries of Note:
Matt Wolf’s documentary Teenage (Oscilloscope) uses archival material that looks at the genesis of youth culture in the late 19th Century, early 20th Century, with narration by the likes of Jena Malone, Ben Wishaw and others. It opens Friday at the Landmark Sunshine theater in New York City.
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in his second movie in a row with Montreal filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), the thriller Enemy (A24), in which he plays a lecturer named Adam who sees an actor in a film who looks like him and becomes obsessed with finding his doppelganger. It opens in select cities on Friday.
There are a lot more limited releases including Mark Hartley’s remake of the Australian B-horror movie Patrick: Evil Awakens (Phase 4 Films); Geoff Moore and David Posamentier’s dark comedy Better Living Through Chemistry (Samuel Goldwyn Films), starring Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Monaghan; Tom Gilroy’s drama The Cold Lands (Cinereach) starring Lili Taylor; “True Blood’s” Ryan Kwanten stars in the romance The Right Kind of Wrong (Magnolia) (which is already on VOD and opens in one theater Friday); the Catherine Deneuve drama On My Way (Cohen Media Group), and two new films from Japanese auteur Sion Sono, Guilty of Romance and Himizu (Olive Films). There are a couple other movies we haven’t mentioned, which you can learn more about here.
Next week, the month of March may see its second mega-blockbuster of the year if you’re going all by the buzz and hype building up to the release of the first movie based on Veronica Roth’s Young Adult book series Divergent (Summit) and Jim Henson’s popular characters return for the sequel Muppets Most Wanted (Walt Disney Pictures), starring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais.
Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas