Before we get to this week’s preview and predictions, the astute of you who have been around for a while may be realize that on April 1, 2003, the Weekend Warrior column made its ComingSoon.net debut. The column’s changed a little bit over the years, and who knows? Maybe it will change again soon, but I just want to quickly thank everyone who has stuck around for 11 years of my rambling and give an anniversary shout-out and thanks to Mirko Parlevliet, the site’s editor-in-chief, who has diligently edited every single one of these columns even when they got ridiculously long.
As far as what most of you came here for, there should be absolutely no question this weekend figuring out what will be #1, because Marvel Studios is using the first weekend of April to release their ninth movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios/Disney), bringing Chris Evans back as Steve Rogers, joined by Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, both from previous Marvel hits, and joined by the likes of Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford and more.
Essentially, this is Marvel’s attempt at releasing a movie outside of the normal summer and holiday movie frames, taking a cue from Universal Pictures, which had a huge hit in 2009 when they released Fast and Furious in the first weekend of April, an unconventional decision that led to a new opening record for the month with $70 million. (It was surpassed two years later by the late April release of Fast Five, which set a new record of $86.2 million.) The concept is that an anticipated movie like this will do well whenever it’s released, and of course, Marvel Studios and Disney are going to do their best to set their targets on Universal’s April record as they go into the weekend.
The previous movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, opened in July 2011, just a few months after Thor, and brought in roughly the same amount opening weekend, $65 million, before going on to gross $177 million. That amount doesn’t seem like very much compared to other superhero movies like the Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men movies that preceded it, but this was also Cap’s first big screen live action appearance in decades. The movie was generally well-received with a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.8 out of 10 from IMDb users (although the latter is in the general range of most Marvel movies).
But then there’s a little something that’s being called “The Avengers Factor.” Less than a year after the release of “The First Avenger,” Marvel released Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, a movie that made more opening weekend than either the individual Thor or Cap movies in their domestic runs and went on to gross $623 million domestically (The sum being greater than the whole of the parts, indeed.) That movie’s success helped get moviegoers into the idea of Chris Hemsworth as Thor to give last year’s sequel Thor: The Dark World a nice bump, opening with $85.7 million on its way to $207 million, and an even bigger bump to Iron Man 3, which opened with $175 million and was the highest-grossing movie of 2013 worldwide. There’s no reason to think that “The Winter Soldier” won’t capitalize on the same growth in audience since the first movie thanks to The Avengers and the other two solo movies since then.
So far, reviews for “The Winter Soldier” have been stellar–much better than Thor: The Dark World, in fact–and considering how many people still think “The First Avenger” is one of the better Marvel movies, $80 million will probably be the low point for the sequel’s opening weekend. The real questions remaining are whether it opens better than Thor: The Dark World with an early April release–these are busy times with most schools being done with spring break, people doing taxes, other movies in theaters, etc.–and of course, whether it will set a new April opening record.
It’s certainly going to be a close one, but considering how popular Marvel Studios’ releases continue to be and how many people like Evans as Captain America, we can see it doing huge business on Thursday and Friday, $30 million or more for sure. As it happens when a big movie like this is released, other movies will start losing theaters and screens rather quickly, and that also should give Captain America: The Winter Soldier even more room to breathe, being the #1 choice for most moviegoers across the age and gender gap that often plagues most other action-driven movies.
This weekend last year was a little quieter with the Sam Raimi-produced horror remake Evil Dead (TriStar Pictures/Sony), starring Jane Levy, opening at #1 with $25.8 million in 3,025 theaters. Returning movies G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Croods battled for second place with $20 million apiece, followed by the re-release of Jurassic Park 3D (Universal), which took in $18.6 million in 2,771 theaters for fourth. The Top 10 grossed about $125 million last year, an amount that should be obliterated with the Captain America movie making nearly 3/4 of that amount on its own.
This Week’s UPDATED Predictions –
(UPDATE: So we’re going to go ahead and not go too far out on the limb to state that Captain America: The Winter Soldier will indeed best Fast Five‘s current April opening record, but we’re still taking the under on it opening over $90 million, mainly since it’s early April, there’s still plenty of other choices taking up theaters and it’s probably not going to be nearly as front loaded as other event movies normally are. More interesting this weekend will be to see how expanding movies like God’s Not Dead and The Grand Budapest Hotel fare with such a big blockbuster opening. That and how the bottom of the Top 10 ends up, whether Bad Words can sneak into the Top 10 with its expansion.)
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $88.3 million N/A (up 2.1 million)
2. Noah (Paramount) – $19.5 million -55% (down .2 million)
3. Divergent (Summit) – $12.3 million -52%
4. God’s Not Dead (Freestyle Releasing) – $8 million -11% (up 1 million)
5. Muppets Most Wanted (Walt Disney) – $6.4 million -44%
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) – $6.2 million -28% (up .3 million)
7. Mr. Peabody & Sherman – $5.7 million -37%
8. Sabotage (Open Road) – $2.2 million -59%
9. Non-Stop – $2.0 million -45% (down .2 million)
10. Bad Words (Focus Features) – $2.0 million -25%
This Week’s Limited Releases:
Or “Which of the following movies aren’t already playing on VOD?” Answer: Not many
THE CHOSEN ONE:
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see director Richard Shepard with another movie in theaters, his first since 2007’s The Hunting Party, but the guy’s been pretty busy directing HBO’s “Girls.” As it were, Dom Hemingway (Fox Searchlight) is quite different from everything he’s done going back to maybe 2005’s The Matador, but fans of that irreverent comedy should enjoy watching Jude Law in a very different role as a Cockney safecracker, just released from jail who tries to get his due from the man whose job put him there, one Mr. Fontaine (played by Demian Bichir).
First and foremost, this is a great role for Jude Law, who is doing something very different from what we’ve seen from him before, playing a loud-mouthed, brash, womanizing Londoner who gets drunk and shoots his mouth off and gets himself into loads of trouble along the way. But every time Dom opens his mouth, it’s highly entertaining, because you just can’t believe the words coming out of it. A lot of that is due to the writing of Shepard, who finds a way of taking Pierce Brosnan’s character from his earlier film The Matador to the craziest extremes. Along for the ride–and you never know if he’s shocked or amused by Dom’s behavior–is Richard E. Grant as Dom’s best friend and partner in crime Dickie, and his facial reactions to Dom’s rants are almost as funny as the rants themselves.
Combine this character with an interesting story that takes him to France, where he gets into more trouble with his benefactor and then returns to London to try to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones) and you have a highly original movie all wrapped up in Shepard’s knack for visually stylish filmmaking.
I don’t want to say too much about it here, because I do hope to write a full review still, but the movie’s opening on Wednesday in select cities and if you like Jude Law and are curious to see him playing a completely off-the-wall, outspoken character who has no filter, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise with this one.
Steve Coogan returns to the role that helped make him famous overseas nearly 20 years ago playing Alan Partridge (Magnolia), the national television and radio broadcaster who has had a lot of ups and downs over the years but who finds himself needed when a fellow DJ (Colm Meaney) holds the radio station hostage after being fired by the new management. Already on VOD, iTunes and playing in a single theater in London, Ontario, it expands to New York, Los Angeles and another Ontario theater, but if you really must see it in a theater, you can find out where else it will play here. (Sorry, people of Guelph, but it won’t be playing The Bookshelf until April 17!)
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
Not content to just being super-hot in Captain America, Scarlett Johansson also stars in Jonathan (Sexy Beast) Glazer’s sci-fi thriller Under the Skin (A24) as an alien who takes on the perfect human form of Scarlett Johansson and begins to snare men using her sexuality. In other words, it’s Nymphomaniac with Scarlett Johansson as an alien, automatically making it the greatest movie ever made, sight unseen. (But hopefully by now I will have seen it and can determine if it lives up the premise.) Following its festival run, it’s receiving a limited release.
It’s also not to be confused with John Stockwell’s In the Blood (Anchor Bay Films), starring the not-so-hard-on-the-eyes Gina Carano playing trained fighter Ava, whose husband (Cam Gigandet) vanishes while on their honeymoon in the Caribbean sending her into the island’s crime-ridden world where she uses her skills to find him and get revenge.
There probably won’t be much confusion between the Scarlett Johansson movie with Alien Abduction (IFC Midnight), Matty Beckerman’s movie based on the “Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon in North Carolina” and a family on vacation who encounter an alien threat.
Following its premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, Canadian filmmakers Derek Lee and Clif Prowse’s Afflicted (CBS Films)–in which they also star–gets a simultaneous release into theaters and onto VOD Friday. It follows two friends on a journey around the world, which takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious woman in Paris leaves one of them wait for it AFFLICTED!
Before I saw the ads on ComingSoon.net, you probably couldn’t convince me that Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad’s Jinn (Freestyle Releasing) was a real movie, but indeed, this supernatural thriller involves three beings created at the beginning of time and one of them returning in the modern age to cause all sorts of mayhem.
The second part of Lars von Trier’s graphic tale of sexual addiction, Nymphomaniac: Volume II (Magnolia) continues the discussion between Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Joe and her “savior,” Stellan Skarsgard’s Seligman as she tells him of her tendencies to sleep with progressively more dangerous men as she allows her marriage to Shia LaBeouf’s Jerome to fall apart. Following its run on VOD and iTunes and the theatrical release of Volume I a few weeks back, it opens in select cities, probably the same theaters you can find right here.
Denis Henry Hennelly’s Goodbye World (Samuel Goldwyn Films/Phase 4) stars Adrian Grenier (“Entourage”) and Kerry Bishe (“Scrubs”) as a couple raising their daughter away from the rest of the world when an “apocalyptic cyber attack” cripples the country, forcing many of their friends to show up at their door for protection. (The friends include Gaby Hoffman, Ben McKenzie, Kid Cudi and Mark Webber.)
Talk about a blast from the past! The Halle Berry-Stellan Skarsgard drama Frankie & Alice (Codeblack Films/Lionsgate), directed by Geoffrey Sax, received awards consideration screenings way back in 2010 but never got a theatrical release until this Friday when Codeblack will finally allow audience to see Halle Berry as a schizophrenic go-go dancer who works with a psychotherapist to uncover her dark past. In other words, Stellan Skarsgard has his hands full with crazy women this weekend.
Chris Eska’s The Retrieval (Variance Films) is a Civil War-based drama about a 13 year old named Will, who works with a gang of white bounty hunters trying to lure runaway slaves back to the South, but when he meets Nate, one such former slave, the two of them go on the run from Will’s former gang as their bond grows. It opens in select cities Friday.
Foreign Films of Interest:
The Weinstein Company keep scooping up the North American rights to French films and releasing them with very little fanfare like this weekend’s anthology comedy The Players, starring Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche and Géraldine Nakache, which is made up of short films about infidelity, and David Charhon’s buddy cop comedy On the Other Side of the Tracks, starring Omar Sy (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Laurent Lafitte. They both open in select cities in roughly 50 theaters each.
Documentaries of Note:
Despite the title, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (Warner Bros.) isn’t the latest installment in a certain DreamWorks Animation franchise but rather the new nature movie from Born to Be Wild producer Drew Fellman and that film’s cinematographer David Douglas, which if you can’t take a wild guess from the title, takes a look at the lemurs of Madagascar as filmed on IMAX 3D cameras. Those who can’t get enough of those lovable rodents can move it, move it, to one of the 37 IMAX theaters in North America where it opens on Friday.
Errol Morris returns with his thematic follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Fog of War as The Unknown Known (RADiUS-TWC) performs a similar interrogation of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a man largely thought responsible for the Iraq War. Not quite as cute as lemurs, but what do you expect from a Defense Secretary? It opens in 12 theaters in select cities.
Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s Watermark (Entertainment One Films) is yet another doc about the earth’s water supply and our relationship to it covering locales as far and wide as China, Allahabad, Greenland and British Columbia with a special focus on its ultra-resolution digital cinematography.
Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller’s The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (Zeitgeist Films) is a docudrama that stars Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, Connie Nielsen, Thomas Kretschmann and Josh Radnor (really?!?) as it tells the story of a German doctor and his mistress who set up a new life on the uninhabited Floreana Island back in the 30s, only to be followed by a diverse group of people who ultimately clash leading to a number of unsolved murders. Possibly a fun double feature with that lemur movie? Probably not.
Next week, April brings a mixed bag that includes yet another animated movie, the sequel Rio 2 (20th Century Fox), the horror-thriller festival hit Oculus (Relativity Media) and Kevin Costner’s football movie Draft Day (Summit).
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