We’re sort of in a weird limbo right now where some people feel the summer movie season has already started thanks to the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier this past weekend, but others realize that having a blockbuster hit in April is a rarity and normally this month studios are just hoping to scrape together any business for movies they don’t know what else to do with. (This is especially the case towards the end of April.) Three movies are opening on Friday trying to take some business away from Marvel Studios’ record-setting sequel with another animated family film, a horror movie and a sports drama featuring a popular actor from yesteryear.
Expected to do the best of the new movies (and opening in the most theaters, which will help) is Rio 2 (20th Century Fox), the sequel to the 2011 movie from Blue Sky Studios, the animation house behind the “Ice Age” movies, which involved talking birds in the Brazilian city, combining humor, adventure and music into something different from Blue Sky’s other movies.
Once again, Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway are back as the voices of Blu and Jewel, the blue macaws who now discover there may be more of their kind within the endangered rainforest of the Amazon. Most the characters from the earlier movie are also back including humans and animals voiced by the likes of Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am and Jemaine Clement, joined by new characters voiced by Andy Garcia, Kristin Chenoweth and pop singer Bruno Mars. As might be expected, the movie tries to capture the same mix of humor, music and adventure while taking advantage of its exotic locale in hopes of appealing to the same parents and kids that saw the first movie.
The original Rio opened three years ago, also in early April, to the tune of $39.2 million, and it went on to gross $143.6 million domestically, which isn’t great, but it added another $343 million internationally for a worldwide total of $487.2 million, which was enough to warrant a sequel.
While everyone has returned for the sequel, it feels like they’re taking the DreamWorks Animation approach by throwing in as many big name stars from pop music and Broadway in hopes their fans will go see the movie. That sometimes can backfire when you’re trying to throw in lots of characters and jokes and while reviews out of the UK are generally good, I don’t think the movie will be able to retain a high Rotten Tomatoes score once the reviews from New York critics start coming in.
There just doesn’t seem to be as much buzz, and there have been plenty of other strong family movies this year including The LEGO Movie and Mr. Peabody and Sherman, so it’s not like family audiences are starving for movies. (The original Rio took on the third weekend of Universal’s Hop, but its Easter window had already passed.) Fox has been promoting the hell out of the movie with commercials everywhere and there are plenty of parents with small kids who will take them to see it sometime over the weekend, maybe not Friday but over the weekend. It’s not likely to get much of the teen or older audience with other options available and that might keep this from opening over the $40 million mark, though it should still open better than “Mr. Peabody” with the sequel factor in place. Figure on an opening in the high-$30 millions on its way to grossing $120 million or so with little family competition over the next few weeks.
Rio 2 Review (Coming Soon!)
The other two new movies will likely be vying for a smaller part of the moviegoing audience with the horror flick Oculus (Relativity Media), a festival favorite starring Karen Gillen (“Doctor Who”) and Katee Sackhoff (“Battlestar Gallactica”) and directed by Mike Flanagan, having the best chance at breaking out.
Horror has definitely been showing signs of being on a comeback going by the success of last year’s The Purge, The Conjuring and the horror sequel Insidious Chapter 2, all which opened between $34 and 42 million. It’s doubtful that Oculus can open that big for a couple of reasons, one being that it has such an odd title most people won’t even know what an “oculus” is. While both Gillen and Sackhoff have fans among genre fans for their respective shows, neither of them seem to be big draws, although that normally doesn’t matter much with horror movies, which tend to bring in audiences from the way their premise is marketed.
Everything considered, horror movies tend to do better than expected as younger moviegoers often make the decision to see them at the last minute, often as a group, and Relativity Media has done a decent enough job marketing it so that we could see Oculus bringing in between $12 to 15 million this weekend. Like The Conjuring, it should have strong enough word of mouth to pull in $35 million or even more when all is said and done.
Kevin Costner appears in his third movie of the year, the football draft movie Draft Day (Summit), directed by Ivan Reitman and co-starring Jennifer Garner. To many, it will be a welcome return to what Costner did best back in the late 80s when he starred in sports dramas Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, both set in the world of baseball, only from two very different perspectives but both relative hits from their time. These helped add to Costner becoming one of the biggest stars of the late 80s and 90s with hits like Dances with Wolves, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bodyguard.
In recent years, Costner had been laying low with smaller movies but he came back in a big way playing Jonathan Kent in last summer’s blockbuster Man of Steel before paying a supporting role in the return of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit earlier this year and starring in the revenge thriller 3 Days to Kill a month later. Neither of them did particularly huge business, opening under $16 million, although one could easily see the latter doing better due to Costner’s popularity and the fact he was front and center rather than a supporting role.
Draft Day isn’t necessarily a football movie in the same way as Friday Night Lights or Mark Wahlberg’s Invincible, partially because it’s not based on a true story, but also because it’s about one specific aspect of footballthe annual draft pick (which doesn’t even take place until May this year), and the amount of number-crunching and talk about stats makes it more like Moneyball, only without the prestige and a more current and bankable box office star like Brad Pitt.
What it does have going for it is that Costner remains popular among older male moviegoers and one can expect that audiences in Cleveland and some of the other cities represented in the movie might go see the movie to root for their teams. That said, the NFL draft isn’t something that’s followed as closely as the actual football season and probably has more of a niche fanbase, and it’s going to have a hard time interesting women who will probably go for Rio 2 or even Oculus. On top of that, opening against stronger fare for guys like “The Winter Soldier” and Noah doesn’t give Draft Day much of a chance to do much more than $10 to 11 million this weekend, which would put it in fourth place behind the other two new movies.
This weekend last year, African-American audiences had a lot to be proud of themselves for, as they went out to see the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 (Warner Bros.), starring Draft Day‘s Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, rather than giving any more money to the comedy spoof Scary Movie 5 (Dimension Films) – although the latter coming out two months after Marlon Wayans’ A Haunted House probably didn’t help. 42 opened at #1 with $27.5 million, kicking off a great year for quality black-centric films including Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, 12 Years a Slave and more. Scary Movie 5 opened with about half that amount, #2 with $14.2 million which is a far cry from the $45 million plus opening of previous installments. The Top 10 grossed $104 million which should be easily bested by this weekend’s offerings with Captain America: The Winter Soldier still going strong.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
(UPDATE: All of the three new movies are getting slightly more theaters than we originally projected. On top of that, The Raid 2 (Sony Pictures Classics) is expanding wide into 954 theaters, although that might be too wide an expansion based on its two-week platform release and we don’t think it will get into the Top 10, probably earning less than $2 million this weekend.)
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $45.5 million -52% (down 2.2 million)
2. Rio 2 (20th Century Fox) – $38.6 million N/A (up 1.4 million)
3. Oculus (Relativity Media) – $13.5 million N/A (up 5. million)
4. Draft Day (Summit) – $11.3 million N/A (up .5 million)
5. Noah (Paramount) – $8 million -53%
6. Divergent (Summit) – $7.1 million -45%
7. God’s Not Dead (Freestyle Releasing) – $5.4 million -30%
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) – $5.2 million -15% (up .2 million)
9. Muppets Most Wanted (Walt Disney) – $3.3 million -46% (down .1 million)
10. Mr. Peabody & Sherman – $2.8 million -45% (down .3 million)
This Week’s Limited Releases:
THE CHOSEN ONE:
I’m going with a somewhat unconventional choice for this week’s “CHOSEN ONE,” because apparently I’m one of the few people I know who liked Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man (The Weinstein Company), based on the autobiography of Eric Lomax, who is played by Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine during two points in his life.
The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but I missed it and didn’t hear too much about it except for–of all people– from Rex Reed, who really loved it. So yeah, sue me, I have the same movie tastes as Rex Reed now and I’m fine with that, because this movie harks back to old-time filmmaking that I love with strong performances and a solid script based on an amazing true story.
We meet Firth as Eric Lomax sometime during the 60s when he’s a railway engineer, who meets a pretty woman on a train named Patti (Nicole Kidman). Once they get married, she realizes Eric is keeping secrets from her that are clearly haunting him and Stellan Skarsgard plays one of Lomax’s colleagues who Kidman’s character turns to when she can’t figure out how to help Eric. It turns out that both men were part of a company of army engineers who were captured by the Japanese while traveling through Thailand, as the film then cuts back to WWII where Eric was part of a group of military engineers who were captured by the Japanese in Thailand and put to work in a labor camp to build the “Death Railway” which took American soldiers to their graves.
It was interesting to see this movie after seeing footage from Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken at CinemaCon, which offers a similar story of an American captured and tortured by the Japanese. Granted, the flashback scenes with Jeremy Irvine aren’t nearly as strong as the “present day” ones with Firth, who shows all the vulnerability of what he went through while in the POW camp.
For the most part, The Railway Man rises above what could have been melodramatic “Oscar fodder” (which I’m sure it will be called anyways) due to how well the cast interprets the screenplay co-written by Frank Cottrell Bryce (Millions, 24 Hour Party People). What really sold me on the movie though was the performance by Hiro Sanada as one of the Japanese interpreters in the present day, as Eric confronts one of the men responsible for his torture with plans to kill him, setting up a last act full of fantastic, dramatic scenes between Firth and Sanada, showing them both to be at the top of their craft.
What I don’t get about this movie is that the Weinstein Company picked it up at Toronto last September when they concurrently premiered a number of their movies like August: Osage County and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which aren’t nearly as good. Firth gives another awards-worthy performance, as does Sanada, and even Kidman is quite good in her supporting role, so it’s a shame this has been delayed and essentially dumped into early April with very little fanfare.
The Railway Man opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, but it’s likely to expand to other cities. While it probably will appeal more to older moviegoers (which I am at this point), it shows off real filmmaking and storytelling skill on the part of Teplitzky and a different view of WWII than we’ve seen before.
Rating: 7.5/10 Rating
Shaun of the Dead star Nick Frost came up with the concept and stars in the salsa comedy Cuban Fury (eOne Entertainment), playing Bruce Garrett, who 25 years earlier was a teen salsa dancer with natural talent who gave it up after an incident with bullies. Now working an office job, he becomes interested in his attractive new boss, Julia (Rashida Jones), and when he learns she’s interested in salsa dancing, he goes back to his teacher (Ian McShane) in hopes of impressing her. Unfortunately, he has some tough competition for Julia’s attention with the office’s conceited lothario (Chris O’Dowd). It opens in select cities on Friday.
James E. Duff’s romantic comedy Hank and Asha (FilmRise Release) involves a long distance romance between a New Yorker and an Indian woman in Prague who have to decide whether to meet face to face after corresponding online. Winner of the Audience Award for narrative feature at the 2013 Slamdance Film Festival, it opens in New York at the Village East on Friday and in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Noho 7 on April 18.
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
Nicolas Cage stars in David Gordon Green’s new movie Joe (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions), playing the title character, ex-con Joe Ransom, who is trying to stay away from his crime-filled past as the foreman of a logging company. His attempt to stay clean runs into issues when he hires a teenager (Tye Sheridan from Jeff Nicholls’ Mud) dealing with an alcoholic and abusive father and a vengeance-filled local who also threatens the teen. It opens in select cities.
Indie auteur filmmaker Jim Jarmusch returns with his vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as vampire lovers separated by thousands of miles. He’s an elusive musician hiding out from fans in his studio/mansion outside Detroit while she’s living in Tangier, but when they reunite, they’re joined by her younger sister (Mia Wasikowska) who causes all sorts of troubles for them. It opens in New York and Los Angeles Friday.
Kristen Wiig stars in Liza Johnson’s adaptation of one of Alice Munro’s 2002 short stories from the collection “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” now simplified to Hateship Loveship (IFC Films), as she plays Joanna, a troubled and shy woman hired as a housekeeper by Nick Nolte’s Mr. McCauley to take care of his granddaughter Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld), who tries to set Joanna up with her former drug addict father (Guy Pearce).
Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley (“Chronicles of Narnia”) play the Perfect Sisters (Gravitas Ventures) in Stan Brooks’ true-life crime thriller based on the “Bathtub Girls” case of two teen girls who plan on killing their addicted mother with classmates after she forces the girls to live with her abusive lover. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
Documentaries of Note:
Samantha Grant’s documentary A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times is pretty much what that really long title sounds like, as it tells the story of journalist Jayson Blair and how in 2003, he was caught plagiarizing and fabricating dozens of stories he wrote for the New York Times. It opens at New York’s Quad Cinemas on Friday.
Foreign Films of Interest:
Soundarya Rajnikanth Ashwin’s Kochadaiiyaan (Eros International) is the first Indian animated film to use photo-realistic performance capture technology to tell its tale of good versus evil with director Rajnikanth playing both roles.
Next week, Christopher Nolan’s director of photography Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut with the sci-fi thriller Transcendence (Warner Bros.), starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman, Marlon Wayans returns with his horror comedy spoof A Haunted House 2 (Open Road Films), filmmaker Randall Wallace returns trying to prove that Heaven is for Real (Sony/TriStar Pictures) . Plus Bears (Walt Disney Pictures) a movie presumably about bears.
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Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas