The Weekend Warrior: Tammy, Deliver Us From Evil, Earth to Echo

It’s the Fourth of July weekend, the second to last summer holiday, but it also marks the midway point of the summer movie season. Often it’s a weekend where studios will release a bigger blockbuster to potentially bring in the large percentage of people wanting to catch up on their movies now that schools are completely out, people are starting to take vacation days and others are just looking to get away from the brutal summer heat in an air-conditioned movie theater.

As in past years, the date on which July 4 falls tends to play a large part in how much movies do over the weekend as opposed to the days before and this year, the holiday falls on a Friday while most of this week’s offerings are opening early on Wednesday. Another big difference this year is that we don’t have one really big standout movie but rather three or four smaller movies each hoping to offer something different from what we currently have in theaters.

It’s hard to decide which movie shows the most promise, but the one that will open in the most theaters will be Tammy (Warner Bros.), Melissa McCarthy’s new movie directed by her husband Ben Falcone, a passion project where she essentially creates another wacky character that swears a lot as she goes on a roadtrip with her “grandmother,” played by Susan Sarandon. In some ways, this is similar to her 2013 hit Identity Thief, a road trip comedy co-starring Jason Bateman, although this one McCarthy and Falcone created together and were able to get made due to her string of box office hits.

McCarthy has been a mainstay in movies and television for years—she had a role on “The Gilmore Girls” and got her own CBS series “Mike and Molly” in 2010. It was her appearance in the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids that really got America’s attention (as well as an Oscar nomination) and though she had small roles in Judd Apatow’s This is 40, last year was really her breakout both with Identity Thief and the police comedy The Heat, opposite Sandra Bullock, which grossed $159 million nationwide. McCarthy has also hosted “Saturday Night Live” three times, helping raise her awareness and popularity among teen and 20-something audiences.

Despite that, Tammy seems like the type of comedy that will appeal to the same older female audience that went to see The Heat, without the added draw of Bullock who has well and fully proven herself as a box office draw. Besides Sarandon, Falcone and McCarthy have put together an impressive cast of character actors like Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd and Kathy Bates, whom give the comedy more prestige credibility, but haven’t really proven to be reason for moviegoers to flock to theaters.

As much as I’ve been a fan of McCarthy for many years–even before Bridesmaids, she was amazing in John August’s indie The Nines–I don’t feel like the marketing has done a good job making Tammy look particularly funny, because it looks like McCarthy is basically doing the same thing she does all the time, acting crazy and swearing a lot. While I personally might not get a chance to see it, I don’t think that critics will be too kind on this one at all.

Tammy probably won’t open too big on Wednesday or Thursday but could do better over the 4th of July weekend due to McCarthy’s presence and it’s likely to do the best of the new movies, probably in the $20 to 25 million range with another $7 to 8 million on Wednesday and Thursday. Even so, I’d be surprised if it ends up grossing more than $60 million total.

Offering a rare bit of horror over the 4th of July weekend, Deliver Us From Evil (Screen Gems/Sony), the new “based on a true story” supernatural thriller from filmmaker Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) stars Eric Bana, Olivia Munn and Edgar Ramirez as it takes another look at spiritual possession.

While Bana hasn’t exactly proven himself as a box office draw, even after starring as Bruce Banner in Ang Lee’s Hulk, he’s appeared in a number of box offices hits like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, the recent military thriller Lone Survivor and Ridley Scott’s similar Black Hawk Down. Other movies of his haven’t fared as well like the political thriller Closed Circuit, released last Labor Day.

Fortunately, a movie like this doesn’t have to rely on star power to sell the scares with plenty of earlier supernatural thrillers doing very well including Derrickson’s hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($30 million opening; $75 million total), 2012′s The Possession ($17.7 / $49 million), The Last Exorcism ($20.4/$41 million) as well as the “Insidious” and “Paranormal Activity” movies. There’s definitely an audience who enjoys movies like these and Derrickson’s experience with the genre certainly will give it more credibility among fans of those movies.

With the most appeal to the coveted teen and 20-something audience, expect the movie to have a stronger Wednesday and Thursday than some of the other movies, although it might tail off a bit over the weekend depending on how people react to it. (We think that reviews should generally be good and probably better than the other two movies opening this weekend.) Deliver Us From Evil should be able to bring in $26 to 27 million in its first five days and if not for the coming Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Purge: Anarchy, which both target the same general audience, it may have fared well over the course of the month from word-of-mouth, but as it stands, it may not be able to more than $70 million or so total.

Review (Coming Soon!)

The lack of movies for younger audiences may play in the favor of the odd sci-fi action-adventure Earth to Echo (Relativity), about four school kids who start receiving strange signals on their cell phones before finding an alien they name Echo.

The first family movie using the found footage technique that’s proven so popular with hit movies like the “Paranormal Activity” series, Chronicle and others certainly has a premise that can appeal to kids in a similar way as Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial although it doesn’t seem like the movie has gotten as much promotion as other summer movies. In fact, it was going to be released earlier in the year under a different title and probably the only thing good about being delayed until July is that schools are completely out for the summer and parents will be looking for kid-friendly movies with the only other options being How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Maleficent, both of which have been out for a while.

With no school, the movie can do just fine on Wednesday and Thursday, but it’s likely to have a bump up each day leading to Friday, its biggest day, as it’s a movie that parents will take their younger kids to see. Even so, we don’t expect a lot from the movie, possibly $6 to 7 million its first two days and then $13 to 15 million over the weekend, although if reviews and reactions are good, it could benefit from the lack of suitable family films to gross as much as $45 to 50 million.

Then there’s America: Imagine a World Without Her (Lionsgate), the follow-up to Dinesh D’Souza’s controversial Tea Party-funded doc 2016: Obama’s America, which grossed $33 million during the summer of 2012.

Unlike D’Souza’s latest movie, its distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures did a slower platform roll-out over a number of weeks, grossing $2 million before expanding nationwide in late August and taking in $6.5 million in 1,091 theaters and entering the Top 10 at #7. While distributor Lionsgate did open his new doc in a couple of theaters in Atlanta and Houston on Friday, it gets a wide release into over 1,000 theaters on Wednesday.

Without having watched the movie yet–I do have a screener I hope to watch soon–D’Souza’s latest seems a little more innocent than just another diatribe against the current President of the United States and more of a look at American history and the people who were important in the country’s birth and growth. Probably not a bad premise to release on the country’s birthday on July 4 aka Independence Day, right?

It’s hard to tell what kind of promotion or marketing the movie is getting since it’s not likely to get much in more liberal areas like New York and L.A. where docs tend to do better business than elsewhere in the country. It feels like the strength of the Tea Party has dwindled in the past few years, especially following the government shut-down by the Republicans last year which didn’t prove too popular among Americans.

While the movie could bring in some money on Wednesday and Thursday (probably one or two million), it’s real boom should take place on Friday the 4th when might be able to bring in as much as $3 million thanks to patriotic moviegoers who may be coerced to see it solely by it having “America” in the title. (Yes, some American moviegoers really are that stupid!) Still, it’s likely to end up with around $6 million for the three-day weekend, being frontloaded to the 4th of July holiday.

Either way, none of the new movies have been trending on Twitter according to our pal Alex Edghill over at BoxOffice.com, which is not a very good sign for a weekend in which Transformers: Age of Extinction should once again dominate even with a big drop.

This weekend last year saw one huge 4th of July release, which was the animated sequel, Despicable Me 2 (Universal), and one absolute bomb, which was Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp’s attempt to do for The Lone Ranger (Walt Disney Pictures) what they did for pirates. In this case, the 4th of July fell on a Thursday so the weekend didn’t get a boost so much except that most people took Friday off from work as well. Despicable Me 2 won the weekend quite effortlessly with $83.5 million to The Lone Ranger‘s measly $29.2 million, which is pretty bad especially when you consider the latter’s $215 million budget to the Illumination sequel’s reported $76 million budget. Including Wednesday and Thursday, Despicable Me 2 grossed $143 million in its first five days compared to The Lone Ranger‘s $48.7 million. The latter never fully recovered, grossing just $89.3 million domestically with another $171.2 million internationally. Despicable Me 2 grossed $970 million globally. The third movie opening over 4th of July week was the comedy concert movie Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (Summit), which had a solid opening day of $4.7 million but dropped over the next few days to gross just $10 million over the weekend to take eighth place. The Top 10 grossed $220 million, but without a blockbuster like Despicable Me 2 opening this weekend, we’ll be lucky to see a total of $140 million among the ten top movies, which means we have another down weekend for the year.

This Week’s Predictions -

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount) – $42 million -58%

2. Tammy (Warner Bros.) – $22.3 million N/A

3. Deliver Us From Evil (Screen Gems/Sony) – $18.4 million N/A

4. Earth to Echo (Relativity) – $12.5 million N/A

5. 22 Jump Street (Sony) – $9.2 million -42%

6. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Animation, 20th Century Fox) – $7.6 million -43%

7. America: Imagine a World Without Her (Lionsgate) – $5 million N/A

8. Think Like a Man Too (Sony/Screen Gems) – $5.1 million -51%

9. Maleficent (Walt Disney Pictures) – $5 million -40%

10. Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.) – $4.5 million -42%

This Week’s Limited Releases:

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is Steve James’ documentary Life Itself (Magnolia), a portrait of late film critic Roger Ebert, and it’s a hard movie to talk about without first expressing your own relationship with one of the country’s most famous film critic. Any film critic working today who won’t admit that they have at least once seen Ebert on television on one of his many shows like “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies” is probably lying because he is easily one of the most influential critics as well.

Me, I have no problem admitting that I watched Ebert’s shows long before I had any thoughts on being a film critic or a movie writer, back when I was a normal punter vaguely interested in going to the movies simply as escapist entertainment. As I got into writing about movies, I paid more attention to Ebert’s reviews–not that I always agreed with them-but one of the things that really had an impact on me was when I first saw him in person after his jaw had already been removed in surgery and he was at the Toronto Film Festival. I was way too nervous to go up and introduce myself just because I knew he couldn’t speak to have a conversation. Just seeing him there at the festival he loved so much inspired me to go to Toronto last year in between my chemo regimen and my stem cell transplant, because I figured if he could do it than so could I.

It’s with that at the back of my mind that I watched what really is an amazing film. James, the Oscar-nominated director of Hoop Dreams, not only tells the comprehensive history of Ebert’s life and career, mostly taking quotes from his memoir of the same name, but also follows Ebert through the last few months of his life where his condition is worsening.

It’s not an easy movie to watch, especially Ebert’s day-to-day in rehabilitation, realizing that he can’t eat anymore but has to have food pumped into his stomach through a straw and a suction system. It’s even sadder knowing that the movie can only end in one possible way and that’s Ebert’s inevitable death, which is just as sad to remember a year later.

On a happier note, it really does a great job exploring and explaining the relationship Ebert had with the late Gene Siskel, how they played off each other and fought like dogs whenever the cameras stopped rolling – the outtakes from the show are quite funny. It’s also interesting to see the amount of remorse Ebert felt not knowing about his partner’s own cancer until after his death.

If you ever wanted to find out what drives someone like Roger Ebert’s passion for film and how that translates into his film criticism, essentially what makes a great film critic like him tick, then this is one of the year’s must-see docs.

It opens in select cities on Friday and you can find the full list of theaters on the Magnolia website.

Rating: 9/10

Comedies

“America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon co-writes and directs School Dance (Lionsgate), a coming-of-age dance comedy starring Mike Epps, George Lopez, Katt Williams, Wilmer Valderrama and more as it follows a high school student named Jason (Bobb’e Thompson from Role Models) who is in love with the gorgeous Anastacia, who doesn’t know he exists, so he tries to join the school’s dance crew, facing all sorts of obstacles along the way. It gets a limited theatrical release as well as being available on VOD starting Wednesday.

The college coming-of-age comedy Premature (IFC Midnight) from director Dan Beers (creator of something called “FCU: Fact Checkers Unit”) follows a guy named Rob who needs to pass his college interview to attend his parent’s alma mater Georgetown when he finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. The movie’s described as “American Pie meets Groundhog Day” though I doubt it’s as good as either of them. It opens on Wednesday in New York at the IFC Center.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Stephen Dorff stars in Evelyn Purcell’s Heatstroke (Phase 4 Films) as a research scientistÂ… okay, you lost me right there. Okay, we’ll try to get past the thought of Dorff playing a scientist. Essentially, he goes to Africa with his girlfriend and teen daughter and ends up facing a group of killer arms dealers.

Drama:

Leanne Pooley’s Beyond the Edge (IFC Films) is a 3D recounting of Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s attempts at scaling Mount Everest in May 1953. It opens at New York’s IFC Center on Friday.

Foreign Films of Interest:

The Bollywood release Bobby Jasoos (Reliance Entertainment) follows a guy who wants to be the top detective in the old city of Hyderabad.

French Canadian filmmaker Louise Archambault’s drama Gabrielle (Entertainment One Films) stars Gabrielle Marion-Rivard as a woman with Williams syndrome who gets into a relationship with a man she meets at the recreation center while singing choir. She’s forced to tackle her own limitations and other’s prejudices to make their relationship work.

Other:

Beatles fans looking to celebrate the Fab Four over the holiday weekend should be thrilled by this week’s 50th Anniversary re-release of Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night, which will have a digital restoration from the original 35mm camera negative screened in over 100 theaters by Janus Films for one week only starting July 4. You can see the full list of where it’s playing on the Janus Films site.

Next week, the month of July sees another weekend with only one new movie and that’s the anticipated sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox), which should be huge.


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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