The Weekend Warrior: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Although the box office is clearly down from last year, this already has been a summer full of big blockbusters, and many that were well-received critically and among moviegoers, and this weekend continues that trend with the release of just one new movie, the anticipated sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox).

It’s the sequel to the successful reboot of the “Apes” franchise with 2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which replaced the customary masks and ape outfits of the original movies with state-of-the-art CG and performance capture technology, led by a pioneer in that technology, Andy Serkis. (More on him later.)

The original five “Planet of the Apes” came out between 1968 and 1973 with the original Planet of the Apes considered by many to be a science fiction classic. The five movies eventually led to a television series and then in 2001, Tim Burton “reimagined” the original movie with a not particularly popular version of the movie starring Mark Wahlberg. Despite the mediocre reviews, the movie set a new non-holiday opening record with $68.5 million, just ahead of The Mummy Returns, which also opened that summer. It went on to gross $180 million in North America and the same amount overseas.

It would be ten years before 20th Century Fox revisited the “apes” franchise with the new reboot prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which put Andy Serkis front and center as Caesar, a young chimp saved from the labs by scientists, played by James Franco and Freida Pinto, who would go onto becoming the intelligent leader of the apes revolution. It opened somewhat soft with $54.8 million in over 3,600 theaters and went on to gross $176.7 million domestic, falling just short of the Burton movie despite there being ten years of ticket inflation. (In turn, it grossed over $300 million overseas, showing the growth of the international market in the past ten years.)

That brings us to the inevitable sequel set ten years later, which brings back Caesar and many of the apes, but brings in a whole new cast of humans including Gary Oldman, Australian actor Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless), Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Kirk Acevedo (“Oz”) as well as actors Toby Kebbell and Judy Greer performing two key ape roles. The real star of the movie is Serkis, whose performance capture work in films like Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy as Gollum, performing the role of King Kong in Jackson’s remake, as well as reviving Gollum for the first installment of The Hobbit has built him quite a fanbase, greatly helped by his performance as Caesar in “Rise.”

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a lot going on for it, starting with the namebrand values of the franchise, but early reviews have literally been raves, making it out to be one of the best movies of the summer even over some of the other movies that have received raves. Of course, this did very little to help Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, which still hasn’t reached $100 million domestically, but “Dawn” certainly has more interest being a sequel to a popular franchise reboot.

While it’s highly possible that “Dawn” could become the sixth movie of the summer to open over $90 million, we think that opening later in the summer with ennui already starting to set in might hold it back slightly. We think that it’s going to open well somewhere in the mid-$70 millions, and it should hold up well over the next few weeks against movies that probably won’t open above $40 million. The quality and popularity of the film should help it achieve $220 to 230 million by summer’s end, putting it in line with summer movies like Maleficent and X-Men: Days of Future Past to become the second or third biggest movie of the summer. (The way Transformers: Age of Extinction is going, that may have a struggle to achieve $250 million.)

Review

The John Carney musical romance Begin Again (The Weinstein Company), his follow-up to the cult hit Once starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, is supposed to be expanding wider this Friday although it’s unclear how wide exactly. It opened in New York and Los Angeles a few weeks back to the tune of $148 thousand or $30 thousand per theater, which isn’t huge, but it added 170 theaters before the 4th of July to bring its limited release total to $1.5 million through Sunday.

The Weinstein Company tends to do well with expansions and both Knightley and Ruffalo have been making the talk show rounds to promote the movie. Again, depending on the size of the expansion, it’s likely to bring in $2 to 3 million this weekend, which may be just enough to get into the Top 10 but just barely depending on how some of the returning movies hold up after the 4th of July holiday.

Interview with John Carney

Review

This weekend last year will be one that forever lives in infamy as the Adam Sandler ensemble comedy sequel Grown Ups 2 (Sony), co-starring Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and friends, beat Guillermo del Toro’s awesome monsters vs. robots epic Pacific Rim (Legendary/WB) at the box office. Not that it mattered much since Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me 2 remained #1 for a second weekend in a row with $43.9 million ahead of Grown Ups 2‘s $41.5 million and Pacific Rim‘s $37.3 million. Despite great reviews and word-of-mouth, Pacific Rim barely grossed more than $100 million, having cost $190 million, but the over $300 million it made internationally helped Legendary move forward with a sequel for 2017. The Top 10 grossed $183 million but with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes being the only movie to gross more than $25 million this weekend, it’s going to be tough to beat making this another weekend significantly down from last year.

This Week’s Updated Predictions -

UPDATE: The only change is that now that we have a solid theatre count for The Weinstein Company’s Begin Again at 939 screens, we can set a more concise prediction for the weekend at ninth place with $3.2 million.

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) – $73.5 million N/A

2. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount) – $16 million – 57%

3. Tammy (Warner Bros.) – $9.5 million -56%

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Animation, 20th Century Fox) – $5.8 million -35%

5. 22 Jump Street (Sony) – $5.5 -44%

6. Earth to Echo (Relativity) – $5.1 million – 39%

7. Deliver Us from Evil (Screen Gems/Sony) – $4.7 million -52%

8. Maleficent (Walt Disney Pictures) – $4.0 million -35%

9. Begin Again (The Weinstein Company) – $3.2 million +84% (up .9 million and one place)

10. Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.) – $3 million

This Week’s Limited Releases:

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is Boyhood (IFC Films), the new slice of life drama from Richard Linklater that he spent twelve years filming, in order to capture the growth of a young boy named Mason, played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane.

You can’t talk about this movie, which co-stars Linklater regular Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s divorced parents, without mentioning the process with which Linklater filmed it, starting in 2001 when he decided to make a movie that followed the evolution of youth of a boy from the age of 6 to 18. I had been hearing about this project over the years whenever I interviewed Linklater and Hawke, but they were always quite elusive and enigmatic about how the project was going.

Turns out that it was an experiment that works quite brilliantly as we first meet Coltrane’s Mason in the early ‘90s, being raised by his now single mother (Arquette) along with his sister Samantha (played by Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei). Circling the family peripherally is their estranged father (Hawke) and we see how Mason’s life is affected by these other characters in his life.

Boyhood” is a virtual time capsule as Linklater’s characters throw in references to all sorts of things that would have just been introduced during the making of the movie – things like the Wii, iPhones, the popularity of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series both as books and movies. It also allows for a number of unintentionally funny bits like Hawke telling his son during a camping trip how there will never be another “Star Wars” movie. (Knowing this scene was probably shot nearly eight years ago makes it that much funnier.)

There’s little question the main reason the film works is that at its heart is first-time actor Ellar Coltrane, who is just as expressive and fascinating to watch at 6 years old as he is at 18. It shows a great deal of foresight on Linklater’s part that he could find such a young actor and realize that he could theoretically maintain a film like Coltrane does. (It’s hard not to make comparisons to the genius of producer David Heyman in finding Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson for that first “Harry Potter” film.) Lorelei Linklater is also quite amazing as we watch her evolve from a bratty ‘tween into a sophisticated (yet still whiny) teenager who actually brings a surprising amount of humor to her scenes.

As we’ve seen before, Linklater brings out the best in Hawke and that’s the same case here, as he brings an incredible amount of charm to the kids’ estranged father. We get to see how his life changes and evolves over the years as much as we do Mason and his mother. In fact, it’s some of Arquette’s decisions in terms of romance and remarrying after her split with Hawke that creates such a rich character, as she faces one drunken husband after another, the kids having to deal with the abuse from their stepfathers as well. Arquette gives a wonderfully rounded emotional performance that makes it hard not to feel her sadness when she realizes that her youngest is going off to college as the movie ends.

Where Linklater’s film feels somewhat uneven is when it comes to the music, kicking off with Coldplay and other rock tunes from the early ’00s, but this idea is quickly discarded and the music seems minimal to nonexistent once it gets past a certain point. One wonders whether Linklater was editing and doing the music as he went along and changed tactics after the first few segments.

One would think that at nearly three hours, “Boyhood” might be a grueling exercise in filmmaking narcissism, but Linklater has created such interesting characters and allowed his cast to really flesh out many of the more pivotal scenes that the film rarely gets boring even with an ending that goes on for too long and then ends abruptly. (Seriously, it could have gone on for another hour and it would still be absorbing.)

With a brilliant filmmaking experiment that works beyond belief, Linklater continues to prove himself as one of the strongest character-driven filmmakers out there. The loose script and performances by the core quartet makes it one of the best movies of the year with ease.

Boyhood opens in select cities on Friday. Not only is it likely to end up on many Top 10 lists at the end of the year, it’s also very likely to be one of IFC Films’ biggest movies in quite some time.

Rating: 9/10

Comedies

Nick Hornby’s novel A Long Way Down (Magnolia) is brought to the screen by (former “Chosen One”) Heartbreaker director Pascal Chaumeil, with Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots–the latter two reuniting after Need for Speed–playing four strangers who meet on the roof of a London building on New Year’s Eve. It’s now available on iTunes and On Demand, but it will get a nominal release in New York City at the Quad Cinemas on Friday and other cities next Friday.

Interview with Pierce Brosnan

Two long-time friends (and former brothers-in-law) who haven’t seen each other in years go on a trip to Iceland in Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz’s Land Ho! (Sony Pictures Classics), which follows the odd pairing of Australian Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) and Texan Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) as they experience the wonders of Iceland together. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Conan the Barbarian star Jason Momoa directs and stars in Road to Paloma (Anchor Bay Films, WWE Studios), playing a Native American named Robert Wolf, who is on the run from the authorities across the country on his motorcycle, after getting revenge on his mother’s murderers. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Nicolas Cage stars in the revenge thriller Rage (RLJ/Image Entertainment) as a businessman and father whose peaceful life is threatened by his violent past as his teen daughter is kidnapped forcing him to round up his old crew to get her back. Also starring Danny Glover, Rachel Nichols and Peter Stormare, this seems to follow the current trend of kidnapped daughters we’ve been seeing in movies like Homefront, last week’s Deliver Us From Evil and the upcoming The Prince, which just goes to show that everything in movies has already been done.

Drama?:

Directed by Kevin Asch (Holy Rollers), Affluenza (FilmBuff) stars Ben Rosenfield as aspiring photographer Fisher Miller, who spends the summer of 2008 in a wealthy Long Island neighborhood where he gets caught in a world of money, sex, booze and privilege. Also starring Grant Gustin (CW’s new Flash), Nicola Peltz (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Steve Guttenberg, Gregg Sulkin and Samantha Mathis, it opens in New York on Friday and in Los Angeles on July 18.

Foreign Films of Interest:

Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (Offside, Crimson Gold, The Circle), whose conflict with the country’s government led to him being banned from filmmaking (as documented in This is Not a Film), returns with the drama Closed Curtain (Variance Films), about a screenwriter who has closed himself off from the world with his dog, only to have their peace interrupted by a young woman on the run from the authorities. It opens at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday.

Documentaries of Note:

Ron Howard directs the music documentary Made in America (Phase 4 Films) which covers Jay Z’s Philadelphia festival of the same name with backstage interviews with some of the hottest acts around including Kanye West, Pearl Jam, Passion Pit, The Hives, Dirty Projectors, Janelle Monae, Skrillex, Miike Snow and more. It opens in select cities Friday.

Underwater Dreams (AMC Theaters) follows four Mexican teenagers who built an underwater robot using PVC Pipe and duct tape and went up against MIT in a contest held by NASA and won! Narrated by Michael Peña, it opens at a single AMC theater in New York (AMC Empire 25) and Los Angeles (AMC Burbank 6) on Friday.

We’ve had it way too easy this summer with many weeks of just one or two new movies, so next week we have three new wide releases with the horror sequel The Purge: Anarchy (Universal), the Cameron Diaz-Jason Segel R-rated comedy Sex Tape (Sony) and the Disney animated sequel Planes: Fire and Rescue.

In the meantime, I appeared last week on the podcast “Popcorn and Prosecco” with the awesome Perri Nemiroff and Kristy Symons Puchko talking about last week’s movies if you want to check that out here. Fun times!


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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