The Weekend Warrior: Gone Girl, Annabelle, Left Behind

ON

Go ahead and say it: “It’s October already?” 2014 seems to be flying by and the fall movie season is already into its second month where we’re likely to get a bunch of strong awards contenders going by previous years. In the past, October has also been a month where the box office would tend to slow down even more, or at least that used to be the case. Before 2000, not a single movie opened over $30 million and since 2010, we’ve had three movies open over $50 million. With that in mind, October is no longer the dumping ground it used to be, although six of the top 10 opening movies were sequels, something to bear in mind.

We don’t have a sequel this weekend, as much as a spin-off movie from one of 2013’s biggest hits, but we also have an adaptation of one of 2012’s biggest bestselling novels. One’s a horror movie and one’s more of a thriller, but they’re both going to be shooting for much of the same audience essentially cannibalizing each other’s potential box office. Which one will prevail? Read on.

There’s a lot going for Gone Girl (20th Century Fox), the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s huge bestseller that marks the return of director David Fincher since his movie based on another bestseller, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. This anticipated suspense thriller stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry in a rare acting-only role and Neil Patrick Harris in an even rarer dark and dramatic role.

Affleck is probably the biggest draw, especially following his success with his last two directed features Argo and The Town, both fall releases with the former grossing $132 million leading up to its Oscar Best Picture win and the latter bringing in $92.2 million. In between those movies, Affleck’s output hasn’t been that impressive with the Sundance film The Company Men not even grossing $5 million and his appearance in Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder making more money on VOD. His last movie Runner Runner pretty much bombed in the same weekend last year (see below).

It certainly seems like movie audiences are starting to respect Affleck more as a director than actor, but in this case, he’s teamed with Fincher, a director who has had huge success throughout his career. Considering that he’s been making movies for over 20 years, it’s a little surprising that Gone Girl is only the director’s tenth movie. Three of those previous movies have come close to grossing $100 million or more with 2010’s Oscar-nominated The Social Network and 2002’s Panic Room falling just short. The former movie opened in the first weekend of October to the tune of $22.4 million, not quite as good as his previous movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button two years earlier – that benefitted from a Christmas opening and Fincher re-teaming with Brad Pitt, the star of his early hit Se7en. The aforementioned Panic Room opened with $30 million in March 2002, at a time when it was not that common for openings that big.

Affleck’s co-star Rosamund Pike first became known as a Bond girl in Pierce Brosnan’s swan song Die Another Day (taking a backseat role to Halle Berry) and has since gone on to appear in diverse films like Pride & Prejudice, Doom, An Education and more recently, Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, reuniting with Simon Pegg for Hector and the Search for Happiness, currently in theaters. In theory, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris could potentially be a draw to their own diverse fanbases as well.

Even with Affleck and Fincher on board, the real draw for the movie is the fact that Flynn’s novel, which she adapted herself, was a hugely discussed novel when it was released two years ago and fans of the book will certainly be curious to see how (and if) it translates to the screen.

The movie just opened the 52nd New York Film Festival on Friday, which got it a lot of high-profile press just a week before it opened including dozens of early reviews, mostly positive, and much of the cast including Affleck, Pike, Perry and Harris have been doing the talk show circuits to make sure that the women the movie will be of interest to will realize it’s coming out Friday.

There’s been a lot of talk about possible changes from the book–you can read a good article on the minor changes here if you’ve read the book and aren’t worried about spoilers–but so far, the reviews have mostly been positive, some even to the point of being hyperbolic, but that should help the movie gain more traction as a movie to see this weekend.

The film’s main competition Annabelle (see below) will do its best to entice some of the younger women who haven’t read the book away, but those who have read the book and the male cinephiles who will see anything David Fincher does should allow this to win the weekend, even if it looks like a tight race on Friday night. Expect an opening in the $30 to 35 million range, possibly even higher, on its way to becoming another $100 million hit for Fincher.

7/10 Review

Video Interviews with the Cast

Video Interview with Composer Trent Reznor

Offering some serious competition is Annabelle (New Line/WB), a spin-off prequel from last year’s summer sleeper hit The Conjuring from Saw and Insidious co-creator James Wan. Wan is executive producing but this one is directed by his regular cinematographer John Leonetti, who previously directed the sequels Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2 – the latter which went straight to DVD.

The cast for this one includes Alfre Woodard and a lot of young actors you’re likely to never have heard of, including one Annabelle Wallis, who oddly, doesn’t play Annabelle. No, that would be the scary doll seen briefly during the framing sequence for The Conjuring, as this movie sets out to tell the story of how that doll became part of Lorraine and Ed Warren’s collection, without actually having the Warrens in the movie.

Horror films tend to do well in October with Halloween coming up in a few short weeks, something seen by the success of The Grudge opening with $39.2 million in 2004 followed by the huge success of the “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity” franchises, the second and third installments of the latter opening to $40 and $52 million, respectively. (Even the “Scary Movie” franchise got a nice bump by giving the third movie an October release.) The problem is that all of those movies have been released later in October, usually a week before or the actual weekend of Halloween when moviegoers were much more ready for a scary movie then they are right now. Seriously, I have no idea why this movie wasn’t released on Halloween proper, which falls on a Friday this year, but Warner Bros. waited too long and lost October 24 to Universal’s Ouija which isn’t quite as strong. (And now the original Saw is getting a tenth anniversary release on Halloween proper.)

As mentioned above, this spin-off doesn’t have James Wan at the helm (not that it hurt any of the “Saw” sequels), but it also doesn’t have known actors like Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who both have done their share of horror and genre films, so it’s essentially selling itself based solely on the doll from The Conjuring. Even with the connection to the popular horror flick The Conjuring and its solid marketing as a scary movie opening in a year where there’s been very few strong horror releases (probably for a reason), it’s still going to be fighting for audiences with Gone Girl and that’s going to keep it below the $30 million mark for the weekend.

As with most horror films, we expect this one to do very well on Thursday night and on Friday but then tail off a bit over the weekend, which will put it well behind Gone Girl even if it might seem like a tighter race on Friday night. We think this one should be good from between $27 and 30 million opening weekend, but it’s doubtful it will have similar legs as The Conjuring and probably will end up around $80 million or lower by the time it leaves theaters. (It should still get a nice bump on Halloween, but that will already be its fifth weekend in theaters.)

Lastly, we have Nicolas Cage’s first live-action wide release in God knows how long (see what I did there?) as he stars in the remake of Left Behind (Freestyle Releasing), adapted from the series of top-selling books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, which ran from 1995 to 2007 as it explored the End Times foreseen by some factions of Christianity. The first book in the series was turned into an independent film starring Kirk Cameron from “Growing Pains” and was given a semi-wide release into 867 theaters in early 2001, where it opened with $2.2 million on its way to $4.2 million. That isn’t that great, but despite not being a huge hit, it was definitely the starting point for a number of spiritually-based movies that have been prevalent in recent years.

This new version of Left Behind is coming out at a different time, well post-9/11 when the country has been striving for more spiritual answers as the religious right wing has been gaining dominance, plus it has a bigger box office star in Nicolas Cage… although even that is seriously questionable. Sure, he was a major part of DreamWorks Animation’s 2013 hit The Croods, but he hasn’t had a significant live-action hit since 2007’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which grossed over $200 million domestic. 2010’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which reunited the entire “National Treasure” team, bombed with just $63.5 million domestic and $215 million worldwide. The sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance did even worse two years later. Everything in between has either been a limited release or an outright bomb with his most recent movie Joe directed by David Gordon Green, earning $373 thousand, which is par for his last three live-action movies.

So yeah, I guess we can’t really count on the Cageman to sell this version of Left Behind, which is being released by Freestyle Releasing, essentially a company that helps filmmakers self-distribute their films. (The movie also stars Chad Michael Murray and “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks. Seriously, who cares?)

The film is actually being advertised almost as much as some of the wider releases and it’s not just being pimped to those who bought the book for its religious overtones. It’s also opening in nearly twice as many theaters as the original movie with 13 years of movie ticket inflation to also take into consideration. Earlier this year, Freestyle Releasing had its biggest hit with the documentary God’s Not Dead, which grossed $60.7 million, but their most recent spiritual movie The Identical bombed, grossing less than $3 million despite opening in nearly 2,000 theaters in a weekend all by itself.

We can probably expect Left Behind to do slightly better with the name brand value of its title and yeah, we’ll give Nicolas Cage some credit if it’s even remotely a hit, but opening against two stronger offerings, we’ll be shocked if this makes more than $5 million this weekend and it will probably end up with less than $10 million total.

This weekend last year saw the release of Alfonso Cuaron’s blockbuster Oscar-winning hit Gravity (Warner Bros.), starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, which opened way above expectations with $55.8 million in 3,575 theaters, helped greatly by the implied necessity of seeing it in 3D and IMAX. It would go on to gross $274 million before winning seven Oscars, including the first one for Cuaron as a director. This star of this week’s Gone Girl, Ben Affleck, co-starred opposite Justin Timberlake in the offshore poker crime-thriller Runner Runner (20th Century Fox), which bombed with just $7.7 million in 3,024 theaters, about $2,500 per theater, but still ended up in third place. The Spanglish comedy Pulling Strings (Lionsgate/Pantelion) opened with $2.5 million in 387 theaters to take ninth place. The $111.5 million made by the Top 10 is probably close to where we’ll see this weekend fall barring a huge upset for one of the two big movies over the other.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) – $36.5 million N/A (Up 3.1 million)

2. Annabelle (New Line/WB) – $29.4 million N/A (up .8 million)

3. The Equalizer (Sony) – $15.5 million -53% (down .5 million)

4. The Boxtrolls (Focus Features) – $10.5 million -39% (same)

5. The Maze Runner (20th Century Fox) – $9.6 million -45% (same)

6. Left Behind (Freestyle Releasing) – $5.5 million N/A (up .5 million)

7. This is Where I Leave You (Warner Bros.) – $4.0 million -39% (down .2 million)

8. Dolphin Tale 2 (Warner Bros.) – $2.7 million -38%

9. Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney/Marvel) – $2.4 million -36% (down .2 million)

10. No Good Deed (Screen Gems/Sony) – $2.1 million -55% (same)

Before we get to…

This Week’s Limited Releases:

I just want to mention for those in the New York area that the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinematek is having a very special retrospective for one of my favorite Chinese martial arts directors/performers, Mr. Stephen Chow, running next week from October 6 through October 12. It’s going to be a great way for fans of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle to see some of Chow’s earlier films like Justice, My Foot!, The God of Cookery, King of Comedy and more. Chow’s zany sense of humor is combined with his wild action sequences that create something that falls somewhere between The Three Stooges and the more artsy action films of Chow’s peers like Donnie Yen and Jet Li. (His movies are more in line with some of Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong offerings only taking the comedy aspect to wacky almost Monty Python levels of insanity.) They’ll even be showing the two-part 1995 film A Chinese Odyssey, directed by Jeffrey Lau, which stars Chow as martial arts legend “The Monkey King” and I’m not sure if or when that movie’s ever been screened in the States. You can see the full schedule for “Stephen Chow: The King of Comedy” and get tickets right here.

Speaking of “classics,” I also should note that a couple of interesting Blu-ray releases out today (both from Warner Home Video) include an extended Director’s Cut of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time In America starring Robert De Niro, which just debuted at the New York Film Festival over the weekend, and a 4-disc 75th Anniversary limited edition box set of David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind. While we mainly talk about new and upcoming movies in this column (and on the site), it’s good to know something about film history and those two are indeed two films everyone must see. (You can click on the titles to order the Blu-rays.)

THE CHOSEN ONE:

There’s a couple decent movies getting limited releases over the next couple weeks but this week’s “CHOSEN ONE” goes to the latest from filmmaker Jason Reitman, Men, Women & Children (Paramount), an ensemble dramedy starring Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort, Dean Norris and more. Hopefully sometime in the next 24 hours, I’ll have finished my full review of this movie, which only opens in New York and L.A. on Wednesday but will expand into more theaters over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I will say that I feel this is a fine return to form for Reitman who lost me a little bit with his last two movies Labor Day and Young Adult for various reasons – and that’s after making my top movie of 2010, Up in the Air. I can tell that this movie won’t be for everyone but it’s essentially a “Babel” or “Magnolia”-like movie that follows a number of different characters and stories that are interrelated with a running theme between them involving how relationships are affected by the internet and the use of smartphones. As one can designate from the title, it deals with the everyday life of a bunch of teens as well as their parents, and Reitman, along with co-screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary), have adapted a novel by Chad Kultgen into something that’s witty and clever but also quite poignant and thoughtful.

Like many of Reitman’s films, it’s very much a product “of the times” in that it’s commenting on what is going on in the world as we speak and it does so in such a unique and masterful way as it follows various characters and their interactions with each other and the internet world.

While I had a few problems with the film, I was generally impressed with the screenplay and the performances by Reitman’s cast but also in how he’s evolved as a director since his first movie Thank You for Smoking just nine years ago. (Granted, even Reitman’s period drama Labor Day was well directed even if it seemed to be less his kind of movie then we’ve seen.)

I’ve already written a little about this movie as part of my Toronto coverage, but look for my full review soon as well as an interview with Reitman sometime next week.

For now, Men, Women & Children opens in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday and

Review

We’ll give a special “Honorable Mention” to The Good Lie (Warner Bros.), which I also wrote about after seeing it at the Toronto International Film Festival, but essentially, this is a narrative feature based on the 2003 documentary “Lost Boys of Sudan,” following the journey of a small group of kids who walk for thousands of miles across Africa to avoid being killed or indentured into becoming child soldiers by the country’s warlords. So they go for a little walk and the survivors end up in Kenya where three of them are then shipped to Missiouri, separating them from their sister.

Reese Witherspoon plays Carrie, the social worker who helps the three guys adjust to living in Missouri, while Corey Stoll has an even smaller role, but the focus really is on the three unknown actors playing the three guys and they do a great job. The film is directed by Philippe Falardeau, director of the Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar, who helms this one with a similar amount of heart and humor to make it quite an enjoyable experience. The Good Lie was certainly one of the more pleasurable surprises from TIFF since I had very low expectations, but hopefully it will find an audience despite facing so much stronger competition.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Hopefully that movie won’t be confused with A Good Marriage (Screen Media Films), the latest movie based on a Stephen King short story (from the 2010 anthology “Full Dark, Zero Stars”) about a woman who learns her husband of twenty years has been hiding a dark secret from her in a box she finds in their garage. It opens in select cities.

Thomas Jane and John Cusack star in BMX Bandits director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s new action flick Drive Hard (RLJ/Image Entertainment), Jane playing a former race car driver who is tricked by Cusack to be the getaway driver for a $9 million heist. No, this isn’t the sequel to Nicolas Refn’s Drive, because if it was, they’d have called it Drive Harder.

Drama:

Edgar Ramirez stars in Alberto Arvelo’s The Liberator (Cohen Media Group) as the military leader Simon Bolivar, who led Latin America’s struggle for independence while trying to unify South America. It opens in select cities on Friday.

I wrote about Ned Benson’s drama The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, a few weeks back, and on Friday, the two individual movies “Him” and “Her” will be released in New York and Los Angeles, showing the same story from each of their points of view.

Foreign Films of Interest:

France’s Matthieu Amalric wrote, directs and stars in The Blue Room (Sundance Selects), an adaptation of Georges Simenon’s short story about a man and woman who have a torrid affair that leads to murder. It opens in New York at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Friday.

Bang Bang (FIP) is a Hindi remake of the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz action-comedy Knight and Day from director Siddarth Anand, as it follows a bank receptionist (Katrina Kaif) who meets a mysterious man who takes on a transcontinental chase across the globe. Yup, that sounds a lot like Knight and Day, which thankfully didn’t have musical numbers, as this one does.

Documentaries of Note:

This week, we get another look at Somali pirates (following Fishing without Nets a few weeks back) with Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta’s animated doc Last Hijack (Submarine). Pallotta produced the animation for Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, while this doc uses animation to recount the memories of a Somali man named Mohamed who is pressured into hijacking foreign ships for ransom. It opens in select cities following its screening at the New York Film Festival.

Opening on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum, Vanessa Lapa’s doc The Decent One (Kino Lorber) is an in-depth look at Nazi Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler through personal diaries and letters to his wife and daughter.

If those movies don’t sound like a barrel of laughs, we also get Joanne Lipper’s The Supreme Price (Women Make Movies), which follows the troubles faced by M.K.O. Abiola who was elected president of Nigeria in 1993, following years of a dictatorship, only to die in prison while his wife Kudirat, who led strikes and marches for the pro-democracy movement, was also murdered. This cheery film opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Robert Lemelson’s Bitter Honey is a feature length doc about polygamous families in Bali, Indonesia. Okay, I guess after those other three, that’s not so bad… except when the wives get together and rebel against the husband with sharp objects. I’m not sure if that happens but I saw that HBO show with Bill Paxton and he was always getting into trouble.

Other:

Okay, seriously if there’s absolutely any sort of terror or dictators or bad things in The Hero of Color City (Magnolia), a G-rated animated movie about a kid whose Crayon Box transports him to Color City, I’m giving up on movies.

At least until next week, when we potentially have the worst weekend for movies in recent memory with four movies that could potentially be dogs – I’ve only seen one of them. First, we have Luke Evans (Fast and Furious 6) starring in Dracula Untold (Universal), Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner in the family comedy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Disney), Roberts Downey and Duvall star in the drama The Judge (Warner Bros.), while Sharon Leal stars in Billie Woodruff’s adaptation of Zane’s (not Billy!) best-selling novel Addicted (Lionsgate).


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