The Weekend Warrior: Dracula Untold, Alexander’s Bad Day, The Judge, Addicted

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After three weeks of movies openings over $30 million, this is the weekend where it can go terribly, horribly wrong at least for a guy named Alexander, but also for some of the other wide releases, a mixed bag of family films, adult dramas, action movies and something called Addicted. Any of these new movies could break out and open big, but with so much stronger fare in theaters, business will probably be spread out with none of the new movies really doing very huge business. (Oh and before I forget, this week’s column also marks the 13th Anniversary of the Weekend Warrior if you include the few years I wrote it under a different name at another site.)

For better or worse, the weekend’s best bet is the reinvention of a classic monster movie with Dracula Untold (Universal), starring Luke Evans (The Hobbit, Fast and Furious 6) as Bram Stoker’s pioneer of the vampire mythos, a prequel that shows exactly how Dracula became a vampire and got his powers hundreds of years before being visited by Jonathan Harker.

Luke Evans has certainly been making a name for himself in recent years, appearing in two of last year’s biggest blockbusters, Fast & Furious 6 ($788 million worldwide) and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ($958 million worldwide). That’s after appearing in movies like Immortals, The Raven and No One Lives – the latter two being darker gothic thrillers more in the vein of his new role as Dracula. One expects that appearing in “The Hobbit” has helped Evans establish a solid female fanbase and since women do enjoy vampires and Dracula, he could end up being a bigger draw for 20 to 30-something women than may normally come out to see an action movie like this, especially if he appears in the movie shirtless. (Spoiler: he does.)

Although vampires have been overused in movies over the past few years thanks to the success of “The Twilight Saga,” it’s been a while since we’ve seen an actual “Dracula” movie. I lie. Last year, master Italian horror-meister Dario Argento gave us a 3D take on Dracula that was barely seen in its New York and L.A.-only release. In 1992, Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins and directed by Francis Ford Coppola was an enormous hit with a $30.5 million opening weekend on its way to $215.9 million worldwide. Since then, there have been lesser hits like Dracula 2000, starring a young Gerard Butler, which grossed just $33 million total. Different spins on the character like in Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing may have opened big but were critically thrashed and didn’t have much in terms of legs.

This version co-stars Canadian beauty Sarah Gadon, the erstwhile Dominic Cooper and Charles Dance and Art Parkinson from HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones,” which may have been a big influence on first-time director Gary Shore when making this movie, even having the show’s composer Ramin Djawadi do the music. Furthermore, this is rumored to be the first part in Universal Pictures’ plans to reintroduce all their classic “monsters” in hopes of bringing them together Avengers-style in one big movie, although the end scene they’ve added to facilitate this doesn’t seem like one that will excite moviegoers.

While the title may not be great and the movie may look too much like the awful I, Frankenstein starring Aaron Eckhart, which bombed earlier in the year, the Dracula name is certainly worth something, especially in October when horror is king. The PG-13 rating will also help the movie with a teen audience that sometimes has to sit out the amount of R-rated fare in theaters. That and the namebrand value should help bring in moviegoers, maybe not a lot but enough for it to win the weekend with somewhere in the mid-$20 million range. We’ll see if it gets any sort of post-opening bump with Halloween coming up, but it probably will top off around $75 million or so.

Video Interviews with Evans, Gadon and Director Gary Shore

The strongest competition for Dracula will come in the form of the movie based on the ’70s children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Disney), starring Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell. Originally published in 1972, Judith Viorst’s book was popular for its time but it’s also a book that’s been kept around for many years until it finally was optioned to make it into a movie, this one directed by Miguel Arteta, the indie filmmaker of films like Jennifer Aniston’s The Good Girl who went on to direct many popular TV shows in recent years.

The focus on the film’s physical comedy will be what gets kids excited and it feels like a true family film since parents that remember the original children’s book may be interested in seeing it with their kids, especially with the generally likeable Carell and Garner in the cast, even if neither of them have shown themselves to be big box office draws in recent years. Back in the late summer of 2012, Garner appeared in Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which grossed $51.8 million, but Carell is a much bigger family draw mainly from the voicework he’s done in many animated blockbusters, most notably Despicable Me and its sequel, the latter which grossed nearly a billion worldwide just last year.

Carell’s last live-action comedy for families was Universal’s 2007 release Evan Almighty, the sequel to the much-more-successful Jim Carrey comedy which still grossed $100 million. He’s had a number of hits since then including Get Smart ($130.3 million gross), Date Night with Tina Fey ($98.7 million), Crazy, Stupid, Love ($84.3 million) and Hope Springs, not to mention Anchorman 2, although his reteaming with Jim Carrey for 2012’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was a significant bomb.

Oddly, both Garner and Carell have older adult dramatic fare either in theaters or coming soon with Garner appearing in Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children and Carell getting serious awards attention for his role in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher.

That aside, it’s been some time since we’ve had a good live-action family comedy like this and the combination of known stars with decent commercials focusing on the slapstick comedy should help “Alexander” have a fairly strong showing over the weekend. We think an opening in the $15 to 17 million range should be reasonable but with the only other family film being LAIKA’s The Boxtrolls, this one should be good to gross $60 million or more by the time it leaves theaters.

Robert Downey Jr. has the chance to prove his worth as a box office star with a smaller budget drama co-starring six-time Oscar nominee Robert Duvall as The Judge (Warner Bros.). It opens wide on Friday following its premiere as the Opening Night Gala for last month’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it generally got mixed reviews and reactions from critics and audiences there and was not one of the movies that people were generally talking about by the end of the festival.

Normally a movie like this would get a smaller limited release, but the presence of Downey, star of two of the highest-grossing films in recent history, Marvel’s The Avengers and Iron Man 3, which hold the record for #1 and 2 domestic openings of all time, guaranteed that it would get a wider release than these sorts of films normally do. It’s been over five years since Downey appeared in a straight drama like this, and that was The Soloist, which opened a year after the first Iron Man and before he had taken on the Sherlock Holmes franchise. It only made $9.7 million its opening weekend on its way to $32 million.

The Judge, which is being sold on its more humor-filled moments despite being a fairly heavy drama, will probably have the most appeal to older women who don’t exactly flock to theaters opening weekend unless a movie is based on a popular book or HBO’s “Sex and the City.” It should still do decently based on the starpower and appeal of the two Roberts, so expect an opening in the $13 to 15 million range on its way to $45 or 50 million, better than The Soloist and other similar dramedies, like the recent This is Where I Leave You.

6/10 Review

I really don’t know much about the bestselling novel Addicted (Lionsgate) by the author Zane, but this is being sold as another “sexy thriller” in the vein of last year’s Tyler Perry’s Temptation or something less sexy like the recent No Good Deed, both of which were respectable hits that grossed more than $50 million after opening with more than $20 million.

This one stars Sharon Leal, star of both Tyler Perry “Why Did I Get Married” movies, both which also did well among African-American women, as a businesswoman who cannot seem to resist certain “temptations” despite seemingly having a happy life. No, she’s not addicted to drugs as one might expect from the title, but she’s addicted to sleeping with other men, and yeah, this sounds exactly like something that bored housewives, especially those who’ve read the novel by Zane (who is actually a woman named Kristina Laferne Roberts), might be interested in. Apparently, Zane has become a namebrand for erotic fiction with tons of books as well as a number of shows on Skinemax.

Not being even remotely the target audience for this movie or its advertising–I’ve literally seen nothing–I’m going to take a stab in the dark on this one. It’s getting released into a fairly moderate number of theaters, roughly 800, which is less than the normal 2,000 some of the other movies mentioned above might get, and just because her show and books might get a lot of readers, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to sit in a public theater watching lots of sex scenes with strangers. I think this one will end up with around $6 million this weekend with the chance of grossing $15 million total.

Despite the introduction of four new movies, there’s a slight chance that Fox’s Gone Girl could win its second weekend at the box office, because word-of-mouth about its shocking and controversial twists is going to intrigue other moviegoers to go check it out over the course of the week and into the weekend. The movie’s also generating buzz among those who don’t often go to the movies, and that audience doesn’t normally rush out to see a movie opening weekend but will try to see it during its run. Even if Dracula Untold comes out on top, expect Gone Girl to pick up steam and be #1 during the course of the week.

This weekend last year saw the release of Paul Greengrass’ Somali pirate movie Captain Phillips (Sony), starring Tom Hanks and future Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi, which opened decently with $25.7 million in 3,020 theaters or $8,775 per site, but that wasn’t enough to take down Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, which remained #1 with $43.2 million, down just 23% from its October-opening record. Things didn’t go as well for Robert Rodriguez’s action sequel Machete Kills (Open Road Films), once again starting Danny Trejo, which bombed with $3.8 million in fourth place. The Top 10 grossed $103 million, an amount that should be surpassed by this week’s choices due to a combination of strong returning movies and the quantity of new choices.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. Dracula Untold (Universal) – $24.2 million N/A (down .4 million)

2. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) – $22.0 million -41% (Up 1.5 million)

3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Disney) – $17.2 million N/A (up .4 million)

4. Annabelle (New Line/WB) – $16 million -57%

5. The Judge (Warner Bros.) – $15.5 million N/A (up 1.5 million)

6. The Equalizer (Sony) – $10.3 million -45%

7. The Boxtrolls (Focus Features) – $7.8 million -35%

8. The Maze Runner (20th Century Fox) – $7.0 million -38%

9. Addicted (Lionsgate) – $5.6 million N/A

10. Left Behind (Freestyle Releasing) – $3 million -52%

This Week’s Limited Releases:

You may be able to figure out from my 10 out of 10 Review that I generally love Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, and I’m not sure what more I can say about it, although it currently is my #1 movie of the year and I honestly cannot see that changing by year’s end. Obviously, it’s this week’s “Chosen One” and you can learn more by reading said review or my interview below.

Interview with J.K. Simmons

Being my 13th anniversary, we’ll give out a couple hearty “Honorable Mentions” to two really good movies opening this weekend, the first one being Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal (The Orchard), one of the best movies I saw out of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and a great horror movie to prepare yourself for Halloween. It stars Rupert Evans as a film archivist whose wife suddenly disappears–hey, that sounds familiar!–putting him in contact with a mysterious supernatural force that’s connected to the house in which they live. You can see where it’s playing at the official site.

Interview with director Ivan Kavanagh and actor Rupert Evans

For my second “Honorable Mention,” Jeremy Renner stars in Kill the Messenger (Focus Features), directed by Michael Cuesta (“Homeland”), the true story about how California journalist Gary Webb (Renner) got a lead on a story that ties the CIA to the import of drugs from Nicaragua that was in turn being used to fund the country’s revolutionary Contras. Co-starring Rosemarie DeWitt as Webb’s wife and an ensemble cast that includes Oliver Platt, Mary Elisabeth Winstead, Tim Blake Nelson and more, it’s opening in roughly 350 theaters on Friday. You can learn more about it in my feature interview with director Michael Cuesta.

Interview with Director Michael Cuesta

Review (Coming Soon!)

Drama:

James Corden, the upcoming host of CBS’ “The Late Late Show” stars in David (The Devil Wore Prada) Frankel’s One Chance (The Weinstein Company), as Paul Potts, the shy shop assistant who gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he’s allowed to sing on Simon Cowell’s “Britain’s Got Talent,” turning him into a worldwide YouTube sensation. It opens in select cities.

You’re Not You (Entertainment One Films) stars Hilary Swank and Emmy Rossum as a classical pianist facing ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and the wild rock singer who takes a job assisting her as she starts to lose her faculties, while also having problems in her marriage (to Josh Duhamel, no less). Directed by George C. Wolfe (Nights in Rodanthe), it opens in select cities Friday.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Gabe Ibanez’s sci-fi thriller Automata (Millennium Entertainment) stars Antonio Banderas as an insurance agent from the ROC robotics who is involved in a case of a robot being manipulated that can have dire consequences for humanity.

Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola is back with the sequel to his earlier cult zombie film, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (Well Go USA), which follows Vega Hoel’s Martin who wakes up in a hospital after the events of the original movie with a super-powered Zombie arm that’s trying to kill him, so he assembles his friends (including Martin Starr, Ingrid Haas and Jocelyn DeBoer) into a Zombie Squad to fight Colonel Herzog and his zombie army. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Christian E. Christiansen’s The Devil’s Hand (Roadside Attractions) is a horror film about six girls born to different mothers on June 6 in the small village of New Bethlehem, all approaching their 18th birthday which will fulfill a prophecy to become the Devil’s Hand. Starring Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”) and Rufus Sewell, it opens in select cities Friday.

Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath write and direct the horror sequel The Pact 2 (IFC Midnight), the sequel to Nicholas McCarthy’s 2012 horror flick, taking place a few weeks after the first movie with a woman named June who is having lucid nightmares that are disrupting her regular life. It opens in theaters and is also available on VOD.

Comedies

Bill Murray stars in Theodore Melfi’s directorial debut St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) as Vincent, a heavy-drinking, gambling and womanizing loner from Brooklyn who has very little concerns about catering to polite society. When a single mother (Melissa McCarthy) with a young son moves in next door to Vincent, he ends up having to babysit the boy when his mother gets stuck at work, although he’s clearly a bad influence. It opens in limited release on Friday with plans for a wide release on October 24.

Documentaries of Note:

In Harmontown, filmmaker Neil Berkeley looks at the ups and downs of writer-comedian Dan Harmon whose work on NBC’s “Community” was met with critical raves as well as a cult following but that wasn’t enough to get him saved from being fired. The doc covers the time he had off from the show before being rehired. After opening in L.A. and On Demand last week, it gets a New York release on Friday

The doc I Am Ali (Focus World) is a new look at world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali using the boxer’s personal archive of interviews and testimonials from his family and friends, as well as legends in boxing such as Mike Tyson and George Foreman.

Jesse Moss’ The Overnighters (Drafthouse Films) has the results of the filmmaker’s 18 months in the small town of Wilmington, North Dakota where broke and penniless strangers end up looking for help and the tension that causes between the community and a congregation that tries to help them, despite some of the men having criminal records. The tension builds and ultimately spirals out of control as the film shows how doing the Christian thing of “loving thy neighbor” is not always looked upon favorably.

Next week, the month of October motors along with Fury (Sony), a new WWII movie starring Brad Pitt and directed by David Ayers (End of Watch), the latest Nicholas Sparks romance movie The Best of Me (Relativity Media), starring Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden, and the Guillermo del Toro-produced animated flick The Book of Life (20th Century Fox), featuring the voices of Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana and more.


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