The Weekend Warrior: Ouija, John Wick

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It’s hard to get excited about the last few weekends of October, especially in a week when it’s doubtful I’ll have a chance to see either new movie in wide release before they open, but basically we have the latest movie based on a Hasbro game (of sorts), crossing into the found footage horror genre, while Keanu Reeves stars in a new revenge-thriller. November can’t come soon enough.

We may as well start with the weekend’s horror offering Ouija (Universal), because it is October and that’s usually the best time for a horror movie. This one seems like it’s been in development for a long time and the closer it gets to release, the less I know about it except for the fact it’s based around the popular sleepover séance pastime of trying to talk to the dead using a board covered with legs. It’s a total scam, but every once in a while, a Ouija board is brought out as the plot of a horror movie and in the spirit of game-related movies like Boardwalk, we get an entire movie about it. This one involves a group of kids trying to call forth the spirit of a friend of theirs who committed suicide.

Directed by someone named Stiles White, a long-time special FX guy making his directorial debut, the only known actor is Olivia Cooke, who appears on A&E’s “Bates Motel” and has appeared in another horror movie released earlier this year called The Quiet Ones, as well as the low-budget sci-fi thriller The Signal.

Horror movies haven’t done that well this year up until the release of the horror spin-off sequel Annabelle, which has grossed almost $75 million so far, and Ouija is hoping to capitalize on the fact that young moviegoers are getting back into horror again after a slower start for the genre this year.

Ouija should win the weekend thanks to the younger audience looking for scares as it gets closer to Halloween with the film’s strong play on social media being a good sign that its PG-13 rating will help find its target audience. I don’t see it being as big as any of the “Paranormal Activity” or “Saw” movies, but it should be good to end up somewhere in the mid-$20 millions and it should also do well next Friday on Halloween proper before quickly dropping off the face of the planet. It probably will end up with less than $60 million total.

Keanu Reeves plays John Wick (Lionsgate), an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement when gangsters take everything from him, including his dog, so he goes after them in a big way. Shoot-outs, explosions, hand-to-hand fight sequences, this has it all, and it comes out at a time when revenge thrillers seem to be making a comeback as seen by the success of Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer, which opened with $34 million and has grossed $89 million after less than a month in theaters. With that movie exiting the Top 10, John Wick seems like its arriving at a good time to capitalize.

Mind you, Reeves is nowhere near the box office star that Washington has proven to be even though he’s been around nearly as long. Obviously, he’s had a lot of high points in his career from Point Break to Speed to the “Bill and Ted” movies and “The Matrix” trilogy, but those were all more than ten years ago and moviegoers tend to have short memories, especially when it comes to action stars.

Reeves returned from his semi-hiatus following 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still remake (directed by Scott Derrickson) which did well opening weekend but was met with universal scorn and quickly fell off the face of the revolving box office. Reeves did a couple of indie movies since then and co-directed the documentary Side by Side, as well as directing last year’s Man of Tai Chi, but his only big studio movie in five years was 47 Ronin for Universal, which was released last Christmas after nearly two years of delay. It bombed with just $38.4 million, which doesn’t bode well for Reeves making a comeback as an action star.

Lionsgate premiered the movie at Fantastic Fest last month and have gotten a lot of the geek press behind the movie. Even so, it’s hard not to think that this movie is taking the same ill-fated trajectory of the Clive Owen action flick Shoot ‘Em Up, which got a huge push at Comic-Con before its release in 2007 but grossed less than $13 million total.

The movie also opens in IMAX although it doesn’t seem like a movie that really requires it, similar to last month’s The Equalizer. It also doesn’t help that the movie’s title is pretty awful, not even having the namebrand recognition of a “Jack Ryan” or even a “Jack Reacher”–“John Wick” is just a random name with a good potential for puns.

Even with decent fanboy reviews, the dependence the movie has on Keanu Reeves to sell what looks like a standard action movie with an awful title is going to hold this back with most of the interest being towards guys over 20 who have plenty of other options. It’s looking like this could end up with between $11 and 13 million this weekend with a chance at doing about as well as 47 Ronin, but with a significantly smaller budget, it’s going to be seen as more of a success than that movie.

Bill Murray’s latest comedy St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) is expected to expand nationwide on Friday after grossing around $837 thousand in limited release. It averaged $10,000 in 68 theaters this past weekends which is pretty good, but we don’t know how wide it might go and how that might affect the per-theater average, although it’s hard to imagine it will bring in more than $3 to 4 million this weekend, if that. Again, it’s really dependent on the number of theaters, and it’s certainly getting more of a push than Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children did last week, so this may end up surprising.

This weekend last year saw the latest installment of Johnny Knoxville’s crazy stunt series, the prank-filled Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Paramount), which opened in first place with $32 million, lower than Jackass 3D‘s $50 million opening, but still a solid start for a movie that ended up grossing more than $100 million. Ridley Scott directed The Counselor (20th Century Fox) based on a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy and starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, opened in just a few hundred fewer theaters but bombed with $7.8 million or $2,576 per site. The Top 10 grossed $93.3 million and this weekend’s offerings should once again come out ahead.

This Week’s Predictions

1. Ouija (Universal) – $25.4 million N/A

2. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) – $12.5 million N/A

3. Fury (Sony) – $12.2 million -47%

4. John Wick (Lionsgate) – $11.5 million N/A

5. The Book of Life (20th Century Fox) – $10.8 million -38%

6. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Disney) – $7.8 million -39%

7. The Best of Me (Relativity Media) – $5 million -51%

8. The Judge (Warner Bros.) – $
4.8 million -40%

9. Dracula Untold (Universal) – $4.5 million -53%

10.Annabelle (New Line/WB) – $3.8 million -52%

St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) – $3 to 3.5 million (this is depending on a theater count between 800 and 1100)

This Week’s Limited Releases:

There’s lots of good movies in limited release this weekend, but the one that stood above the rest and is therefore our “CHOSEN ONE” is Laura Poitras’ CITIZENFOUR (RADiUS-TWC) or as it’s going to be better known, “The Edward Snowden Documentary.” And no, this is not just a recap of everything we saw on the news over the past year or so, far from it. As we learn in the film’s opening moments, Snowden contacted Poitras early in the process before leaking government documents, and she in turn introduced him to Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who first broke the story.

This film is very different from other documentaries in that it’s not exploring a subject matter after the fact but Poitras’ cameras are right there as the Snowden story is breaking, documenting the time Snowden spends in a Hong Kong hotel with Greenwald, going through the documents and trying to decide how to release the information to the public.

The paranoia displayed by Snowden seems warranted since he’s revealing info about the government’s ability to find anyone anywhere using a variety of surveillance techniques including monitoring one’s Email, phone calls and internet activity. At times, it’s almost funny how paranoid he is as well as his somewhat condescending attitude towards Greenwald when it comes to technology.

For the most part, the movie spends a lot of time with Snowden in a room talking with Greenwald and the other reporter working on the story, which may not sound that interesting. Because of the nature of Snowden going into hiding as soon as his involvement broke, we’ve never actually seen interviews with him to learn more about his personality or his motivations. Since Poitras and her camera were right there with Snowden while this was going on, we get an unprecedented look behind the scenes of a news story not only as it’s happening but even before any of the news has broken.

Poitras gives her film the international feel of a good political conspiracy thriller because she resides in Berlin and Greenwald is in Brazil, although both of them (and their colleagues) start to run into problems while trying to travel due to their involvement in releasing the leaked documents.

The film also closes with a number of huge revelations about how much the government and the President were really aware of what was going on, which just adds to the film’s importance in terms of being seen by the public at large. If you’ve already decided Snowden is either a hero or a traitor, then your mind probably won’t be changed, but that’s not really what the movie is about. Instead, it successfully shows you another side to Snowden and the reasons for what he did in a fairly unedited fashion and that’s largely what makes it the perfect coda to Snowden’s story.

Having premiered at the 52nd New York Film Festival just a few weeks back, Poitras’ doc opens in select cities on Friday, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

Rating: 8.5/10

Comedies

Filmmaker Lynn Shelton returns with her third movie in three years with Laggies (A24) starring Keira Knightley as Megan, a 28-year-old who is frustrated with her life, so she plays hookie from her job and her relationship with her fiancé (Mark Webber) to hang with a teenager (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her father (Sam Rockwell). It opens in New York, Los Angeles on Seattle on Friday with expansions planned over the next couple weeks.

Interview with Keira Knightley and Director Lynn Shelton (Coming Soon!)

Drama:

Shailene Woodley stars in Greg Araki’s adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s White Bird in a Blizzard (Magnolia), playing 17-year-old Kat Connors, whose mother (Eva Green) mysteriously disappears just as Kat’s discovering her sexuality leaving her alone with her father (Christopher Meloni). Years later, she returns to try to find out what happened to her along with a local detective (Thomas Jane) who she happens to be sleeping with. It opens in select cities on Friday following its run On Demand.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

John Gallagher Jr. and Kate Lyn Sheil star in Zachary Wigon’s The Heart Machine (Filmbuff) as Cody and Virginia, a young couple who have been having a long distance relationship over Skype without ever having met in person. After a few weeks, he starts to suspect that everything isn’t as it seems so he starts to do some investigating. After premiering at this year’s South by SouthWest Film Festival, it opens in New York on Friday, as well as on most VOD platforms.

Video Interview with Stars John Gallagher Jr. and Kate Lyn Sheil

Juliet Binoche stars in Erik Poppe’s 1,000 Times Goodnight (Film Movement), playing Rebecca, a top war photographer who is injured while on assignment in Kabul, and when she returns home to Ireland, her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and two daughters plead with her to quit her job and stay home where it’s safe. It opens in select cities and On Demand on Friday.

Interview with Juliet Binoche (Coming Soon!)

Elle Fanning and John Hawkes star in Low Down (Oscilloscope Laboratories), based on Amy-Jo Albany’s memoir from her time as a youth dealing with Joe, her musician father who struggled from heroin addiction.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Having adapted Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs into the Oscar-winning The Departed, Martin Scorsese executive produces Lau’s latest effort along with co-director Andrew Loo, Revenge of the Green Dragons (A24), which follows two Chinese immigrant brothers, Sonny and Steven (Justin Chon, Kevin Wu) as they try to survive in ’80s New York by joining the Chinatown gang “The Green Dragons” only to end up in a feud against each other. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Eduardo Sanchez, director of The Blair Witch Project, has a new horror movie called Exists (Lionsgate), another one from this year’s South by SouthWest Film Festival, which involves five friends on a camping trip in Texas who have an accident on a desolate country road that unleashes a supernatural force of nature. It opens in select cities.

Brad Anderson, director of the haunted insane asylum classic Session 9 and other thrillers, has a new one with Stonehearst Asylum (Millennium Entertainment), which stars Jim Sturgess as a med school grad who takes a position at a mental institution where he falls for one of his colleagues (Kate Beckinsale) without knowing of the history of the place. Also starring Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Brendan Gleeson and David Thewlis, it opens in select cities.

Foreign Films of Interest:

The toast of the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section, Force Majeure (Magnolia) by Ruben Ostland is also Sweden’s selection for the Foreign Film Oscars. It follows businessman Tomas and his wife and two children while on a skiing vacation in the French Alps when an avalanche comes crashing down around them. Tomas runs away leaving his family behind and causing a rift that will hang over them for the rest of their vacation. It opens in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza and Angelika Film Center.

French filmmaker Alan Resnais’ final film Life of Riley (Kino Lorber) is an adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn’s play “Relatively Speaking” about three couples living in the English countryside when they learn one of their mutual friends is terminally ill. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Documentaries of Note:

A country music legend is showcased in James Keach’s Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (Area 23a), a portrait of the musician and singer responsible for hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy” and more who won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award after going public with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, which led to him and his family going on a 151-show “Goodbye Tour.” The doc opens in select cities.

Next week, it’s Halloween and we have a “Spooktacular” column (sorry, all writers are forced to use that adjective at least once in October) where we’ll write about Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy thriller Nightcrawler (Open Road) and the one-week 10th Anniversary rerelease of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s breakthrough horror flick, Saw (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