The Weekend Warrior: Nightcrawler, Before I Go To Sleep, Saw Re-Release

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These are interesting times indeed when we get to the end of October and the last weekend of the month (or the first weekend of November, depending on how you’re looking at it) and we have two lower-key thrillers, neither of them horror movies, being released by relatively new distributors. And then along comes Lionsgate and says “F you, America, we’re gonna re-release one of the biggest Halloween hit franchises of all time for its tenth anniversary and you’re gonna go see that instead!”

Even with the combined starpower of Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth and the added awesomeness of Mark Strong, it’s hard to think that either of the two new movies can take on Lionsgate’s 10th Anniversary rerelease of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s debut film Saw (Lionsgate) for a variety of reasons, but read on, and see if you agree or not.

Releasing a movie on Halloween proper is a somewhat odd decision, especially when it falls on a Friday, because most kids are out trick or treatin’ and adults have their own crazy costumed parties that will take advantage of the holiday falling on a Friday night. Because of this, family films will take a dip but horror movies could see a nice spike.

The last time Halloween fell on a Friday was in 2008, which saw a couple of new movies take on the second weekend of Saw V, which didn’t get a Halloween bump, instead dropping 78% from the previous Friday. It also was pretty flat for the weekend showing and wasn’t helped greatly by Halloween. (The next “Saw” movie didn’t open well showing that five movies was enough for the fans – see more below.) With that in mind, it should be interesting to see how Universal’s Ouija fares since it opened rather weakly with a terrible “C” CinemaScore, so one wonders if horror fans will bother to see it on Halloween proper, will pick one of the new movies or just find other things to do.

Before we get back to the “Saw” rerelease, let’s look at the new movies, specifically Nightcrawler (Open Road Entertainment), starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmad. The directorial debut by screenwriter Dan Gilroy, brother to “Bourne” overseer Tony Gilroy, looks at a group that’s taken a tangent from the paparazzi community by driving around trying to get film footage of crime scenes to sell to local news stations.

Gyllenhaal’s career has been hit or miss since he exploded onto the scene at the turn of the century, but he’s definitely been involved with some groundbreaking movies, whether it’s Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko or David Fincher’s Zodiac or Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, for which he received his first Oscar nomination. He’s also starred in some of the absolutely worst studio crap, including Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow and Jerry Bruckheimer’s The Prince of Persia, the former which did significantly better over Memorial Day than the latter. Since then, Gyllenhaal appeared in the rom-com flop Love and Other Drugs opposite Anne Hathaway and then things changed as he started appearing in smaller, quirkier fare that put him in good favor with critics.

This trend started with Duncan Jones’ Source Code, which grossed $54.7 million, and then a few years back, Nightcrawler distributor Open Road released David Ayer’s police drama End of Watch, co-starring Michael Peña, which grossed $41 million. Last year’s thriller Prisoners opposite Hugh Jackman opened with $21 million on its way to $61 million, better than his next movie with that film’s director, Denis Villeneuve, Enemy which only grossed a cool million. Even so, Gyllenhaal certainly has his fans due to the better quality movies he’s been making, which will be a driving force for Nightcrawler‘s business.

Besides premiering at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, where it received raves, Nightcrawler closed off Fantastic Fest in Austin, showing the wide range of audiences that have been wowed by Gilroy’s film, although it certainly doesn’t seem as immediate a draw as a police thriller from the guy behind Training Day, which helped to sell End of Watch.

It’s hard to tell if this will be a choice for moviegoers on Halloween night, but word-of-mouth and buzz from the film’s festival showings and generally positive reviews should get serious moviegoers interested even if it’s not likely to get casual moviegoers. With direct competition from last week’s John Wick and the proper horror films (both in wide and limited release), this will probably end up in the $11 to 13 million range, taking second place against the return of the hugely popular first “Saw” movie.

9/10 Review

Interview with Director Dan Gilroy

Not quite as high profile is Rowan Joffee’s adaptation of S.J. Watson’s bestselling novel Before I Go To Sleep (Clarius Entertainment), starring Nicole Kidman as a woman with memory issues following an accident, which gets her to forget everything that happened the day before. Colin Firth and Mark Strong play her husband and doctor, respectively, both of whom know what happened to her but may not be telling her the whole truth.

Before I Go to Sleep is getting a surprisingly wide release for a movie that doesn’t seem to have much marketing behind it. Maybe Clarius is hoping the readers of Watson’s book might want to see how it translates to the screen and it will sell itself based on the title alone, especially considering the success of other adaptations this year, but it’s being released against a much stronger thriller as well as the rerelease of a popular Halloween hit from the past.

The last time Firth and Kidman were in a movie together was the Weinstein Company release The Railway Man earlier this year, which grossed about $4.4 million in limited release with not much more marketing behind it than Before I Go to Sleep. While Firth has a number of huge blockbusters under his belt including the Oscar-winning Best Picture The King’s Speech (for which Firth also won an Oscar), Robert Zemeckis’ animated A Christmas Carol and the hit musical Mamma Mia!, Kidman’s career has stagnated with her biggest movie being the Adam Sandler comedy Just Go With It in which she had a rather small role. To think that ten years ago, Kidman was thought to be the next Angelina Jolie, but that never happened.

Clarius Entertainment’s last release was the Michael Douglas-Diane Keaton rom-com And So It Goes and with a ton more promotion, it opened with just $4.6 million in 1,816 theaters on its way to $15 million. Because this movie’s release is pretty low profile and none of the actors will do much to get anyone out to theaters, it will be surprising if this one even grosses $4 million in its moderate release in 1,760 theaters and I don’t think it will end up grossing $10 million. (Reviews will probably be bad, considering that it’s not even being screened for most American critics before Wednesday at the earliest.)

So now let’s go back to Saw (Lionsgate) and why it could very well win the weekend. The movie is only being re-released into a moderate 1,850 theaters, but it’s coming out ten years after the original release on October 29, 2004, in which it grossed $18.3 million in 2,300 theaters thanks to a terrific marketing campaign by Lionsgate. It grossed $55 million domestic and $103 million worldwide based on a production budget of $1.2 million and it continued a strong tradition of lower-budget horror being hugely popular. (That wave probably began with another movie that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, The Blair Witch Project.)

While that movie made a name for director James Wan and his writing/acting partner Leigh Whannell, the franchise was continued at least without Wan, leading to four successive $30 million plus openers, all released on the same final weekend of October. And then “Paranormal Activity” came along and stole a lot of “Saw’s” thunder with Saw VI bombing with just $27.6 million domestically grossed on an $11 million budget. The finale Saw 3D did slightly better with $45 million after opening with $24.2 million. (That last one grossed $133 million worldwide, up there with the fourth movie.)

So you’d think that would be the end of the story, but then Wan and Whannell did another low budget horror movie together (with “Paranormal Activity” producer Jason Blum, in fact!) and that movie Insidious became a decent-sized hit, leading to an even bigger sequel. And then Wan directed last summer’s huge horror hit The Conjuring, which itself has launched a third horror franchise, and you suddenly have a whole new audience of horror fans who may never have seen the duo’s original “Saw” movie.

Sure, a lot of them had plenty of chances of seeing that first movie on DVD, Blu-ray, cable, etc, but there will be a fairly large audience of younger people who never got to see the movie in theaters with friends and with a crowd and that should drive a lot of people into theaters both on Halloween and the night before. Since the movie’s only playing in theaters for one week, it will get most of that business in that first day and weekend, so I expect it to end up with around $7 to 8 million in its first 24 hours and around $15 to 16 million for the rest of the weekend. It will probably end up with less than $23 million total, since it only has four more days after opening weekend. Even so, that’s going to be enough to win the Halloween weekend even with Ouija bringing in most of its business that Friday as well.

The last weekend of October was also the first weekend of November last year, and it saw the release of three new movies with the adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (Summit) winning the weekend with a mere $27 million in 3,407 theaters. Opening in third place was the ensemble comedy Last Vegas (CBS Films), starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, which did decently with $16.3 million in 3,065 theaters, followed in fourth place with the animated family film Free Birds (Relativity Media), featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler and more, which opened with $15.8 million in 700 more theaters. The Top 10 grossed $116 million, which could be tough to replicate with Halloween taking away some business and none of the new movies opening as well as any of the three movies that opened last year.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: Based on advance ticket sales, we’re swapping places for the top two movies from our earlier predictions, putting Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler in first place over the Saw rerelease although it should be very close on Friday night.

1. Nightcrawler (Open Road Entertainment) – $14.3 million N/A (up 2.5 and one place)

2. Saw (Lionsgate) – $13.0 million N/A (down 2.2 and one place)

3. Ouija (Universal) – $9.5 million -53% (up .5 million)

4. John Wick (Lionsgate) – $8.2 million -44% (up .1 million)

5. Fury (Sony) – $7.5 million -45%

6. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) – $7.1 million -36%

7. St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) – $5.5 million -35% (up .4 million)

8. The Book of Life (20th Century Fox) – $5.0 million -50%

9. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Disney) – $4.1 million -43%

10. Before I Go To Sleep (Clarius Entertainment) – $4.0 million N/A (up 3.5 million)

Before we get to…

This Week’s Limited Releases:

This week being Halloween, I just want to draw some attention to Film Society of Lincoln Center’s upcoming Scary Movies 8, which starts on Friday, Halloween night, with the vampire mockumentary What We Do In the Shadows, starring “Flight of the Conchords” vet Jemaine Clement and director Taika Waititi. (The movie has yet to find distribution or a release date so it may be one of the last chances to see it after its run the festival gauntlet starting at Sundance.)

The series will close with Gerald Kargl’s 1983 horror film Angst and in between, you’ll get a great cross-section of films that have played recent festivals like South by SouthWest, Toronto and Fantastic Fest, the likes of Adrian Boliano’s Late Phases and Kevin Kosch’s Starry Eyes and the doc Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau by David Gregory (presumably not the one from “Meet the Press”).

The horror film series runs for one week only from October 31 through November 6 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.

THE CHOSEN ONE:

Normally, I’d have been fine going with this week’s main wide release Nightcrawler as the “CHOSEN ONE,” because it’s a rare instance when a wide release is as good as anything in limited release, but then I saw Joe Angio’s Revenge of the Mekons (Music Box Films), which opens at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday for one week only.

Now mind you, I was really into music during the ’80s when the Mekons were at the height of their fame, and I certainly had heard a lot of their better-known tunes, especially the ones that had videos on MTV, usually during “120 Minutes.” But I always thought of them as a former punk band who “turned country” and because I hated country music, I didn’t pay them much attention.

Now older and more appreciative of some forms of country music (but not that much), I was maybe a little more open to learning more about the Mekons and see what I’d been missing since I last paid any attention, which would have been the late ’80s.

With an impressive amount of access and concert footage dating back to the band’s early days as an art school band from Leeds during the ’70s who could barely play their instruments, Angio puts together a riveting story about how the remaining members (only two of the cofounders still on board) have been able to keep things together to keep releasing records and playing shows despite being scattered across the globe and not having a major label record deal.

There’s really a lot of fascinating stuff in here from showing how the art school peers of Gang of Four went in their own direction by snubbing their noses at fame and major labels, and were still able to find a small but diehard audience who has followed them well into their 50s and 60s. The concert footage is fantastic, as we see the current incarnation of the band playing songs from across their entire discography going back to the ’70s and hear testimonials from

I also never realized that Mekons singer Sally Timms, who joined the band in 1985, was actually married to Fred Armisen and convinced him to go the comedy route. Other Mekons have equally interesting backgrounds and we spend time with all of them, whether they’re in Chicago or Los Angeles or London or even Siberia in one case. Yet, when cofounder Jon Langford puts out the call of “Mekons Assemble!” they all get together to record and play a few shows for their adoring fans.

Whether or not you personally were ever a fan of the Mekons, this is definitely a movie to see for true fans of British music, as it shows another layer of the punk and post-punk music scene that should be appreciated. It also creates an interesting dichotomy to the equally great Soul Boys of the Western World, the Spandau Ballet doc that shows them coming out of the same general environment of England in the late ’70s/early ’80s, but they got into the world of fashion and quickly sold out with radio-friendly pop, which is why they’re still famous today.

Rating: 9/10

Documentaries of Note:

The new doc from two-time Oscar nominee Marshall Curry (Racing Dreams), Point and Shoot (The Orchard), winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at this year’s 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, shines the spotlight on Matthew VanDyke, a 27-year-old Baltimore native who is inspired by some of his heroes to go off on adventures in Northern Africa and the Middle East (always filming his adventures) before ending up as a freedom fighter in Libya, getting captured and imprisoned for six months. I have to say that I wasn’t particularly interested in VanDyke as a subject matter and I questioned a lot of his decisions during the second half which focuses on his time in Libya, which is also the most interesting part of the movie due to the warzone footage (similar to Restrepo).

Margaret Brown’s The Great Invisible (RADiUS-TWC), the winner of this year’s Jury Award for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, deals with the aftermath of the explosion on the offshore oilrig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 members of the crew before sinking and causing the largest offshore oil spill in American history, flowing for three months. Brown talks to people in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas to find out how it affected them. It opens in New York and L.A on Wednesday and also plays as a part of DOC-NYC, which we’ll discuss more in a couple weeks.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Daniel Radcliffe stars in Horns (RADiUS-TWC), based on Joe Hill’s novel and directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension , The Hills Have Eyes), in which he plays Ig, a young man who has been accused of murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple) and while he tries to find out who the true killer is, he starts spouting horns and bringing out the worst in others. It opens in select cities.

Interview with Daniel Radcliffe

The alphabetical horror anthology ABCs of Death 2 (Magnet Releasing) features 26 new short films from all across the globe, each based around a single letter of the alphabet, with contributions from the likes of the Soska sisters, Larry Fessenden, Vincenzo Natali, Bill Plympton, Julian Barratt and more. It opens in select cities for two nights only this weekend, following its run On Demand; you can find out where it’s playing theatrically right here.

Comedies

Jon Cryer from “Two and a Half Men” (and Pretty in Pink) stars in Ricky Blitt’s comedy Hit by Lightning (Gravitas Ventures), playing an aspiring writer and restaurant manager who starts an online relationship that ends up being more than he bargained for.

Foreign Films of Interest:

Legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard returns with Goodbye to Language 3D (Kino Lorber) following the relationship between a married woman, a single man and a dog (?) over the course of a number of seasons. And it’s all in 3D. Yeah, I can’t even sell myself on this movie.

Next week, the month of November kicks off with two movies we expect to do absolutely huge business with fan-favorite director Christopher Nolan returning with his outer space odyssey Interstellar (Paramount) and Walt Disney Animation bringing Marvel’s Big Hero 6 (Disney) to the screen as an animated adventure-comedy. The Weekend Warrior will be spending much of the next week in Brazil but hopefully we’ll still have a column as usual.


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Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas