The Weekend Warrior: Interstellar, Big Hero 6

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After a pretty lousy weekend with no movie grossing more than $11 million–and we’re not even going to discuss how crazy some of my predictions were last week (what happened Saw rerelease?)–we kick off the holiday movie season proper with the first weekend of November, and a doozy of a weekend it is with Christopher Nolan at the helm of an epic space travel movie facing a Disney animated superhero movie, loosely based on Marvel Comics characters. Honestly, I don’t know how some moviegoers are going to choose which to see first (but check back later in the week for a couple of tips!)

It’s been just over two years since director Christopher Nolan ended the “Dark Knight Trilogy” with The Dark Knight Rises, which grossed over a billion worldwide, and obviously there’s been a lot of anticipation about what Nolan might do next. He’s now back with Interstellar (Paramount), an outer space travel film starring Oscar-winning actors Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Nolan regular Michael Caine, alongside Oscar nominees Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck, as well as Topher Grace, Wes Bentley and more.

At this point, Christopher Nolan may be one of the biggest and hottest directors in Hollywood alongside the likes of Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, having had overwhelming success with the $2.4 billion grossing “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” as well as 2010’s Inception ($825 million worldwide) and The Prestige in between. Interstellar is a project that originated with Steven Spielberg, covered in a shroud of mystery that’s helped build buzz and anticipation before its release. It’s an absolutely enormous movie for the director, because like 2010’s Inception, it’s going to put Nolan’s popularity to the test with moviegoers and whether they’ll go see anything he does, as opposed to just the superhero movies. Inception opened in mid-summer 2010 in 3,782 theaters to the tune of $62.8 million but had great legs, grossing $292 million domestic and another $532 million internationally. It also received eight Oscar nominations, winning four technical awards.

Nolan’s returning to science fiction with Interstellar, but it’s a far more accessible premise than Inception, following in the footsteps of some of the great sci-fi films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Black Hole and other space travel films but given a Nolan-like twist.

Inception had a strong cast that included A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio. Nolan’s cast for Interstellar could be considered right up there with Matthew McConaughey making his first film appearance since winning the Oscar for last year’s Dallas Buyers Club and getting an Emmy nomination in his starring role in HBO’s “True Detective.” Reuniting with Nolan after playing Catwoman in the “Dark Knight” finale, Hathaway also hasn’t been doing very much since her Oscar-winning role in Les Miserables other than providing her voice for this year’s Rio 2 and having a film at Sundance. Considering that their both quite popular and haven’t been oversaturating the market, there should be some moviegoers wanting to see it just for them.

The most obvious comparison for the movie is something like Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity which opened last October with $55.8 million on its way to $274 million domestic, but that was greatly enhanced by the push to see it in 3D and IMAX 3D with higher ticket prices than what the average price of tickets for Interstellar will go for.

Reviews have not been as overwhelmingly positive as some may have hoped with it currently at 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, and those who don’t like it really hating it, which doesn’t bode well for the film’s strong word-of-mouth or legs if those feelings carry over to the public. (The film’s first weekend CinemaScore will be a true test.)

At Nolan’s behest, Interstellar is getting an odd slower roll-out into a few hundred theaters across the nation that can show it as it was “meant to be seen,” projected on 35mm and 70mm analog film, including IMAX. This will generally limit the early screenings but also create more demand for those who want to see the movie the way Nolan intended and I can see it taking in between $4 and 5 million in its first two days of early previews (including Tuesday night).

The other thing to consider is that its limited opening in roughly 300 IMAX screens and another 250 film projections on Wednesday could theoretically cut into its weekend business if Nolan’s diehard fans rush out to see it early. With a lot of demand to see the movie, it should be able to make $3 to 5 million in its first few days and then another $23 to 25 million when it opens on Friday and somewhere in the mid-$60 millions for the weekend. If we’re right and audiences don’t go for it in quite the same way as Nolan’s previous films, it may top out around $200 million in theaters.

Review

Offered as counter-programming that actually could appeal to some of the same audience that wants to see Interstellar is Walt Disney Pictures Animation’s Big Hero 6, a superhero action-adventure based on characters who appeared in a Marvel Comics one-shot years back. Now, they’re being reinvented with a new origin that’s intended for wider mainstream audiences that have become inducted into the world of superheroes, mainly due to the movies from Marvel Studios.

Animated movies have often relied on big name stars to sell themselves to older audiences, although Big Hero 6 is more about its characters like the lovable nursing robot Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit from “30 Rock,” and his young companion Hiro (Ryan Potter) as well as the geeky scientists that make up the rest of Big Hero 6, voiced by T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr. and Genesis Rodriguez.

Disney Animation has really been having a great couple of years since buying Pixar and having John Lasseter as their overseer, last year having their biggest CG hit to date with Frozen, a musical movie that remained in the Top 10 for months, grossing over $400 million domestic and $1.3 billion worldwide. It also won both Oscars it was nominated for.

That opened over Thanksgiving, a great time to release a family film, but for many years it’s been a tradition to kick off the holiday movie season with an animated movie right in the first weekend of November. Pixar’s Monsters Inc. opened with $62.6 million the first weekend of November 2001. Three years later, Pixar’s The Incredibles opened on the same weekend with $70.5 million and that’s a great comparison for Big Hero 6 since it was also a superhero movie and that was ten years ago when tickets were cheaper (and without the added bump of 3D). Two years ago, Disney Animation released Wreck-It Ralph, a similarly geek-targeted animated movie which opened with $49 million and grossed $189.4 million domestically.

So that’s two examples of similar movies to Big Hero 6, although there are other factors to take into account, like the greater interest in superheroes and those kids that might want to see the movie in 3D. But being early in the month when school is in session may mean some of those kids may have to wait until Saturday or Sunday, possibly limiting the movie’s opening. This one isn’t just for kids though as teens and older males will probably enjoy it but they’ll also have competition from Interstellar, which will seem like much more of an “event movie” that needs to be seen as seen as soon as possible while Big Hero 6 is something that can probably wait.

With that in mind, we’re looking at an opening in the mid-$50 million range, but it should have solid legs in order to gross close to $200 million or more with word-of-mouth and no other new family film until the Thanksgiving opening of The Penguins of Madagascar. Meanwhile, the other releases opening over the coming month will have a bigger effect on the legs for Nolan’s Interstellar so Big Hero 6 could end up grossing more.

This weekend last year saw the release of Marvel Studios’ third sequel, Thor: The Dark World (Marvel/Disney), following the success of Iron Man 3 over the summer as one of the highest-grossing movies of the year. It opened big with $31.6 million on Friday (including Thursday previews) and ended up with $85.7 million its opening weekend from 3,841 theaters or $22,322 per. It would go onto gross $206 million domestic and $645 million worldwide to become Marvel’s fifth-highest grossing movie to date. Everything else dive-bombed with Ender’s Game dropping to fifth place with $10.3 million and three more movies doing $11 million each. The Top grossed about $157.9 million, which may still be hard to match unless either or both new movies do better than I predict. (The problem is that there may not be any other movies that gross more than $6 million this weekend with most of the business being shared between the two big movies.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: While we’re not going to completely wimp out on our earlier prediction on Christopher Nolan’s latest now that word is getting around that some of the people who rushed out to see the film projection releases had problems with the sound and picture, because there’s still demand to see his latest. It only made $1.3 million in its first day which is slightly less than we expected but not that much. (I originally said $4 to 5 million and it’s likely to be closer to $3 million.) Tickets for Big Hero 6 have been selling well and there certainly seems to be a lot more buzz so this weekend will probably be closer than predicted but we’re still thinking Interstellar will win.

1. Interstellar (Paramount) – $62.5 million N/A (down 2.9 million)

2. Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney) – $58.2 million N/A (up 3.6 million)

3. Nightcrawler (Open Road Entertainment) – $5.7 million -45%

4. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) – $5.5 million -35%

5. Fury (Sony) – $5 million -43%

6. St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) – $4.7 million -35%

7. Ouija (Universal) – $4.5 million -57%

8. The Book of Life (20th Century Fox) – $4.3 million -47%

9. John Wick (Lionsgate) – $4.2 million -48%

10. Birdman (Fox Searchlight) – $3 million

This Week’s Limited Releases:

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen too many of this week’s limited releases, but it doesn’t really matter because there’s one clear winner for the weekend and that’s…

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE,” The Theory of Everything (Focus Features), a film about famed physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, as played here by Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) and directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire, Shadow Dancer).

Unlike previous movies about the award-winning cosmologist behind the Big Bang theory who was stricken by ALS during his college years, this drama is more about his meeting Felicity Jones’ Jane Wilde around that same time and their growing romance and relationship as he fought ALS and continued to build a reputation among the scientific community.

The film covers a good amount of ground in Hawking’s life and career with a lot of the early part of the film involving Hawking trying to convince the faculty and his colleagues at Cambridge on his theories (and it’s funny seeing an actor playing Hawking colleague Kip Thorne, who is the consulting producer on Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.”) The heart of the film literally lies in Stephen meeting Jane and how their romance flourishes even after he’s diagnosed with ALS and given just two years to live.

The film shows a number of key moments in Hawking’s life as he discovers new ways to overcome his physical obstacles, eventually reaching a mass audience with his best-selling “A Brief History of Time.” Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking is nothing short of astounding. It’s not just about him riding around in a wheelchair unable to move, but also capturing the spirit of the famous cosmologist, his sense of humor and the glint in his eye when he makes a joke. Redmayne nails it and if nothing else, his remarkable performance is one of the films’ biggest takeaways. Even so, one can’t forget this story is meant to be told through Jane’s eyes and Felicity Jones’ performance is just as brilliant even if it’s not as showy. She portrays Jane as intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate, dealing with all sorts of adversities, leading to a number of truly dramatic and emotional moments.

Their relationship gets interesting as Jane takes up choir and meets Jonathan, a kind and not so bad looking choirmaster (played by Charlie Cox) who offers to help her with Stephen and the kids. An unrequited romance develops between them with many around assuming Jane is having an affair on the disabled Stephen, but the relationships are much more complicated than that.

Marsh has already proven himself to be a top-notch filmmaker, but he really elevates his game as a dramatic filmmaker to another level with “The Theory of Everything.” It’s not a particularly flashy movie, but Marsh captures Hawking’s story in such an honest way and beautiful way, helped by the luscious cinematography of Benoît Delhomme and glorious music by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

It’s just a brilliant and beautiful film that gives us a more personal and intimate look at this amazing genius of a man than we’ve ever seen before, but also tells the story in a way that mixes science with romance in a way that hasn’t been achieved quite on this par since Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind.

Rating: 9/10

The Theory of Everything opens in New York and L.A. on Friday with expansions over the next couple months. Expect it to receive a lot of awards and nominations between now and Oscar night.

Eddie Redmayne Interview

Interview with Director James Marsh (Coming Soon!)

Interview with Felicity Jones (Coming Soon!)

Comedies

One of Robin Williams’ final films is Tristram Shapeero’s A Merry Friggin’ Christmas (Phase 4 Films). Williams plays the father of Joel McHale’s Boyd Mitchler, who goes to spend Christmas with his family only to realize he forgot his son’s presents at home, sending him on a round-trip to retrieve them with his father and brother.

John Leguizamo writes and stars in Fugly! (Paladin), an adaptation of his one-man show “Ghetto Klown” in which he plays Latino comic Jesse Sanchez whose near-death experience forces him to relive his life. Also co-starring Rosie Perez, Radha Mitchell, Griffin Dunne and Yul Vaquez, it opens in New York at the AMC Empire with other cities to follow and a VOD release on November 25.

Jeff Stephenson’s Bankstas (Main Street Films) stars Michael Seater as a financial grad named Neal who gets a dream job at Hoss Investments with his friend Isaac (Joe Dinicol), only to learn that the company’s crooked boss (Alan Thicke) is going to bankrupt millions of college students, so they go on a mission to take him down. While this sounds very familiar, as if I’ve written about it before, it opens on Friday apparently.

In Richard Gray’s The Lookalike (Well Go USA), a drug lord named William Spinks (John Savage) becomes obsessed with a woman named Sadie and uses his friend Bobby and Frank (John Corbett, Jerry O’Connell) to get to her, except that she dies unexpectedly forcing them to find a lookalike to fool him. Also starring Justin Long and Gillian Jacobs, it opens in select cities Wednesday.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Just in time to miss Halloween by a week, the latest from Blumhouse Productions is Jessabelle (Lionsgate), directed by Kevin Greutert (Saw 3D) from a script by Robert Ben Garant (Hell Baby) in which Sarah Snook plays a young woman whose boyfriend is killed in a car accident that leaves her badly injured. She returns to her childhood home in the Louisiana bayous to be taken care of by her father, but instead revives an ancient spirit wanting revenge. Also starring Mark Webber, it opens in select cities.

Japanese genre auteur Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Drafthouse Films) is about a film crew who call themselves “The F*ck Bombers,” trying to make the ultimate action movie, and they get their chance when a couple of yakuza bosses are ready to battle for revenge as one of them tries to finish a feature film starring his daughter, but the F*ck Bombers are just excited to film a real, live yakuza battle.

Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, director of Time Crimes, teams with Elijah Wood for the voyeuristic thriller Open Windows (Cinedigm), in which Wood plays Nick Chambers, winner of a contest to go on a dinner date with his favorite actress (Sasha Grey) but when she refuses to fulfill the contest, her manager instead gives him the ability to secretly watch her on his computer. A modern technological twist on Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” it opens in select cities Friday following its premiere at South by Southwest earlier this year.

Documentaries of Note:

Director Dana Brown once again follows in his father’s footsteps (similar to his 1994 film Endless Summer II) with On Any Sunday, the Next Chapter (Red Bull Media House), a follow-up to Bruce Brown’s 1971 look at motorcycle racing that shows the sport to be as strong as ever, with the younger Brown shooting this one entirely in 4K Ultra HD.

With his latest (and longest) film Boyhood receiving almost unanimous critical acclaim as well as being a frontrunner at the Oscars, filmmaker Richard Linklater is showcased in Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood’s 21 Years: Richard Linklater (Gravitas Ventures), which features many of the top actors Linklater has worked with from Matthew McConaughey to Keanu Reeves to Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy talking about his collaborative process.

Robert Green’s Actress (The Cinema Guild) follows “The Wire” actress Brandy Burre who left her career to set up a family life in Beacon, NY with her boyfriend and their two kids, which starts to crumble when she decides to return to acting.

Opening at New York’s Film Forum is Frederick Wiseman’s 39th documentary National Gallery (Zipporah Films), a three-hour extensive tour of London’s National Gallery, both the artwork on the display as well as the diligent restoration work being done behind the scenes. I guess it’s cheaper than a plane ticket to London and covers more ground than you could spending three hours at the actual National Gallery.

Foreign Films of Interest:

German filmmaker Christian Schwochow will have two of his recent films regarding the fall of the Berlin Wall getting theatrical releases as his latest, West (Main Street Films), opens exclusively at the Anthology Film Archives on Friday, while at the same time, his previous 2012 TV movie The Tower (Music Box Films) will get a theatrical release at New York’s Cinema Village before its VOD release starting November 11. Both films take place in East Germany in the time before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, West about a woman who tries to escape with her son after the disappearance of her boyfriend by pretending to marry a West German until her past starts catching up to her. Based on Uwe Tellkamp’s award-winning novel, The Tower is about a doctor living a comfortable life in Dresden with his family who starts to see the repressive police state start to take its toll even on their sheltered life.

Brazilian filmmaker Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks (Strand Releasing) is a coming of age tale about a blind teenager who studies abroad where he meets a new kid named Gabriel and starts having feelings for him, much to the chagrin of his best friend back home. With the music of Belle and Sebastian as its soundtrack (the second movie of the fall to do so), Brazil’s entry for the Oscars opens in select cities Friday.

Drama:

Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine star in Michael Radford’s remake of Elsa and Fred (Millennium Entertainment) about two elderly people who find love with each other after he has lost his wife and his daughter (Marcia Gay Harden) moves him into a small apartment where she lives.

Filmmaker Terrence Malick presents A.J. Edwards’ The Better Angels (Amplify), a look at Abraham Lincoln as a young man living in a log cabin in Indiana during the early 19th Century living with his mother (Brit Marling) and strict father (Jason Clarke) until his mother dies, leaving him to find a new guardian angel in the form of his new stepmother (Diane Kruger).

Hugh Laurie stars in Andrew Adamson’s adaptation of Lloyd Jones’ novel Mr. Pip (Freestyle Releasing) playing Mr. Watts, an Englishman teaching young children in the tropical village of Bougainville during the 1990s who starts reading them Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” befriending a young girl named Matilda. Two years after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, it gets a limited release Friday.

Next week, we get another comedy sequel as Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reunite for the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber To (Universal), while Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) and Nate Parker recreate the Kevin Costner-Whitney Houston clasic The Bodyguard with Beyond the Lights (Relativity).


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