After a great weekend with two big releases with only one of them doing as well as I thought–the other one was a pretty big disappointment, settling for second place domestically as people fought over whether it was a mess or a masterpiece–we continue the holiday movie season with one sequel to a 20-year-old comedy and a romantic musical drama targeted towards African-American audiences. Can either of them beat the one-two powerhouse of Big Hero 6 and Interstellar in their second weekends? Read on…
Way back in 1994, mere days before Christmas, a pair of brothers named Farrelly came onto the scene with their very first comedy called Dumb and Dumber, which paired hot comedian Jim Carrey from “In Living Colour” with veteran actor Jeff Daniels for a high concept comedy of two idiots (to put it mildly) on a road trip. It opened modestly to the tune of $16.4 million (which really wasn’t bad in those days) and went on to gross an impressive $127 million as it remained #1 for four straight weekends. It was the third consecutive hit for Carrey, who really exploded in 1994, first with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective ($72.3 million gross) and then The Mask ($120 million) a few months later.
That was 20 years ago though and just when everyone thought it was safe to write off the Farrelly Brothers as low-brow comedy icons, long forgotten thanks to the likes of Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, they have returned to their original creations with Dumb and Dumber To (Universal). And unbelievably, they managed to convince both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels to return to their popular characters Lloyd and Harry, even though they’re all well into their 50s now.
After the original Dumb and Dumber, Carrey continued to have a lot of success as one of the top box office comedy stars with 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and 2003’s Bruce Almighty, both which were huge blockbusters grossing over $240 million. (And both of them were also released by Universal Pictures, who are releasing this sequel to a movie originally released by New Line Pictures.)
What’s crazy about the success of Jim Carrey’s career is how he’s shied away from making sequels ever since he starred in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls way back in 1995, which did better than the original movie. Because of this, the half-assed 2003 prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd bombed with just $26 million sans Carrey or Daniels and Son of the Mask followed suit. 2007’s Evan Almighty switched gears to Steve Carell’s character and grossed $100 million but that was less than half what Carrey’s original comedy grossed. Carrey had a couple of minor comedy hits in the years since but both his 2013 movies, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Kick Ass 2, bombed, so the question is whether the Jim Carrey fans who seem to have turned their backs on the comedian in recent years might return now that he’s returned to one of his more popular characters?
They certainly aren’t going to see the movie for Jeff Daniels, whose film career has been spotty and mainly focused on independent films even as he’s achieved more attention for his role on HBO’s “The Newsroom.” But the reunion of the two (including a recent appearance on “Saturday Night Live”) should remind people how much they loved that original comedy.
As comparison, Universal released The Best Man Holiday, a sequel to a 1999 comedy that grossed just $34.1 million total, this weekend last year (see below) and that opened with $30 million opening weekend. A few weeks later, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay brought the gang back together for the comedy sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which grossed $127 million to the original movie’s $85.3 million nine years earlier. These two examples should prove that the long time since the original movie shouldn’t make too big a difference when it comes to releasing a comedy sequel.
For a movie like this, reviews don’t really matter, but maybe wisely, Universal isn’t really screening it much for critics in advance, maybe since they know it’s unlikely they’ll be kind to the movie. Even so, considering the number of older fans and younger people who might enjoy some sophomoric humor in a market with a general dearth of comedies, it should be able to win Friday fairly easily. Over the weekend, it’s likely to fall behind Disney’s Big Hero 6 in its second weekend, so it will have to settle for #2, and it probably will end up with somewhere around $80 million or slightly more in its domestic release.
Offered as counterprogramming for those who aren’t into sophomoric humor is Gina Prince-Blythewood’s romantic drama Beyond the Lights (Relativity), starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Danny Glover and Minnie Driver. Set in the world of music, it’s the new movie from the writer/director of 2000’s Love and Basketball and 2008’s The Secret Life of Bees. The former is a fairly respected and beloved romance set in the world of sports, which grossed $27.5 million without ever being in more than 1,250 theaters.
Prince-Blythewood is again working with a talented cast including two up and coming actors who have been making waves in recent years. British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who appeared a few times on the popular BBC show “Doctor Who”) got great notices for her starring role in Belle earlier this year (following her film debut in Tom Hanks’ Larry Crowne), and she’s quickly becoming an actress to watch. Similarly, Nate Parker is a talented actor who appeared in Prince-Blythewood’s previous movie and Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters and has since been everything from the Tuskagee Airmen movie Red Tails to Richard Gere’s Arbitrage to Spike Lee’s absolutely awful Red Hook Summer.
It’s hard to gauge whether audiences might have more interest in this than they did for Relativity’s recent Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation The Best of Me, which bombed last month, although this is more focused on urban females and targeted towards a younger audience than the typical Tyler Perry crowd.
As is often the case, the movie is only getting a moderate release into less than 2,000 theaters, focused on urban areas and cities with large African-American populations, but there’s a good chance that teen and older women of other races may also be interested in the film’s mix of music and romance in a similar way to Jessica Alba’s early film Honey, which did $13 million in a similar number of theaters.
This is one of those movies that I could easily underestimate… or overestimate… but it probably will do decently with between $8 and 10 million despite its moderate release. Based on early festival reviews, it should do well enough with audiences to carry through Thanksgiving even with the juggernaut that is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opening next week, which will be direct competition. Relativity should be happy if this one makes $25 to 30 million theatrically and that should be where it ends up.
This weekend last year was another one with just one new movie that was both a comedy sequel AND one that targeted towards urban audiences as Malcolm Lee’s The Best Man Holiday (Universal), reuniting Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and Harold Perrineau from the 1999 comedy, opened huge with $30.1 million in 2,024 theaters, nearly $15 thousand per location. That wasn’t enough to defeat Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World in its second weekend as it topped the box office with $36.6 million, down 59% from its opening weekend. The Top 10 grossed $115 million, which should be achievable by this week’s movies.
This Week’s Predictions –
1. Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney) – $34.8 million -38%
2. Dumb and Dumber To (Universal) – $27.6 million N/A
3. Interstellar (Paramount) – $22.8 million -52%
4. Beyond the Lights (Relativity) – $8.8 million N/A
5. Gone Girl (20th Century Fox) – $4.5 million -28%
6. St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company) – $4.0 million -26%
7. Fury (Sony) – $3.4 million -40%
8. Ouija (Universal) – $3.2 million -45%
9. Birdman (Fox Searchlight) – $2.9 million +23%
10. Nightcrawler (Open Road Entertainment) – $2.8 million -48%
Just one new movie! (Man, I love these weeks) And it’s what’s hoping to become the new #1 movie of the year, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Lionsgate), starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth et al and it’s going to try to top the $158 million opening of last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
This Week’s Must Sees:
DOC-NYC is the annual documentary series that is slowly becoming one of the best documentary series in the nation, but I may be saying that because I’m biased as a New Yorker. But honestly, within the course of just one week, doc lovers will get a chance to see some of the best docs of the year, both those that have played other festivals and a couple other ones that haven’t.
It kicks off on Thursday, November 13, with David Thorpe’s Do I Sound Gay?, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s probably not the movie you might be expecting from the title. On the one hand, it’s the very personal account of how the New York writer comes to terms with his own sexuality, but also an in-depth exploration into how people perceive others by the way they talk and why gay men talk the way they do.
One of the big World Premieres is An Open Secret, the new doc from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil, West of Memphis), which delves into the world of child actors, specifically the ones that come to Hollywood looking for fame, only to be exploited and abused. (Which unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to see.)
One of the more appropriate New York premieres is Chris Moukarbel’s Bansky Does New York, which looks at the popular street artist (and filmmaker behind Exit Through the Gift Shop) and his October 2013 New York residency which had him creating unique works of art across all five boroughs for 31 days. Not as much about Banksy himself but about the reaction New Yorkers had to the British artist, including those who chased the works as they popped up in remote locations… and those who stole them for profit. It’s a unique look at the world of art you can catch on HBO starting on November 17, if you’re unable to catch it in New York at the festival.
Another TIFF premiere, DOC-NYC’s closing night film The Yes Men Are Revolting, is the third movie from activist/pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (aka The Yes Men), covering the past five years of them trying to open people’s eyes and minds to the corruption of corporations, this one more focused on environmental issues. Co-directed by Laura Nix, it’s a far better film than the first two, maybe because we get to see a lot more behind the scenes about how the duo work and how their relationship is altered by their life decisions. Some of their pranks don’t work but the ones that do (like creating a fake press conference by the US Chamber of Commerce) are so convincing that they fool news sites like CNN into running stories.
In the vein of Being Elmo comes I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story from Dave LeMattina and Chad Walker, which will be released by Tribeca Film early next year. DOC-NYC will also screen some of the best docs of the year (some that have already been released, others not) from The Case Against 8 to Laura Poitras’ CITIZENFOUR, Steve James’ amazing Roger Ebert doc Life Itself to Margaret Brown’s The Great Invisible, Alan Hicks’ Keep On Keepin’ On and Amir Bar-Lev’s upcoming Happy Valley about the Penn State scandal.
Again, if you’re a fan of the documentary genre and you’re in New York between November 13 and November 20, then there’s a wealthy of films worth checking out.
Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Bennett Miller
Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall
Of Note: The Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Capote and Moneyball takes on the real-life story of two brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz (Tatum, Ruffalo), both Olympic Gold Medal wrestlers, whose relationship is put to the test when they’re brought to the estate of billionaire John du Pont (Carell) who hopes to groom Mark to lead the 1988 American Olympic team to more gold. One of the more acclaimed films from this year’s Cannes, Telluride, Toronto and New York Film Festivals, this opens in New York and L.A. on its way to a nationwide rollout before Oscar night.
Also playing as part of DOC-NYC’s “Short List” is…
Red Army (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Gabe Olsky
Of Note: A fascinating look at the Soviet hockey team that was famously beat at the 1980 Olympics by the American team and how their attitudes were changed by being sports figures behind the Iron Curtain, representing their country but also being courted by the National Hockey League to defect and play for their teams. Olsky has great interviews with four of the Soviet’s top players of the time, showing how their relationship was affected by their inner turmoil whether to remain loyal to their country or to themselves.
Many of those reading this will remember the famed 1980 Olympic hockey finals as depicted in the Disney movie “Miracle,” but what we never knew about were the repercussions faced by the Soviet team for losing. That’s just part of what Olsky captures in this film about the history of hockey in the Soviet Union that’s highly entertaining, mainly due to the involvement of the top Soviet player, Slava Fetisov, whose ego is enormous. He was one of the country’s superstars that skated rings around the less balletic American hockey players, but he ran into problems when he wanted to leave the Soviet Union to play for the NHL, something which eventually exploded after the fall of the Soviet Union. Whether you’re a hockey fan or not, this is an entertaining look at sports history as much through archival footage as it is from hearing the perspective of the players for the first time in decades.
This is getting a one-week awards qualifying run in New York and L.A. on Friday and will open in more cities starting January 23, 2015.
Rosewater (Open Road)
Writer/Director: Jon Stewart
Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal
Of Note: “The Daily Show” host makes his directorial debut, adapting Maziar Bahari’s memoir “Then They Came For Me,” telling how the Iranian-Canadian journalist (played by Bernal) was put into prison and interrogated by the Iran government following the 2009 elections when he’s accused of being a spy.
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Beside Still Waters (Tribeca Film)
Director: Chris Lowell
Stars: Ryan Eggold, Reid Scott, Beck Bennett, Will Brill, Brett Dalton, Erin Darke, Jessy Hodges, Britt Lower
Of Note: A group of childhood friends reunite at a lake house to relive their youth with all the humor that provides.
Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Director: Darren Doane
Stars: Kirk Cameron, Darren Doane, Raphi Henly, Ben Kientz, Bridgette Ridenour
Of Note: That hilarious title alone should say it all, but basically “Facts of Life” star Kirk Cameron wants to be the star of one of the first (and possibly only) Christmas movies of the season.
Miss Meadows (eOne Films)
Director: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Stars: Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey
Of Note: Katie Holmes plays a well-mannered school teacher by day, a gun-toting vigilante by night, basically letting Kirk Cameron off the hook for having the weirdest movie concept of the week.
Wolves (Ketchup Entertainment)
Writer/Director: David Hayter
Stars: Lucas Till, Stephen McHattie, Jason Momoa, Merritt Patterson, Benedict Carver
Of Note: X-Men and X2 writer David Hayter makes his directorial debut with a take on the werewolf movie about a high school student (Till) who is changing into something vicious and wild.
Bad Turn Worse (Starz)
Director(s): Simon and Zeke Hawkins
Stars: Jeremy Allen White, Logan Huffman, Mark Pellegrino, Mackenzie Davis, William Devane
Of Note: The winner of last year’s Audience Award at the AFIs, this crime-thriller involves three Texan teens who are tricked by a criminal to steal money from his gangster boss.
The Homesman (Roadside Attractions)
Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Hailee Steinfeld, James Spader, Meryl Streep
Of Note: Tommy Lee Jones another story of the Old West, this one set in the Nebraska Territories with Swank playing Mary Bee Cuddy, a woman who has to take three mentally-ill women east to Iowa along with a grump drifter (played by Jones).
Always Woodstock (Gravitas Ventures)
Director: Rita Merson
Stars: Allison Miller, James Wolk, Katey Sagal, Rumer Willis, Jason Ritter, Brittany Snow, Anna Anissimova, Ryan Guzman
Of Note: Allison Miller (star of my #1 worst movie of 2014, Devil’s Due) plays an aspiring New York singer who is fired from her job at a record label wrangling a difficult star (Brittany Snow) on the same day she catches her fiancé with another woman, so she goes home to her family home in Woodstock. Yes, this does sound a lot like 500 other movies including This is Where I Leave You, but once there, she starts writing music with a local legend (Katey Sagal from “Married with Children”). So basically it’s Laggies meets Begin Again without Keira Knightley.
Drug Lord: The Legend of Shorty (Gravitas Ventures)
Directors: Angus Macqueen, Guillermo Galdos
Of Note: The filmmakers go looking for one of Mexico’s most notorious druglords who has been on the run for years, responsible for thousands of murdered Mexicans.
Occupy the Farm
Directors: Todd Darling
Of Note: About a group of farmers who took on the University of California at Berkeley to protect their farmland.
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Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas