Greetings and welcome to the last Weekend Warrior EVER! (You should read this week’s “Battle Cry” for a full explanation.)
If you aren’t doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies, music, comic books and all sorts of random things or better yet, follow the brand-new Weekend Warrior Twitter! (For reasons that will soon become more obvious.)
1. Footloose (Paramount) – $17.7 million N/A (down .1 million)
2. Real Steel (DreamWorks) – $16.5 million -40% (same)
3. The Thing (Universal) – $12.6 million N/A (down 2.2 million)
4. The Big Year (20th Century Fox) – $7.6 million N/A (down .6 million)
5. Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.) – $6.5 million -29% (down .1 million)
6. The Ides of March (Sony) – $6.2 million -41% (same)
7. Moneyball (Sony) – $4.8 million -35% (same)
8. 50/50 (Summit) – $3.5 million -37% (same)
9. Courageous (Tristar/Sony) – $2.7 million -45%
10. Dream House (Universal) – $2.3 million -49% (same)
So this is it. The last episode of the Weekend Warrior in its current format. Wish we had more exciting movies to write about, but it’s October and any movie released during this month will take what it can get.
This weekend, we see two movies fighting for the younger moviegoers depending on their personal interests, although the best chance to win the weekend will go to Craig Brewer’s remake of Footloose (Paramount/MTV Films), starring newcomer Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid, which will cater to an underserved female market, both younger teen girls who like dance movies and their mothers who’ll remember the original fondly. Although the movie will mainly be focusing on the female demographic, it’s likely to be helped by a wise move by Paramount to do sneak preview screenings, and one can probably expect surprisingly positive reviews for a remake.
Offering competition for guys who won’t be so interested in dancing is the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing (Universal), nearly thirty years in the making and without his involvement, but it stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Eric Olsen and a bunch of Norwegian actors trying to figure out what might have led up to the 1982 Kurt Russell movie. There will probably be just as much skepticism from the fans of Carpenter’s movie as there is for Footloose, but horror fans also haven’t had much in the way of thrills and now that it’s October, moviegoers will already have horror on their mind with Halloween just weeks away. It might not have much in terms of legs going up against the third “Paranormal Activity” next week, but expect it to make a play for second place and end up in third.
Although the birdwatching comedy The Big Year (20th Century Fox) has the biggest namebrand star power with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black teaming up, it’s still a movie about the boring sport of birdwatching, which makes you wonder how on earth this could have been ever been made at a studio? Still, the known actors and the PG rating should help it bring in audiences so that it won’t be a total bomb, but the best it can do is fourth place at this point.
This weekend last year, the boys were back in 3D for the stunt/prank movie Jackass 3D (Paramount), which brought in $50.3 million in 3,081 theaters, an astounding per-theater average of $16.3k. Despite having such overwhelming competition, the Bruce Willis action-comedy RED (Summit Entertainment), co-starring Morgan Freeman, Karl Urban, Helen Mirren and more, brought in $21.8 million in 3,255 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $111 million, but without a movie opening as big as Jackass, we don’t think this weekend’s offerings will come close.
THE BATTLE CRY
Before we get to this week’s column–which as promised a year ago, is indeed our last–let’s get into some of the questions that have come my way in the last few months, but the most important one is “Why?”
“Why kill a column that’s proven hugely popular among a specific audience who read and enjoy it every week?”
Well, I’m glad you asked.
There’s obviously a lot of good reasons to keep “The Weekend Warrior” going, and believe me, I was deeply moved by the outpouring of kind words last week as it became obvious things were indeed winding to an end.
If you’ve never written anything on a regular basis, it might not be very clear how hard it is to produce a column of this size every Tuesday. It often times means working all through the weekend, and then Monday gets pretty crazy as I’m scrambling to try to get things finished in time to get the column out on time, while also dealing with screenings, interviews, etc. Frankly, I feel like I’ve been letting my readers down when I don’t have the column done or don’t have as many mini-reviews done as I’d like, and that just puts a lot of stress on me, and because I’m so burnt out from doing this every week, I don’t feel like I’m delivering my best work anymore. As much as you all may enjoy reading this column every week, the thought that I’m not giving you my best and feel like I sometimes am hacking this out just to get it done started making it feel like a self-imposed weight hanging from my neck.
In the last few years, lots of others have jumped onto the box office predicting gravy train (not that there’s a lot of “gravy” to be made in the box office predicting game), and I feel like there are a lot of great writers and analysts who have taken up the challenge to do their own weekly box office predictions column. In the last ten years, lots of competing movie sites have followed ComingSoon.net by making box office predictions a regular part of their content as well, which means that writing the column each week just didn’t feel as original and unique as it did even five years ago.
What it comes down to is that after ten years, there just doesn’t seem to be nearly as much need for the kind of analysis I do each week, especially considering how readily available studio tracking has become.
So that brings us to the other, more pressing question, which is “What happens next?”
Well, that’s something I’m not sure I can answer at this time. I know what I’d like to do be doing, which will include writing more full reviews, but I also want to have more time to a few things I’ve wanted to do for years but haven’t had a chance due to the time-consuming nature of the column – things like cleaning my apartment… or writing a book. (And believe me, if you like reading my ramblings each week, you’ll be thrilled with some of the ideas I’m hoping to develop into longer-form pieces.)
Rest assured, there will still be box office predictions from me every week here on ComingSoon.net and there will be as long as they’ll have them. They just will no longer be in a column called “The Weekend Warrior” and there won’t be nearly as much analysis or the comparisons each week. Instead, it will be more like the “Lite” version of the column I’ve posted in the last few years when I just haven’t had time to write a full column. And even that’s not to say I won’t be doing any box office analysis either. In fact, you’ll be seeing more of that kind of stuff and further in advance rather than just on Tuesday or Wednesday each week. The plan is to instead of having one big column every week to have a bunch of smaller posts over the course of the week about a lot of different things, which means that ultimately you’ll get MORE stuff to read each week from me rather than less.
There are many things I haven’t quite figured out and a lot of that is riding on ComingSoon.net and its parent company Crave delivering on the technical challenge I’ve given them to allow me to create something new and different, kind of like what “The Weekend Warrior” was ten years ago. You may have already noticed a few of the changes leading up to what I hope to do next, and I hope that in time, I can reach out and get some of those great writers who have taken up the box office game (including a few of our own readers) and share their valid opinions with a larger audience.
We’ll see what happens, but I have a lot of stuff planned at ComingSoon.net and even if we can’t get this other thing going, you’ll still be able to read my reviews and interviews every week as always.
Either way, thanks to everyone who has been reading for the last ten years, including my editor who I’m sure will be relieved to have one less big thing to read each week, and also Chris Mason, who does such a great job keeping on top of the ComingSoon.net movie database (where you’ll still be able to see what opens each weekend).
The fact is that no one likes change but it’s really the only way to evolve and make life better, and I think the future’s very bright.
And who knows? Maybe after a few months I still won’t have a social life (as was the case ten years ago) and I’ll get bored and want to start writing more, but hopefully these other things I want to do will take up that time.
Footloose (Paramount/MTV Films)
Starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Andie MacDowell, Dennis Quaid, Miles Teller
Written and directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) with Dean Pitchford (the original writer of “Footloose” gets a story credit)
Genre: Musical, Drama
Tagline: “There comes a time to cut loose.”
Plot Summary: The small Southern town of Bomont has been rocked hard by the death of five teenagers which led the town council led by the Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) to set a curfew and a ban on public dancing. When hot-headed Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) arrives in town from Boston, he immediately rebels against the rules along with the preacher’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough).
For over 30 years, MTV has been on the cutting edge of what kids want to see on television, and in 1999, they branched into the movie business by producing and releasing movies that could appeal to their core audience. Ten years ago, they had their first significant hit with Save the Last Dance, a dance drama that introduced the world to actress Julia Stiles. That was proceeded and followed by a number of hits and misses, but one of the things MTV Films did was get behind director Craig Brewer’s 2005 pimp-turned-rapper drama Hustle & Flow, which won the jury prize at Sundance that year and went on to get Terrence Howard nominated for his performance.
Now they’ve reteamed with Brewer to rework the 1984 movie Footloose, the movie that helped turn Kevin Bacon into a household name, into a modern-day movie musical that can appeal to younger moviegoers who dig seeing dancing on screen as well as being reverential enough to the original not to piss off its fans. In the last decade or so, musicals have become more prevalent, not just with hit movies like Hairspray and Mamma Mia!, but also with popular television shows like “Glee” and “High School Musical,” which have created a new generation of musical fan among girls and women under 30. Produced by the people behind Hairspray, Footloose was at one point going to be more of a musical directed by Kenny Ortega from “High School Musical,” but under Brewer’s guidance, it’s now a young person’s drama with dance sequences, many of which were inspired by the classic songs from the 1984 movie.
Newcomer Kenny Wormald, a former back-up dancer for Justin Timberlake (who appeared in Brewer’s previous movie Black Snake Moan) takes on the role originally played by Kevin Bacon, joined by Julianne Hough, a former dancer on ABC’s popular “Dancing with the Stars” and country music singer, who made the jump to movie acting with the Christina Aguilera-Cher dud Burlesque last November. She plays a much larger role in this movie as the preacher’s daughter played by Lori Singer in the original, and Hough is going to continue her musical journey by starring in Adam Shankman’s hair metal extravaganza Rock of Ages next year.
Playing the role of the dance-loathing reverent originated by John Lithgow is Dennis Quaid, the actor who’ll be best known to the older women who may be curious in seeing this remake as fans of the original. Quaid has never been a huge box office star, having only three movies that grossed over $100 million and those were all since 2000: Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow and Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. He’s had other movies that have done just under like the football movie Any Given Sunday, the baseball movie The Rookie and the 2008 political thriller Vantage Point. Earlier this year, Quaid played another father figure in the popular drama Soul Surfer, which grossed $43 million and that followed two genre flicks Legion and Pandorum, neither which did that well despite Quaid’s presence The new Footloose also stars Andie MacDowell, another ’80s icon who appeared in movies like “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” but whose output in recent years has included esoteric indies and odd roles in studio movies. The last person of note is Miles Teller, the young actor who starred in the drama Rabbit Hole opposite Nicole Kidman, although in this, he’s offering comic relief.
Dance movies have grown in popularity over the years with the “Step Up” franchise doing well among young female audiences, the first movie opening in 2006 with $20 million and $65 million total and each successive movie doing slightly less. The genre has also done well among black audiences with movies like Stomp the Yard and You Got Served doing decent business, and Footloose tries to blend both camps, blending hip-hop moves with classic steps from the ’80s movie.
Working in its favor but also adding some unwanted baggage, Footloose is a known property with the name brand value that can bring in a lot of older women who remember the original movie fondly, and there’s a good chance they might go see it with their teen daughters over the weekend, although it’s also likely that teen girls would rather go see it with their friends. Guys won’t be very interested in this and they’re also likely to be more cynical about it, even if by some chance, they’re fans of the original Kevin Bacon movie.
Paramount gave the movie free sneak previews last weekend, which is sure to help spread word-of-mouth at what a fun movie this is, and one can expect that many of those who saw it might go see it again with their friends and families. Reviews are likely to better than some might expect considering critics’ general reticence towards remakes, and even if the movie doesn’t explode right out of the gate, it should offer a viable alternative to some of the movies opening over the next few weeks, allowing it to have decent legs as women tell their friends about it.
Why I Should See It: This is a terrific remake of a popular ’80s fave and even the most cynical remake hater might find something to enjoy about it.
Why Not: Yeah, I still don’t get why a town might ban dancing. I can understand why a town might ban a guy dancing to “Let’s Hear it For the Boy,” though – I’m talking to you, Miles Teller!
Projections: $17 to 19 million opening weekend and roughly $65 to 70 million total
The Thing (Universal)
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Jonathan Lloyd Walker, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Olsen, Ulrich Thomsen, Paul Braunstein, Trond Espen Selm, Jorgen Langhelle
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen (the short “Red Rain”); Written by Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5, A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Tagline: “It’s not human. Yet.”
Plot Summary: An alien spacecraft is discovered in Antarctica by a group of Norwegian explorers, and they call upon Columbia University paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to try to figure out what the frozen creature they recovered from the crash is. Before they can do so, it escapes and starts killing members of the base, while taking their bodies over in order to hide.
Being that 2011 has been the year of the alien invasion, it makes some sort of sense one of the earliest alien invasion movies is being revisited. Based on John Campbell’s short story, The Thing From Another World was one of Universal’s later monster movies that never quite took off like like their franchise horror characters, Frankenstein, Dracula or The Wolf Man, but they did hope it would at least be seen as something on par with The Creature From the Black Lagoon. It probably didn’t have quite the impact until in 1982, when acclaimed horror director John Carpenter was commissioned to remake the movie, something he did by creating a very different take on the normal creature feature by making the alien invader a virus who replicates those it infects.
Carpenter is not involved with this relaunch prequel, but it does have the production company behind Zack Snyder’s successful Dawn of the Dead, who hired 2nd generation Dutch commercial director Matthijs van Heijningen to make his American debut. The unfamiliarity with the name probably won’t matter much as who heard of Marcus Nispel before The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake of 2003?
On the other hand, Mary Elizabeth Winstead already has established her horror cred by starring in Final Destination 3 and the remake of the 1974 horror flick Black Christmas, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse installment Death Proof, but more recently, she starred in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as everyone’s perfect woman, Ramona Flowers. Australian actor Joel Edgerton is consistently being groomed as the next big leading man out of his home country following Russell Crowe and Sam Worthington, but the weak showing for his recent sports dramas Warrior doesn’t bode well for Edgerton’s career. The cast also includes character actor Eric Olsen and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from “Oz” and “LOST,” but unlike Dream House a couple of weeks back, this is a horror movie that’s not relying on the names in the cast but the premise that Carpenter introduced in the ’80s.
The Thing was originally going to be released in April, but then Universal decided to move it back to October, one can assume to give them more time to work on the CG FX. Doing so put it in a much better position to get an audience because horror movies tend to thrive during the month when everyone is gearing up for Halloween. Remakes like The Ring, The Grudge and the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre have done extremely well opening in mid-October, although only one of them eventually had to face a Saw movie, being that the franchise started in 2004.
Like with Footloose, calling this prequel The Thing is a double-edged sword, because it’s true that horror fans will already be aware of the name, but they’ll also wonder why give the prequel the same name, making it sound like this is just the latest in a long string of horror remakes. That said, The Thing isn’t as well known as some of the other horror franchises that have suffered remakes like Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street, so there won’t be nearly as much baggage but there also probably won’t be as much interest.
Unfortunately, opening the weekend before the new “Paranormal Activity” movie means that the best this one can do is as a one-weekend wonder except for possibly picking up some business in its third week from Halloween, although the fact the holiday falls on a Monday won’t help matters there either.
Why I Should See It: John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is one of the freakiest horror movies of the last 30 years and this prequel maintains some of that aesthetic.
Why Not: Except it doesn’t have Kurt Russell, and that’s a big “Except.”
Projections: $14 to 16 million opening weekend and $40 million total.
The Big Year (20th Century Fox)
Starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Brian Dennehy, Rashida Jones, Rosamund Pike, Dianne Wiest, Anjelica Huston, Tim Blake Nelson
Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley and Me, upcoming Great Hope Springs); Written by Howard Franklin (Someone to Watch Over Me, Antitrust, The Public Eye)
Tagline: “Everyone is searching for something”
Plot Summary: Brad Harris (Jack Black) is a bird enthusiast who finally decides to pursue his dream of having a Big Year, essentially the bird-watching community’s name for spending a year trying to spot as many different birds as possible, not realizing that the world champion Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson) has decided to defend his title, joined by wealthy businessman Stu Preissler (Steve Martin). And the race is on to see who can have the Biggest Year in birdwatching! Are you excited?
Mini-Review (Coming Soon)
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that has a big name cast and a relatively successful director but also has a premise that just doesn’t make any sense as a major studio production. That’s certainly the case with this star-studded comedy from the director of the hit movies The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me, this one based on a little-known book on birdwatching by Mark Obmasvik. Yes, you read that right… birdwatching. Apparently, the success of those other two movies was enough for director David Frankel to get an impressive cast full of stars to bring his dream project to life, but boy, it’s not exactly something that screams “hit” like those ones.
At the forefront is veteran comedian Steve Martin, who hasn’t appeared in nearly as many movies as he used to, this being his first movie role since being paired with long-time pal Alec Baldwin and Oscar winner Meryl Streep in the Nancy Meyers rom-com It’s Complicated, which became Martin’s fifth movie to gross over $100 million. Before that, he’d been doing family comedies, having hits with the first Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther (both with Shawn Levy, whose current movie Real Steel was last week’s #1 movie). Much of Martin’s recent success comes out of his pairing with Queen Latifah for the 2003 comedy Bringing Down the House, but other than a small role in Tina Fey’s Baby Mamma, Martin hasn’t exactly been winning critics over with his choices, even if family moviegoing audiences still seem rather taken by him. Martin’s been doing the talk show circuits, which will go a long way in reminding his fans why they like him.
Next there’s Owen Wilson, who reunites with Frankel following their 2009 holiday hit Marley & Me, which grossed $143 million, although that’s by no means Wilson’s biggest hit, having appeared in Meet the Parents and its two sequels, as well as the two “Night at the Museum” movies, both with Ben Stiller. Wilson also provided the voice of Lightning McQueen in Pixar’s Cars and its sequel, so he certainly has a respectable status among family audiences. Wilson is coming off his starring role in Woody Allen’s highest-grossing movie ever Midnight in Paris, which helped make up for the bad mojo that came along with starring in the rom-com bomb How Do You Know? and R-rated comedy Hall Pass from the Farrelly Brothers.
Last but not least is Jack Black, though after ten years, what more can we say about him? Some people love him, some people hate him, but the disappointing showing of Kung Fu Panda 2 domestically over the summer and the even worse showing for last year’s Gulliver’s Travels might show some weakness with family audiences. Fortunately, he has Wilson and Martin to rely on for this one.
Having already established himself as an actor’s director, Frankel was able to fill the cast with an impressive array of acclaimed actors like Brian Dennehy, Dianne Wiest and Anjelica Huston as well as comedic talent like Rashida Jones and Tim Blake Nelson.
20th Century Fox doesn’t seem to know what to do with this, having delayed it from a summer release into a less-than-desirable mid-October dumping, and they didn’t even start marketing the movie until last month, possibly realizing how hard it was going to be to sell the birdwatching premise.
Reviews probably won’t be too favorable for the movie, partially due to the boring subject matter, but also because Fox is marketing it like a comedy romp for the whole family, when in fact, it’s something more subdued and dramatic. Despite having an odd premise, the movie has a PG-rating as if it was a kids’ movie, but it’s doubtful kids will be interested in a movie about chasing birds, at least not in the same way as they went to see Marley & Me.
The sad fact is that the movie is a bit of a dud, which may be why Fox isn’t even giving it an ultrawide release like the recent flop What’s Your Number?, which they marketed far more heavily. The moderate 2,200 theaters this is getting will probably keep it from going over $10 million this weekend even if the trio of Martin, Wilson and Black have enough curious fans who’ll check it out as a viable option to the weekend’s other offerings.
Why I Should See It: If you ever wanted to know more about different kinds of birds, the movie is very informative…
Why Not: …as would be a book on birds, only that is probably far more entertaining, too. Zing!
Projections: $7 to 9 million opening weekend and $25 million total.
In Limited Release
It’s kind of a shame that I didn’t see anything this weekend that’s worthy of being deemed “The Chosen One” while next week, there are three great movies being released, but that’s just how things panned out. You’ll be able to see features/reviews of those other movies on ComingSoon.net next week even if we won’t be writing about them here.
Pedro Almodovar’s thriller The Skin I Live In (Sony Pictures Classics) reunites him with Antonio Banderas for the first time since Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, here playing a plastic surgeon who has kept a woman (Elena Anaya) imprisoned in his house so he could experiment with his new skin graft system. Almodovar’s attempt at a horror movie opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Dennis Lee’s long-delayed drama Fireflies in the Garden (FSI) stars Ryan Reynolds as Michael Taylor, a novelist who never got along with his father Charles (Willem Dafoe), something that comes out when the family reunites later and the death of Michael’s mother Lisa (Julia Roberts) forces the family to face many of the issues from decades earlier when they resurface. It opens in select cities.
Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)
Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)
In Ami Canaan Mann’s crime-thriller Texas Killing Fields (Anchor Bay), Sam Worthington plays Texas homicide detective Souder who finds himself tracking down a serial killer with his New York City partner Detective Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) when bodies start turning up in the local swamplands, and the heat is turned up when a local girl (Chloë Moretz) goes missing. It opens in select cities Friday.
Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)
Felicity Jones, star of Drake Doremus’ Sundance fave Like Crazy (out on Oct. 28) stars in Phil Traill’s Chalet Girl (IFC Films) as Kim, a skateboarder who scores a catering job in a ski chalet in the Alps, putting her among rich people way out of her league, but she soon discovers her natural talent for snowboarding, so she starts training for a local competition. Also starring Ed Westwick from “Gossip Girl” as her love interest, it opens on Friday in New York City.
Trent Cooper’s Father of Invention (Anchor Bay Films) stars Kevin Spacey as millionaire infomercial guru Robert Axle, who spends eight years in prison after losing everything including his wife (Virginia Madsen) when one of his inventions has a design flaw that cuts off the fingers of its customers. When he gets out, he gets a job as a janitor and moves in with his daughter (Camilla Belle) while trying to rebuild his empire with a new gadget.
Alma Har’el’s doc Bombay Beach (Boaz Yakin Presents) examines the current state of California’s Salton Sea, which has dried up with the resort haven of Bombay Beach now a ghost town filled with migrants and vagrants who are profiled with accompanying music by Bob Dylan and Beirut.
Michael M. Bilandic’s Happy Life stars Tom McCaffrey (“Onion News Network”) as an aging DJ who has just been fired from his job at a restaurant who goes on a mission to save his local record store by throwing a ’90s style rave, facing all sorts of opposition along the way.
Lucky (May) McKee directs an adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s thriller The Woman (Bloody-Disgusting Selects) about a lawyer who lives in the country who decides to capture and “civilize” a female member of a violent clan that’s been living in the woods for years. Following its controversial screening during the Park City at Midnight section of Sundance this year, where it prompted complaints and walkouts, it opens in limited release Friday.
Opening on Wednesday at the Quad Cinemas in New York is Darryl Robert’s documentary America the Beautiful II: The Thin Commandments (PMKBNC Films), which takes a very different look at the national obsession with weight loss and body dissatisfaction and how the promotion of weight loss surgeries and fad diets that may do more damage than good.
Two docs opening at the Angelika Film Center in New York City Friday are Lavnia Currier’s Oka!, the story of American ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno who traveled to Central Africa to record the music of the Bayaka Pygmies 25 years ago, where he fell in love with a local girl, and Tiffany Schlain’s Connected, which “explores the visible and invisible connections linking major issues of our time while searching for her place in the world.”
Next week . ?????????????
(Whatever happens next, though, you’re likely to find it here, so keep checking back!)
Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas