The Weekend Warrior on Sinister 2, Hitman: Agent 47 and American Ultra

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As I mentioned last week and earlier this summer, this weekend is all about three R-rated movies that are all trying to bring in mostly the young male audience, but only one of them should benefit from being able to bring in the female audience and that’s the only horror movie (and only direct sequel) of the weekend. This is pretty much it for the summer though, and sadly it’s not going to end on a high note next week.

Sinister 2The Weekend Warrior on Sinister 2, Hitman: Agent 47 and American Ultra.

Distributor: Gramercy Pictures
Director: Ciaran Foy (Citadel)
Writer: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Cast: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Sloan, Dartanian Sloan
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating: R
What It’s About: After witnessing the horrors left behind by the demon Bagul, the deputy from “Sinister” (James Ransone) is trying to track down more horrible cases of families being killed, which brings him to a single mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two twin sons living in a house behind a church being haunted by what happened to the family who lived there before them.

The second horror sequel of the quickly-dwindling summer is the second from Blumhouse Productions after June’s Insidious Chapter 3, which grossed $109 million worldwide based on a $10 million budget, but that was also a sequel to a much bigger franchise. The original Sinister, directed by Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange), opened in October 2012 and grossed $48 million domestic after an $18 million opening weekend, which isn’t bad for a fairly low-key original horror film.

For the sequel, Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke is nowhere to be found, replaced by James Ransone, who had a bit part in the original movie and Shannyn Sossamon, who has appeared in so many bad movies and outright bombs at this point that I’m shocked that she still has a career. Normally, horror movies can do well regardless of name actors but this seems like a similar situation as Insidious Chapter 3 and The Purge 2, which opened softer without the original characters returning.

Opening in late summer certainly isn’t going to help the sequel or give it the bump horror movies normally get in the weeks leading up to Halloween (which theoretically helped the original Sinister), but the original movie has enough fans who might give the sequel a chance.

Prediction:

Although reviews are going to be atrocious compared to the original Sinister, that’s not likely to stop the younger horror fans looking for something different than all the action movies being thrust their way. Then again, moviegoers have been worn down on all the sequels, so this will probably open in the mid-teens but lower than the original movie and probably won’t gross more than $35 million total domestically.

Director Ciaran Foy Interview

Producer Jason Blum Interview

Sinister 2 Review


agent47reviewHitman: Agent 47

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Director: Aleksander Bach (debut)
Writer: Skip Woods, Michael Finch
Cast: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Ciaran Hinds, Thomas Kretschmann
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Rating: R
What It’s About: The genetically-engineered assassin known as Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) needs to take down the corporation, the Syndicate, trying to create their own army of killers, along with a mysterious young woman (Hannah Ware) with her own set of impressive skills. 

The sad and storied past of the video game movie is well known both to moviegoers and gamers alike and some of that is due to some of the awful video game movies from the ‘90s and ‘00s including the 2007 version of IO’s popular Hitman video game, which first appeared on the scene in 2000 and has since been revived and kept alive with new versions (including a sixth game due out in December). Starring Timothy Olyphant, the movie was released in November of 2007 over Thanksgiving week and grossed $21 million in its first five days in just 2,458 theaters. Although it grossed less than $40 million domestically, it made another $60 million overseas, warranting a sequel.

Eight years later, 20th Century Fox are giving it another go, this time with British actor Rupert Friend in the shaved, barcode-tattooed head of Agent 47 and everything else being new other than the producers, Daniel Alter and Adrian Askarieh. The only real star of the movie other than Friend, who has made a name for himself on Showtime’s hit “Homeland,” is actor Zachary Quinto, best known as Spock in the most recent “Star Trek” movies.

While Fox has some decent material to work with for commercials and trailers, all that have been quite good, there’s no denying that waiting this long to make a sequel is a mistake and Hitman: Agent 47 certainly won’t benefit from the length of time since the previous movie, even though it was universally panned by critics and wasn’t particularly loved by the fans of the game either.

There’s also the matter of being released in late August when schools are starting up and moviegoers are burnt out from the summer, because there have already been so many action movies, especially in recent weeks. We saw last weekend how Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was hurt by being released so close to Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and that probably will be the case here as well. That said, there’s enough crossover between gamers and younger moviegoers who will at least know what this movie is whereas few people under 30 will have heard of the original Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series, so Hitman: Agent 47 will have some namebrand value whereas that did not.

Prediction: 

With the widest release of any of the new movies and the namebrand of the video game and earlier film, this non-sequel probably won’t bomb outright, but it probably won’t do that well with so many other action movies in theaters. Expect it to end up somewhere in the lower teens before quickly disappearing, especially once the similar-looking action reboot The Transporter Refueled opens over Labor Day.

Video Interviews with the Cast

Hitman Review


americanultrareviewAmerican Ultra

Distributor: Lionsgate
Director: Nima Nourizadeh (Project X)

Writer: Max Landis
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, Tony Hale
Genre:
Action, Comedy

Rating: R

What It’s About: Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a typical stoner living in West Virginia with his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) and working as a check-out clerk at a strip mall bodega, unaware that he’s actually a sleeper agent programmed to be a killer by the CIA, who decide it’s time to shut down the program and get rid of loose ends… including Mike. 

Possibly the odd man out of the weekend is this action-comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart that’s not a sequel or based on an existing property, which unfortunately will put it at a huge disadvantage during the last days of summer. Based on a screenplay from Max Landis (Chronicle), it’s one of the summer’s rare original concepts and it’s one that’s along similar lines as last year’s surprise action hit Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, which grossed $126 million domestically.

Obviously, the film’s two stars, especially Stewart, will be the film’s biggest draw, although this doesn’t seem like the type of movie that would bring in any of her “Twilight” fans or those who enjoy either of their dramatic indie fare. The sci-fi aspects of the premise involving an unlikely action hero being able to fight off his assailants also reminds me of the Bradley Cooper sci-fi thriller Limitless, although Eisenberg is no Cooper when it comes to bringing in audiences. 

The good thing is that Lionsgate has a strong marketing campaign for the movie and have been getting the duo out there for interviews (like the one below) to help raise awareness, although American Ultra also looks more like one of those quirky action movies such as the late Tony Scott’s Domino starring Keira Knightley than Lucy despite a similar premise.

Like Hitman: Agent 47, it also won’t be helped by the number of action movies already in theaters, although that at least is based on a known quantity while American Ultra is an unknown that some might be more than fine waiting until it comes to DVD or cable.

Prediction:

With way too much competition for guys and not much here to interest from women (other than maybe Stewart), American Ultra seems like the weak link of the weekend and probably won’t even make $10 million, so expect it to come in fourth or even fifth place as the late August doldrums continues to take casualties.

Video Interview with the Cast


This Weekend Last Year

Another late August weekend of “summer dumpers” where none of them were able to overcome the powerhouse duo of Guardians of the Galaxy (which moved back into the #1 spot with over $250 million grossed so far) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each in the $16 to 18 million region. The top new movie was the young adult drama If I Stay (Warner Bros/MGM), starring Chloe Grace Moretz, which opened with $15.7 million in 2,907 theaters in third place. The football drama When the Game Stands Tall (TriStar Pictures/Sony) opened in fifth place with $8.4 million, but Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dimension) out and out bombed with just $6.3 million grossed in 2,894 theaters for eighth place, signifying that they clearly waited too long to make this comic book sequel. The Top 10 grossed $97 million, which is probably where this weekend will end up as well.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

None of the new movies are particularly strong and they’re all going to be stealing business from the others, which should allow the much stronger Straight Outta Compton to win the weekend even if it takes a tumble from its opening weekend. (Not because it’s bad or deserves to drop that much, but because so many people rushed out to see it.) Sinister 2 will probably do the best of the new movies and should take second place with Hitman: Agent 47 coming in third. (UPDATE: Straight Outta Compton expands into 3,024 theaters which should allow it to fare a bit better this weekend although there will probably still be a drop from last week.)

1. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) – $28.5 million -53% (up 1 million)
2. Sinister 2 (Gramercy Pictures) – $16.8 million N/A (down .4 million)
3. Hitman: Agent 47 (20th Century Fox) – $13.2 million N/A (down .6 million)
4. American Ultra (Lionsgate) – $9.6 million N/A (Up .8 million)
5.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount) – $9.5 million -45%
6. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Bros.) – $7 million -50%
7. The Gift (STX Entertainment) – $3.6 million -45%
8. Ant-Man (Disney/Marvel) – $3.5 million -36%
9. Minions (Universal) – $3.4 million -35%
10. Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox) – $3.4 million -58%

Next Week:

The “Dog Days of Summer” hit a new low with the release of three movies that probably won’t make much of a mark with Owen Wilson starring in the tourist thriller No Escape (Dimension/TWC), Zac Efron playing an EDM DJ (no, not Skrillex, though that would be funny) in the drama We Are Your Friends (Warner Bros.), and also the faith-based drama War Room (Sony/TriStar).


This Week’s Must-Sees

beltracchiww

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (Kimstim Release)
Writer/Director: Arne Birkenstock
Stars: Wolfgang and Helen Beltracchi
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: This German documentary takes a look at one of the most notorious forgers and con men, Wolfgang Beltracchi, who along with his wife Helene managed to make millions of dollars with his forged pieces reportedly from masters like Max Ernst. It opens exclusively at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday and will travel to other cities after that. 

My Thoughts… 

I’m not much of an art enthusiast. I mean, I like the classics and I can find things to enjoy at an art museum if I were to ever go to one, but I’m by no means an expert, and I’m even a little cynical about how the art world works. My cynicism is confirmed by this intriguing look at a renowned forger whose work has gone for millions of dollars at auction under the impression that his work was painted by some of the masters.

That’s because Wolfgang Beltracchi has figured out a way to mimic the styles of the masters and finds ways of creating authenticity by using similar techniques and canvases they would have used. Director Arne Birkenstock spent a lot of time with Beltracchi and his wife as they do their work, really getting into their heads to find out the reasoning and logic behind what they do.

Probably the most shocking thing is that both of them have already been imprisoned, but every day they’re released from their respective prisons so they can get together and work on their art, which is pretty insane when you realize how many millions of dollars they’ve stolen from art lovers and auction houses.

Even so, it’s fascinating to watch them at work and hear from art experts how they were fooled by the Beltracchi’s work while they theoretically continue to do their illicit works.

Also at Film Forum is the debut of a fantastic program of animated shorts by the Quay Brothers, screened in 35 mm, curated by director Christopher Nolan, who also made a short film going into the Quays’ studio called “Quay” (which will make its world premiere at Film Forum on Wednesday). While Nolan’s short film is indeed short, it’s fascinating to see the work of these creative visionary animators and you can see how their style has evolved from “In Absentia” through “The Comb” to “Street of Crocodiles,” the three films being screened. If that wasn’t enough incentive, the Quay Brothers themselves will be there on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and you can learn more on the Film Forum website.

Interview with the Quay Brothers

grandmaww

Grandma (Sony Pictures Classics)
Writer/Director: Paul Weitz
Stars: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Judy Greer, Marcia Gay Harden, Sam Elliott, Lauren Tom, Elizabeth Peña, Colleen Camp, John Cho, Nat Wolff, Laverne Cox 
Genre: Comedy, Drama
What It’s About: Shortly after her girlfriend leaves her, feminist activist Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is visited by her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) who has become pregnant and needs money for an abortion. Not having the money, Elle and Sage travel across town visiting Elle’s friends to pull in favors and try to get the money before her appointment later that day. The popular film from the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals opens in New York and L.A. on Friday before expanding to other cities. 

My Thoughts from Sundance

Paul Weitz Interview

Learning to Drive (Broad Green)
Director: Isabel Coixet
Stars: Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Grace Gummer
Genre: Drama, Comedy
What It’s About: After her husband leaves her, a book critic named Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) decides to take driving lessons and ends up being paired with a Sikh taxi driver named Darwan (Kingsley) who remains patient despite having his own personal issues to deal with.

Feature Interviews with Coixet and Cast

Being Evel (Gravitas Ventures)
Director: Daniel Junge
Stars: Evel Knievel, Johnny Knoxville, Mat Hoffman, George Hamilton, Tony Hawk
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: A documentary shining the spotlight on the stuntman who helped define entertainment in the ‘70s with his fantastic motorcycle stunts.

Other Limited Releases of Note:

She’s Funny That Way (Lionsgate)
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Stars: Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Aniston
Genre: Comedy, Drama
What It’s About: Legendary filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon) gives a go at a Woody Allen-style with Owen Wilson playing a director with a proclivity for hookers who casts one such call girl, Imogen Poots’ “Izzy” Patterson in his new play alongside his wife (Kathryn Hahn) and her ex-lover Seth (Rhys Ifans). As it happens, Izzy’s therapist, played by Jennifer Aniston, is having trouble in her own relationship with the play’s playwright Josh (Will Forge) who is also falling for “Izzy.” It opens in select theaters and on VOD Friday. 

Some Kind of Beautiful (Lionsgate)
Director: Tom Vaughan
Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba, Benjamin McKenzie, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin
Genre: Comedy, Romance
What It’s About: See if you can follow this one. Pierce Brosnan is Richard, a playboy college professor who gives up sleeping with his students to settle down with Jessica Alba’s Kate, but when she leaves him, her sister Olivia (Salma Hayek) shows up to help Richard care for their son and she ends up falling in love with him herself. Previously called “How to Make Love to an Englishman” (ugh), this opens in select cities and on VOD. (In a weird coincidence, Wilson and Brosnan, the stars of this week’s VOD dumpers star in next week’s thriller No Escape.) 

Digging for Fire (The Orchard)
Director: Joe Swanberg
Stars: Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Mike Birbiglia
Genre: Comedy
What It’s About: While staying at a luxurious home in the Hollywood Hills, Tim (Johnson), who is married (to Rosemarie DeWitt’s Lee) with a child, discovers a bone and a rusty gun in the backyard and becomes obsessed with the idea that maybe there’s more buried in the backyard, so against his wife’s wishes, he starts digging with his friends along with the hot babysitter (Brie Larson). Sadly, I feel this movie that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is one of Joe Swanberg’s lesser efforts after the terrific Drinking Buddies and decent Happy Christmas.

My Thoughts from Sundance

Sundance Video Interviews with Johnson, DeWitt and Swanberg

Shanghai (The Weinstein Co.)
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Stars: John Cusack, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: John Cusack plays an American who comes to Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the second World War to investigate a friend’s death who gets involved with the corrupt politics of the area. This is the first of two Asian films starring John Cusack before next month’s Dragon Blade. It’s been five years since this premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival and opened in Asia (and apparently also played on television), and the Weinstein Company is FINALLY releasing this in select cities in the United States. I mean, seriously, what’s the point? 

The Mend (Cinelicious Pics)
Writer/Director: John Magary
Stars: Josh Lucas, Stephen Plunkett, Lucy Owen, Mickey Sumner, Louisa Krause, Austin Pendleton, Sarah Steele, Leo Fitzpatrick
Genre: Comedy, Drama
What It’s About: When Alan (Stephen Plunkett) and his girlfriend Farrah (Mickey Summer) go on a two-week vacation, they leave his homeless older brother Mat (Josh Lucas) in their apartment after a night of partying. Mat brings in his own girlfriend Andrea (Lucy Owen) and her son, as they make themselves comfortable until Alan comes back when the vacation doesn’t go the way he expected. 

Mateo (XLRator Media)
Director: Aaron I. Naar
Stars: Matthew Stoneman
Genre: Documentary, Music
What It’s About: This documentary that premiered at SXSW in 2014 follows America’s most notorious non-Spanish mariachi singer, Matthew Stoneman, who ended up in jail in Cuba where he reinvented himself and remerged as the artist “Mateo,” working on an album of original Cuban music. 

Guidance (Strand Releasing)
Writer/Director: Pat Mills
Stars: Pat Mills, Zahra Bentham, Tracey Hoyt, Kevin Hanchard, Alex Ozerov, Eleanor Zichy
Genre: Comedy
What It’s About: Pat Mills writes, directs in this movie as former child actor David Gold who trying to find a job, he fakes his resume in order to get a job as a high school guidance counselor at Grusin High where he befriends a teen outcast. 

The Curse of Downers Grove (Anchor Bay)
Director: Derick Martini
Stars: Bella Heathcote, Lucas Till, Penelope Mitchell, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers
Genre: Thriller
What It’s About: Co-written by author Bret Easton Ellis, this thriller stars Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows) as a teen who decides to investigate the curse of her town where a senior from every high school graduating class has died in a bizarre way right before graduation, thinking that she’s the next to go. 

You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas