The Weekend Warrior previews The Transporter Refueled and A Walk in the Woods
It’s Labor Day weekend, woohoo! And sadly, it’s not going to be a weekend that helps reinforce anyone’s hopes that things will pick up before the generally slower fall months, although Universal’s biopic Straight Outta Compton may have more competition at the box office… unless the latest action reboot bombs as badly as some the last few attempts.
When it comes to action, there are few filmmakers who have established themselves as being more prolific and profitable than France’s Luc Besson, who has created a number of huge franchises that have translated over to these shores, most notably the “Taken” movies.
Long before he joined the “Fast and Furious” franchise, Besson’s “Transporter” movies helped turn Jason Statham into a box office star. While Statham’s leading role in The Transporter was no breakout, opening in mid-October 2002 to $9.1 million and grossing just $25.3 million, three years later, Transporter 2 successfully capitalized on the success of the original movie on cable and DVD opening with $20.1 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend. Those first two movies were released by Fox, but the next installment Transporter 3, was released over Thanksgiving weekend 2008 by Lionsgate and took in $18.2 million in its first five days.
Since then, Besson has had hits like Taken and its two sequels as well as last year’s Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, but both of those were very much driven by their stars. Other recent Besson action films like 3 Days to Kill and The Family have done decently, ending up in the $30 to 35 million range, but also with the likes of Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro as stars. On the other hand, last year’s Brick Mansion (directed by the same director as The Transporter Refueled) bombed badly even with the late “Fast and Furious” star Paul Walker in it.
Unfortunately for The Transporter Refueled, movie audiences have already shown they’re sick of reboots after a summer full of them. With that in mind, it’s a little weird this movie is coming out so soon after Hitman: Agent 47. The two movies already have many similarities beyond one being based on a video game and one not. In some ways, the release of the Transporter 3 over Thanksgiving was done to mimic the success of the original Hitman, but like its sequel, The Transporter Refueled is trying to reboot the franchise without the original actor Frank Martin. It seems like Statham was probably the key to the original franchise being so successful, and few people (if anyone) will even know who Ed Skrein is.
This is the first movie that Besson’s EuropaCorp is releasing as a distributor after teaming with the likes of 20th Century Fox, Relativity and Lionsgate for previous releases, and one has to wonder if they’re able to get the movie out there with the much-needed marketing to get action fans, who have been well appeased this summer, to check out their newest Transporter.
For some reason, action has become a tough genre to predict especially when it comes to the midranged budget movies like The Transporter Refueled. While it could bring in some of the male moviegoers looking for an adrenaline rush over the long weekend, it’s just as likely to go the way of some of the late summer’s other recent bombs that have shown a real burnout on B-action movies like this. It should still be good for $10 to 12 million over the weekend based on the name alone but probably will peter out somewhere around $25 to 30 million as it doesn’t seem like something anyone really wanted or needed.
Distributor: Broad Green Pictures
What It’s About: Travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) decides to challenge himself by hiking the Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine, so he recruits his estranged friend Katz (Nick Nolte) to join him on one last adventure together.
Based on Bill Bryson’s hugely popular 2006 bestseller, A Walk in the Woods is a lot like last year’s Wild, which got Reese Witherspoon her second Oscar nomination, except that it’s a comedy that pairs two older veterans in Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, and it’s more likely to appeal to their older fanbase than to nature freaks who are probably going to spend the last weekend of summer out hiking rather than inside an air-conditioned movie theater.
Director Ken Kwapis is not known for making the most intelligent comedies although he had a hit with the adaptation of the bestseller He’s Just Not That Into You, which had an all-star cast including Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlet Johansson, Bradley Cooper and Ben Affleck. He also directed the original Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which did well enough to warrant a sequel, but he’s better as a work-for-hire filmmaker who has mainly worked for Warner Bros. and doing TV stuff.
Opening on Wednesday, this movie is Broad Green Pictures’ first wide release into roughly 2,000 theaters and it’s going to be a real test to see if they have the marketing clout to get the word out to the older moviegoers who might need a movie like this right now. To be honest, this is a movie that probably should be getting a smaller platform release to build word-of-mouth, and it really should be released in the fall. The thing is that despite its origins premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, A Walk in the Woods is not really an arthouse film and is more like 2013’s Last Vegas, a very mainstream movie yet it’s gotten mixed reviews so far, so it might have a hard time finding its audience.
Without knowing a definite theater count, it’s hard to determine a solid number, but it seems like that A Walk in the Woods can probably make $4 to 5 million over the four-day weekend due to the popularity of the book and with so little competition in theaters for older audiences. The lack of solid marketing is probably going to hurt it more than anything else, but maybe it can scrape its way to $13 or 14 million though it will be facing a lot stronger adult fare come September.
This Weekend Last Year
It’s official! We’re now off by a week because Labor Day falls a week later than it did last year. This weekend last year was actually the weekend after Labor Day, another notoriously bad weekend where the only new movie was the Christian drama The Identical (Freestyle Releasing), which opened in 1,956 theaters with very little fanfare and ended up bombing with $1.9 million, or $977 per theater. No War Room there. Instead, Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remained #1 and 2 with $10.4 and $6.6 million and the Top 10 grossed a miserable $48.2 million. If we compare this Labor Day weekend to last, the Top 10 would have to make $106.3 million over four days to match it but that seems unlikely and the Top 10 this weekend could actually end up at almost HALF that amount. Star Wars: The Force Awakens can’t come soon enough.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
After three weeks at #1, it’s probably time for Straight Outta Compton to fall as The Transporter Refueled would have to do even worse than Hitman: Agent 47 to not beat it. Sure, it could happen, but the longer weekend and there not being too much else in theaters makes it seem possible that the new action movie could do some business even if it’s not nearly as much as Transporter 2 or other Labor Day releases. A Walk in the Woods will probably end up in the bottom half of the Top 10.
UPDATE: Going with a bit more across the board since the holiday weekend should bring in some of the moviegoers that haven’t been out all summer with a number of other movies like Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out being rereleased into theaters for summer’s end. (In fact, Inside Out could take advantage of the lack of strong family films in theaters to reenter the Top 10 with $2.5 to 3 million, bumping one of the other movies.)
(Note: All the below predictions are for the four-day holiday weekend.)
1. The Transporter Refueled (EuropaCorp) – $11.0 million N/A (up .2 million)
The fall movie season officially kicks off with the return of M. Night Shyamalan and his horror flick The Visit (Universal), while Sanaa Latham goes looking for The Perfect Guy (Sony/Screen Gems). A couple other movies might also get moderately wide releases such as the religious film 90 Minutes in Heaven, but the Weekend Warrior will be heading off to Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and a lot of my focus will be on that.
This Week’s Must-Sees
Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine (Magnolia)
Like most people, I’m anxiously awaiting the chance to see what Michael Fassbender and Steve Jobs do in their upcoming Steve Jobs movie. For those who aren’t that patient and want to do a bit of brushing up beforehand, you could go and read some of the many books written about Jobs or you can let filmmaker Alex Gibney do that for you.
I have a great respect and appreciation for Gibney, partially because he is so amazingly prolific but also because he always finds interesting subjects to explore, but never ones that might be considered easy. He always does his best to be thorough in terms of his investigative prowess at covering those subjects from a lot of angles. Steve Jobs is no exception and Gibney’s doc is by no means the drooling praise-filled story of his life and career that some might be expecting or hoping for.
It opens after Jobs’ death in 2011 when there’s an outpouring of grief from iPhone and iPad users worldwide before Gibney goes back in time to Jobs’ teenage years when he was a tech wunderkind, creating game systems with his best friend Steve Wozniak (who isn’t interviewed for the film). That eventually evolves into computer systems and the rest is history, some of which you may know, much of which you probably won’t.
Gibney uses a lot of sources, including many of Jobs’ employees and co-workers, some of whom were thrown under the bus as Apple got bigger and bigger in the ‘80s and after Jobs returned in 1997 to save the flailing company with the introduction of the iMac. (I have a close connection to Apple computers as I’ve been using one since the late ‘80s, particularly for music and I remember distinctly the period in 1995 and 1996 when everyone thought the company was doomed.) All of Jobs comments are taken from television and presentation appearances as well as a testimonial video from when Apple was being monitored by the SEC for illegal stock backdating.
It’s fairly clear that Gibney means to take Jobs down a couple notches from his demi-God status with a good portion of the movie dedicated to the negative aspects of Apple and their products, from the company’s treatment of their U.S. employees and underpaid Chinese workers, while also showing that Jobs isn’t nearly as much of a philanthropist as his counterpart Bill Gates at Microsoft.
But The Man in the Machine is far more than a talking heads-filled investigative retrospective as Gibney brings a certain amount of artistry to the telling of his Jobs story by delving into the spiritualism and Japanese culture that Jobs loved. By the time we get to Jobs’ death from cancer, we’re quite emotional and that’s quite an achievement to be able to focus on all these bad things surrounding Jobs but still make us care when he’s gone.
This isn’t the first time that Gibney has created an intensely thought-provoking film, one that never gushes or overpraises its clearly flawed subject, but he also finds a way at creating something cinematic and poetic that’s more moving than it is clinical. As is the case with many of Gibney’s past films, this may be the best movie we ever get about the subject of Steve Jobs (at least for now).
And for the second weekend in a row, we have another great Scandinavian film from the festival circuit:
Blind (Kimstim Releasing)
Norwegian screenwriter Eskil Vogt, who has co-written many of Joachim Trier’s films including Reprise, Oslo August 31st and his upcoming Louder than Bombs, makes his feature film directorial debut with this stirring documentary that once again confirms how Scandinavian filmmakers are much better at exploring the human psyche and what makes us tick than even the best of their American counterparts.
It’s hard not to think of Mia Farrow in the classic thriller See No Evil as we watch Ellen Dorrit Pettersen’s Ingrid struggling with her sudden loss of sight and dealing with the loneliness of her apartment. The film regularly jumps into a story she’s writing about Einar, a lonely guy with an addiction to porn, and Elin, a pretty young woman who loses her sight similar to what Ingrid’s been contending with, a woman who happens to be having an affair with Ingrid’s husband Morten.
That may sound somewhat confusing but that’s partially what makes Blind so intriguing in the way that the separation between reality, fiction and Ingrid’s imagination often dissolves with little warning, so you’re never sure if what we’re watching is really happening or it’s part of her story.
It’s a pretty amazing film, although it’s one that gets strange at times and somewhat dark as Ingrid tries to deal with her own marital issues. At a certain point, there’s the danger of the movie turning into Blindness because half the characters are without sight, but it recovers quickly, mainly because Pettersen is absolutely riveting to watch on screen and her running narrative is clearly why Vogt is such a well-respected writer.
Blind certainly won’t be for everyone—the prudish might be put off by the amount of graphic sex, most of it in Ingrid’s imagination—but it’s a film that keeps you on your toes and shows Vogt to be more than just one of Norway’s most skilled writers.
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Alice Eve fans can see her in two new movies this weekend, both involving her spending an evening traversing a city where they’re stuck for the night. Weird coincidence, huh?
Dirty Weekend (eOne)
Before We Go (RADiUS)
Dragon Blade (Lionsgate Premiere)
Break Point (Broad Green)
The Black Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution (PBS Distribution)
Contracted: Phase II (IFC Midnight)
Chloe and Theo (ARC Entertainment)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas