The Weekend Warrior: Pain & Gain and The Big Wedding

This is the week when the newly-relaunched Weekend (or Weakened) Warrior gets a bit surreal.

I’ve always been a person who likes to be transparent and open about things going on in my life, both with my friends and those who take the time to read what I write. It’s pretty strange to have something happen in my life that has such a huge impact that I don’t even know where to begin in explaining it to my friends or acquaintances, let alone people who barely know me.

The long and short of it is that I’ve been diagnosed with acute leukemia, a rare type of blood cancer in which the bone marrow is not properly producing the white blood cells needed to fight infection, instead creating leukemia-infected white blood cells that take over the blood making it harder for the other blood cells to do their jobs, like create oxygen and stop excessive bleeding. Apparently, this is something that’s genetic and can happen at any time in one’s life and it just so happens that I discovered this as I was preparing to cover CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

An even bigger irony is having this on my mind while writing about Michael Bay’s new movie Pain & Gain because indeed, once my intense chemo treatment starts this week that’s going to involve a lot of PAIN to get any sort of GAIN.

Honestly I’ve been very lucky with my health over the years and my luck just finally ran out, and while I don’t like to preach, there’s a possibility what happened to me could have been tracked earlier if I’d just make more of an effort to go to the doctor and take a blood test. I knew nothing about leukemia a week ago and now that I’ve been struck by it, I really want to make sure others don’t have to go through what I will be over the next few weeks, months and years.

Fortunately, I don’t take anything for granted and writing is some of the best therapy so I’m going to keep on doing whatever I can do and hopefully my chemotherapy won’t turn this column into a crazy long mouth-foaming rant that has nothing to do with movies… now that I’ve gotten the above out of my system, of course. 🙂

This week’s column is dedicated to Christine and Kate at the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas for helping me get through a tough week–they’re amazing ladies–and all the nurses and doctors at my current home at the James Cancer Hospital in beautiful Columbus, Ohio who will be helping me out over the next 28 days.

Anyway, I’m done with this morbid and sentimental crap… let’s talk movies! This week, we have two R-rated comedies, very different movies, both of them trying to make some money before the summer movie season gives the box office a much-needed kick in the ass.

Pain & Gain (Paramount)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Tony Shalhoub, Bar Paly, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, Yolanthe Cabau

Directed by Michael Bay (The Transformers “Trilogy”, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, The Island, The Rock, Bad Boys and more!); Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger), Scott Rosenberg

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Rated R

Tagline: “Their American Dream is Bigger Than Yours.”

Director Michael Bay is back with his first non-“Transformers” movie since 2005’s The Island, finally directing the “smaller” and “more intimate” movie he would have done years ago if he didn’t keep getting pulled back into “Transformers” world.

This one is based on the true story of a couple of Miami bodybuilders who get involved in a crime spree of kidnapping and extortion during the ‘90s. It puts together the A-list dream team of the ubiquitous Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson–appearing in his third movie in three months–and Mark Wahlberg. Some of the more immediate humor will come from seeing them so pumped up to play the steroid-induced bodybuilders, but they’re both popular actors among a wide range of guys, both of whom have done their fair share of comedy and action so it’s great casting.

The rest of the cast is made up of serious actors like Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris and future Falcon Anthony Mackie–also looking rather ripped–combined with comedians such as Rob Corddry… and if you couldn’t get enough of him in Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the “Hangover” movies, Bay even brought back “The Most Annoying Doctor Turned Actor” Ken Jeong for his new movie. That’s because Michael Bay hates you and he wants you to hate him. That’s the only reason I could figure out.

In some ways, this movie is a throwback to some of Bay’s most popular earlier movies, Bad Boys, which teamed Will Smith and Martin Lawrence–neither who were as big then as Johnson and Wahlberg are right now–or the ironically-titled The Rock starring Nicolas Cage. It’s also the first Michael Bay movie in many, many years that doesn’t open in the summer proper, though he has such a good cast that opening a week before the normal May summer kick-off could actually give the movie a nice steroid boost.

The problem with Pain & Gain is that it’s a movie that’s somewhat hard to categorize or pin down, being based on a true story but without really being clear whether it’s supposed to be a straight comedy, a crime thriller or an action movie. Other than the image above, it also doesn’t really look or feel like the typical Michael Bay action movie even though his name will be used to sell it just as much as Wahlberg or Johnson’s.

The last time Bay tried something this outside the box was 2005’s The Island, one of his biggest box office bombs, opening with just $12 million and grossing just $35 million. He then jumped right from that into the “Transformers” movies, which became huge blockbuster moneymakers, even if the response and reaction to them have been mixed among fans and critics alike.

Either way, Bay finally got around to doing his quirky muscle-builder crime-comedy and he must not be that optimistic since he’s right back on “Transformers,” this time dragging Wahlberg along for the next chapter.

There are enough positive factors to make this #1 over Tom Cruise’s sci-fi hit but with everyone anticipating next week’s Iron Man 3, it’s probably going to come in under $30 million and end up in the $75 to 80 million range when all’s said and done.

Weekend Est.: $25 to 28 million; Est. Total Gross: $73 million

The Big Wedding (Lionsgate)

Starring Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Ben Barnes, Christine Ebersole, David Rasche, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora

Written and directed by Justin Zackham (Going Greek, writer of The Bucket List)

Genre: Comedy

Rated R

Tagline: “It’s never too late to start acting like a family.”

This week’s counter-programming will likely be seen as a dumper because despite the big name talent, this comedy is a movie Lionsgate has had on their ledger for some time and they’re just trying to get rid of it. Adapted from a French comedy called “Mon frère se marie,” following the company releasing Paul Haggis’ The Next Three Days, which was also based on a French remake, this one involves a dysfunctional family coming together and hilarity ensuing, something we’ve seen in so many movies that it may be time to create a law against Hollywood making any more of this crap.

This literally looks like the worst movie ever made, like an abomination that would destroy careers if it wasn’t made up of such a terrific ensemble cast of veterans including Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace. It’s really those first three that will be important since this movie is hoping to bring in the older women who might see this as something cute they can see with their friends. Women 40 years and older, basically.

Diane Keaton has generally appealed to that audience, appearing in movies like The Family Stone ($12.5 million opening) and Mad Money ($7.7 million) and Morning Glory ($9.2 million) but De Niro seems to be basically wasting all the Oscar love he got for starring in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and he’s doing something out of his field of expertise that won’t do much to bring in his fans. Susan Sarandon does a lot of different movies and doing a wacky comedy doesn’t seem too below her, even though she’s a generally versatile actress. Maybe some of these ditzy women will have forgotten that Robin Williams played the same character in the awful License to Wed, but there’s no way he has a big enough part to even consider him a draw.

Heigl had a pretty amazing career going for her with hit rom-coms like Knocked Up and 28 Dresses but last year’s One for the Money really knocked down her status, which is why she’s not being featured in any ads, and Lionsgate also may not feel this is a movie that Amanda Seyfried’s younger core audience might care about either.

Since the last weekend in April is already a dumping ground and this movie was delayed from the already slow month of October where a bad movie like this would normally go to die, that isn’t a good sign of a good movie. Regardless, it’s all about pimping the cast to the older women who hope to get laughs with their friends although deciding to do an R-rated movie might actually turn off some of the women they’re appealing to even if there aren’t enough women who rush out to see movies like this opening weekend to have much of an impact.

Basically, the movie just looks horrible, the kind of movie we’d expect the Devil might make (and I’m not talking about Michael Bay either, ’cause he seems to have a semi-decent movie this weekend.)

I mean I couldn’t even get through the trailer, though Lionsgate is using some of the same tactics they’ve used for previous movies to sell tickets with special deals, which might give it more business than it would otherwise. Still, the older women who might go see this won’t necessarily race out to see it opening weekend so we’re looking at a fairly uneventful release.

Weekend Est.: $8 to 10 million; Est. Total Gross: $22 million

This weekend last year saw the release of four new movies but none of them were able to take down Steve Harvey’s Think Like a Man, which remained on top with $17 million. Second place went to the stop-motion animated family comedy The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Sony), which brought in a disappointing $11.1 million and yet ten months later it received a surprise Oscar nomination. The R-rated rom-com The Five-Year Engagement (Universal), reuniting the Forgetting Sarah Marshall team of Jason Segel and Nick Stoller with Emily Blunt, opened in fifth place with $10.6 million, followed by the Jason Statham crime-thriller Safe (Lionsgate), which opened in sixth place with $7.9 million. John Cusack’s Edgar Allan Poe thriller The Raven (Relativity Media) opened in seventh with $7.3 million. Last year’s Top 10 grossed $91 million but once again we’re looking at a weekend that will be down slightly unless Michael Bay, Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg pull out a surprise and make more than we predicted.

This Week’s Predictions

1. Pain & Gain (Paramount) – $26.5 million N/A

2. Oblivion (Universal) – $19.0 million -49%

3. 42 (Warner Bros.) – $11.8 million -34%

4. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate) – $9.2 million N/A

5. The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox) – $6.5 million -30%

6. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Paramount) – $3.2 million -45%

7. Scary Movie 5 (Dimension Films) – $2.8 million -54%

8. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) – $2.6 million -43%

9. The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features) – $2.6 million -45%

10. Jurassic Park 3D (Universal) – $1.9 million -51%

There are so many movies opening this weekend in limited release–very few I liked enough to write too much about any of them–others I didn’t get a chance to watch due to circumstances mentioned previously. Let’s keep this brief so that I can put more time into my May and summer previews, which is what you’re really looking forward to.

Matthew McConaughey stars as a wanderer named Mud (Roadside Attractions) in Jeff (Take Shelter) Nichols’ Mississippi Delta drama involving two young boys, Ellis and Neckbone, who agree to help Mud, a convict, trying to reconnect with his woman, Juniper, as played by Reese Witherspoon. It opens in select cities and it’s probably the weekend’s best bet if not quite the “CHOSEN ONE.”

This weekend also sees two indie relationship dramas, Sun Don’t Shine, the feature film debut by director Amy Seimetz, co-star of Shane Carruth’s recent Upstream Color, starring Kate Lyn Sheil and Kentucker Audley as a couple taking a trip up the Gulf Coast of central Florida. The other is the winner of the coveted “Not Playing at a Theater Near You” Prize at this past year’s Gotham Awards, Terence Nance’s An Oversimplification of her Beauty (Variance Films) looks at the relationship between the filmmaker and a young woman played by Namik Minter using a variety of techniques including documentary and experimental filmmaking.

Two of the finest female filmmakers of Indian descent return with novel adaptations. I have yet to see Mira Nair’s adaptation of Pakistani author Mohson Hamid’s 2007 novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist (IFC Films), which stars Riz Ahmed (Trishna), Liev Schreiber and Kate Hudson, but I will say that I absolutely LOATHED Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s best-selling Boooker Prize winning novel Midnight’s Children (Paladin). The story involves two newborn babies switched at birth on the night when India gets its independence from Great Britain as the two young men end up living the destiny meant for the other. Oh and all the kids born that night have magical powers and can communicate with each other except that they represent the revolution so they need to be eradicated by the government. So yeah, if you ever wondered what an “X-Men” movie by Deepa Mehta and Salman Rushdie might look like, here you go. Personally, I’d just wait for Bryan Singer’s Days of Future Past next year.

I also wasn’t really a fan of At Any Price (Sony Pictures Classics), the new movie from low-budget indie maven Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart) starring Dennis Quaid as Henry Whipple, a farmer caught up in the competitive world of modern agriculture and being investigated for some wrong-doings as his race car driving son Dean (Zac Efron) gets into trouble rather than wanting to take over the family business.

Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s Kon-Tiki (The Weinstein Company) received an Oscar nomination for their home country of Norway except that anyone going to see it thinking it’s about Thor, the God of Thunder, might be upset to learn it’s actually about the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, who set off for a journey across the Pacific in 1947 in order to prove that South Sea Islands had been settled by South Americans who made a similar trip. Along for the ride are five other wacky Scandinavian adventures and oh what fun and dangerous adventures they had on the rough waters. Maybe I would have liked this better if I had actually seen the version in Norwegian rather than the made-for-Americans English-language version which didn’t really show off the talents of the actors.

Oscar winner Colin Firth is Arthur Newman (Cinedigm/Flatiron Films), but actually, he’s a guy named Wallace Avery who is tired of his life so he fakes his suicide, takes on a new identity and goes on a road trip of discovery with the lovely and feisty Michaela Fitzgerald, played by Emily Blunt. Sure, it sounds like fun, but no, I didn’t like that movie either.

The Filipino crime-thriller Graceland (Drafthouse Films) from filmmaker Ron Morales follows a kidnapping gone wrong that puts the chauffeur of a corrupt politician at risk unless he can act as a representative for the kidnappers to get them what they want. It premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

I haven’t had a chance to watch Stephen Chung’s martial arts epic Tai Chi Hero (Well Go USA), the sequel to the hit Tai Chi Zero, but this one is likely to be just as crazy as it continues the journey of Lu Chan (Jayden Yuan) within Chen Village, which he saved from a steam-powered invasion in the previous movie.

And last of all, we have two other thrillers I haven’t seen: The Numbers Station (Image Entertainment) stars John Cusack and Malin Ackerman while Mortem (R-Squared Films) stars no one I’ve heard of.

Next week, it’s finally the summer and Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios/Disney) is gonna clean house! Hopefully we’ll have our annual Summer Box Office preview before then, too. Cross your fingers!

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 2013 Edward Douglas


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