It’s Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, sort of the first four-day holiday weekend of the year, where schools are out on Monday, as are most government and municipal workers, but for the most part, people work on Monday rather than taking it off. So it’s essentially a three-day weekend where strong movies have a good chance at bringing in a bit of extra business on Monday and this week, we have four brand-new movies vying for the top spot currently held by Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor. Can anyone do it? Read on!
There are two big movies with known stars who have proven themselves at the box office but being MLK Jr. weekend and knowing the history of this particular holiday weekend, we’re gonna go with the action-comedy Ride Along (Universal), starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, to win by a sizable margin over everything else.
Although Hart played a major role in the boxing comedy Grudge Match and that hasn’t done particularly well, grossing roughly $28 million so far, he has a pretty devout fanbase that has allowed him to release two concert movies theatrically, Laugh at My Pain ($7.7 million gross) and this year’s Let Me Explain, which grossed $32 million. He also appeared in the hugely successful Think Like a Man, which grossed an astounding $91.5 million, and has a romantic comedy, a remake of About Last Night, coming out on Valentine’s Day. Clearly, Hart is going to be a bigger draw for this movie even than Ice Cube, despite the latter’s strong male fanbase.
Ice Cube has a really good track record with African-American moviegoers thanks to movies like the “Fridays” series plus he’s starred in a number of movies where he played a police officer like 2012’s 21 Jump Street and Rampart, as well as crossing over with African-American males by having serious credibility as a gangster/rapper before he got into acting. His last action comedy was probably All About the Benjamins, which grossed $25.5 million in 2002, but he has had two MLK Jr. releases – Torque ($11.4 million 4-day opening exactly ten years ago) and First Sunday, which opened with $18.6 million over this same weekend in 2008.
Either way, it’s Hart who is driving the commercials and the box office and the pairing of the two is going to do a lot to bring in African-American men and women into theaters, some of whom may even take off on Monday to celebrate the life of one of the country’s greatest Civil Rights leaders. We think this one is going to be one of those huge explosive no-one-saw-it-coming openings ala the recent The Best Man Holiday, because the premise works both in concept and in reality. It’s hard to tell if reviews are going to be any good but humor tends to be king, especially in the slower months of winter, so this one should do a nice bit of business, probably more than $30 million over the four days.
Next up is a prequel/reboot of sorts–the first of the year if you don’t include The Legend of Hercules–and this one stars Star Trek‘s Chris Pine as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount) and it co-stars Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley as well as director Kenneth Branagh, pulling double duty. This is definitely going to be an easy first choice for older male moviegoers who have read Tom Clancy’s novels even though it’s hard to determine whether or not anyone is ready to buy another Jack Ryan considering how long it’s been since Ben Affleck played the role in The Sum of all Fears back in 2002, not too long after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Fortunately, the movie has a good cast and it does have the namebrand value of Tom Clancy’s popular character, although originally Paramount was going to release it over Christmas and when Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street moved to that date, they pushed the Jack Ryan back a couple of weeks hoping that it could do decent business over the semi-holiday weekend. The problem is that not releasing it over Christmas immediately removed any chance of it being considered as high a profile release and to be honest, it probably has lost MILLIONS of dollars it could have made during those busy weeks where no one has work or school.
So that just leaves it as one of four options, probably one that guys over 30 will be interested in but few others and that’s likely to keep the business down its opening weekend. In fact, it probably will be lucky if it can bring in $20 million with so much direct competition both from Ride Along and stronger returning movies. I’d be shocked if this reboot ends up making more than $60 million, to be honest, as it’s just another botched release of what could have been a very cool relaunch of a franchise.
Lastly, we have two very different movies but ones in familiar genres we’ve seen way too much over the past few years – an animated family comedy and a found footage horror-thriller. Obviously, a family movie is going to do better over the holiday weekend with parents looking for something to keep their kids entertained. Unfortunately, The Nut Job (Open Road Films), featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl and Stephen Lang, looks a lot like the recent CG movie Free Birds and its premise of time traveling turkeys trying to save their necks before Thanksgiving. This one involves squirrels trying to save their nuts apparently, and it looks like a rip-off of Ice Age or Over the Hedge by having squirrels and other similar mammals running around for the sake of kids’ entertainment.
Released by Relativity, Free Birds opened with $15.8 million in early November, but that was weeks before Frozen basically dominated the family animated business, something it’s done ever since. Now The Nut Job is opening in hopes that moviegoers may have gotten tired of Frozen and are looking for something new and that’s definitely a possibility. The commercials look funny enough, especially for younger kids, and with Frozen already having crossed the $300 million mark, there may already be oversaturation where anyone who has wanted to see it, will already have seen it multiple times. With there being no school on Monday, The Nut Job should be able to have a nice bump over the weekend and on Monday, mainly depending on how the weather is, and in fact, there’s a good chance it will beat Frozen over the four-day weekend because the Disney musical probably has run its course and will be losing theaters this weekend. I can see The Nut Job bringing in $13 to 15 million over the four-day weekend and with no other family fare in the coming weeks, it could end up grossing close to $50 million total.
That just leaves the found footage horror movie Devil’s Due (20th Century Fox), a genre that already has its fanbase of younger moviegoers but also may have run its course since so many of these are being released and so few of them are any good. This one is opening in a fairly busy weekend with far stronger choices in theaters and that will probably hurt its chances even if it’s trying to follow in the footsteps of The Devil Inside and The Last Exorcism, both which did very well, at least opening weekend. This one is from the YouTube sensation called Radio Silence, who had a memorable segment in the found footage horror movie V/H/S, but with no starpower to speak of (similar to the “Paranormal Activity” movies), movieogers may have already feel too burnt by recent offerings, which means I think this will end up in the bottom half of the Top 10 with less than $10 million over the four-day weekend and then will quickly disappear after that.
Devil’s Due – A Running Diary/Review
This weekend last year, the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend saw the release of three new movies: Produced by Guillermo del Toro, the ghost thriller Mama (Universal) exploded into 2,640 theaters with $32.1 million over the four-day holiday weekend. That was the seventh-biggest opening for the MLK Jr. weekend, but it also took the ninth-biggest opening for the month of January. Meanwhile, Mark Wahlberg’s new crime-thriller Broken City (20th Century Fox), co-starring Russell Crowe, didn’t do nearly as well, bringing in $9.5 million in roughly the same number of theaters, averaging about $3,600 per venue. Unfortunately, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return in the action-thriller The Last Stand (Lionsgate) tanked with just $7.2 million over the four-day weekend and it barely made it into the Top 10. The Top 10 grossed about $125 million over the four-day weekend which seems beatable if Ride Along and the returning movies do better business than we predicted.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
(All numbers below are four-day predictions)
UPDATE: So a couple interesting updates/changes from yesterday. First of all, the new movies are all being released into more theaters than originally projected but we still think only Ride Along is going to make any sort of big impact this weekend, while last week’s #1 Lone Survivor should hold well due to strong word-of-mouth that will ultimately hurt Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which is vying for the same older male audience. With the Golden Globes this past Sunday and David O. Russell’s American Hustle doing very well that should get a significant bump, also helped by the announcement of the Oscar nominations this morning where it scored the most. I’d expect American Hustle to continue making money right through Oscar night on March 2.
Tracy Lett’s August: Osage County didn’t fare as well at the Globes or Oscar nominations, but The Weinstein Company is still expanding it into twice as many theaters as last week and curiosity and the big push the movie has been getting should make it the first choice for older women who don’t have a lot of other options, although we expect it to end up somewhere around even from last week even accounting for the four-day holiday weekend.
The Nut Job will probably do decently with no school on Monday but it will still be neck and neck with Frozen, which will continue to be the first choice. The Wolf of Wall Street loses about 500 theaters this week but its Oscar nominations and the continued curiosity factor should help keep it in the Top 10. Devil’s Due still looks like the weakest link for the weekend, but there should generally be good business at the multiplexes as long as there aren’t any huge snowstorms.
1. Ride Along (Universal) – $33.8 million N/A (up .4 million)
2. Lone Survivor (Universal) – $25.5 million -33% (same but adjusted percentage drop)
3. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount) – $19.6 million N/A (down $1.4 million)
4. The Nut Job (Open Road Films) – $14.5 million N/A (up .7 million)
5. Frozen (Walt Disney) – $13 million -12% (up .5 million)
6. Devil’s Due (20th Century Fox) – $9.8 million N/A (up 1 million)
7. American Hustle (Sony) – $7.5 million -15% (up a million)
8. August: Osage County – $7.2 million +0% (new addition)
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount) – $6.3 million -29% (up .3 million)
10. Saving Mr. Banks (Disney) – $5.3 million -35%
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to watch many of the limited releases this week, but I definitely have high hopes for Kore-eda (Nobody Knows) Hirokazu’s Like Father, Like Son (IFC Films), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently played at Toronto and the New York Film Festivals. It’s a family drama involving a young boy that was switched at birth by a negligent nurse, and we see how the two parents raised each other’s sons. This seems to be following in the footsteps of Midnight’s Children, The Other Son and other recent foreign films that explore this same territory. It opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York on Friday, as does
Jillian Schlesinger’s debut documentary Maidentrip (First Run Features) captures the year-long story of 14-year-old Laura Dekker who decided to take an almost two-year voyage around the world on her sailboat, facing all sorts of challenges along the way.
Mini-Review: Hot on the heels of J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost” comes a far more optimistic and inspirational true story about Dutch teenager Laura Dekker, who at 14 decided to make a solo voyage around the world on her sailboat “Guppy.” Jillian Schlesinger’s document of that trip does a terrific job of showing Dekker, who is pretty much an average teen, being alone at sea, dealing with the elements and the emotions of being alone and actually handling it quite well.
With much of the camerawork being done by Dekker herself because she was indeed alone on that boat while it made the bigger oceanic crossings, she comes across a bit like a spoiled teen with much of the first half of the movie being glorified selfies, but she’s an incredibly photogenic teen who we literally watch grow up on camera.
Even though much of her story takes place at sea, we do get to see Dekker with her family and learn a little bit about her family’s past, as she ends up with her sailing father after her parents get divorced. She also starts getting frustrated with a lot of things including a reporter who keeps asking her questions she doesn’t want to answer, and eventually she decides to give up her Dutch identity because she doesn’t connect to it anymore as much as she does New Zealand, where she was born . on a boat, no less. But Laura Dekker is very much a teenager and she talks a lot to the camera, both in Dutch and English, and we do see her making some friends while on her journey, but she still keeps fairly isolated.
Director Jillian Schlesinger does a good job capturing Dekker during her time on land but also cutting together all the footage accumulated from when she’s at sea, which was probably no easy task in itself considering that there probably was close to two years of footage to cut together. The cinematography of the film is fantastic, really bringing out the starkness of the ocean and showing a lot of sea life and one has to give Dekker quite a bit of credit for that as well. Schlesinger documents her journey across the seas with terrific animated graphics that create a nice contrast with all of the live footage taken at sea.
All in all, “Maidentrip” is just a terrific doc that works equally as a coming-of-age tale of a very brave teen girl, as well as an epic journey on the high seas – it’s not even remotely surprising that this won an audience award at the SXSW Film Festival, but it’s a shame that there hasn’t been more talk about it since then. To create something so epic while also maintaining itself as a small and intimate film is something that’s difficult to accomplish for even the most experienced documentary filmmakers. Somehow Schlesinger is able to pull off that feat.
Israeli filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado proved themselves with their earlier film Rabies and they’re back with Big Bad Wolves (Magnet Releasing) about a serial of brutal murders that put three very different men on a collision course. After premiering at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, it opens in a couple cities including New York and Chicagofull release schedule here–as well as on VOD, this Friday.
Mini-Review: Two of Israel’s freshest genre filmmakers take a step forward with a riveting crime-thriller that’s quite a departure from “Rabies” but still treads on familiar territory that mixes Stephen King with Hitchcock and Fincher, yet with its own unique tone due to the environment and characters.
From the very opening credits sequence, Keshales and Papushado prove themselves able to establish a tone as we watch young kids playing hide and seek until one of them mysteriously disappears. From there, we meet three very different men: the police detective assigned the case of finding the missing girl, a mild teacher who seems to be the only suspect and the father of the missing girl who happens to have been a policeman himself. The rest of the movie involves the three men in a cat and mouse pursuit to find out the truth about the young girl’s death, as the teacher becomes the subject of torture to get him to talk.
This sort of thriller premise isn’t that original and if it seems familiar than you’ve probably seen any number of Johnnie To’s crime thrillers or any of a half dozen quality thrillers from South Korea, although it’s also very similar to the recent “Prisoners” where a suspect to a crime is tortured to try to get answers. Like that movie, it’s as much about the writing and the performances and how the story unfolds, the locale and even the language does go a long way to making it feel unique, maybe because Israel is very much a state made up of military and police brutality to get answers might seem fairly commonplace.
The movie is definitely on the slower side and fairly verbose, similar to other Israeli non-genre films in fact, but the cast of actors who will probably not be known to most Americans do an amazing job creating drama and tension. What’s surprising is that the film is wittier and far less grim than “Rabies” as well as feeling far more refined with a solid script and a score that really backs up the tone the filmmakers were going for. We never do get a reasonable explanation for the Arab on a horse who shows up in the last act. It’s almost as if the filmmakers wanted to pay tribute to David Lynch.
Eventually, the film ends up in “Saw” territory with two of the three men chained up and the tortures and torments on the teacher getting more grueling to watch, yet the filmmakers never give us a clue whether the teacher is guilty of the crimes or not, leaving you guessing right until the very end. You’ll just have to watch to the very end of the movie to find out the truth, but one of the bigger takeaways is that here are two talented genre filmmakers to keep an eye on, especially if they’re able to break away from far too familiar genre territory and try something even more different with their third movie. Either way, they are ready to make English language movies if they so chose.
Opening on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum is Philipp Kadelbach’s drama Generation War (Music Box Films), billed as a German “Band of Brothers,” takes place in Berlin 1941 as Hitler is preparing to invade the Soviet Union with a number of intersecting characters and storylines.
Yes, it’s another Samuel L. Jackson movie barely getting a theatrical release and for some reason, I feel like I’ve written about this movie before (as if it already came out), but I’m going to mention Peter Howitt’s new film Reasonable Doubt (Lionsgate), because it does star Dominic Cooper, playing up-and-coming District Attorney Mitch Brockden who throws a case against an accused murder criminal, only to discover that he acquitted a guilty man. I’m guessing this throwback to bad ’90s thrillers will be available on DVD very soon.
Jake Goldberger’s Life of a King (Millennium Films) is also getting a nominal theatrical release even though it stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as Eugene Brown, who has a one-man mission to give inner-city kids of Washington, D.C. something he never had, a future, something he teaches through the game of chess which he learned while serving 18 years of jail time for bank robbery. He founded the Big Chair Chess Club to get kids off the streets. It’s out on DVD on February 11, so at least they’re taking its theatrical release semi-seriously.
What? Dominic Cooper is in another movie this week? Wasn’t Reasonable Doubt enough for him? He also stars in Christopher Menaul’s indie romantic drama Summer in February (Tribeca Film), with Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) and Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), a romance set in a bohemian artist colony during pre-war England. It involves a love triangle and it sounds like a yawner to me sorry!
Dylan McDermott stars in Mikael Salomon’s thriller Freezer (Anchor Bay Films) as Robert Saunders, a mechanic who wakes up to find himself locked in a walk-in restaurant freezer as he tries to figure out why he’s there with a wounded cop (Peter Facinelli) as Russian mobsters try to get him to admit that he has their $8 million. It’s getting a nominal release in theaters before its DVD release on Tuesday, January 21.
Mini-Review: Before you ask, yes this entire movie takes place in a walk-in freezer where Dylan McDermot’s character finds himself after waking up and yes, this is probably one of the most overused premises we’ve seen in the past few years thanks to movies like “Unknown” and “Buried” and Stephen Dorff’s “Brake,” all which are far superior to this movie that’s such a disaster it’s surprising they were able to get the money to make it.
At the core of the movie is what could be the worst performance by any actor, let alone Dylan McDermott, but it doesn’t help that he’s chewing through the scenery of the type of thriller we’ve seen way too many times before with this adding absolutely nothing. The general concept is just plain bad and the script by Tom Doganoglu and Shane Weisfeld is so badly written, that again, one wonders who would read it and say, “I want to put my money into financing this piece of crap.”
What’s surprising is that this is directed by Mikael Salomon, who actually directed some semi-decent thrillers in the ’90s like Christian Slater’s “Hard Rain” as well as the recent “Coma” mini-series, but he’s best known as a cinematographer having shot great movies like “Backdraft” and “The Abyss.” So clearly he has a handle on how to work a camera and light a movie in an interesting way, but he’s at a complete loss when it comes to working with actors and making a scene feel even remotely exciting.
Essentially, in order to add any sort of excitement, every scene turns into a lot of yelling and overacting and throwing in the F-word as much as humanly possible in hopes that will do the trick, but there’s nothing original here and even less that can be considered anywhere near “good.” They just throw in lots of twists and stand-offs, as McDermott faces a bunch of Russian thugs trying to find their money and Peter Facinelli from “The Twilight Saga” turns up as a groggy man chained to a table who may know something about what is going on but he’s just too out of it be of any help. (Clearly, both these actors did this movie for a paycheck. Surely, no one could have read this script and thought “This movie is going to be amazing and it’s going to put my career in a new direction!”) And there’s some Russian woman, an absolute cliché but who is part of the plot to find the money, and she of course falls in love with our hero just ’cause the screenwriters can’t come up with anything more original to write.
If you’ve seen “Buried” or “Unknown” or countless other one-location thrillers about guys trying to figure out where they are and how they got there, then you’ve already seen this and Mulroney is just not at all believable as any sort of “tough guy” who can take on the Russian mob and work his way out of this scenario.
I seriously couldn’t find a single positive merit to this movie which just pales in comparison to just about every other thriller of its ilk and wastes its two better known actors with performances that are pretty much phoned-in to earn a paycheck that it’s embarrassing.
This is an awful movie that I literally wouldn’t have watched if I hadn’t been sent a DVD. If you happen to receive one, I’d just toss it before enduring a single second of its awfulness. No one involved with the making of this movie should be allowed to work again.
I feel like I want to write a couple of thousand words about Trevor White’s Jamesy Boy (Phase 4 Films, XLRator Media) just to annoy my editor, but I won’t. It’s a pretty piss poor story of a teen named James Burns (newcomer Spencer Lofranco), who goes from suburban street gangs and ends up in a maximum security prison, and while it has an impressive cast that includes Mary Louise-Parker, Taissa Farmiga (“American Horror Story”), Ving Rhames and James Woods, we think he probably should have met up with Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character from Life of a King as that would have saved us a lot of time by not having to write about this movie.
“Smallville’s” Lex Luthor, Michael Rosenbaum, writes, directs and stars in Back in the Day (Screen Media Films), playing Jim Owens who makes a surprise visit to his high school reunion when all hell breaks loose and no seriously, it says this in the plot description “hilarity ensues.” I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m guessing the hilarity is only on the part of Rosenbaum and the friends he roped into making this movie which seems so standard and cliché I’m surprised he got a budget.
Last and hopefully really LAST is Darren Stein and George Northy’s comedy G.B.F. (Vertical Entertainment) involving three high school queens battling for supremacy. Oh, forget it that’s all I need to read. I’m not writing anything more about that one. (Apparently, it co-stars Horatio Sanz and Jonathan Silverman and I’m sure that’s the only nice thing I can say about it.)
Next week, the month of January continues with just one new movie and that’s Aaron Eckhart as I, Frankenstein (Lionsgate), from the creators of the popular Underworld series.
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Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas