If you were to tell film snobs the only new movies in wide release this weekend were directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and McG, you’d probably receive cries of indignation about the lack of quality movies in February. That be as it may, they’ve directed two movies that may not make a lot of waves in what’s likely to be a down weekend but could still bring in a little business with not a lot of other action choices other than the RoboCop remake, which has received mixed reactions. Either way, it doesn’t look like anything is going to dethrone The LEGO Movie this weekend as it becomes the second movie of the year to remain on top of the box office for three weeks in a row!
Paul W.S. Anderson’s take on the fall of Pompeii (TriStar/Sony) is the fourth time he’s diverged from his popular series of action films based on the “Resident Evil” video games in the past twelve years. Granted, he hasn’t directed all the horror-fueled action movies in the series, currently in production on its sixth installment, but he’s certainly become known more for those movies than anything else he’s done, at this point.
Pompei stars Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow on “Game of Thrones,” but whose featured role in the recent Silent Hill: Revelation 3D–another similar video game as the “Resident Evil” series–did fairly poorly at the box office, grossing just $17 million domestically. Granted, Harington’s character has grown even more popular on the series since that movie, although it’s hard to believe his presence in this movie will bring in that many “Thrones” fans. The cast of Pompei is rounded out by Carrie-Anne Moss (“The Matrix Trilogy”), Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World) and of all actors, Kiefer Sutherland, none of whom are featured enough to make much of a difference.
The last time Anderson tried to break away from the “Resident Evil” franchise and horror in general, he came out with his version of The Three Musketeers, which bombed with just $21 million gross domestic. One big difference is that Pompeii is being released by Sony’s Tristar Pictures, who have more experience marketing something like this than Summit did at the time, although Anderson generally has a better relationship with Screen Gems, which did a good job with his “Resident Evil” series.
Regardless, going by the recent Legend of Hercules, moviegoers, especially the younger ones that might give this a look, aren’t that interested in a sword and sandal movie right now. Going by how poorly I, Frankenstein did, they might not be swayed by trailers that promise lots of action and volcano eruptions either. Because of that, it feels Anderson’s latest venture likely won’t crack $15 million this weekend and may have trouble even hitting the teens even with a bump from 3D ticket prices. Like with most of Anderson’s movies, it’s likely to do most of its business opening weekend as well, so $30 to 35 million domestic is probably going to be the best it does.
Meanwhile, Kevin Costner teams with France’s top action filmmaker Luc Besson and Charlie’s Angels director McG for the action-thriller 3 Days to Kill (Relativity Media), a very different type of movie for Costner, who is having a bit of a comeback between his role in last year’s mega-hit Man of Steel and his recent appearance in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. For this one, Costner is the main star and while that may be of little interest to anyone under 30, older fans of Costner’s work in the ’80s and ’90s may be intrigued enough to see him returning to the role of action star after quite some time. Costner plays an international spy who wants to retire to spend time with his wife and daughter, but first he must complete one last mission, which apparently gives him three days to kill someone. (Sorry, that’s all we got on this one.)
Besson’s last movie as a director was The Family starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, which had a $14 million opening last September before grossing $37 million total, while the earlier Besson production Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana, opened softer but ended up with around the same amount. Both of them grossed more than John Travolta’s From Paris With Love by over $10 million. McG’s last movie was the romance-fueled action-comedy This Means War, starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, which benefited from a Presidents’ Day release to open with $17.4 million and grossed $156 million globally. Even so, his name is not being mentioned anywhere in the marketing.
Guys of a certain age respect Costner and women like him, too, and at first, the marketing sold it as a movie similar to Taken–one of Besson’s biggest hits Stateside which turned Liam Neeson into an action star, a mode he returns to next week with Non-Stop. In the past week, the commercials are sending mixed messages, focusing more on the family aspect of the movie which surely won’t be as interesting. Even so, having Costner involved will probably go a long way to convince moviegoers to go see this over Pompeii with its B-to-C list cast and the fact it looks like a lot of spectacle but not much substance. While we think this one’s going for an opening over $10 million, it will be hard-pressed to get into the teens if Costner should help put this just ahead of Pompeii even with its higher 3D ticket prices.
Either way, it doesn’t feel like either of these movies will break out big this weekend as the box office once again gets steamrolled by The LEGO Movie with About Last Night, RoboCop and other returning movies taking business away from new releases.
This weekend last year was pretty slow in terms of new movies, to the point where the Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman comedy Identity Thief jumped back into the #1 spot with just $14 million. Coming in with a very close second was Ric Roman Waugh’s based on real-life action-thriller Snitch (Summit), starring Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper and Jon Bernthal, which brought in $13.2 million in 2,511 theaters. The found footage alien invasion thriller Dark Skies (Dimension Films) didn’t fare as well, opening in opening in sixth place with $8.2 million. The top 10 grossed $84.2 million which should be bested this weekend mostly thanks to the stronger returning movies. (The LEGO Movie alone could make over twice what last year’s #1 made.)
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
1. The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros.) – $33.7 million -32%
2. About Last Night (Sony/Screen Gems) – $14 million -46%
3. 3 Days to Kill (Relativity Media) – $13.0 million N/A (up .5 million)
4. Pompeii (TriStar/Sony) – $11.2 million N/A (same)
5. RoboCop (MGM/Sony) – $10 million -54%
6. The Monuments Men (Sony) – $8.5 million -45%
7. Endless Love (Universal) – $6 million -55%
8. Ride Along (Universal) – $5 million -43$
9. Frozen (Walt Disney) – $4.2 million -33%
10. Winter’s Tale (Warner Bros.) – $3.8 million -48%
This Week’s Limited Releases:
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Hayao Miyazaki’s latest and supposedly last animated film is The Wind Rises (Touchstone Pictures/Studio Ghibli), the story of Jiro, a young man who dreams of designing and flying airplanes. Unable to fly himself, he joins an engineering company in 1928, falling in love with the beautiful Nahoko as he wrestles with the idea that his designs are being used by his country as war machines. It’s another beautiful film from Miyazaki and though it’s not as based in fantasy as some of his previous offerings, it’s still a fantastic and colorful film that really stirs the emotions.
The original Japanese subtitled version of Miyazaki’s animated film made the Weekend Warrior’s Top 25 as well as being nominated for an Oscar in the Animated Feature, but now Disney is releasing a dubbed version in select cities featuring the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mandy Patinkin, William H. Macy, Werner Herzog and more before expanding into more cities. I haven’t had a chance to see this dubbed version, but I generally suggest trying to watch Japanese animated films (and all foreign language films) in their original language with subtitles and honestly, this is not an animated movie that will have much interest for kids like some of Miyazaki’s previous films, so the dubbed version doesn’t seem to serve much purpose except to give American actors a paycheck. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sticking to my guns when it comes to dubbed Studio Ghibli films.
Other Foreign Films of Interest:
Hany Abu-Assad, director of the controversial Paradise Now, returns with Omar (Adopt Films), which follows a young Palestinian baker who is constantly crossing the wall between Palestine and Israel to meet up with his secret love Nadia. Eventually, his ongoing problems with the military police leads him into more acts of resistance, and Omar becomes conflicted about who he can trust amongst his friends including Nadia’s militant brother.
Opening on Wednesday (today) at the Film Forum is Calin Peter Netzer’s Romanian thriller Child’s Pose (Zeitgeist Films) , which won the Golden Bear at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival and was Romania’s official selection for the Oscars Foreign Language film. With a screenplay by Razvan Radulescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), it stars Luminita Gheorghiu as a mother trying to keep her son out of jail after a deadly car crash, although she herself is unsure whether he may have been speeding. Because she’s his mother, she needs to convince the police and the victim’s family that her son is innocent.
Imtiaz Ali’s Bollywood film Highway (UTV Motion Pictures) stars Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt, about a young woman, the daughter of a industrialist, who is abducted by a gang who realize they’re in big trouble when they discover who she is. Since this is a Bollywood film, she eventually falls in love with a member of the gang, creating a romantic “Stockholm Syndrome.” It’s getting a healthy release into over 90 theaters.
It gets some rare Bollywood competition, though a very different movie, in A. Gokul Krishna’s romantic comedy Aaka Kalyanam (Yash Raz Films) starring Nani and Vaani Kapoor as a man and a woman who become partners in a wedding planning business.
Documentaries of Note:
Chiemi Karasawa’s doc Elaine Stritch: Just Shoot Me (Sundance Selects) looks at the 87-year-old Broadway legend, a Tony and Emmy award winner, following her entire career as well as showing her life in the present day. After premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, it can be seen at New York’s IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas starting Friday.
Scott Speedman and Evan Rachel Wood star in Barefoot (Roadside Attractions), a romantic dramedy directed by Andrew Fleming (The Craft) with Speedman playing Jay, a womanizer with a gambling problem who ends up in jail and then working as a janitor at a mental hospital where he meets Wood’s Daisy, a patient there dealing with issues who he decides to bring to his brother’s wedding down South. Since it’s a romantic comedy, you can assume that hijinks and romance ensue. It opens in select cities Friday.
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
Mitchell Altieri’s Southern Gothic thriller Holy Ghost People (XLrator Media) involves a teenager trying to find her missing sister in the Appalachian Mountains where she encounters a snake-handling religious cult. After premiering at the SXSW Film Festival last year, it gets a release into select cities.
Charlie Stratton’s In Secret (Roadside Attractions/LD Entertainment) is an adaptation of Therese Raquin, starring Elizabeth Olsen as a repressed woman trapped in a loveless marriage to her cousin (“Harry Potter’s” Tom Felton) until she meets her husband’s friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac) and they have an affair. Apparently, it will open in roughly 250 theaters across the nation on Friday.
Next week, the month of February comes to a quick close with Liam Neeson playing an air marshal on a plane being threatened by a mysterious and unknown killer in Non-Stop (Universal) while the hit History Channel series “The Bible” tells the story of Jesus in Son of God (20th Century Fox).
Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas