September grinds along as four new movies get wide releases including a number with big name stars and a couple of strong genre movies in the mix. There’s little chance of Resident Evil: Retribution pulling a repeat so it’s a golden opportunity for one of these others to take over.
The movie that stands the best chance at doing just that is Trouble with the Curve (Warner Bros.), the baseball drama starring Clint Eastwood, his first time on screen since the hit Gran Torino–that is, if you don’t count his appearance at the Republican National Convention talking to a chair that got him a lot of weird attention. Directed by Clint’s producing partner Robert Lorenz, the film also stars Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, although most of the focus is being put on Eastwood knowing what a huge fanbase he’s generated from the movies he’s starred in vs. the movies he directed. Eastwood’s last starring role in 2008’s Gran Torino opened with $29.4 million its first wide weekend after grossing less than $10 million in limited release and went on to gross $148 million, his most successful film to date. Four years earlier, he starred in Million Dollar Baby, which grossed $100 million as well as receiving four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and acting awards for Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, and before 2000, he was far more prolific as an actor with a number of critical and commercial successes. There’s something to be said about only appearing in a movie every four years because it makes his movies more of an event, even a smaller film like this one. Amy Adams could also be seen as a draw and she’s once again getting awards attention for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, which also expands nationwide this weekend (see below), and her presence and that of Timberlake will help among women who may not normally be interested in a baseball movie. Opening in over 3,000 theaters on Friday, it should do very well among both older males and females, particularly in rural and suburban areas, which should help put it on top with between $17 and 18 million on its way to $50 to 60 million or even more, going by the popularity of Eastwood’s previous films.
Mini-Review: For his directorial debut, long-time Clint Eastwood producer Robert Lorenz knew that he could call upon Eastwood and most of the technical crew that made his movies since the veteran filmmaker was taking a rare year off from filmmaking.
In this one, Eastwood plays aging Atlanta Braves baseball scout Gus Lobel, who is about to be put out to pasture by newer ways of finding future baseball stars. His friend and colleague Pete (John Goodman) calls upon Gus’ daughter Mickey (Amy Addams) to go on a scouting trip to North Carolina where they encounter a younger rival Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake) who looks up to Gus and takes a fancy to his daughter.
There’s so much potential in this movie, which is why it’s a shame that it’s a fairly bland by-the-books drama that never really offers much beyond the scenes of father and daughter bickering between Eastwood and Adams. Not helped by his RNC appearance and a spot-on Bill Hader impression, Eastwood has become a caricature of himself, knowing he can say any line with his gravely baritone and his fans will love it, and because of that, Gus seems like lesser Eastwood, a weak performance where he’s not giving it his all. Likewise, Amy Adams should be better than this type of role at this point, one that requires very little heavy lifting, although she does more with it than another actress might have. Timberlake is generally good but backsliding a bit into cutesy romantic lead.
Every so often, the film diverts into a lite version of “Moneyball” with Matthew Lillard playing the antagonist who thinks Gus’ techniques are outdated and that he’s no longer reliable. Things tends to get hokey whenever it moves away from Gus and starts following Mickey being wooed by Timberlake, which is where it falls into some of the same traps as other romantic movies.
Overall, Curve is fairly obvious and predictable, which doesn’t make it bad or unwatchable, but it’s just the type of safe and bland fare that should do very well among mainstream audiences in rural areas and moviegoers who don’t like being challenged. Rating: 6/10
This week’s horror offering House at the End of the Street (Relativity) sounds like it should be a remake of a 70s movie, but it is actually an original horror movie starring Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence in her first movie since the $400 million grossing The Hunger Games. Her presence will play a large part in teens checking it out, similar to all of the bad horror remakes released over the past few years, although it’s doubtful anyone over 20 will care much. From what we’ve heard, reviews are likely to be terrible, which may be why Relativity hasn’t shown the movie to critics beforehand, but the primary audience for the movie, which is teen girls, probably won’t care to even read reviews and they’ll go out to see it to support Katniss. With that in mind, expect an opening between $13 and 15 million, but this one doesn’t have much of a chance of legs and it probably will end up with $30 million or less total.
The other two movies this weekend will be splitting the male audience, forcing them to decide between two very different gritty police thrillers. Star Trek‘s Karl Urban dons the helmet of British comic book anti-hero Judge Dredd in Dredd 3D (Lionsgate), a futuristic action-thriller co-starring Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey, which is the most likely choice for older teen males with its promise of R-rated violence, but doesn’t have the starpower of the weekend’s other offerings. Although reviews have been good and Lionsgate has been showing off the movie for the past couple of months with a premiere screening at Comic-Con and then screenings at the Toronto Film Festival and Fantastic Fest, there’s still the stigma of the awful Sylvester Stallone movie from 1995, which for many Americans will be their only previous knowledge of the character. Because of this and because it’s going to have to share much of its potential male audience, both older and younger, we think this will end up with around $11 and 13 million for the weekend, but word-of-mouth should help it end up with roughly $35 to 40 million total.
Interview with Screenwriter/Producer Alex Garland
The weekend’s other police movie, David Ayer’s End of Watch (Open Road Entertainment), starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, is a little more grounded in reality as it uses a similar pseudo-doc “found footage” format that audiences have gotten used to thanks to the “Paranormal Activity” movies and hits like Chronicle. Ayer made a name for himself writing Training Day, for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar, and directing Street Kings, both popular movies on the streets, which could help this movie among African-American and Latino crowds in the bigger cities, but they are just as likely to see Dredd 3D. It’s been a while since Gyllenhaal starred in a movie, last year’s Source Code, which opened with $14 million, but he’s yet to prove himself as a box office draw, and the women who like him may not care much for this kind of police movie. Because of that and all the competition, we expect it to gross less than $10 million opening weekend and probably $27 to 28 million total.
In the latest police drama from David Ayer (“Training Day”) , we’re introduced to two street cops in South Central L.A., Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Michael Zavala (Michael Peña), partners and brothers of the badge and clearly the jokers on the force, always clowning around for Brian’s ever-present cameras as he captures their day-to-day life on the job, for reasons we never learn. The use of various cameras including the one mounted on their dashboard is partially what gives “End of Watch” such a unique feel from other police movies we’ve seen, as well as the casting of Gyllenhaal and Peña as the two leads. They’re both able to have fun with the roles while also delivering on the dramatic necessities, and that combination of humor/drama is what makes it interesting to watch them. Besides having a lot of time together on screen as they drive around, each of them have nice scenes with their respective significant others, played by Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez, and fun interactions with other officers, particularly their sergeant, played by Frank Grillo.
The movie is handled in an episodic fashion as we watch the duo being called to various crime scenes, some minor, others not so much, building tension as it becomes obvious they’re getting in over their heads as they survey a number of seemingly abandoned houses that point to a darker crime element at work. This is the point where the influence of actual found footage movies like “The Blair Witch Project” is most evident since the use of handheld cameras puts you on edge. Once it gets to this part of the movie, it’s no longer all fun and games.
Ayer has proven that he’s firmly in touch with both sides of the crime scene of South Central L.A. and he brings the same authenticity to police procedural and street crime as he had to his previous films. Unfortunately, his decision to use handheld cameras, bad blocking and close-ups is distracting at first though it doesn’t stick to that plot device for long, since it could theoretically ruin the movie. Otherwise, it’s a fairly well-rounded film offering enough in terms of entertainment value to make up for any shortcomings.
Video Interviews with Ayer, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña
Two movies that opened in limited release last week and did quite well will be expanding wider this weekend and both of them should do well enough to enter the Top 10 with Paul T. Anderson’s The Master, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams getting enough buzz and attention that we could see it pulling in between $5 and 6 million as it expands into over 700 theaters. Also, Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere, should open wider and build upon its great opening weekend grossing $2 million in less than 200 theaters, allowing it to move into the Top 10.
This weekend last year, Disney’s The Lion King 3D remained in first place with $22 million, down just 27% from its opening weekend, but four new movies did their best to try to usurp it and it’s funny how last year’s wide releases mirror what is being released this weekend. The baseball drama Moneyball (Sony), starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, may as well be last year’s Trouble with the Curve, because it was also a baseball drama that involved scouting, but one could also draw parallels with Dolphin Tale 3D (Warner Bros.), which was a another fairly innocent and innocuous movie released by Warner Bros. Both those movies did well with Moneyball coming out slightly ahead with $19.5 million thanks to rave reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival, but Dolphin Tale still did an impressive $19.1 million in over 3,500 theaters. Taylor Lautner and Lilly Collins starred in the action thriller Abduction (Lionsgate), which did a disappointing $10.9 million but that was enough to take fourth place. That one probably lines up closest with House at the End of the Street, since the main audience for it will be teen girls. Lastly, there was the Jason Statham and Clive Owen action-thriller Killer Elite, which was the first release by new distributor Open Road, who releases End of Watch this week. That one opened in fifth place with $9.3 million, but we think that this week’s police drama has too much competition for males and may fall just short of that amount.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
1. Trouble with the Curve (Warner Bros.) – $17.8 million N/A (up .2 million)
2. House at the End of the Street (Relativity Media) – $15.2 million N/A (up 1.7 million)
3. Dredd 3D (Lionsgate) – $11.5 million N/A (same)
4. Finding Nemo 3D (Disney) – $10.4 million -38%
5. End of Watch (Open Road) – $9.1 million N/A
6. Resident Evil: Retribution (Screen Gems/Sony) – $9 million -56%
7. The Master (The Weinstein Company) – $5.6 million +742% (up .1 million)
8. The Possession (Lionsgate) – $3.2 million -43%
9. Lawless (The Weinstein Co.) – $2.3 million -46%
10. Arbitrage (Roadside Attractions) – $2.1 million +5% (down .4 million)
This week’s “Chosen One” is Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Summit), based on his best-selling coming-of age novel and starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman and more. Hopefully we’ll get our review done soon We only saw the movie weeks ago! In the meantime, here’s an
Interview with Stephen Chbosky
Honestly, we haven’t seen too many other movies opening this week, so we’re hesitant at writing too much, although we have the most confidence in this week’s docs since they’re mainly by reputable filmmakers and the films have generally done well at various festivals.
Ricki Stern & Annie Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work) direct the baseball doc Knuckleball! (FilmBuff), which follows the 2011 season of 37-year-old R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets and Tim Wakefield, and their use of the unpopular pitch. Following its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, it premieres on VOD and rolls out in theatres starting in Boston on Tuesday and at the IFC Center in New York on Friday. You can find out more on the Official Site.
We’ve heard really good things about David France’s How to Survive a Plague (Sundance Selects) about a number of men and women suffering from AIDS who without any scientific training were able to buck the disease by finding new medication and treatments and getting them into drugstores. It also opens at the IFC Center on Friday.
Meanwhile, Hoop Dreams director Steve James is back with Head Games (Variance Films), a doc based on WWE Wrestler Christopher Nowinski’s book about the long-term problems caused by concussions in both professional and academic sports. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
Not a doc but Stephen Elliot’s About Cherry (IFC Films) stars Ashley Hinshaw as 18-year-old Angelina, who uses the money she makes from taking naked photos to run off with her best friend (Dev Patel) to San Francisco where she starts working in a strip club before being introduced to the world of porn by a porn vet turned director (Heather Graham). Already on VOD, it opens in New York on Friday.
Due to time constraints and our other obligations this week, we’ll have to wrap things up there, but if you’re interested in the other limited releases opening this weekend, you can read about them over at the ComingSoon.net Database.
Next week, the month of September comes to a close with three new wide releases, the animated Hotel Transylvania (Sony), featuring the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez and more, Rian Johnson’s sci-fi crime thriller Looper (FilmDistrict/Sony), starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, and the drama Won’t Back Down (20th Century Fox), starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and more.
You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.
Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas