It’s the first official weekend of spring, and since lately the summer movie season has been starting the first weekend of April, then that also makes this the LAST weekend of spring! So welcome to the spring movie season which now lasts for exactly one week. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Before we get to this week’s movies, I want to conduct a quick reader’s survey, if you’ll humor me, because next week will be the column’s 12th Anniversary at ComingSoon.net and I’m getting a lot of pressure to make changes. Honestly, I’m also feeling the need to mix things up a bit, but I don’t want to annoy long-time readers who have stuck with us this whole time.
I have a few yes or no questions that I’d appreciate if you can respond to in the comments below (or Email them to me) so you can just put the number and Y or N and we’ll figure out the rest:
1. Do you generally read the entire column each week?
2. Do you just check the column for the predictions without reading the analysis?
3. Do you like to read about limited releases, many that open only in New York or L.A.?
4. Would you miss the limited releases or some of the other sections (like the recap of last year) if they were omitted?
5. Do you currently miss the Chosen One selection with more information about that week’s choice?
6. Do you have any interest in the return of spin-off sections like Long Range Forecast, the Battle Cry or focused pieces on specific actors?
7. Would you be averse to a slideshow-based column with more pictures and less to read?
And then for extra credit: Please tell us what you might want to see changed in the column to make it more interesting to you. For instance: More videos, less words, etc.
Okay, back to movies.
The last weekend of March sees the release of two wide releases that could potentially hit it big, although considering how weak the box office has been this past month compared to previous years, who knows if either will do well? Probably the safest bet is the R-rated comedy Get Hard (Warner Bros.), pairing two comedy superstars in Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, each of whom have headlined huge comedy blockbusters on their own. Pairing them together could prove comedy gold, especially among guys who haven’t enough strong offerings this past month to get them into theaters.
Directed by Etan Cohen, one of the writers of Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, this is Hart’s second movie of the year after January’s The Wedding Ringer, another movie that pairs him with a white actor, in that case Frozen’s Josh Gad. That movie opened with $20 million on its way to $64 million in January, but last year was a banner year for the comedian, his teaming with Ice Cube for the hit Ride Along ($135 million gross) being followed by the remake of About Last Night ($48.6 million) and the sequel Think Like a Man 2 ($65.2 million), as well as having a small role in Chris Rock’s Top Five. If Kevin Hart wasn’t well on his way to becoming one of the top box office draws for African-Americans thanks to his take-no-prisoners comedy shows than his choice in material has done the rest to raise him in the ranks among the stars.
Ferrell, on the other hand, has been laying low for the last year since his pivotal role voicing the bad guy in the 2014 animated hit The LEGO Movie and following his return as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The latter opened with $26.2 million (after opening on a Wednesday), which was on par with the opening weekend of Ferrell’s previous comedy, The Campaign with Zach Galifianakis, and went on to gross $125 million, but that was also rated PG-13 rather than R like Get Hard. Although Ferrell has made a couple of tangents into smaller indies like Everything Must Go and Case de mi Padre, he’s become one of the most consistent comedy stars at the box office, mainly due to his collaborations with Adam McKay (who co-produces Get Hard along with Ferrell and their Gary Sanchez Productions). Sure, Ferrell has had a couple missteps like the basketball comedy Semi-Pro and the Land of the Lost remake, but otherwise, he’s had too many $100 million comedy hits to be ignored. And of course, you pair him with a currently popular comedy superstar like Kevin Hart and it expands your audience beyond Ferrell’s normal (presumably whiter) fanbase.
One thing that makes Get Hard different from many of Hart’s previous films is that it’s being released in nearly 1,000 more theaters than many of them, maybe because Warner Bros. is hoping the combination of the two actors’ fanbases will make it a bigger hit than either could pull off individually. They recently premiered the movie at the South by Southwest festival where it received mixed reactions. So far, reviews are not good, although that’s generally to be expected with comedies and it rarely dissuades those who really want to see a movie.
Even with those horrendous reviews, Get Hard seems like it offers the type of raunchy humor that could be a huge hit across a wide range of audiences who haven’t had many strong comedy offerings this year as well as bringing in some of the guys who’ve been reluctant to give any of the other March releases a try. It’s likely to open close to $30 million or maybe even more, and it probably could have been Ferrell’s next $100 million hit (and Hart’s first) if not for Furious 7 opening next week, which will successfully cut the movie off at the legs.
Offering counter-programming for family audiences who probably won’t want to take their 5-year-olds to see Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart making jokes about prison rape, we get the latest from DreamWorks Animation, the alien invasion comedy Home (20th Century Fox) featuring the voices of Emmy-award winning actor Jim Parsons from CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” pop superstar Rihanna, and veteran comedian Steve Martin. Home is based on a children’s book called “The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex, following in line with previous DWA book adaptations like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians.
DreamWorks Animation has been having problems in recent years, real serious problems, and it’s doubtful Home can help matters, because times have changed and computer-animated movies just don’t have the same draw for family audiences they used to, maybe because everybody and their mother is making them. Originally Home was to be released in November but DWA probably felt they had better chances of a much-needed hit with the Madagascar spin-off Penguins of Madagascar. Wrong! It ended up being one of their biggest bombs since Turbo a year earlier, neither of which cracked $100 million domestically. Their other 2014 release, the sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2, fared better with $177 million, but that was well below expectations, so it ended up making most of its money overseas. They had a decent hit a year earlier with The Croods but it also didn’t crack $200 million despite being their biggest hit in three years.
The big problem DreamWorks Animation is suffering from is that they don’t have any more Shrek movies ahead, and as Pixar Animation learned, sequels are the only sure-fire way to make money. Sure, they’ve had a number of hits based on original ideas like Monsters vs. Aliens, The Croods and Madagascar, but for the most part, they rely on adapting other source material like they did with “Dragon,” Shrek and now Home. Of course, their previous movie based on popular books, Rise of the Guardians, should have been an enormous hit, because it had holiday themes and was released on the thriving Thanksgiving weekend, but it barely cracked T $100 million unlike the films mentioned above. That was the start of DWA releases showing diminishing returns even while Disney and even Universal continued to have huge animated hits.
The last time a DWA movie went up against an R-rated film was last year with Mr. Peabody & Sherman based on the popular ‘60s cartoon and that barely grossed $100 million after a $32 million opening. That had more of an awareness due to the familiar cartoon characters, a luxury Home doesn’t have.
This one is relying solely on the popularity of Jim Parsons from television and Rihanna’s popularity as a singer (and sure, Steve Martin has his fans) to get older adults into theaters, but it doesn’t offer a premise or characters that would get kids particularly interested. It won’t be helped by reviews either, which so far, seem to be some of the worst DreamWorks Animation has gotten in years. That could hurt the movie from bringing in the teen and older audiences that sometimes will help animated films break out, but often that’s because of the material.
Sadly, this looks like another DWA dud that probably won’t even open with $30 million and may not even hit the $100 million benchmark expected domestically for these sorts of movies, even though DreamWorks Animation has generally been making back the cost of their movies overseas.
Also expanding this week into roughly 1,000 theaters is David Robert Mitchell’s horror film It Follows (RADiUS-TWC), the widest release for the distributor that has become better known for their day-and-date On Demand releases. They’re taking a different approach this time for sure, maybe because the movie’s been getting tons of buzz since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, followed by Toronto, Sundance and other festivals. It had a decent platform opening and expansion over the past few weeks, with a release strategy more akin to a indie horror hit like The Blair Witch Project, rather than the more common way of releasing a horror movie as wide as possible its first weekend.
The problem is that while this is a far more mainstream movie than the usual films that get platform releases, it may have some of the same problems faced by the likes of Sony Pictures Classics and other indie movies where they have the most awareness in bigger cities where buzz has built from festival showings. It’s hard to tell if the Weinstein Company is helping to market it for its wide release, especially since plans seemed to change from the original idea of releasing it VOD a few weeks after platforming. So far, there’s no historic data to tell whether RADiUS is able to market a movie outside the big cities and whether or not there’s awareness in the smaller regions where it will be opening.
So far, RADiUS’ biggest hits to date have grossed less than $5 million with none of their movies ever being released nationwide, so one wonders whether they’ve been marketing the movie enough outside big cities. Either way, it should have enough theaters that it can get into the Top 10 even with a fairly low per-theater average and is likely to end up around $3 million for the weekend and probably around $7 or 8 million total.
This Weekend Last Year:
The last weekend of March 2014 saw the release of filmmaker Darren Aronofksy’s take on the biblical epic Noah (Paramount), starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and more, which opened above expectations with $43.8 million, the director’s biggest hit to date as well as a solid end to the month. Things didn’t bode as well for Arnold Schwarzeneggers new action-thriller Sabotage (Open Road), directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury), which tanked with just $5.3 million in 2,486 theaters, a pitiful average of $2,121 per theater. Ayer regular Michael Peña starred in the socially-conscious biopic Cesar Chavez (Lionsgate/Pantelion Films), which received a moderate release into 664 theaters and grossed $3 million with a better per-theater average than Sabotage. The Top 10 grossed around $125 million and that should generally be about where this week’s movies end up.
This Week’s UPDATED Predictions:
UPDATE: Going by the latest tracking, both Get Hard and Home should do better than our earlier predictions although Home will still be on the low-end of DreamWorks openers.
1. Get Hard (Warner Bros.) – $34.8 million N/A (up 4.5 million)
2. Home (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) – $29.0 million N/A (up 2.6 million)
3. The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Summit/Lionsgate) – $23.5 million -55%
4. Cinderella (Disney) – $20 million -43%
5. It Follows (RADiUS-TWC) – $3.3 million N/A (up .3 million and one spot)
6. Kingsman: The Secret Service (20th Century Fox) – $3.1 million -33%
7. Run All Night (Warner Bros.) – $2.9 million -40%
8. The Gunman (Open Road) – $2.6 million -48%
9. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) – $2.3 million –35%
10. Do You Believe? (Pure|Flix Entertainment) – $2.4 million -40%
Two movies open in wide release, but only one of them really matters, as Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and the late Paul Walker reunite for one last ride in Furious 7 (Universal), joined by Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, and the rest of the crew. Also, Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds team for the Nazi drama Woman in Gold (The Weinstein Company).
This Week’s Must-Sees:
White God (Magnolia)
Director: Kornel Mundruczo
Stars: Zsofia Psotta, Sandor Zsoter, Szabolcs Thuroczy, Lili Monori, Laszlo Galffi, Lili Horvath
Of Note: Following its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Un Certain Regard and a special Palm Dog for its canine stars, this Hungarian drama/thriller tells the story of a young girl who moves in with her divorced father, bringing along her dog whom he immediately has issues with. When he tries to get rid of the dog, it ends up being found and trained to fight in dog fights, but instead, it fights against its human oppressors and rallies other dogs to rise up against their human oppressors. One of the best genre movies to have run the festival gauntlet over the last year (along with Wild Tales and It Follows), it will open in select cities on Friday and you can learn where and when it’s playing elsewhere on the Official Site.
Interview with Kornel Mundruczo (Coming Soon!)
Man from Reno (Gravitas Ventures)
Writer/Director: Dave Boyle
Stars: Yuki Matsuzaki, Hiroshi Watanabe, Ayako Fujitani, Kazuki Kitamura, Pepe Serna, Yasuyo Shiba, Tetsuo Kuramochi
Of Note: For the second week in a row, we have a movie that mixes Eastern and Western culture, this one from Japanese-American filmmaker Dave Boyle set in San Francisco which brings together three very different characters: a small-town sheriff, a Japanese author and a traveler from Reno who disappears leaving behind a mysterious suitcase. The winner of the Best Narrative Feature at least year’s L.A. Film Festival opens in select cities and on VOD.
Other Limited Releases of Note:
While We’re Young (A24)
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Brady Corbet, Adam Horovitz
Of Note: Filmmaker Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) reunites with his Greenberg star Ben Stiller for a film about a middle-aged filmmaker and his wife (Watts) who meets and starts hanging around with a much younger couple (Driver, Seyfried) while their other friends are busy having kids. It opens in select cities on Friday.
While We’re Young Review (Coming Soon!)
The Riot Club (IFC Films)
Director: Lone Scherfig
Stars: Holliday Grainger, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Jessica Brown Findlay, Sam Reid
Of Note: Denmark’s second-best female director (after Susan Bier, who also has a movie out this week–sorry Lone!) helms this movie about the rich, young and spoiled boys who form a fraternity out of Oxford University that first-year Miles (Max Irons) is enlisted to join. Reuniting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’s Sam Claflin and Natalie Dormer with other young hot British actors, it opens in select cities.
Welcome to New York (IFC Films)
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Gerard Depardieu, Jacqueline Bisset
Of Note: Because it was only so long before once great director Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) turned to porn, his latest movie stars Gerard Depardieu as a sex addicted French financier and banker named Devereaux (NOT Dominique Strauss-Khan!) who is arrested for sexually abusing a housemaid which begins his falls from grace. Having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, this film co-starring Jacqueline Bisset as his wife, gets a platform release in a few theaters and on VOD on Friday.
I could go through my entire life without ever wanting to see Gerard Depardieu naked and cavorting with nubile young women who are similarly unclothed, but the French actor goes there and the director of Bad Lieutenant is not going to do much to stop it, going by his wiliness to let Harvey Keitel do full frontal in that movie. Certainly, the story of Dominique Strauss-Khan is an interesting one, but maybe not a fictionalized one worthy of a full-length movie that only begins as Depardieu’s stand-in arrives in New York. He almost immediately starts spending time with hookers, but he’s soon arrested when his housemaid walks in on him coming out of a shower and his sex addiction kicks in and he sexually abuses her. This is where things get interesting as we watch “Devereux” being arrested and processed as he’s put into prison, but even the clinical attention to detail Ferrara pays to making this real is marred by more Depardieu nudity as he’s strip-searched. The stuff in prison is fine, but eventually, Devereux is released and he’s back in bed with more naked women and really, it’s just too much. On the other hand, the scenes with Bisset are the movie’s high point, and the best thing about Welcome to New York is that it’s Ferrara’s most linear narrative in a long time, and for the most part, that makes it fairly accessible.
A Wolf at the Door (Outside Pictures)
Writer/Director: Fernando Coimbra
Stars: Leandra Leal, Fabíula Nascimento, Milhem Cortaz
Of Note: This Brazilian import based on real events involves the story of a kidnapped 6-year-old who goes missing after being picked up by an unknown woman whose father had an affair with a woman named Rosa (Leandra Leal) who may be responsible for the girl’s disappearance.
This is a halfway decent thriller from Coimbra, and he’s clearly a talent to watch as is his beautiful star Leandra Leal, but the film eventually turns into a grim affair that never fully makes sense, and that keeps it from being as enjoyable as it might have been otherwise. Rating: 6.5
Director: Susanne Bier
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones
Of Note: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence reunite for their third film together, the latest English language film from Oscar-winning filmmaker Susanne Bier. They play newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton who are trying to establish a timber empire in the North Carolina mountains during the ‘20s until their marriage starts to unravel. After playing on various On Demand platforms for a month, it opens in select cities, and you can find out where on the Official Site.
The Barber (ARC Entertainment)
Director: Basel Owies
Stars: Scott Glenn, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kristen Hager, Chris Coy, Olivia Taylor Dudley
Of Note: Scott Glenn plays a barber with a secret, having been arrested twenty years earlier for a series of gruesome murders that were never pinned on him, until they’re reignited by the arrival of the son of the original detective on the case.
Writer/Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Stars: Shelby Young, Carter Jenkins, Chloe Bridges, Mitch Hewer, Taylor Murphy
Of Note: The thriller involves five teens who go into the woods to play “flashlight games” and tell ghost stories, and wouldn’t you know? Things go horribly wrong when they awaken a demonic presence. I hate when that happens.
A Girl Like Her (Parkside Releasing)
Director: Amy S. Weber
Stars: Lexi Ainsworth, Jimmy Bennett, Hunter King
Of Note: Amy S. Weber’s coming of age film stars Lexi Aisworth as 16-year-old Jessica Burns who has been getting bullied by a former friend, her high school’s most beautiful and popular students.
Apartment Troubles (Gravitas Ventures)
Writer/Directors: Jennifer Prediger, Jess Weixler
Stars: Jess Weixler, Jennifer Prediger, Will Forte, Megan Mullally, Jeffrey Tambor
Of Note: Actresses Jess Weixler and Jennifer Prediger wrote and co-directed this comedy about artist roommates who are evicted from their tiny New York apartment, so they travel to L.A. to try to make it big. With an amazing comedy cast that includes Will Forte, Jeffrey Tambor and Megan Mullaly, it opens in select cities and On Demand.
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas