The Weekend Warrior: Ted 2, Max

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This where the summer gets fun. We’ve had hit sequels, we’ve had flop sequels, we’ve had successful revivals and that brings us to the end of June when Universal Pictures is going to try to continue their hugely successful summer with another sequel to one of their biggest comedy hits and they’re not going to have much competition from a dog movie that hopes to grab families away from Pixar Animation’s latest. Either way, this weekend, it’s Ted taking on Max, and it’s not going to be nearly as exciting as the past few weekends just by the nature of it… how on Earth could it?

ted2reviewTed 2

Distributor: Universal
Director: Seth MacFarlane (Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West, “Family Guy”)
Writer: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth., Dennis Haysbert, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, John Slattery, John Carroll Lynch
What It’s About: The living stuffed teddy bear known as Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) wants to settle down and marry his long-time girlfriend Tami-Lynn, but the government doesn’t believe a stuffed animal should be allowed to marry, so Ted and his buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) hire a lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to take his case to the Supreme Court. 

Benefits: 

Since 1999, Seth MacFarlane has been able to make (most) people laugh with his Fox animated series “Family Guy” and its follow-up shows “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show,” so it was only a matter of time before he’d try his hand at a feature film. In 2012, MacFarlane made that feature debut, a high-concept, R-rated comedy which put him as the voice as a foul-mouthed teddy bear who still hangs out with his childhood “thunder buddy” played by Mark Wahlberg. When Paramount moved G.I. Joe: Retaliation out of the summer, Universal jumped on its date, getting the movie out earlier while buzz was at its highest to open with a whopping $54.4 million. That was the second-biggest opening for an R-rated comedy and word-of-mouth was strong enough to bring it to $219 million domestically and another $330.5 million internationally.

Three years later, MacFarlane is back as Ted, as is Mark Wahlberg with another adventure for Ted that brings back a few old characters but also introduces a few new ones, played by Amanda Seyfried and the ubiquitous Morgan Freeman. With the success of the first movie, both theatrically and on DVD, cable, etc, one would expect that many fans of MacFarlane’s raunchy comedy will be back and that should certainly be true with the summer’s latest sequel.

Universal has done a pretty good job with the commercials and trailers for this, focusing on some of the funnier bits, similarly to the first Ted. MacFarlane is generally good at doing quick sound byte-like comedy which makes it much easier to grab jokes and moments that might work for a TV commercial. But that won’t really matter because people who liked the first movie (and that was a lot of people) will already know exactly what to expect.

R-rated comedy sequels can be hit or miss, but the first sequel to The Hangover and last year’s 22 Jump Street did significantly better their opening weekends than their predecessors, mainly because so many more people knew what those movies would be going in and they were big enough fans to want to see more of those characters. It’s good to note that while 22 Jump Street did significantly better than its predecessor, The Hangover Part II fell just behind the original and then the next sequel did even worse, maybe because the “Hangover” sequels seemed like they were basically the same plot. (Which was also true with 22 Jump Street, but that was also much funnier.) Who knows where Ted 2 ends up in terms of quality—I haven’t seen it yet—but if it sucks, it probably won’t affect opening weekend, but it will hurt its legs.

Drawbacks:

MacFarlane’s last theatrical release 2014’s A Million Ways to Die in the West pretty much bombed last summer, opening with just $16.8 million and grossing $43 million total. That could partially be just that Westerns are hit or miss with mainstream audiences or that MacFarlane’s fanbase may be starting to lose patience with his brand of comedy. It certainly didn’t have the same broad appeal as the foul-mouthed teddy of Ted, but it also relied on MacFarlane as its main star.

Like far too many sequels, the plot for Ted 2 might not be the most inventive or creative one since once you introduce and establish characters in a first movie, finding a good plot for a sequel is one of the biggest challenges. If all the best jokes were used up in the first movie, then that doesn’t leave a lot except to try to repeat yourself.

We don’t expect reviews for Ted 2 to be that great, going by the little early buzz we could glean, because Universal hasn’t been screening the movie too much, maybe because they know that critics are probably going to be hard on it. Unfortunately, these days it’s so obvious to studios what movies critics are going in to see with their knives drawn. Sometimes there are surprises, but I don’t expect this to end up with quite the positive reviews of the first movie, maybe because film writers probably haven’t forgiven MacFarlane for his hosting of the Oscars a few years back.

Ted 2 also has to take on the powerhouse of Jurassic World and Inside Out, which have dominated over the past two weekends and they should continue to bring in business due to positive word-of-mouth.

Prediction:

Ted 2 should bring back many of the fans, probably enough to surpass the opening weekend of the original movie by a little bit, although it’s likely to do more business opening weekend and less after that as it takes on other competition over the 4th of July weekend. I think it’s good for a $60 million opening, but it might not hold off the competition if the movie isn’t as good as the first one and with next week’s movies likely splitting audiences over 4th of July weekend (and opening early on Wednesday, too), it’s going to take the wind out of Ted 2’s sails pretty quickly, so expect it to end up around $150 million.  


maxreviewMax

Distributor: MGM/Warner Bros.
Director: Boaz Yakin (Safe, Death in Love)
Writer: Boaz Yakin, Sheldon Lettich
Cast: Josh Wiggins, Mia Xitlali, Robbie Amell, Lauren Graham, Thomas Haden Church, Jay Hernandez, Luke Kleintank, Miles Mussenden, Dejon LaQuake
What It’s About: Max is a military dog who helps on the frontlines of Afghanistan with his handler, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell from the CW’s “The Flash”), but when Kyle is killed in combat, Max is traumatized and unable to serve and is sent to live with his younger brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) and his family. As Max and Justin bond with the help of Carmen (Mia Xitlali), a teenage dog lover, the two of them start to go on adventures as Max starts to regain his heroic nature. 

Benefits:

I haven’t seen this movie at the time of this writing so I really don’t know a lot about it, except that it’s been quite some time since we’ve had any sort of family-friendly dog movie. One of the bigger recent dog movie hits was the 2006 Disney movie Eight Below, based on a true story, which grossed $81.6 million after opening over Presidents’ Day weekend with $20.2 million. And who could forget Cuba Gooding Jr. in Snow Dogs, which opened in 2002 with $17.8 million and grossed around the same amount? But the real mother of all dog movies came in 2008 when Fox adapted the bestselling book Marley and Me, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, which grossed $143 million after a Christmas Day release. Earlier that year, Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua also did well but that was more in the Scooby-Doo/Marmaduke vein.

What those movies prove is that families, especially those with younger kids, love seeing dogs in movies, and that’s something Warner Bros. is definitely hoping that will help their lower key movie in a summer full of mega-blockbusters.

In recent years, Warner Bros. have had respectable fall hits with 2011’s A Dolphin Tale ($72.3 million gross after a $19.1 million opening) and its 2014 sequel Dolphin Tale 2 ($42 million gross after $15.8 million opening), which isn’t about dogs but is still a family-friendly drama involving animals. It probably benefitted from being about dolphins and there not having been a movie about those mammals since the 1996 Flipper movie.

Possibly the strangest thing going for Max is the military aspect of Max’s background that could be trying to appeal to the audience that flocked to see Warner Bros.’ mega-hit American Sniper earlier this year. It’s strange to think that this might be a movie geared towards the Red States, but let’s face it, our American military is awesome, even the dogs, so maybe some will think that seeing this movie or taking their kids to see it is the same as “supporting our troops.” I guess it’s a start.

Drawbacks:

This doesn’t seem like it will have as much mainstream appeal to family audiences, not like something like a Pixar movie or Universal’s upcoming Minions, which looks far funnier and more entertaining than what seems to be a fairly standard dog hero movie, a genre that’s quite dated.

In that sense, the story seems kind of “bleh,” at least on paper, as it doesn’t seem like something that really can get audiences excited enough to make an effort to pay movie theater prices to see it.

While the cast has a few great actors like Lauren Graham, Thomas Haden Church and even Robbie Amell, who has gotten popular due to “The Flash,” none of them really are a box office draw or might potentially be good to pimp the film on the talk show circuit, so the movie is almost entirely relying on its canine star and amount of dog lovers out there.

The last dog movie was actually the Hungarian thriller White God, which barely made any money despite raves from various festivals. Granted, that wasn’t a family/kids’ film.

Since I haven’t seen the movie, it’s hard to determine if there’s a chance that this can get a boost from positive reviews, but this is a fairly low-key movie that some critics won’t even bother seeing or reviewing. (It feels like awareness is so low on the movie that there’s a chance even a few movie writers may not realize it opens on Friday.)

Prediction:

This could be one of those movies that does way better than most people expect, although I thought that about Dope last week and we saw how that turned out. (It bombed.) Taking on the second weekend of Inside Out may be a fool’s errand, because even with how well it did last weekend, it should still be huge due to strong word-of-mouth. Being the summer and school being out should help the movie do okay, maybe between $10 to 12 million this weekend, although it doesn’t seem like something that will break out big compared to some of the other movies mentioned above. It should be fine in terms of legs though and a $35 million gross should be the low end of where it can end up especially with the 4th of July helping its doggie legs.

Max Review


This Weekend Last Year

transformersposterfeature (1)There was only one new movie release the weekend before July 4th and it was the return of Michael Bay to his blockbuster franchise with Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount), this one starring Mark Wahlberg instead of Shia Labeouf. While there was still a diehard fanbase, most moviegoers had enough and though it was the summer’s first movie to open with $100 million (just) in 4,233 theaters, it was showing definite signs of diminishing returns. It would go on to gross $245 million domestically, which wasn’t even enough to surpass Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The LEGO Movie from earlier in the year and was nowhere near the $300 million-plus grossed by the earlier movies, keeping it from being the #1 movie of the summer as some expected. The Top 10 grossed $171 million and we expect this weekend to clobber that amount with around $200 million for the Top 10.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

Ted 2 should be able to squeak out a win over the one-two punch of Jurassic World and Inside Out, as the two blockbusters battle for second place with a weekend take in the $50 million range. Max should end up right behind and then everything else makes less than $7 million. Probably that battle for second place will be more interesting than the rest of the box office this weekend.

(UPDATE: And being that Inside Out is adding a couple hundred more theaters and Jurassic World is already losing theaters, I think inside Out might even pull ahead in their second weekend together.)

1. Ted 2 (Universal) – $61.5 million N/A (up .3 million)
2. Inside Out (Disney•Pixar) – $56.5 million -38% (Up 2 million and one spot)
3. Jurassic World (Universal) – $55.5 million -48% (down one spot)
4. Max (Warner Bros) – $9.7 million N/A (down 1.6 million)
5. Spy (20th Century Fox) – $6.5 million -38%
6. San Andreas (New Line/WB) – $4.5 million -45%
7. Dope (Open Road) – $3.3 million -42% (down .2 million)
8. Insidious Chapter 3 (Gramercy Pictures) – $2.0 million -49% (down .1 million)
9. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) – $1.5 million -46%  (down .2 million)
10. Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal) – $1.4 million -47% (down .3 million)

Next Week:

It’s the 4th of July weekend and the summer’s latest sequel takes on… I honestly have no idea what to call Terminator Genisys (Paramount) except the latest attempt to relaunch/remake the franchise, this time with the original star Arnold Schwarzenegger returning. It will be taking on the Channing Tatum sequel Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.). While both will probably have male nudity, they’ll be targeting very different audiences with it. Go figure.


This Week’s Must-Sees

batkidbeginsww

Batkid Begins (New Line/WB)
Director: Dana Nachman
Stars: Miles Scott, Nick and Natalie Scott, Eric “E.J.” Johnston, Mike Jutan, Sue Graham Johnston, Ed Lee, Greg Suhr
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: Back in 2013, five-year-old leukemia patient Miles Scott asked the Make-A-Wish foundation to “be Batman.” With that challenge placed for them, Make-A-Wish worked with local people to try to make Miles’ wish come true. Dana Nachman’s moving documentary documents the preparation and lead-up to Miles’ fateful day when the entire city of San Francisco pulled together to make his wish even bigger and better than anyone expected while the world and 2 million people watched on via social media, including some guy named Barack Obama. Whether or not you followed the Batkid story on social media or not, Nachman’s documentary shows so much more of the behind the scenes that most people won’t have seen, including how they planned it all out. 

It’s a truly wonderful and inspirational film, as it shows how necessity brings out the best in humanity and what happens when people come together to help a kid who could use a boost. Having had to fight leukemia myself and having had people pulling for me, I can really relate to what Miles faced and I can only imagine what an impact becoming “Batkid” had on him. This may be one of my favorite movies of the year and definitely one of my favorite docs so far this year.

Interview with Dana Nachman (Coming Soon!)

Big Game (EuropaCorp/Relativity)
Writer/Director: Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale)
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Jim Broadbent, Ted Levine, Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman, Ray Stevenson, Onni Tommila, Mehmet Kurtulus
Genre: Action, Thriller
What It’s About: A young teenager living among a community of hunters in the rural area of Finland is going through his coming-of-age ritual of spending a night in the wilderness hunting on his own when he comes across the President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson), whose escape pod has been ejected after Air Force One crashes in the mountains. With a group of assassins on their tail, the unlikely duo must work together to stay one step ahead of their assailants and find the Special Forces team sent to rescue the President. 

Interview with Ray Stevenson (Later This Week!)

A Borrowed Identity (Strand Releasing)
Director: Eran Riklis
Stars: Tawfeek Barhom, Ali Suliman, Yael Abecassis
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: Adapted from the novels of Sayed Kashua, this Israeli film follows Eyad, a Palestinian boy in Israel who is sent to a prestigious Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem where he falls for a Jewish girl named Naomi (Daniel Kitsis) who tries to keep their romance a secret, while befriending a Hebrew boy with muscular dystrophy whose identity he borrows (hence the title) when he realizes the obstacles he faces as an Arab.

Other Limited Releases of Note:

A Little Chaos (Focus World)
Director: Alan Rickman
Stars: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Matthias Schoenaerts, Stanley Tucci
Genre: Drama, Romance
What It’s About: Alan Rickman directs his first film in 18 years with Kate Winslet starring as Sabine De Barra, a landscape designer who is hired to build the Rockwork Grove amphitheater in King Louis XIV’s gardens at the palace of Versailles. She eventually becomes romantically involved with her supervisor, the king’s landscape artist, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, Far from the Madding Crowd). It opens in select cities and On Demand this Friday. 

Video Interview with Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet 

Glass Chin (Entertainment One)
Writer/Director: Noah Buchnel
Stars: Corey Stoll, Billy Crudup, Yul Vazquez, Marin Ireland, Halley Feiffer, David Johansen, John Douglas Thompson, Katherine Waterston, Michael Chernus, Ron Cephas Jones
Genre: Drama, Crime
What It’s About: Former boxer Bud Gordon (Corey Stoll) is trying to get his life together living in Jersey with his girlfriend (Marin Ireland) in New Jersey, but he realizes that the only way to achieve his former glory is to do business with a crooked New York restauranteur (Billy Crudup) and his main enforcer (Yul Vazquez). 

Interview with Corey Stoll

The Little Death (Magnolia)
Writer/Director: Josh Lawson
Stars: Lisa McCune, Lachy Hulme, Bojana Novakovic, Josh Lawson, Damon Herriman, Kate Mulvany, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall, Alan Dukes, Erin James, TJ Power, Kim Gyngell
Genre: Comedy, Romance
What It’s About: Josh Lawson’s sex comedy looks at the lives of five suburban couples in Sydney, Australia who begin to explore a range of sexual fetishes. It opens in New York, L.A. and Toronto as well as On Demand. 

Escobar: Paradise Lost (RADiUS-TWC)
Writer/Director: Andrea di Stefano
Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Brady Corbett, Claudia Traisac
Genre: Drama, Biography
What It’s About: Benicio del Toro plays legendary Colombian drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar whose family life is disrupted when a younger suffer (Josh Hutcherson from “The Hunger Games”) falls for his niece. It opens in select cities and presumably will be on VOD soon.

7 Minutes (Starz Digital)
Writer/Director: Jay Martin
Stars: Jason Ritter, Leven Rambin, Zane Holtz, Luke Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson
Genre: Crime, Thriller
What It’s About: Three men decide to commit a brazen robbery against one of their uncles, but what should have been a quick crime committed in less than 7 minutes becomes a dangerous game when things invariably go wrong. It’s in select theaters and available on VOD as well on Friday. 

Interview with Jay Martin

Felt (Amplify Releasing)
Director: Jason Banker
Stars: Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Ryan Creighton, Elisabeth Ferrara, Roxanne Lauren Knouse
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: Amy Everson is a young woman trying to deal with her former sexual trauma, so she creates costumed alter egos to escape from the realities of being a woman in a male-dominated society, but when she meets a new guy and tries to start a new relationship, her alter egos threaten to ruin things.

The Midnight Swim (Candy Factory Films)
Writer/Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Stars: Lindsay Burdge, Jennifer Lafleur, Aleksa Palladino
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: When their mother disappears during a deep-water dive in Spirit Lake, her three daughters return home to settle her affairs and find themselves drawn into the mysteries of the lake that took their mother. 

Fresh Dressed (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Director: Sacha Jenkins
Stars: Pharrell Williams, Damon Dash, Karl Kani, Kanye West, Nasir Jones, Andre Leon Talley
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: A documentary that looks at hip-hop and urban fashion.

Into the Grizzly Maze (Vertical Entertainment)
Director: David Hackl
Stars: Thomas Jane, James Marsden, Billy Bob Thornton, Scott Glenn, Piper Perabo
Genre: Action, Thriller, Horror
What It’s About: Two estranged brothers decide to go on a two-day hike in the Alaskan wild near their childhood home only to find themselves stalked by a killer grizzly bear.

Elimination Game (Entertainment One)
Director: John Hewett
Stars: Dominic Purcell, Viva Bianca, Robert Taylor
Genre: Action
What It’s About: A remake and update of the cult exploitation film “Turkey Shoot” starring “The Flash” star Dominic Purcell involving a brutal reality television game show.

A Murder in the Park (IFC Films)
Director: Shawn Rech, Brandon Kimber
Stars: Kevin Adelstein, Joseph Alex
Genre: Documentary, Drama, Crime
What It’s About: A docudrama about Anthony Porter, a man convicted of a double homicide in a Chicago park who is saved by a Northwestern University student who gets the real killer to confess when the crime is reinvestigated 48 hours before Porter’s execution. 

You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas