The Weekend Warrior on Straight Outta Compton and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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After another dismal summer weekend at the box office and probably one of the worst weekends we’ve seen in some time, the box office is hoping to bounce back with two new wide releases, one that’s likely to have a stronger pull than the other only because it’s a genre that hasn’t oversaturated market quite like the genre of the other.  

The Weekend Warrior on Straight Outta Compton and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Straight Outta Compton

Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Law Abiding Citizen, Be Cool, Friday, Set It Off)
Writer: Andrea Berloff
Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Paul Giamatti, Aldis Hodge
Genre: Drama, Music
Rating: R
What It’s About: Telling the story of how five black youths from Compton, California formed the gangster rap group NWA and how their debut album “Straight Outta Compton” took them to the heights of fame as the group fell apart and each member started doing their own thing.

The studio that brought you 8 Mile, Ray and 2014’s James Brown biopic Get On Up tackles the story of gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. who literally became the voice of a generation in the late ‘80s with the release of their groundbreaking rap album “Straight Outta Compton.” At the time, it connected with an audience of young black men who were being persecuted by the police leading up to the 1991 beating of Rodney King that was caught on video and became the impetus for the L.A. riots when the police responsible were released. This isn’t the first movie telling the life story of a renowned rapper with Eminem’s self-autobiographical 2002 film 8 Mile still being considered the benchmark even though 50 Cent and the Notorious B.I.G. have both had their story told cinematically. Neither of their films cracked the $40 million mark in terms of gross, compared to 8 Mile’s $117 million.

straightouttacompchart 
One thing that makes this special is that it’s been in development by original N.W.A. member Ice Cube, who brought Dr. Dre and Eazy-E’s widow on board as executive producers to maintain the authenticity and credibility among the group’s fans. They found a bunch of mostly unknown actors to play their younger selves, including Ice Cube’s own son O’Shea Jackson Jr. playing his father in his very first acting job ever. (Yeah, you go ahead and explain to Ice Cube what “nepotism” is!)

The lack of big names, other than Paul Giamatti, probably won’t matter much because it’s all about the popularity of the group and its music, and ironically, they even got F. Gary Gray, who got his start directing Ice Cube’s comedy Friday, to direct the biopic.

Universal’s been having a great summer and their effective marketing has extended into this movie which culminated in a fun social media thing that made the rounds last week, helping to increase awareness for the movie. Not that they had to do much because fans of the band have been following the ups and downs of the film’s development for years.

The movie is being released into less than 3,000 theaters, which isn’t that big a deal because the biggest markets will likely be in the bigger cities where NWA’s music has had the biggest impact, although they also have a lot of white male suburban fans, having sold 3 million copies. (Universal even re-released the album on cassette in time for Record Store Day.)

While it’s not the kind of movie that might have a huge appeal to women, you can probably expect a large percentage of women in urban areas to support the movie, particularly those under 30, since older African-American women won’t be as drawn to it as other August releases like The Help and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Universal wisely allowed reviews to run early and so far, they’re all pretty good, which will also help generate awareness and interest, as will the brilliant meme generator sponsored by Dre’s company Beats.

Prediction:

Straight Outta Compton should open big, somewhere between Notorious and 8 Mile, especially without much else in theaters to appeal to African-American and Hispanic audiences, and we can probably expect it to dominate with a strong per-theater average despite the relatively moderate release. Still, like some of the other rap biopics mentioned above, it may be greatly frontloaded and probably will end up grossing around $85 million theatrically.


themanfromunclereviewThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, Rocknrolla and more)
Writer: Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Hugh Grant
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rating: PG-13
What It’s About: In the early ‘60s, as the Cold War flourishes, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KBG agent Ilya Kuryakin (Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer) must work together to get a young German woman, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) out of East Berlin and reunite her with her scientist father who has been captured by a Nazi agency to help them build a nuclear bomb. 

What do you get when you cross The Lone Ranger, the Man of Steel, the robot chick from Ex Machina and the director of Sherlock Holmes with one of the most popular television shows from the ‘60s? You get the fourth spy action movie of the year, one that mixes the action of a Bond movie with the humor that’s inherent in Guy Ritchie’s earlier movies as well as a completely original take on the spy action movie than we’ve seen in recent years. Much of that is due to the fact that the movie is set in the ‘60s so it sets limitations especially on the technology that actually makes for an extremely entertaining film. 

Ritchie cast the unlikely duo of Henry Cavill aka the new Superman from Man of Steel with Armie Hammer of The Lone Ranger and The Social Network as the new Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, based on the characters made famous by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum on the show that had James Bond creator Ian Fleming as a consultant. They’re joined by one of the hottest actresses working today, Sweden’s Alicia Vikander, who has already gotten raves for her performance in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and the period drama Testament of Youth. She’s also been cast in the next installment of the “Bourne” franchise for next year as well.

It’s somewhat ironic that it’s opening two weeks after Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which will offer its primary competition for an older male audience, because that was also based on a popular ’60 spy show and that’s become a hugely successful franchise, mainly thanks to Tom Cruise. Obviously, none of the cast of Ritchie offer the same type of box office draw even if Cavill previously starred in Zack Snyder’s blockbuster Man of Steel, because as we’ve seen, starring in a big superhero movie doesn’t always translate into big box office. (Check out some of Mark Ruffalo or Jeremy Renner’s movies since starring in Marvel’s The Avengers.)

On top of that, not all of these TV remakes have been successful with Eddie Murphy’s 2002 remake of the similar I Spy notoriously bombing with $33.6 million, although that didn’t have the pedigree of having Guy Ritchie on board, who already had a big hit by pairing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Reviews for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. should be very positive, helping to generate interest for the movie where they might not be as much without having those rave reviews. Although we’re hitting the dog days of summer, having a quality film like this in theaters should help it do decently against weaker fare heading into Labor Day.

Prediction:

Opening the same weekend as Straight Outta Compton and potentially losing a lot of the male audience might be The Man from U.N.C.L.E’s undoing, but it should still be good for an opening in the high teens or low $20 millions due to buzz from positive reviews and hold its own over the slower weeks of summer, possibly grossing $80 million or a little more.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Review

Interview with Guy Ritchie (Coming Soon!)


This Weekend Last Year

file_121905_0_letsbecopsboxofficeNone of the new movies offered much competition against the one-two punch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in its second weekend and Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy in its third as they remained in the top spots with $28.5 million and $25 million, respectively. The Jake Johnson-Damon Wayans Jr. comedy Let’s Be Cops (20th Century Fox) opened in third place with $17.8 million in 3,094 theaters after making $8.4 million on Wednesday and Thursday. The once successful action franchise faltered as The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate) opened with just $15.9 million, while the young adult sci-fi film The Giver (The Weinstein Co.), starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, opened with a disappointing $12.3 million in 3,003 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $125 million, but even with two stronger movies, this is likely to be another down weekend.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

Straight Outta Compton shouldn’t have any problem winning the weekend with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. coming in a second, and the Top 4 being fairly set, but expect the bottom half of the Top 10 to be a bit of a mess with a lot of close races.

UPDATE: Ticket sales for Straight Outta Compton are so insanely good that it’s hard to imagine it opening under $40 million and it’s likely to do more like 8 Mile although the Thursday previews and summer release will make it even more frontloaded to Friday than it might have been otherwise. I also may have been a bit bullish on U.N.C.L.E. but with a very wide release it doesn’t need a huge per-theater average to hit $20 million.

1. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) – $43.5 million N/A (Up 6 million)
2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Bros.) – $20.0 million N/A (down 1.6 million)
3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount) – $14.6 million -49%
4. Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox) – $10.3 million -60%
5. The Gift (STX Entertainment) – $6.2 million -48%
6. Vacation (New Line/WB) – $5 million -45%
7. Ant-Man (Disney/Marvel) – $4.3 million -46% (down .2 million)
8. Minions (Universal) – $4.3 million -42% (down .2 million)
9. Ricki and the Flash (Sony) – $4.3 million -35% 
10. Trainwreck (Universal) – $4.1 million -34%

(Note: The Weinstein Company’s animated feature Underdogs was supposed to get a release this weekend but was literally pulled from the schedule last week.)

Next Week:

Three new movies basically vying for the same male audience—good luck with that! The horror sequel Sinister 2 (Gramercy Pictures) and the action sequel Hitman: Agent 47 (20th Century Fox)—neither of them with the original stars from the previous movies—face off against Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in the stoner action movie American Ultra (Lionsgate).


This Week’s Must-Sees

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Meru (Music Box Films)
Director: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Stars: Jon Krakauer, Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, Jimmy Chin
Genre: Documentary, Sports
What It’s About: In October 2008, three mountain climbers tried to scale the Shark’s Fin of Mount Meru, which lays 21,000 feet above the Ganges River in Northern India, thought to be an impossible climb due to the sub-zero temperature. 100 meters before reaching the summit, they’re forced to end the attempt. Years later, one of them, Conrad Anker, convinces the other two to give the Shark’s Fin another try, which is where this amazing film really takes off.  It opens in New York, L.A and other cities this weekend, and it absolutely MUST be seen on the big screen. You can see a list of theaters here.

My Thoughts…

One of my favorite movies of the past 15 years is Kevin Macdonald’s Touching the Void and I realized after watching this doc is how obsessed I am with movies about mountain climbing mainly because it’s something that I don’t I could do, either physically or mentally. This is quite clear from the quest of three amazing men—Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk–who set out to do the impossible, not once, but twice. Everyone talks about climbing Mt. Everest but that isn’t quite the challenge that the trio discovered on the Shark’s Fin of Mount Meru, which they try once to scale but have to end that expedition early due to exhaustion and frostbite from the elements. The three go through some amazing experiences on their own, including two near-death experiences, before deciding to give it a go three years later and that second attempt is even more inspiring.

Meru is an amazing film for a variety of reasons, from the cinematography of capturing the landscape of the Himalayas by the film’s co-director/cinematographer Chin and Ozturk, to the inspiration of watching the endurance of these men battling the odds and the elements and eventually overcoming them. Those visuals and emotions are enhanced by a terrific score by J Ralph with songs by Philip Sheppard that really brings out every moment of the men’s two excursions. 

For someone who never thought they’d see a mountain climbing film that ranks up there with Touching the Void, I was more than pleasantly surprised by what ends up being one of the best docs of a very strong year for the genre.

Rating: 9/10

The Boy (Chiller Films)
Director: Craig Macneil
Stars: Jared Breeze, Rainn Wilson, David Morse, Mike Vogel, Zuleikha Robinson, Bill Sage
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
What It’s About: A 9-year-old boy named Ted (Jared Breeze) is living at a remote motel with his father John (David Morse) who is despondent after Ted’s mother left them, but their lives are changed when a drifter named William Colby (Rainn Wilson) shows up and their friendship brings out Ted’s fascination with death. Based on the short story “The Henley Road Motel” by Clay McLeod Chapman (who co-wrote the film) and expanded from Macneil’s short film “Henley” which premiered at Sundance in 2012, it opens in L.A. on Friday and then on VOD on the 18th and other cities on the 21st.

My Thoughts… 

After marveling at what Jon Watts did in last week’s Cop Car, particularly working with young children as his actors, Craig Macneil ups the ante by making a chilling and creepy thriller that harks back to Hitchcock’s Psycho with its setting as well as its younger take on a Norman Bates-like sociopath with Jared Breeze. David Morse is also quite good as the boy’s father while an unrecognizable Rainn Wilson goes against character for a stranger who stays at the motel. There’s a little bit of predictability in where things are going, but for the most part you’ll be fascinated by watching Breeze’s Ted and trying to figure out what he is thinking while he does anything he can to reduce his boredom and loneliness. (Macneil also gets points for creating such a riveting story in a minimal number of locations with such a small cast.)

Rating: 8/10

Mistress America (Fox Searchlight)
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus, Cindy Cheung, Kathryn Erbe
Genre: Comedy
What It’s About: 18-year-old Tracy (Lola Kirke) is not enjoying her first year at college in Manhattan until she starts hanging out with her older soon-to-be stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who seems to be sophisticated and adventurous and becomes Tracy’s muse for a story she hopes to submit as her application to the school’s prestigious literary society.

Video Interviews with Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach 

Video Interview with Lola Kirke (Coming Soon)

My Thoughts…

When I saw Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s latest collaboration at Sundance, I might not have been too nice about it, maybe because I was still remembering how much I disliked Baumbach’s previous film While We’re Young. Well, a few months later, the movie has grown on me and I think I appreciate what “Gerbauch” have done including the less-than-likeable character played by Gerwig. Brooke is pretentious and self-involved and languishes in the type of entitlement that way too many New Yorkers do these days, which makes her the perfect counterpoint to Lola Kirke’s Tracy. One of the things I appreciated a lot more on second viewing was the terrific screenplay by the filmmakers and how Baumbach has paced some of the dialogue-heavy scenes to keep you interested. It’s also impressive the fairly unknown cast the duo put together for the film who are really impressive, including Michael Chernus who also appears in People Places Things. I’m still not 100% sold on the movie but I think it’s better than I initially gave it credit for and therefore should be considered this weekend, especially for fans of Frances Ha and the duo’s previous collaborations. 

Revised Rating: 7/10

People Places Things (The Film Arcade)
Director: Jim Strouse (Grace is Gone, Winning Season)
Stars: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams, Stephanie Allynne, Michael Chernus, Aundrea Gadsby, Gia Gadsby
Genre: Comedy, Drama
What It’s About: At his twin daughters’ fifth birthday, New York graphic novelist and art teacher Will Henry (Clement) walks in on his girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allynne) with their friend Gary (Michael Shernus) forcing him to try to get his life together when one of his students (Jessica Williams) tries to set him up with her mother Diane (Regina Hall).

Video Interview with Jemaine Clement, Regina King  and Jim Strouse

Other Limited Releases of Note:

There are so many movies being released this weekend, including a lot of genre thrillers, but I honestly haven’t had a chance to watch many of these…

Final Girl (Cinedigm)
Director: Tyler Shields
Stars: Wes Bentley, Abigail Breslin, Alexander Ludwig, Connor Paolo, Logan Huffman, Michael Trevino, Francesca Eastwood
Genre: Thriller
What It’s About: Veronica (Abigail Breslin) is a shy and vulnerable loner who is lured into the woods by a group of boys who hunt and kill girls for sport, but she ends up turning the tables as she is secretly an assassin who knows how to defend herself against them. 

Tom at the Farm (Amplify Releasing)
Director: Xavier Dolan
Stars: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu, Caleb Landry Jones
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: French-Canadien filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s previous film to Mommy has him playing a man who travels to a farm for the funeral of his dead lover Guillaume (Caleb Landry Jones) only to learn that his lover’s family knows nothing about him, so he keeps his identity a secret. 

Ten Thousand Saints (Screen Media)
Director: Shari Berman, Bob Pulcini
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Julianne Nicholson, Emily Mortimer, Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: Based on Eleanor Henderson’s award-winning 2011 book set in New York during the late ‘80s as it deals with a group of young and older people dealing with the times. 

Air (Stage 6 Films/Vertical)
Director: Christian Cantamessa
Stars: Norman Reedus, Djimon Hounsou
Genre: Science Fiction
What It’s About: “The Walking Dead’s” Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy) play engineers in a world where breathable air is nonexistent who hold the key to mankind’s last hope for survival. It opens at New York’s Cinema Village as does… 

Big Sky (eOne/Phase 4 Films)
Director: Jorge Michael Grau
Stars: Bella Thorne, Kyra Sedgwick, Frank Grillo, Aaron Tveit
Genre: Drama, Thriller
What It’s About: While travelling to a treatment facility to deal with her intense agoraphobia, a teen girl (played by Bella Thorne) and her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) are attacked by two masked gunmen, forcing her to face her greatest fear in order to survive. From the director of We Are What We Are, it opens in New York, L.A. and on VOD.

One & Two (IFC Midnight)
Writer/Director: Andrew Droz Palermo, Neima Shahdadi
Stars: Kiernan Shipka, Timothée Chalamet, Grant Bowler, Elizabeth Reaser
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
What It’s About: A family drama involving a brother and sister with otherworldly abilities who hope to use them to escape a domineering father and a weak mother who is plagued by illness. 

How to Smell a Rose (Kino Lorber)
Director: Les Blank, Gina Leibrecht
Stars: Ricky Leacock, Valerie Lalonde
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: Les Blank’s cinema verite about his peer Ricky Leacock and his partner Valerie Lalonde that pays tribute to the earlier generation of documentary filmmakers. It opens at the Film Forum on Wednesday. 

Amnesiac (XLRator Media)
Director: Michael Polish
Stars: Kate Bosworth, Wes Bentley
Genre: Thriller
What It’s About: The psychological thriller from Michael Polish (of the Polish brothers) starring his wife Kate Bosworth whose husband (Bentley) has been in an accident but suspects that his wife isn’t his real wife. 

Return to Sender (RLJ Entertainment)
Director: Fouad Mikati
Stars: Rosamund Pike, Shiloh Fernandez, Nick Nolte, Camryn Manheim, Rumer Willis, Illeana Douglas
Genre: Drama, Thriller
What It’s About: A nurse named Miranda (Rosamund Pike) is brutally assaulted while going on a blind date and her attacker William (Shiloh Fernandez) is locked up for the crime, but she can’t get closure until she starts corresponding with her attacker and visiting him in order to try to find closure and build a trust. 

Paulette (Cohen Media Group)
Director: Jerome Enirico
Stars: Bernadette Lafont
Genre: Comedy, Drama
What It’s About: An elderly widow trying to make ends meet living in a Paris housing project turns to a life of crime in this black comedy, the final film of the late French actress considered to be “the face of French New Wave,” which was released in France in 2013. 

Brothers: Blood Against Blood (FIP)
Director: Karan Malhotra
Stars: Akshay Kumar, Sidharth Malhotra, Jackie Shroff, Jacqueline Fernandez
Genre: Action
What It’s About: Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar plays one of two brothers, an ex-street fighter trying to make ends meet as a school teacher with an ailing daughter forced to return to street fighting as he prepares for India’s “Right to Fight” that will pit him against his alcoholic and troubled brother Monty, who has remained active in street fighting. It opens in select cities in 150 or more theaters. 

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

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas

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Tuesday: Jan. 21, 2020

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