The Weekend Warrior on No Escape & We Are Your Friends

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Neither Owen Wilson nor Zac Efron’s latest movies will do much to save what is clearly the “Dog Days” of the summer

After a dismal weekend with three new movies that failed to dethrone the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, we get… another dismal weekend where three new movies probably won’t be able to dethrone Straight Outta Compton for its third straight weekend at #1. None of the three new movies look that exciting but this being the weekend before Labor Day, nothing is ever expected to really break out… so nothing will. Waugh waugh

The Weekend Warrior on No Escape & We Are Your FriendsNo Escape

Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Director: John Erick Dowdle (As Above So Below, Quarantine, Devil, The Poughkeepsie Tapes)
Writer: John Erick and Drew Dowdle
Cast: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Rating: R
What It’s About: Jack and Annie Dwyer (Owen Wilson, Lake Bell) have taken their two daughters on a business trip to Thailand, but just as they arrive, they find themselves caught up in a violent political uprising against Jack’s company and they have to go on the run to stay alive. 

If last week’s offerings and how they fared wasn’t depressing enough, here comes a high-concept thriller, this one from the Dowdle Brothers (whose As Above, So Below bombed this same weekend last year) and putting Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan in the middle of a violent South Asian coup where they become targets for protesters by being American.

No Escape is not necessarily a horror film as much as it is an action-thriller, and it’s a lot more reality-based than the typical vacation thrillers like A Perfect Getaway ($6 million opening, $15.5 million gross), The Ruins ($8 million open, $17.4 million gross) or Turistas ($7 million gross). The fact that none of those did particularly well doesn’t bode well for a movie that’s already trying to sell Owen Wilson and Lake Bell, both better known for their comedy, in more dramatic roles. Wilson hasn’t had a hit in some time where he wasn’t part of an ensemble and even his repairing with Wedding Crashers co-star Vince Vaughn with The Internship missed the mark. Wilson has had better luck working with auteurs like Woody Allen and his old collaborator Wes Anderson with their most recent Oscar-winning fare, but he seems to be floundering in terms of figuring out what he wants to do career-wise.

Most recently, Wilson starred in the Peter Bogdanovich comedy She’s Funny That Way, which was dumped by Lionsgate last weekend, and Pierce Brosnan isn’t doing much better with his own share of low-profile limited releases and movies being released straight to VOD like last week’s Some Kind of Beautiful, also released by Lionsgate. It doesn’t seem like putting Wilson and Brosnan together would do much to help to either one of them. 

Reviews so far are generally mixed with a lot of the negative ones criticizing the film’s worldview, but at least they were smart enough to change the name from “The Coup” which would have been much worse. The Weinstein Company is releasing the movie very wide into 3,000 theaters which could help it from completely bombing, although it’s going to be tough getting people into theaters this weekend as those who aren’t already back in school are preparing for it or trying to enjoy the last days of summer to go on their own vacation, presumably not to war-torn countries. At least opening on Wednesday might help create a little buzz for the weekend.

Prediction:

Opening on Wednesday, the movie will probably perform similar to last year’s The November Man (also starring Brosnan) where it doesn’t make that much at first but then does slightly better on the weekend – but we do mean “slightly” better, because even with 3,000 theaters, it’s hard to think this will gross more than $9 or 10 million over the weekend.

No Escape Review

Interview with Lake Bell

Interview with John Erick and Drew Dowdle


weareyourfriendsreviewWe Are Your Friends

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Max Joseph (feature debut)
Writer: Joseph Oppenheimer, Meaghan Oppenheimer
Cast: Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Wes Bentley, Johnny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, Jon Bernthal
Genre: Drama, Music
Rating: R
What It’s About: 23-year-old Cole (Efron) hopes to be a successful DJ as he spends times with his childhood friends trying to make it in the Hollywood club scene. He gets a big break when he meets a popular older DJ named James (Bentley), who takes Cole under his wing. When he starts falling for his girlfriend Sophie (Ratajkowski), Cole risks losing everything that he built upon.

It’s not often that you get a drama like this with a major star like Zac Efron that gets a wide release out of the gate, but that’s part of the beauty of late August, because theaters are starting to empty out and there’s a lot of room to dump lower-budget movies like this into theaters and hope for the best.

While Efron had a huge comedy hit last year with Seth Rogen in Neighbors, which grossed $150 million and has a sequel in the works, his previous film, the comedy That Awkward Moment grossed just $26 million. His forays into dramatic fare includes the Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Lucky One, which grossed $60 million, and Charlie St. Cloud, which grossed half that. He also has appeared in a number of indies like Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy and At Any Price, which didn’t even gross a million, which might be attributed to not having the marketing money to get them to his teen female fans… or them just not being interested in the subject.

That may be the case with We Are Your Friends, which has the unfortunate reality of having an R-rating, possibly due to the drug use and language, but again, this might be the case of Efron’s female fans just not being as interested in seeing him in this role.

They’re pairing him with Emily Ratajkowski, who is to horny middle-aged men what Zac Efron is to horny teen-aged girls, although other than a small role in Gone Girl and playing herself in Entourage, she only has that “Blurred Lines” in her resume and has not proven herself to be a draw of any kind.

It’s hard to imagine that all the older unhip film critics will give this movie a pass because Efron is not exactly a critical darling, but bad reviews probably won’t have nearly as much an effect on this as it did on some of last week’s releases. Even so, We Are Your Friends looks very much like something you can watch on DVD or cable and not something one might need to see in theaters, so there’s that as well.

Prediction:

Zac Efron’s presence might attract older teen and 20-something women who grew up with him during his “High School Musical” phase, but even with the popularity of EDM, I don’t expect it to have much of an audience and will likely end up below $10 million opening weekend and under $25 million total.

We Are Your Friends Review


warroomposterWar Room

Distributor: Sony/Tristar
Director: Alex Kendrick (Fireproof, Courageous, Facing the Giants)
Writer: Alex and Stephen Kendrick
Cast: Alex Kendrick, Priscilla Shirer, T.C. Stallings, Michael Jr., Karen Abercrombie, Alena Pitts, Beth Moore
Genre: Drama, Faith
Rating: PG
What It’s About: Tony and Elizabeth Jordan are a middle-class couple whose marriage is falling apart with their daughter caught in the middle, so they turn to the help of the older Miss Clara who helps them work through their issues by turning to God. 

As you all probably know by now, I’m just no good at predicting religious and faith-based movies like this one, possibly because I’m outside the purview of how these movies are marketed and I frankly wouldn’t even know half of these movies existed if it wasn’t my job.

This is probably why I’m not that familiar with the Kendrick Brothers, who now offer their fourth religious film following the opening of 2006’s Facing the Giants and its far more successful follow-ups Fireproof and Courageous, each which grossed $33 to 35 million. TriStar Pictures released Courageous in late September 2011 in 1,161 theaters for a $9 million opening and they had an even bigger hit last April with Heaven is for Real, released in twice as many theaters, which went on to gross $90 million. (A month later, they released Mom’s Night Out, which grossed $10 million with a far more moderate release, although that didn’t really have much of a marketing push at all.)

Normally, the Kendricks’ movies have been released in late September when they can find an audience during the slower month where adult dramas thrive. Fact is that if TriStar had more faith (ha ha) in this movie, they wouldn’t be releasing it in the worst weekend of the year. With no star power to get people interested, it’s relying on a churchgoing audience in certain regions who don’t always go to movies, although I did see commercials on Lifetime, so maybe that’s the target audience.

Prediction:

War Room might break into the Top 10 but probably won’t open with more than $5 million or slightly more and will probably end up grossing less than the Kendricks’ last two movies, possibly in the $20 million range.


This Weekend Last Year

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We’re having another one of those weird phenomena where we’re off by a week, because the last weekend of August last year was also Labor Day, and we had separate movies from No Escape directors The Dowdles with As Above, So Below (Legendary/Universal) taking on Pierce Brosnan’s The November Man (Relativity). Both did so poorly that they didn’t make the Top 4 which stayed the same from the previous week with Guardians of the Galaxy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, If I Stay and Let’s Be Cops. The two new movies each ended up with around $10 million over the four-day weekend with The November Man grossing another $1.7 million on Wednesday and Thursday. The Top 10 grossed $81 million and this weekend may have trouble even doing that little amount.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

It looks like Straight Outta Compton will be going for its third weekend at #1 because it’s doubtful either of the new movies will gross more than $15 million and who knows? Maybe it will go for four over Labor Day weekend as well, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Despite being in significantly fewer theaters, expect it to be a close race as young girls wanting to see Zac Efron spin dance tunes will give the Owen Wilson thriller a run for second place, but nothing new opening with more than $10 million.

UPDATE: No Escape is getting more theaters for the weekend and I think that’s a good start for a strong weekend although Zac Efron’s We Are Your Friends may do better on Friday but will drop off quickly on the weekend. War Room should also fare better than we originally projected and should have a better per-theater average even than Straight Outta Compton in its third weekend.

1. Straight Outta Compton (Universal) – $15 million -45%
2. No Escape (Dimension Films) – $9 million N/A  (up .5 million)
3. We Are Your Friends (Warner Bros.) – $8.0 million N/A (down .1 million)
4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount) – $7.6 million -35%
5. War Room (Sony/TriStar) – $7.0 million N/A (up $2.9 million and one spot)
6.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Bros.) – $4.1 million -39% (down .3 million and one spot)
7. Sinister 2 (Gramercy Pictures) – $4.0 million -62% (up .1 million)
8. Hitman: Agent 47 (20th Century Fox) – $3.7 million -55%
9. Ant-Man (Disney/Marvel) – $3.1 million -25%
10. The Gift (STX Entertainment) – $3.0 million -30%

Next Week:

It’s Labor Day weekend, the end of summer, and considering that the only two new movies will be The Transporter Refueled (EuropaCorp) and the Robert Redford-Nick Nolte dramedy A Walk in the Woods (Broad Green Pictures), maybe it’s best to just keep working through the weekend and skip movies altogether?


This Week’s Must-Sees

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Z for Zachariah (Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate)
Director: Craig Zobel (ComplianceGreat World of Sound)
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, Chris Pine
Genre: Drama, Thriller
What It’s About: After a nuclear war wipes out most of humanity leaving the world radioactive, a young woman named Anne (Margot Robbie) who has been living alone with her dog in a valley comes upon John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a scientist suffering from radiation poisoning, but as they become closer, another stranger named Caleb (Chris Pine) arrives who may have ulterior motives for being there. 

My Thoughts…

I saw this movie at the Sundance Film Festival and reviewed it (link below), but I enjoyed it far more the second time as I was able to catch some of the layers and complexities of what Zobel was able to get from the three actors, particularly Robbie and Ejiofor.  When I saw it at Sundance, I also didn’t realize that it was based on a novel, so I was thinking of it as more of a follow-up to Zobel’s earlier work which he wrote, which probably isn’t a fair comparison. It’s easily one of the better character dramas of the year mainly because it touches upon genre things like the end of the world, but doesn’t try too hard (actually, at all) to be any kind of genre film, so I probably would give it more of an 8/10 or higher on second viewing.

It opens in select cities on Friday.

My Thoughts from Sundance

Interview with Craig Zobel and Chiwetel Ejiofor

When Animals Dream (RADiUS-TWC)
Writer/Director: Jonas Alexander Arnby
Stars: Sonia Suhl, Jakob Oftebro
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Romance
What It’s About: Marie (Sonia Suhl) is a teenage girl living on a small coastal town in Denmark who has been going through changes as she starts working at the local fish factory where she falls for Daniel (Jakob Oftebro) and tries to overcome her family’s dark past that has left her mother nearly comatose in a wheelchair. 

My Thoughts…

This is just a fantastic coming-of-age thriller from the Danish director that played the film festival circuit most of the past year and somehow flew completely under my radar for that entire time. Sonia Suhl is a fantastic find, playing Marie, a teenager who has reached the age where she wants to start exploring her sexuality but she has this issue, something passed down from her mother, where she’s changing into something not quite human. When she gets angry, this transformation occurs and she’s doing everything she can to hide it from others, especially the good-looking Daniel who she has her eyes upon. Jonas Amby creates a moody cinematic tone to follow Marie that keeps you on edge even though at least the set-up doesn’t really involve as much of the genre elements you might expect from what is essentially a monster movie. That’s kind of what makes When Animals Dream a bit like the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, in that it tries to set something based in the supernatural within the real world and it does that quite effectively.  A lot of that is in the performance by Suhl, but it’s also because it doesn’t throw the genre elements in our face and saves the more exciting and gorier moments for the film’s climax. That’s not to say that it’s not creepy up until to that point and that’s mainly because you’re not sure what’s going on and there are some nice scares because you’re trying to figure exactly what’s going on with Marie’s mother as she isn’t a typical invalid, contrary to appearances.

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Second Mother (Oscilloscope Pictures)
Writer/Director: Anna Muylaert
Stars: Regina Casé, Camila Márdila, Michael Joelsas, Karine Teles, Lourenco Mutarelli
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: A drama about Val, a Sao Paolo housekeeper working for a wealthy employer who has been raising their son since he was a toddler until her actual daughter Jessica shows up and causes friction in the tried-and-true relationship between “master” and “servant.”

Another movie from Brazil… 

I Touched All Your Stuff (Cinema Slate)
Director: Maíra Bühler, Matias Mariani
Stars: Chris Kirk
Genre: Documentary
What It’s About: A Michigan IT technician, Chris Kirke, moved to Bogota, Colombia where he fell in love with a mysterious woman named “V” but when he was arrested for drug smuggling in Brazil, he began a long-distance relationship from prison with the filmmakers trying to put together the puzzle from a hard-drive left behind the U.S.A.

Other Limited Releases of Note:

Turbo Kid (Epic Pictures Group)
Writer/Directors: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Stars: Munro Chambers, Laurence Laboeuf, Michael Ironside
Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
What It’s About: A post-apocalyptic movie about a BMX-riding kid obsessed with comic books who falls for a girl named Apple, as they take on the self-proclaimed leader of the Wasteland, known as Zeus. After premiering at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year, it will open in select cities (which you can find out where here) and on VOD on Friday, August 28. 

Queen of Earth (IFC Films)
Writer/Director: Alex Ross Perry
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: After the death of her father and her boyfriend leaves her, Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) retreats to a lake house with her best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) who is having a relationship with the local neighbor (Patrick Fugit) which causes friction between them as Catherine has trouble dealing with recent events. 

Zipper (Alchemy)
Director: Mora Stephens
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Lena Headey, Dianna Agron, Ray Winstone, John Cho, Richard Dreyfuss
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: Federal prosecutor Sam Ellis (Patrick Wilson) has a bright political future until he spends a night with a high-end escort which turns into an addiction that starts to threaten his family life and career. (No, we’re not sure if this movie was meant to be based on the eerily-similar Elliot Spitzer.) 

7 Chinese Brothers (ScreenMedia Films)
Writer/Director: Bob Byington
Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Tunde Adebimpe, Olympia Dukakis, Eleanore Pienta
Genre: Comedy, Drama
What It’s About: Larry (Jason Schwartzman) is hit a new low as he loses his job and ends up working at the Quick-Lube where he develops a crush on his boss Lupe (Eleanore PIenta) but he has to keep the job long enough to take care of his bulldog and his equally cranky grandmother (Olympia Dukakis). 

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

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas