The second to last month of summer is coming to a close and it looks like we’re slowly wrapping things up with what might be the last big blockbuster of the summer unless we get a couple of August surprises, which is still very possible. This week it’s all about Hugh Jackman’s return as James Logan AKA (the) Wolverine and having the weekend to itself (unlike last weekend) should prove to be beneficial in the movie overcoming some of the trepidations fans might have after its weak predecessor X-Men Origins: Wolverine a few years back. At the same time, we’re getting a raunchy R-rated comedy starring Aubrey Plaza from “Parks and Recreation” taking on a bunch of highly-acclaimed Sundance movies that are expanding nationwide and it should be a far busier and more interesting weekend than it might have been otherwise.
The Wolverine (20th Century Fox)
It’s the end of July and with the summer coming to an end, we’re getting to what could possibly be the last of the big blockbusters as Hugh Jackman returns to his fifth official non-cameo go-round as James Logan AKA Wolverine, which is almost guaranteed success going by his the character’s previous appearances in Fox’s long-running X-Men franchise. Jackman is certainly in good shape for a big hit following his Oscar-nominated role as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, which grossed $149 million domestic and $440 million worldwide and helped solidify Jackman as an actor who appeals as much to women as he does to guys. However you slice it, Wolverine will probably always be his most popular character and this time he’s bringing the character to Japan to retell a classic story first made famous in the Claremont-Miller graphic novel that came out in 1981, something that should prove popular among the fans.
What might seem like one of the odder choices for the movie was director James Mangold, who worked with Jackman over ten years ago when they made the period romantic comedy Kate and Leopold with Meg Ryan, and while Magnold has done a lot of different types of movies and genres, it’s his most recent two movies, the Western 3:10 to Yuma and the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz action-comedy Knight and Day, which proved that he could handle the action necessary for a superhero movie even if The Wolverine is a very different movie from its predecessor.
One of the big differences this time around is that Jackman is surrounded by many Japanese and Asian actors including a number of complete unknowns in supermodels Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima. There are a few familiar faces like Hiroyuki Sanada, who appeared in The Last Samurai opposite Tom Cruise, as well as starring in the far superior The Twilight Samurai, which was nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar. He since went onto many prominent roles in bigger Hollywood and smaller indie movies (and everything in between such as Danny Boyle’s Sunshine) as well as making an appearance on “Lost.” The movie also stars non-Japanese actor Will Yun Lee who starred in the awful Elektra movie, the James Bond movie Die Another Day as well as last year’s remakes Red Dawn and Total Recall (also both bad). One big returning actor from the X-franchise is Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, who Fox wisely has included in some of the later trailers even though her character died in X-Men: The Last Stand, but that’s probably an attempt to make sure the fans of the original X-Men movies know that this is very much a comic book movie.
This movie is following the less-than-well-received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which opened well with $85 million but wasn’t really appreciated by the fans. The problem is that the fans will generally remember when they don’t like a movie and that might keep them away opening weekend. For example, the reboot X-Men: First Class only opened with $55 million in June 2011 and that followed X-Men: The Last Stand‘s opening with nearly $123 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend five years prior. The big difference there is that the movie also had a completely new cast where The Wolverine once again stars the known commodity of Jackman as Wolverine so we don’t expect nearly as big a drop-off even if there will probably be a certain percentage of the audience dubious of paying to see another Wolverine movie.
The early trailers and commercials didn’t look that great but Jackman and director James Mangold have been making the rounds, particularly at Comic-Con last weekend, to make sure that the fans know that this is a very different movie. Because this is a much darker and more violent Wolverine movie than the last one means it will make the fans of the character happier, but it will also make it harder for parents to justify bringing their younger kids to see the movie, which basically means it will probably be more frontloaded over the weekend. The good news is that the movie is generally getting better reviews than the previous movie, and there aren’t a ton of strong movies opening in the weeks to come–Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg’s 2 Guns may have posed a problem if it made a stronger play earlier in the summer–which may mean that The Wolverine won’t be nearly as frontloaded as other X-movies have been and probably will end up grossing roughly the same as the previous movie.
Weekend Est.: $71 to 75 million; Est. Total Gross: $180 to 185 million
Beyond The Wolverine, there are a number of movies that are either opening either moderately or expanding nationwide, and we probably don’t have nearly as much to say about any of them.
Maggie Carey’s comedy The To Do List (CBS Films) has an all-star comedy cast including Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover, Scott Porter, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton and Clark Gregg, but CBS Films is giving it a moderate release into roughly 500 theaters after an extensive promo screening campaign, so it should fare decently, maybe in the $3 to 4 million range but probably not enough to break into the Top 10.
Review (Coming Soon)
Two other movies will be expanding much wider this weekend as Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s Sundance comedy hit The Way, Way Back (Fox Searchlight), starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph and Liam James, continues to build on its last two weeks in limited release to expand wider. While it might not get enough theaters to get into the Top 10, it should be able to bring in $3.5 to 4 million or slightly more which will move it a couple notches from 13th place where it’s been sitting the last few weeks.
Probably trying to get a foothold on the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, The Weinstein Company is expanding Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station–another Sundance movie I’ve yet to see–nationwide this weekend into an unknown number of theaters, but its $21,000 average per location last weekend makes it seem like it has the best chance of getting into the Top 10 depending on how many theaters it expands into, possibly making $5 million or more this weekend, making it the weekend’s big independent film winner.
This weekend last year, The Dark Knight Rises and Ice Age: Continental Drift remained on top as expected with $62.1 and $13.3 million, respectively, while both of the new movies did disappointing numbers with the alien comedy The Watch (20th Century Fox), starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, tanking with $12.7 million but doing better than the dance movie Step Up Revolution (Summit) with $11.7 million for third and fourth place, respectively. The Top 10 grossed $124 million which should be beatable with The Wolverine entering the market and expected to do quite well.
This Week’s Predictions –
1. The Wolverine (20th Century Fox) – $75.4 million N/A (Up 2 million)
2. The Conjuring (New Line/WB) – $24 million -43%
3. Despicable Me 2 (Universal) – $15.2 million -40%
4. Turbo (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) – $13 million -39%
5. Grown Ups 2 (Sony) – $10.5 million -45%
6. RED 2 (Summit Entertainment) – $9.3 million -47%
7. Pacific Rim (Legendary/WB) – $7.8 million -52%
8. The Heat (20th Century Fox) – $6.4 million -33%
9. Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company) – $5.7 million (up .8 million)
10. R.I.P.D. (Universal) – $4.7 million -63%
— The Way, Way Back – $4.0 million (Up .5 million)
— The To Do List – $3.5 million N/A (up .1 million)
Woody Allen is back with another fantastic ensemble cast for Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics), this one starring Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, a wealthy socialite whose rich businessman husband (Alec Baldwin) is caught in a Bernie Madoff-esque scheme to rob his investors. After losing everything, Jasmine moves out to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her family, but finds herself unhappy with the situation. Also starring Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis CK, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg and Alden Ehrenreich, it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday and will probably expand further from there.
Hong Kong crime filmmaker Johnnie To returns with Drug War (Variance Films), an in-depth look at the Chinese meth scene as seen through the ongoing war between a meth manufacturer Timmy Choi (played by Chinese superstar Louis Koo) and police Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei) who will go to any ends to put a stop to the trafficking of meth in his area. After taking Timmy into custody after a deadly meth lab accident, the former turns informant in order to help the captain take down the powerful drug cartel over the course of 72 hours, the two men struggling to coexist despite their vast differences.
Richard Raaphorst’s found footage zombie movie Frankenstein’s Army (MPI Media Group) involves a team of Russian soldiers in the last days of World War II who come across Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s lab and unearth a Nazi plot to revive dead soldiers, finding themselves trapped in a house full of the monstrous freaks.
I haven’t seen any of the following movies:
Christian Slater stars in Roger Christian’s Stranded (RLJ Entertainment) as an astronaut caught in an isolated moonbase with his crew during a rogue meteor storm that cuts them off from Earth with their life support failing. Oh and there’s a shape shifting predator there with them which they must keep from escaping to Earth as well.
Jamie (But I’m A Cheerleader) Babbitt’s erotic thriller Breaking the Girls (IFC Films), written by Guinevere Turner (American Psycho) and Mark Distefano, stars Agnes Bruckner and Madeline Zima (“Californication”) as two women who meet at a bar and form an intense relationship. We think it involves lots of kissing and other stuff.
Frank Langella and Wes Bentley star in Nenad Cicin-Sain’s The Time Being (Tribeca Film), the latter playing a struggling artist who finds a benefactor in the reclusive millionaire played by the former who instead of commissioning him more work, offers him a number of surveillance assignments.
Jinming Guo’s Tiny Times (China Lion) involved four friends trying to make ends meet and live their dreams in the high fashion world of Shanghai. Yeah, I’ll probably pass on that one.
Next week, the month of August kicks off on July 31 with The Smurfs 2 (Sony) and then follows a couple days later with Denzel Washignton and Mark Wahlberg in the crime action-comedy 2 Guns (Universal Pictures).
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Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas