The “Dog Days of Summer” are in full effect which is a shame, because we have a couple of decent and anticipated movies, one of which is finally being released to theaters nearly two years after its festival premiere, the other a follow-up to a much beloved movie from five years ago. Then there’s the third or fourth movie of the year based on a young adult novel, which will open on Wednesday, but is already living in the shadow of the next “Hunger Games” movie, even though that doesn’t open for three more months. Going by last year, any of the three (or all three) could outright bomb, because once you get past August 15, movie theaters tend to start emptying out as people get back to school and work. Here’s hoping the “Dog Days” don’t hit so hard this year or that last weekend was the worst of it.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Screen Gems/Sony)
I really don’t know a hell of a lot, actually anything, about Cassandra Clare’s book series “The Mortal Instruments,” a series of six books released starting in 2007 with the last book planned for a 2014 release, but clearly, Screen Gems hopes that it will be a new franchise for them with one film completed and production planned for a second one, subtitled “City of Ashes,” planning to start production in September. As we just saw with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and others, not all sequels are warranted and greenlighting a second movie before seeing how the first one does may not be the smartest move, but they think the books are popular enough to warrant it.
This one takes place in modern-day New York and it stars Lily Collins, Phil Collins’ daughter whose last major movie was Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror, as teenager Clary Fray who discovers she’s a descendant in a cadre of “half-angel warriors” called Shadowhunters, who goes looking for her mother (played by Lena Headey of 300 and The Purge). Collins also starred in Screen Gems’ Priest and Lionsgate’s Abduction, neither which did that great, as well as a couple of smaller indie movies. Her co-star is Jamie Campbell Bower, who played a vampire in a couple of the “Twilight” movies, presumably helping to build him a fanbase among the younger female audience who might be interested in “City of Bones.” He also had a fairly substantial role in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The only other known actors in the movie are Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Kevin Durand.
It’s a movie filled with all sorts of supernatural elements, which is right up the alley of the studio who brought us the “Resident Evil” and “Underworld” movies, although we expect the action and violence to be slightly tamed down for a PG-13 rating. It’s odd that they would wait to release a movie they hope to turn into a franchise in late August, a notoriously slower month, especially at a time when very few movies are doing well. Movies based on young adult novels generally haven’t been doing well this year with Beautiful Creatures and The Host both bombing for their respective studios, likely ending any chance for sequels, and of course, there are quite a number of others coming out next year, also hoping to take advantage of the phenomenon.
The only other thing of any note is that this is a very different kind of movie for director Harald Zwart, who has mainly done family fare including the mega-hit The Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith.
The movie has been doing a mall tour as Collins and Bower have been doing the rounds trying to get young girls excited about the movie. It might actually work and we expect fans of the books and the movie’s stars to be out on Wednesday and Thursday–at least those that haven’t started school yet–and there should be enough business to carry through to the weekend but maybe not as much with many trying to catch it earlier in the week. By Friday, we expect it to drop down to the level of last week’s #1 movie The Butler and it’s probably going to have to settle for second place.
Wednesday and Thursday: $8 to 10 million; Weekend Est.: $13 to 15 million; Est. Total Gross: $45 million
The World’s End (Focus Features)
Interview with Edgar Wright (Later this week)
Probably one of the more anticipated movies of the weekend is the third movie from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright, whose previous movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz have built them a pretty sizeable fanbase here in the States, though mainly from DVD and post-theatrical.
Their two previous movies opened in different seasons and weekends with “Shaun” opening after a slew of zombie movies in late September 2004 with $3.3 million in 607 theaters and grossing $13.5 million in North America, with Hot Fuzz following in April 2007, opening to $5.8 million in 825 theaters and grossing $23.6 million, a sizable jump. Both movies did even better in the UK and internationally with Hot Fuzz grossing $81 million worldwide, but one has to assume that with over five years since the last installment in what’s being referred to as the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” more people have had a chance to see the other two movies and are looking forward to the conclusion of the “trilogy.”
One thing that will certainly help is that since the last movie, Simon Pegg’s presence as an actor has certainly grown, as he’s starred in two “Mission: Impossible” movies with Tom Cruise (having a bigger presence in the $200 million blockbuster “Ghost Protocol”) as well as starring as Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ two “Star Trek” movies including this summer’s big blockbuster Star Trek Into Darkness. The humor Pegg has brought to all four movies has probably done a lot to get people to check out his movies with Wright and Frost, although some of his other movies in between, like Run, Fatboy, Run and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, have basically tanked despite getting fairly wide releases.
After making Hot Fuzz, Wright went off to make a movie based on Bryan Lee O’Malleys graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, starring Michael Cera, which was generally well-received by his fans and that of the comics but it only grossed $31.5 million after a $10.6 million opening, also in mid-August. Pegg and Frost went off to make the alien road trip movie Paul with Greg (Superbad) Mottola, and that fared slightly better in a mid-March release and ended up grossing nearly $100 million worldwide, roughly double that of “Scott Pilgrim.”
Their reunion for a third movie is a big deal though, this one involving a pub crawl, an idea that may limit the audience in the United States slightly because they’re not as common here, but it involves a sci-fi and action element that will certainly appeal to American audiences of shows like BBC America’s “Doctor Who.” The movie opened in the UK in July and it hasn’t been doing nearly as well as Hot Fuzz there, maybe for the opposite reason, because pub crawls are fairly common things there and audiences don’t seem as excited about watching a movie about them.
Even so, Focus Features is getting the movie a fairly moderate release into roughly 1,400 theaterswhich is still more theaters than either of the trio’s other movies receivedand there’s a good chance that fans of those movies and returning college students especially will be excited to see a movie about drinking. The theater count may limit it slightly and keep it from making more than $10 million this weekend, but the good news is that, unlike Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, all three movies have been released either by Focus Features or its genre spin-off Rogue Pictures, so we can expect a really fine DVD and Blu-ray three-pack hopefully later this year. It’s doubtful that fans of the series will wait long to see this and maybe some of them will try to catch the marathon of all three movies on Thursday where it’s playing at many chains.
Weekend Est.: $7 to 9 million; Est. Total Gross: $25 million
You’re Next (Lionsgate)
Two years after debuting in Toronto as part of “Midnight Madness” to raves, this fairly low-budget home invasion movie from the DIY team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett is finally getting released into theaters by Lionsgate, and while there’s still a ton of buzz and positive reviews from its various festival runs (including the most recent one at SXSW), one has to wonder whether a late August release following a huge hit like The Purge might make this seem like a copycat movie.
Certainly the indie cred of Wingard and Barrett among horror fans thanks to their earlier film A Horrible Way to Die might help a movie like this, but what people have really connected with is Australian actress Sharni (Step Up 3D) Vinson’s badassdom in kicking home invader ass, something that separates this movie from some of the others. Even so, this is a very low budget movie with much of the cast being made up of filmmaking friends like Joe Swanberg–whose new movie Drinking Buddies is one of this week’s “CHOSEN ONES” (see below)–Ti West, Larry Fessenden and Amy Seimetz. Writer Simon Barrett even plays one of the home invaders.
It’s not generally a problem when there aren’t any big names in a horror movie as long as the marketing is there and the marketing and commercials have generally been good as this movie is right up Lionsgate’s alley, but it definitely feels like a lot of people have already seen the movie over the past two years, and the late August release is not a good sign for a breakout hit even if horror movies tend to do better in this period than other films. Case in point: The Final Destination, the fourth movie in a popular horror franchise, was a good example as that opened with over $27 million three years agoits follow-up opened at about half that despite opening two weeks earlier. The Last Exorcism also did decently in late August a year later, although both those movies had a lot more going for it, where You’re Next just feels like another home invasion movie, even if that isn’t really the case.
Even though You’re Next is opening in roughly a thousand more theaters than The World’s End–and it does have a great title for a horror movie–we expect it to not find nearly as big an audience and will likely end the weekend lower in the Top 10, which is probably fine since it’s such a low budget film it will still be considered profitable.
Weekend Est.: $6 to 8 million; Est. Total Gross: $20 million
This weekend last year was a weekend of bomb-bomb-bomb-BOMBS as none of the new movies was able to crack the Top 5. In fact, the top grossing new wide release for the weekend, the bike messenger thriller Premium Rush (Sony), starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, grossed just $6 million in 2,255 theaters. It even ended up below the independently produced and released Tea Party documentary 2016 Obama’s America, which brought in $6.5 million in roughly a thousand theaters. Although it opened in over 2,800 theaters, Dax Shepard’s action-comedy Hit and Run (Open Road Films), co-starring Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper and Tom Arnold opened in tenth place with just $4.5 million or just $1,500 per theater. Not good but better than the long-delayed horror-thriller The Apparition (Warner Bros.), starring Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan, which ended up outside the Top 10 with less than $3 million in 810 theaters.
Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which has been getting rave reviews, particularly for the performances by Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins, will finally expand nationwide this weekend, probably into 1,000 theaters or more, and it should fare well against some of the weaker late summer offerings and do well enough to break into the bottom half of the Top 10.
This Week’s Predictions –
1. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (The Weinstein Company) – $16.0 million -35% (up .2 million)
2. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Screen Gems/Sony) – $14.3 million N/A (up .3 million)
3. We’re the Millers (New Line/WB) – $12.5 million -33% (up .4 million)
4. You’re Next (Lionsgate) – $10.3 million N/A (up 2.9 million and three spots)
5. The World’s End (Focus Features) – $8.7 million N/A (same but down one spot)
6. Disney’s Planes (Walt Disney Pictures) – $8.4 million -38%
7. Elysium (TriStar Pictures/Sony) – $7.0 million -49%
8. Kick-Ass 2 (Universal) – $6.3 million -53%
9. Blue Jasmine – $6.0 million +248% (up .3 million)
10. Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters (20th Century Fox) – $4.7 million -47%
This week, we have dual “CHOSEN ONES”–two movies that premiered at SXSW, basically the only film festival I was able to attend this year. The first is Drinking Buddies (Magnolia), the new movie from Joe Swanberg (Nights and Weekends, Uncle Kent and many more), which is his first film with known and established actors. It stars Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson (“New Girl”) as co-workers at a Chicago brewery who have a tight alcohol-related friendship that puts their real relationships (to Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick respectively) in jeopardy.
What I love about this movieand you can read more about it in my SXSW review and in my interview with Swanbergis that having a “drinking buddy” of the opposite sex is fairly common these days. For this one, Swanberg has assembled an amazing cast and while we already know how funny Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick can be, the real surprise is Olivia Wilde, who wears very little make-up and dresses almost tomboyish in her role as the manager of the brewery, but she’s also very funny and fits right into Swanberg’s world of improvised scenes.
Drinking Buddies has been playing on VOD for the past month, but you can catch it theatrically in New York at the Landmark Sunshine and Nighthawk Cinema and in Chicago at the Landmark’s Century Centre starting Friday. It then opens in Los Angeles and other cities next week and you can read where on the official Magnolia site.
For the second “CHOSEN ONE” which I missed at SXSW–a shame since it was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award–Brie Larson stars in Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 (Cinedigm) as Grace, a counselor at a rehabilitation clinic for teenagers who bonds with troubled new girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) who she finds an immediate connection with due to the problems they have with their respective fathers.
Now normally I’m fairly dubious of the award winner at most festivals, especially when I haven’t had a chance to see them before they win everything. I also remember seeing Destin Cretton’s previous movie I Am Not A Hipster at Sundance and really hating it, but this is a huge step up for him, just a beautiful film and a real crowd pleaser.
It’s a fairly tight ensemble piece that mostly takes place at the youth facility from where the film gets its title, but it also deals with Grace discovering she’s pregnant and dealing with that and her live-in boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), who also works at Short Term 12. It’s one of those movies that’s hard to pin down why it’s so enjoyable but a lot of it has to do with the characters and how they interact, but also because Larson really grounds this one with a performance that doesn’t have any of the humor we’ve seen from her much other than in Oren Moverman’s Rampart–in which she was also amazing as Woody Harrelson’s daughter.
So yeah, the accolades for this one are fairly worthy but mainly for Larson and Cretton’s screenplay, and I fully expect this movie to be well in play for this year’s Gotham and Indie Spirit Awards.
Short Term 12 opens in select cities on Friday.
Another SXSW movie which I missed (and still haven’t had a had to see but should have a chance soon hopefully) is the Goetz Brothers’ Scenic Route (Vertical Entertainment), starring Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler as life-long friends who reunite on a road trip when their pick-up truck breaks down on a desert road, causing them to question their life decisions, ultimately leading to a physical confrontation.
Audrey Tautou stars as Therese (MPI Pictures), the last film by the late Claude Miller, an adaptation of François Mauriac’s 1927 novel “Therese Desqueyroux” in which the Amelie star plays a housewife stuck in a bad marriage to an arrogant landowner (Gilles Lelouche). When her best friend Anne (and Bernard’s sister) falls for a handsome Portugese man Therese realizes what she’s missing, but by then Bernard’s family has convinced the younger girl to leave him and Therese soon learns what they’ll do to keep her own marriage from falling apart. I saw this at this year’s “Rendezvous with French Cinema” at Lincoln Center earlier this year (when I had a chance to speak to Tautou for the second time), and while she’s generally great in the movie, it’s a serious downer of a film.
Interview with Audrey Tautou (Coming Soon!)
Auteur filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai returns with his martial arts flick The Grandmaster (The Weinstein Company) starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi looking at the life and times of kung fu master Ip Man, a story that spans across many decades and locations throughout Northeast China. Presented by Martin Scorsese, Wong’s latest visual masterpiece opens in select cities on Friday and wider on August 30.
Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgins star in Scott Walker real life serial killer thriller The Frozen Ground (Lionsgate) in which Cage plays an Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe who sets out to stop a serial killer played by Cusack who has been plaguing Anchorage, Alaska for 13 years with the help of a 17-year-old stripper, played by Hudgens, who has some important information that can help him solve the case.
I caught Lucy Molloy’s Una Noche (Sundance Selects) at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and it’s finally being relased, as it follows the story of Raul, a young man from Havana, Cuba who hopes to escape to Miami before being accused of assault. He asks for help from his best friend Elio who is trying to protect his twin sister Lila.
And the movies opening in limited release I haven’t seen:
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in Annett Haywood-Carter’s Savannah (Ketchup Interview), the true story of Ward Allen, who rejects his life working on a plantation for the freedom of life on the river as a hunter. It’s Ejiofor’s first movie of the year in which he plays an unlikely slave, as he also stars in Steve McQueen’s anticipated 12 Years A Slave. This one also stars Jim Caviezel, Sam Shepard, Jaimie Alexander, Jack McBrayer and Hal Holbrook and it opens in select cities.
Other movies out this week include Renny Harlin’s new movie Devil’s Pass (IFC Films) involving disappearing Russian hikers in the Ural Mountains, Noah (The Missing Person) Buschel’s romantic dramedy Sparrows Dance and Ulrich Seidl’s dramedy Paradise: Faith (Strand Releasing), the second film in his “Paradise” trilogy involving a woman who works as a missionary.
Next week, the month of August and the summer movie season comes to a close with Labor Day weekend and guess what? The Weekend Warrior is celebrating Labor Day by taking a week off from the column, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be working and maybe we’ll have something special for you all. In case you care, the action movie Getaway (Warner Bros.), starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, opens, as does the thriller Closed Circuit (Focus Features), starring Eric Bana, Julia Stiles and Rebecca Hall and the concert doc One Direction: This is Us (TriStar Pictures/Sony). We’ll be back after Labor Day to talk about Vin Diesel’s return as Riddick (Universal).
You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.
Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas