May has been absolutely amazing at the box office with back-to-back blockbusters and many of the non-sequels doing way better than expected, although we’ve also gone back to what seemed like a retired tradition of people rushing out to see a movie opening weekend and then business quickly tailing of. Nope, that trend is back now that we’ve hit the summer and enough schools are out that younger moviegoers can see a movie on Thursday or Friday rather than waiting for the weekend. Unfortunately, we’re also in June, which is often the summer month when things slow down, mainly since people have been overwhelmed by back-to-back must-see May releases.
In recent years, that’s changed with many big hits being released in June like last year’s Man of Steel, Monsters University and World War Z. Family films are generally going to do better with school being out, but for whatever reason, there have been many bombs during June, which got lost in the shadows of much bigger movies. This weekend is particularly interesting because we have two potentially mid-range movies, both book adaptations rather than being easier-to-sell sequels or remakes, one being a straight out drama, the other a science fiction action-thriller starring one of the biggest movie stars in the world! We’re looking at a weekend that could possibly be full of surprises in terms of which one will win.
So what do we have this weekend? We have Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros), directed by Doug Liman, the filmmaker behind Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper and The Bourne Identity, while Shailene Woodley stars in the adaptation of John Green’s bestselling romance novel The Fault in Our Stars (20th Century Fox), alongside her Divergent co-star Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe.
Not to play my hand too early, but I’m going to start with the latter, a drama based on a bestseller that is another one of those “young adult” novels you keep hearing about, but this one, rather than trying to merge romance with genre premises like vampires, zombies or science fiction elements, is based on the harsh realities of teenage cancer patients, as Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenager dying from lung cancer who begins a romance with another cancer patient (Elgort).
Needless to say, Woodley is pretty hot right now coming off the success of Summit Entertaiment’s first movie based on Veronica Roth’s Divergent, which already is in production on next year’s sequel Insurgent. That movie’s grossed $266 million worldwide after a strong $54.6 million opening a few months back. Woodley also starred in the 2013 indie smash The Spectacular Now, which was adapted by the same guys who wrote the screenplay for “Fault,” and before that opposite George Clooney in Alexander Payne’s Oscar-winning The Descendants. Even before Woodley started to get awards attention for the latter, many teen and younger girls knew her from starring on the ABC Family series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which ran for five seasons and has certainly helped her make the transition to film star with her choice in roles.
Elgort isn’t as well known, his only role before co-starring in Divergent being one in last year’s Carrie remake. On the other hand, Nat Wolff has appeared in a bunch of smaller indies but first became known as a member of the Nickelodeon’s “The Naked Brothers Band,” which puts him in a similar position as Woodley as far as having fans already.
Now let’s be honest here that dramas are a tough sell, movies about cancer are an even tougher sell–Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s 50/50 grossed less than $40 million worldwide though it was only produced for $8 million–and book adaptations can be kind of hit or miss, especially young adult novels. For every Twilight or Hunger Games, there’s a The Host or Beautiful Creatures. Even so, the original novel is very popular and has a huge presence on social media, and it’s likely to appeal equally to older women as it does to teen girls which could have many of them rushing out to see the movie as soon as humanly possible. The only thing that may hold it back–and I don’t think it will be that big a problem, honestly–is the second weekend of Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, which received an A CinemaScore (!) and could compete for business but that should drop quite a bit, as will be discussed further down.
The craziest* thing about Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros), a sci-fi action flick based on the Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill,” is that the one presumably sure-thing going for it may also be its biggest hindrance and that’s Tom Cruise himself. Some people love him, some people hate him, and yet he’s almost guaranteed a solid showing at the box office, both domestically and internationally. (*Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best adjective to use.)
Sure, some might think that Cruise’s star is on the descent, similar to Will Smith, Adam Sandler and others in the past few years, but he still can open a movie with the right premise/role, as seen last year with another sci-fi flick Oblivion, which opened with $37 million and ended up with $89 million total domestically i.e. it wasn’t a very good movie and was highly frontloaded. Previous movies like Valkyrie, Knight and Day and Jack Reacher all grossed over $75 million in North America, and he had a blockbuster hit with 2011’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, all proving he still had a solid fanbase despite his extra-curricular activities and Scientology-based opinions.
Edge of Tomorrow continues the connection between Cruise with science fiction that began with Vanilla Sky and continued into two movies with Steven Spielberg, Minority Report and War of the Worlds, which grossed $132 and $234 million, respectively. There have been a couple of stumbling blocks on the way like the musical Rock of Ages, but for the most part, Cruise is a true showman who gets out there to promote all his movies and interact with fans, something that has worked well to keep his reputation going as a bonafide A-list superstar.
And let’s not forget the always awesome Emily Blunt, who has been making some interesting choices in recent years and though this is not her first experience with sci-fi–she co-starred in Rian Johnson’s Looper–this is certainly the closest she’s come to a straight-out action movie.
Warner Bros. did something rather clever with this one because they knew they had problems, between the wonky new title–which isn’t nearly cool as the title of the original novel–the time-twisting premise and early tracking reports from various trades that Edge of Tomorrow was destined to be one of the summer’s big bombs. You know what they did? They showed the movie to critics, knowing they had a great movie, and let them run their reviews way earlier than usual. As of Tuesday, it had an 89% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and Warner Bros. has done a lot of promotional screenings tying into the premiere to generate word-of-mouth on how good the movie is.
This certainly will help, but it may be an uphill battle with the normal June burn-out hitting mostly male moviegoers who rushed out to see many of the other movies of the summer, not to mention those who may be cynical about another Tom Cruise sci-fi movie so soon after last year’s Oblivion. It’s a tough call, but I think that Cruise is still good for a minimum $25 million opening for something like this and the generally good buzz should help it maintain business throughout June as more people discover it.
So that’s it. The Fault in Our Stars will probably win the weekend with somewhere in the mid-$30 millions with Edge of Tomorrow probably starting off a bit lower, maybe even just below $30 million and possibly battling it out with Maleficent for second place and more than likely settling for third. Both of the new movies should do well in the long run and end up somewhere in the $90 to 100 million range because they’re both decent movies that should generate decent word-of-mouth from opening weekend. (Not that that’s helped any of the other movies released in the past month.)
Speaking of surprises, this weekend last year was an interesting one because for the second week in a row, two movies opened but only one did better than expected and it wasn’t the one with the proven box office stars. In fact, Ethan Hawke had one of his biggest hits by starring in the home invasion thriller The Purge (Universal Pictures), which opened with a huge $34 million in just 2,536 theaters or $13,400 per location. It nearly doubled the opening weekend gross of the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson comedy reunion for The Internship (20th Century Fox), essentially a two-hour advertisement for Google which opened in fourth pace with $17 million. It was defeated by the third weekend of Fast & Furious 6 and the second weekend of Now You See Me. The Top 10 brought in $141 million, which could be doable if one or both new movies do better than I’m expecting, although I’m only expecting three movies to do more than $25 million, one to do in the mid-teens and everything else below $7 million, so it might be tough.
THE CHOSEN ONE:
There are lots of great movies this week both in wide and limited release but Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (RADiUS-TWC), the new documentary from Mike Myers yes, THAT Mike Myers really stuck me as something very special and also quite different from what I was expecting.
A little history of Shep Gordon, which you can find out in more detail by watching the movie: He started out as the manager of Alice Cooper, back when it was a band and not just a frontman with a back-up band, and then he went on to manage other acts like Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and others. Gordon earns himself quite a reputation for his sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle,
Gordon is famous for his stories from life in the business, including one that became a pivotal scene in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, but what may be surprising for those expecting to see a film that glorifies Gordon’s narcissistic tendencies (as I expected) is that it actually keeps Gordon quite grounded, especially once it gets into the ’80s and ’90s. After managing musical acts for decades, Gordon decided to become a trained chef, became a close acquaintance of the Dalai Lama and then started working with chefs like Emeril Lagasse to help propagate the dawn of the celebrity chef once the Food Network began.
Also, when one thinks of Hollywood managers, one often thinks of money-grubbing guys who inevitably get into legal fights with their clients over money, but Myers has found so many people to say nice things about Gordon as well as capturing some of his more philanthropic efforts. For instance, Gordon supported the entire family of an ex-girlfriend when he learned about their situation and much of his later work with celebrity chefs was done completely pro-bono (i.e. for free). In some ways, the movie reminds me of the excellent doc Sing Your Song about Harry Belafonte, which probably should have gotten a lot more awards attention than it did.
There’s also an underlying tone of sadness to the way the movie’s last act, since you realize that for however nice a guy Gordon is and for however many women he’s been with, his age and health eventually catch up to him and you realize that without a wife and family, he’s very much alone later in his life.
Either way, it’s a wonderfully-made doc for a first effort at non-fiction by Myers, one that’s full of pleasant surprises and a terrific portrait of someone who has deliberately remained fairly hidden from the world at large while his clients have become huge stars. It’s easily one of my favorite docs this year and I’m bummed how long it took for me to get around to see it. (It’s also a great accompaniment to the Alice Cooper doc Super Duper, Alice Cooper, which is released on DVD and Blu-ray this very week as well!)
“Supermensch” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, June 6, and then expands to other cities over the coming month.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
1. The Fault in Our Stars (20th Century Fox) – $38.5 million N/A (up 3.9 million)
2. Maleficent (Walt Disney Pictures) – $31.6 million -54% (down .6 million)
3. Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros) – $28.8 million N/A (same)
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox) – $15.5 million -52%
5. A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal) – $7.4 million -56%
6. Godzilla (Legendary/Warner Bros.) – $5.8 million -52%
7. Neighbors (Universal) – $4.8 million -40%
8. Blended (Warner Bros.) – $4.5 million -43%
9. Chef (Open Road) – $3.4 million -170% (up 1.4 million)
10. Million Dollar Arm (Walt Disney) – $1.9 million -47%
More Limited Releases:
Documentaries of Note:
Another great doc and one that was really up there with Supermench in a close race for this week’s “Chosen One” is Ben Cotner and Ryan (Good Ol’ Freda) White’s The Case Against 8 (HBO Films), which takes a look at the fight against California’s Proposition 8 which overturned the right for same-sex couples to get married and have the same rights as other married couples. To some, this may be considered a boring subject because it’s essentially following a politically-heated legal case, but it’s very much taken from the point of view of the four plaintives, two same-sex couples from California who decided to fight back against Prop 8 and ended up making huge waves in 2013 when it was overturned by the Supreme Court at the same time as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It’s a fairly long movie that tends to drag when it gets to the courtroom, but there are a lot of new things to learn for those who didn’t follow the lawsuit as it was taking place. For instance, I never knew that the two lawyers working on this case were on the opposite sides of the aisle in the 2000 Presidential election controversy between Bush and Gore. Almost guaranteed to be mentioned in the awards race for the year, the film opens in select cities on Friday for Oscar consideration before its premiere on HBO on June 20.
Jody Shapiro’s doc Burt’s Buzz (Area23a) shines the spotlight on Burt Shavitz, the eccentric co-founder of Burt’s Bees, the makers of various beauty and health care products made from bee products. The film shows how the company has grown to where it is today while trying to uphold Shavitz’s values.
Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, the filmmakers behind Trouble the Water, have a new doc called Citizen Koch (Variance Films), which looks at the split within the Republican Party despite being funded by the Tea Party forcing the film’s subjects to choose sides.
Just in time for the World Cup (which starts next Thursday!!!), Vik Muniz and Juan Rendón’s This is Not a Ball (Videocine) about Muniz’s desire as an artist to create a work of art made up of 10,000 soccer balls, as he circles the world to interact with a variety of players and experts to talk about the game’s object of desire, the ball.
Former “SNL” castmate Jenny Slate stars in Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child (A24) as Brooklyn stand-up comic Donna Stern who breaks up with her cheating boyfriend and loses her job before becoming pregnant from a one-night stand. The toast of this year’s Sundance and SXSW Film Festival, the indie comedy opens up in select cities on Friday.
Clark Gregg writes, directs and stars in Trust Me (Starz Digital Media) in which he plays Howard Holloway, a former child star who has taken up managing other potential child actors but who has fallen on hard times until he discovers 13-year-old (Saxon Sharbino) and will do whatever it will take to help her navigate through the rough roads that is Hollywood. Also starring Amanda Peet, Felicity Huffman, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, it opens in select cities Friday following its VOD run.
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
Ti West’s new movie The Sacrament (Magnet Releasing) stars Joe Swanberg and A.J. Bowen (who co-starred with the filmmaker in last year’s You’re Next) as reporters for VICE Media who go down to Central America with their photographer to see him reunited with his sister (Amy Seimetz of “Upstream Color”) who is living on a compound with a community of believers who follow the word of their leader, who is only called “Father.” Before you can say “Don’t drink the Kool-aid,” things go horribly wrong.
Mark Strong, the greatest living actor on the face of the planet–yeah, I’m kind of a fan–stars in Jorge Dorado’s Anna (Vertical Entertainment) as John Washington, a psychic detective who can enter people’s minds and memories. When he takes on the case of a teenage girl named Anna (Taissa Farmiga) accused of murder, he tries to find out the truth behind her story.
Bobcat Goldthwait continues his run as edgy indie director with Willow Creek (IFC Films) about one man’s search for Bigfoot while on a romantic getaway in Northern California with his frustrated girlfriend.
Meanwhile, Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman (Drafthouse Films) follows an enigmatic vagrant named Camiel Borgman, who infiltrates the lives of a rich family and starts to use his charm to win them over while disguising a more menacing plan.
I have seen neither DMW Greer’s Burning Blue (Lionsgate) about a love affair between two male Navy pilots who are at the center of a series of accidents nor Jane Weinstock’s The Moment, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Martin Henderson, but they come out Friday.
Foreign Films of Interest:
Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty stars Isabelle Huppert and Toni Servillo and is about three interrelated storylines surrounding a right-to-euthanasia case involving a variety of people, including a politician and his pro-life daughter, a retired actress with her own comatose daughter, and a young doctor. It opens in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Friday.
I also don’t have anything to say about Alejandro Monteverde’s war drama Little Boy (Metanoia Films) or A.R. Murugadoss’ Bollywood action flick Holiday (Reliance Entertainment) ’cause I haven’t seen either but they come out Friday, too.
Next week, the month of June heats up with what could be two of the biggest movies of the month, maybe even the summer, as the FIRST computer animated family movie of the summer How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox) bursts into theaters, taking on the return of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as younger-looking undercover cops in the comedy 22 Jump Street (Sony), once again directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
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Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas