Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Movie Preview: March 2014

This past February had one of the biggest February releases ever in The LEGO Movie, which only trailed The Passion of the Christ at the US box office. Unfortunately, none of the other releases caught on too well. Thus this past February got nowhere near February 2012's record, despite being ahead of last year's total. March of late has become a big movie month almost to the level of the Summer months. Although this month doesn't have a Hunger Games type of movie to help it beat March 2012's record, it does have the firepower to make this feel like a Summer month again. And with April debuting titles like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Transcendence, Draft Day, and Rio 2, we can almost say that Summer has begun! So let's dive into March and check out the fire power this month includes.

March 7th-9th-

Conquering the box office in the first week of March was 300: Rise of an Empire with $45 million. It's been seven years since the first 300 dominated with a $70.8 million opening weekend (a March record back then) and a $210 million total. With $245 million overseas as well, some may have wondered what took them so long to make a sequel if it hadn't been for the fact that 300 didn't really lend itself to a sequel. It's because of this that Rise of an Empire decided to do more of a "sidequel." An opening of nearly half as much as the original shows that novelty that made 300 a huge deal back in 2007 has worn off a bit. However, overseas they are still buying into it as early numbers suggest that Rise of an Empire will surpass it's predecessor, so it's an overall win for the 300 franchise.

Opening up in second place on the weekend was the latest Dreamworks dud in Mr. Peabody & Sherman. While $32.2 million is ahead of Turbo and Rise of the Guardians, it still ranks 18th place in terms of Dreamworks animation openings. Like 300, it also appears that Mr. Peabody & Sherman  will save some face overseas, so Dreamworks may be safe. With decent reviews and little competition, it should manage to be a good option for families in March. With its opening, it also managed to kill off The LEGO Movie as LEGO suffered its biggest drop yet. No hard feelings, though, as LEGO has already passed the $200 million mark. All this means that Blue Sky is feeling pretty optimistic at the moment as the course will be clear for Rio 2 to monopolize the animation marketplace in April.

The final opening of the weekend was a historical one as The Grand Budapest Hotel scored more than $800,000 in only four theaters. It's per theater average was $202,000, which is second all time by a movie not released by Disney. Add in the Disney movies and it ranks 9th. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the next Wes Anderson movie; Wes Anderson being most well known for Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson brings Bill Murray with him as always, but also has Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Edward Norton, and Saoirse Ronan amongst others.

March 14th-16th-

Looking to race towards the top spot in the second weekend of March is video game adaption Need For Speed. Having been my favorite video game franchise growing up, I can say that in addition to being a high-powered racing game, the Need For Speed games were known for their fancy cars, intense police chases, and over-the-top wrecks. The big questions is how the game will translate on the big screen. Most video game movies fail when they are adapted to the big screen. Need For Speed will be out to prove that video game movies can be successful. But will it succeed? So far from pre-screenings, reaction has been that the movie is a huge crowd-pleaser, so their chances are pretty good. Usually those movies are critic-proof.

Lining up with Need For Speed is the gazillionth movie by director Tyler Perry, who has consistently put out one to two movies a year since 2006. This month's version is Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club. It's obvious that these movies have a pretty consistent fanbase as most of them have wound up in the $30 to $50 million range for their final total after opening between $15 and $25 million. It's safe to bet a similar turnout for this one. It will be interesting to see what Tyler Perry does next after this because as of now, he doesn't have any more movies on the docket. But perhaps that will change soon.

That's all for wide releases this weekend, but we do have two significant movies coming out in limited release. The first of those is Bad Words. Bad Words is a comedy starring Jason Bateman and has a very unique premise. Bateman's character finds a loophole in the 8th grade spelling bee rules where he is able to participate as an adult. The movie is getting positive buzz on early screenings and thus could be a big hit later in the month when it expands nationwide.

The second limited release of note is the film version of Veronica Mars. The story of Veronica Mars is a very unique one. The TV series began in 2004 and lasted three seasons before it was cancelled. Upon cancellation, creator Rob Thomas had a desire to make a movie to provide closure to the fans. The film idea was presented to Warner Bros. and was shot down. At this time, a film seemed bleak, but Thomas didn't give up on this. Last March, he and star Kristen Bell began a Kickstarter project for the movie that broke all kinds of records for Kickstarter earning a total of just under $6 million. Now that Kickstarter project has become a major motion picture, which is fairly revolutionary. Expansion of the movie will be determined by how well the movie does in its limited release.

March 21st-23rd-

Ever since the Harry Potter and Twilight phenomenons, Hollywood has been desperate to find more young adult novels to turn into hugely successful movie franchises. In 2012, Hollywood successfully struck gold with The Hunger Games as both movies so far in that series have earned more than any of the Harry Potter or Twilight movies here in the US. Unfortunately, other attempts recently have failed miserably. Beautiful Creatures, The Host, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and The Vampire Academy have a combined lifetime total that is less than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 made in its first day. Opening on this third weekend of March is a movie in Divergent that will try to buck this recent trend. Makers of the movie are so confident that Divergent will be a huge success that they have already scheduled both sequels for subsequent Marches and have hired a new director for the second film. This was a pretty gutsy move considering the recent failures, but it turns out that risk will be hugely rewarded as pre-sales for the movie are through the roof according to Fandango. Divergent stars Shailene Woodley as the lead role. Woodley is best known for her work in The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She was to be the new Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 before the character was cut from the movie.

Providing some counter-programming to Divergent will be Muppets Most Wanted. The Muppets have been around for what seems like forever. However, they had disappeared for a while before they got a resurgence three years in 2011's The Muppets. While The Muppets used new voice actors to voice the beloved characters, you wouldn't notice much of a difference as voice acting was spot on. The plot line for that movie was a comeback plot line, which turned out to be what happened in real life as The Muppets became the highest grossing Muppets movie ever; second highest when adjusted for ticket price inflation. With a Kermit-imposter story line, Muppets Most Wanted should be able to build on that success. The main human actors in this movie are completely different as Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, and Ty Burrell replace Amy Adams, Jason Segel, and Chris Cooper. And of course there should be a whole host of surprise cameos to keep the audience entertained.

March 28th-30th-

Hollywood is on a huge religious kick this year that started off with Son of God last month and continues this week with Noah. Even though Son of God didn't please critics and general audiences, it hit a strong chord with religious audiences, which was exactly its goal to begin with. While religious audiences will also be intrigued by Noah, the goal for Noah is rather opposite of Son of God. It's not out to please religious audiences by accurately telling the biblical story of Noah. In fact, pre-screenings have upset religious audiences with how far-fetched and goofy the story is compared to the actual events recorded in the Bible. However, the goal for Noah is to take the character and create a fun action/drama movie that will appeal to general audiences. This is a huge risk considering the timing of the movie. Since it seems to already be putting off religious audiences, if it doesn't strike a chord with general audiences it is in major trouble because it is opening in the shadow of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. So far, it has put together a good marketing effort that highlights stars Russell Crowe and Emma Watson.

Ending this off on a whimper is the movie Sabotage. Back in the 80's and 90's, Arnold Schwarzenegger was possibly the biggest action star in the business, known best for his intense R-rated action movies. However, in the 2000's he took time off to be the Governator of California. After serving successfully as a politician, Arnold has left that life, at least for now, and has tried to make a comeback on the Hollywood action scene. He headlined two R-rated action movies last year, The Last Stand and Escape Plan. Both fell pretty hard on their faces. This month's Sabotage is Arnold's latest attempt at a Hollywood comeback to the R-rated action scene. But as was the case last year, it seems that Hollywood doesn't care much for Arnold anymore and my guess is that Sabotage will suffer the fate of The Last Stand and Escape Plan.

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