Saturday, September 5, 2015

Movie Preview: September 2015

The Summer for Hollywood is officially over and if you read my August preview, you'll know that I wasn't surprised at all that the Summer ended with a whimper. No new August release outside Straight Outta Compton could do anything, thus the N.W.A biopic ruled for three of the four weekends and it only took a measly $13 million to win that final weekend. In fact, the month was so bad that Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, a July release, remained in the top three for the whole month. In fact, in Calendar grosses, four of the top six movies in August were July releases. Outside Straight Outta Compton, the only other movie to break that top six was Fantastic Four, but even that was a colossal failure as it could only muster up just over $50 million for the month. In comparison the previous two attempts at that franchise still both made over $130 million with all the bad reviews. September always starts slow as the box office suffers from the August hangover, but always picks up at the end of the month. This September, the opening weekend record for a September release is set to be broken... twice. Plus, it's the beginning of Oscar season, so in the next four months there are a lot of smaller Oscar hopefuls to talk about in addition to the big name releases. With all that in mind, let's dive into this month and see what the Fall opener has in store!

September 4th - 7th-

Labor Day weekend has never been a great weekend for the box office and this weekend will be no different as we get two movies that, at best, will be good competition for the fourth weekend of Straight Outta Compton, which is only expected to be around $10-$12 million for the four-day weekend. The first of these is The Transporter Refueled. This is the fourth movie in the Transporter franchise, which has been written and produced by Luc Besson, who is best known for the Taken franchise. The first three movies kinda made some money and were liked by a few people. The first two were directed by Louis Leterrier, who went on to direct The Incredible Hulk and Now You See Me. The third was directed by Olivier Megaton, who has directed a bunch of action movies that no one has cared about. All three movies starred Jason Statham in the lead role. The Transporter Refueled has failure written all over it. First, it is directed by Camille Delamarre, the editor of Taken 2 whose only other directing effort came with the Paul Walker led dud Brick Mansions. Second, for some reason they decided it would be a good idea to continue this franchise without Jason Statham. Third, no one asked for another Transporter movie. Fourth, it's been seven years since Transporter 3 made only $31 million total at the box office. Fifth, early reviews are in the cellar. Yeah, not many people are going to see this movie and those who do probably won't enjoy their time.

The other movie coming out this weekend actually was released on Wednesday and that is A Walk in the Woods. On paper this looks like a much more appealing movie, especially for adult audiences. The movie stars Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Emma Thompson and is about a guy who returns to the U.S. after being in England for two decades. Upon coming here, he decides to go for... a walk in the woods. Yes, I just did that. Specifically he goes to the Appalachian Trail with one of his best friends. Despite such a prestigious career, Robert Redford has never actually won an Oscar for his acting. He's won a directing Oscar, but not an acting Oscar. After being such a big star in the 60's and 70's mainly, he has experienced a bit of a career rival recently. He was almost nominated for his role in the movie All is Lost back in 2013 and played the main villain in the Marvel hit Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He is in the conversation for an Oscar nomination again this year, but it's not for this role. He stars as Dan Rather in the movie Truth later this year. A Walk in the Woods did hit #1 on Wednesday, so it could carry that over to a win for the weekend, which would be impressive considering the light marketing push and the mediocre reviews. But like I mentioned earlier, winning this weekend isn't saying much.

September 11th - 13th-

After what should be a slow as normal Labor Day weekend, the second weekend of September is where things start getting interesting. First up is everyone's favorite director, M. Night Shyamalan, back at it with The Visit. There was a point in M. Night's career where he was seen as the guy who could be the next huge director in Hollywood. The next Steven Spielberg, if you will. This came after his first few movies consisted of such hits as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. Now he's become a punchline after a huge string of duds. Some have almost been impressed with how consistent he's been with giving us horrible movies. He followed up Signs with The Village, which received mixed reviews at best. That was followed up by The Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth. None of those four have very many fans, to put things lightly. So what's the story going to be with The Visit? Is he going to continue the trend of awful movies with this? The movie is a straight-up horror film where two kids visit their grandparents and things go horribly wrong. This might surprise you, but the movie is actually receiving positive early reviews. So is this actually a return to form for Shyamalan? Helping his case this time around is he has teamed up with producer Jason Blum for this horror movie and Blum has a whole string of successfully produced horror movies under his belt. At the very least, it seems like Shyamalan is heading in the right direction with this by not giving audiences yet another awful movie.

Those not wanting to give Shyamalan's latest a shot, or wanting to get double the thrills on the weekend, have the option to check out The Perfect Guy. While The Visit is a horror, The Perfect Guy is a thriller where a woman experiences a painful breakup. Following the breakup, a new guy shows up in her life and at first seems like the absolute perfect guy. So far so good, right? Well, sometimes in life things that seem too good to be true often are and that's what happens here. There's more to this guy than it initially seemed like. Thus is where our thriller aspect comes in. Having both The Visit and The Perfect Guy come out on the same weekend could end up hurting one or both at the box office, but there is another movie that stands as a good comparison to The Perfect Guy and that is last year's No Good Deed, which also came out on the second weekend of September. Both movies were PG-13-rated thrillers. Both movies come from Sony's Screen Gems branch. Both have a largely black cast, at least in the lead roles. Both movies are about a mysterious guy that ends up being more than meets the eye. Both movies star a fairly popular lead as that mysterious role - Idris Elba in No Good Deed  and Michael Ealy in The Perfect Guy. No Good Deed surprised some by opening to $24 million. Is The Perfect Guy up for a similar weekend total?

The final wide release of the weekend finds Hayden Christensen playing a character who miraculously survives an accident that should've killed him. And no, I'm not talking about a re-release of Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith. I'm talking about 90 Minutes in Heaven. This seems like a movie that is a combination of two movies from last year, one being If I Stay - which was about a girl who got in a car crash and almost died, the other being Heaven is For Real - a movie about a boy who almost died and said he saw and visited Heaven. Unlike If I Stay and very much like Heaven is For Real, 90 Minutes in Heaven is in fact based on the true story of Don Piper who got in a collision with a semi-truck and should've been killed, and was assumed dead for a short while, before miraculously coming back to life and experiencing a long and painful road to recovery. There's a lot of faith-based elements in this one that could once again bring that crowd out to the theaters. As big as Heaven is For Real? Probably not, but if last month's War Room is any indication, these types of movies can come out of nowhere to do well.

September 18th - 20th-

If the second weekend isn't enough to wake up the box office (which it probably will be), then the third weekend is where things will definitely get real with several highly anticipated releases. The biggest of theses is Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. Ever since franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight were huge hits on the big screen, Hollywood has been constantly searching for the next big Young Adult book series to turn into a successful movie franchise. Many of these have failed, but they scored huge with The Hunger Games and had decent success with Divergent. Another one that was a surprising success was last year's The Maze Runner. Last September it opened to a decent $32 million, but the big story was how well it held for the genre as it ended up cracking $100 million domestically. An even bigger story was how huge it was overseas as it's final worldwide total came in at $340 million, which is actually a bigger worldwide total than Divergent. That of course was more than enough money to justify turning the entire series into movies and thus The Scorch Trials was immediately green-lit. Because of all this, The Scorch Trials has received a lot of positive buzz that will lead it to achieving an opening weekend total similar to Insurgent's $52 million from earlier this year and will have a great shot at holding better than that movie did. That of course means The Scorch Trials is headed for the September opening weekend record, which was set at $42 million back in 2012 by Hotel Transylvania.

The next movie of the weekend is a movie that you could call the first major Oscar contender and that is Black Mass. This is a movie about Whitey Bulger, one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history. In the late 70's, Bulger was the leader of the Boston Irish mob who became an FBI informant. The FBI ignored his actions in order to get inside information on the rival mob, Boston's Italian Mafia. This secret deal went on for many years and spiraled out of control to the point where Bulger was eventually second on the FBI's most wanted list, behind only Osama Bin Laden. Black Mass as a loaded cast that includes Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger as well as Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, and Peter Sarsgaard among others. What's really caught people's attention in the trailers is Depp's performance as Bulger. Depp hasn't exactly had the best track record recently, but this performance looks like it will be a return to form for him and has him in serious Oscar talks for best actor.

Finishing up the wide releases for this weekend we have another faith-based movie and that is Captive. This isn't quite your typical faith-based drama in that it stars two big name actors, David Oyelowo and Kate Mara, and is more of a Christian thriller if you will. Kate Mara plays a single mother who is a recovering drug addict and gets taken hostage by an escaped murderer. Typical thriller, right? Well, you can probably guess where the Christian element of this comes in. In recent marketing, David Oyelowo talks that he really wanted to do this movie because it teaches that people can learn to find faith in the most unlikely circumstances. Like 90 Minutes in Heaven, this movie is also based on true events. As I said earlier, these movies can come out of nowhere to do well and because of the huge success of other faith-based movies such as Heaven is For Real and God's Not Dead, Christian filmmakers have discovered that this medium is a successful one in spreading the word and so they've been jumping on the opportunity to do more of these movies.

While that's it for the wide releases of this weekend, let's talk about some movies currently scheduled for a limited release this weekend that will eventually expand into a nationwide release. The first of these is Sicario. In Mexico, Sicario means hitman. At least that's what the trailer says. The movie is about the war on drugs on the border between Mexico and the United States. Emily Blunt stars as an FBI agent who is recruited by Josh Brolin, who plays an elite government task force official, to aid on the war against drugs. Their team leader is Benicio Del Toro, who is an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past. The director here is Denis Villeneuva, the director of Prisoners. The movie was released back in May at the Cannes Film Festival and based on reviews there, this looks like this will be another successful, audience-pleasing thriller just like Prisoners. Sicario will also be shown at the Toronto International Film Festival a week before it's limited release and will be expanding nationwide on October 2.

The second limited release of the weekend is Everest. The premise here is simple, just like the title. We have a group of hikers climbing Mt. Everest. This movie is based on the 1996 disaster on Everest where several were killed and several more were stranded. Jon Krakauer was one of the survivors and he wrote down his experience in the book he titled Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, which was published in 1997 and turned into a TV movie later that year titled Into Thin Air: Death on Everest. Now, nearly 20 years after this experience, we are getting major motion picture being released into theaters based on this. An unfortunate coincidence to this is that during the filming of the movie, there was an avalanche on April 18, 2014 where the death total topped that of the 1996 climb that the movie is based off of. Everest stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawks, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, and Sam Worthington among others. After it's week in limited release, Everst will expand nationwide on September 25th, where 3D IMAX will be a huge draw.

The final movie that I will discuss this weekend is a movie that was first shown in last year's Toronto International Film Festival and is finally experiencing a theatrical release a year later. That movie is Pawn Sacrifice. This movie is a biopic of chess champion Bobby Fischer who got caught up in quite the chess battle as he faced a Russian named Boris Spassky. This became much more than just a chess match, though, as Bobby was essentially used as a pawn against the Russians in the midst of the Cold War. Tobey Maguire plays the lead role of Bobby Fischer and the word on the street is that he is excellent in this. An Oscar nomination? Maybe not. But he could put himself into the conversation if the movie is received well. The expansion for this one will most likely be a lot slower than the previous two as it will depend on how well it actually performs in limited release.

September 25th - 27th-

In addition to seeing the nationwide expansion of Everest, the final weekend of September will see four brand new movies getting a nationwide release. The biggest of these is Hotel Transylvania 2. I mentioned last week that the current September opening weekend record is held by this movie's predecessor, Hotel Transylvania. That record will be broken by Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. However, there is a very good chance that The Scorch Trial's reign won't last very long at all as Hotel Transylvania 2 will be looking to take the record right back. The original Hotel Transylvania was quite the surprise hit back in 2012 as it went on to make nearly $150 million after its $42 million opening as it was timed very well for the Halloween season. This movie should have similar success. The whole gang of voice actors from the original are back, headlined of course by Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Selena Gomez as well as a whole slew of others like Steve Buscemi, Adam Samberg, Mel Brooks, and David Spade. The only other family affair for the Halloween season come with Pan and Goosebumps. Even with plenty of space between those and Hotel Transylvania 2, the later still might be the preferred Halloween movie for families, especially when it comes to parents and their younger kids.

Next up for this weekend is a comedy/drama called The Intern. This movie stars Robert De Niro as a 70-year-old retired man who has decided that retirement isn't all that it's cut out to be, so he decides to get back into the work scene by becoming an intern at an online fashion site. Anne Hathaway plays his boss. The trailers remind us that both of these actors are Academy Award winners, which often means that they are hoping for some Oscar nominations. That probably won't be the case with this one, but the premise and the lead actors might be enough for this movie to attract a decent crowd. The movie is written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who's had some pretty good success with movies such as What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give, and It's Complicated. None of these opened super high, but all held very well to end up with a great final total. That's looking like it could be the case here, thus making this movie a bit of a fall sleeper.

Halloween is coming a month early this year it seems as in addition to M. Night Shyamalan's horror film The Visit and the family fare Hotel Transylvania 2 which was just discussed, we have two additional horror films this weekend that will try to get horror fans out again before the bigger horror flicks in October. The first of these two movies is Eli Roth's The Green Inferno. This movie has had quite the journey to the big screen. It was first released back in September 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was supposed to be released in theaters in September of 2014, but was postponed due to financial issues and now is finally coming to theaters two years after it's initial festival release. The movie is about a group of student activists who go on a trip to the Amazon to save the rain forest. They are met with quite the horrifying surprise which leads to quite the violent, gruesome affair. "No good deed goes unpunished" is the tagline for this movie and they take that quite seriously as part of the hard R rating is for "aberrant violence and torture" as well as "grisly disturbing images." They're going for the "eat you alive" type of horror in order to scare people, which could be very effective. It could also limit their audience quite a bit as many people might not want to deal with that level of violence.

Those not wanting to dive into the violent affair that is The Green Inferno also have the option of checking out a much lighter affair in Before I Wake. The PG-13 rating could provide a bit of counter-programming, otherwise it would seem suicidal for one or both movies to be released on the same day. Before I Wake stars Kate Bosworth in her second movie of the month (90 Minutes in Heaven is her other one) and is about a young couple who adopts a child and learn that his dreams manifest physically as he sleeps. If the kid has a nightmare, the whole household is in a lot of trouble. The movie is directed by Mike Flanagan, who's only other major directing effort is last year's horror dud Oculus, which isn't the best sign. I say that this could provide some counter-programming to The Green Inferno, but it seems more likely that horror fans not wanting to check out The Green Inferno will instead decide to save their money for next month's Crimson Peak, especially since they will have likely already spent money on The Visit from earlier in the month.

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