Friday, October 2, 2015

Movie Preview: October 2015

In my September movie preview, I suggested that the September opening weekend record was going to be broken twice. Well, I was wrong. Despite a lot of strong pre-buzz and good will from the first movie, poor reviews and bad word of mouth hurt Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials quite a bit. In a surprise turn of events, it ended up lower than the first. But Hotel Transylvania 2 opened high as expected and did break the opening weekend record, which was held previously by it's predecessor Hotel Transylvania. This all means that Halloween season came a bit early this year with Dracula and the gang dominating theaters. Now that October has finally hit, there's going to be several other Halloween-themed movies for both kids and adults to enjoy. In addition to those Halloween movies, Oscar season is in full force as we'll get several major contenders that will hope to please crowds and Oscar voters. And of course there will be other non-themed movies that hope to gain an audience. It's a loaded month, so let's dive right in.

October 2nd - 4th- 

After two very successful weekends in platform release and strong reviews, Sicario goes nationwide this weekend and could have success similar to that of Denis Villeneuve's previous movie Prisoners. As I talked about Sicario last month in my September movie preview, you can go read more about that movie there. As far now, it's time to briefly discuss the movie that's going to dominate theaters this weekend and most likely for the rest of the month as well and that is The Martian. It is almost a tradition now to have a big-budget space movie at this time of year. Two years ago, Gravity took the world by storm. Last year it was Interstellar. Now it's The Martian. Speaking of Interstellar, the cast here with The Martian shares a couple of different cast members from that movie in Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain. It also has Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover. So yeah, this is loaded. Helming all of them is director Ridley Scott, who has had a couple of small misses, but mostly has a long list of incredible cinematic achievements. The Martian is looking like it's going to be in that latter group. A lot of people loved the book it's based off of. A lot of people have seen the movie already and loved it. This has success written all over it and that could translate into some awards as well come Oscar season.

As I said, the big challenger for The Martian is Sicario. The other movies have decided to wait until a little closer to Halloween to debut, so it's time to dive into a couple of limited releases for the weekend. The first of these is The Walk. I say limited release with this one and that is true. But it's limited release in the vane of last month's Everest, which opened in IMAX theaters only the weekend before it expanded nationwide. Everest was super successful in its IMAX release as it made an incredible $7.2 million in that format. The Walk will be stealing the IMAX theaters from Everest and will hope for similar success. The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is directed by the great Robert Zemeckis, and is the true story about a guy in the 1970's who put a high-wire between the World Trade Center towers and walked across. Audiences were totally down for travelling to Everest in September via IMAX. We'll see if they want to come with this guy and walk across the towers with him. Following its exclusive release in IMAX theaters this weekend, The Walk will be released nationwide next weekend, October 9th.

In case you missed the news and have not been on social media yet this year, there was a monumental decision in the supreme court about the definition of marriage. I'm not here to dive into that at all. I am here to tell you that Hollywood has taken advantage of this by making several relevant movies surrounding that subject. Granted, these films were filmed before the decision was made, so I suppose this means there was either a lot of luck involved with these releases or some sort of foresight because we got a lot of them coming. Starting out in two theaters this weekend is Freeheld. This movie stars Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore, Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page, Oscar-nominated actor Steve Carell, and Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon. Julianne Moore's character in the movie is diagnosed with terminal cancer and she and her domestic partner, played by Ellen Page, both battle to secure the pension benefits. Early word off the street with this movie is that, despite good intentions, this will not be the Oscar darling as the movie has a lot of issues not related to theme. It's platform release will determine if it goes wide anyways, despite poor reviews.

October 9th - 11th-

Nothing says Halloween like yet another reboot of Peter Pan, right? No? Pan was actually supposed to come out in July, but after realizing that it wasn't going to compete with the likes of Ant-Man and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Warner Bros. wisely decided to reschedule it for a slightly less competitive October. The biggest obstacle this movie faces is the nature of the project itself. Does the world need another Peter Pan movie? Does the world want another Peter Pan movie? Knowing this would be an issue from the start, they decided to do something completely different with the character. And when I mean different, I mean different. This movie looks absolutely like no other Peter Pan movie we've ever seen. It's way far out in left field. Because of this bold move, I envision one of three different outcomes for this film: 1- The movie is universally praised for its uniqueness and creativity; 2- Critics praise the movie for being unique while Peter Pan fans are frustrated with the changes; 3- Critics "pan" the movie and Peter Pan fans assemble in an angry mob and seek for blood from the makers of the movie, causing those people to go into hiding for the rest of their lives. Knowing that the third option is the most likely, the marketing branch of this film as wisely targeted a less critical audience: kids. Regardless of what everyone else says, parents are going to take their kids to see this movie and those kids will probably enjoy themselves. Either that or the parents will wait for Goosebumps next weekend and Pan will be left in the dust. Pan does have an excellent cast and an acclaimed director. I should bring that up before moving on, so there's a plus.

While adult audiences from most of the country not wanting to see Pan will be either seeing The Walk as it expands or catching up on Sicario and/or The Martian, folks from New York City and Los Angeles will be flocking to the select theaters that will be showing Steve Jobs. Wait, what? Didn't we already get a Steve Jobs movie? Yup. Back in 2013, Jobs came out, which starred Ashton Kutcher as the legendary businessman. No one liked it. Very few people actually gave it their money. Word is it wasn't that accurate at all. It was a pretty big flop. But someone saw that movie and decided that a Steve Jobs biopic done right could be extremely successful and popular. So now we are getting that and this is going to be a huge Oscar contender. Instead of director Joshua Michael Stern (Nervewas, Swing Vote -- what?), they selected Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours). Instead of Ashton Kutcher playing Jobs, we have Michael Fassbender. Riding along with Fassbender will be Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and Seth Rogen, all of whom are getting at least some Oscar buzz for their roles in this movie. Word is this movie is the actual, honest story of Steve Jobs, which is the biggest plus. A slow expansion will happen throughout the month and the rest of the country will get the movie towards the end of October.

October 16th - 18th-

This is it! This slate of movies this weekend is a very significant one because on Wednesday October 21, 2015 is when Marty McFly went into the future in Back to the Future Part II. When he arrived, he looked at the movie screen and saw that the big movie out in theaters was Jaws 19. Whatever movie wins this weekend will determine the movie title that should've been on that sign had they actually been able to tell the future. This is a pretty big deal. There are a few options here, but if I'm going to make a guess, I'm going with Bridge of Spies. If that holds true, the interesting thing here is that Back to the Future Part II got the director right. Kinda. Steven Spielberg didn't direct the sequels to Jaws, but he did direct the original and he is the director here. Spielberg has directed many classics in the last 40 years. Eight of his movies have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and he's received seven personal nominations for Best Director. As far as wins, Schindler's List got him the win in both categories while Saving Private Ryan got him his second directing win a few years later. There has been three times were he has worked with actor Tom Hanks: Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me if You Can, and The Terminal. This will be number four. And the movie is about the Cold War. Spielberg directing a Cold War drama that stars Tom Hanks? This has winner written all over it. A winner at the box office. A winner with the general movie goers. A winner with the critics. And potential winner at the Oscars.

If Bridge of Spies can't do it this weekend, then my guess is that it got topped by Goosebumps. Timing can't get much better with this one as this looks like it'll be the perfect Halloween movie for family audiences. Back in the day, the Goosebumps books were the thing. Everyone read Goosebumps and everyone loved Goosebumps. I speak mainly by experience there back in the day when I was in Elementary school. I loved Goosebumps and so did everyone in my grade. Taking my personal bias out of it, I'd still think it's safe to say that this is an extremely popular series. In fact, Wikipedia tells me that more than 300 million books have been sold, making it the bestselling series of all time. The original series of books began in 1992 and included 62 different books published between 1992 and 1997. There's been a total of around 200 of these books published, the most recent of which coming earlier this year. The movie isn't based on one specific book. Author R.L. Stine is played by Jack Black and the monsters from his books are real, but they're trapped inside the books. A group of kids, upon visiting his house, accidentally unleash all these monsters on the town causing quite a bunch of mayhem that needs to be fixed. Like Pan, this movie should be critic proof when it comes to the box office as family audiences should eat it up.

The third movie of the weekend also has potential to take the top spot, which should make for quite the busy weekend. That movie is Crimson Peak. This is also a perfect movie for the Halloween season. Although this one is strictly for adults. Yes, we have ourselves another horror. Horror movies are always a dime a dozen, so you have to do something a little special in order to stick out and earn a ton of money. The selling point for Crimson Peak is director Guillermo del Toro. The man has written, directed, and produced a lot of different types of movies and has a huge fan base. While he's done other popular projects like Hellboy and Pacific Rim, horror is where he started and horror is what he's really good at. So Guillermo del Toro doing another horror has definitely turned a lot of heads. The extremely simplistic story for this has to do with a woman in a, shall I say haunted house? And the cast is huge as well, led by Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain.

That's it for our three-headed monster this weekend. Now let's quickly run through some smaller releases from this weekend. In moderate release this weekend will be Woodlawn. This is a football movie based in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1970's. There's still a lot of racial tensions at this time and thus racism and hate are abound at Woodlawn High School. The chemistry between the football team is awful until the head coach lets a man named Hank, played by Sean Astin, to speak to his football. Hank gives the team a message of faith and hope that not only helps them unite as a team on the football field, but improve their lives. The star football player that the movie centers around is Tony Nathan, who went on to have a very successful NFL career and even spent some time as a coach.

Now for a couple of platform releases. The first of these two is Room. This is a movie that has gained a whole lot of attention recently from the Toronto International Film Festival as it just walked away with the People's Choice Award, which is the top award at TIFF. In the last seven years, six movies that won this award have gone on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, three of them winning the Best Picture Oscar. Those three movies are Slumdog Millionaire, The King's Speech, and 12 Years a Slave. So yeah, Room is now a movie to look out for because of this win at TIFF. Room tells the story of a 5-year-old boy named Jack who has been trapped with his Ma in a 10-by-10 foot windowless space which his Ma has called "Room." As Jack gets more and more curious, a plan is devised to help Jack escape to the real world. Brie Larson plays Ma in this movie and word is that her performance is good enough to now be considered a serious contender in the competitive Best Actress race.

The final movie that I will discuss from this weekend is Truth. This also was just screened at TIFF and although it wasn't received with praise on the level of Room, this is a story that could catch the attention of those non-movie buffs who don't follow the Oscar race or the film festival buzz because it is a movie about Dan Rather. Specifically, this tells the story from just over 10 years ago when Dan Rather and CBS News head Mary Mapes chose to air the false story on 60 Minutes of how President George W. Bush avoided being drafted to Vietnam. This led to a lot of controversy that subsequently led to the firing of both Rather and Mapes. In the movie, Dan Rather is played by Robert Redford and Mary Mapes is played by Cate Blanchett.

October 23rd - 25th-

The past weekend, there were six movies I ended up talking about. This weekend there are also six movies to talk about, but five of them are in wide release, making this an extremely crowded weekend. Either some of them will get ignored or a few of them will settle for a more moderate release. We will see. The biggest name of the weekend is Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. This franchise started in 2009 and was quite the success story. The first one only cost $15,000 to make, yet earned nearly $200 million worldwide. That's quite the profit. Thus we got a sequel per year until Paranormal Activity 4 in 2012. Paranormal Activitty 5 was supposed to come out October 2013, but it got delayed a few different times. No Paranormal Activity movie happened in 2013. They ended up settling for a spin-off in January 2014 instead and now the fifth one is finally here, whether or not people actually wanted it. This time around we have a few different catches to get people's attention. The first is that it's the first Paranormal Activity movie to be released in 3D. The second is that the trailer promises that all the secrets will be revealed. Whether or not that is a smart idea is debatable, but it should get people out. But even if it doesn't, it doesn't require much money for them to make a profit.

Next up is an attempt to begin a brand new franchise with Vin Diesel in The Last Witch Hunter. Vin Diesel is coming off the enormously successful Furious 7, so who better to begin a new franchise, right? The premise here is that several centuries ago, many witches roamed the world and there was an army of witch hunters to hunt them down. These witches, of course, are supernatural witches. Well, Vin Deisel gets cursed by the Queen witch with immortality. Thus when his wife and children die, he is stuck on Earth without the ability to reunite with them in the afterlife. Now we fast forward to the current time where Vin Deisel is still around as, you guessed it, the last witch hunter. Yet there are still witches that need to be fought. The human race is in danger and it is up to Vin Deisel to save it. This seems like it could work as a new franchise. This will definitely test the star power of Vin Deisel. Having Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, and Michael Caine along for the ride should also help.

The next three movies are scheduled to come out in wide release, but are three that will either get ignored or will put themselves in moderate release and hope for good word of mouth. The first of these is Jem and the Holograms. For some reason, I lived most of my life not really knowing what Jem and the Holograms was. I think the name and the characters if I saw them would ring a bell, but it's mostly blank. When I saw the trailer for the first time, it was looked like just a random musical from the studios that brought us Pitch Perfect about a girl who gets absurdly famous after a video of her singing on YouTube goes viral. Her stage name becomes Jem and she's this lead singer of a band called Jem and the Holograms. Then I notice the reaction and there are thousands of people out for blood. Turns out Jem and the Holograms was a super awesome animated TV series in the late-80's from the people that also gave us the Transformers and G.I. Joe TV shows. Based on the trailers, the only similarities between this live action movie and the animated TV show is the name. Suddenly I see why everyone is mad. Looks like this is also going the way of the Transformers and G.I. Joe movie adaptations in terms of quality.

The second of these under-the-radar films is Rock the Kasbah. As the trailer puts it, this movie is "inspired by a true story strange than fiction." It's a comedy starring the comedy legend Bill Murray where he plays a music manager that has ran into a lot of bad luck. That luck seems to be changing when he discovers a girl who he thinks has a lot of potential. While that seems pretty basic, the catch here is that he discovers this girl while he is on tour in Afghanistan and takes her to Kabul to compete in what is essentially the Afghanistan version of American Idol called Afghan Star. This also has a pretty loaded cast around Bill Murray as that supporting cast includes Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, and Danny McBride. It's directed by Barry Levinson who has directed hits such as Rain Man, Bugsy, Disclosure, and Good Morning, Vietnam. So this could be a movie that opens small, yet holds well if the word of mouth is good.

The final wide release of the weekend is Burnt. This movie is positioning itself for Oscars and although the buzz isn't super strong at this point, it's hard to argue with this movie's resume. At least not on paper. Specifically the movie stars Bradley Cooper, who currently has an incredible streak of three straight acting nominations at the Oscars. He also has Lily James, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman, Sienna Miller, Emma Thompson, and Daniel Bruhl around him as well as John Wells as a director. Wells previously directed the movie August: Osage County and is also involved in writing, producing, and/or directing a whole bunch of TV shows such as ER, The West Wing, and Shameless. What is this movie about? Well, it appears to be a food porn movie. If you haven't heard that phrase, don't freak out. That's what we call the genre of movie that focuses heavily on people making food and thus makes you extremely hungry afterwards. Bradley Cooper plays a character who has made a lot of mistakes in his life and is attempting to make a comeback by becoming a chef at a top restaurant.

And of course I would be doing this month an injustice if I didn't bring up this last movie, which will be debuting on a limited front this weekend and that is Suffragette. It's hard to imagine a time in our country where women couldn't vote. It makes no sense to deny them and thus I don't know how it was tolerated for so long. Suffragette is a movie that takes place in the early 1900's and tells the story of some of the early leaders in the feminist movement that led to women finally getting the right to foot. Namely it's the story of the foot soldiers who turned to violence after concluding that peaceful protests weren't working. On the acting front, Carey Mulligan is the name that's getting a ton of early awards buzz for this movie, but she also has Helena Bonham Carter and the great Meryl Streep working with her as well, so this has potential to be a big contender at the Oscars if the movie is received well.

October 30th - November 1st-

The final weekend of October is a bit of a tricky one for movies, which is why most of the big movies came out a weekend or two earlier. I'm referring to the fact that Halloween itself falls on Saturday, thus potentially limiting business for the weekend as people are usually out celebrating and partying, not flocking into the movie theaters. There is a pair of movies that are taking a stab at the weekend anyways and the first one is Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocolypse. The scout motto is "be prepared," right? Well, what if a zombie outbreak happens in your town? Are you prepared to fight them? These scouts are. This movie looks like it's trying to be some sort of mix between Zombieland and Superbad as not only does it include a lot of graphic zombie fights, but it's also an extremely raunchy film. Just go check out the red band trailer and you'll see what I mean. Will this combination work? Are people who like one or both of those movies give this one a shot or will they skip this one in favor of catching up on Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Crimson Peak, or The Last Witch Hunter. The latter seems more likely, but you never know with this genre.

Political dramas seeking for awards buzz are very common at this time of year. There's almost always at least one in the Oscar race every year. This month I've already talked about two of them with Bridge of Spies and Suffragette. Now it's time to finish the month off with a third in Our Brand is Crisis. The Halloween release for this movie won't effect it much, so it's safe being released this weekend as it's not the type of movie that relies on a strong opening weekend, but rather good word of mouth that helps it hold well. Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thorton star in this movie which has Bullock in South America trying to install a new leader in one of the countries down there, meeting resistance along the way. Comparing this to Suffragette, it seems like the marketing campaign for Our Brand is Crisis is a lot stronger at the moment, but the early reviews aren't so positive as the movie is currently on the wrong side of the tomato meter, so this could end up being a miss. We'll have to all stay tuned to see what happens.

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