Thursday, March 3, 2016

Movie Preview: March 2016

This past month was the month of the Deadpool. This was definitely a total game-changer as it proved that with the right marketing strategy, you can make money regardless of what your rating is. Most blockbusters go for the PG-13 rating because that seems like the rating you have to be in order to make a crap ton of money. Not anymore. Deadpool is already at nearly $300 million in the U.S. box office. And it did that in February. It smashed the previous record for a February opener which was set just last year by Fifty Shades of Grey. Times are a changing! But unfortunately February was a one movie wonder as nothing else really broke out. Risen and The Witch did well with their budgets in mind, but that's about it. Things will definitely pick up in March as in the last few years it's almost been seen as the first unofficial Summer month, which is especially the case this March as Warner Bros. is releasing what is pretty much guaranteed to be one of the biggest movies of the year in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That's not even the only big movie, so get ready for this movie lovers! It's time to dive into March!

March 4th - 6th-

Deadpool has been reigning as king of the box office for the past three weeks with not even any close competition. That ends this week as Disney Animation Studios is releasing their 55th animated feature, Zootopia. This will the first of two movies from the studio this year as the Polynesian princess Moana will take their traditional November spot later this year. This is also the first time Disney has released two animated movies in one year since Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet in 2002. No need to try to convince you to be excited about this. Disney has been pleasing audiences with their animated movies for nearly 80 years now, which started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves back in 1937. Although they went through a bit of a slump in the early 2000's, they've been on a role recently as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 have all been critical and financial successes. Zootopia will look to continue that success as it has yet to have a rotten review come in on Rotten Tomatoes as of the publishing of this post with 71 reviews counted and has no direct competition at the box office until mid-April at the earliest. Don't expect Frozen numbers of course, but this could definitely end up in the same ballpark as Big Hero 6 ($222 million) and Wreck-It Ralph ($189 million) or even a bit higher.

Next up is the sequel that no one really asked for in London Has Fallen. Back in March of 2013, Olympus Has Fallen became a surprise hit as the first of two bombing the white house movies that year. In fact, Olympus Has Fallen ended up higher than White House Down as it closed with just under $100 million after opening to $30 million. It did this despite poor critical reviews as it proved to be a fun option for fans of action movies. But yet, it wasn't the type of movie that really needed a sequel and it's certainly not a sequel that anyone was asking for. But we got one anyways and now it's London that is in danger now. With Triple 9 and Gods of Egypt failing the previous weekend, this could give action fans their necessary action fix. Reviews are dangerously low for the movie as they are sitting in the teens on Rotten Tomatoes, but this is sure to be critic proof once again. At least in the opening weekend. If this is another success, which city or country is in danger next? Let's just hope it's not Paris. That would bad.

And finally we have the movie headed for more of a niche audience with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The unique title might catch people's attention, but the premise of this is a bit of a hard sell. This is based on the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker, which recounted her experiences as an American international reporter over in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That premise might sound interesting enough for audiences, especially since the movie stars Tina Fey fresh off her success with Sisters playing the lead role of Kim Barker. Co-starring is Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, and Billy Bob Thornton, which is also really good. The tough sell is the fact that this is a comedy, not a drama. War dramas are quite popular. But a war comedy? On board to direct is Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who previously teamed up for last year's Focus and 2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love. If this movie gets anywhere close to those movies' numbers ($53 million and $84 million), this will be a huge success. It will look to avoid Tina Fey's Admission numbers which could only muster $18 million in March of 2013.

March 11th - 13th-

This week we have a huge surprise coming to theaters, that of 10 Cloverfield Lane. I say huge surprise because until January 15th of this year, no one outside the people involved in the making of the movie even knew of its existence. This is very impressive considering that in this age of social media, it's very hard to keep secrets. But J.J. Abrams and crew pulled it off. They made a high-profile movie without anyone even knowing about it until they dropped the trailer in front of the movie 13 Hours. Paramount did have a movie called Valencia scheduled for this date, but that just turned out to be 10 Cloverfield Lane's secret code name. Cloverfield was a found-footage horror/thriller that found pretty big success in January 2008. It held the January opening weekend record for quite some time. You'll notice that this follow-up is not called Cloverfield 2. It's called 10 Cloverfield Lane. That's because it's not a sequel to that movie. It doesn't have the same characters or even the same monster. It's not even in the found-footage style. However, J.J. Abrams called this movie a "blood relative" or a "spiritual successor" to Cloverfield as it has many of the same elements that made film a success with a combination of fear, weirdness, and comedy that made Cloverfield such a unique movie.

If Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn't work out in the first weekend of March, the second weekend of March will provide another movie for comedy fans in The Brothers Grimsby. This is a spy comedy starring two brothers whose lives went in very different directions, but yet a certain turn of events forces them to team up. Spy comedies can work very well, the most recent example being last year's Spy, which rode healthy reviews to a final total north of $100 million. The Brothers Grimbsy stars popular comedic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, who has a pretty decent track record with Borat, Bruno, and The Dictator. These movies are very polarizing and offensive to some, but they have their following. The Brothers Grimsby is likely to be the same way, especially with Cohen on as writer. Larry Charles is not directing this time around like he was with the other three. Instead we have Louis Letterier, who has quite the diverse resume has he directed the first two Transporter movies, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans, and Now You See Me. Co-starring with Cohen in this is Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz, and Isla Fisher.

March is always a busy month for a lot of things. Not just movies. This year Easter Sunday falls on March 27th, which means the month is ripe for a faith-based movie or two. This Easter season we will have four of them. One came last month. Another one comes in early April. That means with this preview, we have two to talk about and the first one of those is The Young Messiah. Movies about the life of Christ have been made almost non-stop since film was invented. Christian filmmakers have always had a desire to tell the world the story of Christ and since there's money to be made, Hollwood has joined the party, too. Despite all of these movies about the life of Christ, The Young Messiah is doing something a bit different by focusing on Christ when he was a child. This is based on the book by Anne Rice called Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which is a fictional story about Christ around ages seven to eight. I say fictional because almost nothing is said about Christ's childhood in the New Testament. So some creative liberties were obviously taken to write this story in order to portray what Christ's childhood may have been like. With so many faith-based films coming out at once, that could limit the potential a bit for all of them, but the unique element of The Young Messiah could help it stand out.

Last and, well, probably least is the romantic comedy The Perfect Match. With a cast comprising of no real notable names, a director that hasn't done anything big, a generic title, a cliche premise, and an R rating, this has the perfect formula to slip right under everyone's radar. Terrance J, Paula Patton, and Lauren London previous all starred in a movie called Baggage Claim in 2013 which only made $21 million total. The director Bille Woodruff directed a couple of duds back in the 2000's and came back in 2014 to direct an even bigger dud in a movie called Addicted that only made $17 million total after opening to $7 million. The Perfect Match is about a playboy named Charlie who meets a girl named Eva. Convinced that none of his relationships will work out, they make an agreement to be casual with this relationship, but then Charlie decides he wants more. Yup. I told it was a cliche premise. A total similar to Baggage Claim or Addicted feels pretty generous at this point.

March 18th - 20th-

As is our annual March tradition at this point, we will get the next chapter in The Divergent Series, this third chapter being called The Divergent Series: Allegiant. Don't let yourself get confused. The Divergent books only have three books: Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant. But this movie is not the finale to this movie series. As is customary with these young adult book adaptations, the final book in the series has to be split into two movies, right? That's what they've done here. They just decided to drop the "Part 1" and "Part 2" from the titles of the final two movies and instead call it Allegiant and Ascendent. I suppose their purpose in that is to trick everyone into thinking that this isn't just the first half of the finale, because historically those don't make as much money. But that's exactly what this. Fans of the series are sure to show up. Although it is worth noting that there does seem to be a bit of fatigue setting in with this genre. Insurgent was down significantly from Divergent. The Scorch Trials was down a bit from The Maze Runner. The final two Hunger Games movies made quite a bit less than the first two. January's The 5th Wave failed miserably in trying to start a new franchise. With that in mind, it feels safe to say that Allegiant will also be down even more from Insurgent.

One week after The Young Messiah, our second faith-based film of the month hits theaters. That movie is Miracles from Heaven. With two faith-based movies coming out in two weeks, it could either be a very good month for the genre or they could self-destruct each other as Christian audiences might be forced to choose between the two. We'll see what ends up being the case. If you want to look at a great success story for a faith-based film, look no further than Heaven is for Real. Around Easter 2014, that movie shocked the world by opening to $22 million and holding extremely well to end up at $91 million. Now Sony's TriStar brand is back using the same formula that made Heaven is for Real a hit, hoping for similar success. Heaven is for Real was the true story of a kid who died and claimed he visited Heaven before he miraculously came back for life. Miracles from Heaven is the story of a young girl with a rare digestive disorder who is miraculously healed after surviving a terrible accident. And I hope I didn't just describe the whole movie to you. Both movies were based on books written by the parent of the child. In this instance, Jennifer Garner plays that mother.

March 25th - 27th-

The final weekend of March brings us the movie event of the year, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Warner Bros. initially wanted this movie to be the Summer opener this year, but Marvel is very possessive of that spot and decided to schedule that exact spot as well. The two movies initially did a showdown for a while as neither studio wanted to budge. But the second Warner Bros. learned that the Marvel movie planned for that spot was Captain America: Civil War, starring more Avengers than were in the last Avengers movie, they immediately chickened out and moved to this spot in March, which is looking like a very smart movie as it will have a whole month all to itself. DC was off to a bit of a rough start with their movie universe as Man of Steel was very polarizing to say the least. They look to get things back on track here as they are finally doing something that comic book fans have been asking for for decades. Batman and Superman together in the same movie. This is huge. Initially people were nervous about the idea of Ben Affleck as Batman, but that was put to ease when they saw footage. There is one question mark for this movie. Is it too crowded? It's not just Batman and Superman. There's also Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, possibly the Flash, and the supporting characters from the Batman and Superman stories. DC is obviously trying to play catch-up here with Marvel by rushing into the Justice League. Let's just hope it works out.

Speaking of a movie sequel that no one really asked for, providing counter-programming to Batman v. Superman will be My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It was 14 years ago when My Big Fat Greek Wedding became one of the greatest indie phenomenons in the history of probably ever. It opened in April of 2002 and stayed in theaters for a staggering 52 weeks, holding extremely well. Despite not earning more than $11 million in any given three-day weekend and not getting higher than number two at the box office, it went on to earn $241 million at the U.S. box office and still stands as the highest grossing movie ever to not hit #1. That's pretty dang good for an indie movie that had a budget of only $5 million. Comedy sequels have worked in the past, but it is worth noting that waiting this long to do a sequel to a popular comedy didn't really work for Anchorman 2 and was even a bigger disaster for Zoolander 2 last month, so there's definitely no guarantee that this works. If it does work, which is also possible given that most of the original cast is back, it's of course unfair to expect a similar run as it's predecessor, but it could provide some good counter-programming for those not interested in a big-budget comic book movie.

And finally, we get the first of three horror movies in three weeks. I'll get into the other two when I talk about the April movies, but this first one is The Disappointments Room. These movies keep happening because they are really easy to make a small profit as they don't cost very much at all. We've had three horrors so far this year and all of them have made a decent profit when taking into account their very small production budget in mind. The Forest made $26 million, The Boy made $34 million, and The Witch has done $17 million in 12 days so far. The Disappointments Room will probably open somewhere between $5 to $10 million and end up between $15 and $30 million total. That'll be a success. The screenplay for this movie was written by Wentworth Miller, who stars as Leonard Snart in CW's The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. The director is is D.J. Caruso, who directed Disturbia and I Am Number Four. The star of the movie is Kate Beckinsale. That looks like a decent lineup on paper, but then you look at the haunted house/haunted room premise and it then appears about as cliche as you can get with a horror movie.

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