Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Movie Preview: May 2016

It's been a very healthy year at the box office so far as Disney, for the second month in row, hit a grand slam at the box office. It was Zootopia, not Batman v. Superman, that took the crown in March and it was The Jungle Book breaking out higher than anyone would've guessed that saved April. Despite a whole slew of huge disappointments, headlined by the colossal failure of The Huntsman: Winter's War, The Jungle Book cruised past $250 million in just three weekends and ended up accounting for 30.8 percent of April's total box office haul. The only other two April releases that could be counted as winners at the April box office were The Boss and Barbershop: The Next Cut. Now we enter May, which is the official start of Hollywood's summer at the box office. As always, there are a large number of big blockbusters hitting theaters this summer that will keep crowds pleased. However, this summer is a little more back-loaded than usual in terms of the number of movies. This has happened because most studios have smartly decided to avoid Marvel's Captain America: Civil War. So there will be less movies this month than in the other summer months, but there's still a handful of big releases to talk about, so let's jump right in!

May 6th - 8th-

As has been tradition, and will continue to be tradition, the summer is opening with a Marvel movie. In this case, it could very well be Marvel's biggest movie to date as they are releasing Captain America: Civil War. In an interesting turn of events, we ended up having both major versus movies from our two major comic book studios come out at around the same time, thus making for an epic Marvel vs. DC showdown. DC was able to get the first punch out with Batman v. Superman and it was a pretty good punch as Batman v. Superman opened just higher than both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. However, sour reviews and poisonous word of mouth caused Batman v. Superman to have the biggest drop ever for a superhero movie that opened north of $100 million, thus they will have to settle with a final total of around $350 million domestically. That's nothing to complain about, but when you could've realistically made around $600 million, that's a slight disappointment for DC. Now it looks evident that Marvel will end up on top as Captain America: Civil War looks like it is poised to perform like an Avengers sequel as opposed to a Captain America sequel. In fact, pre-sales for this movie are higher than any previous Marvel movie to date and thus there's a chance that this could actually beat The Avengers in both opening weekend and final total, especially since early reviews extremely positive as the movie currently holds a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with over 130 reviews counted.

No studios are daring enough to challenge Marvel this weekend, but there's always a host of limited releases every weekend. Being that there's only eight wide releases this month to talk about, I wanted to bring up a few of these that have caught my attention. I normally don't talk about documentaries on this blog, but there's one that I feel the need to bring to your attention and that is Elstree 1976. I don't really need to remind you that a movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened last year or that we'll be getting a Star Wars movie every year for the unforeseeable future thanks to Disney now owning LucasFilm. But how about a Star Wars documentary? That's exactly what Elstree 1976 is. It follows ten individuals on their journey to becoming a part of the original phenomenon that opened back in 1977 and how that experience affected their lives. This doesn't follow the actors such as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, or Carrie Fisher. This follows a handful of smaller actors who played characters like Greedo and Boba Fett as well as some extras. I have no idea how many theaters this is planning on playing in or how wide it will expand. But if you're a Star Wars fan, it might be worth keeping your eye out for this.

May 13th - 15th-

While Captain America: Civil War will be looking to be the fourth movie ever to earn $100 million in its second weekend (it should at least match the $77.7 million second weekend of Avengers: Age of Ultron), two moderate releases will be entering the marketplace hoping to provide a bit of counter-programming. The first of these two is Money Monster. In terms of cast and crew, this movie is fairly loaded. Two-time Academy Award winning actress Jodie Foster is on board to direct. Starring in the movie is George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell. In the movie, Clooney will be playing a financial TV host while Roberts plays his producer. O'Connell plays an irate investor who takes over their studio at gunpoint. If it seems like your average episode of any given crime drama on TV, that's because it probably is. Crazy guy holding people hostage at gunpoint has been done a thousand times, which is probably why this movie won't break out, despite the good cast. But those who have already seen Captain America: Civil War and aren't looking to see it again might be attracted to this because of the cast.

The other moderate release this weekend will be the horror movie, The Darkness. This horror movie comes to you via director Greg McLean, director of the 2005 horror movie Wolf Creek, a small, decently-received horror movie that earned $16.2 million. What makes this horror movie unique, despite a very generic title for a horror movie? Well, nothing really. McLean says that the story is based on a true story that was relayed to him first-hand many years ago about an actual haunting. As if that hasn't been done in a horror movie before. This haunting comes after a family visits the Grand Canyon. It appears that they are being haunted by some Native American demons originating from the Anasazis. So no, this won't make very much. But it doesn't need to. As I say every time with this movies, they are dirt cheap to make, which means that if this gets to the $16.2 million that Wolf Creek made, that would be a huge win.

Money Monster and The Darkness are the only two movies opening in wide release this weekend. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if both of them debuted below $10 million. There are two more movies opening in a limited release that I would like to talk about real quick. The first one is The Lobster. How's this for a premise. The Lobster is a movie set in a dystopian future where single people are arrested and sent to a hotel where they are given 45 days to find a partner. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal and sent into the woods. And you thought your life as a single person sucked. Imagine if this is what you had to deal with? The Lobster debuted at the Cannes Film Festival at around this time last year and made it's rounds through the film festivals, which included the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. The festival crowds have praised this movie, so now it's about to test the waters to see how it plays out to the general public. Distributor A24 has had it's fair share of luck with these smaller films recently, their most noteworthy movies being Ex Machina, The Witch, and Room.

The second limited release movie that I wanted to mention is Last Days in the Desert. This also debuted at the film festival scene last year, but in this instance it was at the Sundance Film Festival back in January of 2015, so it took a while for it finally make it to the regular theaters, but it's here! And it follows an interesting trend of taking a portion of Jesus Christ's life and making a movie out of it. In February we had Risen, which was about the resurrection of Christ. In March, we had The Young Messiah, which was about the childhood of Christ. And now we have Last Days in the Desert, which is about Christ's time in the wilderness right before his ministry. Playing Christ this time around is none other than Ewan McGregor himself. An intriguing aspect of the film is that McGregor is in a duel role in this movie as he also plays the Devil, who came tempting Christ. Being that this is an indie film released at Sundance, this might not necessarily be a film aimed solely at Christian audiences. In fact, they've taken plenty of liberties with the story and are probably aiming this more at indie lovers than anyone else.

May 20th - 22nd-

If Captain America: Civil War does indeed perform like an Avengers sequel, it should experience a third weekend total somewhere around $38 to $55 million, which are the two marks set by both Avengers movies. That means it should be in a tight three-way race for first place. Competitor number one will be Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Comedy sequels haven't had the best of luck at the box office recently. A lot of them failed to perform. However, comedy sequels to well-liked comedies that come just two years after the original usually do perform well. Neighbors 2 falls into that latter category and thus should be a success. With a relatable premise of rambunctious neighbors as well as a great cast, Neighbors was a huge box office success back in May of 2014 as it opened to $49 million and ended up with a total of $150 million. Neighbors 2 brings back Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, but this time they are on the same team as Seth Rogen's new enemy neighbors are a group of sorority girls led by Chloe Grace Moretz and Selena Gomez. The Jump Street movies are the comparison that comes to mind here. 21 Jump Street was a surprise hit in 2012 and 22 Jump Street was able to build on that success in 2014 by going stronger. This means Neighbors 2 should be able to eclipse $50 million, but even if it falls a bit short of that, it should still be a success.

Counter-programming is the name of the game here, which is why a superhero movie and a comedy should be able to co-exist. Also able to co-exist with these two genres is an animated movie for families. Thus is why we should have three movies score weekends north of $40 million this weekend. This animated movie is of course The Angry Birds Movie. My personal prediction is that this movie comes in third place this weekend, but I could very well be wrong as that the Angry Birds game does have a huge following. Everyone loves Angry Birds, right? The question is does everyone who loves Angry Birds really care about a movie adaptation of the popular game? And is this a movie that is about three years too late? In terms of the market, family audiences definitely haven't been over-saturated with options yet this year. The last big animated movie was back in March with Zootopia, which thanks in part to zero competition has had a very healthy run. With that run coming to an end here, it feels about the right time for another animated movie to have huge success. Although this certainly won't be on Disney or Pixar level in terms of success. Speaking of Pixar, it is worth mentioning that Finding Dory is around the corner, which may mean that some family audiences may choose to pass on The Angry Birds Movie in order to save their money for Finding Dory.

While the three previous movies will be fighting it out for first place this weekend, there's a third new release this weekend that will come in a distant fourth place and that is The Nice Guys. Given that this is also a comedy, this very well could suffer from coming out on the same weekend as Neighbors 2. However, there is a lot of positive hype for this movie and if that hype is coupled with good reviews, there is a chance that this could have a healthy run at the box office even if it doesn't break out opening weekend. Being specific, this is an action comedy directed by Shane Black. This is a genre that Black is very familiar with. He was a writer for movies such as Lethal Weapon and Last Action Hero. He also wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Finally, his biggest moment of fame came as the writer and director of Marvel's Iron Man 3. So yes, The Nice Guys is right in his wheelhouse. It is about a private investigator in the 1970's who is investigating a suicide case and has to team up with another investigator who he's not necessarily on good terms with in order to solve the case. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are our two leads and both of them look like they are having a lot of fun with their roles as these two investigators.

May 27th - 30th-

Memorial Day weekend is the first weekend of May where studios feel comfortable releasing big summer blockbusters that directly challenge Captain America: Civil War. There's two potential blockbusters coming out this weekend, this first of which is X-Men: Apocalypse. With this ongoing Marvel vs. DC debate going on, Fox has been desperately trying to make sure people remember that they also have a movie coming out in their X-Men universe this month. Two years ago, Days of Future Past successfully passed the baton in the X-Men universe to the new cast as they essentially used time travel to reboot the series, making everything except for First Class and Days of Future Past irrelevant to the timeline. Apocalypse will bring back all the young cast from those two movies and also introduces recast versions of some older, popular characters such as Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm. The stakes in the movie are also higher than they've ever been as they are introducing the villain Apocalypse, played by Oscar Isaac, for this new young cast to take on. All of this means they hope to build on the critical and financial success of Days of Future Past, although it should be noted that for whatever reason, these X-Men movies seems to have a smaller financial ceiling on them as X-Men: The Last Stand still holds the high mark at just $234 million, not counting Deadpool.

Taking a backseat to X-Men: Apocalypse this Memorial Day weekend will be Alice Through the Looking Glass. As mentioned earlier, Disney's live-action remake of The Jungle Book blew past even the generous expectations. Disney will be hoping to replicate that success with this sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland, which made $334 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide. While not to diminish the popularity of this property as the animated classic from 1951 does have a huge fan base, it should be noted that a huge part of the reason why Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland made so much money was that it was the next big 3D movie following the enormous success of James Cameron's Avatar, which was revolutionary in 3D. Six years later, the novelty of seeing a 3D movie has worn off and in many cases is disliked, so Alice Through the Looking Glass naturally won't make as much money without that added 3D hype. Adding to that is the fact that Tim Burton's movie was generally disliked as it holds a rotten status on Rotten Tomatoes along with an audience score of just 55 percent. This is not the sequel people were asking for. But it still should make a decent amount of money. Just don't expect a repeat performance of the first.

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