Thursday, August 4, 2016

Movie Preview: August 2016

The summer of the disappointing blockbusters continued in July as Star Trek Beyond, Ice Age: Collision Course, and Jason Bourne were the latest sequels to not live up to their predecessors in terms of both reviews and box office totals. Steven Spielberg experienced one of the worst outings of his career with The BFG, which only out-grossed Empire of the Sun and The Sugarland Express in terms of Spielberg-directed movies after adjusting for ticket-price inflation. Finally, the Ghostbusters remake performed decently in its first weekend, but bled pretty badly in its ensuing weekends. It wasn't all horrible, though. The Secret Life of Pets and The Legend of Tarzan both cruised past expectations, despite not being universally praised, and Finding Dory topped Captain America: Civil War to be the highest-grossing movie of the year. And horror won big with breakout performances from Lights Out and The Purge: Election Year. Now it's time to dive into our final month of the summer. August. Are the fortunes going to change? Not likely. August is usually the worst month of the summer and outside one or two titles, this month doesn't look super promising.

August 5th - 7th-

Taking the Guardians of the Galaxy slot this year is DC's highly anticipated Suicide Squad. Thanks to an incredibly strong and aggressive marketing campaign, Suicide Squad is essentially guaranteed to be the first August release ever to open north of $100 million, easily topping Guardians of the Galaxy's previous record of $94.3 million two years ago. The all-villain premise has many intrigued as does the all-star cast which is led by Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jared Leto as the Joker. It's no secret, though, that DC hasn't had as smooth of a road as Marvel to say the least. They are in desperate need for a win here, but the Batman v. Superman comparisons are very strong. Both were highly anticipated. Both had huge opening weekends. Both had poisonous reviews from critics heading into the weekend. Batman v. Superman currently owns a 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes while Suicide Squad currently sits at just over 30 percent. Batman v. Superman ended up getting mixed reviews from the fans as well which led to it dropping like a rock in its following weekends and has so far been outgrossed this year by Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, The Jungle Book, and Zootopia with The Secret Life of Pets currently on its tail. Will Suicide Squad follow suit and be another miss for DC or will the fans spit in the faces of the critics and enjoy the movie? We'll find out this weekend.

It's worth noting that the Olympics also start this weekend and even though it looks like the Olympics won't have a negative effect on Suicide Sqaud, it very well may have an effect on other movies this month, which may include the other opening this weekend, that being Kevin Spacey's Nine Lives, which looks like it might be dead on arrival. As was apparent last month, too many family movies in a short period of time means that some will be left in the dust. Steven Spielberg found this out the hard way as the phenomenal grosses of Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets destroyed The BFG. The Ice Age franchise also had this problem as Ice Age: Collision Course may not even make up half of what it's predecessor made. Are family audiences ready for yet another movie targeted at them in this short amount of time, especially when Pete's Dragon is also right around the corner? Probably not. Look for this movie to get ignored this weekend, especially since the trailers have made it look like a downright horrible movie. If you haven't heard of this, Kevin Spacey is a dad ignoring his family who gets turned into a cat to learn a lesson. So yeah, that premise has also been done a hundred times before.

August 12th - 14th-

The next Disney classic to get a live-action remake will be Disney themselves remaking Pete's Dragon. Although it's debatable as to whether or not the original 1977 movie can really be called a classic as it's not one of Disney's more popular movies when compared to others. Yes, it does carry some childhood nostalgia with many, but it only has a 6.3 score on IMDb with only 16,000 votes. Not that a classic is determined by IMDb numbers, but a true classic will be much higher on both, like The Jungle Book, which has a 7.6 with 122,000 votes. It is the third live-action Disney remake that Disney has done themselves this year and the fifth overall. In April, Disney struck gold with The Jungle Book, but then completely struck out the next month with Alice Through the Looking Glass. On the non-Disney side, Universal's The Huntsman: Winter's War completely tanked while Warner Bros.' The Legend of Tarzan exceeded everyone's expectations. Pete's Dragon could realistically go either way, but don't expect The Jungle Book numbers. It does have a solid cast led by Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford. And it is all live-action this time. No animated hybrid movie this time around. Just a CGI dragon that kinda looks like a mix between a dog and dragon. And it's not a musical either, like the original was.

Playing counter-programming to Pete's Dragon will be the animated movie Sausage Party, which is very much so NOT a kid's movie. The current stereotype is that if a movie is animated, then it must be a kid's movie. The team behind this movie are doing their best to break that stereotype as the goal here was to provide an animated movie for adults. This movie follows a bunch of hot dogs and other food items in their fight against humans who are brutally killing them. Has the idea ever crossed your mind that you are killing your food when you are chopping it up, peeling it, and/or taking a bite out of it? That's the idea that this movie is taking. And it's doing so in a very foul, raunchy way. This is rated R for "strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use." And apparently it's the raunchiest and most foul movies of the year, so they are really taking this animated movie for adults concept to the extreme. Voicing the food characters in the movie are plenty of raunch-com veterans including Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, and James Franco.

The final movie of the weekend is Florence Foster Jenkins. There always seems to be at least one August release that is an awards-hopeful movie and this looks to be it. I mean, all you have to do is cast Meryl Streep in your movie and you have a good chance to get at least one nomination, right? And I don't mean that as an insult. I mean that as a very high praise. The lady is arguably the most decorated actress in history of cinema, at least in terms of awards as she's had a total of 19 acting nominations in her career. The next closest is Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, both with 12. Could this be nomination number 20? This role has Meryl Streep the lead role of Florence Foster Jenkins in a movie that is, and I quote the poster, "the inspiring true story of the world's worst singer." Starring alongside Streep is Hugh Grant, who's also getting award buzz, and The Big Bang Theory's Simon Helberg. The movie is directed by Stephen Frears, who's had three of his movies get nominated for best picture: Dangerous Liaisons (1988), The Queen (2006), and Philomena (2013). Florence Foster Jenkins opened in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand back in May and earned a decent chunk of change from each country.

August 19th - 21st-

July saw the controversial remake of Ghostbusters get surprisingly good reviews and perform better than expected at the box office. This month Paramount is hoping for similar success with their controversial remake of Ben-Hur. The iconic 1959 Charleton Heston masterpiece is not only seen as one of the greatest movies ever made, but it's also one of the most successful movies at the box office. It's $74 million that it made in 1959 is the equivalent of $848 million with today's ticket prices, which is good enough for 14th place on the all-time box office list adjusted for ticket price inflation. In addition to that, it won 11 of its 12 Oscar nominations, including best picture, best director (William Wyler), best actor (Charleton Heston), and best supporting actor (Hugh Griffith). The buzz for this remake hasn't been as poisonous and hateful as the Ghostbusters remake, but this has been flat-out ignored because people just don't seem to care or be on board with this at all. Some early predictions have this opening as low as $10-15 million. Not good for a movie with a $100 million production budget. Timur Bekmambetov, director of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is on board to direct this movie and Jack Huston will take the title role of Judah Ben-Hur.

Looking to possibly steal the weekend from Ben-Hur is War Dogs. This is based on the true story of two men in their early 20's who, through a series of unique events, won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America's allies in Afghanistan during the Iraqi War. These two men were David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who are played by Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in this movie. Thus the movie is an action comedy/drama that comes to us from director Tod Phillips, the director of The Hangover trilogy as well as other comedies such as Due Date and Starsky and Hutch. In total, seven of Phillips' nine directorial efforts have earned over $100 million total at the domestic box office when adjusted for ticket price inflation, which is a very good track record. Jonah Hill in one of the two lead roles is a good sign for the film as well and Miles Teller will be looking to get back on track after a followed up his praised role in Whiplash with a series of duds, the most noticeable being the universally hated Fantastic Four remake. Bradley Cooper will also be starring alongside Teller and Hill in a supporting role.

Finally, we have the highly anticipated stop-motion animation film Kubo and the Two Strings. The stop-motion animation genre is not the most box office friendly, which is a shame considering how much time and effort goes into making these movies, but Kubo comes to us via Laika, the stop motion animation company the made Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, Coraline, ParaNorman, and The BoxTrolls. These four movies from Laika all made between $50-75 million at the box office, so they've been consistent in that rate. It's safe to say that Kubo will fall in that range as well. The other thing Laika has been consistent with when it comes to these movies is getting Oscar nominations for the best animated feature category. None of them have won, but all four of them have been nominated. So look for Kubo to earn at least $50 million at the domestic box office and get an Oscar nomination early next year. The story is about a young boy named Kubo who needs to locate a magical suit of armor that was once worn by his father, a legendary Samurai warrior, and use that in order to stop a vengeful spirit who has wreaked all sorts of havoc on their village. The voice cast in the movie includes Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey, and Art Parkinson as Kubo.

August 26th - 28th-

The final weekend of August as well as the first weekend of September is known as a dead zone for the box office. Nothing ever performs that well. Thus it's become a self-fulling prophesy because studios choose not to release any major movies around that time period. A lot of action, horrors, and dramas that aren't usually expected to make much are dumped in that spot. Continuing that trend we have three such releases to finish off the month. The first being Mechanic: Resurrection. This franchise started with a 1972 action movie called The Mechanic that for some reason was given a Jason Statham remake in 2011 of the same title. The remake opened to $11.4 million on its way to $29.1 million total. Not a number that usually warrants a sequel and I don't know if it's a movie that people really wanted a sequel to, but we got it. Jason Statham returns in the lead assassin role while Tommy Lee Jones and Jessica Alba have been added to the cast. Numbers similar to the first might be fair. Statham is a pretty popular action star, but in terms of the box office his solo action movies like this have consistently opened around $10 million, give or take a few million.

We got our action movie in Mechanic: Resurrection. Now we have our horror movie in Don't Breathe. And suddenly this weekend is looking a lot like the final weekend of August 2014. Guardians of the Galaxy topped the box office yet again in its fifth weekend while action movie The November Man opened to $7.9 million and horror movie As Above/So Below opened to $8.6 million. Although it is worth reminded that in this disappointing summer, our horror movies have done quite well. The Conjuring 2 has now topped $100 million. The Purge: Election Year has made around $80 million and Lights Out is almost at $50 million in just two weekends. Don't Breathe is a horror/thriller where a bunch of dumb kids decide to steal from a blind man only to find out he is a pretty dang resourceful blind man and they have no idea how they are going to escape. It premiered at South by Southwest back in March to good reviews and is directed by Fede Alvarez, director of the 2013 Evil Dead, which made $54.2 million. Does that mean this movie has breakout potential? Possibly. If it does, it won't take much to actually win the weekend.

And finally we have another sleeper movie that might just stay asleep and that is Hands of Stone. This is a boxing movie about legendary boxer Roberto Duran and his equally as legendary trainer Ray Arcel. Duran is played by Edgar Ramirez while Arcel is played by Robert De Niro. On paper that sounds like a win, but unless the movie is a part of the Rocky franchise, boxing movies are a tough sell at the box office. Southpaw opened to $16 million last summer and that's on the good side of the spectrum. Last time De Niro starred in a boxing movie was Grudge Match with Sylvester Stallone and that only opened to $7 million. In 2011, Warrior rode phenomenal reviews to a grand total of $5.2 million in its first weekend. Sports movies in general are often more miss than hit. Earlier this year, Eddie the Eagle and Race both opened below $10 million ($6.1 million and $7.4 million respectively). Last year McFarland, USA barely squeaked ahead of the $10 million mark with $11 million. And those three movies are examples of movies that also had good reviews. Moral of the story is that Hands of Stone has a tough uphill battle to climb and it probably won't make it.

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