Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Movie Preview: October 2016

Happy Halloween! It's time now to discuss the movies on the schedule for October. As far as this past month goes, pretty much every movie outside Sully underperformed based on their expectations. The Light Between OceansMorgan, The Wild Life and The Disappointments Room were outright bombs. SnowdenBridget Jones's Baby, and Blair Witch were all disappointing. When the Bough BreaksThe Magnificent Seven and Storks weren't bad, but were all expected to go much higher. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar People  and Deepwater Horizon were decent, but also only had one day in September. All of these had potential to do well and make this a slightly better than average September. Instead they all teamed up make this a very average month even for September standards and easily the worst box office month of the year. Historically speaking, October is usually a better month than September, but not by much. This October has plenty of movies on the schedule that should get people talking, but yet there's no movie that stands out as the must-see of the month or the obvious box office winner, thus the overall outlook seems a bit cloudy. Nevertheless, there is plenty to talk about, so let's dive in!

October 7th - 9th-

I always have a goal to get these out BEFORE the first weekend of the month. Unfortunately that didn't happen due to my busy schedule, so instead we get a review of the first weekend instead of a preview. Three movies were released nationwide and only one of them made an impact on the box office and that was The Girl on the Train. The advertising here was incredible. This came out on the same weekend as Gone Girl did two years, which found enormous success both critically and financially. Gone Girl opened to nearly $40 million on it's way to $167.7 million in the U.S. Essentially The Girl on the Train was advertising itself as the next Gone Girl. It didn't get quite as high as Gone Girl, but it did pretty well for itself with $24.5 million. It's a psychological thriller that is based on the book that, according to advertising, "shocked the world." I can't speak for the book, but as it turns out the movie itself didn't shock the world. Reviews were average at best. The movie is essentially a whodunit mystery thriller about three girls and a guy. One girl goes missing and turns up dead and the characters and audience go on a journey together to figure out who killed the girl. Starring in the movie is Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson.

The first of two duds this past weekend was easily one of the most controversial films of the year and that is The Birth of a Nation. This was released in Sundance and got a standing ovation from audiences. Right before it was screened. An important detail that many missed in that story. You see, the Sundance Film Festival happened right in the thick of the "Oscars So White" controversy early this year and here we had a mostly black cast and crew led by actor/writer/director Nate Parker in his directorial debut. It was something for people to get behind who felt Hollywood and the Oscars especially were racist. Thus it was touted as potentially the next 12 Years a Slave and was purchased for a record-breaking $17.5 million by Fox Searchlight. A price tag that would prove to be way too high as this didn't even hit $10 million in its debut. Following Sundance, it was all downhill for this movie. Not only was the movie itself apparently very average, but rape allegations against Nate Parker surfaced from 1999. He wasn't found guilty, but was most likely was. The girl committed suicide in 2012, which doesn't help Parker's case. These revelations most likely soured general audiences away from this movie, especially considering certain scenes that were in the movie.

Our second dud of the weekend was the family-targeted film Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. The obvious comparison here is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, which has produced three successful films and has a fourth on the way next year. Both movies are based on successful books targeted at an audience of older kids and young teens. Diary of a Wimpy Kid successfully transitioned to the big screen with an opening weekend of $22.1 million while Middle School could only muster $6.8 million last weekend. I can't speak for the book, but the movie is essentially a gag-filled movie with middle school kids pulling pranks to get back at their mean teachers and mean principal for setting way too many rules that won't let the kids have any fun or creativity. This is a premise that could've worked if they played their cards right, but apparently it didn't. I guess it's possible that kids who saw it enjoyed it. I can't speak for them. But based on box office numbers, it's safe to say that not many parents were interested enough to actually take their kids to see this one.

October 14th - 16th-

And now we switch over to preview mode for the movies that have yet to come out. This will start with a weekend of three movies that will probably be very similar to the first weekend. Two duds and one poorly received hit. The latter being the Ben Affleck led action movie The Accountant. I say poorly received hit on this one because it's one of the more hyped movies based on trailers, yet early critic scores are coming in as abysmal as it holds a current 21 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But the curiosity among audiences will likely lead it to a strong debut. Thus the comparison to last weekend's The Girl on the Train. Ben Affleck stars as an autistic man who is also a super soldier of sorts and thus we get a Bourne-like premise with a super strong protagonist fighting a lot of people trying to stop him. Ben Affleck himself is on a roll right now. Even though Batman v. Superman wasn't received well, the one thing most people seem to agree on was that Ben Affleck was great as Batman and now people are excited for his solo Batman movie, which he will also be directing. This popularity alone should be enough to get people in seats, even if the movie itself isn't that great.

Now we have the two upcoming duds. The first of these being Kevin Hart: What Now? I suppose it's unfair to call this one a dud because it's a stand-up comedy movie and the expectations for these types of movies are much different. But don't expect it to make a ton of money. However, when it does come to stand up comedians, Kevin Hart is arguably the most popular in the business at this current moment. His first two stand-up comedy movies opened up to $7 million and $10 million respectively and Kevin Hart has only gotten even more popular since those two outings, so it's entirely possible this continues the upward trend. This particular routine took place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and broke records for ticket sales, so that's a good sign.

The other dud will be a a superhero movie! But not a Marvel or DC superhero movie. This one is called Max Steel and there's not many people on this planet that have heard of it. It started filming in 2014, then got shelved for a long time. The trailer for the movie didn't show up until late August, which is awfully late for trying to get the word out. The movie is directed by Stewart Hendler, the director of Whisper and Sorority Row, two movies no one has ever seen, and a web series called H+. In other words, he's a no-name director. The movie stars a bunch of no-name actors as well. It is based on the line of Max Steel action figures by Mattel, which are kinda like G.I. Joes. These Max Steel action figures got an animated TV show adaptation, which wasn't that popular. So nothing points to success for this. If you are wondering what it's about, a kid named Max combines with a certain alien called Steel to develop superpowers. Thus is why it gets the label of a superhero movie. One that will be quickly forgotten about. If it even gets anyone's attention in the first place

October 21st - 23rd-

And now we have the most crowded weekend of the month and one of the more crowded weekends of the year in terms of the number of releases. Five of them. That's a lot. And it's only five because A Monster Calls, which was initially schedule here as well, moved to December for an awards run. So there was supposed to be six. The film most likely to come out on top of this crowded weekend is Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Back in 2012, Jack Reacher opened in December to only $15 million on a $60 million budget and was initially seen as a bust. However, strong word of mouth propelled it to an incredible run and it finished with $80.1 million in the U.S. Then the sequel was justified after a fantastic foreign run saved it as it earned $138.3 overseas for a worldwide total of $218.4 million. Fans rejoiced. Jack Reacher started as a book series that is 20 books and counting is about this super smart action former military dude that goes around the country taking random odd jobs. Thus it's both a detective series and an action series. The type of role that Tom Cruise seemed born to play as it's very similar to his Ethan Hunt character in the Mission: Impossible franchise. In addition to comparisons to M:I, other obvious comparisons are James Bond and Jason Bourne.

Second up is the latest movie in Tyler Perry's Madea franchise with Boo! A Madea Halloween. From 2006 through 2014, Tyler Perry directed at least one or two movies per year, most of which consistently made between $30-60 million. They started to tail off a bit towards the end of that run, with his most recent movie, Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club only making $15.9 million total. Out of these series of Tyler Perry movies, the most popular ones were those that featured his character of Madea, which is a crazy, old, black lady played by Tyler Perry himself. The most successful outing with Madea was Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, which made $90.5 million back in 2009. Boo! A Madea Halloween is the second straight holiday themed movie with the Madea character following Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas in 2013. This holiday theme could very well resurrect Tyler Perry's movies as it's one of the few movies this month that's actually Halloween themed. The other one is coming up next.

The one and only horror movie during this Halloween month is, much to many people's chagrin, is Ouija: Origin of Evil. Ouija was a movie two years ago based on the popular board game that many think is a joke while many others think is a genuinely satanic, evil board that should never be messed with. Thus there was a huge controversy when the movie came out that played off people's fear of this evil board. Basically it was a movie where a bunch of people messed with the board and all died. The major problem here was not the controversy necessarily, but it was almost a universally hated movie as most called it one of the worst and most cliché horror movies, hitting every note that all the bad horror movies these days hit. But that didn't stop the droves of teenagers from showing up to the movie as, despite the poisonous reviews, the PG-13 rating helped it earn a total of $103.6 million wordwide, half of that in the U.S. That off a $5 million budget. What happens when you have a horror movie with that huge of a profit? You ignore the reviews and make a hundred more sequels until you've squeezed every last penny out of the franchise. Thus we have Ouija: Origin of Evil.

Movie number four of the weekend is the action comedy Keeping Up with the Joneses. This movie sports a cast of Gal Gadot, Isla Fisher, Zach Galifianakis and John Hamm and is directed by Greg Mottola, the director of Superbad and Paul, two very popular comedies. The premise is a very normal couple (Fisher and Galifianakis) ends up getting caught up in a huge international espionage plot after their seemingly perfect new neighbors (Gadot and Hamm) turn out to be government spies. This has all the ingredients for a very successful action comedy and if this gets great reviews, this could turn out to be a sleeper hit even if it doesn't open super high. The obvious elephant in the room is that with five wide releases, not everything can make bank at the box office. The two established franchises will most likely take precedence in people's minds when push comes to shove, so Keeping Up with the Joneses will be fighting the hardest uphill battle in this crowded weekend, even if the specific target audiences will be different for all the films involved.

Last and probably least for this weekend will be the faith-based film from Pure Flix in I'm Not Ashamed. Faith-based films have been known to break out in the last couple of years, but this is probably not going to be an example of that. Looking at the history of the films that Pure Flix has released, Do You Believe? made $12.9, Faith of Our Fathers made $1 million,  Woodlawn made $14.4 million, God's Not Dead 2 made $20.8 million and Hillsong - Let Hope Rise made $2.4 million. So there definitely seems to be a ceiling here with Pure Flix. If this ends up somewhere between Do You Believe? and God's Not Dead 2, that will be a win for Pure Flix. The movie itself tells the true story of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first student killed in the Columbine High School shooting back in 1999. The movie is based on her journal entries. If played well, this could definitely hit the niche crowd of Christian film goers that Pure Flix aims for with their movies given that it's a subject matter that many people remember quite well.

October 28th - 30th-

Halloween weekend was supposed to have three new releases. But both horror movies that were scheduled were taken off the calendar for this month on a somewhat last minute decision, most likely to avoid competition from Ouija: Origin of Evil. The first of those was Rings and that will now be a February 2017 release while the second one didn't even have a title, so who knows what that one was or when it will show up again. All this means the movie Inferno gets the weekend all to itself. Plus whatever staying power the holdovers have, of course. Inferno will be the third movie in the series of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon books. The book series currently includes Angels & Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009) and Inferno (2013). The fifth book in the series, Origin, is scheduled for release next year. In the movie universe, they first started by adapting The Da Vinci Code in 2006, which had a monster box office run of $217.5 million in the U.S. and $758.2 million worldwide. Angels & Demons was next in 2009, but that took a huge dip with $133.4 million/$485.9 million. Now it's been seven years and we're jumping straight to the fourth book instead of doing the third one. Is this a franchise people are still interested in? Another significant dip from Angels & Demons is probably to be expected, but it still should do well enough to win the month. Tom Hanks won September and he can win October, too.

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