Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie Preview: March 2017

The weather outside is very bipolar right now, which means we must be approaching this thing called Spring. In Hollywood we call this early Summer, though, because March has recently developed a reputation of being a very good month for major blockbusters, which is a discovery that began in the early part of this decade with movies such as "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Hunger Games." In fact, since 2010 there have been eight titles that opened in March that went on to make over $200 million at the domestic box office. Prior to 2010, only "300" accomplished that feat. Last year alone had "Zootopia" and "Batman v. Superman" earn over $300 million after opening in March. This has caused Hollywood to be increasingly more confident in releasing blockbusters in March as this March has just as many blockbusters scheduled as any month this Summer. It's not out of the realm of possibilities for this to be the first March to ever hit $1 billion at the box office, which would be a nice turnaround for 2017 as we've started off with two fairly average months that have only seen three new releases barely cross the $100 million mark so far. "The LEGO Batman Movie" leads the way $135 million so far heading into the first weekend of March. So let's jump right in!

March 3rd - 5th-

Kicking things off will be the X-Men movie that fans have been begging to be made for years now and that is Logan. For 17 years now Hugh Jackman has played the character of Wolverine, a character with long, sharp blades that come out his hands that he uses to stab people with. But yet the amount of blood and stabbing is always kept to a safe minimum. In the comics Wolverine is often a very violent, rough character, but the movies have never fully unleashed that potential because, well, superhero movies need to be PG-13 or else they won't make any money. That's the thought at least. Fans have wanted a violent, graphic version of Wolverine that didn't hold back, but they were never given one because Fox wanted to make money. Last year changed all of that when "Deadpool" proved that you can be true to a character's comic book origin and still make money. Several R-rated superhero movies immediately got put into the works, the first of which was "Logan." This is what fans have been asking for. A movie about Wolverine that doesn't hold back. It'll be based on the popular comic book story "Old Man Logan" and is rumored to be Hugh Jackman's last outing as Wolverine as well as Patrick Stewart's last outing as Charles Xavier. But, you know, all of us want Wolverine to show up in "Deadpool 2," so maybe he'll change his mind and at least give us a cameo there.

Easter isn't until April 16 this year, but the faith-based film The Shack will be hoping that faith-based audiences will be in the mood to celebrate a bit early. This time of year has typically been pretty kind to this genre. Last March, "Miracles from Heaven" earned $61.7 million after opening in mid-March. Granted, Easter was only two weeks away at that time, but "Risen" also did fairly well last year after opening in mid-February, which had about the same amount of time to Easter then as "The Shack" does this year. That said, "The Young Messiah" last March was a major flop, earning only $6.4 million total, and "God's Not Dead 2" only earned a third as much as its predecessor after opening just after Easter, so a faith-based film around Easter doesn't guarantee good box office receipts, so we'll see how well "The Shack" does. "The Shack" is a story about a father who receives a letter that he assumes is from God, asking him to return to the place where his daughter was abducted and assumed to be murdered, which is a small shack. The father obliges and returns to the shack, where he hasn't been since the abduction. The film stars Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer and Tim McGraw.

The final movie of the weekend is Before I Fall, which is essentially a version of "Groundhog Day" intended for teenage girls, as it's also based on a young adult novel of the same name by Lauren Oliver, which is a genre of movies that has started to die out recently, meaning this movie might be a few years too late. It stars Zoey Deutch ("Dirty Grandpa," "Vampire Academy," "Why Him?") as a girl who dies in a car accident one night and is then forced to re-live that day of her death every day for a week. Hence the comparison to "Groundhog Day" with that time loop idea. You can probably guess that there's a lesson that she needs to learn, much like Bill Murray needed to, before she's able to escape the time loop. The opening weekend for "Before I Fall" is tracking on par with "The Edge of Seventeen" and "The Space Between Us," which made $4.7 million and $3.7 million respectively on their opening weekends, which suggests an opening for "Before I Fall" of less than $5 million.

March 10th - 12th-

There's only one new wide release on the second weekend of March, but it's a big one with Kong: Skull Island. The character of Kong, a giant gorilla who lives on Skull Island, dates back to 1933 with the original classic film "King Kong," which has been remade and re-imagined in many different forms of media, most notably on the big screen in 1976 and 2005. That most recent version from 2005 was directed by Peter Jackson and made $218.1 million at the domestic box office, a number that Warner Bros. would love to replicate with this newest sequel. The big reason for that is that, outside the obvious goal of making money, they have a shared universe planned with 2014 version of Godzilla, which includes "Godzilla 2" scheduled for 2019 and the epic showdown of the two giants in 2020 with the movie simply called "Godzilla vs. Kong." If "Kong: Skull Island" doesn't live up to its end of the bargain, that plan could be in jeopardy. The 2014 "Godzilla" opened huge to $93.2 million, but tanked hard after that and only barely doubled that opening weekend with a domestic total of $200.6 million. That film came with a mixed reaction that could mean audiences are lukewarm to this idea of this shared universe. As far as story goes, given that there is already a planned showdown in three years, the typical ending of Kong climbing the Empire State Building and getting shot and killed is probably off the table, meaning we're probably in for a surprise ending.

March 17th - 20th-

The third weekend of March sees the arrival of one of the most anticipated movies of the year, Disney's live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. This trend of Disney remaking all of their animated classics began in 2010 when "Alice in Wonderland" scored over $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Since then Disney has ventured out and did live-action remakes of "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "The Jungle Book" and "Pete's Dragon," all of which received varying degrees of success, the biggest story being last year's "The Jungle Book," which actually out-grossed "Alice in Wonderland" in the U.S. with $364 million compared to that movie's $334 million, and fell just short of its worldwide total. Building off strong goodwill from "The Jungle Book," Disney has now taken on one of their most beloved animated films of all time in "Beauty and the Beast," casting the well-liked Emma Watson in the lead role of Belle. Anticipation for this movie has been through the roof so far as shown by the 127 million views the initial trailer got in its first 24 hours. The box office prospects for "Beauty and the Beast" look like its headed to infinite and beyond as it could be one of the biggest opening weeks of all time. It will certainly break the $103.2 million that "The Jungle Book" earned last year and may set the March opening weekend record, which currently belongs to last year's "Batman v. Superman" with $166 million. At the very least it should come close to that total.

There's only one movie that will be challenging "Beauty and the Beast" and it's looking like it won't make much of a dent. That movie is The Belko Experiment. The premise of "The Belko Experiment" is that 80 people are locked in their office and are told by a voice coming from an intercom that they need to start killing each other or else a higher percentage of them will end up dead. Thus we have a twisted social experiment similar to a graphic adult version of "The Hunger Games." The movie is directed by Greg McLean, who directed "The Darkness" last year, "Wolf Creek" in 2005 and a small handful of other overly graphic low-budget action/horror films. In terms of box office comparisons, McLean's "Wolf Creek" opened to $2.8 million in 2005 while "The Darkness" opened to $4.9 million last year. There's also a lot of small action movies that get released around this time. Last year, "Hardcore Henry" opened to $5.1 million and "Criminal" opened to $5.8 million. "The Gunman" opened to $5.0 million in 2015 while "Sabatoge" opened to $5.3 million in 2014. Seeing a trend here? An opening around $5 million seems about right for "The Belko Experiment."

While it's not hitting a wide release this weekend, it's definitely worth noting the limited release of T2 Trainspotting, which has already been released in over 20 countries worldwide, which started in the U.K. in late January. The movie has already earned $20.1 million over there, which makes sense since "Trainspotting" has been lauded as one of the greatest British films of all time. The original "Trainspotting" was released in 1996 and only earned $16.5 million in the United States, but has since become a cult classic. The movie was a black comedy about a man who was trying to overcome a heroine addiction. It was directed by Danny Boyle and starred Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle as a unique group of friends. "T2 Trainspotting" reunites the group of friends 20 years later, with all four actors reprising their roles. Director Danny Boyle also returns, having directed movies such as "28 Days Later...," "127 Hours," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Steve Jobs" in between his "Trainspotting" movies. Critics so far have labeled "T2 Trainspotter" as a worthy successor as is currently certified fresh with 77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

March 24th - 26th-

For the third major remake this month following "Kong: Skull Island" and "Beauty and the Beast," we have the not so highly anticipated remake of the classic 90's TV show Power Rangers. Now to be fair, the original TV show, which started in 1993, was designed as a show for kids and didn't take itself too seriously. It's more of a cheesy, dumb kids action show that young boys especially loved. All this movie really needs to do in order to be considered a success is to appease that same target audience. If the young boys enjoy the movie, then the movie has done its job, even if every critic ends up panning the movie. Kids don't spend time looking at reviews. That said, the initial target audience that grew up watching "Power Rangers" in the 90's are now adults themselves that have seen other beloved TV shows such as "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" get botched on the big screen with their recent reboots, so there's an understandable amount of concern heading into "Power Rangers." As far as box office goes, I'm sure Lionsgate would love for this to hit "Transformers" level, but a more realistic bar might be the two "G.I. Joe" movies, which made $150.2 million and $122.5 million respectively. If "Power Rangers" can hit that range, that should be considered a success.

Each year for the last four years we've had a big-budget, sci-fi space movie released. And no, I'm not talking about "Star Wars." I'm talking about "Gravity" (2013), "Interstellar" (2014), "The Martian" (2015) and "Passengers" (2016). This year's space movie comes a little earlier in the year and is called Life. Yeah, that's a bit of a generic title, but the movie is about six astronauts that are aboard the space station and are studying a sample that was collected from Mars that has proven that there is life on Mars. What they have on their hands is a large, single-celled organism that has made them all ecstatic with their discover. At least initially. The trailers show evidence of panic and chaos ensuing when they discover that there may be more to this than the originally thought, turning the movie into a sci-fi thriller. Directing this movie is Daniel Espinosa, who is best known for directing "Safe House," which was a breakout movie in February 2012 that earned $126.4 million domestically after surprising people with a $40.2 million opening. I'm sure Espinosa would love another breakout performance here in late March. We'll see if it happens. Best case scenario here might be "Passengers," which is currently sitting at $99 million after opening around Christmas. "Life" does have a good cast going for it, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds.

Next up is the first raunchy comedy of the month in CHiPs. In fact, this is the first R-rated comedy since "Fist Fight" in February and "Why Him?" before that in December. That means fans of raunchy comedies have been a bit under-served as of late, meaning that "CHiPs" is in prime position if it can play its cards right and entertain audiences. The movie stars Michael Pena and Dax Sheppard as two California Highway Patrol officers (CHiPs) making their rounds on their motorcycles. The movie is a remake of the TV show "CHiPs," which ran for 139 episodes over the course of six seasons from 1977 to 1983. That makes this the second remake of a TV show this weekend between this and "Power Rangers," the two aiming for two obviously different audiences. With this being more of a buddy comedy released in late March, I'm sure the creators of this would love for a response similar to that of "21 Jump Street," which was also a remake of a TV show starring two male leads that made $138.4 million in March 2012. Although the star power of Michael Pena and Dax Shephard isn't near the level of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. This is also written and directed by Dax Shephard, whose only previous work as a director is a few small movies and TV show episodes.

March 31st - April 2nd- 

The final weekend of March only has the first day of it in March and the last two in April. As always, though, I go by what month the weekend started on, not what month it ended on. Riding its own fair share of controversy to the big screen this weekend will be Ghost in the Shell. If I have my facts right, "The Ghost in the Shell" was initially released as a manga in 1989, a manga essentially being a Japanese comic. Since then it has been adapted into various anime movies and TV shows. The series is set in a futuristic Japan and follows an organization called Public Security Section 9, an organization comprised mainly of former police and military personnel. In this version of the future, there are many members of the public that have cyberbrains which can also be combined with various levels of different prosthetics up to the level of being full-fledged cyborg. The main character is one Major Motoko Kusanagi, who is a fully cyborg Japanese girl. The controversy surrounding this live action version is that Major, as they simply call her in this iteration, is played by Scarlett Johansson, who is most certainly NOT Japanese. The idea here is to add some star power to the movie to drive ticket sales, which Scarlett has proven time and again that she is capable of. Some wonder if they should've just cast a Japanese actress given that many of them would've loved to play the role.

Next up is the latest addition to DreamWorks Animation Studio's cannon with The Boss Baby. DreamWorks has had an interesting history. The came onto the scene in the late 90's shortly before exploding with "Shrek" in 2001. This was followed by them dominating the animation scene along side Pixar for the greater portion of the decade. Then they got a little carried away and started going quantity over quality, which caused them to crash in a major way starting with "Rise of the Guardians" in 2012. A major overhaul happened after a lengthy streak of failures, which caused a lot of people their jobs and forced the company to shelf or outright cancel many of their major projects. The goal here was to focus more on quality instead of quantity, which recently has them on a bit of a winning streak as their last three movies, "Home," "Kung Fu Panda 3" and "Trolls" have all done decently well at the box office. "The Boss Baby" is a bit of an interesting idea for an original animated movie that is focused on a baby who has the mind of a bossy adult, voiced by Alec Baldwin. If this does connect, it'll be in pretty good position as, outside "Smurfs: The Lost Village" the next weekend, the next major animated movie doesn't come until June with DreamWorks' fellow animated movie "Captain Underpants," which will be followed shortly by "Cars 3" and "Despicable Me 3."

Finishing off the month will be the World War II drama The Zookeeper's Wife. This is looking like it will be more of a small release that will rely on reviews and word of mouth in hopes to hold well throughout April. The movie tells the true story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who lived in Poland during World War II. As you can probably guess, Jan was a Zookeeper of the Warsaw Zoo in Poland. When the German invasion of Poland began in 1939, the zoo was destroyed, but the Zabiniskis continued to live there and used the zoo to hide up to 300 displaced Jews during the war. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Diane Ackerman, which drew on the diary of Antonina, who is played in the movie by Jessica Chastain. "The Zookeper's Wife" is directed by Niki Caro, who most recently directed the sports drama "McFarland, USA," a movie that only opened to $11 million in February 2015, but rode good word of mouth to eventually make $44.5 million. Focus Features will be hoping for a similar run here, but that will be dependent how strong the reviews and the word of mouth for the film end up being. This could turn into a sleeper hit. Or it might just stay asleep.

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