Thursday, August 3, 2017

Movie Preview: August 2017

If July 2017 taught us anything it's that sometimes it doesn't matter how good your movie is, if you have a bad release date or there's too much competition in the market, your financial potential will be limited. Several studios learned this the hard way this past month. Heading into the month, it was going to either be a historic month or a bit of an overcrowded disaster. Turns out it was more of the latter. Marvel and Sony's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," Fox's "War for the Planet of the Apes" and Warner Bros.' "Dunkirk" all scored extremely well with critics and audiences alike, but had each had a little more breathing room instead of being released in three consecutive weeks, perhaps their financial total would be a bit more as they have all been cannibalizing each other a bit. Meanwhile "Valerian" and "Atomic Blonde" were completely left in the dust, proving that both should've picked a different release date all together. Perhaps August would've been a good date for those movies because, as you are about to see with this August preview, it's looking like a very empty August. I mean, there's plenty of movies on the schedule, but none of them look like they'll have enough power to propel this month anywhere close to August 2016's $1.02 billion record.

August 4th - 6th-

First up to bat in this month is the long-awaited arrival of the film adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower. This is a movie that's been in what is referred to as "Production Hell" for the last 10 years. That's a phase where filmmakers are trying to get a movie made, but various issues keep it from coming to fruition, so it stays in production. Sometimes permanently. "The Dark Tower" initially began production back in 2007 when J.J. Abrams was attached to direct with fellow "LOST" co-workers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof on to write a script. But then 10 years of issues happened which included Abrams and co. leaving, Ron Howard being brought on to direct and then leaving before finally being left to Nikolaj Arcel, who's directed a few small films such as "A Royal Affair." Cast-wise, the movie has plenty of star power with Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in the lead roles, but hype leading up to the movie isn't exactly what fans of the books have hoped for. After muted or decreasing interest leading up to the release, the review embargo went until Wednesday evening, which has since led to a flood of mostly negative reviews. This probably means the franchise's future, which was hoping to go to T.V. next, is in jeopardy.

On a more positive note, the next movie up is the nationwide expansion of Kathryn Bigelow's critically praised Detroit. This had been set for a wide release this weekend for some time, but semi last minute, Annapurna Pictures elected for a limited release run a weekend earlier, which turned out to be a great choice as the movie earned a solid $350,190 in just 20 theaters this past weekend. Possibly more important to that is the early reviews from this run leaving the movie at a 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie is set in Detroit in 1967 and tells the story of events that took place in the Algiers Motel during the Detroit riots. Bigelow has a very strong track record with these types of intense true story films as her last two feature length films, "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker," both went onto be nominated for best picture at the Oscars, with "The Hurt Locker" winning the award back in 2009. With it only being August, it's way too early to tell if "Detroit" is in contention for best picture this upcoming awards season, but early signs are positive, which is also a good sign for lead stars John Boyega and Will Poulter. Look for this to play well throughout August as word of mouth builds, even if it doesn't have a strong wide release.

The final movie of this initial weekend of August sees Halle Berry return to a lead role for the first time since 2013 with her new film, Kidnap. The aforementioned previous lead role for Halle came with a movie called "The Call," which successfully fought a slate of mostly negative reviews by finishing with $51.8 million after a $17.1 million opening. Similar to "The Call," which found Halle chasing down someone who just kidnapped a teenage girl, this is also a crime thriller. About Halle chasing down someone who just kidnapped her 6-year-old son. So yeah, pretty much the same premise as "The Call." New time distributor Aviron Pictures would absolutely love a similar box office result as "The Call," but this seems more like a movie that is destined for a small opening followed by a quick exit from theaters and the minds of people who watched it. The strong negative reviews certainly don't help its case.

August 11th - 13th-

Fans of "The Conjuring" movies probably rolled their eyes at the announcement of this next film as the second weekend of August will see the release of Annabelle: Creation into theaters. While both "Conjuring" films did rather well at the box office and were generally well-liked films, the "Annabelle" prequel following the creepy doll from the original "Conjuring" film was a major critical dud. But since it still made a lot of money, Hollywood is ignoring the reaction and creating a second movie following the doll. Although is this a case where the studio listened to the complaints from the first "Annabelle" movie and are working to improve the quality of the film? While the first "Annabelle" couldn't even get to 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, super early reaction from scattered reviews have "Annabelle: Creation" currently listed at a perfect 100 percent. Once more reviews come in, this high mark most likely won't stay perfect, but the early positive reaction is a very good sign. Timeline-wise, we continue to reverse course as "Annabelle: Creation" is a prequel to "Annabelle," which was in turn a prequel to "The Conjuring." If this follows the track of the previous movies in this franchise, this could end up as August's top new film.

While "Annabelle: Creation" will be looking to attract horror crowds, Open Road Films will be looking for some family-friendly counter-programming with The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature. It might be a surprise to many to see a sequel to "The Nut Job," a movie that nobody liked and nobody probably remembers, but as a reminder, despite the negative reaction to what have called a very sub-par animated film, "The Nut Job" went critic proof by opening to $19.4 million in January 2014 and ended up with a final tally of $64.3 million. That's nothing close to typical animated affair, but for a small, independent animated film, that's a decent tally. Enough for Open Roads to decide that a sequel was necessary. After a summer full of disappointing animated affair, which saw "Cars 3" and "Despicable Me 3" perform below expectations when compared to their predecessors, as well as "The Emoji Movie" collapse following poisonous word of mouth, don't look for "The Nut Job 2" to reverse course. That job will be left to "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" in September. "The Nut Job 2" will instead most likely be as forgettable as its predecessor with worse box office totals.

The final wide release of the weekend is Lionsgate's release of The Glass Castle. Starring Academy Award winner Brie Larson, Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson and Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts, this movie tells the true story of Jeannette Walls and her unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing with her siblings and dysfunctional parents, based on the memoir of the same name written by Jeannette Walls herself that spent 261 weeks on the New York Times best seller list. If this doesn't scream Oscar-bait, I don't know what does. Now the term "Oscar-bait" often unfairly brings with in a negative connotation, but if the reviews of this are good, this could be a good drama that provides some counter-programming with the adult audience. Although if Lionsgate really wanted to push this one for awards, they forgot that August is still usually a bit too early to get serious consideration. Or maybe they don't quite have as much faith. Without those good reviews, though, this is likely to disappear into the late August night.

August 18th - 20th-

The third weekend of August brings us two titles aiming for the exact same audience: the adult male. Two action comedies. This is typically a bad sign as both of these late-August releases risk cannibalizing each other at the box office, meaning there's no guarantee that either of them end up topping the second weekend of "Annabelle: Creation," but the film that seems most likely to do so is The Hitman's Bodyguard. This action comedy stars Ryan Reynolds as a special protection agent who is assigned to protect a notorious hitman, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and help escort him safely to International Court of Justice where he is required to testify. The movie will be banking on the star power of Reynolds and Jackson, which is probably a good bet at this point given Reynolds' career resurgence following "Deadpool" added onto the fact that Jackson has been one of the most bankable stars for the last 20+ years. The two of them will be hoping to capture what made last year's "The Nice Guys" so well-loved while hoping to make a bit more money than that one did. Although it wouldn't be a surprise if "The Hitman's Bodyguard" ended up in the same realm as "The Nice Guys," which opened to $11.2 million on its way to $36.3 million.

Our second action comedy of the weekend comes from the director of "Oceans Eleven," "Oceans Twelve," "Oceans Thirteen" and "Magic Mike." That's a bit of an odd selection of filmography to highlight, but yes, we are talking about Steven Soderbergh and this is Logan Lucky. Speaking of Soderbergh's "Oceans" movies, those might be the best comparisons here as "Logan Lucky" is also a heist film with a large ensemble. The movie is led by two brothers, played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, come up with a plan to execute a big heist during a NASCAR race, specifically the Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Joining Tatum and Driver in this heist film is Daniel Craig, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes and Hilary Swank. So yeah, the "Oceans" movies are a good comparison. Except for when it comes to the financial aspect. All three "Oceans" movies opened in the $30 million range and finished above $100 million. Distributor Bleecker Street's highest grossing movie is "Eye in the Sky" with $18 million. Their biggest opening weekend was this year's "Megan Leavey" with $3.8 million. So they'll definitely be looking to break some personal records here.

August 25th - 27th-

If either one of our action comedies from weekend three end up breaking out, they have a really good chance at stealing a repeat in the infamous final weekend of August, which is a historically bad weekend financially. But there are three wide releases to talk about and these newcomers might be led by the animated movie Leap! from The Weinstein Company. "Leap!" has bounced around the schedule quite a bit this year, initially scheduled for March, then April, then Labor Day weekend, then this weekend. It's U.S. release is almost an unnecessary after-thought as this is a French-Canadian animated film and has already been released in a lot of countries worldwide, starting in France and the U.K. in December 2016, and has already accumulated $57.5 million on a $30 million budget. Now if you are from these other countries and you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, this is known as "Ballerina" everywhere else. Why they switched the title here, I have no idea. This is about an orphan girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina and might get the chance as she auditions for the celebrated school of the Paris Opera Ballet. So, you know, the title "Ballerina" DID make sense. Voice cast includes Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Madie Zeigler and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Our next late-August release is the Christian movie All Saints. This is a genre that has had success in the past as "War Room" and "When the Game Stands Tall" both released on this weekend in the past and went on to make $67.8 million and $30.1 million respectively. But yet for everyone of these, there's a handful of other Christian movies that pull in just a few million and it's almost hard to predict which ones will resonate with Christian audiences and which ones will be left in the dust. So there is hope for "All Saints." There's also the possibility of it completely failing to register. Nevertheless, this tells the true story of pastor named Michael Spurlock who is ordered to sell the Church he preaches at due to their congregation being so small. Turns out group of refugees from Southeast Asia show up and together they come up with a plan to rescue this church. I'm sure the filmmakers here would be ecstatic if this hits the $11.4 million or $8.4 million openings of the previously mentioned Christian films. If this does, this could theoretically take the weekend if nothing else on the schedule makes an appearance at the box office. That's not out of the question here.

The final movie of the weekend is the Bruce Lee biopic Birth of the Dragon. Now the advertising of this movie does lead you to believe that this movie is focused on Bruce Lee and the famous battle between him and Kung Fu master Wong Jack Man, which helped Lee become a legend. However, the actual movie might be a slightly different story than advertised. The movie was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016 and received very negative reactions from that screening as people who saw it were angry that the movie instead focused more on the fictional white character named Steve McKee, a student and friend of Lee who apparently inspired Lee. Thus accusations of "white washing" were thrown out, even though some don't seem to know what that actually is. Even so, if the critic and audience reactions are similar to these reactions from TIFF, this could easily be a movie that picks up a million or two at most and quickly disappears from theaters.

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