Box Office Preview: August 16

Originally posted by Film Journal International

Summer may be almost over, but distributors are still hoping to score blockbuster-sized ticket sales before kids and teenagers head back to school. The Weinstein Company’s Butler and Kick-Ass 2 (from Universal) are expected to earn the top two spots at the box office this weekend.

Predictors may expect Kick-Ass 2 (2,940 theatres) to attract more viewers. It has all the trappings of a summer smash, after all: a sequel about superheroes with a big-name star (Jim Carrey) and fanboy cred. But don’t expect this film to do Man of Steel-style numbers. The original grossed under $20 million its opening weekend in 2010. It did move a lot of DVDs and Blu-rays, however, which Universal is citing as justification for a sequel. Kick-Ass 2 is also down a major actor: Nick Cage, whose performance as a deranged Batman wannabe was a main draw for audience members, does not appear in this installment.

Carrey’s character is meant to fill Cage’s shoes, but the comedian declined to promote the film, and even bashed it on social media for its excessive violence in the wake of tragedies like the Newtown shooting. The other factor that gave Kick-Ass so much buzz was then-11-year-old lead Chloe Grace Moretz’s, um, colorful dialogue, which fully justified the feature’s R rating. But Moretz is 15 now, and hearing her curse like a sailor and ridicule her co-stars just doesn’t have the same double take-inducing shock value. Universal is predicting that Kick-Ass 2 will gross $19.8 million this weekend, an identical figure to the original. This number would fall just short of The Butler’s expected haul, however.

A historical drama depicting crucial moments in African-American history from the 1920s through the Reagan era, The Butler (2,933 theatres) reads more Oscar-bait than box office smash. But the Weinstein Company has been promoting the film like mad. The presence of costar Oprah Winfrey (who hasn’t played a role other than herself onscreen since 1998’s Beloved) alone should ensure a sizable female audience. Forest Whitaker is bankable as protagonist Cecil Gaines, and audiences will be looking forward to catching Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, and Alan Rickman as assorted Commanders in Chief. The film also appeals to minority viewers and TWC has been promoting it heavily to church groups as well. In addition to all these demographics, The Butler is likely to gain a significant viewership from the overlooked 40+ set, who are drained from a summer’s worth of comic book adaptations. Finally, the film is rated PG-13, which gives it a greater built-in audience share than Kick-Ass 2, which is rated R.The Butler could easily earn $20 million this weekend, putting it just ahead of its rival’s predicted take.

Smaller releases Jobs (2,381 theaters) and Paranoia (2,459 theatres) also bow today. Neither has scored well with critics—Paranoia in particular is currently boasting a horrendous 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Jobs stars Ashton Kutcher as the celebrated Apple founder, and the actor brings enough appeal to likely land the biopic in third place. Both films should bring in under $10 million. With no other PG-13 comedies currently in theaters, expect We’re the Millers to continue to pull in its portion of younger moviegoers. As the sole recent animated kids movie,Planes is in a similar position, which should boost its sales as well—thoughDespicable Me 2, which came out over a month and a half ago, is still playing in over 2,000 theatres.


R.I.P.D.: The Dude vs. the Dead

Originally published on Television Without Pity.

It was with cautious optimism that I went to see R.I.P.D. I’m not normally one for action movies — which, in the age of Transformers, have become heavy on the explosions and light on the everything else. But, R.I.P.D. does have a few things going for it. It stars Jeff Bridges and it has an intriguing premise, based on a comic book by Peter M. Lenkov. It also does not feature a talking snail… like Ryan Reynolds’ other movie that’s opening this weekend.

I ended up finding most of the film pretty entertaining. R.I.P.D. won’t become a classic of either the action or sci-fi genres, but it provides enough excitement and laughs to justify its ticket price.

Reynolds plays Nick, a Boston cop who recently got his hands a little dirty when he and his partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon) stole some gold from a group of criminals they busted. Despite this momentary lapse in morality, Nick is a good guy who’s just trying to find a way to make a better life for himself and his wife, Julia (Stephanie Szostak). Early in the film, Nick, Hayes and the rest of the Boston PD are called to a warehouse, where a wanted offender is hiding out. For some reason the warehouse is also on fire (or maybe just filled with explosions, it was hard to tell). In the ensuing chaos and fighting, Nick is shot and killed.

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Grown Ups 2: Nothing Will Ever Be Funny Again

Originally published at

I just want to make it clear I have never voluntarily seen a Kevin James movie before I watched Grown Ups. I feel it’s important that I disclose this in order to maintain my integrity as a movie buff and as a human being.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: How could I have missed Paul Blart: Mall Cop, or that historically important gay rights film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry? Unfortunately, digging through James’ past oeuvre is a bit above my pay grade, so let’s get right to Grown Ups 2, a film that made me want to shoot myself in the face.

In the first Grown Ups, five middle-aged men (James, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider) reunite at the funeral of their old basketball coach, and decide to spend a weekend reconnecting at Lenny Feder’s (Sandler) lake house. They all bring along their wives and children, and various lame gags and general poor taste ensues. The sequel takes place three years later. All the characters — except for Schneider, who apparently had the decency not to inflict himself on the poor souls who already had to watch him in the original — have now moved back to their home town to spend even more time being not funny together.

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Pacific Rim likely to squeak by Despicable Me 2 for weekend’s top spot

Originally published at Film Journal International

pacific rim

This weekend marks the seventh year in a row that Warner Bros. has opted to release a big-budget tentpole in mid-July. All the others (a mix of Harry Potterand Christopher Nolan films) were huge hits, and the company is hoping monster-movie Pacific Rim will reach similar box-office scores. However, Pacific Rim does not have the built-in fan base that Warner’s previous July releases benefited from, nor does it have any big-name actors attached. Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day and Idris Elba are all somewhat recognizable from TV (“Sons of Anarchy,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Wire,” respectively), but none have yet emerged as bankable film stars. Additionally, Pacific Rim (which chronicles the epic battle between giant sea monsters—Kaiju—and the robots humans have created to fight them) is quite CGI-heavy, meaning the stars are barely visible in the trailer, which consists mostly of larger-than-life battles and carnage.

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Back When They Were Funny: The Cast of Grown Ups 2 on SNL

Originally published on

Adam Sandler

In hindsight, 1990 was a particularly momentous year for the cast of Grown Ups 2. That was the season that Lorne Michaels made Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and David Spade regular cast members on Saturday Night Live, the show that launched each of their careers and made them household names. Rob Schneider was also cast that season, but since he doesn’t appear to be in this sequel, we are more than comfortable forgetting about him.

Many other Grown Ups 2 players are also SNL alums: Maya Rudolph, Colin Quinn, Andy Samberg, Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam all show up in varying capacities. That probably makes it pretty awkward for Kevin James, who has never appeared on the show. Sorry, Kevin.

Of course, for many of these comedians, SNL marked the highlight of their careers, and some haven’t been all that funny since. Let’s take a look back at their best moments from the sketch-comedy staple, and try to forget how far they’ve fallen in the years that have passed. We can’t promise that watching these clips will make you forget about That’s My Boy, but it couldn’t hurt.

Notes to Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg: You guys are still funny. Just stop taking meetings with Adam Sandler’s agent. Chris Rock, you’re on probation. Maybe you should give Kevin Smith a call. You were awesome in Dogma.

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Cult horror film Jacob’s Ladder to get a 21st century update

jacob's ladder

Originally published by Film Journal International

Jacob’s Ladder, a psychological horror film that came out in 1990, scored a respectable 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, but grossed a dismal $26 million domestically. It has achieved far greater success, however, in the years since its release. Since 1990, Jacob’s Ladder has developed a cult following, spurred by a DVD release in 1998 and a Blu-ray release in 2004. The Hollywood Reporterannounced Friday that the studio LD Entertainment has agreed to finance aremake of the film.

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DiCaprio plays another rich criminal in The Wolf of Wall Street

Originally published by Film Journal International

Paramount has begun building hype for Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest project, The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese. The first trailer for the film, slated to hit theaters November 15, released on Sunday. The Wolf of Wall Street is based on Jordan Belfort’s 2007 memoir of the same name. Belfort, a hedge fund manager, made hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1980s and ’90s through his brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, until it was discovered that the firm was inflating stocks and committing fraud, as well as perpetrating other financial crimes. Belfort was arrested and spent nearly two years in prison.

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