BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: RESURGENCE NO RESURRECTION

DON’T EXPECT AN INDEPENDENCE DAY 3 AFTER RESURGENCE’S DISMAL OPENING WEEKEND

Any plans 20th Century Fox had for an Independence Day movie trilogy are probably getting put on ice as studio number crunchers perform a post mortem on what can only be described as a depressing opening weekend for Independence Day Resurgence.

The long awaited sequel to the 1996 science fiction blockbuster Independence Day, Resurgence wasn’t only intended to be a summer tent pole release for Fox, but a renewal of the franchise as well. Resurgence (clumsily) sets up another would be blockbuster in the series, but a poor box office performance may kill any hopes for a third round between Earth and Roland Emmerich’s CGI aliens.

A two-decade wait and a year of hype should have generated a voracious audience appetite for Resurgence, especially when it opened against the little known (and also poorly performing) historical action movie Free State of Jones. Yet Resurgence, with an estimated 165 million dollar production budget, opened with just 41 million over the weekend, a distant second to Finding Dory, which came in at number one the second weekend in a row adding an extra 73 million plus domestically. Pixar’s sequel to it’s 2003 blockbuster Finding Nemo has grossed over 286 million domestically since being released on Father’s Day weekend, and has topped 396 million globally. Last weekend was the twelfth weekend this year that a Disney property has been number one at the box office (and it’s only June). With titles like The BFG, Pete’s Dragon, Dr. Strange, Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story all scheduled for release later this year, we should get used to seeing Mickey perched at the top of the box office food chain (Disney has three billion dollar properties under it’s belt since January).

Even if Resurgence proves to have serious box office legs (a long shot considering the competition being released over the next few weeks) and it somehow manages to triple its opening numbers over the course of the summer, it will still fall well short of equaling its production budget and would need to have a ridiculous overseas performance to break even let alone post a profit big enough to justify a sequel.

Central Intelligence fell from second to third, adding an additional 18.7 million to it’s domestic total, and the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart action comedy continues to perform relatively strong despite a humble opening opposite Finding Dory. The low budget horror movie The Shallows was this weekend’s surprise, opening in fourth place and nearly recouping its entire seventeen million dollar budget (it missed by a few hundred thousand). The Free State of Jones dismal 7.7 million dollar opening was good enough for fifth.

Sequels rounded out the rest of the top ten. The Conjuring 2 continued to surprise by capturing sixth place (7.7 million), Now You See Me 2 continued to underperform in seventh (5.6 million), X-Men Apocalypse trundled along, with it’s 2.475 million narrowly edging out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows 2.4 million for eighth. Alice Through The Looking Glass finished tenth during its fifth weekend with just over 2.1 million. While The Conjuring’s latest horror chapter is exceeding expectations (inspiring Warner Bros. to green light a stand alone movie for the demonic antagonist the same way the original Conjuring launched Annabelle) the other sequels in spots seven through ten range from mild to severely disappointing.

It’s also worth noting that in just it’s third weekend, Warcraft has tumbled out of the North American top ten, though it’s incredible oversea performance means it may break-even. Still, it’s horrible domestic performance may threaten future co-operation between gaming giant Blizzard and any other movie studios.

Next weekend should prove very interesting as three sizeable titles are slated for release on a giant holiday weekend (Canada Day north of the border and July Fourth for the U.S of A) and it will be interesting to see if either The BFG or Tarzan can slow the tsunami that is Finding Dory (and how Dory and BFG, both Disney properties, share the family movie dollars). And what kind of niche can the uber-violent Purge 3 carve for itself? Will America’s polarized political climate help or harm its bottom box office line?

Shayne Kempton

 

 

SHINY BUT EMPTY GLASS

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS IS BRIGHT AND PRETTY BUT LACKS EVERYTHING THAT MADE THE ORIGINAL MEMORABLE WHILE FAILING TO BRING ANYTHING NEW TO THE FRANCHISE

Director: James Bobin

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Matt Lucas, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Fry and Lindsay Duncan

Rated: PG

Studio: Walt Disney

Running Time: 1 Hr, 53 Mins

There was a lot to like about 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. Disney and director Tim Burton successfully brought Lewis Carroll’s fairy tale land and the characters that inhabited it to vibrant, brilliant life. Then there was Johnny Depp’s quirky, occasionally scary portrayal of the Mad Hatter (who occasionally deviated from his trademark benign lunacy to become a fearsome fighter with a deep Scottish brogue). But perhaps the most likeable element was Alice herself, who over the course of the movie grew from an uncertain, grief stricken teenager who was on the verge of being pimped off by her well meaning mother (destined to spend her remaining years in a loveless marriage, tending her husband’s digestive “blockage”), to an armour wearing, sword wielding warrior who saved Wonderland by slaying the terrifying and all powerful Jabberwocky.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for its sequel, Alice Through The Looking Glass.

After captaining her late father’s merchant ship The Wonder for three adventure filled years at sea, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns home to discover that, in her absence, her mother’s been forced into a compromising financial situation. She soon finds herself facing a dreary life, barren of adventure and courage, at the same hands of the digestively challenged boor she was almost married to in the first film. All of that is pushed to the back burner when she’s summoned back to Wonderland, this time to save the Hatter (Johnny Depp), whose grief over his family (killed by the Jabberwocky years prior) has poisoned his mind and soul. Alice soon finds herself literally racing Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to discover the fate of the Hatter’s family.

Along the way she learns a number of secrets (some of them uncomfortable) about her closest friends and the history of Wonderland. And in the midst of all this, the swollen headed, execution happy Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has returned from her exile to take revenge on her sister the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Alice and everyone else responsible for her defeat.

The visual effects and world building in Looking Glass easily live up to those of its predecessor and even surpass them on a number of occasions. Depp’s performance remains the best in the movie (though he’s more subdued and given less opportunity to try and salvage the film this time around) though Bonham Carter chews up more then her fair share of scenery reprising her role as the Red Queen. And hearing Alan Rickman’s voice-even for only for two lines-was a gentle but definite tug on the heartstrings (the movie was dedicated to his memory). There are even a few clever little wrinkles in the time hopping story, but unfortunately none of it is enough to elevate Looking Glass above a visually attractive but emotionally empty sequel.

One of the strengths of the original Alice was the sense of discovery. Not everything in Alice was new, but it was at least novel, and seeing Wonderland through an amnesiac Alice’s eyes (who had forgotten her first visit, made when she was a small girl years before) allowed a unique sense of wonder (pardon the pun). Telling the original fairly tale in hindsight and through flashbacks while also telling the new story was an inventive plot device that somehow worked. Alice in Wonderland was a successful exercise in unique movie storytelling, something rare for a live action adaptation of a fairy tale. The sequel lacks that inventiveness and it’s attempts to try and embrace larger concepts (particularly the bonds and demands of family and the need to sacrifice for and forgive our loved ones) fall flat.

Looking Glass is neither as ambitious nor fresh as Wonderland. It isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t a good one either and it’s certainly not on the same level as Wonderland. The best way to think of it is as an amusing diversion that will be forgotten shortly after you’ve seen it (unlike Wonderland, there’s very little that’s memorable about it). If anything, it’ll put you in the mood to watch the original again.

Shayne Kempton

 

MOVIE SEASON MADNESS

MY TOP TEN LIST FOR THIS SUMMER MOVIE SEASON

Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? It’s summer movie season, Christmas time for movie fans and buffs. Four months of tent-pole releases, franchise films and blockbusters from every genre. We’re already a few weeks into this year’s summer buffet of movie goodness, and one of the titles on this list has already broken the box office, but these are the ten films I’m looking forward to the most this summer. I spoke about a few of them with Dr. Ted on his podcast a few weeks ago (check it out here) but we ran out of time to touch on all of them. So without further adieu . . .

images-26

  1. Suicide Squad (August 5): Of all the movies on this list, this is the one that makes me the most nervous. I wasn’t a fan of the Suicide Squad comics (never read a single one, in fact) and after the sour taste that Batman Vs. Superman left in my mouth, my confidence in Warner Bros./DC is more then a little shaken. The fact that after the success of Deadpool (or more importantly the comedy in Deadpool), Warner Bros. ordered extensive reshoots for Suicide Squad to make it “lighter” isn’t exactly reassuring (when a movie is doing significant re-shoots six months before its release date, that’s a rarely a good sign). And honestly, is a movie about a team of super villains carrying out near impossible black ops missions in return for having their death sentences commuted the kind of film where you want a laugh a minute? But DC continues to build hype around Squad, there’s buzz that they plan to spin off Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn into her own movie and there’s no shortage of audience anticipation to see Jared Leto’s Joker. Could this be DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy: an obscure property that hits big in the steamy days of August? After the critical and box office disappointment of Batman Vs. Superman, they need it to be.

images-27

  1. Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27): When Alice in Wonderland hit theatres back in 2010, my niece had just graduated to being a toddler and I was becoming a little desperate looking for strong female role models in current media. I found one in Alice. Returning a teenage Alice to a broken and bleak Neverland as she’s essentially being pimped out to some high society husband so she can spend her days as an obedient, doting wife and mother was a brilliant stroke of storytelling. Making it so she had to overcome her self-doubt as well as her amnesia about the fantastic Wonderland before she could face the evil threatening it was even better. By the end of the movie, Alice was no princess needing rescuing or a damsel in distress; she was a sword-wielding warrior saving an entire world by slaying the ancient and dreaded Jabberwocky in battle. Toss in Johnny Depp’s performance as the Mad Hatter and Tim Burton’s signature visuals and Alice in Wonderland was a solid hit. Here’s hoping the sequel, with Burton producing instead of directing, lives up to the original.

warrrr_Open

  1. Warcraft (June 10): Based on the uber popular online game, this Universal release has a reported 160 million dollar production budget. And by the looks of it, it was all invested in the special and visual effects department. Make no mistake, I’m not expecting any brilliant storytelling (the trailers seem to have already given away the plot), but I fully expect this movie to be sold on the basis of its breath taking visuals and the scope of its world design. What other movie are you going to see this year that includes knights, sorcerers, orcs, griffins, monsters and maybe a dragon or two? What it all boils down to is this is the perfect movie to satisfy my inner geek. It should also be interesting to see how Warcaft is received by moviegoers in general; while the game is still popular it’s not the global phenomenon it once was and video game movies have a pretty bad track record in Hollywood (let alone ones that have a 160 million dollar price tag). One thing’s for sure though, the producers of next December’s Assassins Creed will be paying very close attention to Warcraft’s box office performance.

1233835_Jason-Bourne-poster

  1. Jason Bourne (July 29): I was never really a Jason Bourne fan-never read Robert Ludlum’s books and I still haven’t seen the last two movies-and besides, how often does the fifth film in a franchise rise above mediocre on the quality scale? But Jason Bourne looks like a smart, inventive action flick, reminiscent of last summer’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (my favourite action movie of 2015) and the fact that Matt Damon was lured back to the property by the script is a pretty good sign as well. It may very well be a dud, but it looks smarter and sharper then the rest of the action fare Hollywood is churning out these days.

finding-dory-wallpaper-movie-poster-nemo

  1. Finding Dory (June 17): I was never really that pumped to see Finding Nemo. As much as I love Pixar, a movie about a talking fish searching for his lost son didn’t exactly captivate my imagination (I had the same feelings about Cars and Ratatouille). But when I finally sat down and watched Nemo the whole way through, I spent the entire time smiling like I was in the fifth grade again (and yes, I had similar reactions to Cars and Ratatouille when I took the time to watch and appreciate them). To this day, the mantra of the seagulls (Mine! Mine!) is one of my more favoured catch phrases (it just never gets old). So while the idea of Dory may not excite my imagination the way The Incredibles or Wall-E did, Pixar’s bar of excellence remains the highest in the animated film industry and I’ll walk into the theatre with an open mind and an inner child jumping up and down for joy.

ID4R

  1. Independence Day Resurgence (June 24): Hitting theatres almost 20 years to the day that the original Independence Day enthralled movie audiences, Independence Day Resurgence is following the same formula Star Wars: The Force Awakens did with its characters; it mixes some of the golden oldies from the original with a handful of new faces (although hardcore fans are already disappointed with Will Smith’s absence). The original Independence Day broke tonnes of new ground with its mind-blowing special effects and it looks as though the long awaited sequel is following in those same award-winning footsteps. And while I fully expect Warcraft to appeal to my inner fantasy geek, I expect the story of the human race fighting for its collective survival against a second, more pissed off wave of world conquering aliens to do the same for my inner sci-fi nerd. And while I doubt that a Mac power book will save human civilization this time around, I’m kind of hoping we’ll get to see the White House atomized again. Because let’s be honest, twenty years later that’s still everyone’s favourite scene.

8143718_x-men-apocalypse-promotional-images-highlight_73920f5b_m

4.  X-Men Apocalypse (May 27): There are plenty of reasons to look forward to the next installment in the X-Men film franchise. When Fox made the prudent decision to erase the reviled X-3 (and possibly the two Wolverine solo films) from continuity with 2014’s Days of Future Past, they made a lot of fans-both of the X-Men comics and movies-very, very happy. After Wolverine’s time hopping in DoFP, many of the original X-Men are back, and we get to see them during their formative teenage years during the 80’s, aka the Decade of Absurd Excess. Storytelling wise, it was a time in the character’s lives when most fans fell in love with them (the ultimate teenage outsiders fighting off one world threatening menace after another) and in real world time, the 80’s were when the X-Men exploded in popularity and became Marvel’s comic cash cow juggernaut. My anticipation for this is also equaled by my curiosity-how do they plan on weaving in that curious Wolverine cameo they’ve been teasing us with? Freed from the cumbersome storytelling baggage of the previous X-Men movies, the special effects in Age of Apocalypse look amazing, you just know Jennifer Lawrence is going to kill it in what could be her final turn as Mystique (whose run the gamut between reluctant hero to villainous sidekick and back to reluctant hero again, with a stop as a world saver in between) and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto, skating the tragic line between salvation and villainy, is always worth the price of admission. And Olivia Munn’s Psylocke looks like she could be this movie’s Black Panther or Wonder Woman, a breakout character that steals every scene she’s in.CVvJUtwWoAAO2Z5.jpg-large

  1. Star Trek Beyond (July 22): Hey, did you know that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise? Did you know there’s a new movie coming out this summer to celebrate it? No? Don’t sweat it, because few people outside outside of Trek’s hardcore fan base or TV aficionados seem to. Up until last weekend, Paramount barely promoted it, dropping a handful of stills and a single trailer before this month’s fan event. You’d think that a summer tent pole release during Trek’s big 5-0 would have the studio bringing out and then breaking all the proverbial stops, but Paramount’s campaign has been the exact opposite so far. I love Star Trek. I don’t speak Klingon or own a classic Trek uniform but I’ve always enjoyed the various versions of Gene Roddenberry’s classic science fiction vision. But there are plenty of red flags about this movie already-Simon Pegg, who co-wrote it in addition to playing everyone’s favourite Scottish starship engineer, reportedly quit a number of times and had to be talked into returning by J.J. Abrahams (who remains with the franchise as a producer). Combine a possibly disgruntled Pegg with persistent rumours that the budget was slashed just before filming began and a head scratching lack of promotion and it could all add up to disaster for one of Hollywood’s greatest entertainment properties. I really hope I’m wrong, or at the very least my affection for Trek can blind me to any warts, no matter how big. Besides, Idris Elba as the big bad? That promises to make everything better.

Marvels-Captain-America-Civil-War-2016-Official-Wallpapers-HD

  1. Captain America: Civil War (May 6): This one has already dropped (you can read my review here) and it was everything I hoped it would be (which was primarily a much needed palate cleanser after the bleak, steaming mess that was Batman Vs. Superman). The third and final Captain America standalone film was everything BvS wasn’t; fun, bright, exciting, funny and it only needed two weeks to bury DC’s much maligned movie at the box office, beating both it’s domestic and international gross on its third weekend of release. It has also provided plenty of fuel for the online hate wars that have been raging over BvS since it was released last Easter. Seriously, the people who loved watching Batman and Superman beat the snot out of each other for five minutes in a two and a half hour movie need to find lives, get out of the house more and work on their blood pressure.

ghostbusters

  1. Ghostbusters (July 15): This movie started receiving record amounts of hate the second it was announced, most of it due to the fact that it has an all female cast. The haters don’t want to admit it but that’s what all the fuss boils down to. I love the original Ghostbusters and even the (admittedly inferior) sequel too-watch them every Halloween in fact-but unlike the Internet, I was thrilled to hear there was more on the way, female cast or no. It’s been both amusing and saddening watching the logical knots the haters have gone to trying to disguise their woman bashing. “Women can’t be Ghostbusters because the proton packs are too heavy and we all know how much realism we need in our movie about busting ghosts!” Or one of my favourites, “why can’t they leave such a classic alone?!?” Like I said guys, I love me some Ghostbusters, but this is a movie where New York was almost destroyed by a fifty story Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. This ain’t the Godfather, so calm down. Hopefully Ghostbusters is a box office success despite all the venom from the men’s rights idiots, #Gamersgaters and closet misogynists, who can then stick all those dollar bills in their collective pipes and smoke them until they run out of hate tears.