Weekend Forecast for May 31-June 2, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
May 31, 2013

Dear lord, please don't let my movie suck.

After Memorial Day's explosive (literal and otherwise) box office, the new releases from the last week of May look to continue on that record setting pace. Ha! Just kidding. No, these are total after thoughts, and you'll likely to lucky to remember them past September, despite their high profile casts.

After Earth may have Will Smith front and center, but the performance of this film is more interesting for how it will affect the future potential of M. Night Shyamalan, who has spent the last dozen years or so frittering away all the good will he ever had with audiences by producing film after film of ludicrously plotted, poorly acted and overly didactic nonsense. This perhaps culminated with the instant classic The Happening, a film that even Ed Wood might have disowned. His follow-up, The Last Airbender, was marginally better in that it didn't become an instant punchline, but it was perhaps more incompetent in its own way, destroying a franchise in its cradle. In short, Shyamalan destroys everything he touches lately, and audiences are wise to it. Becoming infamous for one of the most precipitous drops in cinematic history can't be good for much of anything.

And yet someone's entrusted him with a great big budget and a real star again, albeit for a film that's ultimately kind of gimmicky. Will Smith stars with his son Jaden as explorers on an Earth 1,000 years in the future (at the exact moment the Kid 'N Play hairstyle came back), but filled with incredibly hostile creatures designed to attack humans (they must have been very lonely). While the elder Smith is the bait for the posters and ads, it's the younger Smith that's tasked with carrying the majority of the film, to which you're now remembering The Karate Kid remake, as well as Shyamalan's record of working with child actors except-for-that-one-time-oh-how-that's-such-an-enormous-fluke-in-retrospect.

While Shyamalan has become such a punching bag in the last few years that it's difficult to imagine him getting any positive reviews now, in the case of After Earth, the derision looks justified. Watching Jaden Smith run through the jungle while weird, poorly animated CGI creatures chase after him does not a good time inspire. Also, just try and read Will Smith's character's name (Cypher Raige) without rolling your eyes. I'll wait here.

The hope seems to be that Will Smith can sell this on his own, and it's not a terrible notion. In full sci-fi mode, Smith is one of the most consistent performers, even bringing the entirely pointless Men in Black 3 to a $50 million opening. However, Shyamalan at this point is worth negative box office – and when audiences find out the Smith that they're watching for most of the film is not the one they thought they would be, they are going to turn on it, and turn hard. They might have to make an entire wing of the Bad Idea Jeans museum dedicated to this film. I see this pulling one not-so-solid weekend of about $32 million, then dropping into oblivion.

The week's other new release, Now You See Me, is trying to capitalize on the never-ending fascination that Americans have with magicians and how they... wait, they don't? Well that's just... I mean... and no one told him? Ouch. Well anyway, it centers around a Vegas magic act that has stepped up from wowing tourists to international crime, seemingly pulling off a heist at a bank thousands of miles away during a show. How? Magic! Shut up and watch, dummies!

The crew of magicians-cum-criminals is made up of Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg (using up all the residual prickishness he had left over from The Social Network) and a suspiciously absent from most marketing Dave Franco, while Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are among those trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.

It's easy to see why directors often go to the well of magic, as it's a solid metaphor for filmmaking itself, but it's a reference that's a bit inside-baseball for most audiences, who, as I might again repeat, are just not as fascinated with the topic as Hollywood thinks (also, when you think about it, magic on film is wholly unimpressive – cause, hey, CGI and editing, you know? We're already in on the bit). However, as a twisty thriller, this has some promise, even as director Louis Leterrier's CV (The Transporter, Clash of the Titans, the non- Ang Lee Hulk) doesn't offer a huge amount of confidence in its quality. However, with the ensemble cast and what looks like at least an attempt at a decent mystery, it should be able to earn a solid weekend of about $18 million.

Failing some sort of highly-specific meteor strike, the number one film this weekend should again be Fast & Furious 6, or Furious 6, or I Am Furious (Yellow) or whatever they're calling this iteration of the franchise officially now. Opening to an astounding $97 million in three days and nearly $120 million over the holiday period, this franchise continues to grow, and should reach the $1 *billion* domestic figure collectively with this outing. That's a lot of ugly paint jobs and nitrous tanks. Huge drops are par for the course following Memorial Day Weekend regardless of how a film is received, so a fall to $45 million might look bad for Diesel, Rock, et. al, but I'd actually consider that a good target to shoot for.

Not in such a hot position is The Hangover Part III, which, if it wasn't promising an ending would likely have one imposed on it by its opening weekend showing. With $41 million over three days and $62 million over the holiday and extended opening, it actually threw under the showing of the first Hangover film – and this won't have that film's surprise word-of-mouth to help it. While it's certainly tempting to call this a bomb, it's also easy to get carried away with that moniker. The production budget of $100 million or so is unsettling given that opening weekend, but adding in international box office should help this get back to even. It's extraordinarily clear at this point, however, that the terrible reception the second film received doomed any third film in the franchise. Give this $18 million this frame.

Another sequel that is performing disappointingly, Star Trek Into Darkness should wind up in a similar area this weekend, though it at least had that one big weekend to compensate for that. We're now looking at closer to $250 million than the jump to $350 million that Paramount might have counted on following the strong reception of the reboot.

Epic, the lone family film of any significance in the marketplace right now, feels like a major afterthought after bowing to $33 million. Desperately vying for attention, it couldn't grab much in the way of mindspace even with its captive audience. Then again, Fox animation is at best third-tier, so a third place finish among new films seems appropriate. Give it $16 million this weekend.

Iron Man 3 may just be making the most unspectacular run to $400 million ever, a milestone it should hit by next weekend. One might be tempted to call that an inevitability, but *points vaguely at other sequels* ... you get my point. It should add another $11 million this frame. Finally for significant films, we have The Great Gatsby, which is helping its remote Oscar chances by at least being a hit, adding another $8 million or so this weekend to reach $130 domestic.