A month of May that showed a lot of promise and anticipation limps home, preparing to add two more disappointments to its roster. Hollywood would probably rather just hit the snooze button for a couple of weeks and wake us all up when the dinosaurs arrive.
Weekend Forecast for May 29-31, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
May 29, 2015
After a resurgence of popularity in the late '90s and early '00s, the disaster movie craze burned itself out quite quickly, perhaps epitomized by The Perfect Storm, which ended up being a two hour slog of fishing just to see one gigantic wave. In retrospect, I don't know why we expected different from that, but such was the time we were living in. Of late, disaster movies have shifted to the idea of ridiculously large scale (2012), cable TV quality (Sharknado), or a mix of the two. This week's leading opener, San Andreas, seems to be aiming to hit a sweet spot between epic scale and intentional cheesiness, such that it's still taken seriously, but that's likely to prove a tall order.
One of the few disasters that didn't really get a big budget treatment during the '90s was an earthquake, which San Andreas makes up for in spades. Set in the brief period before (allowing us to establish character and give them all one particular trait that will be emphasized for pathos, humor or hubris later on) and the extended period after a west-coast megaquake, it's full on disaster porn that expands its scope beyond the west coast to all of North America. Dwayne Johnson plays a helicopter rescue pilot who's in the air when the earthquake happens, springing into action to save his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and his college-bound daughter (Alexandra Daddario) across the state. Cue toppling buildings and giant fissures in the Earth.
The problem with a lot of disaster movies is that nature makes for a poor antagonist, and two hours of rubble doesn't sound like a tremendous viewing experience. The flip side of that is that the villains often aren't much better, as in Volcano's evil businessmen, Twister's evil tornado scientists, Pompeii's scenery chewing Roman villains, and San Andreas' ...somewhat slimy businessman, played by Ioan Gruffudd. Basically, there's no real good way to do these movies, but Hollywood keeps trying, with varying levels of financial success. The presence of The Rock likely helps a lot with the box office compared to last year's Into The Storm, which came and went without a trace thanks to an anonymous cast and underwhelming trailers. San Andreas still has a little novelty to it, but it's really just the same as any other disaster flick out there. I'd look for a modest weekend of about $38 million.
In baseball, you can often talk about a hitter losing his bat speed, meaning that after some unspecified and random point, they're just unable to keep up with major league pitching anymore. There's not really an equivalent term for film directors, but whatever it might be, Cameron Crowe might just be the patron saint of it. His latest film, Aloha, hits theaters this weekend with minimal fanfare and abysmal reviews, coming on the heels of two successive financial failures.
In Aloha, Bradley Cooper stars as a military contractor who screws up in typical Crowian fashion, spurring him to return to his home base to regroup and recuperate while he gets his life together. In this case, as you may have guessed, this happens to be Hawaii, and it's also the location of one of his great past loves, played by Rachel McAdams. However, there's also the military attache assigned to him, played by Emma Stone, to consider. I wonder if his wallet is too small for his fifties and his diamond shoes are too tight.
Since his perhaps critical high water mark of Almost Famous, Crowe's films have become increasingly sentimental and less vital. Vanilla Sky marked the last time he tried something really new and certainly has its defenders, even if its ending turned a lot of people off. Elizabethtown was a close copy of Jerry Maguire, but Orlando Bloom is no Tom Cruise on a couple of levels, and the sameness of the storytelling didn't work a second time, while We Bought a Zoo saw him squander the potential of Matt Damon in a fairly saccharine story. You get the feeling we're probably not getting the Crowe of Say Anything or Singles back any time soon.
Cooper is of course riding a hot streak between the Hangover films, American Hustle, Guardians of the Galaxy and American Sniper, though none of those films really have anything to do with each other. That actually says really good things for Cooper's drawing power, though everything has its limits. Aloha lacks a specialness in its advertising, and ad support isn't what you'd expect for a film with a cast of this caliber. This is also exactly the kind of film that terrible reviews can sink, and I'd look for this to debut with just $8 million.
Coming in behind the weekend winner is a passel of May blockbusters of varying success. Tomorrowland was a significant disappointment as measured relative to excitement, opening to just $33 million over three days. I don't expect a rescue from word-of-mouth, and this should fall to just $17 million this weekend, headed to a final gross that might be under $100 million domestic.
Pitch Perfect 2 fell over 50 percent in its second weekend thanks to front-loading and weak word-of-mouth, though at over $125 million in the bank, there's very little to complain about considering the film was made for the catering budget of other films. It should sit at around $14 million this weekend.
The closest thing to legs was the second weekend of Mad Max: Fury Road, which took in $24 million and pushed its total to over $100 million midweek. While not an entirely unexpected result, it's run up against some long odds to what is certainly an over $150 million final result, and perhaps up to $175 million. Bring on the Wasteland.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron crossed the $400 million mark over Memorial Day weekend with a $21 million performance and continues on its pace to around $475 million total domestically. Internationally, it's set to become the next member of the billion dollar club, which includes just three other films – Titanic, Avatar and Furious 7. Give it $12 million this weekend.
The remake of Poltergeist had a solid, considering, weekend of $22 million, but should have the typical horror film fate befall it, dropping to about $9 million this frame.