The dog days of August see fit to grant us one more box office hit before we get into the drudgery of early fall releases. In a twist, this isn't the film that's an adaptation of some pre-existing material, and is at least somewhat original. I mean, not too original - let's not get carried away here - but “original for Hollywood in 2015” original. You know what I mean.
Weekend Forecast for August 14-16, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
August 14, 2015
It certainly says something about the march of time and culture that a rap group once viewed by the establishment as a dangerous menace and just shy of a criminal organization can get a bog-standard musical biopic of its very own, premiering in over 3,000 venues. Straight Outta Compton tells the origins of N.W.A. (most notably Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E) and their rise from street hustlers to multi-platinum selling artists and icons of industry.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, it's a pretty straight run-through of the history of the group, as they rise in an environment left scarred by crime and drugs, and brutalized by police overreach. The film seems to be a lot more interested in the inter-group rivalries and conflicts than any larger social issues, which is more the shame in the long run but probably makes for (irony alert) a less controversial sell of the film. But then, with Cube, Dre and Eazy-E's family taking the producer reins, that approach is probably not too surprising.
The main players in the film are portrayed by relative newcomers – Corey Hawkins as Dre, Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E and O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Cube, who you might recognize now as Ice Cube's son. Despite these lesser names in the crucial roles, acting performances seem to be at least not a hindrance to the film. Paul Giamatti, as the band's long-time manager Jerry Heller, lends some acting heft as well as a source of friction, along with R. Marcos Taylor as legendary producer Suge Knight.
The real draw of the film is, however, the “live” performances and seeing how the band became what it was, coming from virtually nothing. N.W.A. Probably qualifies as the “soundtrack of a generation” for many, and while they spoke mostly about racial issues, they've transcended that with their audience, and this film should have a pretty wide appeal, both for nostalgia and soundtrack reasons. I'd look for an easy win on the weekend with about $41 million.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about The Man From U.N.C.L.E., this weekend's other big release, is that it's taken this long to come to the big screen, and that it hadn't been swept up in any of the previous waves of remakes, adaptations and reboots that have pulled in just about every TV series you could think of (Car 54, Where Are You?, anyone?). Directed by Guy Ritchie, this '60s spy series stays in the '60s as a period piece, centering around the title agency, which is a joint cooperation between American and Russian agencies to battle bigger foes. Henry Cavill plays the American agent Napoleon Solo, teamed with Armie Hammer's agent Illya Kuryakin to take down a sinister organization bent on destabilizing the world by spreading nuclear weapons everywhere.
Packed to the brim with style but exceedingly light on substance (so, a Guy Ritchie film, then), it looks very much like a knock-off Mission: Impossible (ironic, since the roles were reversed in the TV world), but lacking a Tom Cruise. While both Cavill and Hammer have had their recent hits (and misses - “Hey, what if we teamed up the Superman from that one everyone was iffy about with the guy from the Lone Ranger movie that bombed?” “Morty, you're a genius!”), together their bland good looks add up to maybe half a Cruise, even the current version. It may be a throwback movie without a significant audience to throw back to, and should open to around $18 million this weekend.
It finds itself competing head to head against Mission: Impossible, as Rogue Nation capitalized on Fantastic Four's complete collapse to win its second weekend. Direct timeline comparisons to Ghost Protocol are impossible thanks to the latter's wacky release strategy, but it's probably headed for about $175 million domestically – better than the third film, slightly worse than the fourth. International box office certainly seems to be the telling figure here, and I wouldn't be shocked at north of $300 million for this globe-trotting action film. Let's give it $16 million this weekend.
Fantastic Four cratered hard, with the $120 million-plus budgeted film opening to a mere $25 million. A superhero film with precisely zero redeeming qualities, it's managed the spectacular feat of not just throwing under the Tim Story versions, but also the Roger Corman-produced film, by those who've seen both versions. Worth seeing only by the morbidly curious, this could set some records in the negative direction, and will likely fall to just $9 million this weekend.
Defying expectations in the opposite direction was The Gift, the Joel Edgerton triple threat movie about high school grudges gone wrong. An adult-pitched thriller that subverts genre conventions, it managed an $11 million weekend, and could be a minor leggy hit for the late summer. I'd expect about $8 million this frame.
The remake of Vacation actually held well its second frame, managing $9 million, but it's still only headed for about $65 million total, maybe $70 million at the outside. It should earn about $5 million this weekend, hanging out with Ant-Man and Minions, each making their last stabs at box office relevance.