A veritable bevy of wide releases greets this weekend at the multiplexes, with five new films to choose from. We're still looking for the second big hit of October, though, and likely to still be looking after Monday, despite the number of choices.
Weekend Forecast for October 23-25, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
October 23, 2015
We'll start with the expanding film, best of the bunch and Oscar contender Steve Jobs. Directed by Danny Boyle, it stars Michael Fassbender as the tech guru and co-founder of Apple, covering his life in a series of vignettes at various product launches and board meetings (that feels more depressing written out like that considering we're talking about a guy who died of treatable cancer, but hey...). Written by Aaron Sorkin, it continues his “Talented Jerks of the Last 50 Years” series, and shares a little bit of similarity to 2013's Jobs, the Deep Impact to this movie's Armageddon and which featured Ashton Kutcher in the lead role. *cough* Well, at least he looked more like him.
Also starring Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak (Oh, go cry on your giant pile of money if you don't like it, Woz), Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels and rising star Sarah Snook, it's been receiving huge praise for its acting as well as its only half-hagiographic approach showing that Jobs was maybe, just maybe, kind of a prick. Of course, this is probably half the reason he was as successful as he was, so it's certainly an interesting area to explore.
So far in two weeks of limited release, it's managed just shy of $3 million and put up some nice averages on small screen numbers, though not world-shattering. As a huge cultural figure in the last few decades, and as a person responsible for changing the way products are designed, there's undoubtedly some interest in his life. I also expect there to be a bit of pushback or disinterest from actual Apple fans, who may not want the warts and all portrait. It's a similar demographic to The Social Network, which wrenched gripping drama out of socially dysfunctional yet brilliant people. Steve Jobs may not be quite at that level of acclaim, but the pedigree should be more than enough to have people give it a chance – then it needs to sink or swim on its reputation. I'd expect an opening weekend of about $21 million.
In the list of choices for what Vin Diesel would do for his next project while they figure out what do with the Fast & Furious franchise, I think we all had “supernatural procedural” high up on our lists. The Last Witch Hunter sees him playing the title character, an immortal hunter of witches fighting an eternal battle against the forces of magic. While this exudes “John Wayne as Genghis Khan” levels of miscasting, Diesel does bring some nerd cred to the role, as his character is at least in part based on his own Dungeons & Dragons character he plays in actual gaming sessions. So, that boggling piece of trivia dispensed with, how does it look as a movie?
Well, not so great, as it's one of those films with CGI-battles substituting for actual choreography and/or action. Add in an apparently incoherent plot and laughable dialogue and you're looking at a potential disaster of a movie. And yet box office wise, it might not be a total waste, as Diesel still has some pull, even if it's not so great when he's not in a car or playing a talking tree. Riddick, his attempt to revive yet another one of his franchises, managed a $19 million opening two falls ago, but that was with franchise support and ads that actually looked like a competent production team was behind them. Then again, there's precedent for a film that's specifically on this subject looking terrible and getting support – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which opened to $19 with an MTV-style production. Perhaps there is only so much material to mine in the witch hunting genre! I'd look for a opening of about $12 million.
It's interesting when failing franchises announce that the latest entry in a series is the last one, as if that's a thing that wouldn't have happened anyway due to terrible box office. Oh hey, and there's a new Paranormal Activity movie coming out this weekend, go figure! So, like the worn-out horror franchise it replaced, Saw, it also sees itself wearing out its welcome, only this due to just plain old father time and not to being supplanted by a younger, fresher franchise. I'm going to pitch my own horror franchise that should scare the bejeesus out of Hollywood executives: It's called The Original Idea.
Anyway, the now sixth entry in the series that was born when someone discovered they could do all their fancy effects work on digital video stock brings *everything* around full circle I assume and can't be bothered to find out otherwise with The Ghost Dimension, which shows the actual ghost stuff this time, and in 3D. Continuing to star no one you've ever heard of, we're not likely to see any kind of uptick for the film that finally explains what's going on (hint: ghosts), as we've reached the point where people have said “Ugh! Another one of these?” In a smaller than usual release of 1,600 venues, let's give about $10 million to start.
The working principle behind Rock the Kasbah seems to have been “let's let Bill Murray do his thing,” which isn't that bad of an idea, to be honest. In practice, it seems to have not really worked out that well, and Barry Levinson's latest film may just be a weird misfire. Murray plays a flim-flammy music producer reduced to scamming talentless wannabes until he's hired for a USO tour. While in Afghanistan, he spots a young girl with incredible talent. He decides to take her under his wing and guide her through Afghanistan's version of American Idol, despite it being against all custom and taboo.
But never mind that, it's Bill Murray, and he's doin' stuff! As much admiration as there is for Murray and his mercurial and mad jester persona, there still does have to be a solid plot around his actions. There's something a bit unseemly that a movie about a real person in a troubling situation should focus on the Great White Savior. This seems categorically misguided and miscalculated, and offers very little in the trailers to hint at comic genius. I'm looking for a very modest $5 million opening weekend.
Lastly, there's the punchline of the week in Jem and the Holograms, which the Internet has been reacting to with horror ever since the first trailers arrived. A remake, kind of, not really, of the '80s animated show, it's been turned from an anime-lite take on a singer with a secret identity who uses secret holographic technology to keep control of her record company and their adventures with rival bands, complete with frequent action sequences. In this live-action version, it's basically just down to the secret identity, with Nashville's Aubrey Peeples playing the lead role, and Juliette Lewis playing the record exec whose job it is to be Evil 'n stuff, and keep her from her friends.
So they've removed basically everything about the series that made it notable and infamous as the Mattel informercial that it was, and basically just made a generic girl-band drama with a couple of things awkwardly strapped on to it. Looking slapdash in every way, it's something that's likely best forgotten and should open to about $3 million.
In returning films, Gersberns... er, Goosebumps eked out a win last weekend with $23 million, appealing to a PG-sense of horror-adventure. I look forward to the approximately 700 sequels. It should drop to about $15 million this weekend. The Martian continues to hold well, although it did slip to second spot last weekend. It should hit $150 million before the weekend and add another $13 million to its coffers. Bridge of Spies had a respectable $15 million opening weekend – enough to get it talked about in Oscar competition – and should fall to about $9 million here. Crimson Peak had a modest $13 million, and with an appropriately sized budget of $55 million should be okay, but ought to fall to about $7 million this week. Lastly, Hotel Transylvania 2 should bring in about $8 million this weekend, coming close to the $150 million milestone.