High-concept is the word of the week, with two of this weekend's new wide releases going to some heightened reality for their premises. Neither are based on existing IP, either. Is that allowed? Just for comfort's sake, there's at least one remake/reboot to latch on to, so you needn't feel entirely adrift in a sea of unfamiliar looking movies.
Weekend Forecast for October 11-13, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
October 12, 2019
Ang Lee's glorious digital future is here, whether we want it or not. The two-time Best Director Oscar winner (that is an *insane* fact and it's great that we've all just agreed to forget it) has pushed the boundaries of film technology over the years, maaaybe at the expense of actual story and entertainment but what's a little experimentation, between friends? A double whammy of Ang-isms lands with this weekend's Gemini Man, which stars Will Smith and... Will Smith, as a pair of secret agents, one the younger clone of the other. When Original Smith went into the service, he was sampled for DNA, and that clone started up in case they needed an exact replacement for his particular set of skills down the road. Now, with Smith v 2.0 let loose on a mission to target him, it's a fight for survival as well as to discover the nefarious reasons why his agency wants him gone.
Much has been made about Smith's appearance against himself with what is technically not a "de-aged" version a la the X-Men movies or the upcoming The Irishman, but rather a fully CGI creation. *eye roll* OK, Ang, whatever makes you happy. Also starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong and Clive Owen in full Bond villain mode, it's a "thinker" of an action film, although ideas like this have been tried before in The One and The 6th Day. There's a hint of some larger social meaning and Ethics in Cloning, but really we'd all be here to see Deadshot battle the Fresh Prince.
I said a double dose of tech, so let me explain - it's Lee's second kick at the can of 120 fps shooting, that high frame-rate technique that had its big bow on the stage with The Hobbit movies, leading everyone to wonder why they were watching a soap opera (though some claim to not notice this, but their eyes are broken). It was at its worst with displaying digital effects, lending an unusual smoothness to everything, making everyone wonder just what he's up to putting it in such an FX heavy movie as this one. Reviews aren't great over all, as it's clear that all thought into this movie stopped at the casting. As a harbinger of future cinema, it something that feels like it should open with the Black Mirror title slide. Maybe it just deserves a chance to exist as a mediocre action film? I'd expect it to start with around $35 million this weekend.
Our comfort food of a film is The Addams Family, an animated reboot of the film based on the TV show based on the comic strip. Animation feels like bit of a return to roots, and allows for more of the macabre and outlandish elements of the concept to be reproduced more faithfully, or at least more graphcially. Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Finn Wolfhard play the main four members of the ghoulish and creepy, kooky, positively ooky family, with other roles going to Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, Snoop Dogg (!), Allison Janney, Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara, among others. It's not the sort of cast you assemble for a throwaway film.
The plot is your standard fare for The Addams, a strange family weirds out the norms with their odd and off putting ways, who attempt to push them out. Meanwhile, morbid puns aplenty! The films from the 90s were a mild triumph, but this feels fairly disposable and aimed at a much younger audience. There's a passing resemblance to the Hotel Transylvania films, which had similar monster/culture clash themes, and played around with classic horror tropes in PG fashion. Reviews hammer it for being too tame compared to the reputation of the franchise and rather toothless in its satire of modern life, but that may just be a side effect of who it's targeting. I'd look for a $27 million beginning, around middle of the pack lately for non-Pixar animated films.
Adam Devine stars in our other high-concept film of the weekend, Jexi. A more broadly comic take on Spike Jonze's Her, it takes the dependence we have on our devices literally, positing a new phone OS, a la Alexa, that isn't happy just to give out information, but needs a passive-aggressive relationship with us.
Devine plays a bit of a schlub, a mostly friendless dummy, working at a viral content mill, After purchasing the new phone, the titular OS (voiced by Rose Byrne) decides to prod him out into the world, slowly becoming more controlling. Engineering a meet-cute with a woman he bumped into out on the street (Alexandra Shipp), it enters into the realm of jealousy when she encourages him to live life more directly, rather than through a screen. This is a pretty direct threat to Jexi's existence, and as quickly as it tried to improve his life, it immediately starts to wreck it, feeding him false information and trying to get him fired (but then how would he afford the phone, Jexi? How would he afford the phone!) .
As a metaphor "man, we own our phones, but really our phones own *us*" is pretty broad and direct but it's a cute idea for a movie, and Devine can be a funny performer. He's usually "wacky best friend" or "second lead" material, but hey, even Ben Stiller was a bit player in movies at one time. I'm a little more concerned about the behind camera talent, and it seems unlikely that the writing/directing team behind Bad Moms and 21 and Over has suddenly found paydirt. A modest $7 million opening weekend should be in line here.
This means that Joker should grab a second weekend in the top spot, after setting an October record with $96 million to start. That's a bigger number than Justice League put up in its first three days, if you'd like a mind-blowing stat on how badly Warner Bros. botched the DCEU. Stepping aside most of the controversy about the content of the film and potential bad actors causing trouble at screenings, it got the chance to exist as just a movie. Word of mouth from that is middling, and its comic book connection should lead it to a weekend of around $43 million.
Family film Abominable fell to a little under $12 million in its second weekend, with the Chinese/US co-production looks headed to around $70 million domestic, throwing a little under its kin of a film, Smallfoot, which earned $83 million domestic. This should come in with around $7 million in a direct competition matchup with Addams Family.