Weekend Forecast for August 16-18, 2013

By Reagen Sulewski

August 16, 2013

The cons get weirder and weirder.

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There's a distinct two-faced nature to this weekend's new releases – of the four debuting, two are biopics angling for potential awards, while the other two are thrill-rides with a bit of the old ultra-violence. Additionally, two seem like modest hits, while two seem certain to be also-rans. Make your choice, people (which includes just staying home)!

Of the two new potential hits, I give a slight edge to The Butler – the Lee Daniels-directed drama about a White House butler who was at the side of history for eight presidents, from Truman through Reagan. As that was one of the most tumultuous periods of history for America, particularly as it relates to civil rights, having the behind-the-scenes view on the position of power could make for a fascinating story.

Alas, much of The Butler is made-up, at least in the details, though it purports to be accurate in the bigger picture. Forrest Whitaker stars as the fictionalized version of the real person, with Oprah Winfrey playing his wife. As for the other historical figures in the film, they lead me to believe that the working title must have been “Stunt Casting: The Movie”, beginning with Robin Williams as Eisenhower, and working through John Cusack as Richard Nixon (!) and on to Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as the Reagans. With these connections in mind, it's tempting to look at this as a sort of “black Forrest Gump” saga, excepting that it did, for the most part, happen.


It's certainly nothing if not earnest in tone, and while I'm sure it wastes no time in spelling out each important point (a script by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumni Danny Strong [no, really] gives me some hope [no, really]), that's generally a plus for biopic audiences, who like their moral lines definitive and their strokes broad. One imagines the Oprah connection has some pull for audiences, though that's never proven to be as blockbuster-assured as it's been implied to be. We all remember Beloved, right? However, The Butler has been getting the right kinds of praise from the right places, even if it isn't ecstatic in nature. I think audiences will be searching for anything with the whiff of quality after a lackluster summer, and this should make this good for around $18 million.

If I asked you to come up with the polar opposite to The Butler, Kick-Ass 2 would be a decent entry in the contest. The sequel to 2010's comic adaptation from Mark Millar's (who I would cross the street to avoid, based on his work) series returns to the world of self-made vigilantes fighting crime in a hyper-violent fashion. When it's not being violent, it's being wildly misanthropic and and generally feeling proud of itself for how Wrong it's being (in case you haven't figured it out yet – not a fan).

Kick-Ass 2 has reportedly toned down a bit on the gleeful nihilism, and with the characters being a bit older, there's less Wrong to be had (though it's not exterminated, to be sure). Jim Carrey has been brought on board as one of the new crime-fighters, yet denounced the film after he completed it in a fit of conscience (er, didn't you read the script?). It actually appears to be caught between its desire to go full out but also its desire for mass audiences, which leaves it a bit in limbo – it's got a reputation to live down to, you know. This feels a bit like RED 2 in the sequel no one was really asking for department, and likewise I haven't seen anything in the ads that really stands out as making it a must-see. It's assuming an audience that might not be there. Whereas the first film opened to about $19 million, I foresee a fall in that number to around $15 million this weekend.

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