Weekend Forecast for July 1-3, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
July 1, 2016
To someone several years ago, this weekend's top release would have seem like a slam dunk winner – a Steven Spielberg-directed family film of a beloved children's book. And yet times have changed such that it's merely the highlight of a mediocre July holiday weekend.
Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, The BFG (standing for Big Friendly Giant, though my mind goes elsewhere on the initialism) is a hybrid animation/live action film about a young girl who finds herself in the clutches of the title character, sending her on an adventure. As it turns out, there are two types of giants – one kind, the kind indicated in the title, are meeker and milder, but responsible for things like the wind (by running really fast) and dreams, by blowing a magic trumpet into children's bedrooms, and then the other, which likes to eat people. So.
Recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance (who all the kids are just crazy about, I mean, they all saw Bridge of Spies) voices and mo-caps the titular giant, while relative newcomer Ruby Barnhill plays Sophie, the girl taken on the grand adventure. And while the fairy tale aspect of this has some appeal, it's more of the look of a tech demo than a story that needed to be told. It doesn't help that previous adaptations of Dahl's works, outside Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, haven't translated well to the screen in either manner or success.
Visually, this seems to be a bit of an update to the Zemeckis model of A Christmas Carol or The Polar Express, with some of the excess creepiness ironed out. Thanks to the combination of Spielberg and the Disney promotion machine, however, it should surpass the lackluster takes of James and the Giant Peach and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Spielberg can elevate still less commercial material by his name – making films like War Horse and Bridge of Spies into respectable grosses – but gone are the days when everything tied to his name is an event film. I'd look for a very modest $27 million this weekend.
When it premiered three years ago, The Purge looked like an interesting little trifle of a thriller/horror film. Three years later though, and its alt-history take on a post-post-revolutionary America has reached its third film and a “ha ha ha now stop it” level of uncomfortably plausible plotting with The Purge: Election Year.
Several years into the new reign of a fascist party over the United States, The Purge – a 12 hour period where everything is legal barring things like setting off a tactical nuke – is a somewhat of an accepted notion, and used as a convenient way to rid society of its “undesireables” (i.e. the poor, minorities, and people who think that maybe anarchy is a bad thing). However, the tide might be changing as a popular presidential candidate (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) calls for its removal and a return to normalcy in society. But, whoops, here comes The Purge and wouldn't it be awful if she were to somehow perish in it?