PACIFIC RIM vs. GROWN UPS 2
Love it (as did our featured critic Jason Gorber and columnist Greg Christie) or conclude, as I did, that it's fun in concept but doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, the overwhelming message from the U.S. moviegoing public was that giant robots vs. giant monsters are actually pretty cool.
Adam Sandler's sequel was savaged by most reviewers -- including our featured critic Eric Snider -- and still did quite well, with an estimated $42.5 million, close behind the second weekend of Despicable Me 2, which grossed $44.8 million. But Pacific Rim wasn't far behind, taking in $38.3 million.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the number for Pacific Rim is "troubling," while the total for Grown Ups 2 is "stellar," an evidently yawning gap of barely more than $4 million. Of course, the difference is the production budgets. Pacific Rim is reported to have cost in the neighborhood of $200 million, while Grown Ups 2 cost a "relatively modest" $80 million.
Contemplate that for a moment: 80 MILLION DOLLARS for that? What that really emphasizes is that both movies cost more than they should have.
The big lesson here is not that U.S. audiences rejected an "original" movie in favor of sequels; the lesson is that, given a choice, 1 out of 3 moviegoers chose a big, noisy action movie with no major stars from a director who is largely unknown to the public, rather than either a Sandler or animated sequel. To me, that's a victory for the people.
The Relevant Opening of FRUITVALE STATION
Opening in seven theatres in New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area, Fruitvale Station averaged more than $53,000 per screen, according to Indiewire. That places it among the top five specialty openings this year, as far as per-theater averages are concerned.
As our own Sean Smithson noted in his very positive review from Sundance, Fruitvale Station is based on a fatal shooting that took place in California several years ago. Having now seen the film, I can add my recommendation; it's a drama that documents a day in the life of a young man who is trying to become a better man: a better father, a better boyfriend, a better son, a better member of the community. Michael B. Jordan gives an extraordinary performance, and the film's cumulative power is surprising and startling. The emotional impact kept expanding after I walked out of the screening.
The relevance of the film, coming as it does on the same weekend that George Zimmerman was acquitted in Florida of second-degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, is impossible to dismiss entirely. (Read more about the case in a New York Times article on the verdict.) More than anything else, though, Fruitvale Station illustrates the value of a single human life.
The film expands on July 19 before opening nationwide on July 26.
Docs in Action: THE ACT OF KILLING and BLACKFISH
Two documentaries that sound nothing like run-of-the-mill documentaries open this week.
The Act of Killing "stands as one of the more powerful and harrowing documentaries ever made. It demands to be seen, and stands as an epic achievement in non-fiction filmmaking," according to our own Jason Gorber. The official synopsis:
In this chilling and inventive documentary, executive produced by Errol Morris (The Fog Of War) and Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), the filmmakers examine a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes, challenging them to reenact their real-life mass-killings in the style of the American movies they love. The hallucinatory result is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.
Blackfish "chronicles a series of injuries and deaths at SeaWorld theme parks by their captive orca whales," Alex Koehne told us in his review from Sundance. It "has the potential to take our society on the first step in the right direction -- but only if it gets seen. Luckily, the solid solid storytelling makes for a compelling and entertaining documentary that has the potential to spread across the globe -- just like the SeaWorld franchises it's working to fix."
Also out this week: Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling. We'll have a lot more coverage on that film this week, starting tomorrow.
THE CONJURING Leads a Quartet Into Multiplexes
James Wan's latest concoction has received the strongest word-of-mouth, at least according to my Twitter feed, so my hopes are cautiously optimistic for The Conjuring.
Fox throws the animated original Turbo into theaters on Wednesday, featuring a suddenly speedy snail voiced by Ryan Reynolds and a crew chief voiced by Samuel L. Jackson.
The other two releases, both action pictures, seem to be competing for the same audience. RED 2 brings back Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker, adding Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones to the familiar mix. Dean Parisot directs.
The first RED was directed by Robert Schwentke, who can be found behind the helm of R.I.P.D.. Like RED, R.I.P.D. is also based on a comic book, and also features Mary-Louise Parker in a supporting role. Snail guy -- and not-so-beloved Green Lantern -- Ryan Reynolds teams up with Jeff Bridges as dead law enforcement officers who are brought back to life so they can fight crime and/or save the world.
I foresee confusion at the ticket window this coming weekend, but will anyone notice if they buy the ticket to the wrong movie?
Hollywood Beat is a weekly column on the film industry.