This crowded weekend is too big for its own good. With four single-note new movie releases and one wide expansion, I honestly won’t be surprised if last week’s ‘Goosebumps’ retains the top spot at the box office.
Predicted to finish as the #1 movie this weekend is Vin Diesel’s ‘The Last Witch Hunter‘. On more than 3,000 screens, Lionsgate will try to re-relaunch Diesel’s solo career outside the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise. (Remember when other studios tried the same thing in the mid-2000s?) This attempt is an action-fantasy movie about a modern-day witch hunter who must save the world from the most powerful witches to ever roam the Earth. Hoping that both the ‘Furious’ fans and the fantasy geeks will show up in droves, some sources estimate the film to debut in the $20 million range. I’m not buying it.
Although I was a product of the 1980s, I’d never heard of ‘Jem and the Holograms‘ until Universal released the first trailer. Apparently, the studio is banking on plenty of other Gen Xers who do remember the series and want to re-live the cartoon nostalgia. This two-hour live action adaptation features a no-name cast (Juliette Lewis and Molly Ringwald aren’t bankable) and the director of the terrible ‘G.I. Joe’ sequel. It follows the story of a young YouTube sensation who quickly finds global success with a pop band that she’s formed with her sisters. (Does it surprise you that the director also made ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’?) Enter at your own risk.
To my surprise, the third-widest release of the weekend isn’t the latest ‘Paranormal Activity’ entry, but ‘Rock the Kasbah‘. Open Road Films is pushing the Barry Levinson comedy out to 2,000 screens. Bill Murray stars in the usual Bill Murray role – only this time he plays a band manager accompanying his group through a USO tour in the Middle East when he meets an extremely talented local girl that he wants to promote on Afghanistan’s version of ‘Star Search’. For those looking forward to ‘Rock the Kasbah’, it’s worth noting that the film currently sits at a miserable 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. My question to you is: When did the hipsters claim Bill Murray as their own? Someone should make a movie about average Bill Murray fans fighting to reclaim him from the hipsters. That idea has enough ‘Being John Malkovich’ to it that you might even get Bill Murray to star in it.
Not screened for press nationwide, ‘Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension‘ opens on a light 1,600 screens. Said to be the final entry to the franchise, this one is really jumping the shark. Holding true to the found-footage style, the movie is shot with special new cameras that can see ghosts. If ‘Ghost Dimension’ wasn’t originally intended to be the ultimate ‘Paranormal Activity’ title, then that absurd plot certainly would have been the nail in the coffin that wouldn’t stay shut. Let’s hope that, like ‘Saw’, this worn-out franchise truly is a beast of the past.
With Oscar hopefuls starting to come forward, Focus Features is quietly releasing the topical drama ‘Suffragette‘ on four screens in New York and Los Angeles. Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep star in this historical drama as three working-class women willing to give everything they have in the fight for equal rights. With equal pay being such a hot-button issue in Hollywood right now, ‘Suffragette’ ought to stir some buzz. And if Meryl Streep can get an Oscar nomination for her bland performance in ‘Into the Woods’, she’s guaranteed to get another nomination here even if she had given this one in a gorilla suit.
Finally, the most notable event of the weekend is the wide expansion of Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin and Michael Fassbender’s brilliant ‘Steve Jobs‘ bio-pic. Pushing out to nearly 2,500 screens, this is my recommendation for the weekend. Accept nothing less.