needforspeedfeature

Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News for Movie Lovers

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: Nobody knows anything in Hollywood…except that adapting video games for the big screen is a really, really bad idea. An addendum to that: Unless, of course, you have a spandex-clad hottie as a lead, i.e., Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider” or Milla Jovovich in “Resident Evil.”

Aaron Paul is as far from a spadex-clad hottie as you can get, and unfortunately, despite being one of the biggest selling video game franchises of all-time (20+ titles and counting) “Need For Speed” simply couldn’t find enough material to cobble together a decent script. Or even a plot, for that matter.

You can’t blame Disney and DreamWorks for wanting to tap into Universal’s success of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, so it was just a matter of time before this happened. I just wasn’t prepared for what an utter flame-out it would be.

For starters, the acting is laughable, the script incoherent and embarrassingly irresponsible. Not that Disney is a moral compass anymore, or even pretends to be, but it’s pretty amazing this ever got a greenlight considering what was put on film. This was a rush job, and it oh-so-painfully shows. And we wonder why video game movies get a bad rap. Heck, this might 1-up “Super Mario Bros.” for the most awful video game adaptation of all-time. Yes, it’s MST3k bad. Which, I guess sorta makes it good, right?

Paul should come out of this relatively unscathed, it’s not like he really plays a character (calling his role a character is actually offensive, watch out Razzies) since he has absolutely no back-story, nor any real wheelhouse to steer a clear course beyond contrived clichés.

The problem is, Paul came to play, bringing real emotions, the kind everyone saw each week on “Breaking Bad,” while everyone else seemingly knew this was a Z-grade movie. That makes his performance one for the ages as he puts the pedal to the metal, channeling equal parts Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, shedding tears and not having a clue what his motivation is from scene to scene.  I honestly haven’t laughed so hard during a movie since “Borat,” and was actually scared my buddy and I would get kicked out of the preview screening.  Luckily the good folks at Disney have a sense of humor…

Still, rumor is the studio thinks it will pull in $25M this weekend, which for a $65M investment isn’t too bad, especially after films like “Pompeii,” “I, Frankenstein,” and “The Legend of Hercules” tanked much harder earlier this year.  I’m expecting $20M or so, however if we lived in a just society, “Need For Speed” would crash and burn with around $10M.

As Dom Toretto would say: “Bustas.” At least the “Fast & Furious” films have chemistry and great action. “Need For Speed” has Michael Keaton warming up his Beetlejuice pipes, as his are about the only redeeming scenes in the bloated 2-hour production, and he’s certainly the only actor involved that has an actual character he’s portraying. Everyone else is acting like they once saw a “Fast & Furious” movie and now can’t believe they’re in one.

Whatever happens this weekend, you know in weekend #2 “Need For Speed” will hit the rail.  Disney has “Muppets Most Wanted” opening next Friday, so it’s essentially tailgating “Need For Speed”–another sure sign the studio has very little confidence in the film’s long term prospects.

The only sure thing these days is Tyler Perry. Perry, as a commodity, never loses steam. Has there ever been a filmmaker that has so consistently zeroed in on a demographic and never really missed the target? Even though his films rarely expand outside the African American community, he absolutely gives them exactly what they want every single time.

And even though this winter’s “A Madea Christmas” didn’t deliver a big opening, it ended up at $52M domestic, which is on par with many of Perry’s films. When you don’t spend more than $15-$20M to make your films, the consistent payoff means he can work outside the studio system (Atlanta) as long as he wants.

His latest, “The Single Moms Club,” should see somewhere in the neighborhood of $15M- $18M this weekend as it drops in 1,896 theaters.

Warner Bros. is doing something that none of the Big 6 studios have ever dared to do: release a film day-and-date in theaters and on VOD. “Veronica Mars” will go down in history as the first, but certainly not the last.

Kristen Bell’s TV series already made history becoming a huge story as it came to life as a Kickstarter creation…and is now in 291 theaters this weekend.  What will she find? Good question…one that most of Hollywood will be very interested in finding out.  This is what we call a game-changer, folks.

After doing for art-houses what “The Avengers” did for multiplexes, Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is set expand into 66 theaters this Friday and could see upwards of $2M.   Yes, last weekend, Anderson’s latest comedic opus scored the best-ever per theater average for a live-action film in limited release last weekend–$811,166 in 4 venues–$202,792 per. This kid’s got talent, I tell ya.

WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE – $23M
2. MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN – $21.5M
3. NEED FOR SPEED – $21M
4. THE SINGLE MOMS CLUB – $17M
5.  NON-STOP – $9M

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CAPTAIN AMERICA SETS DATE WITH BATMAN/SUPERMAN

Marvel and Disney must be pretty high on the jingoistic fumes “Captain America: Winter Soldier” is pumping out three weeks before its release, because they are apparently signing up Cap to do battle against DC’s heavyweights, the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader.

Get ready for universes to collide on May 6, 2016, as “Captain America 3” and “Untitled Batman/Superman” are set for the ultimate clash of comic book movies.  Remember, “Untitled Marvel Film” had staked out the date prior to Zack Snyder’s Superman sequel ditching 2015 in favor of 2016.

So which one will budge? Certainly not Marvel, as the unofficial first weekend of summer has been theirs since 2007. Plus, DC needs a hit way more than Marvel. Personally, I hope neither film backs down.

What I don’t get is why people are so upset about this?!? Are you kidding, this should be every fanboy’s dream come true. One weekend, two superhero flicks?! Might as well call this Fanboy Weekend and just roll with it. Truth is, both films will do big-time biz, and as long as they both live up to expectations, their box office prowess should still be prominent for weeks to follow. I mean, we’re over two years out right now and this is the biggest news to hit comics since DC killed off Superman. This is just getting good…stay tuned.

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KEVIN HART AND ICE CUBE TO RIDE AGAIN

When you spend $25M and make $130M you’re gonna get a sequel every time. Universal’s “Ride Along” became a huge hit this year, and as expected, Kevin Hart, Ice Cube and director Tim Story will all return for duty on January 15, 2016 in “Ride Along 2.” No official word on if the sequel is actually titled “Ride Along 2: Hopalong Bugaboo,” but you know the good peeps at NewsWhistle will keep you updated.

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Universal’s “Get on Up” (August 1, 2014)

The hardest workin’ man in show business gets his own feature length flick. Chadwick Boseman (“42”) plays Soul Brother No. 1, James Brown, and from the looks of things this may light a fire under the late summer box-office.  Boy, I do get down with my bad self during a good bio-pic.

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PROPAGANDA PLUG OF THE WEEK: Between Two Ferns w/ President Barack Obama

Oh yes he did. You better sign up for that Obama-care, America! As strange as this is, it may be the coolest thing Obama has ever done. I mean Bill Clinton whipping out his sax on Arsenio was one thing, but this…this is about as good as it gets, presidentially speaking.


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HOME SLICE OF THE WEEK: The Coen Bros. “Inside Llewyn Davis”

If you missed this in theaters–and I know a lot of you did since it only made $13M–check it out now that it’s just a hop, skip and a click away. Or, just watch this scene with Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and the newest Star Wars villain, Adam Driver, who somehow must have known he was going to “Outer…Spaaaaaace.”  Jam on!

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“Need For Speed” Poster Courtesy of DreamWorks; Poster Design: BLT Communications