South African director Neill Blomkamp doesn’t make sissy sci-fi. He makes visually compelling, hard-boiled, R-rated, gritty dramas, based in the real world, that unfold as thinly veiled social commentary about class conflict in modern society.
Which is why it’s a bit surprising to see his latest Sony film, “Chappie,” otherwise known as the R-rated “Short Circuit,” come off as something that feels a bit like a retread. It’s Johnny 5 meets Robocop and territory much more suited for a PG-13 adventure than a restricted one.
Out of the gate, Blomkamp’s $35M debut, “District 9,” became a surprise hit back in August of 2009, as it scrounged up over $210M worldwide; more than half of that coming from North American grosses.
His next film, “Elysium,” was seen as somewhat of a disappointment in the US, but doubled up internationally where it found $193M versus the $93 it captured domestically.
With a budget of $49M, “Chappie” should have a relatively good go of it on a global basis, but after this takes a hit stateside, it’s no wonder Blomkamp is circling the “Alien” franchise as he needs a pop-culture boost for his credentials.
That said, Blomkamp is a lo-fi, sci-fi wonder, and will certainly serve the “Alien” series well. After that, let’s hope the mighty Mouseketeers have been keeping tabs on this guy, as he would be an ideal choice to helm a Stars Wars one-off.
In over 3,200+ theaters this weekend, Chappie has a chance at $20M in a weak marketplace, but as “Jupiter Ascending” proved earlier this year, misguided sci-fi isn’t exactly the box office’s best friend–$18M.
Once a wanted man, Vince Vaughn has significantly cooled off as a male lead in Hollywood, as none of his last four releases have even cleared $50M in the US. That streak will continue with “Unfinished Business,” as Fox’s R-rated $35M comedy isn’t even expected to file away $10M this weekend.
That’s a far cry from the days when Vaughn was so money he snagged a prime role in Spielberg’s “The Lost World” right after his unforgettable debut in “Swingers.” Seems Chris Pratt (“Jurassic World”) is stealing all his moves, and if that’s the case, he must have tapped into Vaughn’s how-to-make-it-in-Hollywood dossier when the two co-starred together in “Delivery Man.”
Don’t feel too bad for Vaughn though, he has a leading role in season two of “True Detective” and I’m sure there’s a “Wedding Crashers,” “Dodgeball” or “Old School” sequel in the works. Yup, it’s about that time, folks. Hey, no shame in that game…that’s what the people want!
When we talk about sequels, we usually talk about the continuing adventures of spandex-clad superheroes, cartoon characters that sell gobs of merch or slasher films–not old fogies blowing their retirement savings while gallivanting around India.
That said, I was as happy as anyone to see director John Madden return with “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which is the first sequel ever commissioned by Fox Searchlight. Arthouse sequels just don’t happen. If they did, we’d be watching “Little Mrs. Sunshine” and “Juno-a-go-go,” no?
Made for $10M, the original booked $136M worldwide, as it became a slow burn hit for the studio. Not surprisingly they spent the same amount on the sequel with Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel and Judi Dench all returning…as well as the silver fox, Richard Gere, checking in to woo the women.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” was released in a limited rollout, while the sequel will go forth in 1,500+ theaters and might see upwards of $10M this weekend. And even if “Second Best” comes in a bit shy of that mark, it’ll definitely have a long shelf life as older audiences aren’t necessarily camping out to see this, but still, you’d be surprised how fast word travels around rest homes. Bunch of Chatty Cathy’s, those people. Plus, senior prices rule the old school!
- Chappie – $18M
- The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – $10M
- Focus – $9M
- Kingsman – $8M
- Unfinished Business – $7M
MAGIC MIKE XXL GETS RATED
For those of you who thought Magic Mike was going soft for the sequel, the MPAA recently announced “XXL” was rated R for: strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.
Yes, break those banana hammocks out of storage, folks, and check out the latest and greatest trailer. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.
CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” Trailer #3 (May 1, 2015)
The brand spankin’ new Avengers trailer is here, and guess what? The doom and gloom is gone! Ok, not really. But if you think this sequel is anything but the biggest flick of the summer, you’re quite simply dead wrong. And consequently, you have no business in box office forums, cinematic chalk talk chat rooms or fanboy Facebook groups. In fact, you should just stop what you’re doing now…and call it a day. Thank you for understanding.
REHEAT OF THE WEEK: “Mad Max: Fury Road” Same Trailer as Before (May 15, 2015)
Can we watch this Mad Max trailer one more time? You bet your sweet action-lovin’ ass we can. It’s the best trailer since WaterWorld. In fact, it could be called DirtWorld now that I think about it. I think there’s a connection.
CHINCY CUT OF THE WEEK: EuropsCorp’s “Big Game” (June 26, 2015)
Once in awhile a trailer comes along and you’re absolutely certain it’s a fake film, a cinematic sham, if you will. “Big Game” shouldn’t exist at all, and yet it arrives in theaters and simultaneously on VOD this summer.
Samuel L. Jackson plays the muther f’in president of the United States…and some Finnish brat with a crossbow comes out of the woods and saves his ass. By all means, this makes “Snakes on a Plane” look like a masterpiece.
Hey, remember when Samuel L. used to be a legitimate actor and was doing those Capital One credit card commercials wearing, like, maroon sweatpants. Oh, wait, that’s still happening? Luckily he has “The Avengers” to fall back on.
“Big Game” also has the notoriety of being the most expensive film ever produced in Finland ($8.5M EUROS).
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.