Tag Archives: The Maze Runner

US Box Office Report: 02/10/15 – 04/10/15

The Martian sciences the sh*t out of making money, The Walk loses its (bank) balance, Sicario means “dolla dolla bills y’all”, the public vote against Freeheld, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Proving that Matt Damon can say all of the most accidentally ignorant crap that he likes and that Ridley Scott can spend a full half-decade crapping out stinkers whilst both still remain the kind of perfectly lovable and bankable box office draws that Hollywood executives wish to Maker they could create out of thin air, The Martian is your new box office number 1.  The big story for many people is how the film has fallen just short of breaking Gravity’s “Best October Opening Ever” record – by $750,000 – although the estimates may push it over the top.  Because, after all, who cares about excellent openings unless they break records, right?  Besides, if we should be sad about anything, it should be the fact that the godawful Hannibal is still Ridley Scott’s best opening weekend ever.  That’s the real tragedy.

Speaking of tragedies, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Pepé le Pew imitation in The Walk.  This is meant to be a serious movie, right?  Cos, quite frankly, I probably won’t be able to take seriously two hours of “Omlette du fromage”.  Audiences very much seemed to agree with me, in this instance – that, or they saw Man On Wire and sussed that they didn’t need to see it fictionalised and in 3D – and even with critical acclaim and an initial opening exclusively on IMAX theatres, its true home, the film failed to find much of an audience.  In fact, and in sharp contrast to Everest from a few weeks back, it didn’t even manage to crack the Top 10, stalling out at number 11 with only $1.5 million.  The film hits actual theatres that people want to go to next weekend, but this whole “release early in IMAX” thing really doesn’t seem to be paying off as studios were likely hoping it would.  Y’know, probably because IMAX really just isn’t very good.

But do you know what is very good?  Sicario, that’s what!  One of the year’s absolute best films finally went wide this week and, for a bleak-as-f*ck and slow-moving thriller that is as decidedly uncommercial as… well, as Denis Villenueve’s Prisoners, did surprisingly well, securing third place with a decent $12 million.  The film even supposedly has an “A-“ CinemaScore, too, so it may have some legs over these next few weekends.  Comfortably above it on the chart, meanwhile, is Hotel Transylvania 2 which actually held better than the first film did – and that only dropped 36% between weekends, let’s not forget – with a miniscule 32% drop and $33 million.  So, once again, can Genndy Tartakovsky please go and make whatever he wants now?  It’s clear the public will accept it!

Do you know what they didn’t accept, though?  Freeheld.  Yes, the weekend’s big Limited Release, and the latest blatant entry in Julianne Moore’s awards nomination reel, turned out to be a bit of a stinker, and nothing kills off a Limited Release’s box office prospects better than middling reviews.  Freeheld therefore only managed to scrape $40,000 from 5 screens and a per-screen average of $8,000.  Still, at least it can take comfort in the fact that it’s not Stonewall!  That film, incidentally, dropped down to 83 screens and made an absolutely pathetic $18,700 this weekend.  Better performing was the documentary He Named Me Malala which took a strong $56,000 from 4 screens for a per-screen average of $14,000.


the martian 2015

You know what’s been strong this week?  My paragraph transitions!  …here’s the Full List.

Box Office Results: Friday 2nd October 2015 – Sunday 4th October 2015

1] The Martian

$55,000,000 / NEW

Super happy to see this one do well, if for no other reason than it might give Ridley Scott the kick up the arse he needs to stop making crap films this decade.  Yes, I know that he plans to make his next film another Alien movie/Prometheus sequel, let’s focus on his career after that, OK?  In fact, whilst I have everyone’s attention, can we all just stop making Alien-related movies, please?  We haven’t had a good one in almost 30 years, and I highly doubt that the Neill Blomkamp who just made Chappie is going to turn that around.  Although I will admit that I am still excited for that one, in a “trainwreck fascination” kinda way.

2] Hotel Transylvania 2

$33,000,000 / $90,541,765

Saw this yesterday and a review will be up by Thursday as I still have to write this week’s Lost Cels first.  Film’s millimetres away from being genuinely great, for the record, although its best asset is still its utterly amazing animation.  Seriously, the work that Genndy and co. have done with translating 2D-style squash-and-stretch animation to 3D is just outstanding.  I cannot wait for him to put it to use in a film that doesn’t have Adam Sandler’s icky undertones attached to it.

3] Sicario

$12,075,000 / $15,076,295

Just a few more days and I get to see this brilliance again!  God knows I’m going to need something to wash down Pan with.  Have I ever mentioned that Pan looks like utter garbage?  Cos it really does.

4] The Intern

$11,620,000 / $36,523,892

You know what?  If this actually built to something and wasn’t two sodding hours long, I’d be giving this a full-on enthusiastic thumbs up.  It’s not particularly funny, but it is really charming and its characters are really likeable and the cast are great, and it manages to balance lionising The Older Generation and The Way Things Were with a genuine respect for the modern world and businesswomen who try to juggle work and family without being condescending or placing one higher than the others.  Seriously, it gets so much right; I just wish it built to its ending, was actually funny, and wasn’t two sodding hours.

5] Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

$7,650,000 / $63,241,124

And the maze keeps running running, and running running, and running running…

6] Black Mass

$5,905,000 / $52,521,030

No, seriously, how has no-one made a Black Eyed Peas parody song about The Maze Runner yet?  Is it because The Black Eyed Peas were The Absolute Worst and nobody actually remembers anything from any Maze Runner after having experienced them?  And I just answered my own question.

7] Everest

$5,510,000 / $33,181,310

Tosh from Torchwood is in this.  Unsurprisingly, she is given basically zero lines.

8] The Visit

$3,950,000 / $57,695,090

Anybody managed to see Cooties yet?  I have high hopes, since I actually laughed at the trailer and it has Alison Pill who always deserves the best things, but I know that this can easily go very, very wrong and the reviews aren’t great.  Still, at least it looks better than Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a film whose trailer is Exhibits A, B, C, and all the way down to Z on why we should just stop using zombies now forever.  ZOMBIE BOOBS LOL!

9] War Room

$2,800,000 / $60,544,613

Oh, just go away already.

10] The Perfect Guy

$2,400,000 / $52,615,190

So Creed isn’t due out in the UK until January.  January.  Now, initially, I got really confused, since it’s basically a new Rocky movie and Rocky Balboa opened simultaneously in the USA and the UK.  But then I realised something: they’re setting up Creed to be an awards season contender, so now I’m just annoyed.  Even if it’s good, Creed ain’t getting nominated for jack, and the whole Awards Season thing of keeping us Brits out of the loop on seeing these films until the opening of the next year is bullsh*t.  Again, NON-SIMULTANEOUS RELEASING OF ENGLISH-LANGUAGE FILMS IN 2015 IS BULLSHIT!

And you thought I’d get through one of these pieces without stepping on my soapbox!  Ha!

Dropped Out: The Green Inferno

Callum Petch guesses we’re kicking this city down.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 has only one major flaw, and it’s right there in the title.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

mocking jay 3Do you think that The Wachowskis and Quentin Tarantino ever regret splitting up The Matrix 2 and Kill Bill respectively?  I mean, considering what it hath wrought on today’s blockbuster landscape where nothing ends anymore and everything is always building towards a thing that’s being held off until the next film.  Were their various artistic decisions, driven by their split films being stylistically and distinctly different from one another – Kill Bill Vol. 1 being an action packed Asian-influenced martial arts flick and Vol. 2 being a slow-moving character-driven Spaghetti Western, whilst The Matrix Reloaded was the openly philosophical and purposefully cock-teasing one and The Matrix Revolutions was the sh*t one – now solely reduced to green money-shaped lights in hungry movie executives’ eyes?

In this recent wave of films that abuse an audience’s patience in order to swindle them out of more of their hard-earned cash, only Harry Potter has truly gotten it right.  The Deathly Hallows films, overlong as they may be (which is a criticism you can apply to pretty much any Harry Potter film really), had two distinct parts.  Part 1 was the slow-moving character piece, where the growing distance between the core trio was finally addressed head-on and done in such a way that it essentially completed the majority of their character arcs in time for the final film; ending on a solemn, downbeat note that re-enforces stakes and provides a vital character beat to send viewers home with.  Part 2 is the glorious, excessive blow-out party celebrating the franchise’s existence that, quite honestly, it deserved and would have felt weird if it went out any other way.  There’s a clear distinction.

Most films nowadays that do The Split, however, don’t craft two distinct parts.  They don’t use this creative opportunity to tell a story that was simply too in-depth for a standard 2 hour 30 minute runtime, or to create two parts that stylistically and creatively do different things from one another.  They just occur to make some cold hard cash, and the films suffer majorly from the bloat and lack of any real satisfying closure at the end of Part 1.  Twilight did it.  The Hobbit did it.  Divergent is doing it – which amazes me as there was barely enough material in the first frickin’ film.  The Maze Runner is going to do it and you are deluding yourself if you believe otherwise.  And, now, The Hunger Games has done it.

Quite honestly, the Part 1 segment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 title is the best and worst thing about the film.  See, I have been of the opinion that prior Hunger Games movies are always two-thirds of an outstanding movie, and one-third of a really good but relatively uninteresting movie.  That one-third, surprisingly, has always been the Games part.  They’re not bad, they’re just incredibly perfunctory and uninteresting compared to the non-Games stuff: the propaganda, the class warfare, the media satirising, the emotional state of Katniss who is one of the most dynamic and interesting lead characters I have seen in a franchise in a long while, oppressive governments… all that stuff, and The Games just got in the way of that.

Mockingjay, Part 1 dispenses with them entirely.  Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) breaking of the 75th Hunger Games ended up being the spark that lit the powder-keg and now a full-on revolution has broken out in Panem.  The despotic head of The Capital, President Snow (Donald Sutherland), has razed her home, District 12, to the ground, its streets lined with the rotting skeletons of those caught in its bomb blasts, whilst Katniss herself has been “rescued” by District 13, long thought to have disappeared.  Its leader, President Coin (Julianne Moore) with the help of Plutarch Heavensbee (the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman), wants to mould Katniss into a symbol of hope for the revelation, to rally all of the Districts around for a full-scale invasion of The Capital, but Katniss wants absolutely nothing to do with it – only wishing to be reunited with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who has been captured by The Capital to act as the figurehead for their side of the war.

And that is pretty much Mockingjay, Part 1; two hours of moving characters into place for Part 2 where everything will likely pay off with lots of explosions.  That sounds bad on paper, but in actuality this breathing room allows the film to really dig deep into the stuff I mentioned that I loved earlier.  The main thrust of the film comes from Katniss slowly but surely, and even a tinge regretfully, coming into and accepting the role of the symbol of the revolution, but it’s not something she immediately hops on board with – she spends a good stretch of the film just begging to be let out and for them to rescue Peeta so that she and him can just sequester themselves away from the mess she inadvertently caused.

It’s a completely understandable viewpoint, too.  Katniss is basically broken by this point – having been thrown into the Games twice, shoved into the public spotlight and being constantly reminded of the horrors she has unwittingly caused at every turn.  It makes sense that she latches onto Peeta and a desire to run away and just be happy; the poor girl deserves it.  But she can’t, she could never, and the film goes to great lengths to show that her eventual embracing of her position is just as much, if not more so, down to her strength of character when the chips are down as it is the propaganda folk carefully manoeuvring her into position behind-the-scenes.  This means that she flip-flops constantly, but it comes across in a believable way instead of mere padding.

Credit can go to Danny Strong and Peter Craig’s screenplay for this, but the plaudits should mostly be thrown the way of Jennifer Lawrence.  The series is pretty much The Jennifer Lawrence Show anyway, due to the narrative’s hyper-specific focus on Katniss, but such an observation is more of a compliment when you consider just how good she is.  Much of Katniss’ PTSD and completely frazzled emotional state is left as subtext – or possibly been cut for time, I haven’t read the books so I don’t know – but Lawrence hones in on it and just runs with it.  She keeps finding new spins on Katniss’ icy demeanour, her emotional distress, the heartbreak that Katniss suffers whenever The Capital drags up Peeta to, essentially, taunt her that the film never feels like it’s going round in circles.  And when she gets big showy material – like a rousing speech for District 8 that reads as utterly ridiculous on paper – she knocks it out of the park and elevates it significantly.

Mind you, the film is almost stolen out from under her by, who else, Philip Seymour Hoffman who essentially gets to defiantly answer those of us who went “Well, why would you cast the incredible Philip Seymour Hoffman in a role that looks that minor and inconsequential?” in Catching Fire with a firm and defiant “THAT’S why!”  As is the usual case for a lot of his best roles, Hoffman plays Heavensbee very understatedly, as the guy who prefers to blend into the background and say the right things at the right time, rather than openly standing forward and controlling the scene – which is what ends up happening to Hoffman, too.  He commands one’s attention purely by saying the right things at the right time and knowing when to cede the spotlight back to everyone else.  As final performances go, it’s obviously not up there with his turn in A Most Wanted Man from earlier this year – because it’s not trying to be – but it’s the kind of performance that reminds me of just how much talent this guy had and how much of a shame it is that we lost him so soon.

It probably also helps that the propaganda stuff that Plutarch is helping mastermind is the best part of the film by a good country mile.  Action is minimised significantly in Mockingjay, Part 1 which ends up emphasising how important aesthetics and propaganda are to a successful military effort, and the battle of the propaganda between District 13 and The Capital, each represented by one half of the series’ end-game couple for extra dramatic weight, ends up as the thematic thrust of the film.  The scenes of Haymitch, Effie, Plutarch, and Coin brainstorming ways in which to present Katniss as a fitting hero for the revolution – noting her hard-to-like uncut self as deadly in the game of propaganda – carries a lot of parallels towards the modern celebrity PR machine that are especially fitting considering the actress playing Katniss.  Whilst Peeta’s scenes at The Capital, primarily being interviewed in a very leading fashion by Caesar Flickerman, recall similar style interviews on talk shows and such.

It’s that depth – seriously, the film really goes hard for this concept, I’m not doing it justice – thematically that has always made The Hunger Games stand out from the pack and a full film based on that really is as good as it sounds.  Yes, I wish that I got to see more of the actual revolution ongoing in order to better contextualise District 13’s struggle, but that only reinforces how little the actual fighting matters in the game of war and would also take away from Katniss’ story.  Yes, I wish that characters like Effie got a more expanded screen-time to better integrate themselves into the story, but that’s the sort of thing that Part 2 could pay off.  I even found the film to be incredibly well-paced, the two hours just breezing by!

Then, at two hours, Mockingjay, Part 1 stops.mocking jay 5

It just stops.  It smash cuts to credits, shouts “Right, that’s your lot!  Get out!” and then forcibly removes you from the theatre.  There is a cliffhanger, but it’s not a great one.  To put it another way: Catching Fire’s cliffhanger felt like an exclamation point.  The adventures of Katniss Everdeen clearly weren’t done, but the story there clearly was – coming to a halt by following through on President Snow’s promise to destroy her life if she continued to rebel.  It makes sense as a stopping point.  Mockingjay, Part 1’s cliffhanger is like if the author telling you the story had been shot halfway through and you had to wait a year for them to come out of their coma.  Oh, and you need to pay another £10 for the privilege of hearing them finish the story because they conveniently forgot that you already paid them once before.

There’s no closure, no sense that this is where we get off, no satisfaction.  Just blue balls and a whole lot of withholding.  I don’t feel like I’ve seen a full movie, I feel like I’ve seen two-thirds of a movie and somebody’s misplaced the final reel.  It’s especially troubling and irritating because the film that Part 1 is setting Part 2 up to be – a big action blow-out where stuff goes bang – is not the film that I want to see.  It’s the film that I could not be less interested in seeing.  This, quite simply, should have been one three-hour movie.  Cut a few scenes from Part 1, scale down what would be Part 2 into that third hour, and you would have a film that more than likely would have been excellent and a fantastic send-off for the franchise.

Instead, Lionsgate have near-fatally kneecapped The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 to be able to double their goes at the money pump.  I love the film that I have – I really, really do; I think it’s outstanding – but I haven’t got a full film.  I’ve gotten two-thirds of a full film, and that fact is why my dissatisfaction and personal lack of closure is only festering and growing with time.  If Mockingjay, Part 2 does, in fact, have so much quality material and stuff to fill both of the hours that it is going to take up, and pays off everything in this film spectacularly and moves me to tears, then I will take back all of these negative thoughts and worship at the series’ altar.  However, I have the feeling that even a transcendental Part 2 will not make up for a film that’s not finished and a conclusion that

Callum Petch is not in the swing of things yet.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 17/10/14 – 19/10/14

Sound and Fury signify a change in the top spot, Birdman will be able to buy law books with pictures this time, Nicholas Sparks is not getting the best, the best, the best, The Best Of Me, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Movies, successful movies at that, often go about trying to solve questions that the public need answers for.  For example, our new number 1 film, Fury, finally helped to answer our year-long conundrum, “So, is this what caused Shia LaBeouf, who wasn’t exactly the most stable and upstanding citizen to begin with, to finally go completely off the deep-end?”  As marketing hooks for World War II movies go, it’s a pretty unique selling point, and one really should commend LaBeouf for starting so far away from the film’s release date and sticking with it for so long, too; professional wrestlers can’t commit to a bit this much!  $23.5 million worth of Americans ended up tempted enough by the possibility of a train-wreck to pony up and watch an apparently pretty alright film.

In release news that doesn’t involve me making really tired and terrible jokes about a man who is most likely suffering from some kind of mental health problems, The Book Of Life continued the trend of animated films not made by established companies, and not outstandingly marketed to hell and back, opening rather soft with a third place debut and $17 million in ticket sales.  By contrast, Studio Ghibli’s second-to-last planned film, The Tale Of Princess Kaguya, opened in limited release to a very respectable $51,700 from 3 screens – which sounds small, but one must remember that this is the return feature of Grave Of The Fireflies’ Isao Takahata and that not everybody wants to be reduced to blubbering, incoherent wrecks at art-house cinemas filled with snobby judging art-house crowds.

Meanwhile, and thankfully for people absolutely f*cking sick of his goddamn signature brand, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Best Of Me, bombed majorly, only managing $10 million for sixth place and allowing hacks like me to make unfunny Foo Fighters references.  Admittedly, Nicholas Sparks films have very fluctuating performances – The Notebook was followed by Nights In Rodanthe, whilst The Last Song was followed by Dear John – so we can’t break out the party poppers just yet, but it’s still the lowest opening for any of his adaptations ever so I’m calling this a win!  Along similar total-failure lines, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children expanded to 608 screens this past weekend and scored the fifth worst nationwide debut ever, with just $320,000.  Films that managed a better per-screen average than it ($526) include Let’s Be Cops in its 10th week ($795), The Giver in its 10th week ($561), Lucy in its 13th week ($778), How To Train Your Dragon 2 in its 19th week ($566) and… well, pretty much everything else on the list.

Finally, we have the limited releases and the big success story of the weekend: Birdman.  The new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu starring Michael Keaton as somebody who once played a superhero now trying to make it on Broadway and filmed in a way that gives off the illusion that the film is just one continuous shot… actually, now that I think about it, it’s absolutely no surprise that the LA and NY cinemas that got this film ate it up so massively.  In any case, $415,000 from 4 theatres makes it the second-biggest-per-screen-average for a limited release of the year (behind The Grand Budapest Hotel) and the ninth best live-action limited release opening ever.  Also doing great business on 11 screens, for a very impressive $31,273 per-screen average, was Dear White People with a weekend total of $344,000.  I don’t really have anything else to add, to be honest, the film looks way too good for me to get snarky at.


dear white people

This Full List has got another confession to make, it’s no fool, it’s getting tired of star- (*is forcibly pulled away from keyboard*)

Box Office Results: Friday 17th October 2014 – Sunday 19th October 2014

1] Fury

$23,500,000 / NEW

Owen will be handling review duties on this one, folks.  Be gentle with him.  I also find it interesting to note that Fury has made more domestically in one weekend than David Ayer’s other 2014 film, Sabotage, did worldwide throughout its entire run.  Good to see his year has turned around significantly!

2] Gone Girl

$17,800,000 / $107,069,000

Gone Girl has been embraced by Men’s Rights Activists, just as I feared it would be.  Sigh…  I guess that’s the risk one gets when trying to tell stories like this one, but it is saddening to know that I am going to have to spend the rest of my life lengthily explaining myself when I tell more Internet conscious people that I love Gone Girl, so that they don’t get the idea that I’m some kind of woman-hating psychopath.

3] The Book Of Life

$17,000,000 / NEW

Out here on Friday, so one last time for good luck: I ORDER YOU TO NOT SUCK!

4] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$12,039,000 / $36,871,000

And this is out this weekend, too.  Well, I guess you gotta learn to live with the bad days to ap- (*looks down to see hands have somehow become sentient and are strangling the author to death*)

5] The Best Of Me

$10,200,000 / NEW

Should probably clarify that the strangling that occurred in the previous joke involved my throat, not anything dirty like I know some of you more childish readers were attempting to misconstrue it as.  There are no such uses of toilet humour in these articles.  This is a family feature.

6] Dracula Untold

$9,889,000 / $40,735,000

A pretty large 58% drop between weekends, so it’s a total flop domestically.  Unfortunately, it’s almost cleared $100 mil overseas, mainly thanks to Russia and Mexico of all places, so I can’t smugly sit here and claim that it completely bombed like I predicted it was going to.  Drat and blast!

7] The Judge

$7,940,000 / $26,843,000

No, seriously, watch the trailer for Dear White People.  It looks absolutely excellent and the kind of film I need in my life right f*cking now.

8] Annabelle

$7,925,000 / $74,127,000

Yes, that is a really close gap between The Judge and Annabelle, but actuals have yet to actually flip the places of two films that are dead close to one-another in estimates under my watch, so don’t expect anything to actually happen here.  You know, except for the realisation that I just managed to sufficiently kill time by making a big deal out of nothing with this entry.

9] The Equalizer

$5,450,000 / $89,170,000

Fuck off.

10] The Maze Runner

$4,500,000 / $90,837,000

OK, I’m not stupid.  I know you haven’t actually watched the Dear White People trailer yet.  I have no control over you and can’t force you to visit every single link I attach to these articles.  You’re busy people with places to be.  So I’m just going to leave this here and we’ll all reconvene next week for me to do this dance with another completely different film possibly maybe.

Dropped Out: Addicted, The Boxtrolls, Left Behind

Callum Petch is watching the television with no sound.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

The Maze Runner

If it weren’t the first in a trilogy, The Maze Runner would be a legitimately great time at the movies.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

maze runner 2Ever since the Harry Potter series made enough money at the box office to buy God five times over, every Hollywood studio has been falling over themselves to find a Young Adult literature series that they can adapt, and franchise the crap out of, of their own.  Some have been giant successes – Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Chronicles Of Narnia kinda sorta to a degree.  Others impaled themselves on the first hurdle – The Golden Compass, Eragon, I Am Number Four, last year’s The Mortal Instruments.  Everybody wants in on that pie because getting it right sets you up with a lucrative franchise for the next few years, whilst getting it wrong equates to a loss of chump-change and one can just go right back to the well and try again until they get it right.

The problem isn’t so much that this approach leads to any old crap getting picked up for adaptationing (you can make a good movie out of anything, after all), the problem is that this approach leads to a lot of first instalment films that don’t actually wrap anything up.  Their desire to hook audiences back in for future go-arounds on the money train often leads to majorly unsatisfying endings that can lead to viewers feeling cheated, like they’ve been conned out of a full story.  The Golden Compass did this, Eragon did this, Divergent just did this six months ago…  Notice how it seems to be a trend of the not-good ones?

The Maze Runner is a surprisingly great one, which is what makes its total failure of an ending all the more maddening.  For about 90 of the film’s 113 minutes, this is a tense, well-acted, very exciting, if formulaic science-fiction thriller that surprised the absolute hell out of me.  Unfortunately, its ending, the thing that should have sealed the deal and got me all set for the sequel, is an infuriatingly sloppy and unsatisfying mess that deflates my opinion of the film significantly.  Hell, if the film had just stopped right as it was about to jump off a cliff, like literally just cut to credits with nothing else, I would have preferred that to the ending I got.

Admittedly, I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s focus on the stuff that was good before I have to address the pink elephant.  Our film begins with a young boy (Dylan O’Brien) waking up disoriented in a crate elevator with no memory of anything.  He’s been forcibly sent to a place called The Glade, entirely populated by boys his age and surrounded on all sides by a giant ever-shifting maze that seems inescapable and is home to some very dangerous monsters that patrol it at night after its entrance closes.  The boys, having mostly given up hope of ever escaping, have concocted a strict, regimented, yet fair society, run by a boy called Albi (Aml Ameen), that the new arrival, who eventually remembers his name to be Thomas (the only piece of info the people who put the boys there let them keep), proceeds to threaten due to his curious nature and unending desire to escape.

As you may guess, the film proceeds along with the central mysteries of “how do we escape?” and “who put us here?” but, and this is crucial, the mysteries aren’t what drive the entire film.  Yes, the characters search for both is a central tenant to their actions, but the film is driven by said actions and how they react each other.  That’s what the film is primarily interested in, the characters.  And, yeah, they may be relatively stock and it couldn’t be more obvious which of them would end up siding against Thomas when the chips are down if they wandered around with giant glowing neon signs advertising this fact, but each of them are well-written enough to overcome their stock traits.  There’s one character whose eventual death is telegraphed within about three seconds of their turning up, but they still make an impression beyond that due to above-average writing and Blake Cooper’s very earnest performance.

On that note, performances are of a higher calibre than I’m used to seeing in this sub-genre.  Dylan O’Brien is very able at selling a boy out-of-his-depth and has a likeable enough screen presence that can carry him through the moments where he ends up with a blanker face than is necessary.  Other standouts include Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen from Game Of Thrones, before you ask), who is a very reassuring and warm presence, fitting his character very well, and continuing rising star Will Poulter, who busts out a deep American accent and spends 113 minutes apologising for Plastic with a very convincing and slightly more nuanced performance as the film’s de-facto villain than the script seems willing to give him.

Effects are great, especially so considering the miniscule $34 million price tag – for comparison, Divergent cost $85 million and… didn’t look like it cost $85 million, let’s put it that way.  The maze itself benefits from being predominately shot tightly, amping up the claustrophobia and having the actual design of the segments of the maze be striking enough to make it clear as to where the characters currently are.  The monsters that roam the maze, known as Grievers because all YA books need a whole new vocabulary of their own for some reason, have genuinely disturbing designs that make them look just as unnerving in the day, when the increased light should highlight the lower quality of the CG, as they are shrouded in shadow.  Cleverly, the film also reigns in any desire to go giant with its action sequences, enabling the relatively low budget to remain inconspicuous unless you’re already aware of it.

I realise that this review is really… dry, I think is the word.  Here’s the thing, Maze Runner, before everything goes to hell, doesn’t really do anything new or different.  Again, it is formulaic, the eventual splitting of the community into those who side with Thomas and those who don’t is telegraphed from about the sixth minute of the film at the latest, and the metaphors for adolescence aren’t exactly subtle – Grievers attack by stinging their victim, which causes their body to change, their mind to disintegrate and the victim to become extremely emotional and hos-it’s a metaphor for puberty, alright.  But, and here’s the other thing, none of that really matters, because the film itself is a really bloody good one.

As an example: I was on edge during the entire segment of the film where Thomas inevitably runs into the maze before it closes for the night despite being told not to.  The tightness of the camera, the sparse usage of sound and music (and not heralding the eventual jump scare with the score equivalent of dropping a laptop on a MIDI keyboard set to “Orchestra”), the Grievers being shrouded in shadow enough to keep up the mystery but not so much as to make them murky indecipherable blobs, and also with concern for Thomas himself.  He might have amnesia but, crucially, he still has a personality, a likeable and understandable personality (his desire to escape whilst saving the decent members of The Glade makes him a very accurate audience surrogate), so I was rooting for him to survive the night.  He was obviously going to, the film was only about 30 minutes in by this point and it’s not Psycho, but the scene was still tense and exciting anyway.

That sequence is where it becomes clear that the film has a full-on momentum built up, the kind that can sweep a viewer along to the finish and make the majority of problems seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  The formulaic and rigid adherence to the classic three-act structure do keep it from becoming a truly great film, but they don’t distract from the quality on display.  The tone is very serious and straight-laced, sometimes to a fault, but that means that terrible attempts at humour or mood-undercutting moments don’t interfere.  A lone girl (Kaya Scodelario, who I am very happy to see finally get non-Skins related work) is introduced into The Glade at the hour mark and whilst the film does quite literally nothing with this fantastic idea – her purpose is basically to walk around wearing a giant arrow that screams “I WILL BE IMPORTANT IN THE SEQUEL” – she gets by on the charm of her actress and not being forcefully shoved into a romance arc.

So, the film was going great!  What looked to be the final showdown had wrapped, the climax had basically been reached, and answers were about to be given.  All The Maze Runner had to do was not botch the landing and I could make it my Best Surprise of 2014, slap it with an enthusiastic recommendation and wait with fevered anticipation for the sequel.

Then the ending happened.  I’m not about to divulge spoilers and specifics, don’t panic, but this is the most frustratingly poor ending I have come across in a film all year.  A year, lest we forget, with Need For Speed and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so you know it has to be a bad ending.  It has a reveal as to the nature of The Glade and the reason why the teenagers were thrown in there that both raises way more questions than it does answers (the kind of reveal that’s used in the middle of the film rather than the end), is the most generic and boring answer that one can think of for the premise, and is delivered in the dullest manner possible.  There’s another final showdown crowbarred in there for almost literally no reason, an atrociously handled sudden death that has all of its possible effect sucked out by its unearned nature (almost like it was thrown in to stem complaints that nobody truly important died during the film), another incredibly obvious and boring reveal, and a final shot that is blatant “COME BACK NEXT YEAR FOR THE THRILLING CONCLUSION!”

Look, there is nothing wrong with sequel teasing and cliffhangers in and of themselves.  The problem comes when they are deployed in the first instalment of something, because then I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a full story.  I feel like I’ve been swindled, that I need to fork over more money in the future to get the second part of what will inevitably turn out to be a quadrilogy.  It may be a decent stopping-place plot-wise, but only one goal has been properly fulfilled and too many questions and events and plots are dropped on me at literally the last minute that I feel like the last 30-or-so minutes were forcibly cut from the film and withheld until the sequel, which is infuriating.  Especially since it’s all done so goddamn sloppily, another reason why the final showdown and its sudden death have no impact and feel so awkward.

That, ultimately, is why I am disappointed with The Maze Runner.  For so much of its runtime, it is a huge surprise and does pretty much everything right.  To see it face-plant so thoroughly, so eagerly, so blatantly on the cusp of the finish line is legitimately aggravating because, dammit, it was this goddamn close!  I visibly went from “Hell, yes!  Bring on the sequel!” to “(*disappointed exasperated groan*)  Well, I guess I’ll watch the sequel cos it’s my job to,” as it went on.  If really disappointing endings to otherwise great films don’t bother you too much, then you’ll likely wonder why I am so worked up about it.  But the ending to The Maze Runner is just so, so bad that it’s tainting my opinion of the rest of the film.  I went in with no expectations and still left disappointed.

This should have been great.  Instead, it’s just disappointingly good.

Callum Petch goes up to Amazonia.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 10/10/14 – 12/10/14

The Judge has a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad weekend, Dracula does makes Untold millions, Kill The Messenger is DOA, the full list will give you Whiplash, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This weekend, a terrifying curse was placed upon a certain set of people.  One that rendered them scared, confused, worried about the changes and its effects, and unable to go out during the daytime (primarily because they don’t go out during the day, anyway).  I am of course referring to the 48 hours in which the website known as Box Office Mojo ceased to exist.  We film writers were thrown into a panic.  “How on earth can we do our jobs now?  What other monstrous websites will we have to patronize instead?  Why hast thou forsaken us?!” we cried skyward to the heavens.  But then, right on cue, the site returned this morning with no explanation for its absence!  And so our great national nightmare was over!

You could say, then, that it was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad weekend, in an incredibly lame segway towards referring to the box office stats.  It was most certainly one for the “Robert Downey, Jr. has a space on his fireplace that he’s just freed up for some awards statues” flick known more commonly as The Judge.  Not only did critics collectively shrug it away from any possible awards buzz, the film underwhelmed severely at the box office, despite featuring Robert Downey, Jr. doing that Robert Downey, Jr. thing that the people like, only debuting in fifth place with $13 million in ticket sales.  Alexander, then, much like its titular character, ended up passing off that yadda yadda weekend to somebody else, opening with a surprisingly strong $19.1 million for third place.

That left it comfortably sat behind the number two film, Dracula Untold which debuted to a very surprisingly strong $23 million.  Couple that with its currently-really-rather-successful overseas performance, and you have one genuinely surprised writer.  In any case, that still puts it very much behind the weekend’s number 1 film, Gone Girl, which shed only 28% between weekends to hold onto the top spot.  Couple that with its currently-very-successful overseas performance, and you get one very, very happy writer.  Also sneaking into the Top 10 was the moderate release drama-thriller Addicted, which managed to overcome the handicap of apparently being complete garbage to score a seventh place debut and a near-$9000 per screen average.

As for those limited release films outside of the top 10, there’s a lot to parse through.  First off, Meet The Mormons, which resides in 11th place on our countdown with a weekend gross of $2.7 million, from 317 screens, that are presumably from people who thought it was an expose on the making of The Book Of Mormon.  It is, though, the second biggest opening for a documentary all year, at any rate (behind Bears).  Next up, we have the Jeremy Renner-starring and Mary Elizabeth Winstead-featuring Kill The Messenger, which tanked with only $939,000 from 374 screens.  You know, because Mary Elizabeth Winstead is cursed at the box office.  St. Vincent, a film starring Bill Murray and I know that’s all it needs to do to earn your ticket because that’s all it took to earn mine, managed to take $121,000 from 4 screens worth of people who had the exact same thought processes as us.  Meanwhile, the critically lauded Whiplash kick-started its assault on the public with $144,000 worth of people in 6 screens wanting to see J.K. Simmons mentally and physically abuse the f*ck out of Miles Teller.  The real abuse, as should be obvious, though, is withholding this film from us Brits until January the goddamn 16th of 2015!!

Oh, and One Chance, that biopic about the opera singer from Britain’s Got Talent, finally got released in America this past weekend.  $32,800 from 43 screens.  Absolutely worth the constant release date circle-jerking.


dracula untold 2

This Full List is being held in contempt of court!  Everything that guy just said is bullsh*t!  The Bible is a good book, but it’s not the only book!  I believe there is justice in our hearts!  You can’t handle the truth!

Box Office Results: Friday 10th October 2014 – Sunday 12th October 2014

1] Gone Girl

$26,800,000 / $78,281,000

Saw it again this weekend and again loved every second of it.  It’s just such a brilliant film, and trying to articulate the reasons as to why I love it so in less than an A4 page when it inevitably ends up in the highest possible echelons of my Top 10 of 2014 list is going to be a monumental task.  Look forward to that inevitable train-wreck of a series (yes, series, I’m planning in advance here, got a feeling the overall article would be in excess of 10 goddamn pages otherwise) in the future!  For now, go see Gone Girl!  Yes, even if you have already seen it.  Go again.

2] Dracula Untold

$23,457,000 / NEW

So, yeah.  Gonna be frank, I fully expected this one to out and out bomb.  Like, straight flop as soon as it left the starting gates.  It still could, next week has plenty of releases ready to steal its thunder and rumours are going around that the $70 mil price tag the film is sporting is significantly lower than its true budget, but it’s not an immediate and total failure, which I will likely never stop being surprised by.  You people did see the awful trailer, right?

3] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$19,100,000 / NEW

Oh, Christ, this one.  Look, I refuse to believe that it is anything less than a total steaming, nigh-on insufferable dud until I inevitably see it with my own eyes in the near-future.  I’m also guessing that his work as Childish Gambino is not paying anywhere near enough to keep Donald Glover away from dreck like this.  That’s a bit of a shame; because the internet isn’t too bad of an album.

4] Annabelle

$16,365,000 / $62,156,000

A 56% drop between weekends, which is a little steeper than The Conjuring’s but is still not too bad overall.  Again, it’s got no direct competition for the whole of October, which is weirdly empty with regards to horror films this year, and Ouija, which drops at the very end of the month, will bomb to some degree (I have never been so sure of anything in my entire last 15 minutes of life).  Annabelle will keep making money.  Whether that’s a good thing or not is for you folks to judge.

5] The Judge

$13,300,000 / NEW

Robert Downey, Jr. really does just play the Robert Downey, Jr. role now, doesn’t he?  That’s kind of a shame.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I really like Robert Downey, Jr., but he is capable of more and I’d rather he stretch himself and try to mitigate the risk of just coasting by on Iron Man.  On a related heathen note, all three Iron Man films are my least favourite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the exception of The Incredible Hulk.  Yes, even Iron Man 3.  Expect my firing to be made public in a few hours.

6] The Equalizer

$9,725,000 / $79,885,000

Skipped it last Tuesday, before you ask.  I fulfilled the “seeing Dolphin Tale 2” part of that plan and then was too “eeeeeeeeeehhhhhh”’d out to bother seeing The Equalizer on top of it.  Guess I’ll never see it now.  Oh, boo hoo.  How I weep for such a missed opportunity.

7] Addicted

$7,600,000 / NEW

It wasn’t until I watched the trailer that I realised why this film came out of nowhere to make big, big bucks: it predominately stars, and is targeted at, black people.  Let me be clear, that’s not meant to be an insult – for the love of God, it really is not.  It’s instead an observation that there is a large segment of America that very much enjoy watching films aimed at them regardless of quality, and which are not white.  In fact, it’s an observation that keeps being made every single time a film like that becomes successful, almost like it’s a fact about a mostly untapped market instead of an observation about trend that will die out soon…

8] The Maze Runner

$7,500,000 / $83,840,000

Penning my review as soon as I’ve finished with this.  Short version: surprisingly, genuinely great until the abysmal ending cocks everything up.  You should have seen me in the cinema; I visibly went from “Hell yes, bring on the sequel!” to “(exasperated groan), I guess I’ll see the sequel because I have to,” in the space of about 10 minutes.  Again, review will be set for tomorrow, so sit tight for in-depth thoughts, but man I was so disappointed by this one.

9] The Boxtrolls

$6,676,000 / $41,032,000

Oh.  Oh.  OK, remember last week when I said Laika were going to be OK?  I want you to disregard that and instead hit all of your panic buttons.  The budget is $60 mil, which it has only barely cleared thanks to foreign grosses, it’s currently sitting at less domestically than notorious under-performer ParaNorman, and The Book Of Life (side note: PLEASE DO NOT SUCK) is coming along next week to hijack its audience.  It may end up a hit on home video, which it deserves to be because Laika deserve all the success even with films that aren’t up to their usual standards, but I’m going to panic the f*ck out until somebody at Laika tells me I don’t need to.

10] Left Behind

$2,909,000 / $10,920,000

Still not going to make any obvious jokes at the expense of its title.  I am above that.  I have limits, y’know.

Dropped Out: This Is Where I Leave You, Dolphin Tale 2, Guardians Of The Galaxy, No Good Deed

Callum Petch couldn’t see he was the car you crashed.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 3/10/14 – 5/10/14

Gone Girl disappears with a lot of cash, Annabelle scares up big bucks, Nas: Box Office Gross Is Illmatic, you already know the obvious pun for Left Behind, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Defying typical David Fincher luck, Gone Girl obliterated the weekend and took first place with $38 million in ticket sales.  Why do I say “defying typical David Fincher luck”?  Well, because David Fincher films do not open past the $20 million mark, the only exceptions being The Social Network (and even then just barely), The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (which had Brad Pitt and enough crowd-pleasing Oscar bait schmaltz to drown kittens in) and the prior biggest opener Panic Room (which… OK, I’ve got nuthin’).  Plus, you know, the fact that the film is bleak and nihilistic and preposterous and nasty as all hell.  But, hey, it’s the date movie of the year!  I mean, I don’t know about you folks, but I find that films about psychopaths and sociopaths are just the most hopelessly romantic!

Anyways, the success of Gone Girl means that, for once, justice prevails at the box office!  My favourite film of the year so far managed to hold off blatant coat-tails riding cash-grab Annabelle, which entered in second with $37 million!  Admittedly, that is still extremely close and could lead to a switch in positions when the actuals come in, but I am going to pre-emptively do my happy dance jig right now, if you all don’t mind.  The fact that its opening is still massive and that it’s guaranteed to make crap tonnes due to it being the only horror movie out for the majority of October (Dracula Untold will bomb, just you watch) are both irrelevant.  Gone Girl came out on top!  Everything’s going to be OK, folks!  Everything is going to be OK.

Other films came out this past weekend, though, so we have to talk about them.  Left Behind, an adaptation of a faith-based book series starring noted religious man Nicholas Cage and directed by former stuntman Vic Armstrong, was resoundingly… you know what?  I am above the obvious joke that everyone else has already made, I draw the line at jokes this easy.  All I’ll say is that Left Behind took almost $7 million for sixth place.  Faring infinitely worse was the “mother of God, this trailer is so offensive and offensively treacly that a crazed homeless man could jump out of nowhere and scoop my eyeballs out of their sockets right now, and it would honestly be preferable to having to see the rest of this trailer or the film that it’s promoting” The Good Lie, which could only manage $935,000 from 461 screens despite Reese Witherspoon being somebody whose name we should all know.

Doing much better than both of those was the Bollywood epic (and I do mean “epic”) Bang Bang!, a remake of that world-famous and widely-revered Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz vehicle Knight & Day that you all totally didn’t forget about 5 minutes after watching.  In any case, its 271 screens, as part of one of the biggest release roll-outs for a Bollywood movie ever, convinced $1.2 million worth of people to finally try this Bollywood thing they keep hearing so much about, the highest opening of the year for a Bollywood film in the US.  Faring much, much, much worse was the latest film from once bright directorial star Jason Reitman: Men, Women & Children, which has been absolutely savaged by critics, only managed to take $48,000 from 17 screens for a per-screen average of $2,824 which is horrible.  The film might do better when it expands nationwide in a few weeks, but that’s still two straight critical drubbings in the space of 10 months for Reitman.  Dude, what the f*ck has happened to you?

Finally before we get into the full list, Nas: Time Is Illmatic, a documentary about the creation of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, rap albums of all-time and the people behind it, managed to open to $23,200 from 2 screens.  I mention this purely for the reasons of I think that’s genuinely awesome and to tell you to listen to Illmatic right now if you haven’t yet.  In fact, listen to it even if you already know it front-to-back, it’s never not a good time to listen to that album!


XXX GONE-GIRL-MOV-JY-2007-.JPG A ENT

This Full List sneaks a uzi on the island in its army jacket lining.

Box Office Results: Friday 3rd October 2014 – Sunday 5th October 2014

1] Gone Girl

$38,000,000 / NEW

My review, in which I battled against an unrelenting cold and a desire to avoid spoiling anything to tell you why I think Gone Girl is the best film I have seen all year and likely will see all year.  Before anybody shouts “BUT INHERENT VICE HASN’T COME OUT AND CHANGED ANYONE’S LIVES YET” or some such like, UK release dates mean that films like Inherent Vice don’t make it over here until January because Americans just can’t get over that one time we forcibly colonised them.  In any case, no film has made me as excited about films and cinema and going to the cinema this year as Gone Girl did.  It’s going to be divisive, but I f*cking adore it and, for me, it’s the bar to clear for everything else this year.

2] Annabelle

$37,200,000 / NEW

I am so glad this comes out next week here.  Then I can finally stop hanging around outside cinema screens for films I want to see waiting for the trailers to finish in case this one starts up and gives my easily-scared self a heart-attack.  Instead, I’ll be hanging around outside cinema screens for films I want to see waiting for the trailers to finish so that other films I want to see aren’t spoilt for me; a totally legitimate reason for doing so.

3] The Equalizer

$19,000,000 / $64,500,000

Fine, I guess I’ll see this tomorrow or whatever.  I’m probably going to hate it, but at least then we’ll all know together!

4] The Boxtrolls

$12,425,000 / $32,539,000

A 28.1% drop between weekends, which is excellent.  Now, yes, considering the soft opening, that’s still a bit too much of a drop for my liking, but it’s actually really excellent.  Why?  Well, again, stop-motion animated films open soft anyway and a near 30% drop is rather expected between weekends for them, it’s better than ParaNorman’s near 40% plummet two years back and is equal to the fall that Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit took between weekends.  Boxtrolls will pass Frankenweenie by Friday in terms of total domestic grosses, it’s doing well overseas, and it may close closer to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride than initially thought.  Overall, things are going to turn out alright for Laika.  I’ve got a good feeling about this!

5] The Maze Runner

$12,000,000 / $73,921,000

OK, then, Friday, bring on The Maze Runner.  I’m ready to give it a fair shot.  My expectations are low but my mind is willing to give the film a chance to win me over.  This is your shot, Maze Runner.  Impress me.

6] Left Behind

$6,850,000 / NEW

Yeah, I’ll just stick to watching The Leftovers, is that’s alright with everyone.

7] This Is Where I Leave You

$4,000,000 / $29,003,000

So… have we all come around to Arrested Development Season 4 yet?  Granted, I haven’t watched it since it came out (I have been busy, but I’d like to have a run back through all of Arrested Development yet again some point soon), but it fulfilled pretty much all of my expectations when I saw it; I spent pretty much three straight days in varying levels of hysterics with it.  That made my going online and seeing the bile-filed reception the season got from most people rather perplexing.  I mean, sure, it’s not as good as Season 2, but I ask you what else is?

Can you tell that I’m really reaching for stuff to talk about with regards to this film, cos I want to hold off on making any judgements until I’ve seen the thing for myself?

8] Dolphin Tale 2

$3,530,000 / $37,940,000

So, in preparation for finally seeing this in the very near-future, I watched the original over the weekend.  It’s an OK film, does exactly what it promises to do and not much more but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it did work for small stretches at a time.  It felt very much like a film that’s been pulled out of time and released in the early 2010s, specifically a time between 1993 and 1996.  Still have no idea what they can do for a sequel, mind, besides hit the exact same beats this one did but with diminishing returns.  I guess I’ll find out soon.

9] Guardians Of The Galaxy

$3,034,000 / $323,360,000

Well, it’s been an incredible 10 week run, but it’s time to say goodbye to the Guardians Of The Galaxy.  Next week sees the release of a sh*tty looking Dracula movie, an abysmal looking live-action Disney family film, and a mediocre looking Robert Downey Jr. starring piece of award bait.  But it’s not the quality that’s the point here, it’s the fact that they’ll be new films and that Guardians will be an 11 week old film that will hit home media in exactly two months from now.  Ah, well, it’s been fun!  Let’s play it out, shall we?

10] No Good Deed

$2,500,000 / $50,157,000

America, you could have seen anything else.  Almost quite literally anything else.  Just remember that fact.

Dropped Out: A Walk Among The Tombstones, Let’s Be Cops, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Callum Petch never sleeps cos sleep is the cousin of death.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 26/9/14 – 28/9/14

The Equalizer has no equal, The Boxtrolls live underneath The Maze Runner, take Pride in that film’s per-screen average, these are some of the worst puns you will see all week, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Now that that awful headline has chased off anybody without a strong enough constitution, let’s get down to business.  The Equalizer is your new number one with $34 million in ticket sales and a per-screen average of over $10,000.  You know, despite it looking like garbage.  Still, that didn’t stop it becoming the fourth-highest September opening in history behind Hotel Transylvania, Insidious: Chapter Two, and Sweet Home Alabama which, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be googling right now to find out what the hell that was.  Chalk up the success to the presence of Denzel Washington, the Patron Saint of movies that inexplicably make a lot of money despite immediately fading from memory after viewing.  Don’t believe me?  OK, then: what year did 2 Guns come out?  The correct answer was August of last year, not that you’d get that seeing as you actually had to google 2 Guns to remember what it was.

As for the week’s other new release, The Boxtrolls, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that the film now has the second biggest opening for a stop-motion animated film ever, behind Chicken Run, said opening is more than the ones for both Coraline and ParaNorman, and the lack of any family-focussed films on the release docket for next week gives it a strong chance of holding well!  The bad news is that it opened in third with only $17 million in ticket sales.  Again, that’s still a lot considering the genre, but, dammit, Laika deserve even more success!  I may be a bit more down on The Boxtrolls than most people, but it’s still better than most animated films I’ve seen so far this year and the company deserve a full-blown financial success after the outstanding ParaNorman barely broke even!

In limited release town: The Skeleton Twins began its move towards a wide-ish release by expanding to 385 theatres and netting a total of $1.231 million from them, for a decent per-screen average of $3,200.  Christian (the faith, not the professional wrestler) musical-drama The Song hit many bum notes on the 340 screens it infected, taking only $568,596.  Más Negro Que La Noche, a Mexican remake of the 1975 Mexican horror film of the same name (so never let it be said that only the American film industry is out of ideas), did slightly better by netting $550,000 from 178 screens.

The real winner, though, was Pride, which began its charm offensive on the American shores with a measly 6 screens.  It more than made the most of them, though, raking in a per-screen average of $13,662 for a weekend total of $81,971.  Some box office reporting outlets describe this success as “decent”, seemingly forgetting that not every limited release is a f*cking Wes Anderson project that can rack up a $200,000+ per-screen average from 4 cinemas.  Pride expands a bit further in a couple of weeks and, if you’re not sold to go and see it just yet, here’s my review to persuade you to part with your cash.  See what I did there?  Seamless, wasn’t it?

Also, If I Stay decided not to this week.  I am absolutely not a hack writer.


the equalizer

The enjoyment that you will derive from this Full List is equal to or greater than your appreciation for those four prior paragraphs.

Box Office Results: Friday 26th September 2014 – Sunday 28th September 2014

1] The Equalizer

$34,137,828 / NEW

There should be a review of this up soon somewhere on here, although not by me as I haven’t seen it yet.  Cut me some slack, I was busy last weekend and, besides, this looks like garbage.  I mean, that clearly hasn’t stopped me from going to anything this past year, as you may be able to tell, but everything I hear about this film just fills me with dread and bile.  Ugh, just bring on Gone Girl already, please.

2] The Maze Runner

$17,437,020 / $57,955,347

Only a 46% drop between weekends which bodes incredibly well for its long-term financial prospects.  And it’s also apparently pretty good?  That last part bodes well for its critical prospects with myself, but we’ll have to see.  Besides, it’s not like I’m not seeing it in two weeks.  What am I gonna skip it for?  Annabelle?  In the words of one Lana Kane: NNNOOOOPPEE!

3] The Boxtrolls

$17,275,239 / NEW

Dammit, people!  “Good, not great” does not equate to “skip it almost entirely”!  In fact, what do you all seem to have against stop-motion animation?  Not one has been able to break past the $18 million opening barrier (unless you count the wide-release expansion of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride which, as you may have already guessed, I do not); what gives?  Why are you not enamoured by the medium?  What, do you hate seeing love, effort and attention being lavished on every frame?  Look, I am not leaving here until I get answers as to why The Motherf*cking Nut Job opened with more cashola than The Boxtrolls did!

4] This Is Where I Leave You

$6,894,340 / $22,441,091

Now, on the one hand, this film has only had a 40% drop between weekends.  On the other hand, there’s a difference between third and fourth place of over $10 million.  I’m just saying, it looks bad.

5] Dolphin Tale 2

$4,788,153 / $33,618,190

Oh, Christ, I have to watch the first one of these before Friday, don’t I?  Dammit, I don’t have time!  I have been busy!  I still am busy!  Why did there have to be a sequel to Dolphin Tale, for f*ckssake?!

6] No Good Deed

$4,509,127 / $46,532,221

Well, it could be worse.  It could be a film version of Kevin Williamson’s new TV show, Stalker.

7] A Walk Among The Tombstones

$4,192,785 / $20,830,290

An almost literal plummeting of 67%.  Seems like Liam Neeson will not be becoming the next Denzel Washington any time soon.  Both with regards to box office and also with regards to the fact that, for the most part, his films are actually good.  Yeah, I went there.

8] Guardians Of The Galaxy

$3,765,941 / $319,169,216

Now officially the third highest grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe film domestically, having passed the original Iron Man last weekend.  Worldwide, it’s still only at number five, but it should pass Thor: The Dark World soon enough, seeing as there is still the very lucrative China market still to go.  On a related note: man, did Thor: The Dark World have foreign legs or what?  I mean, I loved it (unlike pretty much everyone else I talked to) but I didn’t picture it as the kind of film that would do as extremely well as it did.

9] Let’s Be Cops

$1,516,021 / $79,628,884

This is still making money?  How?!  Who in their right mind decides, on the seventh week of its release, to go and see Let’s Be Cops again, or even for the first time?  What, did those involved go, “Well, Ferguson has been on the back-burner for a while, I can watch this without it weighing on my conscience” or something?  Cos, news flash, that’s still going too!  Never let it be said that this feature doesn’t keep you in the loop with regards to current events.

10] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

$1,450,177 / $187,182,309

Go, ninja, go, ninja, go!  Go, ninja, go, ninja, go!  Far, far, far, far, far away, if possible, please.

Dropped Out: The Drop, If I Stay

Callum Petch can only ask himself, oh where you all are going.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 19/9/14 – 21/9/14

The Maze Runner out-runs the competition, audiences leave This Is Where I Leave You, refuse to invite in The Guest, and ask Tusk to go away, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

In what should come as a surprise to pretty much no-one, giving audiences the opportunity to watch brand new movies at the cinema stimulates box office income.  Therefore, this past weekend was the most alive the American box office has been in a good month or so.  Leading the charge was The Maze Runner, working title “Attempt To Capture That Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games Lightning Again #749”, and its status as the first new Event Film to come along since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles paid dividends as it cruised easily to first place with $32 million in ticket sales.  That’s a pretty good opening, although it’s nowhere close to Divergent levels ($50 mil) and I imagine that 20th Century Fox will have wanted it a bit higher in general.  That sequel is still going ahead, though, so I guess this is another bunch of interchangeable pretty faces and stupid character names that I’m going to have to learn.  Swell.

Fairing a lot worse, we have the Liam Neeson-fronted A Walk Among The Tombstones and perhaps Neeson-fatigue is setting in, as this one could only manage $13 million for second place.  Now, yes, that is a second place opening but, more importantly, that’s only $13 million.  Maybe people are just sick of seeing Liam Neeson vehicles every 12-or-so months, or maybe everybody saw the trailer and correctly said to themselves, “Great!  Thanks for that!  Now I don’t need to see the movie!”  Below that we have the Shawn Levy-directed dramedy This Is Where I Leave You, starring pretty much any well-liked American comedic actor primarily found on television that you can think of, which could only muster a little under $12 million in tickets and which continues Mr. Levy’s failed attempts to be seen as anything other than “The Director Of The Night At The Museum Movies”.

Meanwhile, artier cinemas practically groaned under the weight of new debuts filling their boots this past weekend.  Audiences of said cinemas proceeded to groan in exasperated derision in the general direction of Tusk, the first of what currently amounts to 4 films that Kevin Smith postponed his retirement to make (although, this being Kevin Smith, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number jump up to 11 by the time I finish this sentence).  Advertising was supposedly only focussed on Kevin Smith fans, and I get the feeling that an opening weekend total of $886,000 from 602 screens (for a per-screen average of $1,472) accurately displays the amount of patience that Kevin Smith fans have left for Kevin Smith nowadays.  Still, could be worse.  Could be an action film about 15 year-old yoga aficionados starring Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp’s daughter and Kevin Smith’s dau… that’s exactly what his next film is?  For fu…

In sadder limited release news; audiences, for some utterly bizarre reason, decided to collectively stay away from writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard’s latest, despite it being one of the best films of the year so far.  The Guest only managed to bank $82,100 from 19 screens for a per-screen average of $4,321, which is decidedly average.  Of course, if you add on Wednesday and Thursday, that total goes up to $111,700, but that’s still not enough for me, goddammit!  Everybody should watch The Guest al-frickin-ready!  Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem, meanwhile, finally got its US debut this week and, fittingly for a Terry Gilliam movie where nothing seemed to go catastrophically wrong during the production process, it crashed and burned at cinemas with only $82,000 from 63 screens and a $1,302 per screen average because the man is CURSED!

Beating both of them in terms of audience demand was Hector & The Search For Happiness which took $46,000 from 4 screens for a per-screen average of $11,500.  Goddammit, America.


THE MAZE RUNNER

Take a walk among the Full List.

Box Office Results: Friday 19th September 2014 – Sunday 21st September 2014

1] The Maze Runner

$32,500,000 / NEW

OK, I was rather overly mean when I referred to The Maze Runner’s cast as “interchangeable pretty faces” earlier.  There are actually a fair few I recognise from other places.  Like, look, it’s Will Poulter from Son Of Rambow and Wild Bill (and also Plastic, which we don’t talk about)!  And there’s Thomas Sangster, otherwise known as Jojen from Game Of Thrones and Ferb from Phineas & Ferb!  Kaya Scodelario from Skins has found the vehicle to bring her worldwide mainstream attention!  So you know what?  Even if this film sucks uncontrollably (which it may not, it’s not out here in the UK for another three weeks), I’ll be glad it exists, letting me know that talented people are getting steady paycheques for the next few years!

2] A Walk Among The Tombstones

$13,126,000 / NEW

My review, for those of you who have seen the trailer but are still undecided.  Will point out that if you have seen the trailer, you have basically seen the movie.  The only things it doesn’t show, not kidding here, are the identities of the killers (which the film promptly gives up on hiding about 45 minutes in, anyway) and the fact that Brian “Astro” Bradley from Earth To Echo is also in this.  It’s not a bad film (it’s pretty good but totally forgettable), but there’s no reason to turn up if you only see films for the plot and have been exposed to the trailer.

3] This Is Where I Leave You

$11,860,000 / NEW

Disappointed to hear that this one is bad.  I realise that stacked casts mean absolutely nothing if the material isn’t fantastic or engaging (I learnt that one the hard way when Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy did absolutely nothing for me), but that still won’t stop me from being bummed out when I hear that a film with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver and Jane Fonda is exactly as disappointing as the underwhelming trailer threatened it to be.

4] No Good Deed

$10,200,000 / $40,100,000

A pretty precipitous 58% drop between weekends, perhaps as word got around that the “GIANT SHOCKING TWIST” the marketing company pivoted the film on at the last minute could have been figured out by anyone within two minutes of hearing about the film’s premise.  I mean, take away the “GIANT SHOCKING TWIST” hook and all you’ve got to sell the film with is that it looks offensively awful which, as marketing hooks go, is not exactly a strong base to sucker punters in with.

5] Dolphin Tale 2

$9,005,000 / $27,070,000

Dolphin Tale 1 used its second weekend to leapfrog to the top of the chart.  Just saying: don’t expect a Dolphin Tale Part III.

6] Guardians Of The Galaxy

$5,180,000 / $313,669,000

So… what’s Chris Pratt’s flaw?  You know what I’m talking about.  The man’s pretty much perfect.  He’s a talented actor, he’s very funny, a total beefcake and a half, he’s charitable, he steals his costume from film sets so he can visit kid’s cancer wards dressed as said characters, and he can spit Eminem’s verse from Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre” at double speed at the drop of a hat.  So, what’s his flaw?  What’s wrong with him?  Does he have a pile of dead bodies buried in his wine cellar?  If I have learnt anything these past few years, it’s that anybody who seems amazing or cool or perfect is actually a complete sh*tbag in some department!

Except Anna Kendrick.  For, as we all know, Anna Kendrick is a goddess who can do no wrong, sent down from heaven to remind us all that the world is not completely without merit.

7] Let’s Be Cops

$2,675,000 / $77,196,000

Well, this has been a pretty poor year for comedy, hasn’t it?  I count 22 Jump Street, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Bad Neighbours (and, if you really want to stretch the comedy definition, The Double) as the only ones that have been great, and everything else (with the exception of The Inbetweeners 2, which was just good) has been meh to awful.  I know that this is usually the ratio for comedy every year anyway, but it hurts extra bad this year because there have been so many of them.  You’d figure that at least a few more would hit it out of the park to some degree.

8] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

$2,650,000 / $185,018,000

This list is based off of the Weekend Estimates and I expect that these two may actually swap positions when the Actuals come in, it being that close between the pair and all.  Do not expect me to update this list if they do, though.  My time is far too occupied with watching and writing about the crappy period in DreamWorks Animation’s lifespan to take 10 minutes out of my life to writing a new pithy addition should such a thing occur.  Accept it and move on.

9] The Drop

$2,050,000 / $7,690,000

Don’t make the obvious joke.  Don’t make the obvious joke.  Don’t make the obvious joke.

10] If I Stay

$1,835,000 / $47,672,000

Hey!  It actually outlasted The Fault In Our Stars after all!  Way to… go… bad movie… ah, crap.  At least Chloë Grace Moretz has a decently-performing box office success to add to her resume!  Now she can go back to starring in great movies that I li…  “She’s appearing in that dull-looking Denzel Washington-starring film reboot of The Equalizer next week?”  (*flips table in frustration and storms off*)

Dropped Out: The November Man, The Giver, The Hundred-Foot Journey

Callum Petch is trying to cuss and see, trying to figure it out.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!