The figures are in, and no one can hide the fact that Hidden Figures was the number one film audiences wanted to see this weekend for the second week in a row, topping the charts with $26 million from the four-day weekend. The others in the top five are a little surprising to me, but upon further inspection, it makes sense. Hidden Figures was the top movie all weekend, but the numbers two and three spots changed with that fourth day. La La Land was in the second-place spot with $14.5 million after Sunday, and Sing was number three with $13.8 million. But toss in Monday to the mix, and Sing’s notes were a little higher with $19 million, outperforming La La Land’s $17.5 million. A similar situation happened with spots four and five, as the horror newcomer The Bye Bye Man took number four on Sunday with $13.5 million, barely edging out Rogue One in number five with $13.3 million; however, with no surprise at all, MLK Day gave Star Wars a little extra boost into number four with $17.1 million and The Bye Bye Man with half of that increase at $15.3 million.
To put it bluntly, I’m surprised The Bye Bye Man is in the top ten at all, let alone the top five, even with its 2,200 theatre count. The reviews were overwhelmingly negative, there was a complete lack of star power, a known director, and (judging by the trailer) a shred of creativity. Now, I haven’t seen it, so I don’t want to bash on it too harshly, but The Bye Bye Man sounds like a villain created by a college student taking a screenwriting class for the “easy A” and this film would better be left as straight-to-DVD rubble you have to dig through to get to the other clearance movies.
As far as the other newcomers go, Monster Trucks took the number six spot with the most positive of the reviews arriving at something along the lines of, “well…it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it’s still pretty terrible.” Sleepless took the number eight spot and was such a flop, I’m going to sleep on talking about it.
Although the films that expanded this weekend did better with reviews, they did worse with the money. Patriot’s Day was the highest earning of the bunch taking the number seven spot, and it garnered more-or-less positive reviews overall, but the most negative criticism came from Boston, which is where the film takes place and where the events actually happened…so that’s a bad sign. Ty Burr of the Boston Globe said in his review, “At best, it’s unnecessary. At worst, it’s vaguely insulting.” Wait, a hyper-patriotic movie based on a bombing that happened under four years ago with a bland fictionalized protagonist and obviously emotionally manipulative storytelling expanding nationwide on a holiday weekend could be vaguely insulting? I couldn’t imagine how that could possibly be exploitative in any way.
Ben Affleck’s latest demonstration in narcissism came to us in the form of Live By Night, which received mixed reviews that ultimately add up to: this is Batman without any of the fun or creativity. Or tights.
Lastly, and easily most importantly, Silence from Martin Scorsese was heavily lauded and is already deemed one of his finest films, which is high praise for obvious reasons. I haven’t seen it yet, which is killing me, but the consensus I’m hearing describes Silence as an experience, far from a feel-good time, that the audience leaves less wondering whether or not they liked it and more introspective on the role of spirituality in their own lives. I cannot wait to see this film; it’s not a matter of if it will be on my top choices for Best Picture, but rather where it will rank against the others.
Looking ahead to this coming weekend, we’ve got a mixed bag that could make the top five anyone’s guess! First up is xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, the third in the xXx series that began back in 2002 and spawned a sequel in 2005 starring Ice Cube, but this third film has Vin Diesel back in the starring role in a film that either looks like a fun action-packed time at the movies or a disaster that will serve only as a paycheck to Diesel before the release of Fate of the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, both of which look wildly superior to this “12 years since the last sequel oh god why can’t we just let it die” bald man explosion extravaganza.
On a more Oscar-baited note, The Founder will also be released this weekend, starring the artistically rejuvenated Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the guy who took over the McDonald’s franchise from its founders, who are played by John Carroll Lynch and the glorious meat-loving Nick Offerman. Yes, this does look like a fast-food version of The Social Network, and John Lee Hancock has been known to play it safe leading to overall positive audience reactions, specifically with the likes of Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side, but with a crowd-pleasing director, a solid cast (including Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, BJ Novak, and Linda Cardellini among the aforementioned), and historically dramatized subject matter about one of the bedrocks of this nation, The Founder has all the fixin’s to fit right into this year’s Oscar contenders.
Also hitting cinemas this weekend is the newest from M. Night Shyamalan, Split, starring James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. Split is a psychological thriller about a man with 23 personalities living inside of him who kidnaps three girls and takes them to a windowless location…and then, true to Shyamalan form, things get weird. Personally, I’m a fan of Shyamalan’s work (yes, even the bad ones), and after the divisive and kooky return-to-form of 2015’s The Visit, I cannot wait to see what he’s twisted up for us this time. Not to mention, this looks like a challenging and layered performance from McAvoy, as well as another showcase of Anya Taylor-Joy’s brilliance that began for me with one of my favorite films of 2016, The VVitch.
Finally, this weekend also sees the release of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, a faith-based comedy starring Brett Dalton in the title role as an actor pretending to be a Christian in order to get the role of Jesus in an upcoming megachurch play so he can fulfill his community service doing something there other than mopping floors. Now before you roll your eyes like I did at yet another faith-based insult to film, this one actually looks like a step in the right direction. This film isn’t produced by PureFlix, but strangely enough, Blumhouse Tilt (usually a horror studio) and WWE Studios, and stars an actor from the hit show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of an unknown or washed-up former star, injecting a welcome face and fresh but still known talent. It also gives off an attitude of “yeah, this is faith-based, but it’s not trying to convert you” which is another welcome change; it doesn’t look like it will preach to the choir or the unbelievers, but rather just be what it is and welcome anyone to come join. Now, I don’t expect this to get overwhelmingly positive reviews or even be that great of a movie, but with how abysmal the faith-based film market has always been, this looks like a move toward something better for Christians wanting to make movies about their faith without sacrificing, you know, the basic fundamentals of storytelling. I doubt I’ll see it, but I’m looking forward to reading reviews of how it did, and I’m rooting for it.
Well, that’s all for this week! Go see Hidden Figures, La La Land, Silence, or any of the fresh faces this week (I, for one, will be seeing Split as soon as possible). Oh, and 20th Century Women gets an expanded release, so add that to your list as well!