Universal Pictures’ billion dollar franchise keeps rolling along as The Fate of the Furious parks into multiplexes on Easter Weekend. The eighth (yes, eighth) street racing action spectacle finds Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray taking over behind the camera. Fate finds the majority of thespians associated with the series returning – Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacis, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, and Nathalie Emmanuel. We also have a pair of Oscar winners joining the mix with Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren, as well as Scott Eastwood (whose dad has won some Oscars). Of course, this is the first picture (excluding 2006’s Tokyo Drift) without Paul Walker, who died during the filming of Furious 7.
When Diesel and Walker returned to the franchise in 2009’s Fast and Furious, it sparked a box office resurgence that’s never let up. That fourth entry debuted to $70 million with an overall $155M domestic haul. Follow-up Fast Five in 2011 opened to $86 million ($209M eventual tally). 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 made $97 million out of the gate and $238M eventually. And 2015’s Furious 7 easily set the high mark with a $147 million premiere and $353M overall.
The grosses of Furious 7 were likely (and sadly) expanded due to it being Walker’s last on-screen appearance. Therefore it stands to reason that Fate probably won’t reach the heights of that predecessor. That said, this looks to be a franchise that is still going strong and it would be surprising if it didn’t post the second largest bow thus far.
I’ll predict the fate of this is an opening gross in the low to mid $120M range.
The Fate of the Furious opening weekend prediction: $122.7 million
Three new titles debut this weekend, but none in the trio may dislodge Split from a second weekend atop the charts. The newbies are: sixth and presumably last franchise pic Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, family friendly pet tale A Dog’s Purpose, and Matthew McConaughey vehicle Gold. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:
We’ll begin with Resident Evil. While all other entries in the series have managed over $20 million (except for the first in 2002), the near five-year gap between sequels should hurt this, similar to how it just hurt Underworld: Blood Wars. Still, a second place showing looks probable.
That brings us to A Dog’s Purpose. Based on a hugely successful bestseller, I had this pegged at nearly $18 million until last week when a TMZ story alleged very questionable animal handling practices on set. My feeling is that the story has gotten big enough to hurt this significantly and I now have it barely topping double digits.
As for Gold, middling reviews could hinder this one and I’ve got it outside the top five with mid single digits.
Returning champ Split had a much larger than expected debut (more on that below). Even if it dips more than 50% (typical for horror titles), I still see it remaining #1.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage had an unimpressive opening and I expect it to fall from #2 to #6. That’s because both Hidden Figures and La La Land should reap the benefits of Oscar nominations. La La, in particular, looks poised to receive the most Academy nods of any picture in history tomorrow morning and that could contribute to a bump.
And with that, my top 8 predictions for this weekend:
Predicted Gross: $18.5 million (representing a drop of 53%)
2. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Predicted Gross: $14.6 million
3. Hidden Figures
Predicted Gross: $12.8 million (representing a drop of 19%)
4. A Dog’s Purpose
Predicted Gross: $10.3 million
5. La La Land
Predicted Gross: $9.9 million (representing an increase of 18&)
6. xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (representing a drop of 55%)
Predicted Gross: $5.6 million (representing a drop of 38%)
Predicted Gross: $5.4 million
Box Office Results (January 20-22)
On the weekend that we just had, maybe it’s somewhat appropriate and ironic that the #1 movie in America is titled Split. And the M. Night Shymalan pic rocketed out of the gate with a fantastic and unforeseen $40.1 million, more than doubling my teeny $19.6M estimate. This is the director’s fourth highest domestic debut, trailing Signs, The Village, and The Last Airbender. It puts the director, who’d been on a downturn until 2015’s low-budget The Visit performed well, on even more of an upswing.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage managed a middling $20.1 million in second, under my $25.4M prediction. The Diesel power is clearly stronger with his Fast and Furious franchise.
Two-week champ Hidden Figures was third with $15.7 million (a bit above my $13.7M forecast) for $83M thus far.
Sing was fourth with $9 million (I said $8.4M) to bring its tally to $249M.
Fifth place belonged to La La Land with $8.4 million (not matching my $11.4M estimate) for an $89M total. Still, as mentioned, its Oscar bump could be forthcoming.
Rogue One was sixth with $7.2 million (I said $7.8M) for a $512M haul.
#7 – Monster Trucks in weekend #2 with $7 million (I said $6.2M). Total gross: $22M.
#8 – Patriots Day, also in weekend #2 of wide release with $5.7 million (I said $7.2M). Total gross: $23M.
#9 – Sleepless in its sophomore frame with $3.4M and #10 was The Bye Bye Man, also with $3.4M in weekend 2. My respective guesstimates were $4.3M and $5.9M.
The Founder with Michael Keaton opened to stale results with $3.4 million in 11th, a bit shy of my $4.1M estimate.
Finally, two other newcomers posted low numbers as 20th Century Women expanded wide and made $1.4 million (I was higher with $2.8M) and faith-based dramedy The Resurrection of Gavin Stone earned $1.3 million (I said $1.6M).
Lest ye forget, the Fast and Furious series isn’t the only franchise that Vin Diesel has been a part of and I’m not talking about Riddick or Guardians of the Galaxy. Next weekend, Mr. Diesel returns in the title role of xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
In 2002, the star (hot off the first Fast feature) headlined summer action blockbuster xXx, which opened to $44 million with an eventual $142M domestic haul. Yet, just like the first Furious sequel, he decided to sit out the follow-up, xXx: State of the Union which featured Ice Cube instead. That one didn’t fare so well with just a $12 million debut and $26M overall gross.
Cage finds D.J. Caruso taking over the directorial duties with a supporting cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, and Tony Jaa. The question is: will moviegoers return to the super spy action series nearly 15 years after the original?
The answer: to an extent. Diesel has obviously gotten max exposure in recent years with the well-received Furious extravaganzas. There is the cautionary tale of 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter, which he hoped would turn into a franchise but sputtered with just $27 million domestically. xXx may earn that and then some in its first weekend of release. I’ve got it pegged in the mid to high 20s and even though that’s not reaching what the first Cage opus made a decade and a half ago, it’s OK.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage opening weekend prediction: $25.4 million
Now that this latest iteration of the StarTrek film series has reached its third entry, the creative forces behind it are free to just let Beyond be a two-hour episode upon itself. In other words, JJ Abrams was quite successful directing the first two features in 2009 and 2013 and establishing a new cast playing iconic roles. By part III, those objectives have already been met and Abrams leaves his successor Justin Lin the opportunity to make this one an action packed sci-fi spectacle. We also have the hallmarks of the 50-year-old franchise that include celebrating the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew and injecting well-placed humor.
In a way, StarTrekBeyond reminded me of the previous 007 pic, Spectre. How so? Spectre arrived three movies after Daniel Craig had put his stamp on another half century old institution. By the time part 4 rolled around, I was ready for something that needn’t burden itself with continually reshaping itself. Spectre didn’t and was mostly successful. Beyond doesn’t either and is even more satisfying.
We begin in year 3 of the USS Enterprise’s five-year voyage that they embarked on at the conclusion of StarTrekIntoDarkness. Not all is well. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, grown and confident in the role) is struggling with the endless journey. Trusty Spock (Zachary Quinto) is having girl troubles with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and mourning the reveal that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has passed. This, of course, holds special meaning to the audience due to Nimoy’s passing in between pics.
Everything perks up for the crew when the ship is invaded by Krall (Idris Elba), a ruthless extraterrestrial tracking a relic that Kirk has in his possession. This attack leaves the crew splintered for a decent portion of the running time, allowing many of the members their moments to shine. That includes Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty, who both continue to provide sturdy comic relief. Sofia Boutella is a fine addition as an alien who joins Team Enterprise. Both Saldana and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov are a bit more relegated to the sideline in terms of the overall story (tragically, Yelchin died just a month before the film’s release). John Cho’s Sulu is given a previously not revealed character development. And when it comes to the main villain, Elba is quite menacing and effective.
Without having to set up anything new, Beyond gets right to the fun stuff and doesn’t let up. Lin is no stranger to elaborate action sequences, having helmed four FastandFurious flicks. Yet enough time is set aside to explore the strong bonds of the team. It’s about family… to borrow a theme that FastandFurious characters endlessly beat into our skulls. So while this might be the simplest of the trio of new StarTrek’s we’ve witnessed, it also manages to be the most purely entertaining.
CentralIntelligence is not bad, which is more than you can say with some scripts that Kevin Hart has been saddled with over the last few years. From RideAlong (both of them) to TheWeddingRinger to GetHard, the talented Mr. Hart has not seen much material that rises above the strictly mediocre. With a worthy comedic partner in Dwayne Johnson that he has an easy chemistry with, Intelligence may not be very intelligent but it’s got its share of genuinely amusing moments due to their partnership.
The film begins in 1996 when the two stars are high school seniors. Hart is Calvin. He’s the star athlete, resident heralded drama thespian, and runaway Most Likely to Succeed. Johnson is Robbie, whose figure is anything but rock solid. He’s bullied mercilessly by his fellow students and Calvin is the only guy who seems to show him any mercy.
Flash forward two decades as the two are up for the 20 year reunion. Calvin has become a bored accountant in a dead end job, still married somewhat unhappily to his high school sweetheart (Danielle Nicolet). Robbie is now the blandly named Bob Stone, complete with a physique befitting the actor portraying him. He’s now in the CIA and being accused of being a rogue agent trying to sell secrets to the highest bidder.
What follows is a routine buddy flick where Bob/Robbie and Calvin must team up while chased by people who may or may not be bad guys. Amy Ryan gets the change of pace role of the government agency head pursuing them and Aaron Paul pops up as Robbie’s former partner. The threadbare plot of CentralIntelligence is ho-hum at best, but it’s also not what it’s centrally about.
The pic rises and falls on the interaction between the leads and there’s some good stuff to be witnessed. Johnson has already proven his sense of humor (he seems well aware that his character in the Fast & Furious franchise is supposed to be funny). We also have some messages written in about bullying that’s presented slightly better than you might expect in this type of material. There’s some unexpected cameos from other well known comedy actors that are welcome. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber had a hit in 2013 with We’retheMillers, which I enjoyed. That effort had the benefit of hilarious supporting work from Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn and a whacky villain role for Ed Helms that accentuated the proceedings beyond its main stars. CentralIntelligence doesn’t have that, but at least the two names above the title help deliver something a bit more worthy of their talents.
This Friday, the eagerly awaited Furious 7 looks to pass a number of box office milestones: biggest opening so far in 2o15 and highest debut of the fourteen year old franchise. Conjuring director James Wan takes over the series from Justin Lin.
The last two entries of the Fast and Furious series have brought the franchise to new heights. 2011’s Fast Five opened to $86.1 million with a final domestic tally of $209 million. Two years ago, Fast & Furious 6 topped that with a $97.3 million premiere and a $238 million eventual haul.
As tragic as it is, there is little doubt that star Paul Walker’s untimely death contributes to a curiosity factor here. This will be the last screen appearance of the actor as series regulars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris return. Kurt Russell and Jason Statham also join the party. Reviews have been quite strong and it sits at 86% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.
Furious 7 needs to surpass the $95 million that Captain America: The Winter Soldier made last year to post the largest April opening of all time. As I see it, it will blast past that mark with relative ease to earn that designation and set the franchise record in the meantime.
Furious 7 opening weekend prediction: $117.4 million