Captive State Box Office Prediction

Originally slated to open last summer, the sci-fi alien invasion thriller Captive State touches down in theaters next weekend. Rupert Wyatt, best known for 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directs. John Goodman (no stranger to extraterrestrial beings as evidenced by 10 Cloverfield Lane) leads a cast that includes Ashton Sanders, Machine Gun Kelly, Alan Ruck, Kiki Layne, and Vera Farmiga.

The Focus Features release seems to be flying far under the radar. Many pics in this sub genre are high-profile releases with massive budgets. This comes with a price tag of only about $25 million. That was probably the catering receipt for War of the Worlds.

That said, I don’t see this recouping its minimal cost during the stateside domestic run. I’ll say this only reaches mid single digits (if it’s lucky) before it lifts off quickly to On Demand status. I’ll say it doesn’t even get there.

Captive State opening weekend prediction: $2.8 million

For my Wonder Park prediction, click here:

For my Five Feet Apart prediction, click here:

Bird Box Movie Review

Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, based on a 2014 novel by Josh Malerman, imagines a post apocalyptic world where we all must develop a blind side. How fitting, I suppose, that Sandra Bullock is the headliner. It is she and some of her cast mates that holds this concoction together, at least for a while.

We first meet Bullock’s Malorie as she instructs two young children that they are about to embark on a dangerous trip with her. She is soon rowing and rowing and rowing a boat not so gently down a choppy stream to an unknown destination. They’re all blindfolded.

A flashback to five years earlier finds the pregnant Malorie getting a checkup with her sister (Sarah Paulson). She seems none too excited about her impending delivery. Different complications arise as people start committing suicide suddenly all over the globe. It’s soon discovered opening your eyes and looking at some never seen creatures brings on the self violence.

Our soon to be parent manages to hole up with a group of strangers that includes the home’s boozy owner (John Malkovich), another expectant mom (Danielle Macdonald), and a war vet (Trevante Rhodes) who connects with Malorie. It’s in these initial scenes where Bird Box is at its most engrossing. There’s nothing terribly fresh here as the group figures out how to survive, but there’s some interesting characters and actors playing them to make it worthwhile. Jacki Weaver, Lil Rel Howery, and rapper Machine Gun Kelly are part of the eclectic mix as well.

This gets about an hour’s worth of mileage from its premise and the wrinkle of the sighted having to go blind is a newish twist once they venture out (thank goodness for GPS). Eric Heisserer’s screenplay never concerns itself with what the heck really happened to cause this anyway. We do know birds can sense the monsters. The unexplained phenomena of what did happen isn’t all that important, but total ignorance is a tad surprising. Heisserer did significantly superior work with his adapted script for Arrival.

The picture is as much an allegory about motherhood than it is a science fiction horror thriller. There’s also elements of M. Night Shyamalan’s unfortunate The Happening. It had more unintentional laughs than this, but it also found cooler ways for spellbound victims to off themselves.

Bullock’s performance is committed and she certainly makes this watchable. The Oscar winner has played maternal instinct impressively before (the already mentioned The Blind Side, Gravity) and we see it here. Yet the true gravity of this whole situation never feels as suspenseful as it quite should. Maybe it’s the details left unseen or maybe it’s the familiar themes we’ve seen plenty of times already.

**1/2 (out of four)

Nerve Movie Review

Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman’s techno thriller Nerve boasts a fairly cool concept that is mostly squandered under typical genre cliches. These are the directors responsible from 2010’s documentary (?) Catfish, where revelations about the dark side and fictitious nature of the Internet seemed somewhat new and novel. This pic takes its story from a 2012 novel where online game Nerve dares its players to complete tasks that increasingly become deadlier.

Vee (Emma Roberts) is a shy Staten Island high school senior with a domineering and trampy BFF (Emily Meade) and meek other BFF (Miles Hezier) that has a serious crush on her. She’s also got a single mom (Juliette Lewis) whose character is written as a complete moron when you stop and think about it. There’s also her dead brother and that unexplained backstory seems a bit unneeded.

Back to the game that shares its title with the movie. Vee decides to get out of her comfort zone and become a Player (the other option is being a Watcher and there’s a bunch of them). It starts out innocently when she has to kiss a stranger named Ian (Dave “The Other Franco” Franco). He turns out to be a Nerve Player as well and the two are directed by the unseen forces to team up.

The screenplay by Jessica Sharzer attempts to make some broad points about Internet fame and the youth culture’s obsession with their social media devices. At first, the concept of Nerve (both the film itself and the game) is kinda fun for us to watch and be voyeurs to, like when Vee has to decide whether to steal a pricey dress from Bergdorf’s.

Yet as the challenges for Vee and Ian become more risky, Nerve becomes far less believable, considerably less enjoyable and far more trapped in the cliches of any run of the mill thriller. None of the cast necessarily shines, but everyone is essentially playing a stereotype so it’s probably not their fault. As a huge fan of 90s hip hop, I did appreciate the Wu-Tang Clan references due to Vee hailing from Staten Island, so there’s that. There’s also the sight of The Other Franco serenading a restaurant to Roy Orbison. At least some solid music interrupts the mostly disappointing Nerve on occasion.

** (out of four)


Beyond the Lights Box Office Prediction

This Friday’s Beyond the Lights represents a fine example of a film that could do absolutely nothing or greatly exceed expectations upon its debut. The romantic drama focusing on the music industry premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to positive reviews and it currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The cast includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover, and rapper Machine Gun Kelly.

The big question is whether or not Beyond the Lights reaches its African-American target audience. If so, I believe Lights could reach double digits when it rolls out on a relatively small 1600 screens Friday. Truth be told, this could simply not land with its intended audience and debut in the mid single digits.

However, I’m going the opposite way here. I believe the positive buzz and frequent TV spots I’ve seen will allow Lights to post a respectable debut and reach double digits.

Beyond the Lights opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million

For my Dumb and Dumber To prediction, click here: