The first weekend in October is not known for being all that busy in Hollywood. The film studios are generally aware that across the country High School Football dominates and thus attempting to open any movie that will need the aid of the Friday night teen date crowd is basically a waste of a release date. Thus last week brought “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” as the number one movie in America, mostly because it’s audience was a Saturday and Sunday afternoon audience. On the other hand, both “Don Jon” and “Rush” struggled to split the meager date audience; a challenge made ever more grave for the movie about a porn addicted Lothario and the niche-y sports drama.
So why then are we looking down the barrel of a first weekend in October with five new wide release movies; one of which kind of needed that busy date crowd (“Runner, Runner”)? Here’s a closer look at the five movies competing for ticket buyers against High School Football, the Hawks and the Illini, as well as the national phenomena of the MLB playoffs and NFL regular season Football on this first weekend in October.
“Runner, Runner” starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck
On the surface, “Runner, Runner” looks like a can’t miss bet. The film features Justin Timberlake hot off of a pair of successful record launches and an MTV Video Music Awards showcase. And in the role of the villain there is Ben Affleck fresh off of winning Best Picture for “Argo” and being named as the new ‘Batman.’ So how then does the film, with a clear appeal to date night audiences, wind up opening in the first week of October?
The problem is buzz. The trailer for “Runner, Runner” makes the movie look like a generic thriller that happens to have a pair of big name stars. It doesn’t help that critical reviews are thus far devastating; the film has garnered only 19% positive reviews thus far from RottenTomatoes.com. Nor does it help that the reaction to Affleck being named as the new ‘Dark Knight’ hasn’t been as positive as many expected.
Bottom line on “Runner, Runner” is that the release date and the failure to even attempt to turn the tide of bad buzz; Timberlake is busy promoting his record rather than the movie while Affleck is MIA, prepping for Batman, likely means it’s being dumped with the hope that it won’t fail so badly as to be a notable impediment to either stars’ career.
“Metallica Through the Never” featuring Dane Dehaan and Metallica
Though many had expected “Metallica Through the Never” to open last weekend on the IMAX screen in Davenport, no one expected the re-release of “The Wizard of Oz” to be such a big local hit. Thus, ‘Through the Never’ got bumped and now arrives a week later in the Quad Cities and only on one screen in one of the two local theaters. Neither theater is offering any comment on why ‘Through the Never’ is not opening at Rave 53rd and IMAX and only at Regal Moline, but it’s fair to assume that feathers were ruffled when ‘Through the Never’ was not given the IMAX screen.
Reviews of “Metallica Through the Never” have been surprisingly good with the film earning the ‘Certified Fresh’ label from RottenTomatoes.com thanks to 80% positive reviews.
“Grace Unplugged” starring Amanda Mischalka and Kevin Pollak
Where the heck did this come from? “Grace Unplugged” is a religious themed music drama that stars Amanda Mischalka as the daughter of a rock star who became a born again Christian. While she enjoys singing with dad in church she also longs for her shot at fame and leaps at her big break when dad’s former manager (Pollak) hears her song.
The film’s trailer gives away the plot pretty quickly and given the film’s spiritual theme there will be little unpredictable about “Grace Unplugged.” Critics are not getting an early look at this one, yet another bad sign to go with the fact that producers have done next nothing to promote the film’s release. That said, if the producers reached out to Quad Cities religious leaders there is hope for filling a few seats; beyond that however, “Grace Unplugged” will likely play to some empty seats opening weekend.
“Generation Iron” Documentary
in a second case of ‘where the heck did this come from’ this weekend someone decided that the first weekend in October was as good a time as any to release a little known documentary called “Generation Iron” in the Quad Cities. Documentaries have never played well in the Quad Cities, aside from a pair of Michael Moore based movies, one of Moore’s own and one bashing him, but that isn’t a commentary on Quad Cities movie goers so much as an indictment of studios who do next to nothing to promote their movies. “Generation Iron” has hardly made a ripple in the local media.
“Generation Iron,” which profiles the ever more irrelevant clique participating in the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition , is getting support from critics with mostly positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, but without a media push to actually tell people the documentary is arriving this weekend it will likely be playing to a lot of empty seats.
“Gravity” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
The movie of the weekend is unquestionably “Gravity” from director Alfonso Cuaron and starring two of our biggest name performers, Oscar darlings Bullock and Clooney. The film inhabits the annual October Oscar space cultivated by Clooney with “Michael Clayton” and the failed Oscar contender “The Ides of March,” and especially embodied by Best Picture winner “The Social Network” which used the opening weekend of October as its launch point.
“Gravity” has a similar kind of buzz, although not quite as epic as “The Social Network” which rode controversy to its opening weekend box office victory. “Gravity” simply has awe on its side; critical awe as in critics are seeing the film and leaving in awe of director Cuaron’s remarkable achievement. Whether that awe translates to box office bonanza is a big question. Without the controversy it likely won’t be as big as “The Social Network” but something more than the 3rd place finish of “The Ides of March” would go far to keeping “Gravity” in the Oscar buzz orbit.