What I’d Watch 10/23/15


We’re a month away from Thanksgiving, but this weekend’s release slate is overstuffed enough for big feast in its own right.  Plus we’ve still got strong holdovers like The Martian and Goosebumps and Bridge of Spies, so this is going to be a busy box office weekend.  And much like last weekend, there’s a little bit of something for everybody; if you can’t find at least one movie that interests you this week, maybe this whole movie thing isn’t your bag.

I’m as big on ’80s nostalgia as the next guy, and I’m still having trouble figuring out how we got a Jem and the Holograms movie.  I’m not completely surprised, but a big part of the nostalgia for the original cartoon was in the gloriously cheesy ’80s-ness of the whole thing, which the film isn’t embracing at all.  The Pitch Perfect movies have proven there’s a market for musical films with young women front and center, but attaching the Jem name to this one creates a whole set of expectations — some high, some low, depending on who you talk to — that the film may not live up to.  There’s almost zero buzz about this film, not even in an ironic way, so I’m not sure where this finds its audience, especially in such a crowded field.

Crimson Peak may have seemed to disprove my tried and true “Horror films open!” mantra.  But Guillermo del Toro spent most of the run-up to its release insisting it wasn’t a horror film, and its period look probably didn’t appeal to the younger market that usually turns out for horror films.  Which won’t be a problem for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.  It’s the sixth — and purportedly final — entry in the franchise that has been a solid if not spectacular money-maker since the original in 2009.  The returns have been diminishing somewhat — every film after the third has earned less money that its predecessor — but it’s a known commodity, its budget was only $10 million, and it’s a week away from Halloween.  I feel safe in saying this will probably turn a profit.  Enough to bring the series back from the dead?  Remains to be seen.

Everybody loves Bill Murray.  He’s turned into everyone’s favorite cantankerous uncle, doing whatever he feels like and still being utterly winning in the process.  That love hasn’t necessarily translated to his box office, but given that he’s been making mostly small films where a $40 or $50 million gross is seen as a success, it doesn’t really have to.  In fact, it allows him to maintain that quirky reputation without selling his soul to some blockbuster (hi, Garfield!).  Rock the Kasbah continues that trend, costing only $15 million, even though boasting some big names like Murray and Bruce Willis and Barry Levinson behind the camera.  Although to be fair, Levinson really isn’t much of a name anymore; he’s miles away from his mid-80s heyday, and his last wide release was nine years ago.  Still, a small film with small expectations and a small budget should do all right, even with all the other competition out there.

The last time I held out hope for a big, dumb yet entertaining fantasy film, Seventh Son proceeded to stomp all over my hopes and dreams.  Oh, it had the big and dumb parts down; it just skipped over entertaining and went straight to boring.  Yet here I am again allowing myself to hope, this time with The Last Witch Hunter.  Part of it is that Vin Diesel is a perfect match for big, dumb and entertaining, as amply proven by his Fast & Furious movies.  And the trailers seem to indicate the film has the right tone of not quite so serious, which is always a plus with these kind of things.  Diesel is a D&D nut, and apparently his character in this is loosely based on one of his old gaming characters; another sign of the requisite level of goofiness.  I have no expectations this is going to do well at all, especially with a $90 million budget to earn back.  Just let it be better than Seventh Son, okay?

Steve Jobs goes wide this week after a limited release, and it’s our chance to see one brilliantly talented egomaniac write about another brilliantly talented egomaniac.  Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay — and has been garnering most of the attention, likely much to the chagrin of director Danny Boyle — with the clever conceit of setting the film around three of Jobs’ big product reveals.  It’s a great hook, since most people’s perception of Jobs comes from having seen him on stage in his black turtleneck telling us the next gizmo we were going to wait in line to spend $600 on.  And as most people have forgotten the Ashton Kutcher Jobs biopic — or, more likely, never saw it in the first place — there’s no competition there.  The challenge will be if Jobs’ name and celebrity will be enough to get people to want to see this over everything else that’s out there.

And, of course, selling us all on the Steve Jobs 2s that’ll be released next spring.

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