Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of July 24, 2015 includes Pixels, Southpaw, Paper Towns, and The Vatican Tapes. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!
Last weekend, Marvel’s Ant-Man walked away big with the studio’s second smallest weekend gross in its plethora of superhero flicks. Second only to The Incredible Hulk. Although a respectable haul, it was nowhere near Iron Man or Avengers numbers. This weekend, four contenders are vying for the top spot. Can the incredibly shrinking superhero stop the likes of Adam Sandler, tweens, boxing fans, and horror enthusiasts? Game Over. This is the Box Office Battlefield:
Pixels (Chris Columbus) Rated PG-13 [105 min] – When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games. Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, and Brian Cox
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 19% • Audience – 58%
As far as Adam Sandler movies are concerned, Happy Madison Productions has churned out far worse. But this particular style of comedy is becoming old hat very fast. In fact, this type of childish poop humor needs to be eradicated. It’s as if Sandler and his crew have never evolved past Billy Madison. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on and enjoy Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, but Sandler’s brand has not progressed. There’s very little to resonate with and he’s become irrelevant. Granted, director Chris Columbus (Home Alone; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) does a fair job at creating fun action in the style of ’80s arcade games, but the characters, the jokes, and the story are very elementary. WAIT FOR IT ON NETFLIX!
Southpaw (Antoine Fuqua) Rated R [123 min] – Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, Naomi Harris, and 50 Cent
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 57% • Audience – 80%
If you’ve seen any boxing movie before, you’ve seen Southpaw. Sure Jake Gyllenhaal puts in quite the physical performance, but every beat of this movie is as generic as it gets. The ending left me with the only surprise because you never do know whether or not they’ll come out on top or if they lose and learn something out of their defeat. So, I was enthusiastic to see where director Antoine Fuqua would take the character. It turned out to be lackluster, with mediocre action as well as performances. Even Forest Whitaker dialed in a stereotypical broken-down coach performance. RENT IT!
Paper Towns (Jake Schreier) Rated PG-13 [109 min] – A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door. Starring Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 60% • Audience – 71%
“In its considered, neatly packaged way, the film occupies a safe and solid middle-class middle ground in teen storyland, between crass gross-out comedies and mawkish romance on one side and edgy, exploratory indie fare on the other.” – Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Paper Towns is a movie that I really liked, but I probably would have loved if I’d seen it when I was 13.” – Christy Lemire (ChristyLemire.com)
Have high schoolers become this pretentious? I was a teen once, and I’m sure I would have loved this film at that age, but from my perspective now, Paper Towns is trying to be too intellectual for its own good. And its obvious pandering toward angsty teenagers or hopeless romantics is numbing. Based on the trailer, it tells me everything I need to know about what the main character will learn from his manic pixie dream girl. Paper Towns comes across too vanilla for me to care whether or not it matters. RENT IT!
The Vatican Tapes (Mark Neveldine) Rated PG-13 [91 min] – A priest and two Vatican exorcists must do battle with an ancient satanic force to save the soul of a young woman. Starring Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Dougray Scott, and Djimon Hounsou
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 18% • Audience – 54%
“The film from director Mark Neveldine is so over the top that one can’t help but imagine how the Wayans brothers might lampoon it, then embarrassingly recall them doing exactly so in ‘A Haunted House.'” – Martin Tsai (LA Times)
“It’s the rote B-movie that Neveldine up to now has tried so hard not to make.” – Noel Murray (AV Club)
Was The Vatican Tapes even marketed to the general public? I never saw a trailer in theaters nor have I read any headlines about the film. I, for one, have had enough exorcism movies for the next ten years. They haven’t said or done anything different than the last, and in no way do they provide any kind of entertainment value. The fact that they bring in the Vatican as some kind of religious conspiracy does absolutely nothing for me too. Based on the reviews, I would say this was meant for a direct to home video release. Or maybe someone could have spent their money else where. SKIP IT!
Unexpected (Kris Swanberg) [Limited] Rated R [90 min] – An inner-city high school teacher discovers she is pregnant at the same time as one of her most promising students and the two develop an unlikely friendship while struggling to navigate their unexpected pregnancies. Starring Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean, and Elizabeth McGovern
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 71% • Audience – 70%
” It’s a little diagrammatic in its plotting. But there’s an easy fluency in the way Swanberg empathizes with everybody on screen.” – Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)
“Unexpected is sweet and the portrait of the friendship is lovely, but it also feels too slight.” – Katie Walsh (The Playlist)
Looking past the believability that Anders Holm from Workaholics could impregnate a woman, Unexpected looks like your run of the mill, uplifting story where a student and a teacher must learn from each other. Only this time they’re both pregnant and must deal with the life choices they inevitably choose. Unexpected doesn’t feel as derivative as it could be, which gives it some heart to work with. I’m not terribly enthusiastic about its premise, but there’s definitely an audience out there for this kind of film. RENT IT!
I hope, and believe, that audiences have wised up to Adam Sandler’s shenanigans, and in doing so stop it from becoming the number one movie of the weekend. Ant-Man is a pretty fun movie, and had good word of mouth and positive reviews, so it should have some decent legs coming into its second weekend. The other releases are fairly steeped in niche markets and only attract its target demos. And The Vatican Tapes released in no more than 427 theaters. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:
Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes