Back in 1982 when Airplane II: The Sequel was released, there is a scene where a poster for Rocky XXXVIII featuring a senior citizen barely able to hold up his boxing gloves – presumably the futuristic fate of Sylvester Stallone – was clearly visible. 1982 also saw the release of Rocky III which saw Sylvester Stallone battle it out with 80s icon Mr. T and introduced us to “The Eye of the Tiger“.
Here we are in 2015, 39 years after the release of the original, Academy Award winning Rocky, and we are nowhere near a 38th installment in the franchise, nor is Stallone the feeble senior depicted in that poster. This Wednesday does see the release of Creed, the seventh film in which Stallone reprises the Rocky Balboa character as he has finally hung up his own gloves to become coach to Apollo Creed’s son (Apollo Creed was played by Carl Weathers in the first four Rocky films). It’s a new spin on the Rocky franchise which over the past 4 decades has seen the character go from rags to riches, then back to rags again, as well as end the cold war. The middle Rocky sequels turned into almost comic book-like endeavors (and have their charms), but this new incarnation comes from a more dramatic, grown-up angle – much like the first two films – is directed by Ryan Coogler (who previously directed the critically acclaimed indie Fruitvale Station) and is receiving solid reviews. There has also been some in the media who have speculated that Stallone could nab an Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category for this. Stallone was previously nominated in 1976 for writing and acting in Rocky which went on to take home the Best Picture statue that year beating out some pretty serious competition in All the President’s Men, Network, Taxi Driver and Bound for Glory.
Creed enters the ring with Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 which is in its second week after taking in $102 million at the box office last weekend. It’s the lowest opening of the five Hunger Games films, and you know something is off with the market when a film that takes in $100+ million over a weekend is considered somewhat of a “disappointment”.
Creed isn’t Katniss Everdeen’s only challenger as this week also sees the release of a second Pixar film for the year (the first being Inside Out), The Good Dinosaur. The Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect time for this family-friendly Pixar release which is sure to draw a significant audience as they always do. Will it be enough to beat the Hunger Games though? Like Inside Out it’s an original story so no previous franchise recognition, just the Pixar brand.
Also opening this Wednesday is Victor Frankenstein, a take on the Mary Shelley classic told from lowly assistant Igor’s point-of-view. Igor is played by Daniel Radcliffe and Victor by James McAvoy, both who have had success at the box office in the Harry Potter and X-Men franchises respectively.
Once the Thanksgiving turkey is digested and the Black Friday shopping frenzy kicks in, there are a trio of smaller films entering the specialty market – The Danish Girl directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) and starring Eddie Redmayne (last year’s Best Actor Academy Award Winner for The Theory of Everything) from Focus Features as well as a pair of documentaries – Killing Them Safely (Sundance Selects) and Janis: Little Girl Blue (FilmRise). The Danish Girl has some Oscar buzz about it, especially in terms of Eddie Redmayne’s performance as a Transgender in 1920s Denmark, who could very easily pull off a repeat of last year.
Ultimately, how much thanks the Studios will be giving this year will all depend on audience turnout.
In Wide Release – Opening Wednesday 11/25
THE GOOD DINOSAUR (Disney / Pixar)
CREED (Warner Bros.)
VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (Twentieth Century Fox)
In Limited Release – Opening Friday 11/27:
THE DANISH GIRL (Focus Features)
KILLING THEM SAFELY (Sundance Selects)
JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (FilmRise)