Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

Robert Kirkman's latest show gets off to a flawed start.

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

Boyega joins the sequel hot off the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

TMNT 2 is the latest sequel to bring in some disappointing numbers.

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's military drama is an impressive achievement.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Box Office: Finding Dory Dominates, Warcraft Doesn't Respawn

In a summer that has been somewhat unkind to blockbuster sequels, Finding Dory has managed to break the trend to become yet another smash hit for Pixar animation. The film opened with $136 million over the weekend -- the largest opening weekend for an animated feature ever -- and close to double the $70 million the first film debuted with back in 2003. Pixar are moving ahead with numerous other sequels including Toy Story 4, Cars 3 and the long-awaited Incredibles 2 and looking at these numbers it's not hard to see why. This opening is a far cry from the rare misstep the studio made last winter with original film The Good Dinosaur, which went on to become the lowest grossing feature Pixar has made to date. Finding Dory more than makes up for that film's shortcomings and proves that audiences young and old still have a lot of time for Pixar movies.

The other big new release over the weekend was Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart's action-comedy Central Intelligence which came in at number two with an opening of $34.5 million. This opening matches that of Hart's previous starring role (January's Ride Along 2), and has generally been seen as a solid if unremarkable start for the movie which is projected to finish with a domestic gross of around $90 million.
Still, while Central Intelligence's opening may not be turning any heads at least it isn't shocking people Warcraft-style, as the videogame adaptation continues to be rejected by American audiences. Indeed, after the film's meagre $25 million opening it was all but guaranteed to flop in the US, however a miniscule second week drop would have done at least a small amount of damage control. Sadly, the film had no such luck falling a huge 73% and making just $6.5 million on its second weekend. That's the third highest second week drop ever for a film screening in more than 3,000 locations, behind only 2009's Friday the 13th and last year's Fifty Shades of Grey. The film's fate now weighs even more heavily on Chinese audiences, with whom it continues to be a smash-hit.

The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 both suffered from greater second week drops than their respective first entries, although nothing quite as brutal as Warcraft. The Conjuring 2 fell 61.5% in comparison to 2013's The Conjuring which fell a more reasonable 46.9% in its sophomore weekend. This is only slightly disappointing as thanks to the affordable nature of these films, The Conjuring 2 is still a big success and this is a franchise that shows no signs of slowing down.

One franchise that might put the brakes on just a little is Now You See Me, as the more expensive second film continues to underperform. The film's 56.9% drop leaves it with a ten-day domestic total that is nearly $20 million less than the original film had at this point in its run. Whether or not the third film still goes ahead is unclear, but if it does don't be surprised if its given a smaller budget.

Here's the top ten in full:

1. (-) Finding Dory - $136.1 million
2. (-) Central Intelligence - $34.5 million
3. (1) The Conjuring 2 - $15.5 million
4. (3) Now You See Me 2 - $9.6 million
5. (2) Warcraft - $6.5 million
6. (5) X-Men: Apocalypse - $5.21 million
7. (4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $5.2 million
8. (6) Me Before You - $4.1 million
9. (8) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $3.6 million
10. (9) Captain America: Civil War - $2.2 million

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Donald Glover Joins Spider-Man: Homecoming, Probably Isn't Miles Morales

Industry trade Deadline reported yesterday that Donald Glover (also known by the stage name Childish Gambino) has officially joined the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming. To those who have been following the 'Donald For Spider-Man' campaign this is big news, for those who haven't allow me to fill you in.
Back in 2010 when Sony's Amazing Spider-Man reboot was still searching for its lead, a fan of Glover's work suggested that he should be one of the actors in the running for the title role. The actor, then starring in NBC's Community, embraced this idea asking his fans to tweet the hashtag #Donald4SpiderMan in order to see how far they could spread this fan-casting. The campaign soon gained a large following, although ultimately the role went to Andrew Garfield with Glover claiming he was never given the chance to audition.
The idea remained in people's minds long after the release of the 2012 reboot regardless, with the creation of the black-Hispanic Spider-Man Miles Morales in 2011 only adding more fuel to the fire. Glover's casting in this latest instalment in the wall-crawler's film history (which stars Captain America: Civil War's Tom Holland in the lead), is a knowing wink to all those fans who had championed the actor for the role -- although it should be noted that Glover is almost definitely not playing the aforementioned Miles Morales.
In the comic-books, Morales gains his powers at the age of just thirteen years old and so if the character was to make his way to the big screen -- something which isn't out of the realm of possibility -- it's likely that they would cast someone far younger than the now thirty-two year old Glover. Indeed, Glover's role in the movie is currently unspecified but we can only hope that he'll be playing a character with some depth and importance, as it would be a shame to waste such a talented actor in a role only included to provide fan service.
Glover joins Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei in the upcoming MCU Spider-Man flick, which is directed by Jon Watts and set for release on the 7th July 2017.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Review: Martian Comics #1

Julian Darius' Martian Comics is one of the most interesting super-indie titles I've read in some time. The majority of the book's page count is devoted to telling the story of Izzy Montoya, a young woman whose dreams about Mars are soon revealed to be the result of her body being possessed by an alien. In an interesting twist, the Martian character who takes control of Izzy's body is no evil emperor plotting to kill or conquer, rather she is just a woman who has grown disillusioned with Martian society and makes the decision to leave her body out of a desperate desire for a break from it all.
In this sense she's a character we can all relate to at least to some extent. Most of us have dreamed of a break from the stresses and strains of daily living, and Izzy's possessor faces those same struggles only on the face of a different planet. With her narration guiding almost the entire issue, by the final page writer Julian Darius has built a likeable protagonist with the potential to tell great stories with. One scene in particular sticks out in my mind in which Izzy tries to understand Earth humour and impress people at a party with hilarious results. Unfortunately, in this issue a well-developed lead comes at the expense of any well-developed supporting characters. Indeed, Izzy is very much front and centre this entire issue, which doesn't give the book's other characters much chance to grow.
The most prominent supporting character would be Izzy's sister Rita, who in the second half of the book is introduced as a loyal and loving sibling to the lead character. Still, her time in the limelight is limited and dominated by Izzy who spends most of these scenes trying to convince Rita of her extraordinary predicament, while also shedding some light on the history of Martian's interactions with Earth. Ultimately, it would be nice to see Rita given something pivotal to do herself throughout the duration of this story, something which could better define her personality and extend her beyond the bewildered but supportive sister archetype.
The only other memorable character introduced in this issue is the villain, known only as the Devil at this point. His appearance is brief and clearly just a hint towards things to come, so it would be unfair to complain that he isn't better developed. Judging from the cover, the next issue will give us a greater insight into this sinister figure, something I await with anticipation as his entrance here made quite the impression.
Although I had some gripes with the absence of a supporting cast, I did very much enjoy Martian Comics #1 thanks in large part to the creative mythology Darius has built around the series even at this early stage. Glimpses into Martian culture and even the method in which these creatures take control of a human host, as well as the effects a possessed person can have on those around them are all ideas I haven't seen before. There were a few things about life on Mars that I feel weren't explained terrifically well and bordered on confusing, but the ambitious world-building on display here is still impressive to watch unfold.
Where this issue falters is in its back-up story which explores the idea of Jesus as a human who was possessed by one of the book's Martian characters. This was an idea referenced mid-way through the book, and worked in passing as a fun line emphasising the expansive secret history Mars has with our planet. However, when elaborated on in the form of this short story it doesn't work quite as well. The whole five-page story feels disjointed and fails to capture your attention in the same way as the main plot, which ultimately I would have preferred to see more of in this slot. I understand that Darius is trying to expand his universe in these back-ups, but I feel like more interesting things could have been presented than a rushed recap of Jesus' life from the Martian perspective.
The artwork is carried out by Sergio Tarquini with colours from R. L. Campos; together this team provide the book with an appealing style in which each character has their own very distinctive look. Tarquini's designs of Mars and the aliens which inhabit it are memorable, and he shows a good understanding of portraying character's emotions on the page, an important factor in selling any scene. There are a few backgrounds that feel a little bland, but mostly the artwork is strong and nicely finished by Campos whose colours breathe life into the high-concept and futuristic Martian society, just as they also bring a realism and familiarity to our less impressive planet.
While not without its flaws, this is a strong debut for Martian Comics that science-fiction fans should really enjoy. This story shows great potential, and if it can correct its flaws in subsequent issues could prove to be a real hidden gem.
Martian Comics #1 is out now on ComiXology, with a Kindle edition also available.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Box Office: The Conjuring 2 Takes #1, Now You See Me 2 Underwhelms

James Wan's return to the horror genre in the form of The Conjuring 2 impressively managed to avoid the worrying trend that has been facing many sequels this summer, that of a debut significantly lower than the previous film. The Conjuring 2 now joins an exclusive club of movies that have been exceptions to that rule, a club whose only other member at the time of writing is Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War. The Conjuring 2 did debut ever so slightly lower than the first film in the series (bringing in $40.3 million to the first film's $41.8), but given just how unforgiving this summer's box office has been so far most Hollywood trades will likely ignore this difference in favour of finally having a positive headline to print. It's been a little while.
The Conjuring 2 was likely helped along by some strong reviews (something many sequels have been lacking this year), with an A- CinemaScore implying most audiences have walked away from the feature feeling satisfied. This gives James Wan an even stronger filmography going into his next project, an ambitious film adaptation of one of DC Comics' most famous characters: Aquaman.
Videogame movie Warcraft performed as expected over the weekend, unfortunately expectations weren't high. The film brought in just under $25 million, enough to take the number two spot but not enough for a film with a $160 million price tag. As we discussed here a few days ago, the key to a Warcraft sequel is held firmly in the grasp of the Chinese box office, the only place in the world where the film is pulling in huge numbers. The film is estimated to have brought in over $150 million in China alone after only five days of release, thanks in large part to the huge fanbase the Warcraft videogames have maintained in China for many years.
If Warcraft can keep up the momentum it has gathered in China then the Middle Kingdom could single-handedly get a sequel greenlit, and in the process win the hearts of the many Western fans who have insisted the film isn't as bad as its harshest critics would have you believe.

Magician-thriller sequel Now You See Me 2 couldn't avoid audience's sequel aversion in the way that The Conjuring 2 did, instead having to settle for the number three spot and an opening of $23 million ($6 million lower than the first film's debut back in 2013). This isn't good news for Lionsgate and Summit who were hoping this could be a new big franchise for them, showing dedication to the property by gifting this sequel a budget $15-25 million higher than the first film had while also prematurely starting production on a third entry. This isn't a disastrous debut by any stretch but given this inferior opening weekend and an as of yet unremarkable international performance, the film is looking likely to finish with a lower worldwide gross than the original.
Last week's number one, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows drops three places to number four to accommodate the new releases, taking a drop of about 58%. This isn't far off the second week drop the first film was dealt two years ago (55.7%), but it's worth noting that the 2014 entry opened with a lot more than this sequel to begin with. Overall, Turtles 2 is another sequel that is significantly underperforming this summer, but given that these kinds of films often make a lot of their money back in product placement and merchandise sales this doesn't necessarily spell the end of this franchise.
Rounding out the top five is X-Men: Apocalypse, another sequel which at this point has no chance of matching its precursor in terms of box office figures; the kindest headline that can be found for Fox's Marvel sequel this week, is that it is now the eighth highest grossing X-Men film domestically -- not all that impressive when you consider there has only been nine.
The harshest weekend was suffered by Andy Samberg's Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping which dropped 63% from its already abysmal opening, plummeting straight out of the top ten to number thirteen on only its second week. The film made only $1.7 million over the weekend, despite still playing in over 2,300 theatres. In stark contrast, Disney's The Jungle Book is still clinging onto its spot in the top ten after nine weeks of release, crossing the $900 million mark worldwide last week.
US Box Office (weekend of 10th-12th June 2016)
1. (-) The Conjuring 2 - $40.3 million
2. (-) Warcraft - $24.3 million
3. (-) Now You See Me 2 - $23 million
4. (1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $14.8 million
5. (2) X-Men: Apocalypse - $10 million
6. (3) Me Before You - $9.2 million
7. (5) The Angry Birds Movie - $6.7 million
8. (4) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $5.5 million
9. (6) Captain America: Civil War - $4.3 million
10. (9) The Jungle Book - $2.7 million

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Review: Warcraft -- Is This The Beginning or The End?

For those unfamiliar with the games on which it is based, Duncan Jones' Warcraft could be an intimidating watch. Throwing its audience in at the deep end of the extensive lore that this series has accumulated over its twenty-two year history, there's no denying that the movie could have tried a little harder to welcome newcomers to its world. Warcraft's story struggles under the weight of a wave of new concepts and terminology that come with relatively little explanation, some sound mixing that leaves numerous lines seemingly inaudible, and a script which even after years in development hasn't been able to rid itself entirely of plot holes.
Nonetheless, in its grandest moments it's difficult not to get swept up in the vast world that Warcraft presents to us, and while flawed it has to be said that this is a far more competent film than the videogame adaptations that have come before -- thanks in part to a talented director with a passion for the source material.

Warcraft tells the story of how the long-waged war between orcs and humans began, with the grotesque creatures opening a portal from their decimated world to ours (the peaceful Azeroth) with plans to conquer it for themselves. Led by the sinister Gul'Dan the orcs begin attacking settlements, taking captives with the intention of eventually sacrificing them to reopen the portal to the orc homeworld. This would let in the so-called orc 'horde', and in the process destroy any and all chance that the humans had of winning this war. Needless to say, the stakes are very high indeed and the film does a good job of keeping the audience engaged throughout its two-hour runtime in spite of its aforementioned story issues.
This can be put down to some likeable leads in the form of Travis Fimmel's Sir Lothar, Paula Patton's Garona and Ben Schnetzer's Khadgar; they are perhaps the most well defined characters of the piece, and it's no coincidence that all three are from the human side of the conflict. While early interviews reveal that Warcraft's intention was to tell a war story that depicted neither side as inherently villainous, it seems hard to imagine that anyone could leave this film rooting for the orcs. Not only do they follow the repulsive warlock Gul'Dan, but they also have a lack of engaging characters with Toby Kebbell's Durotan being perhaps the only exception. The design of the creatures likely doesn't help; attempts were made to differentiate these characters visually, but the absence of strong personalities on the orc side still makes it difficult to pick them apart in a fast-paced action sequence.
That's not to say that the human characters are handled flawlessly, with a subplot about a father and son on our side of the conflict being severely undercooked. Additionally, characters like Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga's King Llane and Lady Taria found themselves in dire need of development, while Ben Foster's Medivh found his initially intriguing character thrown into incoherence by one of this film's more nonsensical plot twists -- a great shame as Foster's performance was possibly the strongest in the film, but was unfortunately put to waste.
It is quite possible that these characters would be better defined in a director's cut of the film, as reports of many scenes being scrapped to keep the runtime down are given credibility by the abrupt nature in which more than a few of them end.

What Warcraft lacks in character development it makes up for in world-building; while some aspects of this universe would have benefited from further elaboration, it was still enjoyable seeing the many different cultures and creatures on display here. This film successfully conveys the idea that Azeroth is a world that has been lived in for thousands of years, with secrets buried in every beautifully crafted set. Indeed, Warcraft is at the very least a treat for the eyes. While it perhaps leans too heavily on CGI here and there, the meticulously designed sets and costumes are a joy to behold.

With an ending that makes no attempt of tying up the film's many loose ends, it's quite clear that the hope is to turn Warcraft into cinema's next big fantasy franchise. Ultimately, that will depend on whether international box office numbers can make up for the movie's underwhelming prospects stateside. But given the effort that was put into making this movie a faithful adaptation of its much-beloved source material, one could argue that it deserves a second chance at the gold. It's true that Warcraft isn't a homerun for Legendary and Blizzard, but nor is it the disaster that some critics have gleefully declared it.

The plot can lose its footing here and there (something which will be particularly noticeable to those with no prior knowledge of the universe), and the film would have greatly benefited from spending more time defining the characters that make up its ensemble cast. But to say the film is without merit would be unfair. Warcraft's story does hold some exciting moments and there's great potential for the movie's surviving characters to be better served in a follow-up. Indeed, while Warcraft isn't entirely successful in all its aims, it sets up a rich and interesting world with far more skill than a typical video game adaptation; fans of these games and of fantasy in general could leave this feature feeling quite satisfied, and certainly shouldn't brush it off without consideration.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Brian Michael Bendis' 'Scarlet' Heads To Cinemax

Following the successful premiere of Robert Kirkman's Outcast, television network Cinemax has got its eyes on adapting a second mature comic-book series: Brian Michael Bendis' Scarlet. Published by Marvel's icon imprint (which allows for creator-owned stories told outside of the Marvel Universe), Scarlet has been running since 2010 and tells the story of the titular Scarlet Rue who starts a modern American revolution following the murder of her innocent boyfriend by corrupt police officers.
Bendis made the announcement that the series was headed to television at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, but stressed that at this point it is only in the earliest stages of development. The writer, who has already seen two of his comics recreated for the small screen in the form of Netflix's Jessica Jones and the PlayStation Network's Powers, claims that the team developing this latest adaptation is set to be formally announced soon.
The Scarlet comic-book series has been greeted with a generally positive reception from fans and critics alike, and is illustrated by Bendis' frequent collaborator Alex Maleev. The series has an infamously slow release schedule, with only nine issues released since it began six years ago.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Box Office: Will China Save Warcraft?

Just as it seemed videogame adaptation Warcraft was poised to flop magnificently, emerging box office powerhouse China swooped in to quite possibly change the story single-handedly. In just its first two days of release the film pulled in over $90 million in the country where MMORPG World of Warcraft has some of its strongest supporters. This impressive figure also comes packaged with some broken records, which may well give the critically-mauled film some good publicity going into its first weekend of release in the United States.
Warcraft not only boasts the highest two day total that China has ever seen ($90 million to the $88 million achieved by previous record holder Furious 7), but also holds the country's highest Thursday box office to date. The film brought in $46 million on its first day of release leaping ahead of Chinese film The Mermaid which opened with a $37 million Thursday earlier this year.
The fate of this movie may well rest on whether it can keep up this momentum in China, as at this point the film is set to be practically dead on arrival in the USA where it is predicted to open with a paltry $20-25 million. This figure pales in comparison to the $160 million price tag the movie carries with it, a number which doesn't include the advertising costs associated with the film. Estimates say that the film will need to make around $400 million in order to turn a profit. China is shaping up to be Warcraft's guardian angel and could well have a greater impact on its box office prospects than any other country on this green Earth, but that will depend on how quickly the film's takings drop. In some territories the film is looking to be quite front-loaded, opening impressively but quickly seeing its numbers plummet. If it pulls a repeat performance in China that could affect the film severely.
Still, that's a worry for the future; right now there's no doubt that Lionsgate along with Warcraft's other investors (many of whom are Chinese companies), are breathing a sigh of relief that this risky blockbuster is showing some signs of life overseas even if it doesn't appear to be in the US. That can be attributed at least in part to the lack of big name talent involved in the picture, and perhaps to moviegoers previous run-ins with videogame adaptations (of the thirty-two released up to this point, not one has been positively received by critics -- a trend which Warcraft has sadly been unable to break).

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

The second Robert Kirkman creation to be adapted for the small screen after the juggernaut Walking Dead series, got off to a solid start last night with its season premiere entitled 'A Darkness Surrounds Him'. The episode comes out of the starting gate strong with a chilling opening scene depicting possessed boy Joshua, which is anchored by a very impressive performance by the young child actor Gabriel Bateman. Bateman displays a great understanding of body language, changing his physicality just enough to seem unnatural but not exaggerating to the point where things become cartoonish. What this makes for is a very memorable performance, and a child actor who may have stolen the episode from his far more experienced adult co-stars.

Indeed, this episode does seem at its most effective during the claustrophobic nightmare-fuelling exorcism scenes, and ultimately loses its footing in the scenes between. The introduction of Patrick Fugit in the role of Kyle Barnes feels uninteresting, possibly not helped by the fact that it comes so soon after the aforementioned shocking opener. Barnes is a deeply troubled character with a horribly dark past but it feels as if Fugit perhaps doesn't have the acting chops to portray such a role, overshadowed by his co-stars in most scenes. It isn't until roughly halfway through the episode that the performance shows signs of life, when an interesting plot twist makes things even worse for the unfortunate Barnes. Fugit takes full advantage of this development, and shows a marked improvement in subsequent scenes. Still, by the end of the episode it remains unclear whether he was the best choice to lead this series.
Wrenn Schmidt and David Denman appear as Kyle's caring adoptive sister and her less understanding husband, but neither character leaves a lasting impression with both requiring a great deal more development over the course of the series. The pair give the best performances they can with what they're given, but of the adult cast it is Philip Glenister who comes out on top with his turn as the weary Reverend Anderson proving to be one of the episode's highlights. The Reverend is perhaps the most well defined and interesting character featured in the episode, feeling like a truly new creation rather than a more general archetype -- a point which many of the show's characters are yet to progress from.

This isn't helped by a script which wobbles at points with certain expository lines feeling forced in to speed up the plot, leading to awkward moments which can briefly take you out of the story. One has to wonder whether this was the right project for director Adam Wingard, whose recent projects The Guest and You're Next have both left room for comic relief and tongue-in-cheek moments, neither of which can be found in this dour episode. Wingard does a competent job drawing from his previous experience in the horror genre but fails to leave a distinctive impression.

Still, in spite of its flaws Outcast definitely has potential. Although this first episode doesn't do a tremendous job of developing its cast of characters, that isn't to say there won't be opportunities to do interesting things with them further down the line. Mysteries crying out for elaboration are healthily sprinkled in throughout this episode, while a reference to the impending and rather ominous sounding 'great purge' gives a clue as to where future episodes could be headed. The show shines in its pulse-pounding and visually arresting exorcism scenes, but should be careful not to lean to heavily on this aspect as overexposure could lessen their effectiveness. Flawed but ultimately an interesting watch, Outcast is definitely a show which should be on your radar.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

After Legendary recently removed the Pacific Rim sequel from their upcoming release schedule, things were looking bleak for the Guillermo Del Toro creation and many suspected the follow-up would never make it to cinema screens. This wouldn't have been hugely surprising either as although the first film did make over $400 million worldwide, when you consider its colossal $190 million budget plus advertising costs that number becomes less impressive.
However, just when all hope was lost news broke yesterday that Pacific Rim 2 was indeed coming and in better form than many had dared hope. The sequel has bagged John Boyega for the lead role, an actor hot off his breakout role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens who has quickly established a sizeable fan following. He will be playing the son of Idris Elba's character from the first film, and will no doubt end up piloting one of the movie's gargantuan jaeger's by the time the credits start rolling.
No other plot or cast details were given, and so whether the sequel will also see the return of Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman remains to be seen -- but fans will be keeping their fingers crossed.

Guillermo Del Toro who is seemingly always working with an extremely packed schedule has stepped down from the director's chair for the sequel, possibly at the request of Legendary who its rumoured was looking for someone more cost-effective to helm the film. Apparently that someone is Steven S. DeKnight who is better known for his work as a producer, with his only recent directing gigs being an episode of Netflix's Daredevil series (for which he was also the showrunner). Handing someone so new to directing the reins to such a big budget franchise is a daring move, and only time will tell if it ends up being a successful gamble.
Pacific Rim 2 is set to start shooting sometime in the final quarter of this year, with a release date as of yet uncertain but rumoured to be sometime in 2018.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

This week's box office numbers continue what has been an ongoing theme throughout this year's summer movie season, that being a diminishing interest in blockbuster sequels from movie-going audiences. Indeed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is only the latest big budget follow-up to open with significantly less than it's precursor, perhaps a result of the so-called blockbuster fatigue that has been predicted for some time, or maybe a sign that audiences are ready to shift the emphasis back to original ideas after years in the grip of sequel-fever.
Alternatively, it could simply be that this summer's crop of movies frankly hasn't been up to par. According to review aggregate site Metacritic, the only films released since May began that have garnered generally positive reviews are Captain America: Civil War, The Nice Guys and this week's mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping which ironically suffered the worst debut of all the weekend's new releases.

Whichever the cause it's hard to ignore the cold shoulder many sequels have been given so far this year, with the Ninja Turtles weekend haul of $35 million being yet another example of this harsh treatment.  This opening is a little over half of the $65 million the first film opened with back in August 2014, in spite of the film receiving (marginally) better reviews than the first entry and a larger budget of $135 million. While disappointing, this soft debut was still enough for the Turtles to take the top spot, as fellow sequel X-Men: Apocalypse also finds itself on the receiving end of audience apathy.
The 20th Century Fox super-hero sequel opened last week to $30 million less than previous entry Days of Future Past, and fails to recover any ground this week with a steep drop of 66%. This amounts to a second weekend haul of just $22 million, most likely a consequence of the film's mixed critical reception. Apocalypse fared better overseas where a strong debut in China of $59 million made it the number one movie at the foreign box office, but still the film is unlikely to exceed or even match the total of Days of Future Past -- currently looking at a worldwide gross of around $650 million in comparison to Future Past's $747 million.
It is telling that the one film which opened above and beyond expectations this week was a non-sequel with no ties to any major franchise, that being romantic drama Me Before You. Expected to open with around $12 million, the film instead raked in over $18 million snagging the number three spot in the process. The film is a much-needed win for Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke who faltered last Summer with the critical and commercial flop Terminator Genisys, but has come under fire from some in the disabled community who claim the film suggests disabled people are a burden on their loved ones while advocating euthanasia. It remains to be seen how this backlash will affect the film going forward.

After a horrible opening weekend the forecast doesn't get any better for Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass this week, as the film drops 60% falling to number four with a second week haul of just over $10 million. Comparing the ten-day totals of 2010's Alice in Wonderland with this summer's sequel is genuinely shocking; by this point in its release the first film had already pulled in well over $200 million in the USA alone, while Through the Looking Glass has limped to just $50 million with it's colossal flop status all but confirmed. With a hefty price tag of $170 million plus advertising costs which is unlikely to be recouped, this film could well sound the death knell of Johnny Depp's blockbuster career.
The film's disappointing haul has been blamed by some on the actor's very public recent split from actress Amber Heard which came with accusations of domestic abuse, however with a lengthy string of flops behind him dating back to 2011 it feels as if Depp's career problems have been building for some time. Next year's Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales could very well be the actor's last chance in the big leagues, and if it too flops then Depp's face could be one absent from blockbuster films for the foreseeable future.
Alice Through the Looking Glass may well be the film worst affected by audience's apparent aversion to blockbuster sequels, with Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,  X-Men: Apocalypse and underperforming comedy sequel Neighbours: Sorority Rising getting easy rides in comparison. It's salt in the wound that in a week where so many sequels have struggled to find an audience, one of the summer's original movies has reached a huge milestone. Disney Animation's Zootopia has reached a worldwide total of $1 billion, only the fourth animated film to accomplish such a feat (after Toy Story 3, Frozen and Minions).
But just as things begin to look brighter for the future of original movies in Hollywood, a debut the size of the aforementioned Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping comes along. The spoof comes courtesy of comedy band The Lonely Island and is fronted by Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg. No doubt the film was hoping to benefit from the elevated star-power Samberg has gained from the critically acclaimed FOX sitcom, but surprisingly the film ended up opening with a lower debut than The Lonely Island's 2007 offering Hot Rod. Popstar settled for number eight bringing in just $4.6 million over the weekend, with the film's restrictive R-rating cited as a possible reason for such a disappointing result.
Domestic Box Office Results (June 3rd-5th 2016)
1. (-) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - $35.2 million
2. (1) X-Men: Apocalypse - $22.3 million
3. (-) Me Before You - $18.2 million
4. (2) Alice Through The Looking Glass - $10.6 million
5. (3) The Angry Birds Movie - $9.7 million
6. (4) Captain America: Civil War - $7.5 million
7. (5) Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising - $4.7 million
8. (-) Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping - $4.6 million
9. (6) The Jungle Book - $4.2 million
10. (7) The Nice Guys - $3.5 million