DVD Round-Up: ‘Insurgent,’ ‘Far From the Madding Crowd,’ ‘Orphan Black,’ ‘Strike Back,’ & ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

This week’s home entertainment releases include the second film in the popular YA novel-based Insurgent, the visually impressive Far From the Madding Crowd, plus the latest season of Orphan Black, the terrorist-battling intense action of Strike Back, a new J.K. Rowling miniseries, the second half of the classic Turn A Gundam anime, and, just in time for the release of the movie, the first season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV series.

Theatrical Movies

This week’s highest-grossing release is The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Lionsgate, “PG-13,” 119 min., $29.98, BD $34.98), the second film in the Divergent series adapting a popular YA novel series about a highly-regulated future society in which all citizens are forced to choose their vocations and no deviations (“divergents”) are allowed.  This series is earnestly presented and well-acted by Shailene Woodley and Theo James, but theme of the movies (and the novels) is an all too obvious play on teenagers’ common feelings of repression by adults and it lacks the more universal “bite” of really good science fiction.

The top release for art movie fans this week is Far From the Madding Crowd (Fox, “PG-13,” 119 min., $29.98, BD $39.99), an adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel that stars Carrie Mulligan as an attractive woman who has to choose between three suitors.  A little brisk in comparison to the more expansive 1967 version starring Julie Christie, Thomas Vinterberg’s 2015 film is nevertheless visually impressive enough that the Blu-ray version definitely worth the extra coin.

Less successful is Child 44 (Lionsgate, “R,” 137 min., $19.98, BD $24.98), a serial killer thriller starring Tom Hardy set in Soviet Russia in 1953.  A much better version of this sort of saga about the difficulty of tracking down a serial killer in a totalitarian state that doesn’t want to admit the possibility of such heinous offenses is Robert Siodmak’s 1957 film The Devil Strikes at Night, which is set in Nazi Germany.

Another unsuccessful “true crime” film is True Story (Fox, “R,” 100 min., $22.98, BD $27.99), which stars James Franco and Jonah Hill in a true saga about the twisted relationship between a news reporter and a criminal who assumes the reporter’s identity.   In spite of solid talent in front of the camera and a great basic story, this movie never really gets going, and it received only a 44% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes (a remarkably low score given the talent involved and the unique and relevant story that could have made for a Cornell Woolridge-like intense psychological drama if handled correctly).

Another film that doesn’t quite live up to its potential is A Little Chaos (Universal, “R,” 113 min., $19.98, BD $26.98), a well-acted (by Kate Winslet, Mattias Schoenaerts, and Alan Rickman) period drama about an 18th Century female landscape designer who is working on a garden at Versailles for Louis XIV.  This quasi-feminist drama never quite takes off, which is why it earned just a 40% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Also out on Tuesday is Do You Believe? (Pure Flix, “PG-13,” 115 min., $24.99, BD $29.99), which stars Sean Astin in a Christian-themed movie designed to appeal the religious from the creators of God Is Not Dead.

TV on DVD

There are some cool offerings in this category including Orphan Black: Season 3 (BBC, 450 min., $29.98, BD $34.98), which includes all ten Season 3 episodes from the Canadian/UK science fiction series about a woman who discovers that she is one of a number of clones.  Orphan Black, which airs in the U.S. on BBC America, recently spawned a comic book series from IDW, a sign of the property’s growing geek cred.

For fans of hardcore action on the small screen, this week’s top offering is Strike Back: Season 3 (HBO, 400 min., $39.98 BD $49.99), which features ten episodes of this hard-charging series, which ranges from Northern California, to Columbia, to Russia, and the Mideast in pursuit of Leo Kamali, a high-ranking member of a key terrorist cell led by an elusive terrorist known as al-Zuhari.

For fans of offbeat comedy it would be hard to beat The Comeback: The Complete Series (HBO, 653 min., $19.93), which stars Lisa Kudrow (Friends) in an acerbic satire of the LA entertainment scene.  The show originally debuted in 2005 with a 13-episode series, that was followed almost a decade later with an 8-episode season that debuted last November.  This set collects all 21 episodes from both seasons.

Also of interest is The Casual Vacancy: The Complete Miniseries (Warner Bros. $24.98, BD $29.98), a 2015 miniseries from the U.K. based on the novel by J.K. Rowling that examines the seething conflicts roiling just beneath the surface of what appears to be an idyllic English Village.

Two other shows of interest are the entertaining ABC mystery How to Get Away With Murder: The Complete First Season (Disney, 602 min., $39.95), and The Affair (Showtime, $42.99), a well-acted, realistic saga of adultery set in New York City and Long Island.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Season 1 (Warner Bros., 1421 min., $24.98) is vintage show of interest because of the release of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie later this month.  The other key vintage release is I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season 2 (Paramount, BD $129.99), which presents the classic sitcom on Blu-ray,

Animated series due on Tuesday include Madeline: The Complete Collection (Mill Creek, 1,484 min., $19.98), The Country Mouse and the City Mouse: 26 Mice Tales (Mill Creek, 617 min., $19.98), and The Busy World of Richard Scarry: The Complete Collection (Mill Creek, 1645 min., $19.98).

Murdoch Mysteries: Season 8 (Acorn Media, 700 min., $59.99, BD $69.99) continues the increasingly interesting run of the Canadian forensics-themed detective series set in the early Twentieth Century.  Both the stories and production values have gotten better as this police procedural has gone along, and it now bears comparison with any current period police drama.

Anime

For fans of mecha anime this week’s biggest release is Turn A Gundam, Part 2 (Right Stuf, 625 min., Subtitles Only, $49.98), which contains episodes 26-50 of the classic 50-episode Turn A Gundam written and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino and produced by Sunrise in 1999-2000.

This week’s other top flight release is Space Brothers: Collection 4 (Sentai Filmworks, 325 min., Subtitles Only, $49.98, BD $59.98), which includes 13 episodes of the 99-episode series from A-1 Pictures that is based on the hard science fiction comedy/drama based on the Chuya Koyama manga about two brothers who join Japan’s space program. In these episodes, which is based on one of the best story arcs in the manga, one of the brothers (Hibito) is stranded on the moon.

For younger viewers the top release could be Pokemon the Series—XY: Set 1 (Viz Media, 600 min., Dubbed, $26.95), which includes the first 24 episode of the XY series of the perennially popular Pokemon anime.

Also due on Tuesday is the Sakura Trick: Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, 300 min., Subtitles Only, $49.98), which includes all 12 episodes of the 2014 anime series from Studio Deen that is based on the yuri manga by Tachi.

Vintage anime due out on Tuesday include a new edition of Please Twins! (Right Stuf, 325 min., $39.99), a 2003 spin-off of the Please Teacher! Anime that Bandai Entertainment released here in 2006 (copies of this long out-of-print series are currently advertised for $139.39 on Amazon).

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Rolling for Initiative–Re-visiting Pre-Releases and a Quick Look at Gen Con

Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks at the Talk Back about his recent pre-release column, and hits some Gen Con high points.

I find I have been remiss in commenting on the “Talk Back” that came a couple of weeks ago from Ian Richards, Organized Play director for Peachstate Hobby Distribution, in regards to the Rolling for Initiative column on discounting of pre-release events.  Richards is correct in that stores can make additional profits by selling peripheral items such as snacks alongside the main event and offered some figures indicating the amount of money that stores could generate by selling snacks or other peripheral items.

While he does make sense and a good store will have a well-stocked snack area, there is never any guarantee that players will buy snacks as an add on to the pre-release, especially with the trend among game stores to make pre-releases even more of a special event by providing free food to the players.  A number of stores, besides ours, provide pizza, hot dogs or similar finger foods to players as part of their entry fee and Gnome Games even goes so far as to cook breakfast for them (we tried breakfast cereal once but the players were underwhelmed so we went back to pizza with the next event).  A store cannot rely on the potential from peripheral sales to make profit from a pre-release.

That being said Richards did offer some other ideas for generating repeat business from pre-release players:

Have other events going on to generate more cash flow.  0-2 drop.  Get them playing something else and still having fun rather than drifting away.

  • Offer incentives for them to return.  Prizing as store credit for example.
  • Loyalty based event attendance.  Play in 10 events get the 11th for free.  Attract, grow, retain.
  • Always focus on making the events as compelling as possible.  If the players have an awesome time they’ll be back but they’ll also positively virally market the store and that’s priceless.

Richards also offers to discuss OP programs with any store that would like to contact him, be they a Peachtree customer or not.  I call that a pretty nice offer.

Gen Con, in case you missed it, took place this past weekend.  I did not go.  Missed the sign-up date for the Trade Day and had other things to work on but did hear a few interesting tidbits from the show.

Upper Deck’s Vs. card game attracted quite a bit of attention.  The game has shifted format from a collectable version to a customizable one, aping Fantasy Flight Games’ LCG system, though of course they cannot call it that.  The Cypher System rules from Monte Cook Games also had a successful launch as did Titansgate and the Fantasy Age rules from Green Ronin, no doubt building on the success of Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave web series.  Looney Labs, meanwhile, sold through 200 hundred copies of Batman Fluxx, nearly all they brought, on day one of the show.  Not too shabby.

Word of the day on the Exhibit Hall floor, though, was “Kickstarter” as many smaller companies were either selling games they had just produced through Kickstarter or talking about upcoming releases they planned to fund through Kickstarter.  Amazon tied into Gen Con with a Daily Deal offering a number of board and card games, including offerings from Steve Jackson Games, Iello, Asmodee, Cool Mini or Not and Days of Wonder, among others, at discounts ranging from 35% to just over 50% off.

More comments likely on the show next week.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.

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FFG Announces ‘Star Wars: Imperial Assault’ Large-Box Expansion

At Gen Con, Fantasy Flight Games announced Return to Hoth, a new large-box expansion for Star Wars:  Imperial Assault, along with associated Ally and Villain Packs.  It’s planned for release in Q4. 

Return to Hoth includes a new full-length campaign, four new skirmish missions, and new rules for four player skirmish games.  Bits in the box include 37 double-sided terrain tiles, 16 plastic figures (3 heroes, 6 Snowtroopers, 2 Wampas, 4 HK Assassin Droids, and a SC2-M Repulsor Tank), with new Agenda, Class, Deployment, Item, Mission, Supply, and 9 new Command cards. 

The new heroes are medical droid MHD-19, deadly marksman Loku Kanoloa, and deadly Rebel operative Verena Talos.

The four character packs being released with Return to Hoth are the Leia Organa Ally Pack, the Echo Base Troopers Ally Pack, Danger Villain Pack, and General Sorin Villain Pack.  All will be $9.95 MSRP except the Echo Base Troopers pack, which will be $12.95. 

The minis can be used in place of tokens in Return to Hoth, and the characters can also be used for skirmish mode.   Each pack comes with a new campaign side mission and two skirmish missions, as well as the cards and tokens.  

See gallery below for Gen Con photos of these products.  

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Kurt Busiek

52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.  Kurt Busiek is this week’s writer as we take a look at the work he’s done with the biggest heroes within the DCU.

Kurt Busiek has had a storied career, having defining runs on books like Avengers, Astro City, Marvels, and so many more that it’d justify a single article to itself just to talk about them all.  Back in 2008, Busiek was tasked with the monumental task of crafting a year long weekly series, Trinity, starring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman for DC Comics.  The series was a rousing success and adapted a unique style of storytelling, splitting the book into two halves, replying heavily on the back-up story to help push the narrative for the series.

Trinity Volume 1

Trinity follows Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as they deal with an arcane threat against the DC Universe.  The three heroes all gather in Keystone City to touch base with each other following a peculiar dream that they all shared.  When several strange things begin to occur across the planet Earth, the sense of connectivity between the three heroes only grows stronger as they try to root out the cause of this most recent disturbance.  Their search sends them to seemingly every corner of the Earth as they discover a mystical attack is being launched against them.  But how does a tarot card reader, Despero, Hawkman and several other random characters factor into these unknown plans against the Trinity?

Trinity Volume 1 collects the first seventeen issues of the weekly series from 2008 that stars DC’s holy trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  The story is told in a unique format for modern comics as each issue is divided into two separate parts, a twelve page story that follows the exploits of the Trinity followed by a ten page story that checks in with other parts of the DC Universe.  Kurt Busiek crafts a large scale story that stretches out across the entire tapestry of the DC Universe, drawing in characters from street level vigilantism, to cosmic scale superheroes and even the magically inclined.


The dynamic shared between the Trinity is the highlight of the entire story.

When talking about Trinity overall I feel as though it is easiest to talk about the bad before you get to the good, simply because the bad is a glaring part of the book stretches from the start to finish.  Although it adapts a unique style of storytelling for comics, relying heavily on using “back up stories” (something that many modern comics lack), the narrative struggles to get off the ground every issue due to having a limited number of pages to tell a story.  With the first twelve pages of every issue being about the Trinity, you’re bound to get excited because that’s where the meat of the story lies.  The unfortunate truth though, is by the time you get to that twelfth page and start to feel invested, you’re cutoff and transitioned into the ten page back up story in the back half of every issue.  The balancing act isn’t kind as the back-up stories don’t actually get interesting until about half way through the book.  It’s a true disadvantage to use the last ten pages of the book to talk about characters within the DC Universe that you can’t really invest in.

Now when you examine the two different sets of story per issue on their own, they actually hold up much better.  One can only wonder why DC didn’t just combine much of the Trinity into a much more seamless story and only cutaway to the back up stories when necessary for this collected format.  The main Trinity story functions well enough on it’s own, keeping you informed plenty well enough along the way.  Busiek does a fine job of investing us into the story of the bond between Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman over the seventeen issues we spend with them.  The further you get into the tale, the more tightly bound they become due to the arcane nature of the attacks against them.  You get to watch their personalities dissolve and actually switch amongst each other as Superman begins to take on characteristics of both Wonder Woman and Batman, and so on.  It’s fun to see these personality shifts as it shakes up the conventional knowledge you have of these characters as you try to decipher which personality traits someone like Batman is taking on from other characters.


Mystic shielding…it just ain’t what it used to be.

The back-up stories can easily be broken down into three separate stories, with two of them actually connecting together more tightly than the third of the bunch does.  You follow Tarot for the first half of the book, the exploits of characters like Nightwing, Robin and Oracle in the second half, while in the last story you follow Hawkman, Gangbuster and the collective DC Universe.  The Tarot and Hawkman stories actually serve as parts one and two to each other when you look at them closely while the vigilante section largely functions in its own playground and finds its own way to connect to the remainder of the story.  The Tarot story is the weakest of the three as you’re introduced to a character that you can hardly feel an emotional connection to.  When you get to the adventures of Nightwing and company you can’t help but pay attention due to the characters’ dynamic natures and general history in relation to the rest of the DC Universe.  It’s like an immediate shot into the arm by Busiek who makes these characters fun to following along with.

Speaking of characters, the cast for this book is HUGE.  Busiek seemingly uses every single heroic character from DC’s history in this volume.  Not all of them have speaking lines but they are certainly there.  Although your core cast consists of the Trinity, other characters like Hawkman, Tarot, Green Lantern, and Gangbuster have fairly significant roles to be played.  Even beyond these characters, the Justice League from this time period factored in fairly regularly into the story, serving as solid back up for the group of heroes.  In terms of villains, your primary three who are lashing out against the Trinity, Morgan Le Fey, Enigma, and Despero, are all uniquely motivated in their goals and have a few shocking secrets that only make reading this volume more interesting.


When Batman calls, you come running.

Collects:  Trinity #1-17.

Best Character:  Enigma.

Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption:  “Maybe it doesn’t like concrete?” – Robin.

Best Scene/Moment:  Earth 3 invasion – Issue 12.

Best Issue:  Issue 16.  Issue 16 is the winner because it largely concludes the first act of this massive, 52 issue story.  You watch as the Trinity finally comes to blows with their mysterious foes and tries to thwart their plan that would unhinge the entire DC Universe.  It’s thickly plotted, action packed and tons of fun to watch unfold.

Why You Should Read It:  Kurt Busiek plays with some different concepts and tries to take modern storytelling in a new direction with Trinity.  The result isn’t always award winning but ultimately you’re left with a story you can’t help but invest yourself into because of how massive in scope it really is.  You’re exposed to so many different areas of the DC Universe that it’s hard to walk away without feeling attached to one character and what happens to them.

Marvels

Kurt Busiek teamed up with Alex Ross to bring a whole new perspective to the comic world through Marvels.  Everyone has seen the many historic moments that have occurred throughout Marvel’s history through the eyes of the superheroes who have experienced these events.  But how often do you see one of these major, game changing moments through the eyes of a civilian?  That’s exactly what Busiek did with Marvels, changing the comic landscape with a story from a civilian perspective unlike any other story done in comics up to that point.  The story was only enhanced by the enamored artwork done by Alex Ross during this critically acclaimed miniseries.

Set in the early years of the Mavel Universe, Marvels follows photographer Phil Sheldon over forty years of his life.  The age of superheroes kicks into high gear as Sheldon begins to try and make headway in his career as a photographer.  All around him, the world reacts and revolts to these new “Marvels”, something modern mankind has never seen or even heard of before.  From beautiful moments of saving citizens to natural disasters, the Marvels bring just as much woe as they do joy to the world.  Through Sheldon’s lens he captures how the general population reacts to the highs and lows of having a superhero driven world, using the images he gets to create a best selling book.  But at what point does Sheldon have to stop before he sacrifices his family for his career?

Marvels does a magnificent job of humanizing superheroes whilst still placing them on a pedestal.  This is a raw and authentic story from Kurt Busiek who taps into something that hadn’t really been done to this degree before in comics at the time of its release.  Using the point of view of Phil Sheldon, a regular human, isn’t anything woefully unique but it’s Busiek’s approach to the character, and as such the characters approach to superheroes, that sets this story out as an instant classic.  Marvels is a winner through and through.  Obviously the story is more enjoyable if you’re a fan of the Marvel Universe but even on it’s own, ignoring all the history associated with Marvel, the story stands up on its own two feet beautifully.  The history of this world and characters is important to the story and is largely the reason it all works in such a magnificent fashion but that doesn’t mean you need to be a Marvel historian to get what Kurt Busiek is laying the foundation for.

In my mind, the main point of this story is to show that these “Marvels”, these incredible things and people, can still have human qualities and be easy to relate to.  It’s likely part of the reason that the story opens with a tale about the first Human Torch.  A normal man who is driven by scientific curiosity turns his son into the Human Torch.  He is lush with excitement over this amazing development only to be rejected for creating something unnatural.  The story becomes told through the Human Torch’s point of view and you’re consumed by this saddening anxiety from this man who was changed and rejected.  The effect is similar to something like Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein, with man rejecting what they believe to be a beast.  Furthermore, you see more of this theme in every part of the story.  Whether it is the prejudice towards the mutants, the horror of a hero like The Thing, or the tantalizing sorrow that creeps in surrounding Spider-Man’s greatest defeat, all these real emotions creep into these fictional characters.

In telling the story through someone like Phil Sheldon, Busiek taps into the sense of humanity necessary to pull off a story like Marvels.  You watch a young and hopeful Phil grow into a bitter old man, hardened by a life that has left him fickle.  Through the story you ride the waves of the time period, watching as Phil, a man who wouldn’t harm a fly, gets caught up in things like mob mentality and actually tries to harm mutants even though it is outside of his usual characteristics.  Then, a few scenes later, Phil is forced to help hide a young girl who is a mutant, taking upon his duty as a father to set a good example for his daughters who have actually been harboring the mutant.  It’s all believably human for Phil to be conflicted at several sharp turns in the story where he has the option to go left or right and chooses to go with the flowing of how things are unfolding instead of just reacting repeatedly.  The wonder of what’s happening around him is never lost, as there are so many pages where Phil is left in awe that you’ll lose count of them all by the end.

To give a character like Phil a job as a photographer is simply brilliant as it makes him the reader’s eyes to the entire story.  We see these beautiful images through his lens and his perspective, getting swept up in the sheer beauty of everything that unfolds.  How Busiek manages to inject so much humanity into one character is astounding as he manages to actually project Sheldon’s emotions on to you as a reader.  The perfect example of this is a scene late in the book where Sheldon captures a fateful fight unfolding between Spider-Man and The Green Goblin for Gwen Stacey’s life.  The fight isn’t what’s important about the scene.  What makes this scene important is how closely it places a hero under the microscope of a normal man.  We all know how that scene ends but Busiek does something incredible with the way he writes the scene, distilling a sense of hopefulness into Sheldon to convince the reader that Spider-Man might actually save the day, only to snatch it away in gut wrenching fashion.  Everyone knows the story of Spider-Man and how Gwen Stacey dies but watching it play out through the eyes of a bystander who is heavily invested in the situation shines a whole new light on the scene.  That is largely what you can expect from Marvels, as this new perspective will change the way you’ll look at plenty of classic Marvel stories.  Marvels isn’t a story about superheroes, it’s a story about superheroes as seen through the eyes of regular people.

Collects:  Marvels #0-4.

Best Character:  Phil Sheldon.

Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption:  “But there was something in her–in its eyes–and I couldn’t help thinking of the liberation of Auschwitz–and the look in her eyes–”  – Phil Sheldon.

Best Scene/Moment:  Gwen Stacey’s euphoria in the midst of chaos – Issue 4.

Best Issue:  Issue 4.  It feels a little unfair to just pick one issue that stands out from the pack for this one since the story works best in a flowing motion where you read one issue after another.  With that said, it’s still an absolute pleasure to break up your reading and watch how much things change from issue to issue.  To me, issue 4 perfectly captures the central themes and moods that Busiek was striving to accomplish and it serves as an excellent final chapter to the entire story.  All that plus it features that scene with Spider-Man, Green Goblin, and Gwen Stacey that I gushed about above.

Why You Should Read It:  Busiek does something marvelous here as he makes a great superhero story that isn’t about the superheroes so much as it is about how they effect the lives of regular people like you or I.  For a work of fiction this feels incredibly humanizing.  Every page feels real, dragging you further into the life and times of Phil Sheldon.  To a further point, this book takes some of the biggest classic moments from Marvel Comics’ history and enhances them to a point where they might be better portrayed here than they were decades ago when they first occurred.  All this AND the artwork is breathtakingly done by Alex Ross.  How can you say no?

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Channing Tatum Closes ‘Gambit’ Deal

Internet stories proclaiming that Fox’s Gambit film starring Channing Tatum was in jeopardy of falling apart have evidently proven to be erroneous (ICv2 was aware of the stories that were all over the Net last week, but chose not to report the rumor, which was unconfirmed).  According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tatum has closed the deal with Fox to star in (and produce) a Gambit movie, which Josh Zetumer has penned from a treatment by Gambit co-creator Chris Claremont.

According to The Reporter: “Tatum and the studio did hit a sensitive spot in negotiations, but such back-and-forth is a normal part of top-level talent deal-making. The Magic Mike star’s participation hardly was in any real danger because the actor already had invested quite a bit in the superhero part. Tatum has been attached to the movie (loosely then officially) as both actor and producer for a few years and even made a surprise appearance at Fox’s X-Men panel at Comic-Con in July.”  Tatum’s long involvement with the project was the prime reason that ICv2 decided not to report the rumors that he had left the Gambit film.

Rise of Planet of the Apes helmer Rupert Wyatt is slated to direct the Gambit film (see “Fox Snaps POTA Helmer for ‘Gambit’”), which had been given a release date of October 7, 2016 (see “Gambit Gets a Release Date”).  No word yet on whether Fox plans on making that release date—if the studio does, filming will have to begin fairly soon.  The Reporter indicated that one of the sticking points in the deal was an agreement on sequels and appearances in other X-Men films, though the publication’s exclusive story did not indicate the number of films covered by the agreement.

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‘Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation’ Boosts Star Power

Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation surpassed expectations as it easily took the weekend box office crown with $56 million, while the remake of National Lampoon’s Vacation disappointed with a second place showing that yielded just $14.8 million.  Overall the weekend was down 22.3% from the same frame last year when Guardians of the Galaxy began its stellar run with a $94.3 million bow.

The successful launch of Rogue Nation, the fifth Mission: Impossible film, continued the franchise turnaround begun by the fourth film in the series Ghost Protocol, and bolstered the star power of Tom Cruise.  In a summer that has seen films starring screen icons Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator: Genisys) and Adam Sandler (Pixels) crash and burn at the box office, the continuing success of Cruise (at least in the MI pics) demonstrates that “star power” still matters.

Cruise’s star power evidently matters even more outside of North America where Rogue Nation made $65 million from 40 territories (roughly half of the overseas market).  Ghost Protocol made 70% of its worldwide revenue outside the U.S., and the percentage for Rogue Nation could go even higher, since the film set new franchise records in 27 of the 40 overseas territories in which it debuted.

The opening weekend audience for Rogue Nation was predominantly male (62%), and older with 80% of the crowd over 25—and they liked the film giving it a solid “A-“ CinemaScore.  With decent word of mouth and its 93% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Rogue Nation appears to be poised for fairly long run at the domestic box office where its total might eventually rival Ghost Protocol’s $209 million showing.

The news was not so positive for Vacation, a remake of the 1983 Harold Ramis-helmed National Lampoon’s Vacation, which debuted on Wednesday and only earned an estimated $14.8 million for the 3-day weekend (and $21 million for the 5-day period).  Females made up a slight majority of the audience for Vacation (53%), and, not surprisingly, it skewed older as well with 36% of the crowd over 35.  Audiences gave the film a poor “B” CinemaScore, which, coupled with the movie’s 23% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, spells trouble ahead, though the movie only cost Warner Bros. $30 million to make, which should limit any financial losses.

Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man narrowly held on to third place, dropping 49.6% (not a bad fall considering the direct action movie competition from Rogue Nation) as it added $12.6 million, bringing its domestic total to $132. 1 million. 

Universal’s Minions slid 47% and ended up in fourth place, adding $12.2 million to bring its domestic total to $287. 4 million.  Worldwide the $74 million film has chalked up an amazing $854.6 million, making it one of the summer’s most profitable movies.

The same cannot be said for Sony’s Pixels, which slid 57% in its second frame as it added $10.4 million to drive its ten-day total to $45.6 million.  The Amy Schumer-starring Trainwreck dropped 44% in its third weekend in theaters as it earned $9.7 million to bring its domestic total to $79.8 million—topping $100 million remains a definite possibility for Trainwreck.

Antoine Fuqua’s boxing movie Southpaw, which star Jake Gyllenhaal, slipped to seventh in its second weekend as it dropped 55%.  The adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns, also in its second frame, tumbled even farther, dropping 64% as it earned just $4.6 million to finish in eighth place.  This front-loaded YA novel adaptation looks like it will end up as yet another YA novel-based film that fails to make its money back.

Two films that have enjoyed long successful runs finished off the top ten.  Pixar’s Inside Out ended at #9 in its seventh weekend as it added $4.5 million to bring its domestic total to $329.6 million, while Universal’s Jurassic World  slipped 47% and added $3.8 million to its year-to-date leading domestic total of $631.5 million.

Bes sure to check back here next week to learn the fate of a quartet of new nationwide releases that Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot, the Meryl Streep rock film Ricki and the Flash, the Aardman Animation stop-motion Shaun the Sheep Movie, and the Jason Bateman suspense saga The Gift.

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