Weekend Preview: Wake Me Up When Golden Compass Debuts

on Friday, November 30, 2007   1 comments

     Immediately after Thanksgiving, the box office acts a lot like people do.  When you excuse yourself from the dinner table, after stuffing yourself with a plateful of turkey, you generally feel tired and non-responsive.  Well, business at the movies is much the same way.  The weekend after Thanksgiving usually sees some larger weekend-to-weekend drops because grosses were inflated by the Thanksgiving holiday.  On top of this, there is only one new wide release this weekend, and it doesn't seem to have much potential.  In other words, after a highly satisfying last weekend, expect the box office to come back down to earth with a loud thud over these next few days.

     Awake is the sole film to debut in wide release this weekend, and ironically enough, it looks more like a snoozer.  The Jessica Alba/Hayden Christensen thriller centers on a man who is unfortunately awake during his surgery.  The ads look rather generic, and neither Alba nor Christensen have proven themselves huge draws outside their respective action franchises (Fantastic Four and Star Wars), so I wouldn't expect Awake to be a breakout success.  The film wasn't screened in advance for critics which is never a good sign of its quality, but it couldn't possibly get worse reviews than Alba's last film, Good Luck Chuck, could it?  Opening in 2,002 theaters, Awake should pull in a weak $8 million.
     Among holdovers, Enchanted should again top the charts.  It might fall about 50% to $17.5 million, which is a steeper than normal drop for a family film, but again, the Thanksgiving holiday inflated last weekend's figures, so the drop should be much less steep in the weeks to come.  After 12 days, Enchanted will have conjured up about $70 million.
     Like most African-American aimed movies, This Christmas should fall a bit harder, by about 55% to $8.2 million over the weekend, which would give the surprise hit a good $36 million after two weekends.  Beowulf should fall a similar 55% this weekend to about $7.5 million for a $68 million total. 
     Next come a slew of films in the $5 million range:  Bee Movie and Fred Claus should fall about 50% to $6 million and $5.3 million, respectively, and Hitman should follow the typical video game movie trajectory and plunge by about 60% to $5.2 million for a $29.5 million total.  No Country For Old Men should have a good hold, as it adds 135 theaters and has an older audience, and it might add about $5.3 million for a $23.5 million total.  August Rush might fall about 45% to $5.2 million for a $20 million cume.  Look for American Gangster to rake in another $5 million.
     The Mist and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium should each fall about 50% for $4.5 million and $3.9 million over the weekend, respectively.

Predicted Top Twelve for Nov 30-Dec 2
1. Enchanted - $17.5 million
2. This Christmas - $8.2 million
3. Awake - $8 million
4. Beowulf - $7.5 million
5. Bee Movie - $6 million
6. No Country For Old Men - $5.3 million
7. Fred Claus - $5.3 million
8. Hitman - $5.2 million
9. August Rush - $5.2 million
10. American Gangster - $5 million
11. The Mist - $4.5 million
12. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - $3.9 million

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Lars and the Real Girl

on Thursday, November 29, 2007   1 comments

     Lars and the Real Girl, a fantastic, quirky little film about growing up and confronting life, eloquently reveals how all people naturally want to form relationships.  I have to say, for a movie about a sex doll, I never would have expected something as wholesome and heartwarming as Lars, but the film is an uplifting adventure.
     Ryan Gosling plays the titular character, Lars, who is the most socially awkward, strange character you could imagine.  Introverted and anti-social, Lars resents being spoken to and hates being touched. Not even a hug is not comforting for him- it's painful.  Lars is utterly blind to the people that are trying to reach out to him.  His brother, Gus (Paul Schneider), and sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer), repeatedly try to pull him out of his shell.  Even Margo (Kelli Garner), the kooky girl who practically throws herself at him, can't connect with him.
     In fact, there is only one thing that Lars seems to be able to connect with, and her name is Bianca.  Bianca arrives in a box on Lars' doorstep, complete with shiny black hair, sensuous lips, ample chest, and a sequined mini-dress.  Lars introduces Bianca to his brother and sister-in-law, telling them she's his girlfriend, a missionary on sabbatical.  Gus and Karin promptly visit a psychiatrist, Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), to find out what to do.  She tells them that Lars has a delusion, and the best thing to do is just play along.  "Bianca's in town for a reason," she says, and they will only be rid of her when Lars is ready to move on.  In light of this, the entire town comes together behind Lars to make Bianca feel as welcome as possible.  She works multiple jobs, volunteers in church, and even helps out in the hospital.  As Bianca takes on a life of her own, Lars finally confronts his deep-seated pain and loneliness, and he learns what it means to become a man.
     Ryan Gosling continues to impress with his engaging performance.  So often silent, Gosling speaks through his eyes, and I found myself totally fascinated by his unique character.  Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider provide top-notch (and genuinely hilarious) performances as the utterly confounded relatives of Lars.  They nail the scene where they first "meet" Bianca and have her over for dinner, and they garner sympathy in their stressful situation of hosting a sex doll for multiple months.
Much credit goes to writer Nancy Oliver, who crafted a simple, beautiful story, for as we watch the town folk become truly attached to Bianca, the movie reveals an inherent desire of all people to be connected to one another.  As they reach out to Bianca, they reach out to Lars as well, and though the premise of the film is undeniably silly, it packs a surprisingly emotive, poignant punch.  
     Special credit should go to costume designers Kriston Leigh Mann and Gerri Gillan, whose wardrobe selections for the quaint townsfolk perfectly capture the essence of the town.  Since Director Craig Gillespie has only helmed one other picture, the critcally dreadful Mr. Woodcock, that Lars and the Real Girl is so good is a wonderful surprise.  If you can't catch in theaters, be sure to grab it on DVD in the future.  It's weird and it's quirky, but it was warm and delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  B+

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The Ultimate Third Wheel

on Thursday, November 29, 2007   3 comments

      
     I saw Enchanted this past weekend with my younger sister (convenient excuse, right?), and the movie deserves all the praise it's getting- it really is enchanting.  Amy Adams was simply phenomenal, but there is another performance that deserves credit- James Marsden's.  As Prince Edward, James Marsden stole every scene he was in as the eternally gallant, stupid, brave, self-absorbed prince.  I laughed out loud twice just because of his facial expressions, and the guy is just a hugely charismatic, great actor.  I was thinking about his other roles, though, and I've noticed a certain, curious trend:  James Marsden always plays the third wheel- the guy who doesn't get the girl.  Take a look at what I mean...

X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand
     As Cyclops, Marsden was the safe choice for Jean Grey, but deep down, we all knew she really felt for Wolverine.  He always felt threatened by Wolverine, and it was clear who Jean Grey had more passion for.  Oh yeah, and he got killed in the third movie.


Superman Returns
     It's pretty clear that he's the third wheel here, I mean, he married Lois Lane!  Somehow, Lois and James just doesn't have the same ring as Lois and Clark.


The Notebook (yea, I've seen it)
     It's almost sad that Marsden is the odd guy out here.  Though there's nothing wrong with his southern gentleman character, no true romantic could ever want Rachel McAdams to marry anyone other than her beloved Ryan Gosling.


Enchanted
     I won't give anything away here, but I will tell you that there is definitely a love triangle, and we know from history what kind of character Marsden plays...

There you go: I've made my case and shown you James Marsden in all his glorious third wheelery.  The only thing is, I'm a little bit worried.  If this guy can't get a girl, what am I going to do?

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Weekend Fix: Enchanted Charms Its Way To #1

on Wednesday, November 28, 2007   0 comments


   Dinsney's Enchanted cast a bit of magic over the Thanksgiving holiday, finally giving the Fall box office the uptick it has needed since the explosive summer ended.  With five new wide relesases, and a major expansion for some Oscar bait, the top 12 movies grossed a solid $150.5 million over the 3-day weekend, putting it about 2.6% ahead of last year's Thanksgiving weekend, and up a whopping 70% from last weekend.

   Enchanted opened with an absolutely wonderful $34.4 million ($49 million over the 5-day weekend), and with strong reviews, a solid $9233 per theatre average, and the lucrative holiday season ahead, it should power its way well past $100 million, and possibly even to $200 million, given the quality of the film.  The performances by Amy Adams, Patrick "McDreamy" Dempsey, James Marsden, and Susan Sarandon have been lauded by critics, who hail the spoof/tribute as a return-to-form for Disney.  
   It's nice to see such a well-received movie recapture the #1 spot for Disney over Thanksgiving, a weekend they used used to consistently dominate.  It seems that Disney's efforts to streamline its feature films is paying off in a big way, and the Disney brand is earning back its all-powerful credibility.  Disney is making fewer films each year, but the films it chooses to make are family friendly, "Disneyish" pictures that have wide appeal.  Between Pirates, Wild Hogs, Bridge to Terabithia, The Game Plan, Hannah Montana, and the High School Musical monster, Disney is certainly having a banner year and earning the trust of parents everywhere.
   Opening at number two with $18 million ($26.3 over the 5-day) is This Christmas, a Screen Gems production that many analysts overlooked going into this weekend.  Featuring a predominantly black cast, This Christmas played to a predominantly black audience, though not to the extent of a Tyler Perry movie.  The comedy, rather unique in its genre- an African American Christmas comedy- received fairly mixed, but good reviews, which should give it more longevity than Perry's Why Did I Get Married?  Debuting in just 1,858 theatres (vs. Enchanted's 3,730), This Christmas earned $9665 per theatre, the strongest average in the top 20.
   At number three this weekend, is former champ Beowulf, which earned $16.5 million ($23.6 over the 5-day) this weekend.  The film dropped 40% from last weekend, the steepest drop in the top 10.  Paramount, who shelled out $150 million for Robert Zemeckis and his beloved motion-capture CGI, has to be disappointed with these results.  With $56.6 million in the till, Beowulf is going to have to majorly redeem itself overseas if it hopes to see a profit anytime in the near future.  Personally, I hope Zemeckis stops making these weird, pseudo-animated movies, with their waxy-faced, emotionless characters.
   At fourth we have Hitman, the video game adaptation that did about as well as a generic-looking, poorly reviewed, star-free video game movie could expect to do.  Hitman shot up a solid $13.2 million over the weekend, and  $21.1 million over the 5-day, a sure sign of front loading.  As with most fanboy flicks, I expect Hitman to deteriorate pretty quickly from here, but the film was cheap to make and will turn out a success for Fox.
   Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie buzzes in at fifth place, adding another $11.8 million ($15.8 over the 5-day)  to its total gross of $111.8 million.  Senifeld's animated feature has been met with a resounding "blah" from critics and audiences, and while it is not losing money for Paramount/Dreamworks, it's not the smash success the studio hoped for, either.  In the next few weeks, Enchanted should outshine the rather lackluster family offerings in theaters.
   Speaking of lackluster family films, at number six this weekend was Fred Claus, the Vince Vaughn Christmas movie that just isn't quite clicking.  Warner Bros.' Fred Claus bagged another $10.6 million ($14.9 over the 5-day), bringing its total to a disappointing $52.9 million after 3 weekends.  It seems to be taking the same trajectory of last year's Santa Clause 3, which finished with an underwhelming $84 million.
   Warner Bros.' small film August Rush did relatively well this weekend, earning $9.4 million ($13.2 million over the 5-day).  Made for just $30 million, this is a pretty good start for the film.  Although critics praised the music and acting in August Rush, it received somewhat poor reviews because of its abundant sentimentality.  However, saccharine tends to do well around the holidays (e.g. Dan in Real Life), so I don't think this will hurt the film's box office.
   In eighth, American Gangster continues to chug along, pulling in another $9 million ($12.5 million over the 5-day) this weekend.  Audiences have loved the Russell Crowe/Denzel Washington film, and it has grossed $115.5 million over 4 weeks for Universal.
   The weekend's final new wide release, The Mist, got off to a frightening start, debuting in ninth place with $8.9 million ($12.9 million over the 5-day).  The heavily promoted Stephen King adaptation has received positive reviews from critics, but its tepid $3,686 per theater average won't keep it playing for very long.  Thankfully, the film cost MGM just $18 million to make, so it will probably show a profit on the home market.
   In tenth place is Dustin Hoffman's attempt to play Willy Wonka, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with $7.9 million ($10.8 million over the 5-day).  Trashed by critics, the film has not been widely accepted by audiences either, with a poor $22.1 million after ten days.  While this may have looked like another Night at the Museum, it certainly isn't performing on the same level.
   No Country For Old Men had a very successful expansion into 860 theaters, grossing $7.8 million ($10.7 over the 5-day) for a $16.3 million total.  The Coen Brothers' film had a terrific average of $9,042 per theater, and its award recognition, amazing reviews, and word-of-mouth will continue to carry it financially.
   Proving to be quite the leggy movie, Dan in Real Life pulled in another $3 million ($4.3 million over the 5-day) this weekend.  Steve Carrell's rom-com has impressed with its holds each week, and after a quiet $11.8 million dollar start, it has grossed $42.2 million.  Audiences seem to really enjoy this movie, and it could get to $50 million by the end of its run.

Top Twelve for Nov 23-25
1. Enchanted - $34.4 million
2. This Christmas - $18 million
3. Beowulf - $16.5 million
4. Hitman - $13.1 million
5. Bee Movie - $11.8 million
6. Fred Claus - $10.6 million
7. August Rush - $9.4 million
8. American Gangster - $9 million
9. The Mist - $8.9 million
10. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - $7.9 million
11. No Country For Old Men - $7.8 million
12. Dan in Real Life - $3 million

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