So far, this has been a great year for movies, but after neither of last week's new movies were able to dethrone the previous week's returning movies, we have to wonder whether things are going to slow down a bit going into March.
One of the more interesting films in a year in which we already have two found footage movies trying to portray realism is the Bandito Brothers' Act of Valor (Relativity Media), a modern military action movie starring real "Active-Duty Navy SEALs" which has generated quite a bit of controversy since it was announced, mainly because it seemed to be trying to glom onto the interest in the SEALs after their involvement in the killing of Osama bin Laden. Although the film may be seen politically by some, it's generally been well-marketed to the male audience who would be into a realistic war movie, including a number of strong commercials during the Super Bowl this year. With many males having already seen Safe House, this one is probably going to be able to take over the top spot with an opening weekend between $17 and 19 million and probably around $40 to 45 million total.
Mini-Review: With the overwhelming popularity of "Call of Duty," it was only a matter of time before someone tried to recreate that experience in a movie. Leave it to former stuntmen Mike "Mouse" McCoy and Scott Waugh to recreate the military experience with actual Navy SEALs. In fact, that's the film's main selling point and it's almost immediately evident that they're better at recreating actual SEAL maneuvers than they are at acting or delivering dialogue in a way that makes them feel like real people.
What this means is that all the lingo and maneuvers during the missions seem authentic but it makes everything else almost insufferable as the action revolves around a half-assed plot by Jihady terrorists trying to create chaos in America, whom the SEALs must take down. For the most part, those bad guys are ‘90s action movie cliches with lots of cheesy dialogue about their plans and acting that's even worse. And these are the scenes with real actors, mind you.
Only a couple of the eight SEALs in the movie have enough personality to stand out, not helped by the fact so little time is spent really showcasing their characters. Once they get into the field, good luck figuring out who anyone is. At times, it feels as if these non-actors are being influenced by how other real actors have played soldiers in past movies. In other words, you have non-actors trying hard to act, which defeats the purpose of making a naturalistic film.
Otherwise, the non-action scenes drag as we watch the SEALs carefully infiltrate one enemy encampment or another before things explode into a firefight. There's little question the film's action scenes are fantastic with great camerawork that puts you in the center of it, but without any significant meat around them, "Act of Valor" comes off like a typical Michael Bay movie where the action is terrific but everything else is intolerably bad.
Even worse is the film's manipulative ending dedicating what you just watched to all the Navy SEALs who died in battle, though one wonders whether dedicating such a weakly-conceived movie to our fighting forces is really the compliment the filmmakers had hoped. Rating: 5/10
If you're an African-American woman, then you're probably ecstatic to finally see Tyler Perry returning to theaters with Tyler Perry's Good Deeds (Lionsgate), a straight drama that's one of his rare original ideas written for the screen rather than being adapted from one of the media mogul's popular plays, plus it also puts Perry front and center as the main character, a guy named "Wesley Deeds" in fact. He's joined by an eclectic cast including Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Gabrielle Union, Rebecca Romjin and Jamie Kennedy. As popular as Perry has been in the last few years, essentially being Lionsgate's bread and butter, his movies that don't involve his crossdressing granny Madea haven't done as well, as seen by Daddy's Little Girls ($11.2 million opening, $31.3 million total) and The Family That Preys ($17.4 opening, $37 million total). Good Deeds also has the hindrance of not opening over a holiday weekend which has helped some of Perry's past movies. With that in mind, we think this one will end up in the $14 to 16 million range and probably less than $40 million total.
That leaves the other two movies that seem to be arriving on the scene with weak, last-minute marketing campaigns including Wanderlust (Universal), the new comedy from David Wain, director of Role Models who reunites with Paul Rudd who has not proven himself as a lead actor with a couple of major bombs, first with How Do You Know? ($30.2 gross) and then last year's My Idiot Brother ($24.8 million). This time, he's paired with Jennifer Aniston who may be considered the film's primary box office draw, but for every major hit she's had (including two $100 million grossers in 2011), she every once in a while appears in a movie like The Switch ($27.8 million) or Love Happens ($22 million). Universal seems to have completely forgotten this movie was coming out as they focused on other movies, most notably Contraband and Safe House, both big hits for them. The big story behind this one is that Aniston asked to have her topless scene pulled, which means they can't even bring in any guys who might want to see Aniston topless, which means this one will be lucky to make between $7 and 8 million and probably will end up in the $20 to 23 million range. (Look for my review later this week and an interview with David Wain sometime next week.)
Lastly, Amanda Seyfried stars in the thriller Gone (Summit Entertainment), which looks like some castoff from the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, and not something that might break out either among her fans or those normally into the genre. Seyfried's last few movies have opened in the $12 to 14 million range but Summit is already coming off the disappointing showing for Man on a Ledge, which generally looked like a better movie and we think this one will probably do worse, just because it's marketing campaign just started too late. We think an opening in the $5 to 7 million range will lead to a total gross under $20 million.
This weekend last year was a similarly slow post-holiday weekend with only two new movies, the Farrelly Brothers comedy Hall Pass (New Line/WB), starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, which topped the box office with just $13.5 million. Not doing quite as well was Nicolas Cage's action-thriller Drive Angry 3D (Summit Entertainment), which tanked with just $5.2 million in 2,290 theaters to take ninth place. The Top 10 grossed $92.5 million and there's a good chance this weekend will beat that with two movies potentially doing better than Hall Pass.
This Week's Updated Predictions -
1. Act of Valor (Relativity Media) - $18.7 million N/A (same)
2. Tyler Perry's Good Deeds (Lionsgate) - $16.5 million N/A (up 1.2 million)
3. Safe House (Universal) - $12.6 million –-47%
4. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (New Line/WB) - $12 million –-40%
5. The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony) - $11.5 million -49%
6. This Means War (20th Century Fox) - $9.5 million -46%
7. Wanderlust (Universal) - $8.3 million N/A (up .7 million and one spot)
8. Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (Sony) - $8 million -63%
9. Gone (Summit) - $6.3 million N/A (Same)
10. The Secret World of Arriety (Disney) - $4 million
Not a lot of limited releases this week although Maria Full of Grace director Joshua Marston is back with his second feature film The Forgiveness of Blood (Sundance Selects), a film set in Albania about a teenager who gets caught up in his family's blood feud when he becomes the primary target for revenge from the family's enemies. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra writer Stuart Beattie makes his directorial debut with Tomorrow When the War Began (Freestyle Digital Media), an action-thriller following eight teenagers as they face a fierce military invasion on their Australian coastal town that no one saw coming. It opens in select cities and on Video on Demand.
From Bollywood comes Ashwini Chaudhary's romantic comedy Jodi Breakers (Yash Raj Films), starring R. Madhavan as Sid, a break-up specialist helping couples end bad relationships but changes his point of view when he meets Bipasha Basu's Sonali. Shot partially in Greece and Goa, this will open in select cities Friday.
Next week, March comes in like some kind of animal that would enter a month with movies like the animated family movie Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (Universal) and the found footage teen comedy Project X (Warner Bros.) If anyone figures out what that animal is, please let us know. (Next Friday is also the Weekend Warrior's birthday so here's hoping not all of next week's offerings absolutely suck.)
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