The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior: July 25 - 27

Source: Edward Douglas
July 23, 2008

Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend's new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts.

This week's two new movies in wide release probably won't have too much of an effect on last week's #1 movie The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), which should remain on top despite a significant but not substantial drop from its record-setting opening weekend. It will be vying for a second weekend over $72.2 million, which would give it another record for top grossing 2nd week over Shrek 2 in 2004. Even with a fairly big drop-off from its mostly sold out first weekend, it should be able to break that record.

Then again, that will create somewhat of a horse race for second place between two very different movies, a sequel to a popular television drama released six years after its demise and the latest attempt by the Comedy Mafia to take over the world one laugh at a time. The return of Mulder and Scully in Chris Carter's The X-Files: I Want to Believe (20th Century Fox) will probably bring in whatever amount of the original show's fans that are still around into theaters but there may not be enough of them to make a giant showing since few other moviegoers will be particularly interested. Then again, there's a little show called Comic-Con International this weekend where 120,000+ genre fans will be converging in San Diego for the next five days, and you have to assume that at least some percentage of them will want to see the return of their favorite extraterrestrial detectives. Either way, expect a big showing on Friday as the fans rush out to see it, but then it will quickly tail off over the weekend.

That should give Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's reunion in Adam McKay's situational comedy Step Brothers (Sony) the advantage over the weekend. Their first movie together since the 2006 hit Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby could be just what the box office needs, being the first straight comedy of the month, beating out a string of comedies being released in August. Like Ferrell's last movie Semi-Pro, the basketball comedy which failed to find many fans, it's another attempt at R-rated humor, but one that should be helped by the summer and the lack of comedies, which should allow it to achieve a strong second place.

This week's "Chosen One" is Man on Wire (Magnolia Films), James Marsh's documentary about Philippe Petit's historic crossing of a high wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center, which you can read about below.

Note: The Weekend Warrior will be in San Diego this weekend for Comic-Con International so next week's column will most definitely be late again (Wednesday at the earliest) and (hopefully) shorter than normal.

This Week's Predictions -

1. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) – $74.5 million -53%

2. Step Brothers (Sony) - $28.3 million N/A

3. The X-Files: I Want to Believe (20th Century Fox) - $23.2 million N/A

4. Mamma Mia! (Universal) – $15.5 million -44%

5. Journey to the Center of the Earth (New Line) – $7.5 million -39%

6. Hancock (Sony) – $7.4 million -47%

7. WALL*E (Pixar/Disney) - $6.0 million -40%

8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal) - $5.2 million -49%

9. Space Chimps (20th Century Fox) - $4.4 million -38%

10. Wanted (Universal) - $2.5 million -50%

Last year, the month of July ended with the astounding showing for The Simpsons Movie, another 20th Century Fox movie based on one of their popular shows, although the animated comedy blew the door off all predictions, bringing in $74 million in business in nearly 4,000 theaters, probably helped by its placement on Comic-Con weekend. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Hairspray followed with between $15 and 20 million, followed by the Warner Bros. romantic comedy No Reservations starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin, which opened in fifth place with $11.7 million in 2,425 theaters. The top 10 was rounded out by two bonafide bombs, Lindsay Lohan's future Razzie-winner I Know Who Killed Me and the Dimension comedy Who's Your Caddy? starring "Big Boi" from OutKast, which grossed $3.5 and $2.7 million respectively in a little over a thousand theaters. The Top 10 grossed $169 million and this weekend might best it thanks to the continued success of The Dark Knight.



The X-Files: I Want to Believe (20th Century Fox)
Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Xzibit, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Callum Keith Rennie, Adam Godley
Written and Directed by Chris Carter with Frank Spotnitz (creator, writer and producer from "The X-Files" television drama that ran for 9 years on Fox)
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "Believe Again"
Plot Summary: Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) continue their look for the truth while taking their complicated relationship into new directions. (And that's about all that 20th Century Fox and Chris Carter will let us know about the movie.)

It's been six years since creator Chris Carter turned the lights off on the set of his popular TV genre drama "The X-Files" after nine seasons that garnered the show numerous Emmy, Golden Globe and Saturn awards, as well as nominations among many technical groups. The principle behind the show was to show the investigations of David Duchovny's Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully, two federal agents specializing in the paranormal and supernatural with special attention paid to extraterrestrial encounters.

The show would eventually lay the groundwork for a number of spin-offs like "The Lone Gunmen" and t helped Carter bring viewers over to his other series "Millenium," but more than anything it told networks that there were a lot of genre fans out there looking for more of their type of entertainment. The show was successful enough in its first few season that Carter decided to move it to the big screen, and the first movie, The X-Files: Fight the Future, continued the ongoing storyline from the show to bring in $30 million its opening weekend during the summer of '98 and go onto gross $186 million worldwide, which isn't a bad chunk of change for a movie based on a TV show. The show also spawned books and comics and games, creating a large and devout fanbase, but by the last few seasons, it was running out of steam and Duchovny left out of contractual issues and boredom, and the series ended up on a low note in 2002 after he was replaced by Robert Patrick. Even so, the seeds were planted and years later, hour-long serialized shows like "Lost" and "Heroes" have been able to attract a similar devout group of genre fans.

The stars of the show, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, created such beloved characters that it became hard for them to break out and diversify and get attention for anything else they've done though they both remained fairly busy since the show ended. Duchovny tried having a film career, appearing in bombs like Playing God and Evolution and not having much better luck with recent indies like his directorial debut House of D or Trust the Man or The TV Set. Maybe that's why David Duchovny has spent every interview he's done in the last five years talking up the fact that another "X-Files" movie was in the works, failing to mention that one of the things holding it back was his lawsuit against Fox due to his dissatisfaction with the syndication of the show. At least he's been able to break out a bit with his recent Showtime show "Californication" that's helped put him back in the public eye as someone other than Fox Mulder.

Over the years, many television shows have been remade or reworked for the big screen and only a few that were ported directly over to the movies that proved successful such as last year's The Simpsons Movie, a huge gamble on the part of 20th Century Fox to bring the popular Sunday night cartoon to the big screen that paid off big time when it grossed $74 million over the same weekend last year. One big difference is that it was a show that was still on the air and still popular while "The X-Files" was already losing its audience by the time it ended. Another example of a television show that returned as a movie was the recent Sex and the City which was released as a movie after being off the air for four years, and it created a huge sensation as millions of women rushed out to see it opening weekend to the tune of $56 million. On the other hand, Joss Whedon tried bringing his cancelled show "Firefly" to the big screen with 2006's Serenity and even though the show had a diehard "Browncoat" fanbase that showed up for the movie's Comic-Con panel, the movie only opened with $10 million, making it a disastrous bomb which never got past the $24 million mark. Then there was a thing called Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, a continuation of David Lynch's odd television show, which bombed when he tried continuing the story on the big screen.

That's two cases where continuing a television show onto the big screen didn't work, though having been six years since the show ended, one would assume that the former fans of the show have been dying to see more Mulder and Scully, and that they'll probably rush out to see it on Friday or Saturday, while non-fans probably won't have very much interest at all. Like Sex and the City, the original "X-Files" had a fairly large audience of older women who enjoyed the semi-platonic relationship between the two main characters and they'll want to see more of the two of them together, and that gives the movie a slight advantage in this marketplace where last week's movie musical Mamma Mia! is the only thing out there for women. The movie should generally be more of interest to the over-25 crowd who used to watch the show religiously in the '90s rather than teens. (Although teens who can't buy tickets for Will Ferrell's latest could theoretically boost The X-Files' box office by buying tickets for this and sneaking into Step Brothers.)

Even so, The X-Files: I Want to Believe--a pretty lame title for a movie you have to admit--doesn't have quite the same amount of buzz as the Sex and the City movie nor the amount of interest among mainstream media, so it'll really come down to the fans and maybe a few others who've already seen everything else in theaters and won't have interest in another Will Ferrell comedy. 20th Century Fox took their time marketing this one, presumably wanting not to build up expectations, but also trying to keep the plot of this standalone story a secret. That may have backfired since few people besides the handful of diehard fans who've been waiting for the return of their favorite characters will know of the release.

The show probably lost a lot of its fans with the last couple seasons because they were so weak, and it'll be hard for a movie to win them back enough that they'd want to pay to see "I Want to Believe" in theaters rather than waiting for the DVD. That's one of the big problems with TV shows turned into movies, in that most people are perfectly fine seeing them on television and it really has to promise something special to get them into theaters. "Fight the Future" continued an important storyline from the show, which made it an important piece of the puzzle that the show's fans felt the need to see.

On the other hand, there's a little thing called Comic-Con this weekend where many genre fans will be converging, including the diehard fans of the show, all in one place, so one can expect a lot of them to go out to see this en masse. Last year, the geek holiday may have helped give a bump to Fox's The Simpsons Movie, but the year before, M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water tanked over the weekend of Comic-Con despite having its roots in genre that would normally appeal to that crowd.

Still, the second weekend of The Dark Knight will still be a huge draw for genres fans, based on the buzz and word-of-mouth generated from its record-setting opening weekend, and since The X-Files will really only appeal to the fans of the show, there's probably a limit of how much it might make its opening weekend and in total. Personally, I don't see this doing as well as the previous movie with a lot of the buzz for the show having dwindled away to almost nothing.

Why I Should See It: If you've been waiting six years for the return of Mulder and Scully... you really need to get out more, dude!
Why Not: The show got pretty lame in the last few seasons, so who's to say that a movie will be much better?
Projections: $21 to 24 million opening weekend on its way to $65 million total.

COMPARISONS



Step Brothers (Sony)
Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Katherine Hahn
Directed by Adam McKay ("Talladega Nights," "Anchorman"); Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay ("Talladega Nights," Anchorman)
Genre: Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: "They grow up so fast."
Plot Summary: Brennan and Dale (Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly) are 40-year-old guys still living at home with their single parents (Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen), but when their parents meet, fall in love and get married, the two guys who've failed to grow up must learn to get along.

Review (Coming Soon!)

There's a growing phenomenon within the world of comedy centered around Judd Apatow, who for the most part, seems to be comedy's equivalent to King Midas, but just as important to this phenomenon, this movement if you'd like, is former SNL cast member Will Ferrell, whose 2004 movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy first teamed him and his long-time collaborator Adam McKay with Apatow. Ferrell was coming off the enormous holiday hit Elf and "Anchorman" solidified his status as a bonafide comedy star when it grossed $28.4 million its opening weekend. The movie also starred the likes of Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Seth Rogen, plus cameos from others in that extended comedy crew including Jack Black, Ben Stiller and others, many who would continue to work with Ferrell and Apatow. It was the start of a new wave of comedy that would lead to Apatow directing his first movie, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and producing many others that would prove successful, including last year's Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall earlier this year.

To be fair, while Step Brothers is produced by Apatow, it's more of a Will Ferrell movie as he continues to work with long-time collaborator Adam McKay, who he's been working with since their days together on "Saturday Night Live" where McKay was the head writer. Ferrell was already well on the way to stardom before making "Anchorman" so one can't fully credit Apatow for the success, although what Apatow did bring to the mix is showing that comedies could be R-rated and still be successful when The 40-Year-Old Virgin became a $100 million grossing hit in the same summer where New Line's Wedding Crashers (featuring a small cameo by Ferrell) also did big business.

With the 2006 hit Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ferrell and McKay brought on actor John C. Reilly as Ferrell's movie, and the movie achieved Ferrell's biggest opening with $47 million and made another $100 million over the late summer of 2006. The three of them enjoyed working together so much that they decided to make another movie together. In the meantime, Reilly starred in the Judd Apatow-produced biopic spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, which was a big bomb despite Sony using Apatow's previous success with Superbad and "Talladega Nights" as the main selling point. Step Brothers is very different than "Talladega," getting away from the racing action of that film's NASCAR environment to create situational humor within a more familiar environment, similar to what Apatow has done with his own movies, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, following similar themes of man-children who refuse to grow up. It's a fairly simple high comedy premise that's easy to understand and relate to for mass audiences and one that doesn't need a lot to explain or understand. The nature of the humor could also be compared favorably to movies like Vince Vaughn's hit comedy The Break-Up or the recent Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama, essentially pitting two funny comics against each other in a particular situation.

For the new movie, the duo are joined by veteran characters Richard Jenkins, coming off Tom McCarthy's surprise indie sleeper The Visitor, and Mary Steenburgen, an Oscar-winning actress who has remained relatively low profile in the last years, except for a few stints on Larry David's show "Curb Your Enthusiasm." There's also a fairly substantial role for Adam Scott as Ferrell's successful brother. Scott had a small role in Knocked Up and fans of Apatow's movies will also be excited to see a bunch of famous faces making cameos from his previous movies, something they've come to expect from previous movies like the ones mentioned above.

There aren't a lot of comedies in theaters right now with most of the screens being used up by superhero action movies so Step Brothers will be a refreshing change, and it's more of a situational high concept character piece than the big budget sports comedies Ferrell has been doing in recent years. Like Ferrell's last movie, Semi-Pro, his latest is rated R and it's really only his third movie to be released specifically for the over-17 crowd, the first being his early movie Old School. Some felt that the lack of success of Semi-Pro over previous Will Ferrell movies was due to the rating, although it probably had more to do with the poor marketing by New Line which didn't make the movie look very funny. The good thing is that this isn't another sports comedy, something that Ferrell has done so much in recent years that his fans have gotten annoyed with him doing the same schtick in every movie, whether he's playing soccer or basketball or ice skating, which might have turned some people off from seeing Semi-Pro.

The good thing is that even with its R-rating, Step Brothers will appeal to younger audiences than the weekend's other alternative "The X-Files," and there are probably enough 17 to 25 year olds into Ferrell's humor that the rating won't make that big a difference even if the chances of a repeat of "Talladega Nights" is doubtful without the demographic expanding PG-13 rating. Currently, Wedding Crashers and Superbad are the only R-rated comedies to open with $33 million but granted, both of those were also in the late summer.

Unfortunately, in less than two weeks, Step Brothers will have to face Apatow and Sony's other R-rated comedy Pineapple Express, which will ultimately prevent Step Brothers from becoming the fourth Will Ferrell movie to cross the $100 million mark. Even so, it should ultimately do better than it's competition this weekend as it should have decent word-of-mouth and be a suitable alternative to all of the comic book and superhero movies in theaters.

Why I Should See It: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Adam McKay and Judd Apatow give it another go to make a comedy that will appeal to a mass audience.
Why Not: Some might feel that it's Ferrell doing the same thing he's been doing so much in past movies.
Projections: $27 to 30 million opening weekend and $80 to 90 million total.

COMPARISONS



THE CHOSEN ONE:

This is such a great weekend for limited releases but despite the number of decent movies, there's only one that I've considered the only perfect 10/10 movie of the year so far:

Man on Wire (Magnolia Films)
Starring Philippe Petit, Paul McGill, Ardis Campbell, David Demato
Written and directed by James Marsh (The King, Wisconsin Death Trip, The Burger and the King)
Genre: Documentary
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "1974. 1350 feet up. The artistic crime of the century."
Plot Summary: On the morning of August 7, 1974, a French high wire artist named Philippe Petit was seen high above the downtown New York streets walking across a wire stretched between the newly-built Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. It was an incredible once in a lifetime feat that seemed impossible, and yet, somehow, he was able to execute the plan, and this documentary tells the entire story of how Petit accomplished it.

Interview with James Marsh & Philippe Petit

The first time I heard about this amazing documentary was when I was sitting in a bar at the Yarrow Hotel in Park City, Utah with my pal Devin Faraci of CHUD (I'm going to drop his name because he does it all the time), and he was telling me how he'd just seen this great documentary called "Man on Wire." A couple minutes later, he got really excited because the star of the movie, Philippe Petit (the "man" of the title) had walked into the bar, but not having seen the movie, I had no idea what the big deal was. He seemed like a fairly normal guy to me… but that's before I saw the movie myself at the Tribeca Film Festival a few months back. In fact, Philippe Petit is quite an energetic and animated character while telling this amazing story of how he achieved something that no one has done before or since, and his entertaining recounting of the events is only part of what comprises his historic tight ropewalk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 mere years after they were built. Filmmaker James Marsh used different techniques to tell the story of how Petit became obsessed with walking between the towers since he first heard of their construction and spent years planning in secrecy how to achieve what seem like an impossible feat. The film is fairly comprehensive as Marsh interviewed many of the key players, including all of Petit's collaborators, to get as much detail about the planning stages as possible, accompanied by stylish recreations of the fateful night's planning that keeps it from feeling too much like a "talking heads" doc. The combination of the two creates something that plays out like something from one of the "Ocean's 11" movies, filmed in a noirish black and white style. What might be the most amazing revelation is that Petit had been sneaking up to the top of the World Trade Center for months before the day the plan was executed, and we see the never-before-seen pictures to prove it. The way the film is structured keeps you riveted to the screen and makes you feel like you're there during the entire planning and execution phases, and some of the eyewitness testimonials from the day, including Petit's arresting officer, makes the actual footage and photos of the Petit's walk in the clouds one of the most beautiful things you're likely to see on film, and the film a particularly poignant one considering that the towers are no longer there. Even though there are have been a lot of great documentaries in recent years, there are very few perfect movies, but Marsh has created a film that's endlessly fascinating and enjoyable in a way few documentaries ever are able to achieve in their attempts to include as many facts and numbers as possible. "Man on Wire" may be one of the most amazing cinematic experiences and achievements in terms of recreating a single event in history in the most comprehensive way.

Clearly the best movie of the year so far, Man on Wire opens on Friday in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and the Landmark Sunshine. Hopefully, the rest of the country will have a chance to see it.

Honorable Mention:

Boy A (Third Rail/The Weinstein Co.) - Andrew Garfield (Lions for Lambs) stars in the second film from director John Crowley and screenwriter Mark O'Rowe (Intermission), an adaptation of Jonathan Trigell's novel about a 24-year-old man living with the dark secret that he's the infamous "Boy A," a child who imprisoned for 14 years for a horrifying act, and who out of prison, tries to create a new life for himself. It opens in New York at the Film Forum on Wednesday (today) and in L.A. on Friday.

Interviews with John Crowley and Andrew Garfield

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

CSNY: Deja Vu (Roadside Attractions) - War correspondent Mike Cerre joins Crosby Stills Nash and Young on their 2006 "Freedom of Speech" tour to promote Neil Young's controversial "Living with War" CD and protest against the United States' continued presence in Iraq. Along with concert footage of the quartet singing new and old songs, it also feature interviews with those who've been affected by the war, both soldiers and the families who've lost loved ones. Directed by Neil Young (as "Bernard Shakey"), it opens in select cities on Friday.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

American Teen (Paramount Vantage) – Nanette Burstein spent a year in Warsaw, Indiana following the journeys of five high school seniors as they follow their dreams in trying to reach their goals with all sorts of pressures put upon them. Having wowed audiences at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the doc opens in New York and L.A. before a wider release in August.
Interview with Nanette Burstein

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Also in Limited Release:

Baghead (Sony Classics) – Mark and Jay Duplass (The Puffy Chair) return with a comedic thriller based around four acting friends who go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend to write a feature vehicle for themselves, only to be terrorized by a man with a paperbag over his head. After being picked up at this year's Sundance Film Festival, it opens in New York and L.A. this weekend.
My Thoughts from Sundance

Interview with the Duplass Brothers and their Cast (Coming later this week)

This week, New York's IFC Center gets:
The Animation Show (Studio) - "Beavis & Butt-Head" Mike Judge hand-picked the selections in this fourth collection of animated shorts including the premiere of Steve Dildarian's "The Life and Times of Tim", which was picked up by HBO, Dave Carter's "Psychotown," the premiere of "Hot Dog," a new cartoon from Bill Plympton, and many other cartoons from around the globe.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

The Order of Myths - Margaret Brown's documentary looks at the traditions behind the Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile, Alabama, which has led to segregated festivities and parades from competing all-black and all-white organizations and the differences between the city's two main racial factions.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Brideshead Revisited (Miramax) – Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane) adapts the classic literary novel set in the period between WWI and WWII with Matthew Goode (Match Point, The Lookout) playing Charles Ryder, a man who becomes obsessed with the Marchmain family, the charming Sebastian (Ben Whishaw) and his sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). With Emma Thompson playing the lady of the househeld, this classic story best known from the BBC mini-series comes to the big screen, opening in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Bustin' Down That Door (Screen Media Films) - Narrated by Edward Norton, Jeremy Gosch's documentary looks at the two-year competition between two rival surfing crews in Oau, Hawaii and how they changed the sport of professional surfing. It opens in New York at the Village East Cinemas, as well as in San Diego, La Jolla and other California locations.

Canary (ImaginAsian Entertainment) - Akihiko Shiota drama about two children, Koichi and Yuki, trying to overcome their parents' mistakes, a boy who was indoctrinated into a religious cult by his mother and a girl who deal with an abusive father. The two travel together to try and find happiness. It will open at the ImaginAsian Theaters in New York and L.A. on Friday.

No Regret (Regent Releasing/Here! Films) - Leesong Hee-il's romantic drama about a young orphan who moves to the city to study but ends up losing his job and becoming a prostitute in a gay bar, while exploring a relationship with a man from a wealthy family who disproves their son's sexuality. It opens in New York and L.A.



Next week, the month of August kicks off with the return of Brendan Fraser (him, again!?!) in the action 3-quel The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Kevin Costner is also back in the political comedy Swing Vote (Touchstone Pictures).

Copyright 2008 Edward Douglas




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