The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior: February 20 - 22

Source: Edward Douglas
February 18, 2009

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 theater counts.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

1. Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail (Lionsgate) - $26.7 million N/A (up 1.1 million)

2. Friday the 13th (New Line/WB) – $18.5 million -55% (same)

3. Taken (20th Century Fox) - $12.0 million -37%

4. He's Just Not That Into You (New Line/WB) – $11.4 million -42%

5. Coraline (Focus Features) - $9.5 million -37%

6. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Disney/Touchstone) – $8.5 million -44%

7. Fired Up - $7.3 million N/A (down .9 million)

8. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) - $7.1 million -35%

9. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) - $6.5 million -13% (up 1.3 million)

10. The International (Sony) - $5.0 million -47% (same)

Weekend Overview

After a strong President's Day weekend, things settle down with two new movies opening on Oscar weekend, though one presumes neither of them has a chance in hell of ever being considered for any awards EVER.

The bi-annual tradition of Tyler Perry releasing a movie continues with the Atlanta mogul adapting and starring in his own hit play Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail (Lionsgate), co-starring Derek Luke and Viola Davis. Being based on Perry's popular play and marking the return of the cross-dressing Madea as a main character should play a big factor in bringing Perry's mostly African-American female fans into theaters this weekend, and that should be enough to help "Madea Goes to Jail" become his second biggest movie after 2007's "Madea's Family Reunion."

Offering some comedy counter-programming for white teens is the cheerleading movie Fired Up (Sony/Screen Gems), featuring a cast of generally unknown jock and cheerleader types, as well as 31-year-old Eric Christian Olsen and Disturbia's Sarah Roehmer. While it's opening fairly moderately in less than 2,000 theaters, the desire by teens to have something fun they can go see in groups, barring the lack of a spoof movie this winter, should keep the movie from completely bombing despite its lack of known stars. Expect it to end up somewhere in the middle of the returning movies.

It's doubtful either of these movies will be affected by the Oscars on Sunday night, although some of the returning movies might if the telecast is any kind of a draw for movie buffs this year.

This weekend last year, Sony's political thriller Vantage Point topped the box office with $22.8 million in over 3,000 theaters, a strong showing for the genre, ending up well ahead of the returning President's Day movies. Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind (New Line), starring Jack Black and Mos Def, made $4 million in 808 theaters to open in ninth place, faring better than the other two wide releases as Larry the Cable Guy's latest Witless Protection (Lionsgate) and Charlie Bartlett (MGM) opened outside the Top 10 with roughly $2 million each, despite opening in over a thousand theaters. They didn't contribute to the Top 10's gross of $85 million, an amount that should be bested as this year continues the trend of the box office being up from last year.



Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail (Lionsgate)
Starring Tyler Perry, Derek Luke, Keshia Knight Pulliam, David Mann, Tamala Mann, Ronreaco Lee, Ion Overman, Vanessa Ferlito, Viola Davis, Sophia Vergara, Robin Coleman, Bobbi Baker
Written and directed by Tyler Perry (The Family That Preys
Genre: Comedy
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "Something big is coming to the big house."
Plot Summary: After the high-speed freeway chase in Meet the Browns, grandma Madea (Tyler Perry) is put behind bars after getting into a verbal fight with the judge, so the Brown family rallies behind her to try get her out. Along comes Assistant D.A. Joshua Hardaway (Derek Luke) who is defending a young prostitute (Keisha Knight Pullman), who ultimately ends up sharing a jail cell with Madea.

Analysis:

Having written this column for over seven years, this will now be the seventh time that I'm writing about a movie from Atlanta's Tyler Perry, a national and cultural phenomenon who has transformed a successful career as a playwright into him becoming a bonafide entertainment mogul. The five films he's directed before his new one have grossed over $200 million, following the success of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" exactly four years ago, and since then, Perry has found similar success with his television show "House of Payne" which is currently in its fifth season. Even with all that success, one has to look at the declining grosses for Tyler's recent movies and start wondering whether his long-term fans might have begun to give up on him. After Perry's directorial debut "Madea's Family Reunion," which grossed over $60 million, none of his other movies have done that well, and his last movie "The Family That Preys" opened under $20 million with a total gross of just $37 million, making it his second lowest grossing film.

What makes his new movie different is that Perry is back to adapting one of his hit plays--his two lowest grossing movies were written directly for the screen--and it also puts Perry back in drag as his much beloved alter-ego Madea, who has only been appearing in scattered movies since "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." She was featured in Perry's directorial debut and then made a brief appearance in "Meet the Browns," but otherwise, Perry has been saving her for this movie, which is all about Madea, something that fans of his play will know full well.

As has been the case with Perry's other movies, the film is filled with lots of great African-American talent, but two names will immediately jump out, the first one being Derek Luke, who most recently played Puff Daddy in the rap biopic Notorious, which had similar success as Perry's movies, at least opening weekend. Luke has appeared in a lot of different movies since being discovered by Denzel Washington for his own directorial debut Antwone Fischer, and it's interesting to see him playing supporting roles like this one. Another familiar face, at least to those paying attention to this year's Oscar race, is Viola Davis, who is up for an Oscar in the supporting category for her role in the drama Doubt, and in the past few weeks, she's become the dark horse candidate to take it. It certainly would be a great for Davis if she wins an Oscar the same weekend her new movie is #1, wouldn't it?

Perry also has a couple of Latin goddesses in his new movie in the gorgeous forms of Vanessa Ferlito (Death Proof) and Sophia Vergara (Four Brothers), presumably playing inmates holed up with Madea, and probably making her look even uglier.

There's not a lot else one can say about Perry's new movie, because it obviously has its built-in audience that eat up everything Perry has to say. On the other hand, it's doubtful that this will be able to bring any new audiences, because unlike something like Martin Lawrence, Perry hasn't done enough of an outreach to try and crossover to non-African-American audiences or men. (Maybe his appearance in the upcoming Star Trek will change that? No, probably not.) It will be interesting to see if Lionsgate will be able to get Perry's latest movie into more theaters than "Madea's Family Reunion," but either way, expect an impressive Friday and a quick drop-off, going by the normal trajectory of Perry's films.

Why I Should See It/Why Not: After writing about seven Tyler Perry movies, I'm giving up on this one; just do whatever you want.
Projections: $23 to 26 million opening weekend and less than $55 million total.

COMPARISONS



Fired Up (Sony/Screen Gems)
Starring Nicholas D'Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen, Sarah Roemer, Molly Sims, Danneel Harris, Philip Baker Hall, Adhir Kalyan, Annalynne McCord, John Michael Higgins
Directed by Will Gluck (debut from writer of "The Loop" and "Andy Richter Controls the Universe"); Written by Freedom Jones
Genre: Comedy
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "2 Guys. 300 Girls. You Do the Math."
Plot Summary: Shawn and Nick (Nicholas D'Agosto & Eric Christian Olsen) are the stars of their high school football team, but instead of going to football camp, they hatch a scheme to join their school's cheerleaders at cheer camp where they'll be surrounded by gorgeous girls.

Mini-Review: It's not particularly surprising that the involvement of Maxim magazine with this high concept comedy is discreetly being played down, because distributor Screen Gems probably realizes what a huge audience of teen girls and cheerleaders the film might attract if they didn't realize they were in for 94 minutes of being treated like objects by two guys who make Shaun William Scott and Ashton Kutcher's characters in "Dude, Where's My Car?" seem tolerable. Even so, the two guys are surrounded by so many dumb scantily-clad cheerleaders that they easily fall for Shawn and Nick's crude pick-up lines. That is, all but the ultra-cute Sarah Roemer as the high school cheerleading captain who is onto their tricks. D'Agosto was great in "Rocket Science" and it's a shame that he has to resort to such low-brow material like this, though he does have some degree of charm, especially compared to his partner in crime, 31-year-old Eric Christian Olsen, who even makes jokes about camp counselor Molly Sims' age while spending most of the movie doing his best to channel Jim Carrey. John Michael Higgins shows up to do what he's already done so well in other movies and it does lift things up somewhat, but the real scene-stealer is young Juliette Gogliaas Poppy, the younger sister of one of the guys, who seems to be incredibly well-connected for a kid. Then again, you'll probably be confounded by why an actor like Philip Baker Hall might have agreed to be in the movie, essentially uttering a stream of expletives as his dialogue. As much as the movie tries its best at pushing the envelope of its PG-13, it's rarely funny, trying everything it can to warm the audience up with every single pop culture reference it can think of, making it blatantly obvious how out of touch the writer is with modern-day teens. (I mean, seriously, a "Hamlet 2" reference? Did the producers see how little that movie made?) It's not bad enough that the movie shamelessly rips off "Bring It On" obviously with a rivalry between two cheering squads, but then in one scene, it even shows a scene from it as the cheerleaders at the camp mouth along to the lines from the film they've all memorized. Rule #1 of being overly derivative is don't remind your audience that you're following in the footsteps of a much better movie. Then there's the blatant homophobic jokes that permeate the movie from Higgins, who seems to be unable to get a role where he isn't of questionable sexuality, to the guys' fellow male cheerleaders--all overtly gay--to the Sapphic relationship between some of the girls on the cheering squad that's handled in such an overt way that it could only have come from a roomful of horny male writers. (The credited writer Freedom Jones seems to have been made up to hide the identities of the true perpetrators of this terrible script.) Because the story is so derivative of other movies, it's always obvious where everything is going, so there aren't too many surprises. When all else fails, the story veers into a romance between Shawn and Carly that's hindered by her "pre-fiance, Dr Rick," played as over-the-top as possible by David Walton, driving home the point that "Fired Up" is little more than the movie equivalent of Hot Chicks with Douche Bags. As hard as this movie tries to "bring it on," it probably should have left the cheerleading realm well enough alone, because it delivers one of the most blatantly sexist and homophobic comedies in some time. While not nearly as painful as the recent spoof movies America's youth have been subjected to, no self-respecting young lady, cheerleader or not, should allow themselves to be exposed to such misogyny by their so-called friends. Rating: 4/10

Analysis:

What can we say about this movie that seems to be an attempt to revive the "Bring It On" franchise for the big screen, but from a guys' perspective? Well, it is the first movie produced under the "Maxim" banner, as they try to become the new "National Lampoon," although the association with the men's magazine has conveniently been removed from the title, knowing full well that a flop out of the gate could hurt the other movies planned under the banner as well as for other reasons. (see below) What we have left is what looks like a high concept comedy with a convenient PG-13 rating to bring in the teens who'll likely be the only ones interested in it.

So who do we have in the cast? We have Nicholas D'Agosto, who's appeared on "Heroes" and other television shows, but otherwise is a virtual unknown unless you've seen the excellent indie Rocket Science--Maxim must love this guy because he's also appearing in their next movie Mardi Gras. He's paired with 31 year-old Eric Christian Olsen--yes, you read that right... 31--and he's playing a high school student. You've probably seen Olsen around; he starred on director Will Gluck's show "The Loop" and appeared in everything from Beerfest to License to Wed, but that still doesn't explain why he's playing a high school student. Since Maxim is known for its pictures of hot women, they got the incredibly hot Sarah Roemer from Disturbia to play the head cheerleader, while John Michael Higgins appears prominently in the trailer and commercials, much like he did in The Break-Up and other comedies.

Screen Gems has mainly been targeting teen audiences, posting an extended ten-minute clip on YouTube, but the trailers and commercials have generally been all over the place from just focusing on the story to one where a bunch of guys sing along to "Tubthumping" while driving in their car, a scene that has little to do with the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie is facing some of the same problems that Summit had with Sex Drive and Fox had with The Rocker last year, though at least they were able to get a PG-13 rating despite the racy and raunchy material.

What's strange is that the association with Maxim seems to have been completely forgotten, just as the magazine's name has been removed from the title. Who knows whether it will be back for their next collaboration with Screen Gems, formerly called "Maxim's Mardi Gras"--in which three guys go down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or "Maxim's Virginity Rocks" (no idea what that is about)--but chances are that wiser heads prevailed over at Screen Gems, knowing that putting the "Maxim" name on this movie would immediately turn off and limit the number of young women, the demographic that were the driving force behind the success of the original Bring It On and movies like Stick It!.

Still, this seems too much like a movie that's trying hard to reach both teen guys and girls, which could make it a good post-Valentine's date movie, though it might be too sexist and girl-crazy to go over well with the younger women who normally might go see a cheerleading comedy. But who really knows? Maybe they'll find the two lead characters cute and charming enough for their behavior to be forgivable. Either way, the movie's only chance this weekend will be to find an audience of less discerning teenagers, who haven't been given too many strong non-romantic non-family comedies in recent weeks.

Why I Should See It: If you're a young guy, you might want to see this for all the hot young actresses dressed like cheerleaders, particularly Sarah Roehmer.
Why Not: This looks beyond dumb, and it's doubtful anyone with anything above a high school education will have any interest, let alone appreciate the film's sense of humor.
Projections: $7 to 9 million opening weekend and $22 million total

COMPARISONS



THE CHOSEN ONE:

Katyn (Koch Lorber Films)
Starring Maja Ostaszewska, Artur Zmijewski, Andrzej Chyra, Jan Englert
Directed by Andzej Wajda; Written by Andrzej Wajda, Wladyslaw Pasikowski, Przemyslaw Nowakowski, Andrej Mularczyk
Genre: War, Drama
Plot Summary: This war drama based on the novel "Poster Mortem" looks at the horrible massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet Army in the spring of 1940, an occurrence that was denied for almost five decades as those who spoke out were imprisoned and silenced until Gorbachev admitted the nation's responsibility. The film looks at some of the families affected by the murders who had to keep the truth to themselves.

Over a year after being nominated for an Oscar, Poland's award-winning war drama finally gets a U.S. release after playing at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. It's very much a passion project for 82-year-old filmmaker Andzej Wajda, whose own father died in the horrific murder of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest as the partnership between the Nazis and Soviets fell apart early during WWII, and the two sides spent years afterwards pointing fingers at who was responsible. The majority of the story revolves around an army captain played by Artur Zmijewski, whose wife desperately tries to keep him from going off to the internment camps, expecting the worst. It's the type of stirring WWII story that we've seen so often around Oscar time, but being more of a personal story, as well as one that might not be very well known outside of Poland. Wajda has assembled a really amazing ensemble cast to realize an excellent script, and the film is beautifully shot by Pawel Edelman with some truly gorgeous sequences. It's a slow film that's maintains a rather dour tone, and once the war is over, the movie gets somewhat disjointed and convoluted as it jumps between various family members who've been affected by the murders, trying to find out the truth about the death of their loved ones and getting into trouble for even suggesting that the Soviets might be responsible for the deaths. It's not until we get to the very end of the movie where we see actually see the incident in question, how the Russians created a conveyer belt of death, clinically shooting each officer in the head before dropping them into a mass grave, and it's a truly horrifying finale that really drives home the point and leaves an unforgettable impression on the viewer. If nothing else, it's certainly an interesting film for its very personal look at the cover-up surrounding wrong-doings by our allies, the Soviets, during WWII.

It opens at the Film Forum in New York on Wednesday.

Honorable Mention:

Film Comment Selects (Film Society of Lincoln Center) - If you're in the New York City area in the next few weeks, you may want to check out this annual program from the Film Society of Lincoln Center curated by the editors and writers of the Film Society's prestigious film magazine. Some of the more interesting selections include John Boorman's long-delayed The Tiger's Tail, which reunites him with Brendan Gleeson in a dual role as a well-to-do Irish real estate mogul and the doppelganger who is trying to ruin him. One of the five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, the Austrian crime drama Revanche from Götz Spielmann will have its New York premiere during the program before its limited release in March, playing at the Walter Reade Theaters two days after the Oscars. Another much-talked about film from last year's Cannes Film Festival, Duane Hopkins' Better Things about how the death of a schoolgirl from an overdose affects the people around her in a small British village, will have its U.S. debut at Lincoln Center, as will Jean-Claude (Exterminating Angels) Brisseau's latest erotic thriller A l'aventure. The Korean serial killer thriller The Chaser by Na Hong-jin, winner of multiple Korean Film Awards and one of the country's biggest hits last year, also looks interesting. One of the repertory films being brought out of the vault to be projected on the big screen for the first time in decades is Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, Lou Adler's punk drama starring Diane Lane and Laura Dern long before anyone heard of them. The program closes with a film that received a ton of advance buzz from last year's Toronto Film Festival is Kathryn Bigalow's The Hurt Locker, a terrific Iraq-set suspense thriller starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, which will close the program on March 5 with its New York premiere. Tickets are $11 per screening, but for just $40 ($30 if you're already a member of Film Society), you can see any five movies in the program except for the Closing Night film. This is just another great winter program offered by the Film Society that gives New Yorkers another option besides all of the crap currently playing in theatres.

Also in Limited Release:

Delhi 6 (UTV Communications) - The latest from Bollywood is Rakeysh Omprakash (Rang de Basanti) Mehra's new movie about a man (Abhishek Bachnan) who travels back to Delhi, India with his ailing grandmother. With music by the Oscar-nominated A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire), it opens in select cities on Friday.

The Velveteen Rabbit (Family 1 Films) - Michael Landon Jr. adapts the 1922 children's book by Margery Williams about a young boy who adopts a rundown stuffed rabbit, outcast from the other toys who hopes to become a real rabbit someday. Starring Jane Seymour, Tom Skerritt and Ellen Burstyn, the film opens in select cities on Friday.

Eleven Minutes (Regent Releasing/Here!) - This documentary by Michael Selditch & Rob Tate follows fledgling fashion designer Jay McCarroll, the winner of season one of "Project Runway," as he prepares for New York's fashion week and tries to get his clothing line into stores. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, as well as on the Here! Network.

Mini-Review: There's something truly surreal about a documentary showcasing the winner of a reality TV show trying to build upon his success from said show, but this doc is more about what's involved with breaking into the fashion industry and putting on a runway show for New York's prestigious Fashion Week. In a way, you kind of hope that fledgling fashion designer Jay McCarroll can indeed make it in the business rather than squandering what "Project Runway" has brought him, but watching this flamboyant gay man, who looks like he'd fit in better at a Southern Rock concert than a fashion show, you wonder whether he's taking the right approach. Throughout the movie, he's constantly swearing and mouthing off to everyone trying to help him, and it makes you wonder whether one really needs such a snarky attitude in order to make it. If you've never been involved with fashion, the film captures a lot of the private discussions and negotiations that goes on behind the scenes in a way that's far more comprehensive than "The Devil Wears Prada", and one imagines this would appeal to a similar audience. Otherwise, it's not the most groundbreaking documentary, essentially just following Jay around and showing his preparations for the big show, and it only becomes fascinating when you see the results—all 11 minutes of his show (hence the title)—when you finally understand what he was going for with his vision. It's certainly eye-opening after spending so much time watching him trying to work with those involved with realizing his designs. After the show's over, the film ends on bittersweet epilogue that drives home the point that even having any kind of success at Fashion Week can be fleeting, and one leaves the movie wondering whether McCarroll will be able to capitalize on the opportunities presented to him or languish in further obscurity. If you're even remotely interested in fashion, this doc is probably a must-see, but even for someone who's never had any interest in fashion, the process for putting on a high-profile fashion show seems endlessly fascinating as captured by the filmmakers, even if it's hard to find any reason to care about Jay McCarroll as the film's central subject. Rating: 7/10

Must Read After My Death (Gigantic Releasing) - Morgan Dews makes a documentary about his grandmother Allis, who assembled an amazing archive of audio recordings before her death in 2001, which captured all aspects of their turbulent Connecticut family life during the '60s--kind of like a real life Revolutionary Road. It opens on Friday in New York at Quad Cinema.



Next week, the month of February ends with what's likely to be a huge movie event with Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (Disney), and the only movie facing the Brothers Jonas is the video game inspired Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (20th Century Fox).

Copyright 2009 Edward Douglas




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