The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior: May 20 - 22

Source: Edward Douglas
May 17, 2011

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.

If you aren't doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies, music, comic books and all sorts of random things.

Congrats to Tom of Kansas and Albert of Missouri for winning our "Thor: God of Thunder" Video Game contest from a few weeks back!

Predictions and Comparisons -

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Pictures) - $91.5 million N/A (down .5 million)

2. Thor (Paramount/Marvel) - $18.0 million -48% (same)

3. Bridesmaids (Universal) - $17 million -35% (up .5 million)

4. Fast Five (Universal) - $11.5 million -45% (up .2 million)

5. Priest 3D (Sony/Screen Gems) - $6.1 million -58% (same)

6. Rio (20th Century Fox) - $5.0 million -45% (same)

7. Something Borrowed (Warner Bros.) - $3.8 million -45% (up .2 million)

8. Jumping the Broom (Sony/Tristar) - $3.5 million -48% (down .2 million)

9. Water for Elephants (20th Century Fox) - $2.3 million -45% (same)

10. Soul Surfer (Film District) - $1.2 million -34% (same)

Weekend Overview

The summer is now in full swing with the release of a major sequel, the fourth installment in one of the biggest film franchise of all time, mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Pictures). Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush are back, joined by Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and new director Rob Marshall of Chicago fame. On the one hand, Captain Jack Sparrow is one of Johnny Depp's most beloved characters, one that helped elevate him to a new level of fame and fortune, but the previous installment wasn't as well received and one wonders if as many fans will rush out to see this one. The third weekend of May (and the weekend before Memorial Day) tends to be a big one with some of the biggest movies of all time released here, including the three "Star Wars" prequels, all of the "Shrek" movies and The Matrix Reloaded. In fact, eight of the Top 20 May openers have opened in this weekend in hopes of getting some advance money before Memorial Day and then bringing in some of the huge amounts of business from moviegoers on top of that. With so many stronger movies opening this summer that people actually want to see, we think this one will open up under the $100 million mark, maybe even under $90 million, and then tail off pretty quickly with the number of big sequels opening both next week and the week after.

This week's "Chosen One" is Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics), which you can read more about below.

This weekend last year saw the release of another fourth installment, that of the hit animated comedy franchise Shrek Forever After (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount), but unlike the previous two installments which each opened with over $100 million, this one did a relatively disappointing $70 million opening. (Yes, these are the times we live in when a movie opening with $70 million is disappointing.) It did pick up some steam over the rest of the summer to gross nearly $240 million but that was the least amount grossed for the franchise. Opening all the way down in 6th place, Will Forte's MacGruber (Rogue/Universal) tanked with just $4 million in over 2,500 theaters, averaging less than $1,600 per theater. The big surprise of the weekend may have been the Bollywood drama Kites (Reliant BIG) entering the Top 10 with just under a million dollars in 208 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $141 million and since we think "Pirates" will perform better than last year's "Shrek," we think that amount should be bested this week.



Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Pictures)
Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Sam Claflin, Geoffrey Rush
Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine, Memoirs of a Geisha); Written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (all four "Pirates" movies, The Mask of Zorro)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "We're going to make so much money by making Johnny Depp be Jack Sparrow again! Mwahahaha hahahahaha!" (This isn't the real tagline, but not finding anything resembling one, we assume this is the internal tagline at Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.)
Plot Summary: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth along with the evil pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penelope Cruz), but they have to race to get there before Jack's arch-rival Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who is on a mission from the King to get there before the Spaniards.

Review

Analysis:

The summer finally kicks into high gear with the second major franchise sequel following Universal's pre-summer hit Fast Five, and while this one already has a similar built in fanbase, the fourth installment of Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer's blockbuster swashbuckling franchise has quite a bit of baggage as well. When the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie was being released in the summer of 2003, it was not taken very seriously, maybe because it was based on Disney park ride that had been around for decades. Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski somehow turned the ride into a fun, high seas action adventure that introduced a lot of people to a number of movie characters that would become favorites, spawning three movies that grossed over $300 million.

More than anything, the success of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies marked the rise of Johnny Depp from a second-stringer to a full-on box office star who can bring people into theaters to see whatever crazy character he's playing at any given time. There are different phases to Depp's lengthy career from his early days on the police drama "21 Jump Street" to his early work with Tim Burton in Edward Scissorhands, Oscar-worthy auteur fare like What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Ed Wood during the '90s, culminating in starring roles in movies with Roman Polanski and Julian Schnabel. Obviously, the release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl changed everything, and suddenly, a lot of young women who never paid much attention to Depp were rediscovering his charms. He also was being taken a lot more seriously as an A-list star among Hollywood producers, though he remained faithful to his greatest supporter. That led to a successful opening for Tim Burton's take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and while their next pairings for The Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd both had disappointing showings, their take on Alice in Wonderland ended up being a huge hit for Walt Disney Pictures in 2010, becoming their second billion dollar grossing movie worldwide. The rather disappointing showing for Depp's pairing with his female equivalent A-lister Angelina Jolie in The Tourist over the holidays did make one wonder whether he was still a draw and his reteaming with Gore Verbinski in the animated Rango did well but nowhere near some of the biggest animated hits.

Joining the cast is Penelope Cruz as Angelica, the daughter of Blackbeard, and its her first appearance on screen with Depp since the two of them appeared ten years ago in the late Ted Demme's crime-thriller Blow. Since then, Cruz has also risen up a few notches in terms of star power, helped by her three Oscar nominations, winning for Woody Allen's Vicki Christina Barcelona. Even so, she's only starred in one live action movie that grossed over $100 million and that was Cameron Crowe's 2001 thriller Vanilla Sky, co-starring then-boyfriend Tom Cruise. Cruz also provided a voice for Jerry Bruckheimer's G-Force and made a cameo in the sequel Sex and the City 2, but On Strangers Tide is her biggest movie to date.

Another major change with the fourth movie is that it's the first one directed by Rob Marshall, who exploded into Hollywood with his first feature film as a director (not counting television) being the Oscar-winning Chicago, which grossed nearly $171 million. Neither of his movies that followed were nearly as successful with his musical Nine, also starring Cruz, pretty much bombing. The only other big name joining the cast of the fourth movie is Ian McShane, the British actor who first got attention for his role as Al Swearengen in "Deadwood," which has led to a number of movie roles in everything from Shrek the Third (voicing Captain Hook) to Death Race to Woody Allen's Scoop.

The movie is opening in one of the most desirable weekends of the summer thanks to the success of the "Star Wars" prequels, which picked the weekend before Memorial Day to help increase the amount of money they could make, the fans rushing to see it opening weekend and then the casual moviegoers going the following weekend. DreamWorks Animation has also opened all four "Shrek" movies on the weekend to huge success. This may be why Disney chose the weekend over the Memorial Day opening for the previous installment, although Disney also opened The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian on this weekend a few years back and it didn't come close to delivering on the $300 million made by its predecessor.

So who is the main audience for the "Pirates" movies? First of all, you have the young kids and teens who have grown up calling the franchise their own, and with Depp on board, it certainly offers something for women of all ages from teen girls to women in their 30s. Older guys over 25 or 30 will likely be less interested and more cynical about a fourth movie, which is surprising because one would think pirates to be a guy thing, but the movies have done more to appeal to women due to the romance angle and Depp.

That's really the biggest question surrounding the movie, and that's whether the diehard fans are still on board for another movie, especially since so many were disappointed with the last movie at least compared to the first one. We've seen third movies not living up to expectations of previous installments from The Matrix Revolutions to Spider-Man 3 to Shrek the Third. In fact, the sequel to the latter of those opened last year this weekend to just $70 million after the $100 million plus openings of the previous two movies, and one can see "On Stranger Tides" following suit. (The last movie "At World's End" opened the same summer as two of the three mentioned and it really created a weird dichotomy with few moviegoers loving them but all of them grossing $300 million.)

Let's look at how the three movies compared in terms of reviews and user ratings. "Curse of the Black Pearl" received an 8.0 out of 10 in IMDb User Ratings and 78% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. That was followed three years later with "Dead Man's Chest" with 7.3/10 and 54% on Rotten Tomatoes and the following year's "At World's End" ended up with a 7/10 in IMDb User Ratings and a dismal 45% from critics. By comparison, the original Shrek had an 8.0/10 User Rating which dropped down to a 6.1 for the third movie, which may have been why last year's Shrek Forever After opened weakly compared to the previous two movies.

On Stranger Tides is the first movie in the franchise shot and screened in 3D, which theoretically means higher ticket prices although many moviegoers are dubious of the format and may choose not to pay extra to see it in 3D. Even so, without the 3D, it may have opened even lower in North America.

Frankly, we don't think "On Stranger Tides" will get very good reviews, probably somewhere between the first and second movie in terms of Rotten Tomatoes, and with many of the fans already rather disillusioned from the disappointing third chapter, they may just wait to see the movie until they hear from friends whether it's worth their money. Opening on its own this weekend in over 4,000 theaters will certainly help it be the only choice for many moviegoers this weekend, but we expect casual moviegoers who don't read reviews might choose to watch it over Memorial Day, a weekend when millions of people who don't often go to movies catch up on what they missed. The problem is that the movie has a ton of competition for ALL potential audiences starting Thursday when two far-more-anticipated sequels are opening.

Because of that, we think "On Stranger Tides" may open just over $90 million, and we think it will top out at $250 million domestically, but make enough money globally to warrant a fifth movie.

Why I Should See It: Johnny Depp's Captain Jack is back with lots of fun new characters!
Why Not: As my favorite band of all time Ireland's Ash put it best: "Pirates are So 2004"
Projections: $89 to 93 million opening weekend and roughly $250 million total. (That's domestic, we expect it to make more than $500 million internationally.)

COMPARISONS



THE CHOSEN ONE:

Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics)
Starring Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Owen Wilson, Nina Arianda, Kurt Fuller, Tom Hiddleston, Mimi Kennedy, Alison Pill, Corey Stoll
Written and directed by Woody Allen (Way too many movies to list!)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
Plot Summary: Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) and his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) have come to Paris before their wedding, but they end up exploring the city their own separate ways when she decides to spend time with an old friend (Michael Sheen) and he discovers a portal back to the glamorous '20s where he gets to meet all sorts of famous authors and artists.

Review

While I already have a review, which you can read above, I wanted to talk a bit more about how Woody Allen's movie has helped pull him out of the mini-slump he's been in. While most consider Match Point the turning point, I'm more of a fan of his comedies, especially when he's in them. While Whatever Works comes closest to the Woody Allen I loved with Larry David in the lead--the script/premise was from back in the '70s as well--Midnight in Paris is a great companion piece to Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Allen's first movie shot in Spain.

From the title, it's pretty easy to figure out the movie is all about Paris, but using a premise that involves time travel (of sorts), Allen is able to look at modern-day Paris as well as the city during its heyday of the '20s with lots of great historical characters interacting with a more typical Allen lead. In some ways, this movie falls somewhere closer to the work of Mel Brooks, but still has the clever thoughtfulness that Allen has brought to his best work.

I've been down on Owen Wilson for his last few movies, but he really seems perfectly suited for the character of a wanna-be author and for Allen's sharp writing, and it did make me wonder whether Wilson (a talented writer in his own right) was able to tailor Allen's writing to work with him better. I also loved Marion Cotillard in this movie, as she's quickly becoming an actress who can make any film better. I honestly can't think of a better actress for Allen to work with and hopefully we'll see her in more of his films similar to Scarlett Johansson.

It's still too early to tell if this will be the Woody Allen movie that gets him back at the Oscars for the first time since Match Point, but we do think the screenplay is strong enough that it can get into those nominations if nothing else. (It would be his 14th screenplay to be nominated.)

Regardless, we think that whether or not you're a fan of Woody Allen's recent output, those who've either been to Paris or always have wanted to go should enjoy the romanticism inherent in him exploring this new territory in such a thorough way.

Midnight in Paris opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, and it's a Woody Allen movie not to be missed! (Go read our review for a more critical analysis.)

Also in Limited Release:

Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel direct the doc Louder than a Bomb (Balcony Releasing) which follows four Chicago high school poetry teams as they prepare for a national competition. It opens on Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York.

Russ Parr's romantic comedy 35 and Ticking (Image Entertainment) stars Nicole Parker, Tamala Jones, Kevin Hart and Keith Robinson as four individuals dealing with problems either in dating and finding the right person or in their marriages, presumably when they hit the age of 35. Also starring Meagan Good, who is only 30, it opens in select cities on Friday.

Veteran actor and musician Kris Kristofferson stars in Shane Dax Taylor's drama Bloodworth (Samuel Goldwyn Films) as E.F. Bloodworth, a musician who abandoned his wife and sons for life on the road, and though his relationship with those sons (Val Kilmer, Dwight Yoakam and W. Earl Brown) has remained sour, he's been able to bond with his grandson Fleming, who just met the woman of his dreams, played by Hilary Duff. With music by T. Bone Burnett, who played a similar role in the eerily similar Crazy Heart, this opens in select cities on Friday.

Sean Kirkpatrick's previously-undistributed film Cost of a Soul (Rogue/Relativity Media) won the "Big Break Movie Contest" to be released by Rogue. It stars Chris Kerson and Will Blargove as two soldiers who return home from Iraq to the crime-ridden North Philadelphia town where they grew up, one of them to the pregnant wife he deserted, the other to the brother who is now involved in drugs. The two men suddenly find them back in the situation that they joined the military to escape. It opens in select cities Friday.

Mini-Review: To wantonly attack production assistant Sean Kirkpatrick's directing debut might be akin to drowning a bag full of kittens, because it was made on such a low budget using a similar DIY ethos as Melvin Van Peebles that you have to give him credit for his efforts.

The street-level crime drama treads familiar ground of soldiers retuning home to their "hood" to catch up on what they missed while in combat, only to face even bigger turmoil at home. Not that Irish Tommy Donahue or African-American DD Davis being soldiers is that important to the story, as the former comes home to the wife and daughter he abandoned only to get pulled into the same world of mob crime he ran away from. DD sees his older brother caught up in the violent world of drugdealing and has to figure out how to keep his younger brother from joining him.

There isn't a lot of new ideas in Kirkpatrick's fairly derivative film which probably could have used a stronger cast to really do his writing justice. Instead, we get a lot of third-rate sub-par performances and an equal amount of overacting to go along with it. The real breakout star of the film is Will Blagrove as DD, the closest the film comes to a protagonist, because everyone else straddles such a grey area of good/bad, especially Chris Kerson's angst-ridden Tommy, who returns to his job as hired killer for the local boss, played by Gregg Almquist, and is responsible for DD's own desire for revenge.

The film feels fairly disjointed as it goes back and forth between Tommy and DD's storylines, the latter being far more interesting, which is why it's a shame it gets less screen time. Eventually, the stories are brought together and that's where the film starts to find its groove, though for every decent scene, there are more than a few "What the...?" moments For instance, it's never clear what the point is to make Tommy's daughter mentally-challenged (or autistic, it's never clear), but it may leave you wondering whether the young actress herself suffers that condition or whether she's just being directed to act badly because their scenes together are grueling in their sentimentality and really takes you out of the tone of the rest of the film. It also feels like roughly 15 minutes could have been cut out of Tommy's story to give more depth to DD and the entire film would have been improved by it.

"Cost of a Soul" is a valiant enough first effort, but Kirkpatrick has a long way to go before he achieves even "Mean Streets"-level Scorsese, but you really feel that he could do better things if given a bigger budget and a better DP.

Rating: 5/10

Leah Sturgis' comedy Hard Breakers (Freestyle Releasing) follows two women (Cameron Richardson, Sophie Monk) frustrated with dating and men but when they find a young surfer unconscious on the beach, they decide to go out on a man-hunt by dominating men. Yeah, I don't get it either. It'll open in select cities regardless.

Opening in 3D and 2D theatres is the animated The Lion of Judah (Animated Family Films), directed by Deryck Broom and Roger Hawkins, is a biblical story told though a cast of farm animals voiced by the likes of Ernest Borgnine and Michael Madsen led by a heroic lamb named Judah. When the animals learn that Judah has been caught to sacrifice at a festival, they go on a journey to save him, learning that "the King" was born in their stable 30 years earlier. We assume they don't mean Elvis.



Next week, the Memorial Day weekend kicks off on Thursday with two hugely-anticipated sequels, Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount), featuring the return of Jack Black as Po the Panda, and The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros.), featuring the return of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis as The Wolfpack.

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas




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