The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior: May 27 - 30

Source: Edward Douglas
May 24, 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.

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Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

(All the predictions below are for the four-day weekend)

1. The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros.) - $94.6 million N/A (SAME) ($21 million on Thursday)

UPDATE: Although The Hangover Part II made $10.4 million in midnights last night and we think it's heading to closer to $30 million or higher on Friday, we're going to keep our weekend prediction where we had it, rather than increasing it.

2. Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) - $83.2 million N/A (up .7 million) ($9.6 million on Thursday)

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Pictures) - $49.0 million -54% (Same)

4. Bridesmaids (Universal) - $17.7 million -15% (same)

5. Thor (Paramount/Marvel) - $10.5 million -30% (up .5 million)

6. Fast Five (Universal) - $7.5 million -32% (up .2 million)

7. Rio (20th Century Fox) - $3.0 million -36% (down .3 million)

8. Jumping the Broom (Sony/Tristar) - $2.5 million -34%

9. Something Borrowed (Warner Bros.) - $2.3 million -35%

10. Priest (Sony/Screen Gems) - $2.1 million -56%

Weekend Overview

It's Memorial Day weekend, historically one of the busiest filmgoing periods of the year other than maybe Thanksgiving weekend. It's also the week the Weekend Warrior loathes to predict because there are usually way too many factors to consider, not only weather, but also how many people who don't normally go to theaters will flock to their neighborhood Cineplex to see two of the summer's most anticipated sequels.

While normally a kids' movie like Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) with the all-star voice cast Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan would kill on Memorial Day weekend with school out on Monday and lots of families looking for movies to see as a group, we think that the overwhelming demand for Todd Phillips' The Hangover Part 2 (Warner Bros.) will put it over the top and allow it to win the weekend, if only by a small margin. It certainly has an advantage being that the original movie made $277 million to Kung Fu Panda's $215 million, and it also looks more like one of those events movies people will want to see as soon as possible.

The question is whether two movies can make $80 million over the four-day weekend with last week's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides still bringing in audiences. We're going to say "Yes" because we've seen three movies gross more than $120 million on their own. The last time we even came close was in 2004 when Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow took on the second weekend of Shrek 2 and both grossed over $85 million. Although the rest of the May offerings weren't nearly as strong that year, you also have to put into consideration the amount of inflation and the higher 3D ticket prices. Either way, the year started out slow but the summer is doing business like gangbusters and between higher ticket prices now than 7 years ago, we think this is going to be a huge weekend.

That said, we do think The Hangover Part II will do most of its business opening weekend while the panda should hang around for a while and gross more in the long run.

This week's "Chosen One" is Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight), which you can read more about below.

Last Memorial Day also saw a competition between two very different movies though neither of them did anywhere near what we expect from this week's offerings, nor were they able to dethrone Shrek Forever After, which won the weekend with a phenomenal $57 million four-day gross, down roughly 19% from its first week. Like this week's offerings, the sequel Sex and the City 2 (New Line/WB) opened a day early on Thursday with $14 million but then it ended making another $36 million over the four-day weekend, essentially making less in its first five days than the original movie did its opening three-day weekend. It would go on to gross less than $100 million, signaling the death knell for the former HBO series. Opening on Friday, Jerry Bruckheimer's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Walt Disney Pictures), starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton, ended up just below with $36.8 million over the four-day weekend which was not good considering the $200 million production budget. It ended up grossing $91 million domestic but $335 million worldwide, which more than made up by its weak showing domestically. The Top 10 grossed $182.4 million, one of the weakest Memorial Day showings in some time and one that should be thoroughly thrashed by Monday as this weekend may set a new record.



The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros.)
Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Bryan Callen, Nick Cassavetes
Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Due Date, Starsky and Hutch, Old School, Road Trip and more); Written by Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Tagline: "The Wolfpack is Back"
Plot Summary: Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married to a woman from Thailand so his best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel there for the wedding, but despite Stu's precautions, they all wake up after another debaucherous night and have to try and figure out what happened.

Mini-Review

Certainly no one can blame Todd Phillips or Warner Bros. for wanting to keep the party going by bringing back the trio of actors who found such a crazy number of fans with their antics in Las Vegas. This time around, we essentially have the same plot as the guys go out for an innocuous night, this time in Thailand where Stu is getting married, and wake up the next day missing someone, in this case Teddy, the 16-year-old brother of Stu's fiancée.

It's perfectly fine that they decided to take what worked about the last movie and try to move its location and hope for the best they can find new ground, but part of what made the first movie so clever was how the different pieces of the puzzle were put together, and that had a lot to do with the original screenwriters who were not involved with the sequel.

The thing is that if you like the characters, then you'll certainly be glad to have them back, and the main cast brings the same thing to the table they did before with Bradley Cooper once again taking point in terms of finding clues. Zach Galifianakis' Allan is still the funniest part of the movie with his offhand remarks that makes you wonder whether he's some sort of savant. Helms' contribution involves a lot of reacting, which means he spends much of the movie unleashing high-pitched screams, and for no particular reason, he performs a song while they're desperately looking for their friend. (Poor Justin Bartha's scenes as Doug has him sitting by a pool talking to his friends on the phone and doing little else.)

What's missing are the variety of fun characters the guys meet along the way played by some of the best improvising like Rob Riggle, an element that's sorely absent, replaced by monks and gangsters and others who just don't offer enough laughs on their own. That said, Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow was about as one-note character as you get in the first movie and here, he's given a much larger piece of the pie with much of the guy's problems coming from their encounters with Chow's colleagues. In Thailand, he's known as an international criminal and he deals with all sorts of appropriately shady characters, but his routine gets annoying pretty damn quick regardless.

The problem is that most people seeing this movie will want laughs and they're few and far between here, maybe because Thailand is a much darker place than Vegas and the tone follows suit. To try to create as many laughs in an atmosphere full of sex and violence may have been a tough task, which may be why they go for more low-brow gags than the first movie. Phillips constantly flaunts his over-inflated budget to do long tracking helicopter shots of his inimitable location, and the movie does look good with Phillips showing his knack for elaborate car chases.

"The Hangover Part II" isn't terrible, but trying to take the exact same plot and removing most of the laughs means it's only a shell of a movie without the magic that made the original so much fun. Essentially, it's "Ocean's 12"... if a monkey stole the movie.

Rating: 6/10

Analysis:

There's no denying that The Hangover will forever be considered one of the pivotal films when it comes to comedy, not just because it proved that a cast of mostly unknown fourth-stringers could do huge business based on its concept, but also that an R-rated comedy could defy the odds of its age limitations and become one of the highest grossing movies of the summer and the year its released.

It was the fifth movie from Todd Phillips, a comedy director who established himself early with back-to-back hits Road Trip and Old School, the latter introducing much of the world to the likes of Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, both whom would become mainstream comedy stars. Phillips' next project was a comedy remake of the popular '70s show Starsky and Hutch, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, which bumped up Phillips' status even more. Then came School for Scoundrels... probably best not to talk about that one. When The Hangover was released in June 2009, it was coming into the weekend with a huge amount of buzz from its high concept premise and a hilarious trailer that premiered in Las Vegas at ShoWest. The movie's $45 million opening really shocked a lot of people, especially since it was going up against Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost remake, but it went onto become one of those summer sleepers that did a huge amount of business after opening, grossing over $277 million or six times its opening, which is almost unfounded.

Before it opened in June 2009, few people had heard of Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis, though each had appeared in a number of movies, particularly Cooper who had already starred in a number of hit comedies including David Dobkin's Wedding Crashers (more on that later) and the rom-com Failure to Launch. Cooper was already ready to explode before the movie, but his career really has taken off afterwards, especially because ladies seem to love him. Earlier in 2009, he appeared in He's Just Not that Into You and then afterwards, the long-delayed All About Steve, which put him opposite Sandra Bullock. Cooper was then enlisted to play a key role in Joe Carnahan's The A-Team reboot, which failed to meet expectations.

Galifianakis was best known for his quirky stand-up comedy and appearances on "Comedy Central," but his role as Alan in The Hangover broke him in a big way so Phillips cast him in his follow-up interim film Due Date with Robert Downey Jr., which grossed nearly $100 million. Since the last Hangover, Galifianakis has also hosted "Saturday Night Live" twice, which has upped his Q-rating among the important older teens and 20-somethings who tend to go to movies. At least Ed Helms had already established himself as a regular on "The Office" before The Hangover, though he had yet to have a major role in a film before being cast in The Hangover. Earlier this year, he appeared in the Sundance flick Cedar Rapids, which capitalized on his success.

There was certainly a precursor to the success of The Hangover with David Dobkin's The Wedding Crashers, an R-rated comedy hit in 2005, opening in mid-July with $34 million and then bringing in audiences over and over until it crossed the $200 million mark. Judd Apatow then took that ball and ran with it with sleeper hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up as well as Superbad, though none of them quite reached the $200 million blockbuster mark. The fact that there are no less than four more R-rated comedies coming out this summer in wide release tells you what Phillips' film has wrought, helped by Apatow, whose latest production Bridesmaids is already doing huge business in theaters.

One of the biggest stopping blocks for Phillips' first bonafide sequel doing big business may be its rating, because there haven't been that many R-rated movies released over Memorial Day weekend, maybe because the grown-ups tend to go on vacation and theaters are populated by younger peeps, many of whom can't get into an R-rated movie. Last year's Sex and the City 2 bombed so badly, despite the success of the original, that one starts to wonder whether a movie with an R-rating can do well over Memorial Day. In fact, Warner Bros. originally were toying with an R-rating for McG's Terminator Salvation after Zack Snyder's Watchmen didn't do as well as expected, but that ended up only grossing $125 million, a huge bomb.

There's also the potential competition from Kung Fu Panda 2, not necessarily for the older teens and 20 to 30-something non-parental crowd, but for the younger teens who wouldn't be able to get into the movie due to the R rating and may be forced to buy tickets for DreamWorks' latest animated movie to see Phillips' movie. Adam Sandler's remake of The Longest Yard co-starring Chris Rock opened over Memorial Day in 2005, going up against the first Madagascar, and was able to bring in nearly $60 million, although it ended up losing the weekend to Madagascar. In an odd turn, we think this weekend will see the family movie fall just short of beating the highly-anticipated R-rated sequel. The Hangover Part II should end its first five days with roughly $100 million or more.

Why I Should See It: You saw the first movie, you'll see this one!
Why Not: If you saw the first movie, you probably already saw this one!
Projections: $20 to 21 million on Thursday, $25 to 28 million on Friday and roughly $94 to 96 million over the four-day weekend, though it probably will top out around $230 million max.

COMPARISONS



Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount)
Starring (the voices of) Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (story artist for Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar); Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger (Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs. Aliens, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel)
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated PG
Tagline: "Prepare for the return of awesomeness."
Plot Summary: The deadly peacock Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman) has come up with a plan to destroy kung fu with a powerful new weapon, so it's up to Po the Dragon Warrior (voiced by Jack Black) and the Furious Five to stop him, but at the same time, Po is trying to find his inner peace and his identity when he realizes that he's adopted.

Mini-Review

Some may think there is only so much one can do with a Jack Black-voiced panda bear with martial arts skills, and those same people might think that a sequel to the 2008 hit is rather pointless. Fortunately, Jeffrey Katzenberg and company left enough unanswered questions to create a character-driven core to Po's second adventure that makes it feel more than justified. Now that Po has learned kung fu and established himself as the Dragon Warrior, he still has some questions about where he came from, because let's face it, a panda having a goose for a father is a bit odd even in a world where animals talk. On top of that, Po still has anger issues and his teacher, Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) feels he needs to find inner peace to improve his kung fu.

Po's search for identity is tied into the quest by an evil metal-clawed peacock known as Lord Shen to end kung fu. Years earlier, he was driven out of the city where he would one day rule after he tried to do something about a fortune foreseeing his downfall, and his violent return sends Po and the Furious Five on a quest to stop him.

Since "Kung Fu Panda 2" does have to appeal to those who loved the first movie, there are still plenty of jokes about Po being fat and constantly hungry, which drove the narrative of the first film, but they've found a lot more ground to cover as well. The entire film has an incredible amount of heart to it, particularly in the relationship between Po and his father. While one might immediately think having a woman director could be partially responsible for the added emotions of the characters, this isn't a softer-cuddlier movie than the first as Jennifer Yuh Nelson brings even more action and enormous set pieces to the mix. Some of them veer so far into the left field in terms of defying physics one might have a hard time believing any of it possible, but it's it's still impressive what can be accomplished in the animated realm that could never have been done in a live action movie.

The best thing about the sequel is that the Furious Five are used in much more creative ways, particularly in their teamwork with Po, and that brings a lot to the action sequences as well as to developing the characters. Some of them like Viper and Monkey are still very much background players, but it's good that there's an evolution to these relationships from the first movie.

More than any of that, the film just looks absolutely fantastic, and we'll even go so far to say it may be one of the best 3D animated movies we've seen in terms of the textures and the lighting, because you can see every single hair on the creatures. It all looks so realistic you might forget you're watching a lot of different animals talking to each other.

"Kung Fu Panda 2" is one of those welcome sequels that lives up to the promise of its predecessor. Fans of the original movie should enjoy how it builds nicely upon the set-up, and if they can continue evolving the formula rather than getting stuck in a rut, they should have a promising franchise on their hands.

Rating: 8/10

Analysis:

DreamWorks Animation continues to keep apace with Pixar in terms of creating concepts that can bring in animation lovers both young and old, but so far, they have a far better track record with turning hits into franchise. Of course, the first successful franchise was the "Shrek" series, which has grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide over the course of four movies between 2001 and 2010. That was followed by Madagascar, whose debut film opened over Memorial Day weekend six years ago to $61 over the Memorial Day weekend and grossing $193 million total, followed by a 2008 sequel that did considerably well. (Next Memorial Day will see the third chapter in that series.) Last year's Shrek Forever After had a disappointing showing of just $238 million domestic, the lowest made by any part of the series, but that has not kept Jeffrey Katzenberg from announcing a number of sequels for some of their more popular movies including last year's How to Train Your Dragon and the 2008 hit Kung Fu Panda.

When that movie opened roughly three years ago, it was mostly selling itself on its talking animal kung fu premise and the strength of its voice cast, which allowed it to open with roughly $60 million, the highest three-day opening for a non-sequel from the animation company, and it went on to gross over $200 million.

Much of why the movie did so well was the casting of Jack Black as Po, the panda of the title, a character who young kids were immediately charmed by, especially younger boys who would normally like both kung fu and his type of comedy. Black previously had success providing his voice in other animated movies as well as starring in Richard Linklater's School of Rock, but Kung Fu Panda became his second-biggest movie after Peter Jackson's King Kong. Black has also continued to grow his 20 to 30 something audience with movies like Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder, though his movies since then, Year One and the family film Gulliver's Travels were seen as disappointments.

Angelina Jolie, who first provided her voice in DreamWorks Animation's lesser hit Shark Tale in 2004--a movie in which Black did some early voice work--has also been doing the rounds to promote the film, most notably at Cannes last week. She's clearly a bigger star, if not necessarily for family audiences, and her character Tigress plays a much bigger part in the sequel.

The rest of the Furious Five are voiced by the likes of Seth Rogen (who seems to literally be in five animated movies a year), David Cross, Black's co-star in Year One who has also appeared in the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movies, Asian superstar Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu. Dustin Hoffman returns as the voice of Master Shifu, another popular character, while the newest additions are the villainous peacock Lord Shen, voiced by Gary Oldman, and a soothsayer goat voiced by Michelle Yeoh.

Shrek 2 was a great example of how a popular animated movie can lead to a sequel that opens far bigger than expected, as it made $108 million its opening weekend, nearly two times the opening of the original three years later; the third movie opened even bigger. By comparison, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa only made a few million more in its first three-day weekend than the four-day opening of the original, but that was the difference between having a Memorial Day weekend and one in early November where school limits its younger audience. One can safely assume that opening the sequel over the holiday means it can do more than $60 million in its opening weekend before adding on Memorial Day proper. The movie is opening on Thursday, but we don't expect that to cut into the weekend that much.

Unlike the previous movie, this one is opening both in 3D and in IMAX theaters which will also give a nice bump to the ticket prices and make-up for the normally lower ticket prices with kids making up a majority of the audience. While the movie may lose some of its potential older audience to The Hangover, there will probably be a lot of families with kids looking for something to see this weekend, especially with very little specifically geared towards the ten and younger crowd other than Rio, which opened over a month ago.

Because of these factors, we expect a big opening though it may be a slower starter than The Hangover Part II, especially with school on Thursday and Friday, but expect a huge bump on Saturday and for it to make up the difference on Sunday and Monday, and word-of-mouth among kids and parents should help it do decent business in the next few weeks.

Why I Should See It: This is a terrific sequel to what was a fun movie both for kids as well as guys who like kung fu movies.
Why Not: Most of the older guys and women will probably choose to see The Hangover Part II instead.
Projections: Probably just $8 or 9 million on Thursday, bumped up to $17 to 19 million on Friday, $82 to 84 million over the four-day weekend and roughly $240 to $250 million total.

COMPARISONS



THE CHOSEN ONE:

The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight)
Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Joanna Going, Jackson Hurst, Fiona Shaw, Crystal Mantecon, Tamara Jolaine, Hunter McCracken, Dustin Allen
Written and Directed by Terrence Malick (The New World, Badlands, The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
Plot Summary: A family living in the Southern suburbs of the '60s deal with strife as the father of the family (Brad Pitt) is in conflict with his eldest son Jack (Hunter McCracken), while his mother (Jessica Chastain) turns to God to protect them, even though it leads to a family tragedy. (That's the simplified version.)

Review

My love/hate relationship with all things Terrence Malick may have finally be resolved with his latest movie, which may be considered mindblowing to some, but it's also a fairly grounded film that explores topics that are far more relatable than some may think. Like last week, I've already written my full review above, but a week after seeing the movie, I'm still pondering the entire experience of watching the film, wanting to go back and see it again to see if the first forty minutes makes more sense after the ninety minutes that follow.

Sure, there's a lot of really cool visuals in the film as Malick shows the very origins of life and the universe, but the smaller story of a family at conflict and a young man growing up questioning the faith his mother instilled into him while facing a disciplinarian father is what really leaves an impact. Told via nearly an hour of fragments from the eldest son in the family (played later in life by Sean Penn), this is where we start to make sense of what's going on in the even more fragmented opening sequences.

This wasn't an easy movie to review nor is it an easy one to talk about without potentially taking away some of the enjoyment of watching it for yourself. I will say that it is easily one of the best looking films I've seen with every single shot being perfectly framed to make you aware of every single detail.

A lot of people have been anxiously awaiting this one for a long time, and I'm happy to say that while it might not live up to all of those expectations, it's certainly a heady film that shows Malick well on his way to filling the shoes vacated by Stanley Kubrick.

The Tree of Life opens in select cities on Friday.

Also in Limited Release:

Following its showings at Cannes and the New York Film Festival, Radu Muntean's Romanian drama Tuesday, After Christmas (Kino•Lorber) opens at New York's Film Forum on Wednesday. It's a story about a couple married for 10 years, a marriage that starts to fall apart when the husband cheats with a much younger woman.

Opening at the IFC Center Friday is the Argentine drama Puzzle (Sundance Selects) from Natalia Sminoff starring Maria Onetto as a housewife in the suburbs who discovers she has a knack for putting together puzzles, so she answers an ad placed by a millionaire (Arturo Goetz) who hopes to bring her to Germany to compete with him in a tournament.

Also opening at the IFC Center Friday is Koji Wakamatsu's United Red Army (Kino*Lorber), a depiction of the left-wing Japanese military student group who tortured and killed 14 of its outcast members in a 1972 training session at Asamo-Sanso before taking a woman hostage for ten days.

Michael Bergmann's British comedy Tied to a Chair (Process Studio Theatre) stars Bonnie Loren as Naomi Holbroke, whose failure as a housewife to a British government official for 25 years leads to her wanting to return to her acting career and she encounters a director casting for his first movie in the same amount of time (played by Mario Van Peebles). She convinces him to give her a shot at a role that requires a much younger woman and she travels to New York for a screen test only to find the director dead. It opens in New York at the Big Cinemas Theater.



Next week, June kicks off with the prequel to one of the first major Marvel Comics superhero films X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox), starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, and directed by Matthew (Kick-Ass) Vaughn.

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas




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