The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior: June 10 - 12

Source: Edward Douglas
June 7, 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.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

UPDATE: We really don't know what Paramount is thinking with Super 8 and frankly, if it does even as well as we predicted we'll be surprised because at the last minute they decided to do free screenings on Wednesday night and open the movie in a couple hundred IMAX screens for Thursday previews (where we understand it's doing terribly). This has been great for raising last minute awareness through social media like Twitter but one has to imagine that it might cut into the business for the weekend. Still, we're taking the over-$30 million on this one and sticking close to our earlier prediction.

Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris is getting a lot more theaters than we expected as is Judy Moody, which we think will just help to close the gap between them.

1. Super 8 (Paramount) - $35.2 million N/A (down .4 million)

2. X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox) - $28.6 million -48% (same)

3. The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros.) - $15.0 million -52% (same)

4. Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) - $14.5 million -39% (same)

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Pictures) - $9.3 million -48% (down .2 million)

6. Bridesmaids (Universal) - $8.7 million -28%

7. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (Relativity Media) - $7.2 million N/A (up .7 million)

8. Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) - $5.6 million +81% (up .3 million)

9. Thor (Paramount/Marvel) - $2.1 million -50% (down .1 million)

10. Fast Five (Universal) - $1.5 million -52% (down .2 million)

Weekend Overview

After overestimating two movies in the last two weeks by more than $15 million, we're being a bit more cautious and conservative as June rambles along with the third feature film from media mogul J.J. Abrams following his revamp of Star Trek. Abrams teams with producer Steven Spielberg for Super 8 (Paramount), a character-driven alien invasion movie set in the late ‘70s. There are absolutely no stars in it and the trailer makes it look like Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but early TV commercials have been selling it like a straight horror flick, and those mixed messages are certainly going to make it harder for audiences to decide whether to bother or not. Certainly, the film's title doesn't scream out that it's something to rush out and see and it might not be the first choice when people are looking at the marquee trying to decide what to see, but positive early reviews and internet buzz should help it bring in an audience mostly of 20 to 40 something males.

Trying to entice the young girls who love Megan Macdonald's books, Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (Relativity Media) is one of those family movies like Ramona and Beezus from last year where making a movie from a children's book makes sense when you look at the book sales, because you assume all those buyers will go see the movie. Uh uh. Live action kids' movies that don't look like something parents can have any fun sitting through rarely fare well, and while this probably should bring in a little bit of business, opening in just 2,000 theaters doesn't give it much of a chance to make a mark, so we're probably looking at under $10 million.

After doing impressive business in limited release, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics) expands nationwide into over 750 theaters and it should be able to do decent business even if it's spread out, which should allow it to remain in eighth place with roughly $5 million or slightly less.

This week's "Chosen One" is the latest from Michael Winterbottom, the road comedy The Trip (IFC Films), starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, which you can read more about below.

This weekend last year was meant to be a pretty heavy competition between two movies that were basing their success on nostalgia—similar to this week's Super 8 in fact—but the Jaden Smith-Jackie Chan action-adventure The Karate Kid (Sony) thoroughly thrashed Joe Carnahan's big screen The A-Team (20th Century Fox), starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. The former opened at #1 with $56 in 3,663 theaters, more than double The A-Teams's $25.7 million opening for second place. The Top 10 grossed $140.45 million, but unless Super 8 does better than predicted, we'll have only our second down weekend of the summer from last year.



Super 8 (Paramount)
Starring Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Gabriel Basso, Noah Emmerich, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills
Written and directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III, producer of Clovefield and lots of TV shows)
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "Next Summer, It Arrives"
Plot Summary: A bunch of kids from a small town in Ohio making a Super 8 film witness a train crash that unleashes something on their town that leads to all sorts of mysterious occurrences.

Review

Analysis:

While this summer has seen a lot of sequels and superhero movies, some doing better than others, every once in a while, summer offers an original movie that isn't a sequel or remake and audiences thrive on that originality. That has been the case plenty of times with some of the better examples being Christopher Nolan's Inception last year and District 9 a few years back, both which did much better business than anyone expected. The connection between the two is that they're both science fiction films, and this year, science fiction (both original and based on little known books) has done well with smaller movies like The Adjustment Bureau, Source Code and Limitless all doing better than expected, showing that there's clearly an audience for the genre.

Opening this weekend after creating a good deal of buzz over the last months is the latest from JJ Abrams, the television producer who helped bring shows like "Alias" and "Lost" to the airwaves, as well as directing movies like Mission: Impossible III and a reboot of Star Trek both for Paramount. In between, he produced the monster movie Cloverfield, which did well based on the mysterious nature of what was shown beforehand using viral marketing as well as it filling a niche among young audiences. In many ways, Super 8 is more like the latter as much of the interest in the movie is being generated from the mystery of what exactly is going on with what's inside a train that crashes in a small town.

This time, Abrams has teamed with filmmaker Steven Spielberg as his producer and Spielberg brings a certain weight to the film with his Amblin Entertainment logo, an imprint that's been around for nearly thirty years. From E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, Gremlins and the "Back to the Future" movies. Spielberg has quite a reputation with aliens himself, not just with E.T. and his early thriller Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but also with his hit remake of War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise in 2005. The influence of Spielberg and Amblin is certainly a big one on Abrams, as his movie is even being released in roughly the same weekend as E.T. (6/11/82) and The Goonies (6/6/85), which are also the two movies it's probably going to be compared to the most.

With Star Trek, Abrams had a cast of actors who at least had done one or two things, but with Super 8, he takes more of the approach of getting actors who aren't as well known with the main lead Joel Courtney being brand new to acting. Playing his father and the town deputy is Kyle Chandler, who starred for five years in "Friday Night Lights" and has appeared in other genre films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Peter Jackson's King Kong only in smaller roles. Oddly, the actor with the most experience doing leading roles in film is 13 year old Elle Fanning, who recently starred in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere and has had lead roles in indies like Phoebe in Wonderland as well as appearing in Oscar-nominated fare such as Babel and David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. So far, she's been getting the most raves for her performance, too, and ironically enough, her older sister Dakota had an early role in Spielberg's alien invasion movie War of the Worlds. The cast is rounded out by Ron Eldard and Noah Emmerich, two veteran character actors with supporting roles, neither of whom will bring much to the table in terms of box office.

Paramount has done exceedingly well with genre films over the years as well as summer tentpoles, and they have a good amount of experience selling Abrams' wares with the success of Cloverfield and Star Trek. The campaign for this one started out so well with at trailer that harked back to Spielberg's finest movies from the ‘80s, but the studio have changed gears in the months leading up to the movie with commercials that focused more on the scares, which might make it of interest to teen audiences. That also might make it look a bit too much like Battle: Los Angeles, an alien invasion movie that opened with roughly $35 million in March but only ended up grossing $85 million total.

Reviews are going to be interesting, because so far, they're fairly positive but they're mostly from the hype-friendly internet folks with none of the real serious critics having chimed in as of yet. We think reviews will be mixed but most critics will give Abrams a pass because he is taping into nostalgia that the 20-30 and 40 something critics should appreciate. Even though Super 8 has stayed out of the 3D trend that has been a part of so many movies, it will be opening in IMAX theaters in hopes people will pay the premium to see the larger set pieces on a bigger screen.

Even though the commercials have sent mixed messages which may make it hard for it to become the type of four-quadrant movie Paramount, Abrams and Spielberg may be hoping for, the older guys who appreciate Spielberg movies and like what they've seen will check it out opening weekend or at least try to get to it. Reactions may be mixed depending on what they're expecting and that will likely determine what kind of legs it has, though we think that $150 million will be the absolute max it's going to be able to make with stronger genre fare coming out in the weeks to come.

Why I Should See It: It's been a long time since there was a new movie from Steven Spielberg.
Why Not: Super 8 isn't a new movie from him; it's a rip-off homage to all the movies he made thirty years ago.
Projections: $33 to 36 million opening weekend and $130 million total.

COMPARISONS



Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (Relativity Media)
Starring Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Parris Mosteller
Directed by John Schultz (Like Mike, Aliens in the Attic); Written by Kathy Waugh, Megan McDonald
Genre: Family, Comedy
Rated PG
Tagline: "Supermegatotally thrilladelic" (I've seen the movie and I have no idea what that means)
Plot Summary: Megan McDonald's popular pre-teen heroine comes to the screen as Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) must contend with the possibility of a terrible summer when her two best friends leave town, as do her parents, leaving her and her younger brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) with their Aunt Opal (Heather Graham).

MIni-Review: (Coming Soon!)

Analysis:

School isn't quite out of session yet, but being summer, it's time for studios to roll out family films in hopes that when they are out of school, they'll give their movies a look, and making a movie based on a popular children's book like the "Judy Moody" series from Megan McDonald is often one way to insure awareness among an audience who haven't been around long enough to be aware of properties other than books. McDonald's series of Judy Moody books are better known among young girls and they are bonafide bestsellers that have been translated into many different languages.

Playing Judy is Jordana Beatty, the young Australian actress who is getting a huge break with this movie, but really, the only actress with any sort of name in the movie is Heather Graham, but going by much of her recent output, that name may as well be "mud." Of course, the one exception is her appearance in Todd Phillips' The Hangover, which was an enormous hit. Before that, she also appeared in similarly big comedy blockbusters like Adam Sandler's Anger Management and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, but otherwise, she's mainly been doing indies and straight-to-video movies that have not really kept her front and center. Judy Moody is her first family film and one assumes the girls seeing this movie aren't as fussy about the quality of the acting, so Graham is perfect casting.

Helming this adaptation is John Schultz, director of Aliens in the Attic, a 20th Century Fox movie based on a kids' book that did disappointing business two summers back, despite opening later in the summer. Fox has had a number of live action family bombs, including last year's attempt to bring Ramona and Beezus to the screen with hot Disney superstar Selena Gomez which failed pretty miserably, but they've also had relative success with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies, also based on kids' books. Other children's books that didn't fare very well include How to Eat Fried Worms and Hoot, both released by New Line. That's all well and good but Judy Moody is the first family release from Relativity Media, whose ability to open a movie has not been proven, and certainly not their ability to market and open a PG family film. If 20th Century Fox and New Line can't open all their kids' movies well with their resources, what chance does Relativity have?

The movie looks like crap, so much so that one can probably expect fewer reviews since many critics will probably try to bow out of seeing or reviewing it. Not that reviews would matter since the movies' primary audience of little girls wouldn't read them. On the other hand, when a movie looks this bad, the bigger challenge is convincing the parents to sit through the movie for the sake of their kids, and even the parents who know how much their kids love the books might be dubious of taking them to see this.

Why I Should See It: If you're an 8-year-old girl, this is probably your "Star Wars"
Why Not: If you're not an 8-year-old girl, this will be like watching the Jar-Jar Binks portions of "Star Wars"
Projections: $5 to 7 million opening weekend and roughly $20 million total.

COMPARISONS



THE CHOSEN ONE:

The Trip (IFC Films)
Starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
Directed by Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, A Mighty Heart, Road to Guantanamo, The Killer Inside Me and many, many, MANY more.)
Genre: Comedy
Tagline: "Eat, drink and try not to kill each other."
Plot Summary: Comic actor Steve Coogan has been commissioned to write a magazine article about restaurants in Northern England so he asks his "friend" Rob Brydon to join him on the trip even though they barely can stand each other.

Interview with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon

The relationship between British comics Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is a fascinating one that most American Anglophiles first experienced in Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. Over six years later, the trio are reunited for an impromptu road comedy that seems to really cut to the core of why the two men are so funny.

The idea is that Coogan has been commissioned to write an article about Northern England, spending a week driving through the countryside visiting a number of restaurants. When his girlfriend Mischa bows out of the trip, he calls upon his long-time friend Rob Brydon to help him navigate the restaurants they visit. Over the next six days, the duo drive through the British countryside visiting various restaurants and historic locales, all the while sampling the highest quality food while dueling with impressions of everyone from Michael Caine to Al Pacino to Woody Allen. The duo are extremely competitive, Coogan lording over Brydon with his relative fame, but also using his impeccable self-effacing humor to show a far more sensitive side that we’ve had a chance to see from him before. He also plays upon his tabloid persona as a womanizer, waking up next to a couple women he meets along the way, before sheepishly calling his girlfriend whenever he can find celphone reception.

It’s hard to think of Coogan and Brydon as a comedy team because though they’ve been friends for years, you would hardly think they like each other from their interaction in the movie. Who knows how much of this is real, how much is scripted l and how much of it is off-the-cuff improvisations, but one has to assume that Winterbottom is behind capturing the essence of the duo’s relationship, because the way the duo’s musings and arguments are cut together makes for brilliant cinema. Winterbottom somehow manages to create character arcs out of what might seem to a layman like random conversations, which is even more amazing when you realize that this was always intended first and foremost as a 6-episode television series (which already aired in the UK).

Having seen the movie once at the Toronto Film Festival last year and then again at Tribeca, it’s a mesmerizing film in the way it creates many layers as it effortlessly floats between fiction and reality with Coogan and Brydon really pulling so much from their counterpart in every scene.

Winterbottom is just as masterful at capturing the British countryside as he is at capturing the output from the various kitchens visited, making the trip a fine experience for foodies as well as those who enjoy visiting the countryside, even if it’s only on celluloid. In between the rapid-fire dialogue between the duo, there’s a beautiful Michael Nyman score that brings a poignancy to the relationship.

Reality TV fans should appreciate the way it straddles genres while showcasing the amazing amount of talent both of the comic actors and of how Winterbottom masterminded it. The results are infinitely funny and entertaining, showing comic genius of the highest order, but also ending on a coda of sadness, one that leaves you wondering how much of the real Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are on display here?

The Trip opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Also in Limited Release:

André Orvedal's festival favorite Trollhunter (Magnet Pictures) uses found footage to follow a group of student filmmakers who meet a mysterious man who they learn is hunting down and killing trolls that are threatening the Norwegian countryside.

Interview with André Orvedal

Director Djo Tunda Wa Munga'‘s Viva Riva! (Music Box Films) is the first feature length dramatic film from the Republic of Congo to get a theatrical release in North America. Based in the city of Kinshasa, it stars Patscha Bay as Riva, a small time operator who has scored a valuable cargo of gasoline, but as he goes out on the town with cash in pocket, he falls for Nora, the girlfriend of a local gangster, while trying to stay one step ahead of an Angolan crime lord trying to retrieve the stolen gasoline. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Interview with Djo Tunda Wa Munga (Later this week)

Based on the bestselling Dutch novel by Marieke van der Pol, who also wrote the screenplay, the Dutch drama Bride Flight (Music Box Films) from director Ben Sombogaart is about three Dutch women who travel to New Zealand following WWII in order to get married to their fiancés who have already settled there. On the flight, they become friends and meet the good-looking Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) who will have a major part in their lives. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Lisa Leeman's doc One Lucky Elephant follows Flora, an orphaned baby African elephant who has spent sixteen years at a circus without other elephants so the show's producer David Balding decides to give her a retirement. Suitable for kids 10 and up, it opens in New York at the Film Forum on Wednesday then in L.A. on June 24.

Monte Hellman's romantic thriller Road to Nowhere (Monterey Media) is about a filmmaker making a movie based on a true crime, casting a young woman who looks eerily like the femme fatale involved in the original murder. It opens in New York at the Village East Cinemas.

Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed directs the comedy concert film Just Like Us (Cross Cultural Entertainment), which documents the stand-up comedy tour he set up that brought Arab-American comics to the countries of Dubai, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to capacity crowds many experiencing Western humor for the first time, just as the comics experience the cultural differences in the Middle East. It opens in New York, L.A. and DC on Friday.

Ellen Barkin stars in Jean-Paul Salomé's psychological drama The Chameleon (Cinema Epoch) as a mother whose long-lost son returns after being missing for years, but she starts getting suspicious when an FBI agent played by Famke Janssen enters the picture claiming her son isn't who he says. Based on the novel by Christophe D'Antonio, it opens in select cities on Friday.



Next week, the month of June continues with one of our most anticipated superhero movies of the year… Green Lantern (Warner Bros.) starring Ryan Reynolds! Also, Jim Carrey takes on a bunch of short avian co-stars in Mr. Popper's Penguins (20th Century Fox).

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas




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