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.
Updated Predictions and Comparisons – (5-Day / 3-Day)
1. Twilight (Summit) $44.7 / 31.7 million -55%
2. Four Christmases (New Line/WB) $32.8 / 23.3 million N/A
3. Bolt (Disney) – $32.0 / 23.4 million N/A -11%
4. Quantum of Solace (Sony) $23.8 / 16.8 million -37%
5. Australia (20th Century Fox) $22.3 / 15.4 million N/A
6. Transporter 3 (Lionsgate) $18.5 / 11.5 million N/A
7. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (DreamWorks) – $17.3 / 12.5 million -21%
8. Role Models (Universal) – $8.4 / 5.9 million -16%
9. Changeling (Universal) – $2.6 / 1.8 million -34%
10. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Miramax) – $2.1 /1.5 million -10%
It’s Thanksgiving weekend where anyone not in the holiday spirit yet will be dragged kicking and screaming into a weekend where everyone and their mother, kids, cousins and nephews get together to eat, shop for holiday gifts and most importantly, go see movies. It’s also the weekend where ye olde Weekend Warrior almost always gets things majorly wrong, so let’s hope that’s one tradition that doesn’t stick. The problem is that Thanksgiving movies tend to open on the Wednesday before the holiday, and it’s hard to determine how business will be divided between Thanksgiving itself, the day before and the busy weekend that follows. In general, movies geared towards families will do more business on Friday and Saturday, while movies that appeal to young males will probably do more business on Wednesday and Thursday.
Either way, after three consecutive weekends of $60 million openers, things will settle down with three strong movies, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and minimal overlap in audiences. Surely one can’t bet against the combination of star power and holiday timeliness of Four Christmases (New Line/WB), which pairs Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon against their respective families over the holidays. The perfect movie for laughs and getting holidays shoppers into the right spirit should do well, although it’s not exactly the family fare that tend to do well, being more of a comedies for teens and 20-something audiences. Unfortunately, it will be competing for second place against Disney’s Bolt in its second weekend, and that’s likely to win out, being one of only two family films in theatres.
Filmmaker Baz (Moulin Rouge!) Luhrmann returns with his romantic war epic Australia (20th Century Fox), starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. While art movies geared towards adults don’t normally do well over Thanksgiving, expect there to be a groundswell of interest in the movie among older audiences and women of all ages based on the visually-stimulating advertising and support from Oprah. It will be competing for some of the same audience as the other movies over the three-day weekend but it should jockey for position with Quantum of Solace for fourth place. (UPDATE: Reviews for Australia aren’t very good but it’s still going to be the populist choice for women, at least on Wednesday and Friday.)
Also returning this week is Jason Statham as Frank Martin in the Luc Besson-produced action flick Transporter 3 (Lionsgate), which will try to offer some excitement for guys not wanting to spend time with the family over the holidays. With the only competition for younger male moviegoers being the new Bond movie, expect this to do very well on Wednesday and Thursday but tail off over the weekend as the family and holiday fare takes over.
Even though Twilight will probably take a huge tumble in its second weekend, it should still bring in some of those curious about the movie following its enormous opening weekend, enough to retain the top spot. Disney’s Bolt should see the smallest drop in business from last week, although in general, Thanksgiving tends to be a good time to catch up on movies not seen, so other returning movies should pick up a bit as well. Also, look for Danny Boyle’s acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) to break into the Top 10 this weekend if it’s expanded wider. (UPDATE: Looks like Fox Searchlight is holding off on their expansion so it’ll probably end up outside the Top 10 again.)
Last Thanksgiving, Disney ran rampant over the holiday weekend as they’ve often done in the past, this time with the fairy tale musical Enchanted starring Amy Adams, which became the second-biggest Thanksgiving opener by earning $49 million over the five-day holiday. It was followed in second place with the breakout ensemble holiday hit This Christmas, which grossed $26.3 million in its first five days in less than 2,000 theaters with $18 million of that over the weekend. Competing for the young male audience last year was the video game based action flick Hitman (20th Century Fox) starring Timothy Olyphant and Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist (Dimension). The former grossed an impressive $21 million over the five days but was extremely front-loaded while “The Mist” almost ended up outside the Top 10 with $13 million, falling just behind the musical drama August Rush (Warner Bros.), starring Freddie Highmore. Over the five days, the Top 10 grossed $200 million, which is about what the movies should do this year.
THE BATTLE CRY
We’ll be foregoing the Battle Cry the next couple of weeks as the Warrior tries to come up with some topics you readers might actually be interested in reading and discussing. The last two topics went over like pastrami-flavored donuts, so instead, I’ll just use this space to thank all of the loyal and regular readers who’ve been reading this column and making it worth writing every week. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays from the Weekend Warrior!
Four Christmases (New Line/WB)
Starring Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek
Directed by Seth Gordon (The King of Kong); Written by Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Genre: Comedy, Holiday, Romance
Tagline: “His father, her mother, his mother and her father, all in one day.”
Plot Summary: Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) are a single couple spending time with each other over the holidays, but when their trip to Fiji is cancelled due to bad weather, they’re forced to visit all of their respective parents and families, a day that unveils secrets that could ultimately split them apart.
Mini-Review: Even if you’re already a fan of Vince Vaughn and/or Reese Witherspoon, you may find yourself mildly surprised by how well this high concept premise works with them in the leading roles as a happy couple whose independence is threatened by their embarrassing families. We’re introduced to them as they meet for the first time in a bar, him striking out badly, but it’s all a part of their fantasy roleplaying ritual to keep their romance alive, but when their normal holiday escape plans are sidelined by cancelled flights, they agree to visit all of their divorced parents and families on Christmas Day, clearly a dire mistake in the making. Sure, it’s probably one of the more ridiculous high concept comedy premises of the year, but it’s also one that works in a similar way as “Meet the Parents” or more appropriately “Christmas Vacation” as you watch the two of them face some of the worst abuses possible at the hands of their respective families. Seth “King of Kong” Gordon does a really good job with his first non-doc material, showing off a strong sense of comic timing and the ability to get great performances out of his cast, whether it’s doing physical comedy or subtler humor. Then again, it’s not so hard when you have such a great cast from top to bottom and where else are you going to find five Oscar winners and a Tony winner doing this kind of situational comedy and it working so well? It’s certainly a nice surprise when each parent is introduced as they each bring something new to the mix, especially Robert Duvall as Vaughn’s father. Not all of the gags work as planned, but Vaughn is at his best when he’s doing his usual schtick leaving Reese to struggle while playing catch-up. There are more than a few memorable bits, whether it’s watching Vaughn getting beaten up by Jon Favreau and Tim McGraw in a living room wrestling bout or enjoying a pleasant game of Taboo go wrong due to Brad’s over-zealous mother, played by Sissy Spacek. Some of the humor is fairly obvious like babies throwing up and the ubiquitous awkward revelations from their past–Reese’s secret past gets funnier and funnier with each photo–but few will expect such a hilarious outcome when the duo are convinced to take part in a church pageant. The problem with this type of comedy is that you can pretty much figure out where the movie is going and what will happen merely from the premise, so one immediately realizes that all this family time could only drive a wedge into the perfect couple’s relationship. In that sense, the movie offers very few surprises along the way but more than enough laughs to make up for its adherence to formula. Another thing that’s somewhat disconcerting is the movie’s PG-13 rating, which may be missed in the film’s marketing as a family holiday movie. There’s almost no swearing, nudity and only comic violence, but if you don’t want your younger kids asking you about pregnancy tests and other more adult fare then it’s best to use proper parental reasoning when deciding whether you want your kids learning about that stuff in a movie. Either way, there are far worse ways of kicking yourself into the holiday spirit than this inventive variation on the “Meet the Parents” formula, which delivers enough laughs one can easily imagine this eventually becoming a must-watch holiday standard. Rating: 7.5/10
One thing that’s almost a given over the Thanksgiving holiday, is that a movie that deals in any way with Christmas or the holidays, especially comedies, can do very well this weekend. Black Friday is when everyone in the nation suddenly starts realizing Christmas is only a month away, and the long weekend is the perfect opportunity to go holiday shopping at the local mall, where deals are aplenty. Since that activity tends to be a family event, it’s common to release holiday fare that can be enjoyed by the whole family after they’ve finished shopping. That might not necessarily be the case with this new comedy, which reunites Vince Vaughn with New Line, the company who produced Vaughn’s blockbuster R-rated comedy Wedding Crashers a few years ago, but it also teams him with Reese Witherspoon, an actress who’s had her own share of comedy hits as well as a strong and dedicated fanbase.
While the results of this pairing are being marketed like any other holiday comedy released over Thanksgiving, the real key to the movie’s success will be the popularity of the two stars and the concept of them doing a holiday-themed comedy. We won’t waste a lot of time running through Vaughn and Witherspooon’s respective filmographies, though both have proven they can sell a comedy on their own merits, both having headlined movies that grossed over $100 million. Vaughn has a small advantage over Reese with “Dodgeball,” Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up all having brought in big audiences, and her biggest successes being the first Legally Blonde and the 2002 romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama. Besides being a holiday comedy released on the most opportune weekend to take advantage of those just getting into the holiday spirit, Four Christmases caters to the strengths of both actors, combining elements of past movies that have done well for them the eclectic situational family humor of Wedding Crashers with the relationship laughs of their respective romantic comedies. On the other hand, Vaughn’s last attempt at a holiday comedy was Fred Claus, which opened a few weeks before Thanksgiving last year with $18.8 million, ultimately grossing $72 million, not bad but not great when one puts it next to some of his previous comedies and how his buddy Will Ferrell’s Elf fared a few years earlier. The good news is that the sum of these two actors might be greater than the individual parts, since enough women like them both and might be interested in seeing them together, even if the commercials play down the romcom aspects of the movie. (We won’t take the rumors of them feuding on set too seriously.)
What’s amazing about the movie is how many Oscar winners are present in the cast. Besides Reese, who won for the biopic Walk the Line, every single one of the duo’s parents have won an Oscar before, whether it’s Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek (playing Vaughn’s divorced parents), Mary Steenburgen or John Voight. Vaughn has also brought many of his long-time friends along including the ever-present Jon Favreau, who first found fame co-starring with Vaugh in Swingers. Here, he almost steals the movie as Brad’s extreme fighting brother along with country singer Tim McGraw. Vaughn’s other long-time friend Peter Billingsley a.k.a. Ralphie from “A Christmas Tale” makes an appearance as well as being one of the movie’s executive producers. The choice in director might seem odd since Seth Gordon previously helmed the video game documentary “The King of Kong,” a highly-praised and entertaining documentary which didn’t get that much business when released last year. He’s definitely a director to watch though as he’s been developing a dramatic version of that story and other projects.
While the project was developed and producer under the guidance of New Line, it was one of the movies adopted by Warner Bros. when the two companies merged earlier this year, which allowed it to get a stronger marketing campaign. Essentially, the movie is being marketed much like other Thanksgiving holiday comedies, Joe Roth’s Christmas with the Kranks and 2006’s Deck the Halls, starring Danny De Vito and Matthew Broderick, being two extremes. A major difference with this one is that it’s rated PG-13 rather than PG, which could keep families with smaller kids from going to see it, something that might have hurt Just Friends, which had a similar blend of holiday, romantic and situational humor, though it didn’t have as blatant a holiday title. It’s fairly apparent that Vaughn and Witherspoon have far more box office appeal than many of the stars involved with any of those previous holiday comedies, and both of them have enough fans to make this a first choice this weekend for anyone from 15 to 30.
Of the new movies opening this week, Four Christmases is the only one that’s going to open in over 3,000 theaters (again, thanks to new distributor Warner Bros.) and it’s likely to play well in a lot of different suburban areas, rather than just in big cities, so expect the movie to be very crowded on Black Friday as this becomes the first choice. Also expect reviews to be decent compared to other holiday comedies, which will help it not be so frontloaded for the week, as fans of comedy discover how well this works as those suffering from their own family madness over Thanksgiving will find this to be the perfect comedy release to see with their own families.
Why I Should See It: Vaughn and Witherspoon can be pretty funny on their own but put into a high concept situational comedy like this one could really pay-off.
Why Not: Bah, humbug… is anyone really in the Christmas spirit right now with the economy the way it is?
Projections: $8 to 9 million on Wednesday and Thursday and another $21 to 23 million over the weekend on its way to $75 to 80 million total.
Australia (20th Century Fox)
Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown, David Gulpilil
Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom); Written by Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie (Collateral, Derailed, 30 Days of Night), Ronald Harwood (The Pianist, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Being Julia, Oliver Twist), Richard Flanagan (The Sound of One Hand Clapping)
Genre: Adventure, Romance, War, Western
Plot Summary: World War II has just begun and Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) travels to Australia to take over her husband’s cattle business after he’s mysteriously killed, but she finds herself having to fight off the competition, King Carney (Bryan Brown) and his henchman (David Wenham), while trying to protect a half-breed Aboriginal boy (Brandon Walters.) With the help of a tough rancher known as “The Drover” (Hugh Jackman), Lady Ashley must get their cattle to the docks of Darwin, Australia to beat King Carney at his own game.
Review (Coming Soon!)
It’s been over seven years since Baz Luhrmann wowed the world with his third film, the musical Moulin Rouge!, the movie that would immediately get him worldwide attention that his previous two movies hadn’t achieved, as well as his first pairing with actress Nicole Kidman. It couldn’t come at a better time for Kidman, whose status as an actress was elevated following her divorce from husband Tom Cruise, and it proved that she didn’t need him to bring people into theaters. The innovative musical’s success was imminent when it opened in a single theater in New York and L.A, bringing in record audiences, and when it expanded nationwide in the early summer of ’01, it made $13.7 million its first weekend, going on to gross more than $57 million, and it grossed $177 million worldwide. Later that year, it would win three Golden Globes for Best Picture Musical/Comedy, for Kidman’s performance and for Craig Armstrong’s scorebefore being nominated for seven Oscars. Lurhmann was tragically spurned, but the movie did win two technical Oscars for Art Direction and Costumes, though by then, it had built up quite a devout fanbase that carried over to its release on DVD and cable. (Sidenote: the movie is this writer’s #3 movie of all time, just to give you first-hand proof what kind of love the film has garnered.)
Something to remember is that when Baz’s musical came out, none of the big movie musicals had been released back then, not Chicago, not Dreamgirls nor Sweeney Todd, Rent or others, but Lurhmann’s movie put something into the ether that got other filmmakers interested in making musicals again and just a year later, Chicago would win the Oscar for Best Picture, urging many more studios to make movies based on hit Broadway musicals.
Luhrmann’s latest is somewhat of a departure in that it might not be seem nearly as innovative or groundbreaking as his previous films, being more of a throwback to classic films of the ’30s like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of the Oz, while also paying tribute to the traditions and customs of Luhrmann’s homeland by delving into local traditions of the continent’s indigent Aboriginal population. While that might not sound like something that American audiences might be very interested in, they do have a long love for romantic epics whether it be Gone with the Wind or The English Patient or Titanic or even Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. Even if Baz is treading familiar cinematic ground, it’s his amazing vision that gets movie lovers so excited and why they’ll be thrilled that he’s back with another movie.
Luhrmann wisely brought back his Moulin Rouge! leading lady Nicole Kidman to play Lady Sarah Ashley, and just the thought of the two of them working together for the third timethey did a Chanel commercial a few years agowill get both of their fans excited to see them reunited. Since starring in the musical and getting an Oscar nomination for her performance, Kidman won an Oscar the following year for the drama The Hours, then bounced between high-profile movies like Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain and the late Sidney Pollack’s political thriller The Interpreter and odder indie fare. Having won the Oscar and headlined a number of hits, one would think Kidman could do no wrong but her eclectic choices have ultimately hurt her star status. Last year, she starred in the long-delayed thriller The Invasion which bombed, followed by New Line’s The Golden Compass, which also didn’t do particularly well in the States, and her teaming with Noah Baumbach and Jack Black for Margot at the Wedding also didn’t fare well, earning less than $2 million.
Fortunately, Kidman doesn’t have to carry this movie alone and for her second Baz Luhrmann film, she’s been teamed with fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman, just two years after the two of them performed a memorable duet together (as penguins) in George Miller’s animated musical Happy Feet. That movie was an enormous hit over Thanksgiving two years ago, though that same year, Jackman starred in Darren Aronofsky’s romantic sci-fi epic The Fountain, a movie which probably shouldn’t have been released over Thanksgiving. Like Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris, the movie was just too strange for mainstream audiences despite the starpower, and it’s common knowledge that adult-targeted art films aren’t a good choice to open over Thanksgiving. Still, Jackman has built a reputation playing Wolverine in the “X-Men” movies and next year’s anticipated prequel, and he’s also done more than his share of romantic fare, which doesn’t make him seem odd as the romantic lead in this type of movie. Oddly, Jackman’s last movie for Fox was the long-shelved thriller Deception opposite Ewan McGregor (from Moulin Rouge! no less), which bombed when it was released earlier this year with little promotion.
Longtime movie lovers might also appreciate some of the other Australian talent Luhrmann has brought on board like Bryan Brown, best known for his movie F/X, David Wenham of “The Lord of the Rings” movies, and Jack Thompson, who isn’t as well known on these shores, but is a hugely popular star in Australia.
Fortunately, 20th Century Fox has done a spectacular job marketing the movie and getting people excited about Baz’s return with commercials and marketing that show off the amazing visuals, the romance and the epic feel of the movie, boosted by a well-timed hour-long hype show staged by Oprah. The latter helped build a lot of buzz, and then they waited until the week before opening before screening the movie to make sure it didn’t peak too early. Despite the strong marketing campaign, the movie is facing a lot of obstacles, the first one being its running time at 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is kind of an excessive amount of time to expect from moviegoers for a Thanksgiving movie. Reviews will generally be mixed since the more cynical critics will trash it for Luhrmann wearing his influences on his sleeve, and the long running time is not going to help win many of them over. On top of that, the long running time will limit the number of screenings the movie will get in a single day and might turn off those who would rather spend the holiday weekend with their family.
Either way, Luhrmann’s latest might behave similarly to James Cameron’s Titanic in that older moviegoers, especially women, will mostly love it, enough to want to see it again and tell their friends, as they gush over the romance between Kidman and that dreamy Jackman. Either way, with no direct competition for older audiences over the next few weeks, one could easily see the movie at least doing as well as Cold Mountain where it does decent business in the weeks that follow, especially on weekdays which can really boost its box office.
Why I Should See It: Luhrmann is an amazing visionary filmmaker and this is only his second film in ten years, again teaming him with Nicole Kidman, the Oscar-nominated star of his last film.
Why Not: 2 hours and 45 minutes is a lot to ask of anyone, especially for a movie opening over the holidays.
Projections: $22 to 24 million in its first five days with roughly $15 to 17 million of that over the three-day weekend. Word-of-mouth among older moviegoers could help this gross as much as $70 to 75 million by the time it leaves theaters.
Transporter 3 (Lionsgate)
Starring Jason Statham, Francois Berleand, Natalya Rudakova, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbe, Alex Kobold, David Atrakchi, Yann Sundberg, Eriq Ebouaney, David Kammenos, Silvio Simac
Directed by Olivier Megaton (Exit, 2nd unit for Hitman); Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (Unleashed, Kiss of the Dragon, The Transporter and The Transporter 2, The Fifth Element, Bandidas and upcoming Taken)
Tagline: “If you need it to arrive safe and in one piece — hire a professional.”
Plot Summary: Frank Martin (Jason Statham) is teamed with a Ukrainian party girl (Natalya Rudakova) who makes his latest mission even more difficult than it already is considering that they’ve been forced to wear bracelets that will explode if they get too far away from Frank’s car.
Mini-Review: After the abysmal 2005 sequel, one might wonder how anyone could go into this three-quel not expecting the worst. Wisely, producer and co-writer Luc Besson realized where the last movie failed and goes back to the tried and true formula of the first movie by pairing Frank Martin with a pretty young woman, creating just the right awkward sexual tension to keep things light and fun when he’s not taking out gangs of baddies or driving his souped-up car onto a train. Good luck figuring out the plot for the first twenty minutes as we’re given scenes of hazardous waste and a fill-in “transporter” killed off by a bad guy who makes Frank an offer he can’t refuse to leave behind his retirement fishing trips with his good friend, Inspector Tarconi (Francois Berleand). It’s never quite clear what he’s hiring Frank to do or why he’s given him a driving partner, but there’s the added twist of the exploding bracelet that keeps Frank and his passenger on course, forcing them to remain within a certain distance from the car, and that’s used well as the instigator for a couple cool action scenes. Going back to the franchise’s initial roots is certainly an improvement over the last installment, but those showing up for the action might get bored by the amount of cutesy banter between Frank and Valentina, a freckle-faced Ukrainian party girl played by Natalya Rudakova, who alternates between adorable and annoying. So much of the movie relies on their sexual tension that one thinks Besson might want to trademark the term “rom-action” to describe the way the movie gives equal time to sex and action. It’s hard to determine whether Statham is good or just that the rest of the cast is so bad that he stands out, but Frank Martin has become a fun action flick character which Statham instills with enough personality to differentiate him from his other roles. The worst of the bunch is Robert Knepper as the main bad guy, basically a ’90s action movie cliché if ever there was one, and he constantly does the type of things you expect; it’s a pretty silly caricature but there’s something about such an obvious throwback. Clearly, the movie’s strong suit are the impressive fight sequences once again choreographed by Corey Yuen and a couple of the car stunts are also cool. However you slice it, the movie never gets dull nor does it get as ludicrous as plenty of other action films. As silly and ridiculous the movie is at times–it never promised to be as intelligent as “Wanted”–it’s the kind of mindless cornball fun that made the later Roger Moore Bond movies so entertaining, even offering a big goon for Statham to fight, something sorely lacking from the latest Bond flick. Once Olivier Megaton gets over his urge to overstylize things, he doesn’t do a bad job creating his own very different take on the action film. (Seriously, how many times have you heard “I Wanna Be a Dog” used as the soundtrack for a chase scene? I’ll tell you when: Never.) No, “Transporter 3” could never be deemed a “good movie” but it’s one of those bad movies so entertaining and fun it’s hard to fully condemn it. Leave your brain at home, buy the biggest popcorn you can and you’ll be wishing for a fourth installment even after cringing through some of the movie’s intentionally dumb moments. Rating: 6/10
At this point, just about every male movie fan probably knows who Jason Statham is, even though he really hasn’t had that many huge blockbuster hits. Even so, back in 2002, when he starred in Luc Besson’s action flick The Transporter, he was basically the guy from Guy Ritchie’s movies and hadn’t even appeared in the summer sleeper hit The Italian Job. The original movie wasn’t a huge hit, grossing just $25 million after opening in a busy weekend in October ’02. That wasn’t really enough to cover the budget, marketing and cost of prints, but the movie then found a solid audience of fans on DVD and cable, helping to establish Statham as someone who could be more than just a sideman or supporting actor. Six years later, Statham is considered a bonafide action star who can usually generate between $25 to 35 million in box office for his movies.
After The Transporter, Statham played a scene-stealing character in The Italian Job and a baddie in the thriller Cellular, and in 2005, Besson decided to revisit the character and Statham had another chance to play Frank Martin, the well-dressed driver with a clear set of rules and a good amount of martial arts moves. Opening over Labor Day weekend, the sequel did far better than the original, grossing almost as much in four days as the original did in its theatrical run and setting a new holiday record, proving that Statham’s character had found new fans after the original movie left theaters. While few might feel that the sequel was as good, you couldn’t tell by the reviews either from critics or moviegoers: The Transporter got a 6.5/10 from IMDb Users, while its sequel ranked slightly lower, and though the first movie didn’t do bad among critics (roughly 53% on Rotten Tomatoes), again the sequel only fared slightly lower. It doesn’t generally seem that fans were disappointed with the sequel even though it didn’t have any sort of long-term legs, grossing just a little more than twice its opening weekend.
Statham followed the sequel with another Labor Day breakout action flick, Crank, which gets its own sequel next year, and then this year Statham headlined the critically-acclaimed The Bank Job and a remake of Death Race, both which grossed over $30 million, showing that his presence does help bring people into theaters. Even though Statham can star in a movie and guarantee a certain opening, he’s really won over a strong fanbase with his character Frank Martin making The Transporter a viable franchise for French producer Luc Besson. Statham has proven to be as valuable to Besson as martial artist Jet Li, who starred in two Besson movies, but reteaming the two in last year’s War, choreographed by Corey Yuen, who directed the first “Transporter” and choreographed the fight sequences in all the movie since. (Yuen hasn’t had as much luck as a director since The Transporter, having helmed a movie based on the video game D.O.A., which bombed badly.)
One interesting thing about this 3quel is that it’s the first in the series not released by 20th Century Fox. For whatever reason, the studio passed on continuing the series so Besson brought it to Lionsgate, who has had a good amount of success with Statham in the last year, this being their fourth movie with the British actor. While they probably have a smaller budget for marketing than Fox, they’ve done a good job with exciting posters and trailers that show the movie to contain all the action fans of the franchise expect. Fox was able to get the previous movie into over 3,000 theatres, but Lionsgate might not have the kind of pull with exhibitors to get quite as wide a release, and they might be hesitant to give too many screens to the movie. Thanksgiving generally isn’t a great time to release a movie not for family audiences, though there are many single guys who don’t go home for the holiday looking for new movies to see on Wednesday and Thursday. That was the case with Hitman, another Luc Besson production, which opened last Thanksgiving and grossed over $20 million in the five-day weekend despite not having much starpower. In fact, Transporter 3 director Olivier Megaton was the 2nd Unit director for that movie, so it’s appropriate that his first major English-language film would open exactly a year later.
Oddly, Lionsgate actually screened this movie in advance, something they haven’t done with most of their movies this year, and while reviews probably won’t be very good, those who loved the first movie won’t care and will try to catch it sometime over the five-day holiday weekend, more likely on opening day or Thanksgiving itself. One probably shouldn’t expect much in the form of legs with a movie like this, as the fans will see it and few others will be very interested.
Why I Should See It: If you’re into seeing more of the mindless action and fun from the previous two movies, Transporter 3 really delivers an entertaining flick.
Why Not: No one could ever call this a “good movie,” especially compared to some of the great action movies released this summer.
Projections: $17 to 19 million over the five-day weekend with roughly $11 to 12 of that over the three-day weekend, but it will probably end up with less than $40 million total.
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Thankfully, only one limited release, but it would have gotten “Chosen One” regardless…
Milk (Focus Features)
Starring Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Victor Garber, Denis O’Hare, Stephen Spinella, Eric Stoltz
Directed by Gus Van Sant (Elephant, Good Will Hunting, Psycho; Written by Dustin Lance Black (Pedro, “Big Love,” director On the Bus)
Genre: Drama, Biopic, Politics
Tagline: “His life changed history. His courage changed lives.”
Plot Summary: Openly gay Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) moved to San Francisco when he was 40 and immediately became a vocal activist in the city’s mostly gay Castro district, and he decides to use the support he gets to run for office and fight discrimination against homosexuals in San Francisco and California.
Review (Coming Soon!)
Milk opens in limited release on Wednesday this week and will surely expand wider over the course of December.
(I’m starting to feel that I’m cheating a little bit by not actually doing any sort of write-up for “The Chosen One” like I used to and saving my opinions for my reviews. That’s part of the compromise I’ve had to make to get this column out on Tuesdays, and I’d be curious to know how people feel about not having a more personalized write-up every week.)
Next week, the month of December kicks-off with the comic book based action flick Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson, while Adrien Brody, Beyoncé Knowles and Jeffrey Wright star in the musical biopic Cadillac Records about the soul and blues label Chess Records.
Copyright 2008 Edward Douglas