The Weekend Warrior: March 19 – 21

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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.

As mentioned last week, this is going to be a minimal stripped-down column due to other commitments.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons

UPDATE: A couple minor changes–sorry they’re later than normal–but we’ve also added our thoughts on Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer which expands into 819 theaters nationwide this weekend.

1. Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures) – $35.5 million -44% (up .9 million)

2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (20th Century Fox) – $22.8 million N/A (down .8 million)

3. The Bounty Hunter (Sony) – $20.1 million N/A (down 1.3 million)

4. Repo Men (Universal) – $11.2 million N/A (same!)

5. Green Zone (Universal) – $7.5 million -47% (same)

6. She’s Out of My League (Paramount/DreamWorks) – $7.1 million -28% (up 1.2 million)

7. Shutter Island (Paramount) – $5.3 million -35% (up .2 million)

8. Avatar (20th Century Fox) – $4.6 million -30% (down .3 million)

9. Our Family Wedding (Fox Searchlight) – $4.4 million -43% (down .1 million)

10. Remember Me (Summit Entertainment) – $3.9 million -52% (same)

The Ghost Writer (Summit Entertainment) – $2.5 million +100%

Weekend Overview

March rolls on with three new movies in wide release, although it’s highly doubtful any of them will be able to take down Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in its third weekend, as it continues to run rampant thanks to the higher ticket prices that come with IMAX and 3D.

Even so, the surprise breakout hit of the weekend is likely to be Diary of a Wimpy Kid (20th Century Fox), based on the popular best-selling kids’ books by Jeff Kinney that have sold 24 million copies. Although it has very few known stars–look for Chloe Moretz to break out with Kick-Ass next month–these are books that kids absolutely love and can relate to, and they and their parents have been greatly anticipating them being brought to the screen. Even though the trailers don’t make it look much better than New Line’s How to Eat Fried Worms which grossed just $13 million or Max Keeble’s Big Move which ended up with $17.3 million, the overwhelming interest in the books among kids will make it a must-see if not this weekend then over the coming Easter/spring school breaks, which should allow it to gross close to $80 million even with the release of DreamWorks Animation’s latest movie next weekend.

Its strongest competition for second place is The Bounty Hunter (Sony), a high concept “battle of the sexes” comedy pitting Gerard Butler vs. Jennifer Aniston, both of whom have had substantial hits in that particular genre. Most recently, Butler was pitted against Katherine Heigl in Sony’s The Ugly Truth, which grossed $88.9 million, and Jennifer Aniston in any number of romantic comedies throughout her career. The popularity of the two stars will drive the box office on this one, making it especially appealing to women, and there shouldn’t be very much crossover with the other movies to keep it from also topping the $20 million mark this weekend, although overall, it probably will end up with roughly $60 to 65 million.

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are an even more unlikely pairing for Miguel Sapochnik’s directorial debut, the sci-fi action-thriller Repo Men (Universal) set in a future where people can buy artificial organs and body parts but risk having them repossessed if they don’t pay. The future shock flick combines action and gore and laughs in a way that should appeal to the 16 to 25 year old males who play video games and dig movies like Crank, although it’s not likely to have any appeal to women or older guys. Unfortunately, movies like this, which try to mix action with sci-fi and dark humor, tend to be a hard sell, as seen with the movies from Neveldine and Taylor like Crank and Gamer, and they tend to do better on DVD later. Still, it should bring in enough business to score third place and end up with roughly $30 million or slightly less theatrically.

You can read interviews with director Miguel Sapochnik and actor Forest Whitaker here and here.

This weekend last year saw three similarly disparate wide releases with the Nicolas Cage sci-fi thriller Knowing (Summit) topping the box office with just under $25 million, followed by the Paul Rudd-Jason Segel buddy comedy I Love You, Man (Paramount) with $17.8 million and the Julia Roberts-Clive Owen corporate comedy Duplicity (Universal) in third with $14 million. The Top 10 grossed $93 million, an amount that should once again be bested, continuing this year’s box office improvement over the same period last year.

Sorry, no “Battle Cry” this week for reasons mentioned above.


THE CHOSEN ONE:

It’s been hard to choose just one movie to showcase this week because there are so many good movies, but as far as the best of the bunch, we highly recommend Raymond de Felitta’s City Island (Anchor Bay Films), a hilarious dysfunctional family dramedy starring Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Emily Mortimer and Alan Arkin, which won audiences over at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. The story of Garcia’s Vincent Rizzo, a prison guard from the Bronx subsidiary island, and what he goes through to hide secrets from his family (who have their own secrets) is funny and touching and quirky, and just an amazing achievement from the director of Thing About My Folks, the comedy vehicle that brought together Paul Reiser and Peter Falk.

For more on the movie, look for our interview with Raymond de Felitta before Friday when City Island opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, then expands to other cities over the coming weeks.

Honorable Mention(s):

If you live in one of the select cities where Toni Myer’s Hubble 3D (Warner Bros.) is playing in IMAX 3D, we highly recommend checking it out, especially if you’ve ever been interested in space travel or the work of NASA’s astronauts. It centers around the launch and repair of the Hubble Telescope, including fantastic footage from the telescope of galaxies and star systems light years away, all realized in spectacular IMAX 3D.

Interview with director Toni Myers and astronaut Michael Massimino

Niels Astrup’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Music Box Films) is an intense thriller that should appeal to fans of Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. It’s a dark film that features fantastic performances from Swedish superstar Michael Nyqvist and relative newcomer Noomi Rapace, the latter playing the cyberpunk heroine Lisbeth Salander, a hacker who helps the former solve the case of a girl who disappeared forty years earlier, only to uncover a nefarious series of violent murders that have been covered up. It opens in limited release this week in many cities on Friday then expanding elsewhere over the coming weeks. You can see the full list of playdates on the film’s official site.

Interview with Director Niels Astrup and actress Noomi Rapace

Lastly, we really enjoyed Noah (The Squid and the Whale) Baumbach’s new movie Greenberg (Focus Features), which stars Ben Stiller in the title role as a moody New Yorker who agrees to housesit for his brother and begins a relationship with his brother’s assistant, played by the Queen of Mumblecore, Greta Gerwig. It’s a return to form for Baumbach after the disappointing Margot at the Wedding, a quirky and romantic character piece that reminds us what a great actor Stiller can be with the right material.

Also in Limited Release:

We weren’t as big a fan of Floria Sigismondi’s rock biopic The Runaways (Apparition), starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart as Cherrie Currie and Joan Jett, who as teen girls formed the first all-girl punk group. It’s hard to explain why the movie didn’t work as well as other rock movies, but we did love Michael Shannon’s crazy performance as the group’s mad Svengali Kim Fowley though. It opens in select cities this weekend then opens wide on April 9.

We’re similarly mixed on the two Italian films being released this weekend, Gianni Di Gregorio’s Mid-August Lunch (Zeitgeist Films), the directorial debut from the star of the acclaimed Italian crime-drama Gomorrah, which opens at the Film Forum today, and Marco Bellocchio’s drama Vincere (IFC Films) about the mistress and illegitimate child of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. It will open in select cities on Friday.

For the rest of what’s coming out this weekend, check out the ComingSoon.net database, and once again, our deepest apologies that this is such a light and minimalist column this week.


Next week, the month of March nears its end with DreamWorks Animation’s latest How to Train Your Dragon and the time traveling comedy Hot Tub Time Machine (MGM) starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry, and the Weekend Warrior will hopefully be back in all his glory!

Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas