The Weekend Warrior: February 11 – 13

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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.

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: The biggest change is the mid-week jump for Disney’s Gnomeo and Juliet which has been getting a huge push this week and it should benefit greatly from the lack of other family films to do better than we suspected earlier.

1. Just Go With It (Sony) – $35.2 million N/A (same)

2. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount) – $27.3 million N/A (Same)

3. Gnomeo & Juliet (Disney/Touchstone) – $15.2 million N/A (Up 4.4 million)

4. The Eagle (Focus Features) – $8.0 million N/A (up .4 million)

5. The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co.) – $6.0 million -22% (down .1 million)

6. The Roommate (Sony/Screen Gems) – $5.3 million -63% (down .2 million)

7. No Strings Attached (Paramount) – $5.2 million -34% (same)

8. Sanctum (Universal) – $5.2 million -45% (same)

9. The Green Hornet (Sony) – $3.3 million -45% (same)

10. True Grit (Paramount) – $2.9 million -35% (down .1 million)

Weekend Overview

It’s the pre-Valentine’s Day weekend, the annual holiday celebrating love and romance, which is falling on a Monday this year, and while there are two movies that tie into that theme this weekend, there are also two G-rated movies released wide this weekend, possibly the first time in many years where the latter is the case? With only one movie making more than $20 million in a single weekend so far this year, this weekend might be a chance to turn things around and it’s expected that first place will go to one of two movies featuring major stars with the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It (Sony) having the slight advantage of pairing two popular actors in the type of romantic-comedy genre they’ve both done well with that should appeal to younger couples trying to do something romantic over the weekend before Valentine’s Day.

Then again, one shouldn’t underestimate the popularity of Justin Bieber and the teen girl draw of a 3D concert doc like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount) which will hope to bring in the amount of business as the Miley Cyrus & Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds concert film rather than the disappointing Jonas Bros. movie. Opening in over 3,000 theaters (nearly five times as many as Miley’s movie), business should be spread out but there should be enough of an avid fanbase for the movie to do huge business on Friday despite Wednesday previews.

The way we see things, Bieber will win Friday with relative ease, but Sandler will have a substantial bump on Saturday to end up the victor for the weekend by Sunday.

The G-rated animated movie Gnomeo & Juliet (Disney/Touchstone), a leftover from the Miramax era, may be able to bring in some of the family audience with younger kids that haven’t been catered to for seemingly months, although any chance of bringing in girls may be a lost cause with the Justin Bieber movie also in theaters, essentially cutting the film’s potential audience in half. It probably will end up in the high single digits range for third plce.

Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell star in the Roman invasion epic The Eagle (Focus Features), directed by Kevin McDonald, which could benefit from the lack of movies for guys following the testosterone-building Super Bowl weekend, but it’s getting a more moderate theater count that might limit business and its chances of beating the more widely-released animated movie. (The movie was also advertised during the Super Bowl pre-game on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see if that helps get the film over the $10 million mark.)

This weekend last year was Presidents’ Day weekend with Valentine’s Day falling on Sunday, which completely throws off the month in terms of 1 to 1 comparisons, especially when you have a movie called Valentine’s Day (New Line/WB), which did huge business on the weekend, grossing $56 million during the three-day portion. The remake of the horror classic The Wolfman (Universal) starring Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins and Chris Columbus’ Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (20th Century Fox) fought it out for second place with $31 million each over the three-day weekend though the latter ultimately won the second slot over the four-day weekend. Without the added business from the holiday and with Valentine’s Day following on Monday, this weekend probably won’t be helped by either and though the Top 10 should still gross $100 million, it’s not going to come close to the huge box office of last President’s Day.


Just Go With It (Sony)
Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Dave Matthews, Bailee Madison
Directed by Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, Grown Ups, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Big Daddy, The Benchwarmers); Written by Allan Loeb (The Dilemma, The Switch, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Tim Dowling (Role Models)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Sometimes a guy’s best wingman… is a wingwoman.”
Plot Summary: Danny (Adam Sandler) is a plastic surgeon who decides to romance a much younger schoolteacher (Brooklyn Decker) so he gets his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to pretend to be his ex-wife, borrowing her kids to maintain the illusion as they all head to Hawaii for a weekend.

Review

Analysis:

Having starred in nearly 20 movies since his breakout role in Billy Madison in 1995, the movie that named his production company, the former “SNL” player Adam Sandler shows little sign of slowing down as he gets closer to his 45th birthday, following up his hugely successful summer comedy Grown Ups with a return to the romantic comedy he’s done so well when teamed with Drew Barrymore for The Wedding Singer in 1998 ($80.2 million gross) and their follow-up 50 First Dates in 2004 ($120.8 million). In both cases, the movies were released the day before Valentine’s Day and were greatly helped by the amount of loving couples looking for a romantic movie to bring them together. Just Go With It is hoping for the same effect although Valentine’s Day taking place on a Monday won’t help its opening weekend as much. Either way, Sandler has a strong track record and a fairly faithful fanbase that will see anything he’s in, and Just Go With It looks no better or worse than his previous movies.

For this one, Sandler is teamed for the first time with Jennifer Aniston, an actress who many consider to be an A-list actress in her own right following her run on the hit sitcom “Friends.” Her biggest films to date have been Bruce Almighty in 2003, which could have just as well been attributed to her leading man Jim Carrey, and Marley & Me, which was clearly more of a hit because of its dog. In between, she was paired with Vince Vaughn for the rom-com hit The Break-Up, which crossed the $100 million and the rom-com anthology He’s Just Not That Into You came pretty close, helped greatly by the Valentine’s Day holiday. Last year, Aniston had a moderate hit when paired with Gerard Butler for The Bounty Hunter, but also starred in the bomb The Switch, so it’s hard to determine whether her fanbase will go see her in any movie she does. It’s probably more about the material and the marketing, and teaming with a solid box office star like Adam Sandler should mean that Aniston won’t have to do the heavy lifting as she’s often had to do in the past.

Sandler is once again reteaming with the director with whom he’s had the most success, Dennis Dugan, for their first of two movies released in 2011–they’re busy finishing up Jack and Jill for a holiday release–and Dugan was the man behind the camera for the movie that’s still Sandler’s biggest hit to date, Big Daddy. That movie also had Sandler taking care of kids, which is clearly something that was a novelty back when that movie was released over 11 years ago, but now? Maybe not so much. Interestingly, the movie also returns Sandler to Hawaii, the location of his previous romantic hit as well as other successful comedies that were set in the tropics such as Vince Vaughn’s Couples Retreat and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. On the flipside is Ben Stiller’s The Heartbreak Kid, one of the comic’s bigger bombs.

One of the new “faces” being featured in the movie is Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, and oddly, Nicole Kidman appears in the movie just as she’s enjoying her first Oscar nomination in many years, but her role in the film is being played down compared to the two stars and the swimsuit model.

There are a lot of good things going for Sandler’s latest, including an easy-to-understand high concept premise about Jennifer Aniston pretending to be Sandler’s wife, which is something that should be interesting enough for both their fans. The marketing is playing up the humor rather than the romance though, which could backfire if they were going for a potential Valentine’s Day date movie audience. Even so, opening on the weekend before Valentine’s Day should help since there aren’t any other rom-coms in theaters, and it should benefit as a Saturday night date movie ala Will Smith’s Hitch. Sony wisely bought a Super Bowl spot featuring Brooklyn Decker in a skimpy bikini with the absolutely hilarious line, “Tell your girlfriend it’s a romantic comedy.” There’s a lot of crossover between Sandler and football fans, which makes the commercial during Sunday’s pre-show a brilliant bit of marketing by the studio who have done very well with Sandler and his pals.

Even so, some might wonder when Sandler is finally going to stall out and fail with one of his comedies, because other than low-key dramas and the Judd Apatow comedy Funny People, Sandler has been fairly consistent with his movies grossing $100 million, even with weaker offerings like Bedtime Stories and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. The fact that Sandler was able to have his third $160 million hit just last year is telling us that his fanbase isn’t sick of his schtick just yet and they’re just as likely to see this one.

Why I Should See It: This looks like another Sandler-as-a-regular-guy comedy as opposed to him playing a character, and the market could really use a good comedy.
Why Not: Yes, we realize the irony of us hoping Adam Sandler might deliver a good comedy after seeing Grown Ups.
Projections: $33 to 36 million opening weekend and roughly $110 million total.

COMPARISONS


Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount)
Starring Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Ludacris, Sean Kingston, Boys II Men, Jaden Smith
Directed by Jon Chu (Step Up 2 The Streets, Step Up 3D)
Genre: Musical, Documentary
Rated G
Tagline:
Plot Summary: The teen pop sensation Justin Bieber gets his own movie covering his life story (all 16 years of it) and his impressive career at such a young age.

Analysis:

A couple of years ago, Miley Cyrus was one of Disney’s biggest stars with her hit Disney Channel show “Hannah Montana,” which led to her selling lots of records and staging a sold out tour that wisely, Disney filmed in 3D then released in early February 2008 to the tune of $31 million in just 683 theaters at a time when 3D was still coming into its own. Thanks to that movie and James Cameron’s Avatar, more theatre chains and owners have upgraded their theaters to be able to play digital 3D movies, which is why when 16-year-old pop sensation Justin Bieber stars in a 3D movie, it will play in over 3,000 theaters.

Now we’ve seen many times how huge platinum-selling pop and rock stars aren’t able to bring their massive audience into theaters to see their movies but Justin Bieber (like Miley Cyrus) may be a different story, especially since Never Say Never is more of a doc about the teen heartthrob than a straight concert movie. It’s also hard to ignore the enormous record sales of Bieber’s last album “My World 2.0,” and in fact, Bieber made $103.7 million in 2010 divided between album sales and tour revenue as well as $6.9 million from digital track downloads. That’s a lot of money and a lot of fans, and they are clearly as fanatical as the fans of the Harry Potter books. Besides selling lots of records, Bieber is also a Twitter sensation with his young female fans helping to promote him through the social media site.

In many ways, movies like this are very hard to gauge because as much as you expect all of Bieber’s fans to race out to see the movie, there’s a chance that seeing a movie just doesn’t provide the same thrills as seeing him in concert or listening to his music. In some ways, this is a lot like Michael Jackson’s This Is It, a concert doc about the late King of Pop that catered directly to his fanbase who wanted to see the concert that never happened, although one would think that Jackson has a lot bigger fanbase than Bieber, having made music for decades (having also started at a young age, oddly enough). Another movie that makes a suitable comparison is High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which opened with $42 million in theaters having built-up a fanbase on the Disney Channel, which they were able to bring out to see the movie opening weekend.

Paramount are having a special Wednesday night sneak preview of Justin Bieber’s movie, a higher-priced ticket that offers some Bieber-related swag for his true fans, and that might take away from those who go to see it over the weekend. Either way, the movie is going to be hugely front-loaded to Friday; in fact, we’d expect the movie to make as much or more on Friday (including Thursday midnights) as it does over the weekend.

Why I Should See It: Because I’ve got the Bieber Fever!
Why Not: Actually, that’s more likely the flu I caught due to the cold weather and traveling so much.
Projections: $25 to 28 million opening weekend and roughly $60 million total

COMPARISONS


Gnomeo & Juliet (Disney/Touchstone)
Starring (the voices of) James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart, Ashley Jensen, Stephen Merchant, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Julie Walters, Richard Wilson, Ozzy Osbourne, Dolly Parton, Hulk Hogan
Directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron; art department for Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa); Written by Rob Sprackling, John R. Smith, Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley, Mark Burton (Aliens in the Attic, Madagascar) (but based on the writing
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated G
Tagline: “A little adventure goes a long way.” (Ouch, that’s bad)
Plot Summary: Gnomeo and Juliet (voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt) are garden gnomes from neighboring gnome tribes who have been feuding for years, but when they fall in love… Well, we don’t want to spoil things, but William Shakespeare’s original story didn’t end well so don’t go expecting a Gnomeo & Juliet 2 any time soon.

Analysis:

Ideas for animated movies have come from a lot of different places so it was only a matter of time before someone was sitting in their front yard reading William Shakespeare’s romantic classic “Romeo and Juliet” when they looked over at their garden gnome and so… Gnomeo & Juliet was born! Filmmakers are often asked where they get their ideas and for Kelly Asbury, it’s more likely he’s asked, “So what was your SECOND idea for an animated movie?” That be as it may, his idea did get made into a movie and here we are talking about it. The project has been in development hell for a long time before Miramax decided to produce it along with Rocket Studios. The odd thing is that Miramax isn’t very well known for animated movies, especially not after the departure of Harvey and Bob Weinstein who developed the family franchise Spy Kids while there.

The voice cast is pretty crazy including some of England’s finest actors like Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart and Michael Caine, some of the country’s new breed in James McAvoy and Emily Blunt, the country’s top comics like Stephen Merchant and Matt Lucas… and then Ozzy Osbourne and wrestler Hulk Hogan. Yeah, it’s a mixed bag for sure. It doesn’t seem like that voice cast means much to Disney who instead are selling the movie based on the fact that it has a soundtrack by singer/songwriter Elton John – hey, it worked for Disney’s Tarzan with its Phil Collins soundtrack!

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Gnomeo & Juliet is the bastard child of Miramax that was picked up by Disney under their Touchstone Pictures imprint, which probably makes it the first G-rated family movie to be released by Touchstone, who previously handled all of Disney’s PG-13 and higher fare.

While a project being on the shelf for this long may be worrying, the fact that the movie is getting released in the middle of February at a time when there are no other family films and with so much bad weather, parents will be itching to get the kids out of the house, which might help the movie make more than $10 million even if the premise doesn’t look very strong. However it does this weekend, it should be able to do even better next week when schools are off on Monday for Presidents’ Day and ultimately, that should help it do fairly decently and not be as big a bomb as something like Valiant or The Ant Bully.

Why I Should See It: Because if this does well, we can expect other Shakespeare classics to be reenacted by lawn ornaments…
Why Not: We really don’t want to be writing about “The Lawn Jockey of Venice” or “A Midsummer’s Night Flamingo” any time soon.
Projections: $10 to 12 million opening weekend and roughly $40 million total.

COMPARISONS


The Eagle (Focus Features)
Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Tahar Rahim
Directed by Kevin McDonald (Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland, State of Play); Written by Jeremy Brock (The Last King of Scotland
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated PG-13
Plot Summary: In 140 AD England, Roman soldier Marcus Flavius (Channing Tatum) decides to cross the Hadrian Wall into Scotland in search of the last of the Ninth Legion, 5,000 soldiers under the command of his father Flavius, who disappeared twenty years earlier. He brings his loyal slave Esca (Jamie Bell) along with him to translate, but will he turn on him once they’re in his turf?

Interview with Kevin McDonald (Later this week!)

Review

Analysis:

With the Super Bowl out of the way and much of February without any major playoffs or sports events, it’s a good time to release a film for the guys which is why Focus Features delaying this Roman invasion epic starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell and directed by Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland) may have proven to be a solid decision and not them just trying to get away from Neil Marshall’s Centurion, which barely got a limited release last fall, making $123 thousand on a $15 million budget.

The big difference is that Focus are giving this one a wide release as well as a solid marketing campaign, including a spot during the Super Bowl on Sunday, plus it has a pretty big name actor as its leading man, even if Channing Tatum is probably still better appreciated by the young girls who flocked to the “Step Up” movies and last year’s hit Dear John. Tatum did start in G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, which did well among younger guys, as well as Dito Montiel’s Fighting, though the movie is being sold more on the genre than the cast, which includes “Billy Elliot” himself Jamie Bell, legendary actor Donald Sutherland, workhorse actors Mark Strong and Dennis O’Hare and Tahar Rahim, star of the Oscar-nominated Un Prophet.

It’s a decent cast and McDonald is a solid director, but one wonders if the movie will get good reviews because it’s such a different take on the historic battle epic that moviegoers are accustomed to. It’s certainly not as strong as the Oscar-winning Gladiator by Ridley Scott, and moviegoers have been burnt by some of the knock-offs like Oliver Stone’s Alexander, so one can rightfully muse that the genre may have run its course at least for now.

Still, Focus has done a good job marketing a movie that isn’t a genre they have normally released, spending their money to make sure it’s being promoted during the Super Bowl pre-show where it can get the attention of the guys who might be interested in seeing it. Even so, older guys are a tough sell these days and they don’t really rush out to see movies like they do during the summer, so they could wait until DVD on this one unless the reviews are glowing, which we don’t expect to happen.

Why I Should See It: We can’t think of a better role for Channing Tatum than playing a Roman gladiator…
Why Not: Oh, yes, we can, but after seeing him playing a police officer, a soldier, and an extreme fighter, he’s running out of occupations.
Projections: $7 to 9 million opening weekend and roughly $28 million total.

COMPARISONS


This Week in Limited Release

Unfortunately, we haven’t quite back on track in terms of our film viewing in order to choose a “Chosen One” this week. Sorry!

2011 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Shorts International/Magnolia) – Once again, Magnolia and Shorts International are working together to release all five Oscar-nominated Live Action an all five Oscar-nominated Animated shorts, but this time, they’ll also be releasing the five Documentary shorts, which previously were only available in special screenings in New York an Los Angeles. The three programs will be shown at various theaters around the country including the IFC Center in New York, starting on Friday. They’ll then be available on iTunes and Movies on Demand starting on February 22. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive our copies with enough time to review them for the column but hopefully we’ll have time to watch them and share our thoughts later this week.

Ed Helms and John C. Reilly star in Miguel (The Good Girl) Arteta’s Cedar Rapids (Fox Searchlight) as a couple of insurance salesmen who meet in the Iowa town for the annual convention with Helms’ Tim Lippe trying to win the coveted Two Diamond rating for his insurance company. It opens in select cities on Friday.

My Review from Sundance

Interview with Ed Helms and Miguel Arteta

Argentina’s film for Oscar consideration is Carancho (Strand Releasing) from Pablo Trapero, a drama about the black market in Buenos Aires based around the many traffic accents in the city with the country’s finest actor Ricardo Darin playing Sosa, a former personal injury attorney who looks for clients in the ER rooms who falls for an idealistic doctor. It opens in New York at the Angelika Film Center

Simone North’s Australian drama In Her Skin (IFC Films) about a missing 15-year-old in Melbourne whose body was discovered after her friend killer her stars Sam Neill, Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto. It opens in select cities and on IFC On Demand.

Peter Byck’s doc Carbon Nation (Clay Way Media) looks at alternate sources of renewable fuel sources in order to cut back the amount of carbon dioxide that is destroying our environment. It opens at the Cinema Village in New York on Friday.

Mini-Review

Craig Teper’s Vidal Sassoon the Movie (Phase 4 Films) looks at the life of the international celebrity who spent decades trying to modernize the world of hair and hair care. It opens in New York on Friday and then in L.A. on February 18.

Opening on Friday at the Quad Cinema in New York is:
Jim Pasternak’s mockumentary Certifiably Jonathan looks at 80-year-old comic Jonathan Winters and his quest to have his paintings displayed in an art show if he’s able to paint three new works, but when his favorite painting is stolen, he must get the help of some of his friends to retrieve it including Sarah Silverman, Howie Mandel, Tim Conway and others.

Liz Canner’s Orgasm Inc. (First Run Features) looks for the pharmaceutical company’s search for a Viagra-like drug for women that will help with Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) and give them the coveted Big O that could make the drug worth millions.

Secret Sunshine director Lee Chang Dong’s Poetry (Kino International) stars Yun Jung-hee as an elderly woman who enrolls in a poetry class after discovering a horrible family secret.


Next week, it’s Presidents’ Day weekend and trying to take advantage of the four-day holiday weekend is the sci-fi action flick I Am Number Four (DreamWorks), Martin Lawrence’s return to drag in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (20th Century Fox) and Liam Neeson’s action-thriller Unknown (Warner Bros.).

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas