The Weekend Warrior: April 1 – 3

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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

1. Hop (Universal) – $25.8 million N/A

2. Source Code (Summit) – $15.5 million N/A

3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (20th Century Fox) – $11.5 million -52%

4. Insidious (Film District) – $10.6 million N/A

5. Limitless (Relativity Media) – $10.0 million -34%

6. The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate) – $7.8 million -27%

7. Sucker Punch (Warner Bros.) – $7.3 million -62%

8. Rango (Paramount) – $6.2 million -37%

9. Paul (Universal) – $4.7 million -40%

10. Battle: Los Angeles (Sony) – $3.8 million -50%

Weekend Overview

April is the first month of spring and also the last before the summer box office season, which may be why this month is crazy busy with nearly 65 movies being released in various capacities in hopes of making some sort of impact before the big summer movies get all the attention.

Hoping to get an early jump* on Easter, Universal’s family comedy Hop introduces the son of the Easter Bunny to the screen voiced by British comic Russell Brand, hoping to capitalize on the connection to Universal’s 2010 animated hit Despicable Me while combining CG animation and live action that’s proven so successful with Alvin and the Chipmunks. (The movie is directed by Hop helmer Tim Hill in fact.) The familiarity with the Easter bunny and the sense of humor should help entice family audiences, especially those with younger children, into theaters this weekend although it’s more likely this one will spread its business out over the next couple weeks and have a peak on Easter weekend proper. (*This was an unintentional pun, honest!)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan team for Source Code (Summit), the second film from Moon director Duncan Jones, which will hope to follow the path of other recent hit sci-fi thrillers like The Adjustment Bureau and Limitless. The movie has been fairly well marketed to the point where it can bring in a wider range of audiences than some of the other offerings this week, particularly older moviegoers who have been the bread and butter of the box office this year so far. One can expect a moderately decent opening based on the premise with a good percentage of women who may not be interested in some of the other movies in theaters.

Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell are back with their third horror collaboration Insidious (FilmDistrict), a haunted house thriller starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne that will hope to bring in some of the fans of the Australian duo’s previous franchise as well as producer Oren Peli’s breakout horror hit Paranormal Activity. Even so, without a big name draw and being the first film from a new distributor, there’s a chance Insidious could make a play for third, though it’s more likely to end up in fourth.

That said, we’re not expecting either of last week’s movies to hold up their business for a second week, being that they both have built-in audiences that probably went out to see the movie in their opening weekend.

This week’s “Chosen One” is Quentin Dupieux’s quirky comedy Rubber (Magnet Labs) with an Honorable Mention to Susanne Bier’s Oscar-winning In a Better World (Sony Pictures Classics), although sadly, we’ve been sidelined by CinemaCon and haven’t been able to write reviews.

This weekend last year was Easter weekend and Louis Letterier’s remake of Clash of the Titans (Warner Bros.), starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Gemma Arterton, opened big with $61.2 million and another $2.5 million from Thursday night previews, bolstered by the decision to convert it into 3D at the last minute following the success of Avatar, something that began the slow backlash against 3D. Media mogul Tyler Perry was hoping to find success by offering his sequel Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? (Lionsgate) as counter-programming and it did decently with $29.2 million, Perry’s third-biggest opening to date. Opening on Wednesday, Miley Cyrus starred in the drama The Last Song (Disney), which debuted with $9 million on Thursday and Friday and then another $16 million over the weekend to take fourth place. The Top 10 grossed $166 million, but it’s not really a good comparison for this weekend, since it was Easter and it had a higher-profile event movie released.


Hop (Universal)
Starring James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, David Hasselhoff, Chelsea Handler and the voices of Russell Brand, Hank Azaria, Hugh Laurie
Directed by Tim Hill (Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Max Keeble’s Big Movie); Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (The Santa Clause 2, Horton Hears a Who!, Despicable Me, College Road Trip, upcoming The Lorax), Brian Lynch (upcoming Puss in Boots)
Genre: Family, Comedy
Rated PG
Plot Summary: The Easter Bunny’s teenage son E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) decides to abandon the family business to become a drummer in Hollywood where he is run over by a hapless slacker (James Marsden) who E.B. convinces to take him in while he pursues his dream.

Analysis:

As we move into April and summer is just around the corner, studios are still trying to bring in the families whose business has often thrived during the slower movie months, and Hop is one from Universal that tries to capitalize on the success of the upcoming Easter holiday and the success of previous holiday-related family comedies. Most notably, Tim Allen had great success with his three “The Santa Clause” movies released over the course of ten years, mostly in November, and Will Ferrell’s first big comedy Elf also tied into the Christmas holiday season.

The main character is voiced by Russell Brand, who has been all over the place doing promotion for this and his upcoming comedy remake Arthur, which opens next week. Brand’s previous comedies were both R-rated with 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall spinning off into Get Him to the Greek last year, both which grossed roughly $60 million, but he also appeared in Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories which was a moderate family holiday hit. In general, his audience probably is in the 17 to 30 range and not much older, but it’s unlikely that many of them, other than young parents, might be interested in the movie for that reason. The main human character is James Marsden, best known for playing Cyclops in the “X-Men” movies but whom has been doing more comedy in recent years, most notably in Enchanted, 27 Dresses and Sex Drive.

Before last year’s Despicable Me, Universal never really had a huge family hit, mainly settling for smaller breakouts like the Mr. Bean and Nanny McPhee movies, but they certainly have gotten the bug from their animated blockbuster, which may be why they’re marketing Hop to make absolutely sure people know it’s from the same people who made that one. They’re also focusing on the interaction between CG and human characters that’s worked so well in previous family hits, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield – in fact, director Tim Hill helmed the former and the less successful sequel to the latter. But what they’re doing that’s worked really well for them is to create a synergy with the various television networks they’re partnered with like NBC, Bravo, etc, by running spots for the movie during the more popular shows, which helps raise awareness if nothing else.

It’s somewhat weird that the movie is being released so far in advance of Easter weekend where a movie like this could seriously clean up, but maybe Universal is hoping to get an advance bit of business before Fox’s Rio, which opens on April 15. The film should do well enough the next couple weeks to be able to maintain business, possibly dropping on the weekend of the 15th, but then recovering over Easter weekend proper.

Why I Should See It: If you have small kids looking forward to Easter, they’ll be able to see the Easter Bunny three weeks early!
Why Not: How many adults want to watch another cute kids’ movie with CG animals?
Projections: $25 to 28 million opening weekend and $90 million total.

COMPARISONS


Source Code (Summit)
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Directed by Duncan Jones (Moon); Written by Ben Ripley (Species III and Species: The Awakening, both straight-to-video releases)
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Make Every Second Count”
Plot Summary: Helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train speeding through Chicago sitting across from a beautiful woman (Michelle Monaghan) he’s never met but before he can figure what’s going on, the train blows up. He then learns that he is part of a new experimental military program that can send his consciousness into another person’s body and he’s been assigned to find out who blew up the train and put a stop to their other terrorist activities.

Review

Analysis:

So far, 2011 has been a banner year for science-fiction with a number of breakouts in what’s been a generally down year at the box office, and Source Code will hope to continue the streak began by The Adjustment Bureau and Limitless, both which took big ideas that normally might not be considered very mainstream, but marketed them well enough to get moviegoers interested enough to choose them over more conventional offerings.

A big draw for the movie is that it’s the second film by director Duncan Jones, who received a lot of accolades and awards for his debut Moon. Even if it never got a very big theatrical release in the States, many people discovered it on DVD and Netflix streaming after the fact giving them some idea of the quality of the filmmaking to expect.

More than that this is another vehicle for Jake Gyllenhaal, the 30-year-old actor who has been working long enough in Hollywood to be considered by many as an A-list actor although he’s yet to show any sort of consistency in the quality or success of the films he’s done. Last year was not a good one for Gyllenhaal as his foray into action-fantasy with Jerry Bruckheimer’s Prince of Persia and his romantic teaming with Anne Hathaway for Love and Other Drugs also didn’t fare particularly well. Gyllenhaal’s biggest movie to date is Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, his only movie to bring in over $100 million, but long-time fans of the actor will probably remember his big break in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, another movie that deals with sci-fi elements. He also can be taken seriously as a dramatic actor when he appears in movies like the Oscar-nominated Brokeback Mountain and Jim Sheridan’s remake of Susanne Bier’s Brothers.

For Source Code, he’s joined by Michelle Monaghan who has surprisingly been more successful in the action genre with appearances in J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III and the D.J. Caruso sci-fi action-thriller Eagle Eye, which is as good a precursor for Source Code as any. The cast is rounded out by Oscar-nominee Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright.

Although science fiction is doing well this year, even with stranger ideas, Source Code fits in more with some of the movies that used time travel as a premise with connections to the likes of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, Denzel Washington’s Déjà vu and Ashton Kutcher’s early hit The Butterfly Effect, while also offering similar ideas as the likes of Groundhog Day or the “Final Destination” movies.

Summit Entertainment has now been around for a couple of years but they still haven’t had that many breakout hits beyond their non-“Twilight” movies, although their previous foray into sci-fi action with Knowing starring Nicolas Cage was a solid hit a few years back. They also had a hit with the action-comedy Red last year, which shows that they’re getting better at marketing their movies, not that their recent bomb Drive Angry, also starring Cage, offers any proof of that.

Either way, Source Code is likely to get the best reviews of the weekend among the wide releases even if it’s still somewhat of an unknown in where it might fall, because Gyllenhaal isn’t that consistent a draw and the movie’s success relies just as much on whether audiences are ready for another sci-fi thriller despite others still being in theaters. With that in mind, it should do decent if not spectacular business, but should do well enough to take second place and possibly get some decent legs.

Why I Should See It: This is a great second feature by Duncan Jones and fans of science fiction should appreciate the premise.
Why Not: Sci-fi fans also might be prone to pick it to death to find all the anomalies and flaws in the premise.
Projections: $14 to 16 million opening weekend and roughly $40 million total

COMPARISONS


Insidious (FilmDistrict)
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Leigh Whannell
Directed by James Wan (Saw, Death Sentence, Dead Silence); Written by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence)
Genre: Horror
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “It’s Not the House That’s Haunted”
Plot Summary: After moving into a new home, a married couple with three kids (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne) start experiencing odd occurrences, which culminates in their eldest son Dalton (Ty Sympkins) falling into a coma-like sleep and menacing beings appearing who want to claim his body.

Review

Interview with James Wan and Leigh Whannell

Interview with Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne

Analysis:

What could end up being the sleeper or breakout of the weekend is this distinctive take on the haunted house horror film by director James Wan and screenwriter/actor Leigh Whannell, the Australian duo who first made waves in 2004 with their indie horror flick Saw, a movie which led to a hugely successful franchise, which only fell apart in its last two installments.

Actors Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne both have some experience with genre films with Wilson having starred in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen a few years back and Byrne starring in the Summit sci-fi thriller Knowing (mentioned above) and Wolfgang Peterson’s action movie Troy. Horror films don’t necessarily need actors of their caliber, though they do bring a higher quality of acting to the film even if neither has proven themselves to be the type of names who get people into theaters.

On the one hand, Insidious could be seen as the strongest offering of the weekend due to the box office success of independently-made horror (and particularly PG-13 horror), something that’s had a boom recently with Oren Peli’s low-budget Paranormal Activity famously being picked up by Paramount and having huge success and last year’s sequel following suit. In fact, Insidious is co-produced by Peli, which is just another way in which the film can be marketed to prospective audiences. Another example is the low-budget The Last Exorcism, which Lionsgate released to great success last summer.

Insidious is the first release by Graham King’s new distribution company FilmDistrict (headed by former Newmarket, Picturehouse and Apparition exec Bob Berney), and while they’ve been going out whole hog in advertising the movie by wisely focusing on the previous success of the filmmakers, being a new distributor means they were only able to rustle up roughly 2,500 theatres, less than the other two new movies. There should be a lot of support among the genre crowd, but this will be appealing to younger audiences with older ones probably being too cynical to check it out, which is likely to limit the movie’s opening weekend a bit.

Why I Should See It: See my review; if you like scary movies, this one is one of the scariest and creepiest you’ll see this year.
Why Not: If you’re a scaredy-pants who doesn’t want to spend sleepless nights worried about never waking up.
Projections: $10 to 12 million opening weekend and roughly $35 million total.

COMPARISONS


THE CHOSEN ONE:

This week we had a tough choice between two rather unconventional films, both so original and unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years that they both deserve respect, but in the most shocking twist since the Oscars, we’re going with the third film from the electronica artist known as Mr. Ouizo… (Unfortunately, this week has got away from us while we’ve been at CinemaCon, and we’re not sure if we’ll be able to review either, but check out our feature interviews to learn more about them.)

Rubber (Magnet Labs)
Starring Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Roxane Mesquida, Ethan Cohn, Charley Koontz, Daniel Quinn
Written and directed by Quentin Dupieux (Steak, nonfilm)
Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Rated R
Tagline: “Are You Tired of the Expected?” (YES!)
Plot Summary: A common rubber tire suddenly gains sentience as well as telekinetic powers that it uses to blow up the heads of humans it encounters.

Interview with Quentin Dupieux

Rubber opens in New York, L.A. and Austin, Texas on Friday following its run on Video on Demand.

Honorable Mention:

In A Better World (Sony Pictures Classics)
Starring Markus Rygaard William, Johnk Nielsen, Mikael Persbrandt, Wil Johnson, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen
Directed by Susanne Bier (Open Hearts, Brothers, After the Wedding ; Written by Susanne Bier, Anders Thomas Jensen
Genre: Drama
Rated R
Tagline:
Plot Summary: Two schoolboys from different backgrounds, Christian and Elias (Markus Rygaard William, Johnk Nielsen), bond over how they fight back against a school bully, but when Elias’ father (Mikael Persbrandt) is himself attacked by an alpha male he encounters on the street, Christian decides that revenge is better than walking away.

Interview with Susanne Bier

Sundance Review

In a Better World opens in New York and L.A. on Friday

Also in Limited Release:

James (Slither) Gunn returns on his dark comic take on superheroes Super (IFC) starring Rainn Wilson as a man whose wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a local gangster played by Kevin Bacon, so he decides to don a costume to become a superhero and win her back. Along for a ride is an impressionable comic book worker, played by Ellen Page, who urges him to let her be his sidekick. It opens in New York, Boston, Washington DC and L.A. on Friday and in more theaters over the course of April. You can see the full list of theaters here.

Interview with James Gunn

Clive Owen and Catherine Keener star in the drama Trust (Millennium Films), directed by David Schwimmer, about a family torn apart when their teen daughter (newcomer Liana Liberato) is the victim of an online sexual predator whom she refuses to implicate in the crime. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Adrien Brody stars in Michael Greenspan’s thriller Wrecked (IFC Films) about a man trapped in a car wreck at the bottom of a cliff who needs to find a way to survive until he’s able to free himself. It opens in New York on Friday at the IFC Center, as does…

Aaron Schock’s doc Circo (First Run Features) follows the Ponce family circus traveling through Mexico trying to make ends meet despite financial hard times and an internal family conflict. It opens in New York on Friday.

Director John Stockwell (Turistas, Into the Blue, Blue Crush) returns with Cat Run (Llleju Productions) about two childhood best friends who form a detective agency with their first case involving a high-class escort who informs them of a cover-up involving the mob, a corrupt Senator and an assassin.

Korean filmmaker Hyung Rae Shim (Dragon Wars) returns with The Last Godfather (Roadside Attractions) starring Harvey Keitel as Don Carini a Mafini godfather who back in the ’50s fell in love with an Asian woman whose son (Shim) is appointed as his predecessor as the head of the family, much to the consternation of Carini’s main competition. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Carolina Bottaro’s directorial debut Queen to Play (Zeitgeist Films) stars Kevin Kline and Sandrine Bonnaire, the latter as a French chambermaid who learns she has a knack for chess so she ravels to Corsica to study with a reclusive American doctor (Kline). After premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival two years ago, it opens in New York and L.A.

Brady Corbet and David (“Gossip Girls”) Call star in Alistair Banks’ drama Two Gates of Sleep (Borderline Films) about two brothers in the South whose mother is dying, so they spend time trying to make her last days comfortable and happy before they bury her. It opens at the ReRun Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn on Friday.

Australian Joe Cross was 310 lbs. and loaded up on steroids when he decided to take control of his life and regain his healthy, trading in junk food and pills for a healthier diet, all of which is documented in his film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, which opens at New York’s Quad Cinema on Friday.


Next week, the month of April continues to be crazy busy with two new comedies, Russell Brand in the remake of Arthur (Warner Bros.), Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman in the medieval comedy Your Highness (Universal), the action-thriller Hanna (Focus Features) and the true-life drama of Soul Surfer (Sony/Tristar Pictures).

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas.