The Weekend Warrior: August 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.

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.

Predictions and Comparisons

1. The Help (DreamWorks) – $19.2 million -26% (down .3 million)

2. Conan the Barbarian (LIonsgate) – $17.5 million N/A (Down .1 million)

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) – $15.3 million -45% (same)

4. Fright Night (DreamWorks/Touchstone) – $14.7 million N/A (up .2 million)

5. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Dimension Films) – $13.3 million N/A (Up .5 million)

6. Final Destination 5 (New Line/WB) – $8.5 million -54% (same)

7. The Smurfs (Sony) – $8.4 million -39% (same)

8. 30 Minutes or Less (Sony) – $6.9 million -48% (same)

9. One Day (Focus Features) – $6.3 million N/A (up .5 million)

10. Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros.) – $4.1 million -42% (down .2 million)

Weekend Overview

We’re midway into August and you know what that means? It’s the time for studios to dump all of their bad movies that haven’t been able to fit into the rest of the year but they still feel are worth being remembered as “summer movies.”

Granted, that doesn’t mean that all of this weekend’s movies are bad or that they’ll bomb, but the odds are certainly against them, and it doesn’t help that three of them are 3D movies in a summer where the format has been losing support from moviegoers. If that wasn’t bad enough, for the second week in a row, we have two R-rated movies vying for the same male audience, both of them harking back to the more innocent times that were the ’80s.

But before we even get to them, we’ll go out on the limb with xiayun at BoxOfficeFollower and agree that DreamWorks’ The Help has a damn good chance at winning the weekend as it adds a few hundred more theaters and builds upon the positive word-of-mouth from its solid opening weekend. It should hold well, leaving second place for one of the three new movies:

Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian warrior Conan the Barbarian (Lionsgate) was first brought to life on the big screen by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the character is being revived with “Game of Thrones” star Jason Momoa in the title role. Co-starring Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan and Ron Perlman, the fantasy-based action movie is directed by Marcus Nispel, best known for remaking The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, and it has the best chance of bringing in casual male moviegoers who remember the character fondly. Those who have seen the trailers and commercials may be somewhat dubious, but early word is that the movie isn’t as bad as it looks, so it should at least do well in its first weekend before facing more genre fare.

The original Conan the Barbarian was probably better than known than the 1985 horror comedy Fright Night (DreamWorks), which gets the remake treatment with actors Colin Farell and Anton Yelchin… and yes, believe it or not, this week’s horror remake is not directed by Marcus Nispel, but only because he was too busy directing Conan the Barbarian. DreamWorks distribution partner Disney have been going all-out promoting this at various Cons and mostly pushing it through online outlets, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s entered the mainstream consciousness as movies like this need to in order to make more than $15 million opening weekend. It also might put some younger horror fans off that the movie is kind of comedic when it’s being promoted solely for its scares.

The one ultrawide release this weekend that isn’t a remake or an adaptation unfortunately is a sequel–the last sequel of the summer, yay!–but it’s also the sequel to a hit family franchise that may have run its course years ago as filmmaker Robert Rodriguez returns with Spy Kids: All The Time in the World (Dimension Films), stars Jessica Alba, Joel (“The Soup”) McHale, Jeremy Piven and a new bunch of kids. It’s been eight years since the last movie grossed over $100 million and it’s doubtful that kids today might think much of it, not to mention the fact that late August is never a good time to release a family film. Best this can do is as good as the second movie, but we don’t think it will come close to that movie’s $85 million gross.

Lastly, Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in the adaptation of Dave Nicholls’ bestselling novel One Day (Focus Features), directed by Lone (An Education) Scherfig, the kind of low-key British drama that would normally open limited and then expand over time, but for whatever reason, Focus Features is trying to give this a wide release, a foolish decision as it just will mean business is spread out further.

This weekend last year saw the release of five new movies with more than a few getting dumped into the weekend hoping for the best. It probably was no surprise when Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables remained on top with less than $17 million. After opening on Wednesday and grossing $6.4 million before the weekend, the spoof comedy Vampires Suck (20th Century Fox) took second place with $12.2 million. That was followed by Julia Roberts’ Eat Pray Love and Ice Cube’s urban comedy Lottery Ticket (Warner Bros.) in fourth with $10.6 million. Opening in fifth place was the horror remake Piranha 3D (Dimension Films) with $10.11 followed by a close race for sixth between the Jennifer Aniston-Jason Bateman comedy The Switch (Disney) and Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee Returns (Universal) with roughly $8.4 million each. The Top 10 grossed $106.1 million, and this weekend should beat that amount, but just barely.


Conan the Barbarian (Lionsgate)
Starring Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ron Perlman, Leo Howard, Steve O’Donnell, Raad Rawi Fassir, Nonso Anozie, Bob Sapp, Milton Welsh
Directed by Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Pathfinder); Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Sahara, A Sound of Thunder, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, upcoming Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Dr. Strange), Sean Hood (Halloween: Resurrection, Cube 2: Hypercube)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated R
Tagline: “Enter an Age Undreamed Of.”
Plot Summary: Conan (Jason Momoa), the Cimmerian warrior, is back with a vengeance as he seeks out those who murdered his family and ends up fighting wizards and monsters and others in order to save Hyboria from a supernatural evil.

Interview with Jason Momoa

Interview with Rose McGowan

Analysis:

If you asked us a couple of years ago about making a new movie based on Robert E. Howard’s beloved literary warrior Conan the Barbarian and filming it in 3D, we probably would say “Great idea!” especially after reading an early version of the script. In 1982, Austrian bodybuilder and future governor Arnold Schwarzeneger took on the role of Conan and it was a huge break for him, proving that he was destined to be a true action star, and it spawned the sequel Conan the Destroyer as well as the spin-off Red Sonja, which bombed badly. It also began a wave of sword and sorcery movies which permeated the early ’80s with movies like Krull and The Beastmaster and then Highlander.

Playing Conan this time around is newcomer Jason Momoa, a television actor who had appeared in “Baywatch” and “Stargate: Atlantis” but few had any idea who he was until this year, when he played the vicious Khal Drago in HBO’s hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” Considering how popular that show has become in such a short time, you’d think that Lionsgate would be pushing the connection and getting Jason out there on talk shows, etc, but so far, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Playing the film’s main villain is Stephen Lang, an actor who has great experience filming in 3D after starring in James Cameron’s Avatar, while playing the evil wizard’s daughter is Rose McGowan, an actress who seemed poised for greatness in the late ’90s and then her career sputtered to a halt until she hooked up with Robert Rodriguez (director of another movie this weekend). What’s odd is that Rodriguez had planned on making a movie based on Howard’s character Red Sonja with McGowan as the lead, but that never happened. The movie also stars Ron Perlman, one of our favorite actors who tends to do far too many bad movies, although we love seeing him become more prominent in recent years by starring on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” appearing with Nicolas Cage in Season of the Witch and in next month’s Drive with Ryan Gosling.

Marcus Nispel has already had two successful remakes with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003, a movie that was thought to have started the wave of successful horror remakes, and Friday the 13th in 2009, which may have been the movie that killed that wave once and for all. (It opened with over $40 million but ended up grossing only $65 million, probably some of the worst legs ever, dropping 80% in its second weekend.)

The sword and sorcery genre is one that flourished in the early ’80s but has had sporadic attempts at revivals with little luck, whether it’s Dwayne Johnson’s early movie The Scorpion King or Uwe Bolls’ bomb In the Name of the King. In some ways, you could say that a movie like “The Lord of the Rings” is in the same genre, but there’s something cheesier and more genre about Conan than Peter Jackson’s trilogy, which was accepted by mainstream moviegoers due to its awards.

It’s hard to ignore the backlash to 3D in recent months, which is probably why Lionsgate have backed off on advertising the movie as being in 3D, and it doesn’t help matters that the movie was converted into 3D, which according to many journalists is the work of the devil.

Despite not having a strong cast that can really sell the movie, it probably won’t matter much because it will be the nearly-iconic popularity of Robert E. Howard’s character which gets older males into theaters this weekend. That said, if the movie sucks, word’s going to get out there pretty fast, and it’ll end up being a one-weekend wonder; if it’s even remotely good, word-of-mouth could help it at least through Labor Day due to the weaker fare. Either way, it’s probably going to have to settle for second place behind The Help.

Why I Should See It: It’s exciting to think of Robert E. Howard’s warrior returning to the screen for the first time in nearly three decades.
Why Not: In our opinion, Marcus Nispel hasn’t made a good remake yet so why should this be any different?
Projections: $16 to 18 million opening weekend and $40 million total.

COMPARISONS


Fright Night (DreamWorks)
Starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette
Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Mr. Woodcock); Written by Marti Noxon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: “You Can’t Run From Evil When It Lives Next Door.”
Plot Summary: Living with his mother (Toni Collette) in the outskirts of Vegas, Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has finally found himself among the cool crowd due to his relationship with his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots), but his former friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is convinced that Charlie’s neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a deadly vampire and Charlie gets dragged into his schemes to put a stop to his murders.

Interview with David Tennant

Analysis:

It feels like it’s been some time since we’ve had a horror remake, and at this point, that genre has seen so many awful movies that one can’t blame anyone for immediately writing off this take on the 1985 horror-comedy that starred Chris Sarandon (yes, Susan’s former hubby) as a vampire. The thing that was so great about the original movie is that it was a horror movie done fairly tongue-in-cheek and it became a true cult hit by coming out at a time when it was all about dark slasher films. It grossed $25 million and spawned a sequel four years later that bomb bomb bombed, but along with John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, it did pave the way for a genre of horror-comedy that led to many great movies that have stood the test of time.

Now vampires have been everywhere in the last few years from the “Twilight Saga” to “True Blood” to “The Vampire Diaries” etc. etc, so it makes sense that DreamWorks would look at that movie as having serious remake potential and they brought on director Craig Gillespie who had already established himself as a comedy director, more for the subtle Lars and the Real Girl than for his long-delayed Mr. Woodcock.

In this case, Jerry the vampire is played by Colin Farrell, an actor who has been making a lot of daring choices in recent years, following his appearance in Seth Gordon’s hit comedy Horrible Bosses last month. Back in the early half of the ’00s, it seemed like the Irish actor was poised to be a huge movie star, and Hollywood certainly put him in everything from Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report to big screen versions of popular TV shows S.W.A.T. and Miami Vice. And then Farrell started getting a bit too much into the excesses of being a star, as well as veering towards quirkier indie fare that kept him out of the spotlight, other than a Golden Globe win for his role in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. Clearly, Farrell is making a comeback between Horrible Bosses and his starring role in next summer’s anticipated remake of Total Recall.

The actual lead though is played by Anton Yelchin, who has really come into his own in the past 10 years, appearing as a youngster in Hearts in Atlantis opposite Anthony Hopkins, then doing a series of failed indie movies before being cast in the double whammy of Star Trek and Terminator Salvation. Since then, Yelchin has been venturing into more adult roles like the upcoming Sundance favorite Like Crazy, plus he also got good notices for his performance in Jodie Foster’s The Beaver. His best friend “Evil Ed” is played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, best known among his older teen fans as “McLovin'” from Seth Rogen’s Superbad and from other comedies like Kick-Ass and Role Models. His presence in the movie should be proof enough that it’s a comedy, although he isn’t featured prominently in commercials. In fact, neither is another character who plays an even bigger role in the story, Vegas magician Peter Vincent, played by Roddy McDowall in the original movie, but portrayed here quite flamboyantly and hilariously by former “Dr. Who” David Tennant. (Those who’ve seen the movie will attest that he steals it from the other actors.) The cast is rounded out by Toni Collette, the respected Australian actress as Charley’s mother, and up ‘n’ comer Imogen Poots, whose name we like to say as much as we can even if it doesn’t amuse her.

This movie really is a comedic horror film but the humorous aspect of the movie, the part that really differentiates it from other horror remakes, seems to be getting played down at least in the most recent commercials, maybe because horror-comedies are sometimes hard sells. But let’s face it, the movie looks a lot like Disturbia, the pseudo-Rear Window remake that DreamWorks produced in 2007, released by Paramount to become a huge sleeper hit, remaining at #1 for three weeks running. Unfortunately, DreamWorks’ distribution partner Disney don’t have that much experience marketing horror movies, and definitely not strange horror-comedy mash-ups like this one, so one wonders if all their hard efforts will work to get older teens into theaters in the final weeks of August.

For whatever reason, DreamWorks is opening the movie early on Thursday for 9pm screenings,–not due to demand which is normally the case–but maybe hoping to drum up some early word-of-mouth. If no one attends those screenings, that plan won’t really work, though. Do we need to say any more about 3D than we haven’t already said this summer? This one is at least shot in 3D but most audiences won’t know that from the commercials, which is too bad.

Even though this is a surprisingly decent movie, one can’t ignore the fact that it’s mid-August and most moviegoers are getting burnt out from all the must-see event movies over the past few months. When it comes down to it, at least the teen and older male audience will look at this and look at Conan the Barbarian and the former will seem like a more likely choice. Or they’ll just avoid both of them as they have with the last two weeks of R-rated programming.

Why I Should See It: Director Craig Gillespie has actually made a very funny, action-packed and scary movie that delivers well on the promise of the original.
Why Not: Why isn’t DreamWorks focusing on the funny parts of the movie like David Tennant’s character?
Projections: $14 to 16 million opening weekend and $35 million total.

COMPARISONS


Spy Kids: All The Time in the World (Dimension Films)
Starring Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Joel McHale, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2, Shorts, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl and many other non-family movies)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family
Rated PG
Tagline: “Saving the World is Their Idea of Family Time”
Plot Summary: Marissa Cortez Wilson (Jessica Alba) is a retired secret agent raising a family with her husband Wilbur (Joel McHale), a spy-hunting investigative reporter who doesn’t know about her secret identity. When the villainous Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven) threatens to take over the planet, Marissa is called back into action, but her competitive stepkids Rebecca and Cecil (Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook) have learned about their mother and they decide to get in on the action with the help of the original Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni (Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara).

Analysis:

In 2000, Austin-based filmmaker Robert Rodriguez was coming off his growing success as a genre filmmaker following his triple whammy of Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and The Faculty when he decided to make a movie his kids could enjoy. And so Spy Kids was born, as Rodriguez brought his DIY approach to a high-concept family film that opened over Easter weekend in 2001 to an impressive $26.5 million and grossing $112 million total. Having cost only $35 million, of course, a sequel was in demand and sixteen months later, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams was released in early August but only opened with $16.7 million on its way to $86 million total. Again, the low budget made it worth doing another one, so then came Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, which Rodriguez decided to make in 3D, which for the time (2003) was quite groundbreaking. It did even better than the first movie and then Rodriguez moved onto other things including Sin City and the family dud The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl. Two years ago, Rodriguez returned to family fare with the movie Shorts, which is a bonafide bomb, but after losing money, Rodriguez decided to return to Bob Weinstein’s Dimension Films and do another “Spy Kids” movie. (Maybe his producer ex-wife wanted him to have another hit so he could pay his alimony and child support?)

Whatever the reasons for making another movie after eight years–hey, Tim Allen did it with “The Santa Clause”–Rodriguez couldn’t use Alex Vega and Daryl Sabara as the “Spy Kids” since they had gotten too old and moved onto darker fare, so instead, he decided to make the movie a showcase for his Golden Girl, Jessica Alba. We’ve written a lot about Ms. Alba in this column and in our many reviews of her movies, very little good, but her work with Rodriguez so far has been solid, whether it’s as a dancer in Sin City or an IMF agent in last year’s Machete. But we also know from her past work, that she should never EVER do comedy, which is more or less what the “Spy Kids” movies try to be. Being that this is a family film, she won’t be taking off any of her clothes either, so that’s two strikes against this.

Playing Alba’s husband is comic actor Joel McHale, who is best known for his stint as the host of “The Soup” on E! and more recently as the star of NBC’s “Community,” but hasn’t really been the star of any movie of significance so far. It also features “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven, who has appeared in a number of movies but has yet to really prove he has much drawing power at the box office.

There’s not much to say about the movie’s 3D, which is old news now, and Rodriguez knows that which is why he’s offering something new called “Aromascope” to make the new movie “4D.” It’s basically a variation on the scratch and sniff “Smell-O-Vision” gimmick that was introduced in the ’50s and revived by John Waters as “Odorama” for 1982’s Polyester. Who knows if this strange gimmick might entice modern-day kids who may have grown bored with 3D, but it certainly seems like something that could be quite an expensive gimmick.

This is Dimension Films’ second “Four-quel” of the year, having already had a disappointing showing for Wes Craven’s Scream 4, and it’s an important movie for the Weinstein Company, because they really need to get some tentpoles going in order to fund all the other movies they’re producing. This is also the first “Spy Kids” movie not being released in conjunction with former Dimension partner Disney, which might make a huge difference because they clearly know how to market family films, while The Weinstein Company hasn’t really had a family hit since the first Hoodwinked.

As Rodriguez should have learned with Shorts which bombed on the same weekend two years ago, mid-to-late August is rarely a good time to release a family or kids’ film since many of them are on vacation, taking advantage of the last few weeks of summer before school starts up again. Spy Kids 2 opened one week earlier and also had a disappointing showing although it was able to take advantage of there being very little family fare in late August to do decent business through the fall and maybe the fourth “Spy Kids” can do the same, but we just don’t see it really doing big business this weekend.

Why I Should See It: The only two movies starring Jessica Alba that received positive reviews were directed by Robert Rodriguez.
Why Not: Well, so much for that streak…
Projections: $12 to 14 million opening weekend and roughly $46 million total.

COMPARISONS


One Day (Focus Features)
Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott, Romola Garai, Rafe Spall
Directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education, Italian for Beginners, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself); Written by David Nicholls (author of the novel, also author and screenwriter of Starter for 10, When Did You Last See Your Father?)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Twenty years. Two people…”
Plot Summary: On July 15, 1988, students Emma and Dexter (Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess) meet and have a one night fling, and over the next two decades, their friendship and on-and-off romance flourishes and flounders as we check in on them on the same date every year.

Interview with Lone Scherfig

Review

Analysis:

As we saw last week with The Help, finding a great book that’s hugely popular and has sold millions of copies to prove it often provides fodder for films that prove equally popular, so having author David Nicholls (Starter for 10) adapting his own popular bestseller “One Day” and having the likes of Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as the two romantic leads would seem like box office gold. It also doesn’t hurt that Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig took on the project as the follow-up to her Oscar-nominated English language debut An Education.

We may as well begin with Anne Hathaway, an actress who has clearly entered the A-list over the past few years as she celebrates ten years on screen, having started out as a teen in Disney’s The Princess Diaries. We probably don’t need to go too far into Hathaway’s career which has been well-covered in our own ten years, but she has often thrown an indie film or two in between her big studio movies, most notably Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married, for which she received an Oscar nomination, and Becoming Jane, for which she didn’t. Certainly some can point to the latter as a precursor for One Day, because it was the first time she was playing an iconic literary character from England, though in that case, she was playing author Jane Austen, but it did give her a chance to test out her British accent. Oddly, more people, especially in England, seem to be upset about Hathaway’s casting as Emma than they were for her casting as Jane Austen, maybe because so many people have read the novel in recent years and the movie is being released so quickly afterwards.

Opposite Hathaway is Jim Sturgess, the young British actor who first got moviegoers’ attention with Julie Taymor’s Beatles musical Across the Universe, followed by his leading role in the blackjack thriller 21. Sturgess has remained fairly active in recent years though he’s been doing smaller British indies, and his most recent appearance in a wide release was in Peter Weir’s The Way Back, which barely was worthy of a wide release as it grossed under $3 million.

There should be a number of female fans of Dave Nicholls’ original book that will be excited to see how it translates to the screen with such a good looking couple as Hathaway and Sturgess, even if there is some reticence with the casting. However you slice it, having Hathaway on board means that there’s a lot more opportunities for promotion, especially due to her high profile role as Catwoman in next summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, which will mean that EVERYONE wants to talk to her. The fact that she’s currently shooting the movie might keep her from doing the talk show circuit but she’s certainly out there. Also, having “the director of ‘An Education'” is another way that Focus Features can sell this movie. As one friend told me, Nicholls’ book reads like it could easily be translated into a movie, although the fact the story is spread out over nearly twenty years may be somewhat off-putting to casual moviegoers unfamiliar with the novel.

Unfortunately, the marketing has been all over the place and has reached the point of “try anything” – will people really go see a movie because it has new songs by Elvis Costello? Focus may have overextended themselves to think they can release this movie nationwide right away, possibly a way of avoiding any backlash from negative reviews or people who don’t like how their beloved novel translates to the screen. Movies like this tend to do better in big cities, which is why they’re often platformed to build buzz, but even with a moderate release into roughly 1,600 theaters, business will probably be spread thinly between them, doing better business in those cities. It certainly won’t help that The Help just opened last week and is going to be enticing the same female audience away from this. With that in mind, we think the movie will be fighting to get into the bottom of the Top 10 and will have a hard time holding some of those theaters even with very little competition for women over the next few weeks.

Why I Should See It: Everyone needs a little romance in their life.
Why Not: Not even my love life is as complicated as this one.
Projections: $5 to 7 million opening weekend and roughly $18 million total.

COMPARISONS


THIS WEEK’S LIMITED RELEASES

Considering how many limited releases there are this week, you’d think we could find at least one that we think worthy of being called “The Chosen One,” but nope, some okay and good stuff but nothing great, so “The Chosen One” will take this week off. (We’ll see how many of these we actually have a chance to review.)

That said, we do want to say that if you live in New York or Los Angeles and you’re a fan of documentaries, then you should try to check out DocuWeeks running now through September 1 in New York and through September 8 in Los Angeles. This is a really cool event being held annually by the International Documentary Association, which essentially gives dozens of documentaries seen at festivals which don’t have distribution the chance to get the one-week run necessary in the two cities to be considered for Oscar nomination. It’s also a great way to catch up on some of the festival docs you missed as each movie plays at least one or two times a day every day for a week either at the IFC Center in New York or the Laemmle in Los Angeles. Some of the movies we’re looking to seeing include Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray’s Unfinished Spaces, Constance Marks’ Being Elmo, Maggie Betts’ The Carrier, and the political doc Semper Fi: Always Faithful. If you’re around over the next few weeks and can’t find anything else to see, try to check it out!

Director Renny Harlin returns with 5 Days of War (Anchor Bay Films), a drama starring Rupert Friend as an American journalist in the Georgia section of Eastern Europe and caught up in the 5-day war between Russia and the Georgian Republic in 2008 along with a local woman (played by Emmanuelle Chriqui from “Entourage”). Also starring Andy Garcia and Val Kilmer, it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon)

“True Blood” star Ryan Kwanten stars in Leon Ford’s Griff the Invisible (Indomina Releasing), an Australian romantic comedy in which he plays a shy office worker who fights crime in the streets as a superhero at night. When a coworker named Melody (Maeve Dermody) learns Griff’s secret identity, she feels the need to rescue him from becoming invisible. It opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon)

The Lion King director Rob Minkoff helms the crime-comedy Flypaper (IFC Films), written by “The Hangover” writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore and starring Patrick Dempsey as Tripp Kennedy, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time as he enters a bank at closing time and gets caught up in trying to protect the teller Kaitlin (Ashley Judd) as two rival factions of bank robbers, one more professional than the others, decide to stage a heist at the same time. Also starring Tim Blake Nelson, Jeffrey Tambor and Octavia Spencer, it opens in New York at

Our Sundance Review

Filmmaker John Sayles 17th feature film Amigo (IFC Films) is based in the Philippines during the turn of the Century when American troops invaded the country, focusing on a small village that the mayor Rafael (Filipino actor Joel Tore) is trying to hold together despite the influx of American military personnel disrupting their simple lives as farmers. Meanwhile, Rafael’s brother (Ronnie Lazaro) is the leader of the guerrillas stationed outside the village who are plotting their own action against the Americans. It also opens in select cities.

René Féret’s Mozart’s Sister (MusicBox Films) tells the story of the early life of Maria Anna Mozart (played by Féret’s daughter Maria) who is five years older than her famous brother Wolfgang (David Moreau) and a musical virtuoso in her own right though she constantly takes a back seat to him and is forbidden to compose or play violin. It opens at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Munroe Film Center and Cinema Village in New York on Friday, as well as in Los Angeles.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon)

Alex de La Igelisia’s The Last Circus (Magnolia Pictures) follows the life of a young man named Javier who hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father, a circus clown, but taking the job of Sad Clown at a circus where he’s at the mercy of the sadistic Sergio, whose abused wife Natalia takes a liking to Javier, creating a love triangle that turns deadly. It opens in New York at the Cinema Village on Friday and in Dallas on August 26.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon)

Opening on Wednesday, Fernando Barreda Luna’s Atrocious (NABU Films), a found footage horror flick about a family of five spending their holidays at a summerhouse where the two kids Cristian and July spend their time investigating an urban myth as strange occurrences take place.

Adam Wingard’s A Horrible Way to Die (Anchor Bay Films) stars A.J. Bowen as an escaped serial killer who leaves a trailer of corpses as he drives across country and Amy Seimetz as a dental hygienist who connects with a fellow AA member, played by Joe Swanberg. Who knows what the connection is between these two storylines? I don’t because I haven’t seen the movie which opens in select cities.

Opening at New York’s Quad Cinema is Jeff Warrick’s documentary Programming the Nation? (International Film Circuit) is a look at subliminal messaging through advertising and pop culture, looking at how our subconscious mind is manipulated by the government and corporations.

Mona Achache’s The Hedgehog (NeoClassic Films), inspired by Muriel Barbery’s bestselling “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” is the story of a girl named Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) who is disgruntled with life from the behavior of adults but she begins to learn how things really are from the building’s grumpy manager Renée, who secretly reads to her cat. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Billy Bob Thorton stars in The Smell of Success (ARC Entertainment) (former “Manure”), written and directed by the Polish Brothers (Twin Falls Idaho, Northfork) (with Michael Polish directing under the pseudonym “Larry Smith”), a comedy taking place in the world of the manure salesmen of the ’60s. The death of the head of the Roses Manure Company forces his salesgirl daughter Rosemary (Tea Leoni) to take over the company with the help of her father’s best salesman (Thornton) while competing with the slick newcomer to the business (Kyle MacLachlan).

Opening in Los Angeles on Friday at the Laemmle Sunset 5 is Café (Maya Entertainment) starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as Claire, a waitress at Philadelphia coffee shop West Philly Grounds where she serves coffee, scones and advice to her customers. Also starring Jamie Kennedy, Alexa Vega and Madeline Carroll.


Next week, the month of August comes to an end with three movies and surprisingly, at least two of them aren’t terrible! (It is the end of August, right?) First up, there’s the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict), while Avatar star Zoe Saldana stars in the Luc Besson-produced action-thriller Colombiana (TriStar Pictures) and Paul Rudd plays the title role in the Sundance comedy Our Idiot Brother (The Weinstein Co.)

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas