The Weekend Warrior (Lite): September 9 – 11

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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.

If you are already following The Weekend Warrior on Twitter, you’re probably aware he’s been on vacation this past weekend and then he kicks right into the Toronto Film Festival on Thursday, which you can read more about here and by following us on Twitter. With that in mind, the next couple of weeks’ columns will likely be a bit more minimal than usual.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons

UPDATE: That might seem like a pretty big jump for Contagion, but we actually had it that high last week and then chickened out a bit due to how poorly all the new movies have been doing. We do think that Soderbergh and Warner Bros. have a solid hit this time around, one that should open north of $20 million despite the generally poor showing for movies in early September. Maybe it’s wishful thinking that hopes Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior will do better but we have to look at this one honestly and the low theater count and mediocre tracking is not pointing to a big opening even if word-of-mouth should help carry it over the month. Lastly, the horror movie Creature is actually getting a wider release than Sony’s Bucky Larson… OUCH! Even so, the Nick Swardson comedy should slink into the bottom of the Top 10 with under $3 million while that movie will be lucky to bring in a million but it could do slightly more.

1. Contagion (Warner Bros.) – $22.0 million N/A (up 3.2 million)

2. Warrior (Lionsgate) – $10.4 million N/A (down .2 million)

3. The Help (DreamWorks) – $10.0 million -32% (same)

4. The Debt (Focus Features) – $5.5 million -45% (same)

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) – $4.3 million -45% (same)

6. Colombiana (Sony/Tristar) – $4.0 million -46% (same)

7. Apollo 18 (Dimension Films) – $3.8 million -54% (same)

8. Shark Night 3D (Relativity Media) – $3.4 million -60% (up .2 million)

9. Our Idiot Brother (The Weinstein Company) – $3.2 million -42% (same)

10. Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star (Sony) – $2.6 million N/A (up .3 million)

Creature(The Bubble Factory) – $1.3 million N/A

Weekend Overview

This weekend officially kicks off the fall movie season and what better way to get into the serious movies that come with the season than with a new movie from Steven Soderbergh? The Oscar-winning filmmaker unleashes a deadly virus on the world in Contagion (Warner Bros.), a tense thriller with an impressive all-star ensemble cast including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston. That name star power along with the premise should help the movie surpass the jinx that has kept most of the last few weeks’ releases opening under the $15 million mark while The Help had an unprecedented trifecta at #1. Then again, Contagion is opening in a weekend where very few movies have opened over $15 million, the “Resident Evil” movies and The Exorcism of Emily Rose being exceptions, which may be why Warner Bros. is wisely marketing the movie more like a genre thriller than it is in actuality, which should get moviegoers under 25 more interested in checking it out.

It’s going up against Gavin (Miracle) O’Connor’s sports drama Warrior (Lionsgate), the weekend’s underdog but one that has been getting spectacular reviews. Starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, the film is set within the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and it’s the type of crowd-pleasing movie that’s sure to benefit from word-of-mouth, something Lionsgate likely realized when they booked preview screenings this past weekend. Still, it seems to be getting significantly fewer theaters than Contagion and neither actor really has proven themselves as box office draws–Hardy at least has the promise of his role as Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Returns to get fans interested–two things that will likely keep this in the between $10 million and low teens, but expect significant legs as word spreads what a strong movie it is.

Lastly, Adam Sandler pal Nick Swardson stars in the Sandler-written and produced comedy Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star (Sony), a movie that looks so awful we’ll be surprised if it even gets into the Top 10 with a similar release as Sony’s dumper The Brothers Solomon, starring Will Arnett and Will Forte, or the previous Sandler production Grandma’s Boy. Other than a commercial during MTV’s Video Music Awards, which looked absolutely abysmal, the marketing for this isn’t much of a priority for Sony and it will be shocking if it makes in total what Contagion makes its opening day.

This weekend last year, the only new wide release was Paul W.S. Anderson’s return to the horror action franchise Resident Evil: Afterlife (Sony/Screen Gems), once again starring Milla Jovovich, which brought in $26.6 million. The Top 10 grossed $61.2 million last year, which is roughly where we expect this weekend to end up even with more wide releases. (If you think about it, Contagion could be seen as a somewhat tamer and more adult version of the “Resident Evil” franchise… or are we stretching the comparison a bit?)


Contagion (Warner Bros.)
Starring Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Sanaa Lathan, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Cotillard
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, The Informant!; Written by Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant!
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated R
Tagline: “Nothing spreads like fear.”
Plot Summary: A deadly virus has been discovered that has begun to kill anyone who has come into contact with it, and a group of individuals try to find answers, including a man who lost his wife (Matt Damon), the head of the Center for Disease Control (Laurence Fishburne), two of his field agents (Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard), a scientist trying to find a cure (Jennifer Ehle) and a blogger who thinks he has all the answers (Jude Law).

Review

Interview with Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns

Why I Should See It: As we said in our review, this is one of Soderbergh’s most provocative films since “Traffic” and he has a terrific ensemble cast.
Why Not: Why is this movie being released in early September, a time when studios tend to dump their weaker movies?
Projections: $17 to 19 million opening weekend and roughly $55 million total.

COMPARISONS


Warrior (Lionsgate)
Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Nick Nolte, Maximiliano Hernandez, Frank Grillo, Erik “Bad” Apple
Directed by Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Pride and Glory); Written by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman
Genre: Sports, Drama
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Family is Worth Fighting For.”
Plot Summary: Two brothers (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton) have not spoken in years since their family split apart due to their father (Nick Nolte) and his drinking problem. Now, they’re both working their way to a Mixed Martial Arts tournament in Atlantic City, each for their own reasons – one to prove himself, the other because his family is in dire financial need. Can they work out their differences other than in the cage?

Review

Interview with Gavin O’Connor

Why I Should See It: Again, from our review, you can see that we really liked this movie. It’s a real crowdpleaser regardless of whether you’re into MMA or not.
Why Not: Again, why is this movie being released in early September when studios tend to dump their weaker movies?
Projections: $9 to 11 million opening weekend and $38 million total.

COMPARISONS


Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star (Sony)
Starring Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff
Directed by Tom Brady (The Hot Chick, The Comebacks); Written by Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson
Genre: Comedy?
Rated R
Tagline: “There are No Small Actors. Just Small Parts.” (Ha ha ha… I get it.)
Plot Summary: Bucky Larson (Nick Swardson) lives in a small town where he bags groceries, but when he finds out his parents were adult film stars, he heads to Los Angeles with a dream to follow in their footsteps despite his physical shortcomings.

Why I Should See It: For some reason, tickets are sold out for Warrior and Contagion and every other movie in theaters…
Why Not: Maybe if that’s the case, you should stay home and watch the new fall TV season.
Projections: $2 to 3 million (if that) and roughly $5 million total (if that).

COMPARISONS

Select Limited Releases:

If we had time to write a “Chosen One” this week, it would likely go to…

Göran Hugo Olsson’s The Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975 (Sundance Selects) assembles material filmed by Swedish journalists during the years mentioned in the title that explores the black experience in America with access to many of the leaders of the Black Power movement, including Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and more with modern-day commentary by the likes of Talib Kweli, Eryka Badu and others who had been inspired by their words and actions. It opens at the IFC Center on Friday.

Fred M. Andrews’ horror movie Creature (The Bubble Factory) stars Mehcad Brooks and Serinda Swan as an ex-Navy seal and his girlfriend who head on a road trip to New Orleans with a group of friends only to encounter a half-man half-alligator creature known as Lockjaw that haunts the swamps. Yeah, I guess someone saw Hatchet and Lake Placid and was hoping those interested in seeing this movie haven’t. It opens in select cities.

Comedian Kevin Hart’s 90-city “Laugh at My Pain” comedy tour which brought in over $15 million in sales (making it the most successful comedy concert tours in history) is captured in the appropriately-titled Laugh at My Pain (CODEBLACK Entertainment). Compiling concert footage and behind-the-scenes documentary, it opens in select cities Friday.

Ezra Miller stars in Bryan Goluboff’s dark high school comedy Beware the Gonzo (Tribeca Films), playing Eddie “Gonzo” Gillman, a journalist at his high school newspaper who is trying to make a difference despite being hindered by his editor Gavin (Jesse McCartney). Along with a group of the school’s outcasts and the mysterious hot girl Evie (Zoe Kravitz), they put together “The Gonzo Files,” a tabloid-style DIY paper that reveals a lot of secrets of the more popular kids at school. It’s currently playing on VOD but will open in New York City at the Tribeca Cinemas for a one-week run daily at 6pm.

Video Interview with Ezra Miller and Zoe Kravitz

The Vicious Brothers’ Grave Encounters (Tribeca Films) is a found footage horror film following Lance Preston as he brings his ghost-hunting reality show “Grave Encounters” into an abandoned psychiatric hospital where strange things start happening, all captured on camera. It’s also at Tribeca Cinemas, same deal, only playing at 10:30 PM daily.

Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis star in John Landis’ period comedy Burke & Hare (IFC Films) set in 1828 Edinburgh where the medical colleges run by Drs. Knox and Monroe (Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry) are looking for cadavers on which to teach their students about anatomy, and Pegg’s Burke and Serkis’ Hare see an opportunity to get fresh bodies for them. It opens in New York Friday.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenber’s Tanner Hall (Anchor Bay Films) stars Rooney Mara (star of David Fincher’s upcoming The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo as a girl entering her senior year at a boarding school in New England as her friends all go through odd changes, just as she begins a friendship with an older family friend (Tom Everett Scott), which her troublemaking friend Victoria (Georgia King) tries to sabotage. It’s the second movie of the weekend (along with Beware the Gonzo) to star Amy Sedaris, for anyone keeping count.

WWE superstar WWE wrestler Triple H stars in the crime drama Inside Out (WWE Studios) as a man who spent 13 years behind bars for the manslaughter of a man trying to kill his best friend (Michael Rapaport), but who now wants to go straight until his friend gets him involved in a shooting and skips town, forcing AJ to protect his wife (Parker Posey) and daughter (Juliette Goglia).

Andre Ujica’s The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (The Film Desk) that compiles propaganda films about Romanian’s megalomaniacal dictator to tell his story from his rise as a leader to the execution of him and his wife Elena after the revolution of 1989. After playing various film festivals (including the New York Film Festival), it’s opening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Friday.

Andy Lau and Nicolas Tse star in Benny Chan’s action drama Shaolin (Well GO Films, Variance Films) as two generals who have a falling out, Lau playing Hao Jie, who takes refuge among a group of martial arts-trained monks (including one played by Jackie Chan) after being betrayed, before being hunted down by the army led by Tse’s Cao Man. It opens in select cities Friday. You can find out where by clicking on “Theaters”.

Written by Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird), John Doyle’s drama Main Street (Magnolia) deals with the lives of the residents of a small Southern city and how they change when a stranger (played by Colin Firth) comes to town with a plan to change their hometown. Also starring Orlando Bloom, Patricia Clarkson and Ellen Burstyn, it opens at the Cinema Palme D’Or 7 in Palm Desert, California on Friday after a run on Video on Demand.

The documentary We Were Here (Red Flag Releasing) looks back at the impact of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco when it first appeared 30 years ago, while Heather Courtney’s doc Where Soldiers Come From (International Film Circuit) follows the journey of four men returning to Michigan after spending time in Afghanistan. The first of them opens at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Center in New York, while the second opens at the Village East Cinema.


Since we’re in Toronto most of this week for the film festival, next week we’ll have another “lite” version of the column, looking at the competing thrillers in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (FilmDistrict) and Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs (Screen Gems). Also, Sarah Jessica Parker stars in the comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It (The Weinstein Company)

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas