Box Office: Old Myths Given New Life

A month that saw a number of new records set as well as one movie many may consider the year’s biggest bomb comes to a close with two new wide releases taking on the behemoth that is last week’s The Hunger Games. While they normally would both do well for different audiences, trying to take on such a big movie with such a wide spread interest among guys and women, both young and old, might be a challenge even though one expects those who’ve already had a chance to see it will look for something new.

Guys certainly have a solid alternative with Wrath of the Titans (Warner Bros.), the sequel to the 2010 remake of Clash of the TitansBattle: Los Angeles director Jonathan Liebesman at the helm. Clash of the Titans opened in the same weekend two years ago and while reviews weren’t great (28% rotten Rotten Tomatoes) and the fans weren’t too happy, it opened with $61.2 million and grossed nearly $500 million worldwide, meaning that a sequel was warranted, at least by the accountants, though many still see that movie as the start of the ongoing backlash for 3D, having been converted just months after James Cameron’s Avatar, also starring Worthington, but mere weeks before the movie’s release i.e. not nearly enough time. The good thing about this one is that it isn’t a direct remake of a popular ’80s movie, and the commercials and trailer focused on the CG creatures and action, both which would be a big draw. While the 3D won’t make that big a difference, opening in IMAX should help the movie since that will be a first choice for many moviegoers. While the backlash from the first movie may hurt, as will the presence of The Hunger Games, we still see this one opening softer with just over $40 million on its way to roughly $90 to 100 million total domestic.

Video Interview with Director Jonathan Liebesman

Possibly offered as ironic counter-programming is the second movie in six months from Indian filmmaker Tarsem Singh, whose own Greek God epic Immortals opened last November with $32.2 million. This time he’s taking on the Snow White story with Mirror Mirror (Relativity Media), a comic fantasy starring Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen, Lily Collins as Snow White and future Lone Ranger Armie Hammer as Prince Charming. This is the first of two Snow White movies coming out this year, trying to capitalize on the success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, though most of the rather vocal internet movie fans have been down on this movie ever since the first trailer appeared, because it looks ridiculously silly. It doesn’t help that the other “Snow White” movie coming out this summer looks like it has more action and is far more stylish i.e. something that might be more of interest to guys. That’s fine, though, because this movie is really being targetted towards younger women and parents with younger daughters. Julia Roberts isn’t the draw she used to be with weaker showings for recent pairings with Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War ($11.5 mil. opening/$66.6 mil. total) and Larry Crowne ($13 mil./$35.6 mil. total), though her starring role in the 2010 adaptation of the bestseller Eat Pray Love did better with $23 million opening and $80 million total gross.

Placing her within the well-known Snow White mythos seems like a strong enough concept that it should do better business, and though reviews will probably be mixed at best (same for “Wrath”), that shouldn’t have much of an effect on the mothers and daughters who’ve already seen The Hunger Games and are looking for something else to see together this weekend. With that in mind, we think this one will end up in the $21 to 24 million range opening weekend and around $72 million total.

The good news is that the success of The Hunger Games is going to keep people excited about going to the movies again, and we can see some of the moviegoers who hadn’t been out to the movies since last summer trying to keep the party going by seeing one of this weekend’s offerings. While it may have a significant drop due to the number of people who rushed out to see it last weeked, we can now see The Hunger Games getting closer to $350 million domestically. It shouldn’t have a problem holding the #1 spot this week, but next weekend is another story.

This weekend last year saw the release of three new movies but with Easter just weeks away, it may have been no surprise that the animated family film Hop (Universal) won the weekend with an astounding $37.5 million, the second (semi) animated hit in a row for Illumination Entertainment following 2010′s Despicable Me. Two genre movies fought for second and third place with Duncan Jones’ sci-fi thriller Source Code (Summit), starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan, came in second place with $14.8 million, while the creators of Saw, James Wan and Leigh Whannell tackled the haunted house movie with Insidious (Film District), starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, which brought in $13.3 million for third place. The Top 10 grossed $110 million, but even with a big drop, The Hunger Games should keep the box office sailing over last year.

This Week’s UPDATED Predictions -

UPDATE: “Wrath” is getting fewer theaters than we figured and “Mirror” Is getting more and most of the other returning movies over three weeks old are losing most of their theaters and hence…

1. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) – $64.5 million -58% (down 4 million)

2. Wrath of the Titans (Warner Bros.) – $40.8 million N/A (down 2 million)

3. Mirror Mirror (Relativity Media) – $24.8 million N/A (up 1.1 million)

4. 21 Jump Street (Sony) – $12.3 million -40%

5. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (Universal) – $8.0 million -39%

6. John Carter (Disney) – $2.0 million -61% (down .4 million)

7. Act of Valor (Relativity Media) – $1.0 million -51% (down .1 million)

8. One Thousand Words (Paramount) – $.9 million -49% (down .1 million)

9. Project X (Warner Bros.) – $.85 million -59% (down .15 million)

10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (New Line/WB) – $.9 million -38%

This week’s CHOSEN ONE is Goon (Magnolia Pictures), a hockey comedy starring Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt, a Massachusetts bouncer who joins a minor league Canadian hockey team as their enforcer. Co-starring co-writer and co-producer Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, and Allison Pill, the movie has a daunting task in trying to live up to the hockey comedy classic that is Slapshot. It doesn’t try too hard to achieve that lofty goal but still offers enough entertainment value to be held with equally high regard.

Goon certainly has the humor and raunchiness of Slapshot, most evident from the role played by long-time Apatow ensemble member Baruchel as Doug’s motormouthed best friend and hockey fanatic who convinces his friend to try out for a local hockey team. Even though his skating leaves a lot to be desired, word soon gets around about Doug’s fighting abilities and he’s recruited onto the Halifax Highlanders, a motley group of losers who haven’t had a win in ages, his mission to watch over the team’s star player who has lost his confidence and turned to partying. Meanwhile, the league’s greatest fighter Ross Rhea, played by Liev Schreiber, is ready to retire and as Doug’s rep grows, it seems to be building to a face-off between the two fighters.

While I’m not much of a sports fan and knowing very little about hockey, I still can enjoy a good sports movie from time to time, but I definitely went into this one with a “show me” attitude, since Slapshot is one of my favorite sports movies of all time.

Playing Doug is a terrific turn for Seann William Scott, who really hasn’t done a role like this before. At first, it might seen like his Doug is stupid or slow, but the more we get to know him, it’s obvious he’s just naïve and kind-natured. When he meets Eva, a troubled hockey groupie who is charmed by Doug’s honesty, the film starts to work on another level, and Allison Pill is an absolute revelation in that role bringing warmth and emotion that keeps the film from being a testosterone-filled sausage fest.

In the same way, Liev Schreiber brings real weight to the film’s “villain” role, making him seem more grounded as someone who has been worn out by years of being more known for fighting. In fact, there’s lots of nice surprises like that, such as Eugene Levy taking on a more serious role as Doug’s disapproving father, and Kim Coates makes for a convincing team coach.

Much of the reason the movie works so well is due to the way director Michael Dowse mixes all these different elements, whether it’s the raunchy humor or the tender romance, handling the locker room scenes as well as the on-ice hockey action, all edited together with classic Canadian rock tunes

As expected, it all builds up to the face-off between Doug and Ross and though the ending itself may not be as satisfying as the rest of the movie, regardless of whether or not you’re a hockey fan, you have to be impressed by the way Goon pulls you into Doug’s story and leaves you feeling that they have made a hockey movie as worthy to the sport as Slapshot.

Goon has been playing in Canada and on VOD for the last month, but Americans who want to see it in theaters can catch it starting this Friday in select cities. You can check the Magnolia site to see if it’s playing near you.

Interview with Jay Baruchel and Seann William Scott

Lee Hirsch’s doc Bully (The Weinstein Co.) follows a number of teenagers being plagued by school bullies as well as looks at the lives of families whose kids committed suicide after being bullied. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Interview with Director Lee Hirsch

Opening on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum is Jon Shenk’s documentary The Island President (Samuel Goldwyn Films) looking at recently-ousted Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed and his quest to save the 2,000 islands that make up the Maldieves, which are in danger of being flooded due to climate change.

Halle Berry stars in director John (Into the Blue) Stockwell’s Dark Tide (Wrekin Hill Entertainment) as “the shark whisperer,” a shark expert who lost one of her fellow divers during a shark attack which forces her to go on hiatus until her ex-boyfriend (Olivier Martinez) convinces her to take a job with a thrill-seeking millionaire who wants to go on a shark dive in the dangerous Shark Alley.

28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo returns with the horror movie Intruders (Millennium Pictures), starring Clive Owen as the father of a little girl who is haunted by a supernatural creature known as Hollow Face, which is somehow connected to a Spanish boy being haunted by a similar creature. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Interview with Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Clive Owen

Mini-Review:

There’s been a lot of great Spanish horror films over the last few years as the country has produced some fine horror filmmakers. Unfortunately, “28 Weeks Later” director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s return to his roots, trying to create something like the films Guillermo del Toro has mastered in recent years–most recently in the far superior “Alone in the Dark”–is plagued by a terrible, convoluted script that tries to throw too much stuff at the viewer in hopes some of it might stick.

It opens on a young Spanish boy named Juan being haunted by a faceless monster known as Hollow Face, a name so terrible it’s immediately almost impossible to take the movie seriously, but we watch an incident on a scaffolding that at first seems unrelated to anything that follows. We then cut to England where a girl named Mia experiences a similar incident after finding a hand-written story about Hollow Face hidden in a tree and as she continues the story, she becomes plagued by the same shadowy figure.

For the rest of the movie, it jumps between the little Spanish boy and Mia, whose father (Clive Owen) tries to protect her from the shadowy figure who keeps appearing in their house, while Juan deals with his own horrors with the help of a caring Catholic priest (Daniel Brühl), who clearly is helping since he has the hots for Juan’s mother. After a while, you wonder why Mia keeps writing scary stories about Hollow Face after being attacked and even having her voice taken away, but therein lies the logic of this movie.

The performances are generally awful, including the generally solid Clive Owen and the underused Carice van Houten who suffers one of the most gratuitous nude scenes we’ve seen in years. While to some, that bit of full frontal might be enough to give the movie a pass, the overall film is bland and uninspired, and it’s fairly clear that Fresnadillo is not a very good filmmaker, shooting and cutting together scenes in a way that looks so unprofessional, it takes away from anything that may be considered stylish.

Lots of scenes seem to be unrelated to anything else until the end reveal when everything is sloppily taped together, but as it attempts to explain everything we’ve seen in a reasonable way, the overall results are an absolute mess, completely unsatisfying and a waste of time. “Intruders” is absolutely terrible, offering very little that can be considered either scary or thought-provoking.

Rating: 3.5/10

The light-hearted Norwegian sex comedy Turn Me On, Dammit! (New Yorker Films), the directorial debut by Jannicke Systad Jacobson, stars Helene Bergsholm as 15-year-old Alma, whose hormones have gotten out of control as she fantasizes about the handsome Artur, which makes life in the tiny town of Skoddenheimen more interesting for her and her best friend Sara.

Eva Green and Matt “Doctor Who” Smith star in Benedek Fliegauf’s Womb (Olive Films), a drama in which two reunited childhood friends become lovers but when he dies, she decides to use his DNA to give birth to his clone, something she has to deal with when her child starts growing into the man she once loved. It opens in New York at the Cinema Village.

Next week, the month of April kicks off with ’90s Appreciation Week as the cast of American Pie reunites for American Reunion (Universal) and Leo and Kate’s Jack and Rose return to Titanic for Titanic in 3D (Paramount).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas

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