The Weekend Warrior: March 21 – 23

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 theater counts. Sadly, this week we’ll be phasing out the CS Blog, an experiment that hasn’t necessarily worked out as well as we hoped.

Regardless, it’s Easter weekend and with school being out for Good Friday and for spring break, it should allow 20th Century Fox’s animated Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who to remain in the top spot with roughly $30 million in its second weekend.

Nipping at its heels, the latest movie from Southern entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns (Lionsgate), should bring in a substantial audience, being based on one of Perry’s hit plays and starring his popular cross-dressing granny Madea, appearing in her first movie in two years. Expect the movie to do big business on Good Friday and Easter as Perry’s African-American female audience goes to see it in droves after church, and it should have an even bigger weekend than some of Perry’s past few films.

Owen Wilson returns as Drillbit Taylor (Paramount), a high school comedy that brings together the makers of Superbad and Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky, which will likely play well among teen audiences out of school on Friday but probably not so well among older audiences, though the dark cloud of Wilson’s personal problems might hang too heavily over the comedy. It’s presence will likely hurt the chances of Shutter (20th Century Fox), the third Asian horror remake of the year, which might also be hurt by the fact that the previous two weren’t particularly good.

(UPDATE 3.20.08: Drillbit Taylor is getting significantly more theaters than earlier in the week but because of the NCAA Championships, its target audience of guys will be significantly reduced, so we’re keeping our prediction exactly where it was on Tuesday.)

Also, on Saturday night, you can catch a sneak peek at Picturehouse’s marathon-based rom-com Run, Fat Boy, Run starring Simon Pegg and Thandie Newton.

This week’s “Chosen One” is Zak Penn’s The Grand (Anchor Bay Entertainment), a hilarious mockumentary-style comedy set in the world of competitive poker starring Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Cheryl Hines and others, which you can read about below.

This Week’s Predictions – UPDATED 3/20/08

1. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who (20th Century Fox) – $30.2 million -33% (same)

2. Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns (Lionsgate) – $23.2 million N/A (Down .4 mil)

3. Drillbit Taylor (Paramount) – $12.3 million N/A (same)

4. 10,000 BC (Warner Bros.) – $8.7 million -48% (down .1 mil)

5. Shutter (20th Century Fox) – $8.2 million N/A (up .8 mil)

6. College Road Trip (Disney) – $5.0 million -36% (same)

7. Never Back Down (Summit) – $4.1 million -52% (same)

8. The Bank Job (Lionsgate) – $3.5 million -29% (down .1 mil, up 1 spot)

9. Vantage Point (Sony) – $3.3 million -31% (down .5 mil and 1 spot)

10. Doomsday (Universal) – $2.5 million -49% (same)

Last year this weekend didn’t correspond with Easter, but there were no less than six new movies, none of them doing nearly well as expected, even though the animated TMNT (Warner Bros.) won the weekend with $24.3 million followed closely behind by the studio’s blockbuster hit 300 with just under $20 million. Mark Wahlberg’s political thriller Shooter (Paramount) took third with $14.5 million, the family adventure The Last Mimzy (New Line) and the horror sequel The Hills Have Eyes II (Fox Atomic) each grossed roughly $10 million for fifth and sixth place. The Adam Sandler-Don Cheadle drama Reign Over Me (Sony) opened in 8th place with $7.5 million, faring better than Terrence Howard’s Pride (Lionsgate), which made less than half that in ninth place. The Top 10 grossed $116 million but even with the Easter weekend bump on Friday, this weekend looks to return to the previous tradition of the box office not exceeding the year before.

You can’t really beat a Tyler Perry movie in any weekend or season as seen by the success of his last movie Why Did I Get Married?, which opened with $21 million last October, and his latest movie Meet the Browns is not only based on another one of his hit stage productions, this one from 2004, but it also marks the cinematic return of his popular cross-dressing granny Madea since her appearance in Madea’s Family Reunion, Perry’s biggest opening movie from 2006.

Like most of Perry’s movies, he has a strong female lead, but this time he has trumped himself with Angela Bassett, a highly-respected actress in the African-American community for movies like Malcolm X, What’s Love Got To Do With It (the Tina Turner biopic), Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. The last three of these were hugely popular movies among the same female African-American crowd as Perry’s movies usually target, so it’s perfect casting that can only help the movie’s success over Easter weekend. Then again, most of Perry’s fans will probably be happy to see him returning as Madea, even though she plays a relatively small role in the movie compared to others.

Meet the Browns has a similar mix of drama and comedy as Perry’s previous films and plays, and unlike his one flop Daddy’s Little Girls, its’ based on one of his plays, so there’s little reason why his normal female fanbase won’t be out in droves on Good Friday to see it, as well as it being a top a choice for African-American families after church on Easter Sunday. While it’s unlikely that the movie will surpass the opening of Perry’s directorial debut Madea’s Family Reunion, Lionsgate has already figured out the best way to market Perry’s movies, releasing them moderately in markets where his plays do well, so even with a theater count in the 2,000 range, those theaters should be full for most of the weekend.

While Fox’s Horton Hears a Who will probably retain the #1 spot this weekend, being such a strong weekend for a family film, Perry’s latest shouldn’t have any problem being #2 for the Easter weekend with his devout fanbase being off work on Friday and Monday for the Easter holiday and being the type of movie that large groups of women will see together. Expect a solid opening day of $9 or 10 million or more which should help it surpass the opening of Why Did I Get Married?

Why I Should See It: If you’ve seen every other Tyler Perry movie, then why stop now, especially since he’s working with a respected actress like Angela Bassett?

Why Not: Oh, maybe because most of Perry’s movies are formulaic crap made specifically for African-American women and no one else. (Okay, granted, I’ve only seen two or three, but really, most of them really do use the same formula since it works so well.)

Projections: $22 to 25 million opening weekend and roughly $55 million total.


Drillbit Taylor (Paramount)

Starring Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, Danny McBride, Josh Peck, David Dorfman, Alex Frost, Troy Gentile, Nate Hartley, Casey Boersma, Dylan Boersma

Directed by Steve Brill (Without a Paddle, Mr. Deeds, Little Nicky); Written by Kristofor Brown (writer from MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead”), Seth Rogen (Superbad, upcoming Pineapple Express)

Genre: Comedy

Rated PG-13

Tagline: “You get what you pay for.”

Plot Summary: Three high school kids being harassed by a school bully hire a former soldier of fortune (Owen Wilson) to be their bodyguard, but he has his own agenda.

Mini-Review: At first glance, this return to “Freaks and Geeks” territory gives this Apatow-produced comedy the feel of a lite version of “Superbad” with similarly relatable dorks, and the film’s strength truly lies in the genuinely funny duo of Troy Gentile and Nate Hartley, who could pass off as a young Jonah Hill and Michael Cera if need be. Former creepy horror movie kid David Dorfman tries very hard but fails to be be as funny as “McLovin’” as the outcast among the outcasts. Things are going fine with some funny moments of the trio being beaten on by bullies until Owen Wilson shows up with his usual schtick and the movie quickly deteriorates into a cavalcade of physical humor, mostly getting its laughs from people getting hit. Wilson’s character isn’t too far removed from Dupree and while there are some nice moments with the young actors, the film’s far better once he disappears from the picture for a short time. Otherwise, there are plenty of cameos by Apatow regulars to help things along, although Drillbit’s romance with a hot-to-trot fellow teacher played by Leslie Mann seems forced, and for the most part, the film follows a fairly predictable path once the premise is introduced. It’s a comedy that’s surprisingly low on genuine laughs and sadly, it’s a trite, tamed and toned-down version of Apatow’s high school formula with little of the pop or pizzazz of his other recent movies. Rating: 6/10

This week’s main comedy offering hopes to continue Judd Apatow’s run as the King of Comedy, even though the last movie he produced, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, starring John C. Reilly, didn’t fare so well. This one has a bit more promise, as he brought in his pal and collaborator Seth Rogen to touch-up the script by Kris Brown as a vehicle for Owen Wilson.

Wilson’s career has been booming since he debuted in Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket and though he’s continued his alliance with Anderson right through last year’s The Darjeeling Limited, Wilson has been involved with some huge comedy franchises including his pal Ben Stiller’s Meet the Parents and its sequel, the two comedy-Westerns Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights with Jackie Chan, and the hit R-rated comedy Wedding Crashers. Wilson’s association with Stiller also got him into other hit films like Starsky & Hutch and the blockbuster family film Night at the Museum. 2006’s You, Me and Dupree showed that Wilson could sustain a hit comedy on his own–although some could say he had some help from Kate Hudson–which is why Drillbit Taylor seemed like a good vehicle for him to continue that success, as it teams with a group of young mostly unknown actors.

Directed by Steve Brill from Adam Sandler’s camp–he helmed Sandler’s bomb Little Nicky and his “comeback” Mr. Deeds–the comedy also stars Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann, who had such a memorable role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and last year’s Knocked Up that she’s becoming quite well known in her own right. She plays a hot-to-trot teacher who’s all over Wilson’s character.

Paramount has been trying to push the movie going back to the San Diego Comic-Con last year and the original plans were to release the movie in the fall, but in August, Wilson went to the hospital after a failed suicide attempt that has made it hard for him to do press for the movie, something that would normally help raise awareness and interest. The suicide attempt might seem like old news at this point except that Wilson has barely been in public or talked about it, which leaves the incident hovering ominously over this film’s success and sadly, it’ll be hard for even Wilson’s biggest fans to go see this comedy and forget all about the personal problems suffered since making it.

Paramount just hasn’t had very much success with comedies as seen by the failure of Andy Samberg’s Hot Rod, Ben Stiller’s The Heartbreak Kid and the recent Strange Wilderness starring hot comic stars Jonah Hill and Justin Long, leaving one wondering if the studio knows how to reach fans of comedy. Certainly, the film’s title doesn’t actually shout out “see me!” although having a PG-13 rating will make it a viable option for the teen audiences who don’t have school on Friday, and Wilson should have enough supportive fans who’ll have little interest in another J-horror remake or in anything that Tyler Perry has to do, so it should do some business if not nearly as much as Wilson’s bigger comedies.

Why I Should See It: The movie looks very funny, much in line with previous Apatow-Rogen collaborations.

Why Not: It’ll be hard to watch the movie and forget the underlying sadness surrounding what happened to Owen Wilson last year.

Projections: $11 to 13 million opening weekend and $35 million total.


Shutter (20th Century Fox)

Starring Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, David Denman, James Kyson Lee, John Hensley

Directed by Masayuki Ochiai (Parasite Eve, Infection); Written by Luke Dawson (New York Stories)

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Rated PG-13

Tagline: “The Most Terrifying Images are the Ones That are Real” (Like the ones in this movie?)

Plot Summary: Newlyweds (Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor) discover ghostly images in their honeymoon photos that leads back to an indiscretion and a death that might be connected to the images. As the couple investigate, they learn that some things are better left unsolved.

Bah, another PG-13 remake of an Asian horror film, this one based on a movie that isn’t very good, although at least this one is helmed by an Asian director, even if that had little impact on the success of the two “Grudge” movies and The Ring Two. Shutter is based on an even lesser-known Thai film that was finally released on DVD last year after its American debut at the Tribeca Film Festival two years earlier, and it was picked up for remake by Vertigo Entertainment, the production company behind most of the J-horror remakes in the last few years, starting with The Ring and The Grudge, but also including a few flops along the way. This year alone, there’s already been two Asian horror remakes, One Missed Call, which kicked off January, and The Eye starring Jessica Alba a month later. Both movies opened with around $12 million with far stronger marketing campaigns than 20th Century Fox has given Shutter, although they quickly tanked off after opening weekend.

At least Shutter offers the same curious technical phenomenon that has brought audiences to see movies like White Noise and One Missed Call, but unlike some of the bigger Asian horror remakes, Shutter doesn’t have much in terms of star power, essentially relying on Joshua Jackson, the “Dawson’s Creek” star who was recently cut out of the Fox Walden movie The Seeker, and Rachael Taylor, the Australian hottie from Michael Bay’s The Transformers, neither of whom offer much in terms of built-in audiences who’ll see every movie they make. The producers are obviously hoping that this movie will be like other horror movies that young people will see based on scary commercials and not care who’s in them.

Chances are that only the most diehard J-horror fan has seen Shutter director Masayuki Ochiai’s previous Japanese movie Infection–another victim of the Tribeca Film Festival–but that’s also the audience that’s getting sick of Hollywood destroying all of the classic Japanese movies like they did Dark Water and Pulse.

While Shutter won’t be the death of the J-horror remake genre, it should continue the downwards trend with the genre having peaked years ago, as many young people should remember the lesson they learned by wasting money on The Eye and One Missed Call. It would have been better for Fox to delay this release for a few months and not even an ultra-wide release into over 2,700 theaters will help save it.

Why I Should See It: If you liked The Grudge, this looks like it should have been subtitled The Grudge 3.

Why Not: Because The Grudge was a piece of complete and total crap… even if it was better than The Grudge 2. Seriously, kids, these movies are not getting better.

Projections: $6 to 8 million opening weekend and less than $18 million total.



This weekend sees the theatrical release of three movies that premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, possibly making it the most successful festival in terms of releases yet, and they join Shutter, which based on a movie that played the festival a few years earlier,

The Grand (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Starring Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines, David Cross, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Dennis Farina, Chris Parnell, Richard Kind, Werner Herzog, Judy Greer

Written and directed by Zak Penn (Incident at Loch Ness, writer of Elektra and X-Men: The Last Stand) with Matt Bierman

Genre: Comedy, Sports

Rated R

Tagline: “A comedy about the fine art of losing.”

Plot Summary: In order to save the Vegas casino built by his grandfather, drug addict Jack Faro (Woody Harrelson) must get his act together and enter the highly competitive “The Grand,” a high stakes poker championship that brings some of the best players from all over the world to win the $10 million grand prize.

A New Interview with Zak Penn

There’s not much more than I can say about Zak Penn’s second film as a director that I haven’t said in the links above, but it’s a really strong follow-up to the absolutely hilarious (and barely seen) Incident at Loch Ness, this time setting its eye on the world of competitive poker, but using the same improvisational non-fiction format. This time, Penn has an amazing cast including Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Ray Romano, Chris Parnell from “Saturday Night Live,” David Cross and lots of others playing the seriously competitive poker players that converge on the high stakes poker tournament, and if you’ve enjoyed movies like Best in Show and Dodgeball or enjoy watching “Celebrity Poker Showdown” on Bravo, you’ll be tickled by what Penn and his talented cast have done with the popular card game. Penn even brings back Werner Herzog as a Bond-like villain called “The German” and there’s a small appearance by director Brett Ratner as a similarly funny character, but really, this movie belongs to Cross and Hines as the dueling siblings trying to win the love of their father, played by Gabe “Welcome Back Kotter” Kaplan.

It will open in New York, L.A. and other select cities on Friday with more to come.

Also in Limited Release:

Under the Same Moon (Fox Searchlight/Weinstein Company) – Patricia Riggen makes her directorial debut with this drama that follows a 9-year-old Mexican boy named Carlitos (Adrian Alonso from The Mask of Zorro) whose mother (Kate del Castillo) has been working in Los Angeles for four years trying to make enough money to bring her son to America. When his grandmother dies, Carlitos makes the tough decision to find his own way into the country facing lots of obstacles along the way. After being received well at various festivals including Sundance in 2007, the immigration drama opens on Wednesday in New York and L.A. and then on Friday, in 250 theaters in select cities.

Mini-Review: Following hot on the heels of last year’s “Trade” and Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation,” this look at the Mexican immigrant experience offers a few new ideas to the currently hot topic , but for the most part, it’s hard not to feel like we’ve seen this sort of story too many times in recent years. What does make this stand out are the strong performances by Kate del Castillo and Adrian Alonso as the Mexican woman and the son she’s forsaken years earlier who goes looking for her, a relationship that offers many touching moments that effectively elevates the emotional content of the film. Still, the way Americans are depicted as junkies and bitch bosses sends mixed messages, and the brief and pointless appearance by America (“Ugly Betty”) Ferrera as the American who helps Carlito across the board is fairly forgettable and unnecessary, obviously done to try to offer some star power amid the mostly unknown Spanish cast. Ultimately, Riggen piles a lot of tension on top of more tension, but all of the melodrama builds to what’s an inevitably predictable conclusion that relies on way too many coincidences to be credible. While this is certainly a decent and competent debut from Riggen, surely there’s a better movie about illegal immigration out there. Rating: 6.5/10

Boarding Gate (Magnet Films) – French filmmaker Olivier Assayas returns with a thriller starring Asia Argento as an ex-prostitute forced to leave Paris after an encounter with an ex-lover (Michael Madsen) ends in violence. It opens in New York at the Cinema Village.

Interview with Olivier Assayas (Coming Soon!)

Mini-Review: Despite the strong performance that the eclectic Assayas gets out of Asia Argento, who spends much of the film nude, semi-nude or on the verge of a wardrobe malfunction, this film makes it very clear that Assayas doesn’t do genre very well, as the last act of the film turns into a bad imitation of a Johnnie To film, which is also where it finally starts to get interesting. For the most part, the film is plagued by stiff writing and acting across the board, which is a shame since Argento is such a strong presence, creating a character that’s as strong as Maggie Cheung in Assayas’ previous film, the far superior “Clean.” (Kelly Lin is also pretty awesome as a femme fatale counter to Argento’s prostitute.) By comparison, Michael Madsen tends to take things way too far over the top in their scenes together, which are mostly uncomfortable and awkward, taking away from the credibility of their relationship. It doesn’t look nearly as good as “Clean” with the first half being plagued by blurry digital camerawork that takes away from the situations. As much as it’s an interesting experiment in genre filmmaking by a director who likes to be controversial, “Boarding Gate” is a mostly dull and nonsensical attempt at a revenge thriller that trips and falls flat on its face far too many times to stand up to some of his stronger work. Rating: 5/10

Love Songs (IFC First Take) – Another respected French filmmaker, Christophe (Dans Paris, Ma Mere), Honore, returns with this award-winnning modern-day musical starring Louis Garrel (The Dreamers) and Ludivine Sagnier (Swimming Pool) a couple who enter a threesome to try to respark their stalled relationship. After playing at Lincoln Center’s “Rendezvous with French Cinema,” it will open at the IFC Film Center and The Paris Theater in New York.

The Hammer (Independent Film Circuit) – Jimmy Kimmel’s good friend Adam Carolla stars in this comedy as Jerry Ferro, a former amateur boxer who has been working in construction until he’s asked to spar with an up and coming pro by his old coach. After beating the favorite, Jerry starts on the road to a comeback in the ring. Another entry in last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, this opens in New York, L.A. and other select cities on Friday.

Irina Palm (Strand Releasing) – Marianne Faithful stars in Sam Gabarski’s drama about a woman trying to get enough money to pay for necessary surgery for her grandson, taking a job in a sex club as “Irina Palm, the hand-job queen” as she tries to lead a double life while keeping her secret from her family and neighbors. It opens in New York at the Quad Cinema.

Planet B-Boy (Elephant Eye Films) – This documentary from Benson Lee looks at the international world of breakdancing as a number of b-boys from all over the world come together in Germany for the World Championship finals between crews from 18 nations.

Shelter (Regent Releasing) – Jonah Markowitz’s romantic drama stars Trevor Wright as an artist/surfer who falls for the older brother of his best friend, although he has to reconcile his own desire with the needs of his sister who needs his help raising her son. It opens in select cities.

Next week, the month of March ends with four movies, two comedies, one drama and one that mixes the two, with the blackjack crime caper 21 (Sony) joined by the spoof movie Superhero Movie (Dimension Films), Kimberly Peirce’s military drama Stop-Loss (Paramount/MTV Films) and the romantic comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run (Picturehouse) starring Simon Pegg and Thandie Newton.

Copyright 2008 Edward Douglas


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