The Weekend Warrior: April 16 – 18

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.

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Updated Predictions and Comparisons

(UPDATE: Lowering both of our projections for the new movies because neither is getting as many theaters as originally estimated, maybe due to their R-Rating.)

1. Kick-Ass (Lionsgate) – $32.8 million N/A (down 1.7 million)

2. Death at a Funeral (Sony/Screen Gems) – $24.5 million N/A (down 1.2 million)

3. How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $17.5 million -30% (down 1 million)

4. Date Night (20th Century Fox) – $14.5 million -43%

5. Clash of the Titans (Warner Bros.) – $12.0 million -55% (down 1.2 million)

6. The Last Song (Walt Disney Pictures) – $6.0 million -43% (up .2 million)

7. Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? (Lionsgate) – $5.2 million -53% (same)

8. Hot Tub Time Machine (MGM) – $3.4 million -38% (same)

9. Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures) – $2.9 million -43% (down .1 million)

10. The Bounty Hunter (Sony) – $2.5 million -42% (down .2 million)

Weekend Overview

This weekend, two new movies open in wide release and though they’re both likely to beat out all the returning movies, it shouldn’t be nearly as much of a horse race as last week even with both new movies doing decent business.

Matthew Vaughn’s R-rated action-comedy Kick-Ass (Lionsgate), based on the best-selling comic series by Mark Millar (Wanted) and John Romita Jr., has an incredible amount of anticipation and buzz going into the weekend, particularly from younger males. The movie’s received stellar early reviews and strong word-of-mouth from its appearances at South by Southwest and WonderCon, but it’s not quite on par with Watchmen in terms of anticipated adaptations, being that the comic book is fairly recent by comparison. Being so violent and dark ala Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, it may turn off some audiences–parental groups are already on the offensive–but it should do well enough among young males and comic book fans to open somewhere between $30 and 40 million.

On the other hand, older women and even some guys, especially those in urban areas, are likely to go for the similarly R-rated comedy Death at a Funeral (Sony/Screen Gems) which brings together a superstar cast including Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Columbus Short and many others with a funny premise. Based on the British comedy released by MGM, the premise is one that offers a lot of potential for humor but this one will really come down to the popularity of the cast, and getting a more moderate release means it will be depending on faring better among African-American audiences in urban areas to make up for it.

Expect Kick-Ass, opening early on Thursday night for 10PM screenings in select areas, to win Friday quite definitively with $13 to 14 million, but it will then tail off on Saturday to allow “Funeral” to catch up, but not enough to be considered any sort of threat for the weekend.

This week’s “Chosen One” is the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop (Producers Distribution Agency), which was the talk of the Sundance Film Festival. You can read more about it below.

This weekend last year, Zac Efron starred in the comedy 17 Again (New Line/WB), which topped the box office with $23.7 million followed in second place with the political thriller State of Play (Universal), starring Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams, with $14.1 million. The action sequel Crank: High Voltage (Lionsgate) was a surprise flop, opening with less than $7 million to end up in sixth place. The Top 10 grossed less than $100 million, an amount that should be bested due to the one-two punch of Kick-Ass and Death at a Funeral.

Kick-Ass (Lionsgate)

Starring Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust; Written by Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

Genre: Action, Comedy

Rated R

Tagline: “Shut Up. Kick-Ass.”

Plot Summary: Dave Luzewksi (Aaron Johnson) is a comic book nerd who decides to make himself a superhero outfit and take to the streets fighting crime as the superhero “Kick-Ass,” but he soon finds himself on the wrong end of an angry mob boss (Mark Strong) and teaming up with other more qualified heroes like Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz).


Interview with Aaron Johnson & Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Interviews with Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar, John Romita Jr. and Jane Goldman


Every year, there’s been at least one, and sometimes two or three, movies based on graphic novels that aren’t quite in the public awareness like a Spider-Man or a Batman or a Superman. Not that it’s a new thing since even Men in Black was based on a comic book, but the wave of faithful adaptations of creator-owned books really can be traced back in earnest to 2005 when Robert Rodriguez tackled Frank Miller’s Sin City with the comic book’s creator, followed by Zack Snyder adapting 300 and Watchmen. Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta was also brought to the screen with the help of the Wachowski Brothers, and each success led to dozens of other properties picked up, some of them which succeeded and others that didn’t.

One of the people who had been paying attention was British filmmaker Matthew Vaughn, who produced Guy Ritchie’s early movies before transitioning to directing with Layer Cake. A few years back, Vaughn tackled Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ illustrated fantasy Stardust, which only performed moderately despite trying to capitalize on the success of the fantasy of “Narnia” and “Harry Potter.” A year later, comic creator Mark Millar burst onto the movie scene when his graphic novel Wanted came to the screen with a star-studded cast including Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, and it did such big business opening weekend that it made Hollywood pay attention to the Scottish writer. Almost at the exact same time, he was going further into creator-owned work with a violent take on superheroes drawn by Marvel veteran John Romita, Jr. Vaughn was originally going to direct Thor but when that fell through he jumped onto an adaptation of Millar’s new comic series while it was still being published. It was a strange decision on Vaughn’s part, although the series was already proving popular, selling out numerous printings of the first few issues.

The casting for Kick-Ass is a strange one because the biggest star is not the one in the leading role or in the most memorable part. Those would be Aaron Johnson, a British actor just breaking out on the scene after his debut in the John Lennon drama Nowhere Boy, who plays the main role and title character, and Chloe Moretz, who appeared in (500) Days of Summer and the recent Diary of a Wimpy Kick, but here is playing the edgy role of Hit Girl, a foul-mouthed bad-ass little girl with katana swords and a switchblade who steals the movie.

The best known name and face is that of Nicolas Cage, well known for being a comic fan, and having starred in many genre films before. His most successful comic-related movie so far was the Sony movie Ghost Rider which opened big over Presidents Day after being delayed for months. Cage also had a hit with last year’s sci-fi action flick Knowing and the two “National Treasure” movies. Even so, Cage’s pull at the box office is erratic and one never knows whether his fans will be interested in what he’s doing at any given moment. As far as him playing another dark superhero like Big Daddy, who knows?

On top of that, the movie stars Christopher Mintz-Plasse a.k.a. “McLovin'” from Seth Rogen’s Superbad in a key role, following his appearances in the hit comedy Role Models and the flop Year One. Mintz-Plasse is pretty funny in the movie although he’s certainly in danger of going the route of Jon Heder, who broke out with Napoleon Dynamite, then seemingly did the same schtick in subsequent movies. One can also say Mark Strong is a star on the rise, especially after his key villain role in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, having appeared in two previous Ritchie movies—he’s kind of like the new Vinnie Jones, if Vinnie Jones were able to act. (Yes, I realize that Jones would probably beat me up for saying that, which is why I’ll make sure to never interview Vinnie Jones!)

It certainly was a gamble for Vaughn to put his own money into producing this adaptation, being that the comic series was barely even finished when production began. In fact, Millar and Romita Jr. only completed the series a few months ago, having a well-timed hardcover available as the marketing for the movie kicked into high gear.

The movie is very R-rated with lots of foul language and bloody violence, owing more than a slight homage to the movies of Quentin Tarantino, particularly the two-part Kill Bill, both which did decent business, although movies like that generally appeal more to younger guys.

Lionsgate knows full well that they need a hit with Kick-Ass and they’ve been giving it a huge push, from the premiere of footage at Comic-Con last year, which was received with great fan fervor, followed by an early screening at last year’s prestigious fan event Butt-Numb-A-Thon, premiering as the opening night film of SXSW and then a terrific reception at WonderCon last weekend. Reviews have been extremely favorable, verging on hyperbole at times, things which certainly will help Lionsgate sell the movie going into its last week.

The problem is that comic movies like Kick-Ass are met with great acclaim by those who already read comics and it’s much harder to sell them to those who don’t read comics, which was the case with some of the bigger successes like 300. Even though its follow-up Watchmen opened big, it played mostly to the guys who read the graphic novel and once they rushed out to see it opening weekend, there was little business to be had. The commercials can’t show all the dark humor and violence that makes Kick-Ass so much fun, which means that it essentially just looks like another superhero movie. In fact, some have joked that it looks a bit like the spoof movie Superhero Movie, which wouldn’t be a good thing, since that bombed.

It’s hard to imagine this movie bringing in older women and even older guys who don’t know the comic and may be skeptical, and when it comes to R-rated comedy, they’ll also have the star power of Screen Gems’ Death at a Funeral as a potential draw. Because of the violence and swearing–which has already got some parental groups concerned–the movie probably won’t play in more conservatives either.

Kick-Ass will start its screenings on Thursday night at 10PM, similar to Clash of the Titans last week, but that shouldn’t really take away from the weekend as word-of-mouth and reviews have generally good and people really want to see this.

Why I Should See It: The original Millar-Romita comic series is hilarious and Vaughn and his cast have captured all the dark humor and violence that made it so much fun.

Why Not: Not everyone’s going to appreciate the amount of violence and foul language.

Projections: $32 to 35 million opening weekend and roughly $90 million total.


Death at a Funeral (Sony/Screen Gems)

Starring Loretta Devine, Peter Dinklage, Ron Glass, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, Martin Lawrence, James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana, Columbus Short, Luke Wilson

Directed by Neil LaBute (The Wicker Man, Lakeview Terrace, Nurse Betty, Our Friends and Neighbors); Written by Dean Craig (Death at a Funeral, Caffeine)

Genre: Comedy

Rated R

Tagline: “This is one sad family.”

Plot Summary: When a family gets together to put their beloved patriarch to rest, a lot of secrets and old resentments are unleashed, turning the entire day into a disaster.


Three years ago, Frank Oz (of “Star Wars” Yoda fame) directed a British comedy called Death at a Funeral, a raunchier and edgier twist on the Richard Curtis comedies like Four Weddings at a Funeral about a dysfunctional family who reunites for a funeral only for all sorts of mishaps and misunderstandings to derail the somber event. It was a very funny movie released by MGM in their early days back from the grave, and though it didn’t make a ton of money, roughly $8 million in limited release, the producers knew that it played well with audiences and could do even better in the United States with the right cast. Along comes Chris Rock, who had been getting more into producing and directing, having done an English remake of a French film with I Think I Love My Wife which made roughly $12.6 million, and the remake immediately went into a different direction.

For the most part, Rock had been focusing on animated movies for DreamWorks Animation and friends, as well as making the documentary Good Hair, but this movie returns him to live comedy, something he’ll continue by reteaming with Adam Sandler in this summer’s Grown Ups.The key is that Rock is a pretty big star in his own right, but he’s joined by one of only a handful of African-American comedians who has been equally successful at the box office and that is comedian Martin Lawrence. Like Rock, Lawrence first earned a reputation on television with his own Fox sitcom, but he was already appearing in movies in the early ’90s, the big move coming when he was teamed with Will Smith in the 1995 action-comedy Bad Boys. It was followed by a number of moderate hits, but the real turnaround was when Lawrence starred in Big Momma’s House ten years ago, his first movie to gross over $100 million. The second was the sequel Bad Boys II three years later, but it seemed like Lawrence’s started to falter with the bomb Rebound until he bounced back with the successful Big Momma’s House 2 and his biggest hit to date Wild Hogs. Neither of his 2008 movies fared that well, possibly hindered by their proximity to each other, but Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins probably has more in common with his new movie. The third part of the equation is Tracy Morgan, who is just coming off his teaming with Bruce Willis in Kevin Smith’s police comedy Cop Out but much of his popularity comes from starring on Tina Fey’s NBC hit “30 Rock.” Even so, this will be appealing more to the black audiences who saw Morgan in last year’s First Sunday.

The star-studded cast also includes super-hot Zoe Saldana of Star Trek and Avatar, her first movie of two-in-a-row, as she also stars in next week’s The Losers, as in fact does Columbus Short, who made his name as a dancer in movies like You Got Served and Stomp the Yard (in which he starred) before appearing in the ensemble movie hit This Christmas. The success of those movies has made Short a Screen Gems regular, having also appeared in last year’s thriller Armored.

Other known faces include Regina Hall and Danny Glover, while the token white guys in the movie are James Marsden and Luke Wilson, both of whom have been in a variety of movies, but Wilson having far more success at comedy. “Death” is somewhat of a return to comedies like The Family Stone, which paired him with Sarah Jessica Parker, but Marsen has a key role in the movie, played in the original by Alan Tudyk. In fact, the only returning cast member from the original movie is Peter Dinklage.

The movie is directed by filmmaker and playwright Neil LaBute, an odd choice, but LaBute’s resume is fairly erratic, having directed the critically-reviled remake of The Wicker Man followed by the Screen Gems thriller Lakeview Terrace. Death at a Funeral is his first comedy since Nurse Betty starring Renée Zellwegger, which co-starred Chris Rock, so that and his previous film for Screen Gems is the connection that got him on board this remake.

The key is that the movie’s premise is pretty funny as dysfunctional family comedies normally are, and they’ve filled it with so many known stars, both old and new, allowing the movie to play to a wide variety of audiences, although clearly, it’s going to be playing best to African-American audiences in the cities and South, who’ve helped so many similar comedies do big business. Previous attempts to do remakes geared more towards African-American audiences include the relatively successful Guess Who with the late Bernie Mac, Johnson Family Vacation with Cedric the Entertainer and Love Don’t Cost a Thing with Nick Cannon.

The R rating may be somewhat detrimental because that will keep out any of Lawrence and Jordan’s younger teen fans who may have grown up at least seeing Lawrence in various family-friendly films. The moderate release into less than 3,000 theaters is also somewhat puzzling, especially if there’s as much demand for the movie as we think, but chances are it will do better in urban areas.

Screen Gems have done a good job marketing the movie and playing up the movie’s comedic cast, and those looking for a laugh who weren’t into last week’s Date Night might choose to see this instead, though any positive word-of-mouth on that movie could hurt “Death” being that it’s not the only comedy choice. Then again, that other comedy in theaters could hurt “Death” if word-of-mouth is good enough to make it a choice. Despite the R-rating (or maybe because of it), the movie will generally veer younger, but it may have trouble getting younger guys away from Kick-Ass as well. Most importantly, Screen Gems are screening this for critics… hurray! Hopefully, they’ll be kind so this won’t be a one-off.

Why I Should See It: The original movie is hilarious and tailoring it to comics like Rock, Lawrence and Jordan could give the movie just the twist it needs to make it seem less like a remake.

Why Not: This is another unnecessary remake, because the first one should have been seen by more people.

Projections: $24 to 27 million opening weekend and roughly $70 to 75 million total.


The Chosen One

Exit Through the Gift Shop (Paranoid Pictures)

Starring Thierry Guetta, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, Rhys Ifans (narrator)

Directed by Banksy

Genre: Documentary

Rated R

Tagline: “The incredible true story of how the world’s greatest Street Art movie was never made…”

Plot Summary: What starts out as a documentary about illegal street art has its tables turned as one of the subjects takes the project over and turns the cameras on the filmmaker.

(This week’s Chosen One is dedicated to Chase Whale of who recommended this movie highly.)

I’ll freely admit that I’d never heard of Banksy or the street art phenomenon that was taking place throughout the first decade of the 21st Century before seeing this movie. Essentially, street art began as a more artistic form of graffiti until Banksy came along and turned it into something that could only be dubbed “art terrorism,” sneaking into museums and hanging his extremely clever politically-charged images in public places. He even was able to get some of his artwork onto the walls of the West Bank. (You can see some of Banksy’s fantastic art here.)

Capturing the creation of that art on video was part of what got the ball rolling on a movie that isn’t really the story of Banksy or about street art, as much as it’s about a Frenchman living in L.A. named Thierry Guetta, a man obsessed with videotaping everything around him, who inadvertently becomes a part of the scene due to his cousin being a French artist known as Space Invader. Soon, Guetta is filming not only his cousin but other prominent artists on the scene with his dream of meeting and taping Banksy at work finally coming true. Soon, Guetta is a close personal friend of the enigmatic British artist who remained incognito, filming him at work and capturing his popular L.A. gallery showing, all under the pretense of making a documentary.

The resulting movie is practically unwatchable, so Banksy takes all the footage and turns the tables on Guetta, making his own movie about how the strange ever-present Frenchman with a camera became entrenched in the street art scene despite being an outsider. We don’t want to give away the whole game, but there are elements to My Kid Can Paint That in here as we follow Guetta’s journey, and he’s an entertaining subject as we watch his bumbling idiocy. Even before it gets to that point, it’s interesting to watch Banksy and these other artists at work, because it’s a real craft to be able to sneak onto these unlikely locations to plant their images. As someone who lives in a part of New York City that’s constantly made ugly by tagging, any degree of artwork being added to the landscape would be appreciated. But Banksy uses his art for intelligent political commentary, which is probably what makes him so dangerous to the authorities.

It’s not too surprising that an avant-garde artist like Banksy would make a good filmmaker–just look at Julian Schnabel–but his movie is more than an in-depth look at an amazing artform. Remaining in shadows with his face blurred in all footage (to avoid being arrested for his artistic actions), Banksy is an incredibly funny storyteller, even slightly self-deprecating at times about his own involvement in Guetta’s inadvertent stardom. The resulting film is a funny and fascinating–and somewhat low-fi, due to the footage used–look at an underground art movement, and how easy it is for someone with questionable amounts of talent to suddenly become a star.

Exit Through the Gift Shop opens in New York, Los Angeles and other California theaters. You can see the full release schedule on the official site.

Under the Radar:

Opening in New York and L.A. this weekend, the Argentine Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes (Sony Pictures Classics) by filmmaker Juan José Campanella stars Ricardo Darin as Benjamín Espósito, a court employee involved with the investigation of a brutal rape and murder in 1974 Argentina, a place where police and government corruption keeps justice from being served properly. While I certainly can understand why it’s such a crowd pleaser and why the Academy chose it over The White Ribbon, A Prophet and Ajami–all “Chosen Ones” mind you–I felt the film was somewhat erratic and a little too derivative of the work of another filmmaker, Spain’s Pedro Almodovar. Darin gives another terrific performance as he plays older and younger versions of the character, but the switch between time periods is constantly confusing, and the movie drags at times. What’s somewhat vexing about the movie is that it spends two hours dealing with the investigation of this brutal murder, but it tries to insert humor (in the form of Benjamin’s drunken assistant) and a romance with their respective boss. There are some great scenes in there, but it generally goes on for far too long with one too many twists, and an ending that just doesn’t deliver on the build-up. Even so, the movie won an Oscar, which is nothing to knock, and it looks fantastic; just that we’ve seen better films from Argentina (many of them starring Marin), and last year’s surprise winner Departure was still a far superior movie. Rating: 7.5/10

Derrick Borte’s The Joneses (Roadside Attractions) is a dark comedy starring David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth as the Joneses, a seemingly perfect family who move into a suburban area and immediately start influencing their friends and neighbors in unexpected ways. At the center of the movie is an interesting twist on the adage “keeping up with the Joneses,” that doesn’t feel right giving away, but there isn’t a lot of places for it to go once it’s revealed roughly twenty minutes into the movie. It’s certainly an interesting perspective on consumerism and marketing and how easily we’re influenced to buy and do things, and Borte’s certainly a strong visual filmmaker, using his background in commercials quite prudently. The scenes between Duchovny and Demi Moore are the best parts of the movie as they have wonderful chemistry together, and yet the romantic angle of the movie feels the most forced and is probably the least interesting aspect of the movie. Duchovny certainly exudes charm and humor throughout and he alone nearly makes up for material that’s generally rather flat. The Joneses will open in roughly 250 theaters on Friday. Rating: 6.5/10

After the death of his long-time partner, James Ivory goes it on his own with The City of Your Final Destination (Screen Media Films), based on Peter Cameron’s novel, about an American academic (Omar Metwally) who travels down to Uruguay to convince celebrated novelist Jules Gund to allow him to write his biography, only to learn that he’s died. Instead, he ends up moving in with his dysfunctional family including the writer’s widow (Laura Linney) who is against a book being written, his mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and the writer’s brother, played by Anthony Hopkins.

Bahman Ghobadi’s No One Knows About Persian Cats (IFC Films), winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannesand written by imprisoned journalist Roxana Saberi, takes place in Iran’s underground music scene. It follows a pair of musicians who have just been released from prison who want to bring their rock band to Europe, and are hoping to play one last show in Tehran despite being forbidden by the authorities. It opens in New York at the IFC Center on Friday and in L.A. on April 23.

Long-delayed from plans to originally release it through Lionsgate, William Dear’s The Perfect Game (Slowhand Releasing) is about a group of boys from Mexico who in 1957 formed a sandlot baseball team, which despite facing discrimination on every step of the way, did well enough to make it to the Little League World Series. It opens in select cities.

Two movies in limited release we haven’t and won’t have a chance to see are Bob Bowden’s documentary The Cartel about the problems in the country’s educational system from various perspectives, and Handsome Harry (Paladin), the new film from indie veteran Bette Gordon (Variety) stars James Sheridan as a divorced loner who comes out of his exile when he’s called to the deathbed of his Navy pal (Steve Buscemi) whose last request is for Harry to find their mutual friend (Campbell Scott) to get forgiveness for something done in their Navy days.

Next week, the comic book movies continues with Sylvain White’s The Losers (Warner Bros.) and Jennifer Lopez’s string of bad romantic comedies also continues with The Back-up Plan (CBS Films). Also, Earth Day is celebrated by Disneynature’s new movie Oceans.

Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas


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