Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend’s new movies. Tune in every Tuesday (or thereabouts) for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theater counts.
Updated Predictions and Comparisons –
UPDATE: It still looks like it’s going to be the Battle of the Chick Flicks this weekend and while Confessions of a Shopaholic should do very well on Friday night, we expect last week’s #1, He’s Just Not That Into You to pick up the slack on Valentine’s Day and take second place, both of bringing in roughly $20 million over the four-day weekend and neither of them offering much competition for Friday the 13th.
1. Friday the 13th (New Line/WB) $38.2 million N/A (down .2 million)
2. He’s Just Not That Into You (New Line/WB) $20.4 million -27% (up .1 million)
3. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Disney/Touchstone) $19.7 million N/A (up 1.5 million)
4. Taken (20th Century Fox) – $13.8 million -30% (down .4 million)
5. Coraline (Focus Features) – $12.6 million -23% (up .1 million)
6. The International (Sony) – $11.3 million N/A (Up .5 million)
7. The Pink Panther 2 (MGM/Sony) – $9.3 million -20% (down .2 million)
8. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) – $8.0 million -27% (same)
9. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) – $6.4 million -11% (up .6 million)
10. Push (Summit Entertainment) – $6.0 million -37% (down .4 million)
It’s the second four-day weekend of 2009, celebrating President’s Day, while Saturday is Valentine’s Day as well, but no matter how you slice it, the return of Jason Voorhees in the relaunch of Friday the 13th (New Line/WB) is going to kick some serious ass this weekend. Its opening day will probably be huge as horror fans, college students and those nostalgic for simpler times when a guy in a hockey mask could wantonly slaughter teens without any sort of prosecution or recriminations, will rush out to see it on Friday night just to be a part of the throng. After a huge opening day, expect it to drop radically as the weekend progresses, though it will surely do its job in successfully relaunching the franchise.
Opening in significantly fewer theaters, the romantic comedy Confessions of a Shopaholic (Touchstone Pictures), starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy, will be trying to bring in the teen girls and under-30 female crowd that have already seen last week’s hit He’s Just Not That Into You, although this will have less appeal to the date crowd that will be looking for something to see together on Saturday night. (Then again, those women are crafty and they’ll probably try to figure some way of tricking their men to take them to see this.) Even so, with the New Line romantic hit having just opened with strong word-of-mouth and a much stronger date night premise, expect “Shopaholic” to fall just short of second place.
Also opening in less than 2,500 theaters, according to early estimates, German filmmaker Tom Tykwer’s conspiracy thriller The International (Sony), starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, will try to bring in the older audiences that might not be interested in the other two movies. That group might be somewhat limited, especially with so many other choices out there, and the Sony marketing machine that’s been spending so much time on money on “Paul Blart” and The Pink Panther 2 might have waited a bit too long to get word out on this one. With neither Owen nor Watts having proven themselves as box office draws, this will probably bring in those looking for something different but will end up somewhere in the middle of the Top 10 below the other two openers.
This weekend last year, all the President’s Day offerings opened one day earlier for Valentine’s Day with the action flick Jumper (20th Century Fox) and the dance sequel Step Up 2 the Streets (Disney) neck and neck in the lead and the romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe (Universal) and Warner Bros.’ Fool’s Gold grossing half as much despite in the date crowd. The weekend was a different story as Jumper pulled well ahead with $32 million for the four-day weekend, followed by the family adventure The Spiderwick Chronicles (Paramount) with just under $25 million. Step Up 2 the Streets dropped to third with $22 million, while Definitely, Maybe ended up in fifth place with $11.5 million over the four-day weekend. The Top 10 grossed $133 million over the four-day holiday weekend, but this year should continue the trend with the three new movies and returning hits allowing this year’s Top 10 to exceed last year.
(Sorry, still haven’t had enough time to get a “Battle Cry” going.)
Friday the 13th (New Line/WB)
Starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Derek Mears
Directed by Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pathfinder); Written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Freddy vs. Jason, upcoming Spy Hunter and Jack the Giant Killer)
Tagline: “Welcome to Crystal Lake.”
Plot Summary: After his sister disappears, a young man named Clay (Jared Padalecki) heads off to Crystal Lake in search for her along with a group of thrill-seeking college kids, but once there, he discovers the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake and its biggest secret, a machete-wielding killer known as Jason Voorhees. I’m sure he’ll leave those nice kids alone and not bother them, right?
Mini-Review As hard as this may be to believe, Marcus Nispel may be getting to the point where he’s just way too good a filmmaker to be tackling something like a horror remake. After all, the original horror classics thrived on the fact they had practically no budget, while Nispel is too serious a filmmaker to make his remake look cheap. Instead, we have a lot of impressive production design, an actual plot and clearly-defined characters, even if they are stereotypes including the rich Adonis jerk, the pot smokin’ ass clowns, the drunk nympho. Even with all that, Nispel has made a movie that’s far too developed and looks way too good to fit in with previous Jason movies. Before we get to the inevitable slaughter, it should be made clear this isn’t a remake as much as it is a new sequel to the original 1980 movie, something we learn via a black and white opening recapping the climactic reveal from the original film. In present day, there’s an abundance of dumb college kids on camping trips to Crystal Lake despite all the stories about what happened decades earlier, and they’re quickly dispatched by Jason, who now has quite an array of traps and an alarm system to let him know when new victims have arrived. There are some unexpected kills, many quite vicious, but far too many of them are telegraphed and punctuated with obnoxiously loud sound effects; as the movie goes along, the kills get less original, less clever and far less disturbing. There are a few nods to the earlier movies–is that the archery range from the first movie?–and some cool origin moments like Jason finding his hockey mask, but much of the movie is hurt by blatant foreshadowing. (Surely, that wood chipper is going to be used for something later, right?) Likewise, we always know almost instantly who is going to die from the second they open their mouths, because it’s one of the conventions of these movies that had to be maintained. Unfortunately, Derek Mears Jason brings the same problem to the table as found in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” in that his Jason is no longer an unstoppable, almost supernatural being, he’s just a big hulking monster of a man, and that’s mostly evident when he’s facing Jared Padalecki as the handsome hunk looking for his missing sister amongst a group of partying coeds and fratboys. Even so, it’s Aaron Yoo who once again steals the movie with his comic relief, though after he’s disposed of in short order, there isn’t very much fun to be had. (Actually, Travis Van Winkle screaming like a girl in one scene was kind of funny.) One thing we see in this remake is that there are actual local police and they do show up when called (for what that’s worth), but if that’s the case, why aren’t they able to find this masked killer that seems to be everywhere after the first group of teens go missing? As much as this tries to recapture the “magic” (if there every actually was any), it completely misses the point of what worked about the original movies, leading to a relatively unsatisfying rehash of what’s come before while barely moving the franchise past the overused cliches. Rating: 5.5/10
With all the classic horror movies that have suffered through remakes over the past few years, it was only time before New Line decided to relaunch one of their most popular franchises by reintroducing one of the classic characters of horror, Jason Voorhees, to a new audience. It’s somewhat surprising that it took them so long to get around to it, considering that the last appearance by the character in Freddy vs. Jason over five years ago, was one of the most successful movies of the franchise. It also opened just months before Marcus Nispel’s remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre began a new dawn for horror and started the ball rolling on the horror remake trend. So now it’s over five years later and the team that helped that movie bring in $80 million has reunited to tackle the character who first exploded onto screens in the summer of 1980 to gross $39 million, which quite amazingly, was the most successful movie in the franchise until Freddy vs. Jason nearly made that amount its opening weekend.
So here we are over five years later and the state of horror is constantly in flux with successful remakes and torture porn in the form of the hugely successful “Saw” franchise that constantly confound the studios who never know what might work. Before Freddy vs. Jason, the “Friday the 13th” franchise had been petering out badly with few of the movies grossing more than $15 million, while the “Halloween” franchise continued to thrive with a successful 20th anniversary relaunch in 1998. Either way, it seems that the kids will never stop eating up ultra-gory slasher flicks, as remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes have continued to bring people in. Last year, a remake of Prom Night opened big and the year before that When a Stranger Calls saw similar opening weekend success. Just last month over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Lionsgate had a relative hit with a remake of My Bloody Valentine thanks to it 3D gimmick. Compared to all those movies, the original Friday the 13th is a much better-known and beloved horror classic, one that was able to launch a relatively successful franchise. The character is at least as well known as the star of the “Halloween” franchise, Michael Myers, except that the producers of those movies have generally made better movies, including having Rob Zombie relaunch that franchise with a hugely successful remake last summer.
To help give the new Jason a fighting chance, New Line decided to reteam with Michael Bay and producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form from Platinum Dunes, the company behind the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who brought back director Marcus Nispel to direct this relaunch. Obviously, everyone is hoping that reuniting that team will help relaunch Jason Voorhees in a big way, and it certainly might work, though there are other factors involved with the film finding success. One of the main ones is the fact it stars Jared Padalecki, star of the hugely successful WB/CW show “Supernatural” as well as the similar successful show “The Gilmore Girls.” Padalecki also starred in one of the less successful slasher remakes, Joel Silver’s attempt at reimagining House of Wax, co-starring Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton at the height of her infamy. That film’s lack of success can’t really be attributed to Padalecki, and he’s become even better known as the star of “Supernatural” – ironically, sharing top billing with Jensen Ackles, who recently starred in the My Bloody Valentine remake.
There’s little question that the return of Jason is a huge event, especially with the movie actually opening on Friday the 13th – which was the case with four of the ten movies. Many people will rush out to see it on Friday to be a part of what should be a huge and rowdy crowd of horror enthusiasts ready to see how the new Jason stacks up (the bodies) to the classics. This sort of “date matching” (for lack of a better term) has been quite successful with previous horror remakes like The Omen (released on 6/6/06) and Black Christmas, which made half its total gross on Christmas Day later that year. In fact, last month’s My Bloody Valentine 3D might have opened even bigger if it opened this weekend, because it would have made great alternate Valentine’s Day programming; it’s probably a bit of a bummer to Lionsgate who lost this date to the Friday the 13th remake.
One big difference with this relaunch is that New Line now has the marketing, advertising and distribution clout of Warner Bros. behind them to help sell the movie in a much bigger way, and it’s likely to open even wider than Freddy vs. Jason with even more promotion. As if Friday the 13th needed anything else going for it, producer Michael Bay has gotten the teaser trailer for his highly anticipated sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen attached to the movie, and there’s a chance that a lot of fans of his previous movie (which made over $300 million) will go out to see the movie in order to be the first to see the teaser days before it appears online. With all of this in mind, Friday the 13th will be shooting for the Top 3 in terms of Presidents’ Day openers, though the amount of competition, potential frontloading and the limiting audience for gory R-rated horror might keep it below the $40 million mark. With that in mind, Friday the 13th will continue the resurrection of New Line in a big way following last week’s hit romantic comedy He’s Just Not That Into You (which should continue to do well on Valentine’s Day.)
Why I Should See It: It’s about time that the “Friday the 13th” franchise goes back to basics with what originally made Jason Voorhees such a classic horror character.
Confessions of a Shopaholic (Disney/Touchstone)
Starring Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas, Leslie Bibb, Fred Armisen, Julie Hagerty, Krysten Ritter, Robert Stanton, Christine Ebersole, Clea Lewis, Wendie Malick, Stephanie March
Directed by P.J. Hogan (Peter Pan, Muriel’s Wedding, My Best Friend’s Wedding); Written by Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, Kayla Alpert
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Tagline: “All she ever wanted was a little credit…”
Plot Summary: Chronic shopper Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) has put herself massively in debt, but she’s unable to get her dream job working at her favorite fashion magazine, so she finagles her way into a job as a columnist at a financial magazine from the same publisher, although going by her over-spending, it’s pretty obvious she knows absolutely nothing about the subject of good finance.
Since it’s become abundantly clear that women rule at the box office these days, it’s not surprising that another chick flick is being released so soon after last week’s #1 hit He’s Just Not That Into You. This vehicle for Isla Fisher is definitely a different animal, one that will probably skew younger than last week’s hit, although it’s also based on a hit novel, the one by Sophia Kinsella, and it’s more in the vein of the 2007 hit The Devil Wears Prada in that it tells a fish-out-of-water story of a young woman trying to make it in a world not her own.
There’s little question that this movie is trying to capitalize on the success of “Prada” and last year’s Sex and the City by centering around one of female-kind’s most common pastimes, shopping. The idea of a woman who loves shopping is certainly an idea that many women, both young and old, will be able to appreciate and understand, but then you add the comedy and romance elements and you suddenly have something that could be very appealing.
The big story behind the movie is that it’s the first starring role for Isla Fisher, who first got attention for her memorable role in the hit R-rated comedy Wedding Crashers and who last year co-starred in the Valentine’s Day rom-com release Definitely, Maybe. This is her first chance to prove whether she can headline and carry her own comedy, and this seems like a great vehicle for what she does so well. Fisher follows in the footsteps of Amy Adams, who had her own chance to shine when she starred in Disney’s holiday hit Enchanted, although obviously, being a Disney musical and released on Thanksgiving greatly helped that movie bring in family business.
The film is directed by P.J. Hogan who had great success in 1997 when paired with Julia Roberts for My Best Friend’s Wedding, although that was still back in the day when female-friendly movies did most of their business after opening weekend. Fisher’s love interest is played by the good-looking young Brit Hugh Dancy, who hasn’t really had a hit, though he did star in four bombs in 2007.
Presidents’ Day weekend is a great one for kid-friendly movies and “Shopaholic’s” PG rating will mean that moms can bring their young daughters to see it, where they probably wouldn’t necessarily take them to some of the other romantic comedies. Then again, this is the third movie in the genre this year to get the PG rating after Bride Wars and New in Town, so that’s somewhat of a trend for the genre to not go for more adult PG-13 content. (Of course, this is a far cry from the R-rated humor Fisher was involved in when she co-starred in Wedding Crashers.) Disney has generally been good at marketing movies to teen and younger girls as seen by the success of Enchanted and both “Princess Diaries” movies, but it’s somewhat odd that this movie was produced by Touchstone Pictures, since they tend to veer towards PG-13 and R-rated fare, while Disney tends to release PG movies themselves. One thing that might hurt the movie on Valentine’s Day, a time when movies like this tend to do well, is that this doesn’t really seem like a very good date movie, rather being the kind of movie that groups of women might go see together.
Even so, this will be a great test for Fisher, because if the movie does well, she’ll certainly be approached to do more romantic comedies and the like… which might not exactly be a good thing for the guys who’d rather see her return to racier R-rated material. (This writer will probably still stick with Amy Adams even though she broke his heart by getting engaged.)
Why I Should See It: Isla Fisher was pretty awesome in Wedding Crashers and this will be her first chance to really shine in a leading role.
The International (Sony)
Starring Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Brían F. O’Byrne
Directed by Thomas Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer); Written by Eric Warren Singer (debut)
Genre: Thriller, Action
Tagline: “They control your money. They control your government. They control your life. And everyone pays.”
Plot Summary: When his partner is killed, Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) starts an investigation into one of the world’s largest and most powerful banks along with a New York Assistant D.A. (Naomi Watts) but as they get closer to the truth about the murder, the bodies start piling up as the company doesn’t want its private affairs becoming public and they’ll do whatever it takes to tie up loose ends.
In a weekend where younger men and women are well covered with the two other new movies–not to mention everything else playing in theaters–this new conspiracy thriller from German filmmaker Thomas Tykwer (Run Lola Run) will try to offer something for the older audiences who aren’t looking for gory horror or frivolous romantic comedies. The thriller genre is certainly one that continues to bring in big audiences over the years, as seen most recently by 20th Century Fox’s Taken, which has proven to be a big hit for its star Liam Neeson and director Pierre Morel. Even though it’s been ten years since Tykwer’s most famous film, which grossed roughly $7 million in limited release, the director hasn’t been able to make much of a name for himself in this country compared to in Europe. His last movie, an adaptation of the bestselling novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, was an enormous global blockbuster, grossing $130 million internationally, but it only made $2 million in North America when released by Paramount here in 2006.
Not that Tykwer hasn’t had big name stars in his previous movies, having worked with Dustin Hoffman and Cate Blanchett before, but his new movie is being sold as much for its two name stars, Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, as as it is for its genre and the potential for action and tension. (In fact, the movie isn’t being marketed at all by Tykwer’s involvement, even though Run Lola Run has a ton of fans among serious film enthusiasts.) This is a great movie for Owen, whose early film Croupier helped pave the way for him to be considered a great leading man for all kinds of genres. In recent years, he’s starred in highly-praised movies like Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men and well-regarded but poorly-attended action bombs like Shoot ‘Em Up. Owen also co-starred in Spike Lee’s crime-thriller Inside Man, his biggest movie to date although much of that can be attributed to his co-stars Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster. Owen’s other big role was playing the lead in Jerry Bruckheimer’s King Arthur (a summer bomb) and Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City. The wide array of films Owen has starred in has allowed him to build a diverse fanbase of movie fans, although he really hasn’t been able to crossover to the stardom of others, such as Jason Statham. The poor showing for Shoot ‘Em Up is especially daunting for him carrying The International, and his co-star Naomi Watts doesn’t exactly bring much to the table in terms of being able to get people into seats. (If anyone seriously thinks Watts was the reason Peter Jackson’s King Kong performed as well as it did, then one might want to spend a bit more time studying her box office history.)
The film is being sold much like The Bourne Identity, which Owen ironically had an early role in, but it’s not really about the action as much about the corporate conspiracy, much like Tony Gilroy’s Oscar nominated Michael Clayton starring George Clooney, which had a disappointing opening but then built on its awards recognition. Of course, The International won’t have any of that, and early reviews from the film’s premiere at the Berlin Film Festival last week have not been very good. Sure, the movie will have its fans–I’ll freely admit that I’m one–but if the movie doesn’t get solid reviews, it’ll have a hard time getting interest among the older moviegoers it’ll need to reach.
This is the kind of film that Universal tends to do well with, as seen by movies like Sidney Pollack’s The Interpreter and Breach, but Sony has been doing their usual bang-up job selling the movie, much like they did with Vantage Point last year, focusing mainly on the film’s sparse action scenes. This tactic might backfire since the action plays such a small part in the movie, and reviews might reflect disappointment in the false advertising, although since it’s generally an intelligent movie, it should still fare decently among critics.
Even so, the downfall of The International might come from its choice of release date, since it’s opening just two weeks after Fox’s Taken, which has been doing huge business even in its second weekend, and it probably will still be bringing word-of-mouth business from those who’ve seen it. The movie also won’t be able to get too many guys away from Friday the 13th since it has such a strong nostalgia draw, as well as being an event movie. These factors should keep The International under the $15 million mark for the weekend, even with four days, whereas opening just one week later (against Tyler Perry) probably would have allowed it to open much bigger.
Why I Should See It: Tom Tykwer is an incredible director, who is certainly capable of incredible filmmaking, and it’s interesting to see him tackle a tense thriller.
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Two Lovers (Magnolia Pictures)
While James Gray’s fourth film might not be the most conventional date movie to bring your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend to on Valentine’s Day, it’s an interesting change of pace for the director who makes his third film in a row starring Joaquin Phoenix after The Yards in 2000 and the police drama We Own the Night in 2007. This one is very different for both of them, being a quieter character drama involving a love triangle centering around an awkward introverted character named Leonard, who we first meet just before he jumps off a pier into the Brighton Bay. Once he’s fished out, he returns home soaking wet to where he lives with his parents. They just happen to be having a dinner party where he’s introduced to Sandra, the daughter of a family friend, played by Vinessa Shaw. She’s obviously smitten with Leonard, but he spends much of the movie mooning over Gwyneth Paltrow’s Michelle, an attractive young woman who clearly doesn’t seem to be interested in him beyond his ability to be an entertaining and amusing friend. She’s hopelessly in love with a married man who she believes will leave his wife for her, and Leonard finds himself having to be her confidante and shoulder to cry on, not exactly a position most guys like to find themselves in. Leonard is a very different character for Phoenix, not being as confident or brash as we’ve seen him play in the past, but he’s also somewhat of an anomaly – awkward and shy one moment but aggressive and romantic the next. In fact, it’s odd to think that he might get so stuck on Michelle when he has Sandra, since Vinessa Shaw is quite attractive and desirable herself, and that might be the one thing that bugs people about the movie. There’s another parallel storyline that involves Phoenix trying to live up to the expectations of his Jewish parents, his father who wants Leonard to continue in the family business and who realizes how important Leonard’s relationship with Sandra could help a lucrative business deal. While the film might not be nearly as immediate as We Own the Night due to Phoenix’s odd character and the fact you sometimes question his actions and behavior, if Phoenix’s transition from actor to rapper turns out to be true, this may be your last chance to see him on the big screen, and it would make quite an intriguing swan song for sure. If you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten track to take a date to on Saturday, then there’s enough romance–both good and bad–in Gray’s film that you’ll have plenty to talk about over a candlelit dinner afterwards.
Two Lovers opens in select cities on Friday.
Gomorrah (IFC Films)
Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)
Also in Limited Release:
Under the Sea 3D (Warner Bros.) – This 40-minute IMAX 3D nature doc narrated by Jim Carrey explores undersea locations across the globe to allow the viewer to experience some of the stranger creatures and how they’re affected by global climate change. It opens in IMAX theaters everywhere.
The Caller (Olive Press Cinema) – Richard (A Hole in One) Ledes’ thriller stars Frank Langella and Elliot Gould as an executive at an energy firm and the private investigator he enlists to aid him in trying to bring down the corporation. After premiering at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, it opens in select cities on Friday.
Next week, the non-stop output from Atlanta entertainment mogul Tyler Perry continues with Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail (Lionsgate), while a couple of cheerleading guys get Fired Up (Sony/Screen Gems).
Copyright 2009 Edward Douglas