Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend’s new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts. If you’re not doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies and all sorts of random things.
1. Iron Man 2 (Marvel/Paramount) – $162.3 million N/A (same)
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (New Line/WB) – $10.0 million -70% (down 1.5 million)
3. How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $6.8 million -36% (same)
4. Date Night (20th Century Fox) – $5.0 million -35% (same)
5. The Back-up Plan (CBS Films) – $4.3 million -43% (up .3 million)
6. Furry Vengeance (Summit) – $3.8 million -43% (up .2 million)
7. Babies (Focus Features) – $3.5 million N/A (up .2 million)
8. Clash of the Titans (Warner Bros.) – $3.1 million -47% (same)
9. The Losers (Warner Bros.) – $3.0 million -48% (down .1 million)
10. Death at a Funeral (Sony/Screen Gems) – $2.0 million -49% (down .1 million)
It’s the start of May and the start of summer as one of the most anticipated movies of the year, Iron Man 2 (Marvel/Paramount), the sequel to the 2008 blockbuster directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson, will open in an enormous number of regular and IMAX theaters. Even without the huge anticipation and interest in seeing what happens next, the first big summer event movie has the benefits of opening in early May where audiences are ready for a big budget FX-laden superhero action flick giving this sequel a similar potential as Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The question is whether the movie might beat the opening weekend of The Dark Knight and a lot of factors right now point to a resounding “yes.” You can read our full analysis below to find out why we believe that to be the case.
Released just in time for Mother’s Day, but not quite as widely as Disneynature’s recent Oceans, the documentary Babies (Focus Features) will mostly be capitalizing on the “awwwww-dorable” nature of the trailers, which are targeting women from 25 to 40 whose biological clocks have grown to the size of Big Ben. Either that or this is intended as a sequel to Jennifer Lopez’s The Back-up Plan. Who knows? But it should benefit from the holiday on Sunday, because there’s nothing that mothers want to be reminded of more than the years they spent taking care of you when you were a baby and the lack of appreciation they get for it 364 days a year. (That joke was dedicated to my own mother for Mother’s Day.)
Also, the summer sneak previews begin again after a long hiatus as Summit Entertainment will screen next week’s romantic Letters to Juliet, starring Amanda Seyfried, on Sunday.
This week’s “Chosen One” is Rodrigo Garcia’s star-studded drama Mother and Child (Sony Pictures Classics) with an “Honorable Mention” to Alex Gibney’s doc Casino Jack and the United States of Money (Magnolia). You can read more about both below.
At this point, the comparisons to last week are all messed up but essentially, the summer kicked off in the first month of May with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (20th Century Fox), which was plagued by piracy issues but still grossed $34 million in its opening day leading to an opening weekend of $85 million and $179 million total over the summer. Coming in a distant second was the formerly-shelved romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (New Line/WB) pitting Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner with $15.4 million over the weekend. Not even making it into the Top 10, the animated 3D movie Battle for Terra (Roadside Attractions) grossed a pitiful million in roughly a thousand theaters. The Top 10 grossed $145 million which obviously will be bested by Iron Man 2 alone.
Yes, I’m well aware that I’m being a complete hoser by not having a “Battle Cry” for the second week in a row–may not have time for one next week either–but I did spend a lot of time finally writing the Weekend Warrior Summer Box Office Preview, and there’s a very cool contest for those who want to put on their thinking caps.
Iron Man 2 (Marvel/Paramount)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling, John Slattery, Kate Mara, Clark Gregg, Olivia Munn
Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Zathura, Elf, Made); Written by Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Plot Summary: Billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has revealed his identity as Iron Man to the world, making him the target for the government and a competing weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who both want to get their hands on the armor’s designs. At the same time, Tony is having problems that puts him at odds with his loyal assistant “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and best friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), just as he takes on a sexy new assistant named Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) who may be more than she seems. Oh, yeah, and there’s a vengeful Russian guy with electric whips (Mickey Rourke).
What’s there to say about the first movie of summer and easily one of the most anticipated sequels… At least among guys? (Women have their own event sequels coming later this summer.) The original Iron Man based on the Marvel Comics character amassed $318 million in the summer of ’08 after an astounding opening weekend of $102 million (including Thursday previews). Until the recent release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, it was the second highest non-sequel after Spider-Man, but it’s still impressive to have done so well being based on what some consider a second-string comic book character.
A lot has changed in the life of the movie’s star Robert Downey Jr. since he first became the Marvel Universe’s resident billionaire and weapons expert Tony Stark. First, he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Ben Stiller’s comedy Tropic Thunder and then earlier this year, he won a Golden Globe for portraying Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s hit action flick of the same name. The first Iron Man made Downey big, but the two years since then has turned him into a superstar, easily one of the most popular favorites in the acting world and an actor who can do no wrong. (Except maybe for teaming with Jamie Foxx in the dramatic bomb The Soloist last year, but does anyone even remember that?) The sequel reteams Downey with director Jon Favreau and with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who haven’t really done much since the first movie, although Favreau has become a superstar due to his presence on Twitter in the past year, garnering a lot of followers who wanted to hear about the making of the movie as it was happening.
For the sequel, Terrence Howard is out as James “Rhodey” Rhodes, instead replaced by Don Cheadle, another Oscar-nominated actor but one who has a somewhat higher Q-rating, having already appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” series, each of the movies having grossed over $100 million. Unfortunate for Howard, Cheadle gets to also don the War Machine armor, something that will be a big draw for fans of the popular comic character. Another big draw for the movie, at least for guys–do we need any other reason to see it?–is the chance to see Scarlett Johansson in a tight leather outfit as the Black Widow. Johansson hasn’t done a ton of big-budget action movies, the one exception being Michael Bay’s The Island, which is the successful filmmaker’s only true bomb, it having grossed less than some of his other movies have made in a single day. One of the primary villains is played by Mickey Rourke, who was hired shortly after being nominated for an Oscar for Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, the role continuing his high-profile comeback, and last, but certainly not least of the new cast is Sam Rockwell, as Tony’s nemesis Justin Hammer. Rockwell has mainly done indie films but he’s had his brush with big studio movies, having starred in Charlie’s Angels and the Disney’s adaptation of Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Although Samuel L. Jackson only had a tiny cameo in the first movie, he’s back playing a larger role as Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Clark Gregg is back as one of his top recruiters.
For comic fans, the movie is the next step in the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (pat pending Kevin Feige) leading to next summer’s Marvel movies, Thor and The First Avenger: Captain America with a couple of hints and subplots tied into those movies.
The most persistent point of interest that’s been on many minds leading up to this weekend is whether Iron Man 2 has a chance at beating The Dark Knight‘s 2008 opening weekend record of $158.4 million. This sequel certainly has a lot of things going for it, including an equal amount of anticipation going into the weekend as The Dark Knight, but it also has a lot of factors that could really push it over the top to set that new record. For one thing, there are a lot more IMAX screens now than there were two years ago when The Dark Knight opened and movie ticket prices have also increased since then. Dark Knight certainly has somewhat of a release date advantage by being released later in the summer when school was out, but the opening weekend of May has proven fertile ground for opening weekend records, first shown by the original Spider-Man in 2002, and then again by its threequel three years ago.
The awareness and anticipation for “IM2” has made it the first big event movie of the summer, and really the only sequel geared primarily to males from 10 to 40, will mean that the opening weekend should make up a significant fraction of the original’s total box office. It’s not just a movie for guys though as teen girls and older women really dig Robert Downey Jr. and the romance aspect of his relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts. It’s not exactly the type of comic book action movie that guys will have to drag their girlfriends and wives to see. Since Iron Man is also significantly lighter than Nolan’s Batman movies, which means that younger boys down to the age of 10 or so will be able to see it with their parents.
Besides the audiences who helped the original Iron Man make $300 million over the summer of ’08, there’s also the additional audience who waited to watch it on DVD and cable in the two years that followed who are more likely to see the sequel in theatres, many of them opening weekend. That puts Iron Man in a similarly strong position as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel when it opened in the summer of 2006, because so many people loved the original movie, which many saw multiple times. The Dark Knight performed similarly to The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, making twice as much in its 3-day opening weekend as its predecessor did in its first five days. In fact, it’s fairly common for the sequel factor push the opening of a movie much higher than the original as business leans more towards opening weekend.
The original movie was surprisingly well-reviewed for a superhero movie, too, rating a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8 out of 10 among IMDb Users. Chances are that the sequel won’t be as well-received partially due to the sequel factor and because expectations are so high, that both fan and non-fans alike might be left somewhat disappointed. Even so, Iron Man 2 is the type of event movie that many people will want to see for themselves rather than trusting the reviews, either negative or positive. Bad reviews certainly didn’t keep The Twilight Saga: New Moon from opening with over $140 million last November, so there’s no reason why Iron Man 2 would make at least that amount.
Another good thing in Iron Man 2‘s favor is that it’s following after two fairly down weeks. Even last week’s A Nightmare on Elm Street had a relatively disappointing opening compared to expectations, and it’s clear that moviegoers are looking for something exciting and fun to see. One odd decision by Paramount was to release the movie in just about every other region in the globe before the United States. The excuse given was that it was to “avoid running into the World Cup”–which doesn’t start until June–but it’s just as likely to have been done to prevent piracy in countries plagued by it. That just means there’s more of a chance of piracy from those other countries affecting the movie’s American box office, and there are already illegal downloads available. Then again, positive internet buzz from those other countries (from the fans) will just make Americans more excited to see it. The sequel has already made over $100 million in its first five days internationally, which isn’t huge, but the first Iron Man didn’t make as much internationally as it did domestically anyway.
Midnight shows should be particularly big for the movie, although it’s hard to tell if they can help push “IM2” over the current opening day record set by The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Certainly avoiding the normal early preview screenings at 8 and 10PM on Thursday that Paramount has done so often in the past will play a large part in the movie achieving a new opening record. Without them, we think that “IM2” could end up doing somewhere close to 65 million on Friday, though it’s likely be more frontloaded than the previous movie due to that built-up anticipation.
Although Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood will open next week, essentially targeting the same audience, at least older men and women, it probably won’t offer enough competition to prevent “IM2” from having two weeks at #1 though one can probably the movie to be more frontloaded than the first movie as well.
Why I Should See It: The first Iron Man was in this writer’s humble opinion, the best superhero origin movie to date, and the sequel promises to build on the Marvel mythos with more characters.
Babies (Focus Features)
Starring babies Ponijao, Bayar, Mari, Hattie
Directed by Thomas Balmes
Tagline: “Everybody loves…” (Indeed.)
Plot Summary: This documentary takes a look at four babies from different parts of the globe.
Mini-Review: There’s a strong possibility anyone going to see a movie called “Babies” that promises lots of scenes of the adorable suckers in various states of sleep and play will get exactly what they want out of this movie. It won’t hurt that this nature doc about humans has no narration or commentary or dialogue to inform or influence one’s opinion about what they’re watching either. Essentially, it follows four babies from different parts of the globe from birth to their very first steps, essentially a year-in-the-life of these little humans. The cameras capture things we don’t often see, such as what babies get up to when left to their own devices, and it’s interesting to watch how parents interact with their children in different parts of the world. It may or may not be surprising that in all four cases, the fathers aren’t around much, and in fact, a father figure is non-existent in the Namibia segments, which might have made an interesting story in itself.
The movie avoids any of the woes of having babies, whether it’s the constant crying, the fact they’re incapable of feeding or cleaning themselves, etc. It basically covers all the good parts of babies, delivering on all aspects of the “awww, how cute” factor that comes along with them. The inclusion of footage of the babies playing with kittens and puppies does go a bit overboard on that end.
There’s a strong chance that director Thomas Barnes was hoping to create some sort of anthropological experiment in making this film but without any sort of introduction stating such, one can only take it on its face value, because the director clearly wanted the images to tell their own story. It’s a shame, because there may have been even more interesting stories if he had interviewed the parents about their child’s progress. If nothing else, we can be thankful that Balmes didn’t feel the need to write lots of jokey narrative or even worse, having someone perform the voices of the babies ala “Look Who’s Talking.” The score by Bruno Colais never gets too comical either, although it pales in comparison to his work on the recent “Oceans.”
Even so, the movie looks lovely as the filmmakers do a terrific job capturing the environments in which these babies are thriving, as well as editing together the footage to juxtapose their situations. A shot of the African mother taking the skin off an animal to cook cuts into the American mother peeling a banana for her baby, which is quite clever. Watching the differences between how babies are raised in other places compared to America is also quite enlightening, especially when you realize how neurotic American mothers are about their babies.
Otherwise, “Babies” lacks any of the facts or the “never seen that before” factor that makes most nature docs such fascinating viewing, instead giving you exactly what’s advertised, literally 80 minutes of footage of babies sans commentary. For new parents, it may be an informative look at how other babies develop; for everyone else, it acts as little more than a commercial for procreation. Rating: 6.5/10
For the second time in a month, another arty French doc is being released in the United States being marketed as something completely different than what was originally intended by their filmmakers. Like with Oceans, it’s not easy to figure out how a movie like this might fare at the box office, made even tougher that it’s essentially a nature doc about human babies. So yeah, we don’t have a lot to say about this. It’s not even opening REALLY wide, but it’s got an adorable trailer that seems to have lots of women enamored by it, and a it will have a guaranteed bump on Mother’s Day Sunday. In fact, Babies may be the most appropriate “Rattle and Reel”* movie ever made. (*Those are the special screenings for mothers to bring their young babies.) Instead of giving it a limited release, which is the case with most docs, Focus are going a bit wider, but not insanely wide, just over 500 theaters, and one can expect that women in those areas who may not be interested in Iron Man 2 will give the movie a look.
Why I Should See It: If your biological clock is ticking and want to know what to expect down the road…
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Mother and Child (Sony Pictures Classics)
Also released in time for Mother’s Day is this amazing drama from Rodrigo Garcia, the filmmaker whose work as a cinematographer and director on some of HBO’s biggest shows like “Six Feet Under” and “In Treatment,” have given them such a distinctive look and feel. I was immensely impressed with Garcia’s previous feature film Nine Lives, which was a star-studded anthology film about intersecting lives, and I was blown away by this follow-up when I saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival, then equally impressed on a second viewing.
In some ways, the story is somewhat simpler as it deals with only three very different women who one wouldn’t normally think would have anything in common, but in fact, are related by circumstance. The common thread of the film involves the complex interaction between motherhood and adoption.
Garcia has a way of getting some of the best performances out of actresses, something he first displayed in the TV movie “Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her.” That’s just as true here with Annette Bening hitting another emotional homerun as the neurotic and difficult physical therapist whose life has been destroyed by having to give up her baby as a teenager. At the same time, she’s been taking care of her elderly mother, who made that decision for her, but when her mother dies, she finds herself having to find her own life. Along comes a caring male nurse played by Jimmy Smits who tries to get through to her.
Naomi Watts’ character is equally fascinating, a powerful lawyer and a sexual beast who first seduces her widower boss, played by Samuel L. Jackson, a terrific performance in a rare serious role, then her pregnant neighbor’s husband. This is a woman who is just as headstrong as Bening’s character, but one who clearly has personal issues due to her background. When she gets pregnant herself, she decides to leave her professional life behind. (Not surprisingly, the film is produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, who got such an amazing performance from Ms. Watts in the excellent 21 Grams.)
I’ve always loved Kerry Washington since first seeing her in Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, and she’s incredibly strong in an incredibly difficult segment that has her providing humor in circumstances where you wouldn’t expect it. She’s desperate for a child to the point where it drives her husband away, but like the other two women, she won’t be hindered by adversity.
Besides being so good at writing and directing women, Garcia knows how to surround them with strong, sensitive and supportive men, insuring that the film works as more than just a mere “chick flick,” though women are still more likely to get something out of watching how these women deal with difficult situations and decisions. Although the focus is on the three lead actresses, Garcia has a terrific cast of award-winning actors around them that guarantees every dramatic scene delivers on the emotions.
It’s best not knowing too much about how thee stories pan out. As much as there must have been urge to have the three women meet and interact, Garcia resists that temptation to maintain three incredibly layered stories that cover a great deal of time. Sure, the film could probably have been tightened with a few moments that don’t seem particularly relevant, but doubtful one will find a film as incredibly powerful and daring in its approach to tackling material that’s rarely been addressed so directly and emotionally. What Garcia’s able to do in the realm of drama with his combination of strong writing and the note-perfect performances he gets from his cast makes Mother and Child one of those unforgettable films that should be amongst the year’s best.
It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday. No offense to the fine folks at Focus, but if you’re looking for something to take to your mother to this Sunday, we recommend this over Babies.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money (Magnolia)
This past week seems to have been all about Alex Gibney as he premiered his next two movies and provided a segment for a third at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, but before seeing any of those, I had watched Gibney’s latest film about Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, how he came to power and inevitably screwed up and was caught. I have to admit that before watching this movie, I had heard Abramoff’s name mentioned on the news but never really paid much attention to what he had done wrong or its significance.
The long and short of his misdeeds is that he used his connections in Washington to get money from those who thought Abramoff would use those connections to help them, such as Native American casino owners. The film is more like Gibney’s earlier Enron doc rather than some of his more recent work, but the subject matter is kept entertaining despite the talking heads nature of the storytelling. For those who only know Abramoff’s story from the headlines, Gibney takes an intensive investigative approach to getting further into the story than anyone before him. Like many of Gibney’s films, the interviews are the most impressive, mainly for how Gibney gets his subjects to candidly speak to him on camera about their dealings with Abramoff. Many of them had already been jailed for their involvement in some of his biggest scams and scandals.
For the most part, the film is clearly anti-lobbyist and fairly incriminating of the entire Republican party, Gibney effectively taking some of the pressure off Michael Moore in terms of taking such a heavily left-leaning stance on the subject matter. At times, it just feels like it’s applying salt to the wounds of a man who has already been convicted for his crimes, but more than that, it makes you wonder how the Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay got away with his close involvement with Abramoff without being arrested. Some may also wonder why the movie wasn’t timed to be released closer to election time, where it could have been more effective.
The movie isn’t perfect, beginning with its assumption that you already know a lot about Abramoff’s crimes. It also hits a fairly substantial lull in the middle where it gets away from the earlier humor and entertaining graphics, and just becomes a lot of people talking and providing far too much information than a brain can absorb. Because of this and how the subject matter is mainly be of interest to those with a political science degree, Casino Jack isn’t quite as powerful or shocking as some of Gibney’s other films.
Either way, if those inner workings of Washington, D.C. interest you, especially in terms of how politicians and lobbyists work the system to make money, then Gibney’s latest is a fine addition to his doc filmography. Abramoff’s fascinating story and how his masterplans spiral out of control is indeed a story that’s hard to believe, very much like something written for Hollywood, which may be why director George Hickenlooper has been making a narrative version of the Abramoff story almost simultaneously to Gibney’s efforts with Kevin Spacey in the role. Although they have similar titles, we get the feeling that version will get more attention, though it’s certainly worthwhile to have the facts available in a somewhat undistilled format straight from those who were involved in Abramoff’s biggest scams.
It opens in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. on Friday.
Also in Limited Release:
This is a very busy week for limited releases, and we’ve seen very few of the movies so we’ll try to keep this briefer than usual.
If you’re in New York and you missed the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, you have a full array of films being shown at the Tribeca Cinemas on Laight Street that premiered at the festival. Opening on Wednesday May 5 for a week-long run is the comedy The Infidel starring Omid Djalili and Richard Schiff, Dev Benegal’s Road, Movie, Matt Whitecross’s rock biopic sex & drugs & rock & roll starring Andy Serkis as Ian Dury, and the comedy The Trotsky starring Jay Baruchel. You can read about these over at our Tribeca Film Festival Preview and see the schedule for the above movies here
Jean Dujardin is back as Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, the incompetent French spy in Michael Hazanavicius’ comedy OSS117: Lost in Rio (Music Box Films) which takes Hubert to Rio in 1967, where he must track down microfilm that’s being used by a Nazi blackmailer against the French government.
Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)
That leaves a bunch of movies that I haven’t had a chance to see yet, including Brooks Branch’s drama Multiple Sarcasms (Multiple Avenue Releasing) following Timothy Hutton’s Gabriel Richmond, a man writing a play about his relationships with women, disrupting all of them in the process. Also starring Stockard Channing, Mira Sorvino and Dana Delany, it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Eclectic filmmaker Harmony Korine (Mr. Nobody) returns with Trash Humpers (Drag City) which falls a gang of sinister peeping toms in rubber masks who take part in “shocking sociopathic behaviour.” Yeah, I’ll pass on that one, but if it’s to your tastes, it opens in New York at the Cinema Village on Friday and then in L.A. on May 14.
Adam Sherman’s Happiness Runs (Strand Releasing) stars Mark L. Young as Victor, a young man raised on a hippy commune, essentially a polygamous cult, that he realizes he needs to escape from along with his childhood love Becky (Hanna Hall). It opens in New York at the Quad Cinemas and then in L.A. on May 14.
Also at the Quad and in Chicago is James Allen Smith’s documentary Floored about the trading floors of downtown Chicago where everything is bought and sold in the fast-paced market. After its limited release, it will be available online and via mobile phones on May 10.
The Bollywood release of the week is Parmeet Sethi’s Badmaash Company (Yash Raj Films) about four young friends who start a company that does well once they figure out how to beat the system.
You can check out the rest of this week’s release in the ComingSoon.net database.
Next week, the month of May motors on with Ridley Scott’s take on Robin Hood (Universal) starring Russell Crowe, the Queen Latifah romantic comedy Just Wright (Fox Searchlight) and Amanda Seyfried stars in the weekend’s second chick flick Letters to Juliet (Summit).
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas