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.
Just want to give a shout-out to one of my favorite online movie box office games at EZ1 Productions where they’re starting their summer 2010 game. If you enjoy reading this column and following the box office, you might want to jump in and take on the Weekend Warrior and others with your knowledge. You can sign up here.
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) – $56.4 million -57% (up 1.4 million)
2. Robin Hood (Universal) – $39.3 million N/A (down .2 million)
3. Letters to Juliet (Summit) – $14.3 million N/A (up .5 million)
4. Just Wright (Fox Searchlight) – $9.2 million N/A (down .3 million)
5. How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $4.2 million -37% (down .2 million)
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (New Line/WB) – $4.1 million -55% (up .2 million)
7 Date Night (20th Century Fox) – $3.3 million -39% (same)
8. The Back-Up Plan (CBS Films) – $2.8 million -45% (same)
9. Furry Vengeance (Summit) – $2.7 million -40% (same)
10. Babies (Focus Features) – $1.2 million -44% (same)
After a pretty astounding summer kick-off weekend, though one sadly without a new opening weekend record as we had predicted and hoped, John Favreau’s Iron Man 2 sees some competition for the older guys and women, from Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (Universal), which reunites the director with his Gladiator star Russell Crowe playing the legendary British archer. The movie mainly will appeal to guys maybe a little older than teens, despite the movie’s PG-13 rating, although women may be interested in it for the romantic angle between Robin Hood and Maid Marion, played by Cate Blanchett. The question is whether the country’s mixed feelings about Russell Crowe as an actor, and particularly in this role, which might be better served being played by a younger actor, will hurt its prospects either opening weekend or overall. It’s certainly not as much of a big action epic as it’s being marketed, nor is it the Robin Hood movie some may be expecting, but it’s the type of movie that might normally open in the fall looking for awards rather than the summer tentpole it’s being positioned as.
Dear John‘s Amanda Seyfried stars in her fourth movie of the year, the romantic Letters to Juliet (Summit), which pairs her with Vanessa Redgrave. It’s the type of “chick flick”–boy, the ladies must love when male movie writers use that term, huh?–that will only appeal to women but should bring a wide-range of age groups between Seyfried’s presence for teens and slightly older women, all the way up to Vanessa Redgrave, who can bring in the older women who won’t be as interested in Robin Hood. The movie’s preview screenings on Mother’s Day certainly could help with the word-of-mouth for its opening weekend where it won’t have to worry about losing anyone to basketball games (see below).
Lastly, rappers Queen Latifah and Common mix basketball and romance in the sports rom-com Just Wright (Fox Searchlight), which will mainly appeal to African-American women with Common and the basketball aspect of the story hoping to bring in some of their husbands and boyfriends with them, even if it’s competing against the NBA play-offs on Friday and Saturday, something which could hurt Robin Hood as well. In fact, the second weekend in May is almost notorious for expensive movies disappointing including Poseidon and others, and that doesn’t bode very well for Robin Hood being a huge success either.
Then again, this weekend last year saw the release of J.J. Abrams’ reinvention of the popular science fiction franchise Star Trek (Paramount) with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and John Cho taking over key roles. It was able to overcome the second weekend of May jinx, opening with $75.2 million over the three-day weekend after making $4 million in Thursday night previews, and it would go onto become the fourth-biggest movie of the summer. Also, opening that weekend was the urban heist comedy Next Day Air (Summit), which bombed with $4.1 million in 1,138 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $138.8 million and the combination of Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood should help this weekend match that even with the big basketball games.
Robin Hood (Universal)
Starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Lea Seydoux, Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand, Alan Doyle, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow
Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Blackhawk Down, Body of Lies, American Gangster); Written by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (Kung Fu Panda, Bulletproof Monk), Brian Helgeland (Green Zone, A Knight’s Tale, Payback, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Man on Fire)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Tagline: “The Untold Story Behind the Legend”
Plot Summary: After returning home from the crusades of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) and a group of his fellow archers head to Nottingham to help the local monarch Lady Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) fend off the invasion of the King’s right-hand man Godfrey (Mark Strong) in his attempt to get taxes to pay for the war.
Ten years ago, director Ridley Scott teamed with actor Russell Crowe for Gladiator, an enormous Roman epic unlike anything anyone had seen for a very long time, which helped it become an enormous hit over the summer. Nearly 10 months later, it would even win an Oscar for Best Picture and Crowe would win an Oscar for his acting in the role. That seems like a long time ago, and both Scott’s and Crowe’s careers have been through a lot of ups and downs with a lot of huge hits but also quite a number of failures.
By the time he made Gladiator, Ridley Scott was already considered a legendary filmmaker having directed classics like Alien, the sci-fi noir Blade Runner, the edgy chick flick Thelma & Louise and others, but the success of Gladiator raised his presence as it did with Russell Crowe, the two of them going onto making many movies on their own then reuniting for the failed A Good Year. More on that in a bit.
Robin Hood is pretty much the first time Scott has taken on very well-known and popular literary character, using the legends to create a historical war epic prequel similar to Gladiator. There’s certainly a lot of build-in excitement about Scott and Crowe reuniting in that genre even if Scott’s last attempt at the genre with Kingdom of Heaven in 2005 was a memorable failure, maybe because he had Orlando Bloom in the lead. Even so, there’s a long history for this sort of movie bringing in a large male audience, whether it’s Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning Braveheart, which helped pave the way for Gladiator. Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy did a good job capitalizing on that success being released in the same summer weekend while Oliver Stone’s Alexander bombed. In fact, it took Zack Snyder to reinvent the genre with the stylized 300 before it might get taken seriously again.
After winning his Oscar for Gladiator, it was thought Russell Crowe was on his way to becoming a star on par with Tom Hanks, but dalliances with Meg Ryan on the set of Proof of Life killed that movie, and his next movie A Beautiful Mind was another huge Oscar winner for everyone involved but Crowe himself. That was followed by the not-quite-as-successful Master and Commander, then came Cinderella Man and a wayward telephone flying at a hotel attendant, which put into question whether the public had enough of Crowe’s bad boy tantrums. After that, Crowe reunited with Scott for A Good Year–a movie that’s not too dissimilar from this week’s Letters to Juliet–but the movie was a huge bomb. The duo then bounced back with American Gangster, which was far more successful, something that could mainly be attributed to the movie’s main star, Denzel Washington. After that, Crowe’s next two movies made under $40 million making some wonder whether his career had hit a wall.
The benefits of being Ridley Scott is that many actors want to work with you, and other than Crowe, Robin Hood has another amazing cast for Scott, first and foremost with actress Cate Blanchett, who won an Oscar for her performance as Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator and who appeared in Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but the movies of Blanchett’s this will most feel like are the two “Elizabeth” movies by Shekhar Kapur. The first of those did decently and received a number of Oscar nominations; the second was poorly-received and quickly faded away. The rest of the cast includes the ever-present Mark Strong, who played the primary baddies in the recent Kick-Ass and in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, Matthew Macfadyen, who starred in Pride & Prejudice and the original Death at a Funeral, legendary actor Max von Sydow and many others, though really, the draw for the movie is Scott and Crowe and Blanchett.
There have been many rumors of the movie being plagued problems with Crowe being in full-on diva mode with there being a lot of on-set fights with Scott, and even before that, an earlier screenplay called “Nottingham” had leaked with all sorts of odd information about the direction of the way Scott planned on reinventing the character. Because of all the development problems the movie has had before it began filming, the production budget has risen to over $200 million, which seems like an insane amount for the movie to make, at least domestically. Scott proved that his movies could do better internationally and don’t necessarily need to rely on money from North America. Kingdom of Heaven made three times as much internationally as in North America, and A Good Year did four times its American gross. That of course doesn’t help when determining how well a movie about Robin Hood will do here.
Although the movie is being marketed for all the battle action, it’s not quite as action-packed as it’s being sold which will generally put off younger males, and there’s absolutely nothing in the movie that might appeal to non-white audiences, which cuts off another good chunk of audiences who may have gone to see the movie. On the other hand, older moviegoers will be intrigued due to the brand name of the character similar to with Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, which ended up doing far better than anyone expected. It’s also very British, something that might put off a great deal of Americans in the middle of the country, putting a lot more pressure on the big cities on the coasts and MidWest to make up for it. The biggest concern for the film is whether Russell Crowe is the kind of draw that he was at the beginning of the 21st Century and some think that he’s an odd choice to play the younger Robin Hood, being that we’ve seen much younger versions of the character in recent years.
While there’s nothing to show this movie can do Troy opening numbers, not without a lot more demographics on board and potentially losing some women to the counterprogramming, there are enough guys looking forward to this based on their love of Gladiator that even potentially disparaging or mixed reviews won’t do too much to dissuade them from seeing it, at least opening weekend. Word-of-mouth is a different story and that will depend on whether the movie meets up to expectations.
Why I Should See It: Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett taking on the unknown legend of Robin Hood is very exciting whether you’re a fan of the character or not.
Letters to Juliet (Summit)
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero
Directed by Gary Winick (13 Going on 30, Bride Wars, Charlotte’s Web, Tadpole); Written by Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries, Trade), Tim Sullivan (Where Angels Fear to Tread, Jack & Sarah)
Genre: Romance, Drama
Tagline: “What if you had a second chance to find true love?”
Plot Summary: Meant to be on a romantic trip to Verona, Italy, the location of Shakespeare’s famous love story “Rome and Juliet,” with her fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a young New York reporter named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) becomes intrigued by the wall where lovelorn women leave letters to the famous Juliet. To kill time, she joins the volunteers who answers the letters and finds a lost letter written in 1951 from Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), a British woman who Sophie joins as they travel through the Italian countryside looking for Claire’s lost love along with her handsome but brash grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan).
One thing that we often see during the summer is something called “counterprogramming” where a smaller movie opens against a big summer tentpole with the intentions of attracting the demographic that may not be interested in the bigger movie. In this case, it’s younger women who might not have much interest in the Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe Robin Hood that Summit Entertainment are hoping to nab with this light and breezy romance.
First and foremost, this is a vehicle for Amanda Seyfried, who has some experience with counterprogramming having co-starred with Meryl Streep in the movie musical Mamma Mia! which took on none other than The Dark Knight, grossing $28 million in the same weekend. Seyfried’s certainly an actress on the rise after appearing in that musical, and though her pairing with Megan Fox in last year’s horror flick Jennifer’s Body had a disappointing showing, she co-headlined the Nicholas Sparks drama Dear John earlier this year, which opened with over $30 million. She’s appeared in a number of indies including the Atom Egoyan thriller Chloe with Julianne Moore.
Seyfried is once again paired with another strong actress, this time being the 73-year-old Oscar-winning Vanessa Redgrave, and this time Seyfried hopefully won’t be making out with her like she has Megan Fox, Julianne Moore… and actually, many of her male co-stars as well. Redgrave’s last big movie appearance was in the Oscar-nominated Atonement in the same year she appeared in the not-as-well-received Evening. Seyfried’s love interests are played by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien)–the connection being that this was written by the writer of Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries–and Christopher Egan, who first appeared in the fantasy film Eragon. It’s doubtful either of them will be a draw although Egan ain’t bad to look at, something which will be a draw for younger women. Directing this diverse cast is the former indie spokesperson Gary Winick, who has done lighter romantic fare in recent years following his teaming with Jennifer Garner for 13 Going on 30 and the Anne Hathaway-Kate Hudson comedy vehicle Bride Wars.
There have been so many “destination romance movies” like this one in recent years, some which have fared better than others. Most recently, Kristin Bell starred in Touchstone Pictures’ When in Rome, and though this one isn’t as dumb or cheesy, it’s still playing up to the Nicholas Sparks crowd with its ridiculously romantic premise.
Summit has had mixed luck with their romantic movies with “The Twilight Saga” franchise obviously being a huge cash cow for the company, something that should continue with Eclipse opening next month, but the recent Remember Me, a slightly more dramatic teen romance movie doing miserably a few months back. Going by past history, Summit will try to get another trailer for Eclipse in front of this in hopes that will do the trick to bring young women, though that didn’t do much for Robert Pattinson’s previous movie.
Wisely, the studio gave the movie sneak preview screenings over Mother’s Day, which could bring in the older female audience i.e. mothers who can tell their friends about the movie, and who knows? Maybe they went to see the movie on Sunday with their teen daughters who would also tell their friends.
In theory, this will be splitting its female audience with Just Wright, both of them being fairy tales for women, but that will mostly be going after African-American women, likely over 25, while this can bring in younger and older women due to the smart casting of Seyfried and Redgrave. Expect a decent opening and possibly some legs at least until Sex and the City 2 opens and takes away its entire potential audience.
Why I Should See It: Amanda Seyfried is so gorgeous and adorable, we can forgive her for making another blatant chick flick like this one.
Just Wright (Fox Searchlight)
Starring Queen Latifah, Common, Paula Patton, Phylicia Rashad, Pam Grier, James Pickens Jr, Mehcad Brooks, Michael Landes, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Bobby Simmons
Directed by Sanaa Hamri (Something New, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2; Written by Michael Elliot (Like Mike, Brown Sugar, Carmen: A Hip Hopera)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Tagline: “In this game, every shot counts”
Plot Summary: Physical therapist Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) ends up having to help rehabilitate professional basketball player Scott McKnight (Common), the hotshot star of Leslie’s favorite team the New Jersey Nets, who ends up falling for Leslie’s roommate Morgan (Paula Patton).
This week’s alternative chick flick is the latest romantic comedy produced and starring Queen Latifah, which puts her into a romantic Cinderella-like story set in the world of basketball injuries… how romantic. These “urban-targeted” romantic comedies used to be a lot more successful with the likes of Waiting to Exhale and others bringing in a ton of money even with fairly moderate releases. In recent years, Tyler Perry has dominated the genre, thanks to the popularity of his stageplays, and not a lot of other studios have tried very hard to make movies for that audience, possibly Screen Gems being the only one.
Just Wright mixes romance with sports similar to the Gina Prince-Bythewood film Love and Basketball, and it also returns the rapper-turned-actress into the rom-com territory she previously explored in movies such as Brown Sugar, which was written by the same writer of Just Wright, and The Last Holiday, the latter doing moderately well with $38 million. In fact, Latifah has a pretty steady run of movies that grossed that same amount from the comedy Taxi with Jimmy Fallon, the comedy spin-off Beauty Shop, and the recent The Secret Life of Bees. But she’s also played roles in big movie musicals like Chicago and Hairspray and her teaming with Steve Martin for Disney’s Bringing Down the House, which was more of a vehicle for Latifah than the musicals.
Latifah’s unlikely love interest in the movie is rap star Common, playing a basketball player injured during a game. Common has normally played tough guy roles in movies like Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces and McG’s Terminator Salvation, and he recently appeared in the hit comedy Date Night though in a similar serious tough guy role. Latifah and Common have been everywhere selling the movie, showing off their chemistry together.
The third part of the equation is Paula Patton, who recently starred in the awards-nominated cast of Lee Daniels’ Precious as well as movies such as Idlewild and Denzel Washington’s Déjà vu. In fact, Latifah has managed to assemble quite an impressive collection of African-American talent from Pam Grier to Phylicia Rashad from “The Cosby Show.” Generally, this is an all-black cast, which will insure the movie will be directly targeting those in cities with large black populations, and it’s helmed by Sanaa Hamri, who helmed one of the failed urban romance flicks, Something New.
Right now, the country is in the middle of basketball fever due to the NBA playoffs and there are a number of games on Friday and Sunday that will keep any guys from being dragged to see this by their girlfriends, though that leaves Saturday date night open. It’s kind of strange that this is opening the weekend after Mother’s Day where it would likely have done far better.
Fox Searchlight hasn’t been faring very well with comedies, having already bombed with the urban family comedy Our Family Wedding earlier this year, though they have a much stronger star in Queen Latifah. They didn’t do so well with her previous drama The Secret Life of Bees based on the best-selling novel, but this sort of romantic high concept fare is much easier to sell to its intended audience. Although it will probably open below $10 million, it should hold up well in the weeks that follow, especially over Memorial Day weekend, to make up the difference.
Why I Should See It: Queen Latifah creates a real-life romantic fable that could appeal to lots of women.
Unfortunately, we’ve had to forsake “The Chosen One” and most mini-reviews this week due to time constraints but here are this week’s…
Ken Loach’s new movie Looking for Eric (IFC Films) involves a postman named Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) whose second wife has left him with her two teen sons who pay Eric no respect and who may be getting in trouble with local gangsters. Eric’s able to find some respite in his miserable life when he starts up a rapport with his favorite football player Eric Cantona, who convinces him to step up and try to get back together with his childhood love. On the one side, it may be one of Loach’s more accessible films being the romance and humor, especially with Eric’s postman friends, mostly played by comedians, but the focus on football and the main character’s obsession with it may be somewhat lost on American audiences unfamiliar with the co-lead character.
It opens at New York’s IFC Film Center on Friday as does Ben and Joshua Safdie’s Daddy Longlegs (IFC Films), which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival a few months back. It stars filmmaker Ronald Bronstein as Lenny, a man who has been separated from his wife, who has two weeks’ custody of his two young sons (Sage and Frey Renaldo) but who seems incapable of being a responsible parent. A low-budget dramedy in the vein of Wendy and Lucy, the film’s fly-on-the-wall verité might work if it doesn’t go off on all sorts of odd tangents such as a trip upstate and a few other things that seems so odd it takes you out of the movie.
Tribeca Film continues its roll-out of its first wave of theatrical releases on Wednesday at New York’s Tribeca Cinemas with the Swedish animated sci-fi Metropia from Tarik Saleh and the political documentary Climate of Change from Brian Hill, both at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Also the Swedish synchonized swimming comedy The Swimsuit Issue, Julian Kemp’s British comedy My Last Five Girlfriends and David Russo’s The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle from last year’s festival will play for a week. You can get full information on when each movie is playing here.
Q’orianka Kilcher, star of Terrence Malick’s The New World, plays the title character in Princess Kaiulani (Roadside Attractions) about the Hawaiian princess forced to leave her homeland for Victorian England as a teenager in 1888. There, she’s reeducated and falls in love with the Englishman Clive Davies (Shaun Evans) before returning to America to try to end the war that drove her out of Hawaii.
Opening at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday is the documentary Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (Argot Pictures) by Jessica Oreck, a docent at the American Museum of Natural History, who explores the love the Japanese people have for insects of all times. Personally, I didn’t get it.
Sol Tryon’s quirky comedy The Living Wake stars Mike O’Connell, who also co-wrote the film, as K. Roth Binew, an eccentric author who decides to hold a wake for himself while he’s still alive so he can reconnect with the people around him for one last time before he dies. Jesse Essenberg plays K. Roth’s ever-present man-servant Mills Joaquin and Jim Gaffigan plays his father, and this is clearly O’Connell’s show as it’s his eccentric stylized performance that drives the humor, but often goes overboard and becomes hard to bear by the end. Having played at various film festivals in 2007, the movie finally opens in New York City at the Cinema Village and then in L.A. on Friday, May 21.
Next week, the summer continues with the next big sequel of May Shrek Forever After (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount), which is deemed to be the last installment of the hit animated franchise. Also, Will Forte brings his “Saturday Night Live” character MacGruber (Universal) to the big screen.
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas