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. Apologies for the lateness of this week’s column, too!
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UPDATE: Not a ton of big changes from yesterday although Lionsgate is doing something different by opening Saw 3D earlier for Thursday night previews in select theaters, essentially having 8PM and 10PM shows, which haven’t been heavily advertised. They may cut into the business the movie might do on Friday or over the weekend, and word on the movie might get out sooner than hoped, which may allow Paranormal Activity 2 to overtake it on Sunday even if it ends up in 2nd place with a large drop from its opening weekend.
1. Saw 3D (Lionsgate) – $24.5 million N/A (up 1.1 million)
2. Paranormal Activity 2 (Paramount) – $18.3 million -56% (down .7 million)
3. Jackass 3D (Paramount) – $10.5 million -50% (same)
4. RED (Summit) – $10.1 million -34% (up .1 million)
5. Hereafter (Warner Bros.) – $7.3 million -39% (Up .1 million)
6. The Social Network (Sony) – $5.0 million -32% (same)
7. Secretariat (Walt Disney) – $4.7 million -33% (same)
8. Life As We Know It (Warner Bros.) – $3.9 million -37% (same)
9. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Bros.) – $2.2 million -33% (up .2 million)
10. The Town (Warner Bros.) – $1.7 million -35% (same)
It’s Halloween weekend, a time where people tend to go to parties and other scary events but not necessarily the movies (unless it’s a scary movie), so this weekend should show a bit of a lull after two busy weeks with $40 million openers. (Don’t worry, things will pick up again next week!) There’s only one new movie opening in wide release and it’s the October veteran horror franchise, hitting its seventh straight year with Saw 3D (Lionsgate), which is claiming to be the last of the series. The question on everyone’s mind is whether the franchise can end on a high note after the previous installment bombed so badly last year. While opening on the actual Halloween weekend will certainly help it since it won’t be as frontloaded to Friday as it would have been otherwise, it’s still taking on the second weekend of Paranormal Activity 2, which could be just as much of a draw on the holiday where horror thrives. Being in 3D and with the promise of wrapping up the series, it could bring back some of those who skipped the previous movie, which should allow it to squeak out a win this weekend even if it doesn’t do the $30 million plus weekend we’ve seen from past chapters.
This week’s “Chosen One” is the music doc Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields (Variance Films), which you can read more about below..
This weekend last year, the ghost of Michael Jackson haunted Halloween weekend in the concert doc Michael Jackson’s This Is It (Sony), which opened on Wednesday with $7.5 million, made another $3.7 million on Thursday and then $23.3 million over the three-day weekend for first place. Paranormal Activity held up well over the Halloween weekend, dropping just 22%, while Saw VI tanked, dropping from 2nd place to 6th, down 63% despite it being Halloween. The Top 10 grossed $77 million and since we think Saw 3D will do better than its predecessor, this weekend might see another up weekend.
Yeah, I know that last week I said I wanted to do more “Battle Cries” and of course, I fell so behind this week that it won’t be possible (and the next few weeks there are a LOT of movies so we’ll just have to hold them until we have more time.)
Saw 3D (Lionsgate)
Starring Tobin Bell, Cary Elwes, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Sean Patrick Flanery
Directed by Kevin Greutert (Saw VI and editor of the other five); Written by Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton (Saw VI through VI, Feast)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Tagline: “The Traps Come Alive”
Plot Summary: A group of Jigsaw’s survivors gather to get help from fellow survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) who has his own dark secrets that begins a new wave of deadly games.
This is going to be an important weekend for the horror franchise that ruled over late October for four straight years before another horror movie came along and took away its thunder last year. Everyone involved with Saw 3D, especially returning director Kevin Greutert, would like nothing more than to prove that the sixth installment bombing last year was a fluke brought on by the buzz for Paranormal Activity rather than proof that the series has already run its course. Then again, when a movie opens to less than half the four previous installments (and makes roughly a third in DVD sales of the previous installment), you gotta assume that the fans have moved on and may not be coming back.
Then again, every major horror franchise has hit a low point where the same rehashed premise ran out of steam and even the most diehard horror fans just stopped caring. That was the case with both the “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” horror series, and it was only a matter of time before the “Saw” franchise followed suit, though no one expected it to be so sudden and drastic. Something that may have been a giveaway was the decrease in both IMDb User Ratings and Rotten Tomatoes scores for each successive movie–you can check them out in the chart below–because they’ve literally gone from 7.7 out of 10 on IMDb to 5.7 out of 10 in just five movies. The good thing is that the 6th installment seemed to have notched up a bit despite the fact that fewer people paid to see it.
Back for a seventh go-round is Tobin Bell as John Kramer, the original Jigsaw who died four chapters ago but has found ways of being brought back via flashbacks, as is Costas Mandylor’s Detective Hoffman, who took over for Jigsaw after his death to set his own traps, along with Betsy Russell’s Jill, John Kramer’s widow who appeared in the last four movies. (I’ve lost track of which one of them is dead or alive.) A big deal is being made about the return of Cary Elwes’ Dr. Gordon for the first time since the very first movie, as a lot of questions have been left open about what happened to the character, something long-time fans will want to know. The most prominent new member of the cast is Sean Patrick Flanery, who is best known for his role as Connor MacManus in the two “Boondock Saints” movies, and he will presumably be playing a large part in this movie’s murderous mayhem.
Returning for his second time is “Saw” franchise editor Kevin Greutert who had the misfortune of having his directorial debut be the first “Saw” movie that no one seemed to want to see. Most of that came from the fact that Saw VI opened against the original Paranormal Activity, which had been building huge buzz up until its nationwide expansion, and when given the choice, moviegoers went with something new rather than something they’d seen five times before.
Despite all the returning characters and director, it’s been said that this will be a standalone movie on top of being the last movie in the series, and Lionsgate and the producers have gone out of their way to keep the plot for the final movie a secret. That’s an important factor because anyone who has been a fan of any of the series, and that’s a lot of people, may give this movie a chance as a form of closure for seven years of moviegoing. Saw 3D is also likely to benefit from the fact that by its very title, it is being pushed as a 3D movie similar to Jackass 3D, so most of the audiences who go see it will be doing so in order to see the gruesome and gory death traps come directly at them. The commercials and trailers have focused heavily on this aspect of the movie and that should help increase the amount made per-theater since 3D ticket prices are $3 to 5 more expensive.
Even though Paranormal Activity 2 opened huge last week, it’s likely to drop on Friday, allowing Saw 3D to take over the top spot, but both movies will be fighting for audiences wanting some Halloween scares on Saturday, and PA2 is likely to catch up a bit by Sunday even if Saw 3D will ultimately be able to stay ahead and win the weekend.
Why I Should See It: Because this may be the last time I ever have to write about the “Saw” movies ever again!!
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields (Variance Films)
There’s a possibility I would have made this doc the “Chosen One” this week whether it was the best film of the week or not just to allow myself the chance to share the joys of the Magnetic Fields, a band I first learned about through a friend who is no longer a friend – something that’s quite apt in the world of the band’s mastermind singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt. Merritt’s notoriously cranky and a particularly private person, which may be why it took the filmmakers 11 years to complete this documentary.
At first, it may be worrisome that the movie will just be a lot of recent concert footage of the band playing songs, but the filmmakers have found quite a lot of archival footage and even an amusing appearance by Merritt on an Atlanta morning show with a host who clearly doesn’t know how to handle the difficult interview subject.
Besides getting to watch Merritt and his fellow musicians in the studio making their last couple of records–a rarity in itself–the film focuses fairly heavily on the relationship between Merritt and his long-time best friend, manager and musical collaborator Claudia Gonson, whose onstage banter is the highlight of the band’s stageshows, especially when it promises to escalate into a fistfight. (Because Merritt is gay, there’s never been signs of there being a romantic relationship between the two.) The film covers the friend’s long history and gets into the inner-workings of how Gonson is able to keep Merritt focused on his prolific output of songs.
As difficult as it must have been to get the alternately cranky and shy Merritt to talk on camera about his craft, the filmmakers at least have the likes of Daniel Handler, Neil Gaiman and other collaborators and close acquaintances giving their own impressions of the Magnetic Fields’ appeal. The movie also has interviews with Sam Davol and John Woo, the band’s cellist and guitarist who are considered silent members of the band but whom add a lot musically to Merritt’s compositions. (Davol’s admission that he doesn’t consider himself friends with Merritt when not working together on music is somewhat telling.)
It’s definitely interesting to watch how the band evolves once they find fame with their ambitious “69 Love Songs” ten years after their formation, making Merritt a target for the likes of critic Sasha Frere-Jones who claims Merritt to be racist for not citing more black music among his influences and being morally opposed to hip-hop. To be fair, Frere-Jones actually apologizes and expresses regret for that statement while being interviewed for the film. One of the funnier scenes though is Merritt’s mother embarrassing him on camera; it’s quite priceless.
The band’s dynamics start to change towards the end of the movie when Merritt decides to move to Los Angeles in order to do more movie music, forcing the band to work via Fed Ex and the internet on their most recent record, something rather telling by the results. It’s a great place to end the movie which is so focused on the two decades the band spent as a New York City mainstay, though it’s an emotionally mixed way to end things because one wonders whether Merritt can be as creative without Gonson around him.
If you’re already a fan of the Magnetic Fields, then you’ll swoon at the amount of access the filmmakers have to Merritt and his writing and recording process. If you’re a fan of quality songwriting but haven’t been exposed to Merritt’s quirky and catchy tunes, you’ll be suitably enamored by a film that’s as charming and enjoyable as the band’s music.
Strange Powers opens in New York at the Film Forum on Wednesday.
Also in Limited Release:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Music Box Films) is the last film of the Swedish “Millenium Trilogy,” once again starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander, the “girl with the dragon tattoo” who lies in a hospital after being shot in the head after trying to kill her father, a Soviet defector who has information that sends a government secret society after him, after Lisbeth, as well as after Millenium Magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist (Micahel Nyqvist), who wants to do a cover story on Lisbeth and her father. It opens in select cities on Friday.
Mini-Review: Ending the “Millennium Trilogy” with a 2.5 hour marathon introducing a secret government agency known as “The Section” trying to kill our protagonists may seem like somewhat of a tangent from the two previous movies, but it ties directly into Lisbeth Salander’s Russian defector father Bublanski, and ultimately, into some of the events from the first movie. “Hornet’s Nest” begins directly after the previous film as Lisbeth recuperates from being shot in the head, and Millennium publisher Mikael Blomkvist has decided to dedicate an issue to his former lover, though his inclusion of her connections to “The Section” puts a target on his back as well.
Not a lot happens in the first 90 minutes of the film, which slowly sets up the third movie’s different direction, and director Daniel Alfredson does a much better job this time around, maybe because this is far more evocative material, delving into the realm of political intrigue and a group who needs to tie up loose ends. The film also looks far better than its predecessor, veering closer to the dark noirish look of the first movie.
Noomi Rapace’s performance as Lisbeth is still the main reason to see these movies and sadly, she’s not quite as present in this last chapter with much of her first 90 minutes spent almost completely in silence while she recuperates in a hospital before being transferred to a jail cell. Her moment comes in the last 45 minutes when she’s put on trial for murdering her father and others, allowing her the psychiatrist who had her committed and find closure from the brutal rape by her guardian. Her dialogue is still kept to a minimum during those scenes but her delivery really allows you to feel the complete contempt she feels for those who have ruined her life.
There are a couple set pieces that help break up the exposition but they hardly could be considered “action scenes,” although it’s still easy to enjoy the silent but deadly giant known as Niedermann, who cuts a swath of death on his way to reach his half-sister Lisbeth, leading to a great postscript showdown.
The biggest shame is that like the last movie, we don’t really get to see Lisbeth and Mikael spend any time together, part of what made the first movie so enjoyable yet was so lacking in the second one. Those hoping for a reunion get a brief tease at the end, but otherwise, they spend much of the film passing messages to each other through Mikael’s lawyer sister who is defending Lisbeth and that’s it.
Having not read the books, it’s impossible to tell whether this slow pace is what’s necessary to translate Larsson’s words, but for those who have been following the movies, “Hornet’s Nest” wraps everything up in a nice bundle, even if it takes far too long to get going. Some might be left wondering whether these last two movies could have easily been condensed down into one stronger movie. Rating: 7.5/10
Jake Scott’s indie drama Welcome to the Rileys (Samuel Goldwyn) stars James Gandolifini and Melissa Leo, whose marriage is falling apart after the death of their teen daughter. When Doug travels down to New Orleans on business, he encounters a 17-year-old runaway stripper named Mallory (Kristen Stewart) and he decides to try to help her. It opens in New York, L.A. and Boston on Friday.
In the new comedy Wild Target (Freestyle Releasing) from Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny), Bill Nighy plays professional assassin Victor Maynard, who gets caught up with a beautiful con artist Rose (Emily Blunt) and a homeless kid (Rupert Grint) whom Victor thinks would be the perfect apprentice, as the three of them go into hiding from another hitman hired by someone conned by Rose. It opens in select cities on Friday.
Gareth Edwards’ film festival favorite Monsters (Magnet Releasing) follows a U.S. photojournalist (Scott McNeery) as he agrees to escort an American tourist (Whtiney Able) across the infected zone of Mexico that’s been quarantined when giant alien life forms have taken over the area, terrorizing anyone who passes through. It opens in select cities on Friday.
Doug Block’s documentary The Kids Grow Up (Shadow Distribution) is an assembly of footage of his daughter Lucy from the moment she was born until she’s just months away from leaving home to go to college across country in order to look at what it means to let go of your only child. It opens on Friday at the Angelika Film Center in New York and in L.A. on November 12.
Lucy Walker’s documentary Waste Land (Arthouse Films) follows artist Vik Muniz who travels to Rio de Janeiro’s largest garbage dump to photograph the garbage pickers there, only for it to turn into a much larger project as he has them create their own portraits out of recycled trash. It also opens at the Angelika Film Center in New York on Friday.
Jolene (Entertainment 1) is Dan Ireland’s adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s “Jolene: A Life” about a 15-year-old orphan (Jessica Chastain) who goes on a journey across country for ten years, documenting everything that happens to her during that time. Also starring Dermot Mulroney, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Vartan, Denise Richards and others, it opens in New York at the Village East Cinemas, Seattle and Santa Fe on Friday, then in L.A. at the Laemmle Sunset 5 on November 5.
Roger Spottiswoode’s Shake Hands with the Devil (Regent Releasing) tells the story of General Roméo Dallaire (Roy Dupuis), a Canadian commander who finds himself in Rwanda in 1993 to oversee a casefire, only to find himself in hell when the government’s Hutu majority begin a systematic genocide of the Tutsi minority tribes. It opens in L.A. on Friday and in New York on November 12 along with…
In Robert Young’s Eichmann (Regent Releasing), Thomas Kretchman plays Adolf Eichmann, the mastermind behind Hitler’s “final solution,” who is captured in Argentina 15 years after the end of WWII and whom reflects on his past to an Israeli police officer, played by Troy Garrity, who has to find a way to trick the Nazi killer into incriminating himself.
Shailja Gupta’s Walkaway (IABA Films) is a light dramedy about young male Indian professionals living in New York City who struggle to balance their traditional values with the fast pace of the big city. It opens in select cities on Friday.
AMER (Olive Films), Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s tribute to Italian horror known as “giallo” stars Marie Bos as Ana, a young woman whose carnal obsessions become more oppressive. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Next week, the month of November kicks off in a big way with three potentially big movies, the latest from DreamWorks Animation, the Will Ferrell superhero comedy Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount), Todd Phillips’ latest road comedy Due Date (Warner Bros.) starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, and Tyler Perry’s ensemble drama For Colored Girls (Lionsgate).
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas