Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend’s new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts.
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1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) – $46 million -53% (same)
2. Horrible Bosses (New Line/WB) – $27.8 million N/A (down .6 million)
3. Zookeeper (Sony) – $23.5 million N/A (down 2.1 million)
4. Cars 2 (DisneyPixar) – $13 million -48%
5. Bad Teacher (Sony) – $8 million -43%
6. Larry Crowne (Universal) – $7.2 million -45%
7. Super 8 (Paramount) – $4.3 million -45% (down .2 million)
8. Monte Carlo (20th Century Fox) – $3.5 million -54%
9. Mr. Popper’s Penguins (20th Century Fox) – $3.1 million -39%
10. Green Lantern (Warner Bros.) – $2.8 million -55%
For the second time this summer, two comedies will be battling it out, one a raunchy R-rated comedy and the other one meant for the family though it’s doubtful either one will be able to dethrone Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which should hold up well in its second weekend for a first place between $45 and 50 million.
As far as the two new comedies, we’d normally give an advantage to Kevin James’ family comedy Zookeeper (Sony), because it has all the elements that make a “great Kevin James movie,” then added to that, it has talking animals which normally appeal to kids who are all out of school right now. On the other hand, it also looks like something we’ve seen far too many times before (Doctor Dolittle anyone?) and neither parents nor kids might be as anxious to rush out to see it, going by the disappointing showing for other family movies this summer.
For that reason more than any other, we think Seth (Four Christmases) Gordon’s R-rated comedy Horrible Bosses (New Line/WB) should clean up this weekend, as it brings in a wide range of audiences, including older teens, who can relate to the high concept premise, continuing the success of raunchier comedy this summer following Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II and Bad Teacher. We think it will open somewhere between the first and last of those.
Not that Zookeeper is going to outright bomb or do as badly as Jim Carrey’s recent Mr. Popper’s Penguins, because Kevin James is still a box office draw with a lot of fans, especially outside of major cities, and we think family audiences looking for movies to see over the weekend should help get it into the mid-20s as well.
This week’s “Chosen One” is Michael Rapaport’s doc Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (Sony Pictures Classics), which you can read more about below.
This weekend last year produced one of those nice surprises we get every summer when the computer animated Despicable Me (Universal) opened with $56.4 million, a huge showing for Universal, who had yet to find the level of success with animated films as some of the other studios. Taking second place with $31.8 million, a 51% drop from its opening weekend, was The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit), while Robert Rodriguez tried to reboot Predators (20th Century Fox) with a cast that included Adrien Brody and Topher Grace, but it ended up settling for third place with just under $25 million. The Top 10 grossed $182 million, an amount we don’t think this week’s offerings can achieve since only three movies will make over $20 million as opposed to the four that made that amount last year.
Horrible Bosses (New Line/WB)
While R-rated comedies have become the norm this summer with three decent-sized hits already, few of the previously-released ones have the star power of this one, which also may have found a premise that’s more relatable to more people than hangovers, weddings and bad teachers put together… and that is bosses. The necessary evil of being part of society is having a job and unless you’re rich or self-employed, chances are that you’re working for someone else, and as they say, “Bosses: can’t live with ’em, can’t kill them.” But that seems to be changing, because director Seth Gordon of Four Christmases is back helming a comedy that looks at what happens when three guys have had enough abuse by their respective bosses and hatch a plot to murder them. It’s the type of premise that would fit well within a Hitchcock movie, but in this case it’s handled comedically, and it features an all-star cast with many actors playing against type.
At the top of that category is Jennifer Aniston, a former TV star who has successfully made the transition to movies, although the success of her movies still tends to rely on the male actor she’s paired with, which was the case with Jim Carrey and Bruce Almighty, far and beyond her biggest hit to date. She teamed with Ben Stiller with Along Came Polly, which did far better than it should have, followed by The Break-Up with Vince Vaughn and Marley & Me with Owen Wilson. Earlier this year, she starred with Adam Sandler (who provides a voice in the weekend’s other comedy) for Just Go With It, her fourth movie to gross more than $100 million. She also had significant hits with the ensemble drama He’s Just Not That Into You and a lesser one when paired with Gerard Butler for The Bounty Hunter. What does this say? That Aniston has her fans but her leading men and the premise tend to make a bigger difference to whether her movie will do well.
Despite Aniston being the biggest name in the cast, of the three main leads, Jason Bateman is the one with the most experience as a leading man, having started out as a child star and having had a major comeback in the early ’00s when he starred in the cult comedy “Arrested Development.” He appeared in a lot of movies with Vince Vaughn at first, having roles in Todd Phillips’ Starsky & Hutch and the ensemble comedy Dodgeball and then in the Vaughn-Aniston romantic comedy The Break-Up. He had his own chance at playing a romantic lead to Aniston with last year’s The Switch, a romantic comedy dumped in late August to the tune of $27 million, only slightly better than Aniston’s romantic drama Love Happens. Bateman has generally done better as part of ensemble comedies like Jason Reitman’s Oscar-nominated Juno and once again with Vince Vaughn in the 2009 ensemble comedy Couples Retreat. Other than The Switch, Mike Judge’s Extract didn’t do much business theatrically, and earlier this year, he appeared as part of the ensemble cast of the sci-fi comedy Paul. Horrible Bosses will be a make or break movie for whether Bateman can topline a movie, although he’ll have another chance next month when he’s teamed with Ryan Reynolds for the R-rated The Change-Up.
Bateman’s back-up Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis have both built their success upon their roles on televisions, Day on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and Sudeikis on “Saturday Night Live.” They appeared together in last year’s R-rated comedy Going the Distance, which bombed over Labor Day weekend, but earlier this year, Sudeikis co-headlined the Farrelly Brothers’ Hall Pass with Owen Wilson, which was moderately successful. This Labor Day, Sudeikis is the top-billed actor in the indie A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, which comes out Labor Day weekend, essentially closing off the summer of R-rated comedy.
Another boss is played by Kevin Spacey, who has headlined more than his share of Hollywood movies following his Oscar wins in 1996 and 2000 for The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, respectfully. Spacey has done a number of studio movies including reuniting with Bryan Singer for Superman Returns, but his last studio movie was in 2008 with the hit thriller 21, which grossed $81 million. Since then he’s appeared in indies like Shrink and last year’s Casino Jack, which haven’t made much of a mark. His character in Horrible Bosses will remind his fans favorably of his early role in Swimming with Sharks way back in 1995. The third boss is Colin Farrell, who is playing against type as Sudeikis’ coke-snorting tyrant, complete with gut and comb-over. It’s actually one of Farrell’s funnier roles and a great way to follow-up winning a Golden Globe for In Bruges a few years back. It’s been nearly five years since Farrell headlined a Hollywood movie with summer blockbuster potential (that being Michael Mann’s Miami Vice). He’s mainly been doing smaller indie fare since then, but he’s still an actor who is fairly well known from earlier roles even he might not immediately be recognized. Speaking of Miami Vice and “What happened to their career?”, Horrible Bosses also stars Jamie Foxx in a fairly small but substantial role as hitman Motherf*cker Jones. Foxx got his start in comedy on “In Living Color,” but it took some time to transition to movie star, mostly appearing in dramas before winning an Oscar for playing Ray (Charles). He seems to be returning to comedy with a small role in the hit romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, and then last year, he had a similarly minor role in Todd Phillips’ Due Date with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Another recognizable actress is Julie Bowen from “Modern Family” making her second appearance of the summer after Jumping the Broom.
“Horrible Bosses” is a great title and premise that millions and millions of people should be able to easily relate to–Not us, of course. We love our boss! (who probably is reading this before you do)–but having such a well-rounded cast of actors and comedians that will play to a wide range of audiences both young and old. While some comedies tend to lean more towards men or women, we can see both audiences being able to find something to enjoy, which might help make this one of those great date movies. More than that, we expect many co-workers getting out early on Friday after a long week going to see the movie as a group in order to bond over their own issues with the boss.
Even with all that going for it, we still think that reviews will be mixed at best, because so many fuddy-duddy critics seem to have problems laughing and having fun, especially when it comes to dark comedy, and this one is even darker than the recent Bad Teacher. The fact that it is a dark comedy could be troublesome, since they tend to divide audiences as well, and in the past, that sort of humor would definitely a movie’s box office chances. Not that it will matter since Warner Bros. have done a great job making the movie look as hilarious as it actually is, and they’re on quite a roll following the success of The Hangover and its sequel. Even before those movies did well, New Line (who produced Horrible Bosses) had huge success with the R-rated Wedding Crashers, and with R-rated comedy on such a roll, this should be the movie that anyone 18 and over will want to see this weekend.
Why I Should See It: A great cast, a funny premise and R-rated comedy that lives up to the commercials
Mini-Review I have genuinely liked some of Kevin James’ roles in recent movies, particularly in “Hitch” and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” so it’s a shame when he feels the need to cater to the lowest common denominator with movies like “Zookeeper.”
His character Griffin Keyes is likeable enough, and you do feel bad for him when his way-too-hot girlfriend, played by Leslie Bibb, turns down his marriage proposal in the opening scene. From there, we get a lot of dumbed down storytelling, physical humor and worst of all… talking animals, in other words, standard Hollywood family comedy dreck. And this is from someone who actually found there to be more than a couple of saving graces to Jim Carrey’s recent “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”
Five years after being dumped, Griffin’s brother has an engagement party–at the zoo for no particular reason–and Stephanie shows up, throwing Griffin off his game, but he decides to try to win her back. He somehow learns that all of the animals at the zoo can talk and they all give him advice to win her back. (In other words, this is a movie about a lonely man whose desperation for love ultimately turns to psychosis when he starts hearing animals talk to him.) Stephanie has a new man in her life, played by comedian (and we use the term loosely) Joe Rogen, and it culminates in the type of competitive face-offs we’ve seen in so many other romantic comedies.
Whatever you want to say about James’ nature for resorting to physical comedy when there aren’t enough jokes to make audiences laugh, it’s not completely his fault that this movie fails. At least he’s not playing a caricature like he did in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” for instance. No, it’s the horrendous animal voicework that makes this movie nearly unbearable. Granted, after seeing the most recent “Transformers,” It doesn’t seem nearly as offensive, but it is bad enough that in the very first scene where all of the animals start topping, your mind will automatically check out. One can probably expect Adam Sandler to do one of his “voices,” but hearing the wondrous Maya Rudolph going scatological with her voice of a giraffe is sad, and others like Cher and Sylvester Stallone literally seem to be phoning it in. (Judd Apatow may want to stick to directing and producing.) Really, the only voice that works is Nick Nolte as Bernie the Gorilla, an impressive photo-realistic animatronic animal, although the way the character is used in an extended visit to TGI Friday’s is just moronic, and that’s par for the course.
Leslie Bibb and Rosario Dawson (as Griffin’s co-worker) both look lovely and have some decent moments, but they’re the type of fantasy women we’ve seen far too many times in movies starring and produced by Sandler with very little basis in reality. Making things worse is this summer’s most overused actor Ken Jeong in a completely pointless role as a snakehandler named Venom; he’s in the movie less than five minutes and even that is too much.
Director Frank Coraci has been responsible for one of Adam Sandler’s best movies (“The Wedding Singer”) but also his worst (“Click”), and unfortunately, this one has the same problems as the latter, an embarrassing mess of ideas that will hold very little merit to anyone over 4 years old. It’s not bad enough that “Zookeeper” is an example of lazy filmmaking, but it’s not even particularly funny or entertaining. It’s as if they tried way too hard to make a movie that appeals to everybody, but instead wound up with a movie that will appeal to nobody. Rating: 3.5/10
This week’s second comedy offering continues to show Kevin James’ trajectory as a film star following the end of his successful CBS show “The King of Queens,” and Zookeeper has two things in common with his 2009 hit Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($143 million gross) in that it’s a project he developed from the ground up with the writers of his show, as well as being a PG film that the family can see together. Following his star turn in Will Smith’s Hitch, James provided his voice in animated family movies like Monster House and Barnyard, while also teaming with Adam Sandler for a couple of comedies including last year’s blockbuster hit Grown Ups. Earlier this year, James was teamed with Vince Vaughn, an even bigger box office star for Ron Howard’s comedy The Dilemma, but it probably was seen as a disappointment by grossing less than $50 million. It’s actually the first time where James’ draw as a box office star was being questioned.
James has pulled together an impressive cast of actors around him including two lovely actresses in Leslie Bibb and Rosario Dawson, neither of whom do a lot of comedies or family movies. It’s a similar approach taken by Adam Sandler with his movies by surrounding himself with hot actresses who would never possibly be interested in his character, plus it adds a romantic angle that might appeal to the women urged to bring their kids to see the movie.
Zookeeper also teams Kevin James with director Frank Coraci, who had early success with Adam Sandler’s movies The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy before directing the expensive flop Around the World in 80 Days, then returning to Sandler with Click. Obviously, the pairing worked since Coraci is directing James’ next movie Here Comes the Boom as well.
Besides getting his buddy Adam Sandler to provide a voice, James also got the likes of Cher and Sylvester Stallone, neither who do a lot these days, Nick Nolte, and busy filmmakers like Judd Apatow and Jon Favreau to do some rare voicework. The problem is that the talking animal movies that have been successful recently usually have involved more popular or famous characters like the Easter Bunny in Hop or Alvin and the Chipmunks in their movies or Scooby-Doo in his. The recent disappointing showing for Mr. Popper’s Penguins showed that pairing a big star with animals doesn’t always work either. This may as well be Kevin James’ Doctor Dolittle, a movie that teamed Eddie Murphy with talking animals and became a huge hit solidifying his success into the 21st Century by becoming an entertainer that his older fans could introduce their kids to. Eventually, that backfired and family audiences stopped going to see Murphy’s movies leading to bombs like Meet Dave and Imagine That, though we think that Kevin James still has a couple of good years in him even if Zookeeper completely tanked.
With that in mind, Sony are wisely not focusing so much on the fact that the animals talk, something that will immediately turn off adults even with so many great actors doing the voices, and instead, they’re focusing on the physical comedy and the romantic relationships, so that Zookeeper might be able to bring in some of the older Kevin James fans similar to Hitch. Even so, it’s doubtful the movie will hold much interest for teens who will probably want to sneak into Horrible Bosses, which might in fact be the best thing going for Zookeeper since younger teens might buy tickets to that in order to see the R-rated comedy.
This is the kind of movie Sony doesn’t necessarily have to show to critics but chances are it won’t get great reviews, not only because it’s a family movie but also because it’s a Kevin James comedy, and he has never never had many fans among critics with Paul Blart: Mall Cop being his highest-rated non-animated movie to date.
Even though one would think that a Kevin James comedy would fare better during the summer, which is why Sony delayed it from last fall until this weekend, it also just doesn’t look very strong even compared to Paul Blart: Mall Cop so we expect a weaker opening with only moderate legs helped by the fact that schools are out and parents with smaller children will see this as a viable option… at least until Disney’s Winnie the Pooh opens next week.
Why I Should See It: Whatever you want to say about his brand of humor, Kevin James is a generally likeable comic actor who hasn’t worn out his welcome like some others we won’t mention.
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (Sony Pictures Classics)
We watch a lot of docs here at Weekend Warrior Headquarters and more than a few of them end up as the “Chosen One,” so we’d like to think we know what makes a good quality documentary, one that offers information as well as enough entertainment value to stand up to any of the summer blockbuster being released right now. We first saw this one at the Tribeca Film Festival after hearing the raves it had been getting out of Sundance, and they were all well-deserved.
A Tribe Called Quest were responsible for delivering so many great hip-hop tunes in the late ’80s and early ’90s from “Can You Kick It?” to “Scenario” and others, helping the musical genre to crossover from the inner city youth to young white males in the suburbs and beyond. One of those white boys was actor Michael Rapaport, who convinced the group to let him follow them around on the 2008 “Rock the Bells” Tour, their first tour in nearly 10 years. He was also able to get all four members of the group to talk candidly and frankly about how the group collaborated on music, what each of their roles was and how it was bound to fall apart when egos clashed.
This isn’t merely another typical music doc where a musical group’s story is told in a linear fashion, because Rapaport has created a film that captures the very essence of the group as evident not only from the movie’s title but also the use of animated graphics and music – and not just the band’s but complimentary interstitial scoring by Madlib. It’s especially exciting to hear other artists talk so reverentially about the group and their influence, though it’s not surprising because they were so much ahead of their time, creating a community of like-minded individuals with the Native Tongues. Even so, the problems that eventually broke the group up in 1998 are still very present with frontmen Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, childhood friends who are such compliments to each other on record and stage, being unable to get along even for the sake of a 2008 reunion tour.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film is its focus on showing the importance of Ali and Jarobi to the group even though the former, the group’s DJ, tended to stay in the background and the latter left during the recording of their second album. As thorough as Rapaport is at telling the story, surprisingly missing are much of a mention for the reasons why Q-Tip brought in his cousin Consequence and Jay Dee for their disappointing fourth album (from which the movie gets its name), but Rapaport obviously had to make some choices to keep the movie at a respectable length. Otherwise, all of the content is brilliantly cut together in a way that keeps the story flowing.
Whether you’ve ever been a fan of the Tribe or hip-hop, this is a fascinating doc that does a fine job showing why A Tribe Called Quest was as important to what they did as they were popular to hip-hop fans. You’ll definitely leave the movie hoping they’ll work out their differences to make more music together sometime in the future.
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, July 8 then will expand to more cities over July and August.You can see the full release schedule on the Official Site.
Project Nim (Roadside Attractions/HBO Documentary)
Speaking of great docs, not only was James Marsh’s Man on Wire the best doc of 2008, winning an Oscar confirming that, but it also was my #1 movie that year, the first time a doc has received that honor even though my love of the format has been very well documented in this very column. That may have been why I was very excited when learned Marsh’s follow-up was one of the opening movies of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and though it has in common the fact that it tells a story from the ’70s, Project Nim couldn’t be any more different than Man on Wire in terms of content.
The story of the chimp who would be named Nim starts at the Institute for Primate Studies in Oklahoma where Nim was born, but he’s soon transported to New York City’s Upper West Side, as he is brought there by Stephanie Lafarge, the first person assigned by Professor Herbert Terrace to try to teach Nim sign language. When that environment proves too chaotic, Nim is taken to Upstate New York where a new group of people are assigned to train him, something that proves difficult as he grows up and becomes more violent, making it obvious that despite his upbringing, Nim is still a wild and hard-to-control animal. After a few serious injuries, Nim is returned to the primate shelter and that’s where things go in an unexpected direction.
Like with Man on Wire, Marsh tells the story via a mix of interviews, amazing never-before-seen archival footage and clever recreations of events being described. It definitely feels a lot more talkie than his previous film because it’s told almost entirely through the testimonial interviews with those who were involved with Nim’s journey and were deeply affected by the chimp. All of this is pulled together by an excellent score by Dickon Hinchliffe, who is able to pull every single ounce of emotion from the story.
As captivating as Nim’s story may be, it’s also quite tragic and heartbreaking once Professor Terrace, about as close as the film comes to an antagonist since he’s obviously an opportunist sleazeball, shuts the project down and sends Nim back to the primate shelter from where he was taken. The problem is that Nim has spent years among humans and isn’t used to being among his own kind, and the shelter is not exactly the place for a chimp raised among humans. (In some ways, this is a bit like an inverse Tarzan story.) After the project ends, Nim faces solitude, abuse and worse as the humans who raised him seem to no longer have a need or interest for him until a couple of kind souls step forward, realizing Nim’s importance.
It’s pretty obvious Project Nim will be considered amongst the best docs of the year and another brilliant piece of work from Marsh, maybe not quite as immediate as Man on Wire but still worthwhile storytelling. It’s certainly a movie that animal lovers will appreciate as much as they might be bothered by the unflinching way Marsh tells the story of a poor chimp taken from his mother and forced into a life he never could have asked for.
Also in Limited Release:
Opening on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum is the Lucas Belvaux’s French thriller Rapt (Lorber Films) starring Yvan Attal as the rich president of a financial institution who is kidnapped and held for ransom by men trying to get at his money, but the plan backfires as a number of attempts at getting the ransom fails. The film is being adapted for an English language remake by Susanne Bier (In a Better World).
Next, we have three movies that have been playing on Video On Demand for a number of weeks but are getting minimal theatrical releases on Friday:
First, we have John Carpenter’s The Ward (ARC Entertainment), starring Amber Heard as a troubled woman who wakes up disoriented in a psychiatric ward with no memory why she was brought there as other girls start dying around her.
Jonathan English’s historic war epic Ironclad (ARC Entertainment) takes place in the early 13th Century when King John (Paul Giamatti) reneges on the signing of the Magna Carta to send his merciless army against the inhabitants of Rochester Castle, which is guarded by roughly a dozen rebels and a Templar Knight (James Purefoy) led by Baron Albany (Brian Cox). It opens in select cities on Friday.
Lastly, Matthew Chapman’s psychological thriller The Ledge (IFC Films) stars Charlie Hunnam as a man driven to jump off a building after getting into an affair with a co-worker named Shana (Liv Tyler) who is married to a religious nut (Patrick Wilson). The film’s producer Terrence Howard stars as the police detective sent to talk Gavin down from jumping. It opens at the IFC Center on Friday as does…
Catherine Breilat’s adaptation of the fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty (Strand Releasing) tells the story of a young girl named Anastasia who has been cursed to die by an evil fairy, but three other fairies decide instead of dying, she will sleep for 100 years, dreaming of princes, dwarves and magical creatures.
Opening on Wednesday at the IFC is Michael Tully’s Septien (IFC Films) in which he plays Cornelius Rawlings, a man who has been hiding on his family farm with his eccentric brother for eighteen years following an incident he’s trying to forget. Plumbing problems forces them to hire a plumber who shows up with his pretty girlfriend who have a connection to Cornelius’ past and force him to reassess decisions made. Having premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it opens in New York on Friday, also at the IFC Center.
Eve Annenberg’s Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish is pretty self-explanatory involving two ultra-Orthodox Jews living together in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn whose ideals are very different backgrounds and beliefs who collaborate on a Yiddish translation of Shakespeare’s classic play. It opens on Friday at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Munroe Film Center in New York City.
Ellen Barkin stars in Jean-Paul Salomé’s psychological drama The Chameleon (Cinema Epoch) as a mother whose long-lost son returns after being missing for years, but she starts getting suspicious when an FBI agent played by Famke Janssen enters the picture claiming her son isn’t who he says. Based on the novel by Christophe D’Antonio, it opens in select cities on Friday.
Brian Metcalf’s fantasy adventure Fading of the Cries (Eammon Films) is about a teenage girl (Hallee Hirsh) who puts on an ancient necklace that puts her in the middle of a scenario involving deadly demonic creatures and brave sword-wielding heroes as she tries to protect the necklace from falling into the hands of the evil Mathias, played by Brad Dourif from “The Lord of the Rings” and dozens of other movies. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Next week, one of the biggest movies of the summer comes out, as the very last chapter in the blockbuster franchise Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Bros.) opens, and as an homage to the short film “Bambi vs. Godzilla,” it’s opening against the animated Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney Pictures). Three guesses which one is Godzilla.
Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas