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. Due to all my obligations for last week’s Comic-Con and the amount of features we’re trying to roll out this week, this is going to be another “Weekend Warrior Lite” stripped-down column with no full analyses or comparisons. Hope that’s okay.
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1. Cowboys & Aliens (DreamWorks/Universal) – $43.2 million N/A (down 1 million)
2. Captain America: the First Avengers (Marvel/Paramount) – $34.5 million -47%
3. The Smurfs (Sony) – $21.0 million N/A (up .5 million and one spot)
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (Warner Bros.) – $20.7 million -56% (down 1 spot)
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros.) – $15.2 million N/A (Same)
6. Friends With Benefits (Screen Gems/Sony) – $9.8 million -48% (same)
7. Horrible Bosses (New Line/WB) – $7.5 million -37% (down .2 million)
8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) – $6.3 million -48% (down .2 million)
9. Zookeeper (Sony) – $5.2 million -40% (down .3 million)
10. Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney Pictures) – $3.0 million -42% (down .2 million)
July ends with three new movies in wide release although coming after the one-two punch of Harry Potter
Directed by Iron Man‘s Jon Favreau and pairing Daniel “James Bond” Craig with Harrison “Indiana Jones” Ford, Cowboys & Aliens (Universal/DreamWorks) should be greatly helped by the starpower both in front and behind the camera–it was co-produced by Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard & Brian Grazer along with Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci–although being cut from the same cloth as Captain America i.e. being a male-driven action movie means it will be fighting against any word-of-mouth Marvel Studios’ latest may receive. It’s also going to become more evident that the movie is more Western than science fiction or action from what’s likely to be mixed reviews split between fanboys and older critics. Even so, the last year has been a good one for the Western genre with both the Coens’ True Grit and Gore Verbinski’s animated Rango finding fans, and older males, say 25 and up, will certainly be interested due to the genre and the presence of Ford and Craig. It’s doubtful we’ll see an opening in the range of other big summer tentpole movies or ones based on better-known comic book characters, but it should still bring in a significant amount of business opening weekend due to the starpower.
Mini-Review It might come as a surprise to some who go and see Jon Favreau’s follow-up to the “Iron Man” movies that it’s a lot more “cowboys” than it is “aliens,” pretty much a straight Western with all the perks and problems that come with even the best of them. Yet that doesn’t mean it skimps on the sci-fi side of the premise, and in fact, the way it integrates two very disparate genres is what makes it work as well as it does.
It quickly establishes Daniel Craig’s Jake Lonergan as a displaced man who wakes up in the desert with a metal bracelet on his arm, not knowing who he is. After taking out a few greedy bounty-hunters, Jake wanders into town and gets into trouble with the authorities and a corrupt cattle rancher (Harrison Ford) who accuses Jake of robbing him of gold. As the different factions converge on the town, we first encounter the aliens as their ships destroy everything in sight and abduct a few members of the community. Armed just with a six-gun and the metal wristband, which turns out to be a powerful alien blaster, Jake leads the group into the film’s second act where they try to find and reclaim the town’s abducted.
This really is Daniel Craig’s show as he proves the Bond movies were no fluke and that he’s a bonafide leading man who can pull out the action hero card when necessary. Olivia Wilde is absolutely riveting as the main woman in a male-dominated movie, her character adding further mystery to Jake’s situation.
There are a few problems, most noticeably the scenery-chewing performances by Harrison Ford and Paul Dano, the latter playing Ford’s son appropriately enough, but otherwise, there are so many fun satellite characters each of whom are given their moment, including Sam Rockwell as a saloon owner whose wife is abducted and Noah Ringer as a young boy brought along for the ride. The small posse ends up running into Jake’s old gang, now with a new leader, as well as a tribe of Indians, all of whom band together to take on the aliens.
Favreau continually proves himself to be one of the most skilled directors working today as he effortlessly allows the story to unfold in a slow fashion, establishing the film’s setting with some of the most gorgeous landscapes, ably captured by DP Matthew Libatique. Even though this has all the elements of a summer movie, there are a number of daring decisions that makes this more than just casual entertainment, like having a hard opening in the desert done in complete silence. By the time we get to the action-packed siege on the alien’s home, you’ve witnessed one of the best slow builds of any movie this summer, and the last act offers plenty of hero moments. None of the characters feel like they’re immortal either, and each of the ones who die in battle leave a noticeable gap and they’re greatly missed.
With a team of producers that reads like a who-who in Hollywood, the connections this has to other movies this summer, such as “Super 8,” may not be too surprising, but the way the CG aliens are integrated into this unique setting certainly makes this a refreshing entry into the alien invasion genre. (It’s a great counterpart to this week’s other offering, “Attack the Block,” but that is generally a bit more satisfying.)
“Cowboys & Aliens” might not be the rousing sci-fi action movie some might expect, but there’s more than enough fun summer entertainment to make it worthwhile, especially if you’re a fan of Westerns.
Offering counter-programming for younger kids is Sony’s part-CG part-live action movie, The Smurfs (Sony), which brings the popular cartoon characters from the ’80s into theaters with live-action actors Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara and Hank Azaria as the Smurfs’ arch-enemy Gargamel. Taking cartoon characters and putting them into the real world, as The Smurfs does with Peyo’s beloved characters by bringing them into New York City, can be hit or miss, but this movie is directed by Raja Gosnell, who had a significantly huge hit back in 2002 with Scooby-Doo. There really aren’t a lot of options for family audiences right now with Disney’s Winnie the Pooh not making much of a mark. Nostalgia will play a large factor in the movie overcoming what many consider to be awful trailers and commercials which might make parents hesitant at taking kids. It will be battling with “Harry Potter” for third place and depending on screen count, it might be able to surpass it with an opening in the low-20s similar to Garfield and others.
Lastly, the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros.) brings together an ensemble cast that includes Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the writers of Bad Santa, the movie is going to be targeting women 25 and up mainly who will be looking for something they can see without their kids or with their boyfriend and spouse on date night, but there won’t be much of a rush to see it right away, which means it probably will end up in the mid-teens somewhere.
This weekend last year saw another movie starring Steve Carell as Dinner for Schmucks (Paramount), which teamed him with Paul Rudd and director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents and the “Austin Powers” comedies), but it wasn’t able to take down Christopher Nolan’s Inception (Warner Bros.), which remained on top for a third week in a row with $27.5 million. Dinner for Schmucks took second with $23.5 million and then opening in fifth and sixth place ,respectively, was the Zac Efron drama Charlie St. Cloud (Universal) and the family sequel Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner Bros.) with just over $12 million each. The Top 10 grossed $128.8 million but with two movies looking to gross over $30 million this weekend, this weekend should continue the month’s streak of better business compared to the previous year.
We’re going to do something a little different this week in terms of limited release because there are actually quite a few good movies, and we really don’t have enough time to write reviews for all of them, though we do have a bunch of interviews coming and we’ll do our best to fill in the blanks between now and Friday.
The Week’s Best
If we actually went with a “Chosen One” this week, it would very likely to be Kevin Macdonald’s cinema verité doc Life in a Day (National Geographic Films), which compiles footage from tens of thousands of submissions to YouTube from amateurs using low-budget camera technology to document a single day with footage taken from all across the globe and including everything from the mundane to the fantastic. It opens in select cities on Friday.
Just as good is Joe Cornish’s alien invasion thriller Attack the Block (Screen Gems/Sony), which has a group of kids from the projects, led by newcomer John Boyega’s Moses, taking on an attack by vicious creatures from outer space. Co-starring Nick Frost and exec-produced by Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright, the belle of this year’s South by SouthWest Film Festival, will open in select cities on Friday. You can find out where here.
French filmmaker Fred Cavaye (Anything for Her) tackles another action-thriller called Point Blank (Magnolia), starring Gilles Lelouche as a nurse who gets caught up in a police cover-up when he treats a hoodlum (Roschdy Zem) being chased by gangsters who kidnap the nurse’s pregnant wife to convince him to
Director Douglas Tirola looks at how come poker has become so popular in recent years in his documentary All In (4th Row Films), a comprehensive look at America’s new favorite “sport” with interviews and stories from the best in the game.
Dominic Cooper, recently seen as Howard Stark in Captain America, stars in Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double (Lionsgate) playing Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier whose resemblance to Saddam Hussein’s son Uday gets him the job to be his body double, but the further Latif gets into Uday’s depraved world of sex and violence, the more he realizes he needs to escape as soon as possible. It opens in select cities on Friday.
John Michael McDonagh’s crime-comedy The Guard (Sony Pictures Classics) stars Brendan Gleeson as a cranky and corrupt police officer in a remote area of Western Ireland who must team up with a hard-nosed by-the-books FBI agent (Don Cheadle) in order to take down a cartel of drug smugglers using the local port to bring drugs into Europe. Having opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Opening at Film Forum on Wednesday is Gereon Weltzel’s doc El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (Kino Lorber), a comprehensive look at how master chef Ferran Adria and his team of experimental chefs prepare for their six-month opening of El Bulli, just outside Barcelona, which is considered to be “the most influential restaurant in the world,” often turning away nearly a million people to only seat 50 people a night. The film documents what goes into running the food mecca, which will close its doors to become a school at the end of the month, while the film’s run will be complimented by a string of appearances by chefs and other experts talking about Ferran Adria’s groundbreaking work at El Bulli and the film. These include George Medes on July 27, Otger Campas on July 30, Paras Shah on July 31, Dave Arnold on August 3 and more. You can find out full details on the guest appearances for the film’s two-week run at Film Forum.
Hoop Dreams director Steve James returns with The Interrupters (The Cinema Guild), a look at Chicago’s Violence Interrupters, many of them former gang members who step into tense situations in the city’s violent South Side to try to quell the situations that lead to violence and repercussions. The doc opens for one week only at New York’s IFC Center, and if you don’t feel like schlepping all the way downtown then the movie will also play for one-week only at the Maysles Cinema in Harlem starting on August 5, and James will be appearing in person for a Masterclass this Thursday, July 28 at 7:30 PM as they show No Crossover: The Trial of Alan Iverson with a Q n A with James. (Hoop Dreams screens there on Friday, and At the Death House Door on August 4.)
Miranda July, director of the Sundance hit Me and You and Everyone We Know returns with The Future (Roadside Attractions), starring with Hamish Linklater, as a 30-something couple who adopt a stray cat and begin looking for new directions in their lives that puts a wedge in their marriage. It opens in select cities including New York at the IFC Center.
Jacob (Poor White Trash, The Trotsky) Tierney’s thriller Good Neighbors (Magnolia) stars Scott Speedman and Emily Hampshire as neighbors who bond over their interest in a series of murders, and their new tenant Victor (Jay Baruchel), all of whom have dark secrets that start to come out as they hole up in the apartment building to be safe from the murders. It opens in New York and L.A.
Lastly, the following I didn’t have a chance to watch in time for the column to go live:
Gideon Koppel’s autobiographical documentary Sleep Furiously (Microcinema International) about his Jewish refugee parents who found a home in Wales in a village where things are changing, becoming less about agriculture and more mechanized. With music by Aphex Twin, it opens at the Cinema Village and it makes its “digital premiere” on indie film streaming site Fandor along with the companion film A Sketchbook for the Library Van, the 50-minute featurette that acted as the seed for Sleep Furiously.
Jean Claude Van Damme stars in Ernie Barabash’s Assassination Games (Samuel Goldwyn Films) as a hired killer named Brazil who competes with Scott Adkins’ Flint to take out a cold-blooded drug dealer for different reasons, Brazil for money, Flint as revenge for the murder of his wife. The two can’t get along but they work together to kill the target. How sweet.
Susan Streitfeld’s drama Golf in the Kingdom stars Mason Gamble as Michael Murphy, a philosophy student who ends up on the Scottish golf course, the Links of Burningbush, where a teacher named Shivas Irons teaches him to raise his golf game. Adapted from Murphy’s novel, it opens at the AMC Empire on Friday.
Next week, August kicks off with two new movies in wide release, the prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) and the R-rated body-switching comedy The Change-Up (Universal), starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman.
Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas