It’s Super Bowl weekend and you know what that means, right? Football! No, wait, it means more than that because this isn’t a sports preview column. Even so, you can’t ignore the fact that on Sunday, more people will be hanging out with friends and family in front of the television set for one of the biggest sports events of the year. Still, there have been a number of solid genre hits as well as a couple targeted directly to young girls like Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds and Dear John, both which opened over $30 million over the sports weekend. Incidentally, even though football tends to be a male-driven sport, the Super Bowl tends to attract just as many women due to the parties, the high-priced commercials and the half-time show. This year’s half-time show is by Beyonce Knowles with rumors of a Destiny’s Child reunion which should attract more women than usual.
Warm Bodies (Summit Entertainment)
With so many action movies and crime thrillers and horror movies and R-rated comedies being released over the last couple of weekends, it’s about time someone offers some counter-programming and it comes in the form of this romantic comedy set in a world of zombies based on the book by Isaac Marion. When Summit picked up the rights, it came in the aftermath of the huge success they were having with “The Twilight Saga” movies, and maybe they figured another supernatural romance movie could bring them similar success.
Granted, zombies are hot right now as proven by the success of “The Walking Dead” on AMC, but this is not your typical zombie horror movie, instead being one of those rare movies involving zombies used more for humor than horror. There have been lots of zombie comedies in recent years but the two pinnacles of the genre have to be Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, which grossed $13.5 million in 2003, and Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland, which brought in $75.6 million five years later. This one is different from both of those because it’s more about the light humor and romance and it’s targeted more towards teen and slightly older girls, although the humor and the zombies could help it cross over to guys as well.
This one stars Nicholas Hoult, who played the boy in About a Boy and has also been making a mark in bigger movies as the 23-year-old appeared in Clash of the Titans, X-Men: First Class and Bryan Singer’s upcoming Jack the Giant Slayer. His co-star, Australian actress Teresa Palmer, already appeared in the 2011 young adult disappointment I Am Number Four as well as Nicolas Cage’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and she’s thought to be an actress on the rise. They’re joined by John Malkovich and Rob Corddry in key roles and it’s directed by Jonathan Levine, who made waves at Sundance with his comedy The Wackness and directed the popular cancer comedy 50/50.
Summit is opening the movie in 2,900 theaters this weekend with a strong marketing campaign that makes it look different from everything else out there which should certainly help, especially among younger moviegoers looking for things they can see en masse. Warm Bodies‘ distinctive look and tone will probably make it a first choice with teens and slighter older guys and girls and it should benefit from being one of the rare PG-13 movies currently in theaters.
Weekend Est.: $17 to 19 million; Est. Total Gross: $45 million
Bullet to the Head (Warner Bros.)
What do you get when you cross Sylvester Stallone with a French noir comic, the director of two great buddy comedies and the producer of four more? You get a mish-mash of crime and action clichés that actually works far better in reality than one might think, as well as a movie with an appropriate title since you’re likely to quickly lose count of the number of headshots.
It probably should be addressed as an advance qualifier that I’m not normally a huge Sylvester Stallone fan; I don’t hate him or anything, but I never rushed out to see his movies. Here, he’s at his best when not playing things too seriously, which isn’t too frequent, as he plays Jimmy Bobo, a career criminal who we watch murdering a man with his partner as the film opens before another killer goes after them.
Stallone is paired with fresh-faced Kung Sang (“Fast Five”) as a DC police detective who was formerly partners with Jimmy’s original target as they’re thrown together to find out who was responsible for the respective hits. The patter between the characters is what keeps the movie rolling with Stallone making the most of every one-liner and quip and the unlikely team working far better than you might expect.
Part of why they work is that “Bullet” has a far more solid and tight script than we usually get for this type of movie with nice touches like having Jimmy’s tattoo artist daughter Lisa in the mix–of course the only significant woman in the movie is eventually going to be played as the damsel in distress. What it also comes down to is that having a veteran director like Walter Hill behind the camera makes all the difference as he makes more out of the material than a younger and less experienced director may do while also giving it a certain ’70s credibility. Hill creates a stylish film that moves at a quick pace with very few lulls and with a suitably seedy rock score by Steve Mazzaro that works well.
The film’s far from perfect though, as some of the antagonists just don’t stand up to the leads, mostly Christian Slater as a sleazy lawyer who “won’t talk” until he’s hit once with the butt-end of a rifle and then he won’t stop talking. Unfortunately, the normally great Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Oz”) also tends to go overboard with the scenery-chewing as a criminal. On the other hand, Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones”) makes for a badass beast of a baddie who is as skilled with a knife, a gun or an axe, as we learn in his climactic face-off at the end.
While there isn’t a lot here to completely redefine the crime or action genre, there’s enough cool moments if you’re looking for a fun and stylish old school action flick then you can probably do far worse than this.
You remember how Marvel Studios made all those solo movies based on the superheroes from their comics and then brought them together in last year’s The Avengers? Well, apparently someone thought it would be a great idea to take the members of “The Expendables” and split them off into their own movies, which is why just one week after a new movie from Jason Statham and two after the new movie from Arnold Schwarzeneggerboth massive bombswe have the latest from Sylvester Stallone. This one is based on a French graphic novel called “Headshot” apparently and it pairs Stallone with Sung Kang, the Korean actor best known for the “Fast and Furious” movies, plus it also marks the return of director Walter Hill, who was responsible for classics like The Warriors, 48 Hours and its sequel. With Stallone playing a hitman who teams with Kang’s police officer, this one is probably closer to the latter in terms of mixing humor and action.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen very few action movies succeeding in the past few weeks and it’s hard to tell whether Stallone may succeed where his “Expendables” castmates Schwarzenegger and Statham failed. Either way, the movie is also going to do zero business on Sunday as most of Stallone’s male fansand let’s face it, the movie offers very little of interest to womenwill be watching the Super Bowl, so expect this to be frontloaded to Friday and probably taking second place to Warm Bodies.
Weekend Est.: $9 to 11 million; Est. Total Gross: $35 million
Opening in roughly 450 theatres is Stand Up Guys (Roadside Attractions), a crime-comedy directed by Fischer Stephens and starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin.
This weekend last year was also Super Bowl weekend, but two movies did big business as the found footage superpowers movie Chronicle (20th Century Fox) took the top spot with $22 million, followed closely by Daniel Radcliffe’s period ghost film The Woman in Black (CBS Films) with $20.9 million. The whaling drama Big Miracle (Universal), starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski, took fourth place with $7.8 million. The Top 10 grossed $88 million, but since only one of the new movies has a chance at $20 million, we’re looking at another down weekend.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
UPDATE: Not too many changes except that we’re lowering our prediction of Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head since it’s getting fewer theaters and we’ve also added a projection for the crime comedy Stand Up Guys starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, which is opening wide in 659 theaters on Friday.
1. Warm Bodies (Summit Entertainment) – $18.5 million N/A (down .2 million)
2. Bullet to the Head (Warner Bros.) – $9.0 million N/A (down .8 million)
3. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $7.2 million -24% (up .4 million)
4. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) – $7.0 million -66% (up .5 million)
5. Mama (Universal) – $6.5 million – 48% (up .3 million)
6. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) – $5.8 million -40% (up .3 million)
7. Parker (FilmDistrict) – $3.8 million -46% (Same)
8. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $3.0 million -40% (same)
9. Les Misérables (Universal) – $2.5 million -42% (up .2 million and one place)
10. Movie 43 (Relativity Media) – $2.3 million -52% (down .1 million and one place)
— Stand Up Guys (Roadside Attractions) – $1.9 million N/A
This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is the documentary KOCH (Zeiteist Films) from Neil Barsky that looks at New York City’s 105th Mayor, whose three terms in office from 1978 to 1989 created a legacy that made him one of the city’s most beloved and controversial leaders.
The film mixes archival footage with modern-day interviews with the now 88-year-old Koch, as well as some of his long-time colleagues and others who were around during his original run for mayor and his three terms in office. With his famous catchphrase of “How am I doing?” Koch took to the streets in the mid-70s to fight a fierce campaign for mayor against Mario Cuomo, which would start a rivalry that would continue right until Cuomo’s race for New York State Governor, also against Cuomo, in 1982. It actually becomes a running throughline in the movie that leads to the older Koch at the celebration for Mario’s son Andrew Cuomo’s own victory as Governor in 2011, which makes for a nice parallel.
There aren’t a lot of major insightsKoch’s sexuality is still kept under wraps even though many assumed he was a closeted homosexualand the film doesn’t avoid some of the controversies of Koch’s third term, particularly among the city’s African-American and gay communities. The film ends on a bittersweet note when you realize that Koch has dedicated so much of his life to politics and the city that he’s left living all on his own in his 80s, which is fairly sad.
If you’re a New Yorker, either long-time or more recent, this is a great look at the history of the city and a pivotal turning point where things changed so drastically.
KOCH opens in New York on Friday at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, and then in Los Angeles and other cities on March 1. You can find out where to see the movie on the Official Site.
Dror Moreh’s Oscar-nominated doc The Gatekeepers (Sony Pictures Classics) gets unprecedented access to the six former heads of Israel’s secret service the Shin Bet, who talk frankly about their war on terrorism following the Six Day War in 1967 as the country strives for peace with the Palestinians. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Austin Chick’s Girls Against Boys (Anchor Bay Films) stars Danielle Panabaker as Shae, a young college student who is abused and used by a number of men in a matter of days so she’s driven by her coworker Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) to get revenge as the two of them go on a killing spree that brings the women closer until Shae realizes she’s being manipulated and tries to get control of her life back. It opens in select cities Friday.
Mini-Review: It’s not bad enough Austin Chick, director of the decent indie character drama “August,” stole the name of one of the D.C.’s coolest rock bands for this girl power revenge flick, but he then goes for some of the most obvious use of the genre to create something that comes often comes off as exploitative.
It stars Danielle Panabaker as Shae, a college student dating a married man who works at a bar where she meets Nicole LaLiberte’s Lu, a more free-spirited woman who convinces her to hang out with a group of guys, one of whom date-rapes Shae. When Lu finds out, they go to the police to report it assuming they’ll take care of it, but when they don’t, Lu takes matters into her own hands going after all of the guys who have tread on Shae including the married boyfriend who dumped her.
Both Danielle Panabaker and Nicole Laliberte have a strong presence on screen and do fine with the material, but there’s not really a lot of depth to the story. Going by the atmospheric music, it would seem like Chick was trying to make an art film, but the screenplay seems fairly amateurish in trying to combine genre elements with more humanistic ones and it never seems like it’s trying too hard. Even though Chick based this one on his own script, he seems to be working outside his comfort zone that quickly moves into simplistic “I Know What You Did Last Summer” territory. Anyone going into this looking for gore may be disappointed by the minimal attempt which is basically one scene of a guy being tortured for his crimes.
It all leads up to a third act that tries to go full “Fatal Attraction,” but there’s nothing cool or sexy or thrilling about this lame attempt at a revenge thriller that deserves any attention beyond the DVD bin. Rating: 5/10
Tom Elkins directs The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (Lionsgate), the sequel to the 2009 hit horror movie, this one starring Chad Michael Murray and Abigail Spencer as a couple who move into a historic home in Georgia along with her sister (Katee Sackhoff), which they discover is haunted. By someone from Connecticut?!? No, don’t ask me. I don’t really get that title either.
From Bollywood comes David (Reliance Entertainment), Bejoy Nambiar’s drama starring Neil Nitin Mukesh, Chiyaan Vikram and Vinay Virmani as three different Davids from different parts of the world and different time periods, taking place in 1975 London, 1999 Mumbai and Goa in 2010. It opens in select cities.
Opening at the IFC Center on Wednesday is the Spanish dramedy As Luck Would Have It (IFC Midnight) from Álex de la Iglesia starring Spanish comic José Mota as an advertising exec trying to keep his family and wife (Salma Hayek) above the economic crunch, but a freak accident gets him news attention that he tries to leverage to make money from his newfound fame.
Also, the Academy Award-Nominated Animated and Live Action Shorts will get theatrical releases through ShortsHD in select cities starting Friday. You can read more about those here.
Next week, the month of February continues with two very different movies, the comedy Identity Thief (Universal), starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, and Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Side Effects (Open Road Films), starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas