Two promising new comedies target different age groups and look to close off a red hot March box office with strong opening weekend sales.

Paramount offers the Will Ferrell pic "Blades of Glory" while Disney goes after the kids with the animated flick "Meet the Robinsons." Together, the pictures should help the marketplace surge and allow the top ten to cross the $100M mark for the fifth consecutive frame. The box office has not seen this kind of streak since last summer. Smaller films entering the multiplexes include the action pic "The Lookout" from Miramax and Universal’s uplifting drama "Peaceful Warrior."

Comedy king Will Ferrell skates into theaters everywhere looking for another gold medal with his newest laugher "Blades of Glory." The PG-13 film finds the funnyman and Jon Heder playing rival figure skaters who must team up as a pair in order to compete again. Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Jenna Fischer, and Craig T. Nelson co-star. "Blades" boasts the two main ingredients to a successful comedy hit – a bankable star and a unique concept. Add in the very funny commercials and trailers and Paramount is well-positioned to score its second number one hit of the year joining fellow star-driven comedy "Norbit." Both pics were produced by DreamWorks.

Ferrell left the competition in the dust last summer with "Talladega Nights" which bowed to a robust $47M on its way to a $148M final. "Blades" doesn’t have as big of a marketing push or the prime summer play period so its opening will not soar as high. But the former "Saturday Night Live" star will again prove that he is a reliable draw. The industry had some doubts in 2005 when both "Bewitched" and "Kicking and Screaming" failed to reach $65M. Ferrell’s 2004 hit "Anchorman" debuted to $28.4M and "Blades" should play out like that one, only bigger. Teens and young adults will be the driving force plus there is plenty of cross-gender appeal. Though the marketplace is crowded with many options, there aren’t too many direct threats. "Wild Hogs," the only major comedy, is getting old as is "300" which most high school and college students have already seen. Spinning into over 3,000 theaters, "Blades of Glory" should finish in first place and win about $37M over the weekend.


Ferrell and Heder in "Blades of Glory."

Disney uses its patented moves to go after the family audience with its latest animated offering "Meet the Robinsons." With most digital toons these days being of the PG variety, "Robinsons" carries a G rating which it hopes will help convince parents to buy tickets for even the youngest of their children. The story follows an orphan boy who befriends a kind family and features the voices of Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck, and Adam West. In the cartoon world, films sell best when they are comedies and feature popular comedians in central roles. "Robinsons" at least has the first factor working for it.

The marketing has been strong and trailers have been funny. But unlike the studio’s last film for kids, "Bridge to Terabithia," this time competition will be a force. "TMNT" and "The Last Mimzy" will only be in their second weekends and are set to steal away about $20M worth of business from the same target audience. Luckily, the weekend’s two other new films will attract different segments of the moviegoing crowd. "Meet the Robinsons" does not have the firepower to reach the heights of Pixar pics. Rather, it may bring out the same size audience as last fall’s "Open Season" which bowed to $23.2M from an ultrawide 3,833 locations. "Meet the Robinsons" bows in roughly 3,200 sites but could exploit its studio’s brand name to deliver a similar gross of about $23M.


Let’s "Meet the Robinsons."

Years after leaving the sitcom world of NBC’s "3rd Rock From the Sun," Joseph Gordon-Levitt anchors the heist thriller "The Lookout." The R-rated Miramax release comes from writer-turned-rookie-director Scott Frank and co-stars Jeff Daniels. Starpower is seriously lacking here and that will hurt its box office prospects. Reviews have been good, but the target audience of young adults have "Blades of Glory," "300," and "Shooter" to choose from and all of them offer more for the money. With only so much marketing and distribution strength behind it, the film will have a tough time just getting an invite to the top ten. "The Lookout" debuts in about 1,000 theaters on Friday and could collect about $4M over three days.


Jeff Daniels and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "The Lookout."

In an unorthodox approach, Universal will be releasing the inspirational drama "Peaceful Warrior" in 615 theaters this weekend but most moviegoers will actually be getting free tickets through a promotion with Best Buy. The PG-13 film starring Nick Nolte was given a limited release last summer and grossed more than $1M from just over 40 theaters. Universal will report box office grosses that include regular paid sales plus full ticket prices for each free admission. With $15M worth of free tickets allocated for opening weekend, it will be unlikely that the paid portion will make up a sizable amount. Film fans who visit the promotional web site can get up to ten complimentary tickets each. However, the studio should get some extra buzz that it could benefit from when the DVD is released a few months down the road.


Nick Nolte and Scott Mechlowicz in "Peaceful Warrior."

The Ninja Turtles ruled the box office last weekend in "TMNT," but will face a formidable foe in Disney’s "Meet the Robinsons" which will play to the same audience. A 40% drop would give the animated actioner $14M for the frame and $43M after ten days. Warner Bros has also been raking in the dough with its stylish war epic 300 which has been holding up surprisingly well. Another 40% fall will put the R-rated battle pic at $12M boosting the cume to $180M after 24 days. Mark Wahlberg‘s "Shooter" could decline by 45% to $8M giving Paramount a ten-day total of $27M.

LAST YEAR: Smashing the March opening weekend record set four years earlier by its predecessor, "Ice Age: The Meltdown" shot straight to number one with a colossal $68M debut. The Fox juggernaut went on to gross $195.3M domestically and a towering $657M worldwide giving the "Ice Age" duo over $1 billion in global grosses. Dropping to second was "Inside Man" with $15.4M. Warner Bros. launched its urban drama "ATL" in third with $11.6M on its way to $21.2M. Rounding out the top five were "Failure to Launch" with $6.5M and "V for Vendetta" with $6.3M. The horror flick "Slither" creeped into eighth place with a $3.9M opening leading to a $7.8M final. Sony claimed the year’s most notorious flop with "Basic Instinct 2" which bowed to $3.2M on its way to a pathetic $5.9M before sweeping the Razzie Awards.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Can Ben Stiller and his living artifacts four-peat at the top of the North American box office, or will one of the new releases take the crown over the four-day Dr. Martin Luther King holiday weekend? Ticket buyers will decide.

Leading the freshman class is the dance drama "Stomp the Yard" which could have breakout potential. Also opening are the fantasy pic "Arthur and the Invisibles," the drug dealer pic "Alpha Dog," and the horror flick "Primeval." With so many schools closed on Monday, the new films are targeting students of all ages who will have extra time on their hands.

The west and east coasts meet in "Stomp the Yard," a story of a Los Angeles student enrolled in an Atlanta university who uses his unique style to help his fraternity compete in a step dancing contest. The PG-13 film is short on starpower, but makes up for that with terrific marketing which is the real ingredient that will put asses into the seats. Sony has cut exciting trailers and commercial spots which should spark lots of interest with teens and young adults. Plus, MLK weekend is the perfect time to open a black college film since interest will be high for this particular subject matter. African American students will especially be out in solid numbers. However, the opening of Justin Timberlake‘s "Alpha Dog" could take away some of the young adult crowd.

"Stomp" should appeal to the same audiences that delivered bigger-than-expected openings for "Drumline" ($12.6M opening, $6,865 average), "ATL" ($11.6M, $7,212), and "You Got Served" ($16.1M, $8,341). The urban youth of America possesses tremendous spending power and Hollywood has just woken up to this in recent years financing low cost flicks that return handsome profits through theatrical and DVD sales. "Stomp" also offers an appealing story relevant to today’s young people and looks to join this list. Stepping into 2,051 theaters, "Stomp the Yard" could collect about $16M over four days this weekend.


An action shot from "Stomp the Yard."

The weekend’s only new kidpic comes in the form of the French production "Arthur and the Invisibles," a groundbreaking feature which mixes live-action with animation in a fantasy tale. The PG-rated film from The Weinstein Co. is directed by action professional Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element," "Joan of Arc") and features the voices of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna. With so many young children across the country having a long school holiday, "Arthur" should get some play as the only new option for parents who have taken enough trips to the Museum. Of course "Happily N’Ever After" flopping last weekend shows that family audiences will not come out for just anything. With about 2,500 theaters, it is the widest of the new titles which could help it get into double digit millions over the extended frame. The marketing push has been admirable too. MLK weekend has often seen better-than-expected results for debuting kiddie flicks like "Kangaroo Jack," "Racing Stripes," and "Hoodwinked." "Arthur and the Invisibles" may carve out its share of the pie and gross roughly $11M over the four-day period.


Those troll dolls have found a new purpose in "Arthur and the Invisibles."

Pop music king Justin Timberlake joins an ensemble cast which includes Emile Hirsch, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis in the gritty drama "Alpha Dog." Directed by Nick Cassavetes, the R-rated film tells of a drug dealer who kidnaps the younger brother of a friend who owes a debt. The Universal release is based on true events and will target older teens and twentysomethings. The marketing makes the film look slick and cool plus JT provides a built-in audience of fans that can be tapped into.

However, two main obstacles are in the way – the rating and competition from "Stomp the Yard." A large portion of Timberlake’s fans are young teens and they will have a hard time buying tickets. Plus, "Stomp" will be distracting the urban youth with its slick look and milder PG-13 rating. On top of that, the studio’s release is not too wide. These factors should curtail the potential of "Alpha." Critics have given solid support which may help a little, although Time Out New York boldly calls the pic the worst movie of the year in its zero-star review. Opening in about 1,200 theaters, "Alpha Dog" might bite down on around $8M over the long weekend.


Timberlake gets down in "Alpha Dog."

Every horror film since Halloween has flopped and the streak looks to continue with "Primeval" from Buena Vista. The R-rated film about a news crew hunting down a killer boasts no starpower and lacks a compelling plot worthy of the ten-dollar bills of genre fans. Marketing support has been weak and awareness is not very high. The fright flick seems to have the same potential as last month’s "Turistas" which bowed to a weak $3.6M and $2,282 average. "Primeval" will open wider with about 2,000 theaters and has an extended four-day session so a gross of roughly $6M could result followed by steep drops.

Zhang Yimou has seen solid but not spectacular averages for his latest Chinese epic "Curse of the Golden Flower" which has already grossed $2.2M from its limited release in about 60 theaters. Its average of $6,104 last weekend will drop considerably as it expands nationwide into about 1,200 playdates. The Mandarin-language period piece seems to be going too wide too fast and with all the choices in the multiplexes, Sony Classics may find it difficult to get multiplex crowds into all those new seats. "Curse" will try to play to fans of the "Hero" director, but Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li are no Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi at the American box office. A $4M gross over the long weekend could result.


These horses must be suffering from "The Curse of the Golden Flower."

Ben Stiller and Will Smith have been inseparable blockbuster brothers atop the box office charts for the last three weeks. But the weekend’s new releases should finally cause a breakup. Stiller’s runaway smash "Night at the Museum" has been holding up incredibly well against any competition that has come its way and will attempt to become the first film since 2003’s "The Return of the King" to remain number one for four consecutive weekends. The only thing standing in its path is a possible teen explosion for "Stomp." "Museum’s" four-day holiday gross could slip 25% from last weekend’s three-day figure giving the Fox hit about $18M and a remarkable cume to date of $187M.

Smith has done pretty well for himself too with "The Pursuit of Happyness" which should see another solid turnout over MLK weekend. A 20% drop would give Sony a four-day tally of $10M boosting its total to a stellar $137M.

Since it opened nationally on Christmas Day, "Dreamgirls" has been posting the best per-theater averages of any wide release. Now, Paramount will more than double the run and expand the Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical from 852 to about 1,800 theaters. The Jamie FoxxBeyonce Knowles musical is the favorite to take home that honor, plus other statues, and the studio wants to make sure the product is available everywhere once the wins occur. Plus, films with African American casts routinely do very well over the King frame so a jump in sales is assured. For the four-day period, "Dreamgirls" may climb to around $11M putting the cume at $68M. If it wins the Globe for Best Picture and secures a sizable number of Oscar nominations the following week, the total domestic take could certainly surpass the $100M mark as it did for "Chicago" four years ago. The Richard Gere musical reached a similar $63.8M at the end of the weekend it went fully national into 1,841 locations and went on to a sensational $170.7M final total.

LAST YEAR: Disney kicked off the first of what would be many hit sports flicks in 2006 with the basketball drama "Glory Road" which opened at number one over MLK weekend with $16.9M over four days. The live action film barely beat out the animated comedy "Hoodwinked" which also grossed $16.9M over the Friday-to-Monday period, but was about $50,000 shy of the number one spot. The duo reached $42.6M and $51.2M, respectively. Third place also was held by a new release. Paramount’s Queen Latifah comedy "Last Holiday" bowed to a solid $15.5M on its way to $38.4M. Rounding out the top five were former number ones "The Chronicles of Narnia" with $12.8M and "Hostel" with $11.4M over the long weekend. Fox’s romance "Tristan & Isolde" found few lovers in its debut opening to $7.6M on its way to just $14.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got four underdog stories. An average Joe tries to play pro football ("Invincible," starring Mark Wahlberg), the new kid in school tries to ward off bullies by consuming soft-bodied invertebrates ("How to Eat Fried Worms"), a ragtag bunch tries to win an international keg-tapping contest ("Beerfest," starring Broken Lizard), and two struggling 1930s musicians try for a big break ("Idlewild," starring Outkast). What do the critics have to say?

Pity the poor Philly football fan. Despite some recent success, the Eagles haven’t had a championship season since 1960. I’ll bet a lot of residents of the City of Brotherly Love think they could do better themselves. Well, "Invincible" tells the true story of a guy who felt that way… and was right. Mark Wahlberg stars as an over-the-hill substitute teacher and bartender who shows up at an open tryout and wows coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) with his speed and skills despite never playing ball in college. The critics say what could have been another clichéd sports drama is elevated by strong performances by Wahlberg and Kinnear, as well as a palpable sense of time and place. "Invincible" is at 74 percent on the Tomatometer.


"I am a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I am a big, bright, shining star."

Despite a title that conjures images of a pre-teen "Fear Factor," the critics say "How to Eat Fried Worms" is actually quite tame — or quaint — compared with much of contemporary family fare. Although its youthful cast contribute solid performances, the critics say "Worms" doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by the classic children’s book of the same name. Still, they also say the film is good-natured fun for the kids. At 61 percent on the Tomatometer, "Worms" is a reasonably appetizing item on the cinematic menu.


Well, in France they eat snails….

Those Broken Lizard folks are at it again, with another gleefully juvenile movie that should appeal to their cult audience while confounding the critics. Sort of like "Dodgeball" for the pub set, "Beerfest" tells the tale of a group of misfits who take on the world in an international beer drinking contest. While critics concede that there are more than a few moments of boozy, tasteless fun, they also say the film, at 111 minutes, is a little too hit and miss to justify its running time. At 51 percent on the Tomatometer, "Beerfest" is a little too sudsy. Still, it’s the best reviewed Broken Lizard film, beating "Super Troopers," which scored 36 percent.


"Beerfest": More subtle, sophisticated humor from Broken Lizard

Ain’t nobody dope as Outkast — in the studio. The silver screen may be a different matter. Big Boi and Andre 3000 bring their Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to a story set in the Depression era south in "Idlewild." Critics say that with the musical scenes, the cast are the type of people make the club get crunk. But, ah ha, what’s that fuss, then? Well, the scribes say there’s too little of Outkast’s power music electric revival, and the plot gets bogged down in clichés. At 52 percent on the Tomatometer, critics don’t love the way "Idlewild" moves — but don’t hate it either.


"Idlewild": "Crocodile on my feet/ Fox fur on my back/ Bowtie ’round my neck/ That’s why they call me the gangsta mack/ In the Cadillac."

Also in theaters this week in limited release: "Old Joy," an exploration of friendship starring indie darling Will Oldham, is at 100 percent; "LOL," a no-budget tale of hipsters and technology, is at 100 percent; "Princesas," a story of friendship between prostitutes in Madrid, is at 70 percent; "Rolling Family," sort of like an Argentine "Little Miss Sunshine," is at 63 percent; the Spanish sex comedy "Queens" is at 57 percent; and the Elisha Cuthbert/ Camilla Belle psychological thriller "The Quiet" is at 27 percent.

Recent Mark Wahlberg Movies:
————————————–
52% — Four Brothers (2005)
60% — I Heart Huckabees (2004)
73% — The Italian Job (2003)
33% — The Truth about Charlie (2002)
52% — Rock Star (2001)

Recent Big Boi and Andre 3000 Movies:
—————————————————
62% — ATL (2006)
52% — Four Brothers (2005)
29% — Be Cool (2005)

Silly Scrat and his "Ice Age" buddies have returned to the multiplexes … and the result was an absolutely mammoth opening weekend frame. Fox’s CG-animated sequel squeezed about $70.5 million from the first-weekend moviegoers, making "Ice Age: The Meltdown" the year’s first bona-fide box office bonanza. (By comparison, the original "Ice Age" made just over $46 million during its own opening weekend.)

Hanging on in second place was Spike Lee‘s bank heist thriller "Inside Man," which added an additional $15.7 million to its $52.8 million grand total. Debuting in third place was WB’s urban skating drama "ATL," which rolled to the tune of $12.5 million from 1,600 theaters.

Fourth and fifth place went to a pair of old pals: Paramount’s "Failure to Launch" exhibited some staying power, netting an additional $6.6 million ($73.2m total), and WB’s "V for Vendetta" commanded another $6.5 million ($56.8m total).

Two other newcomers fared … not as well. Universal’s strongly-reviewed "Slither" was able to scare up only $3.7 million from 1,900 theaters, while Sony’s "Basic Instinct 2" netted an anemic $3.2 million from 1,400.

Next weekend sees the release of four new wide titles: Sony’s sports slob-com "The Benchwarmers," MGM’s gangster flick "Lucky Number Slevin," Fox Searchlight’s "Phat Girlz," and New Line’s dance drama "Take the Lead."

For a closer look at the weekend numbers, head on over to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page!

Is ATL(anta) the future of young black cinema?

With an up-and-coming young rapper for a star (Atlanta native Tip "T.I." Harris), a music video director making the leap to the big screen (Chris Robinson), and a former rapper-turned-A-list actor behind the scenes (producer Will Smith), "ATL" has an automatic in with the MTV crowd. The film is deeply rooted in the South and her entertainment world progeny, as some of the story and characters are based on the recollections of producers Dallas Austin and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, who grew up spending nights at Atlanta roller rink Jellybeans, the center of youth culture in "ATL." With appearances from hip-hop celebs like OutKast’s Big Boi, Monica, Killer Mike, Jazze Pha, and more, director Robinson seems to have filled out his cast with as many Atlanta-connected celebrities as possible.


Tip "T.I." Harris and Will Smith

Considering all these music-industry connections, making "ATL" "music-driven" was a no-brainer. Rather ingeniously, instead of having an official soundtrack, "ATL" is being marketed alongside star T.I.‘s newest album "The King," which boasts several songs featured prominently in the film and its trailer; the first single, "What You Know," is omnipresent in promotions for "ATL" and currently sits at No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop list.

At the Los Angeles premiere of "ATL," castmember Jason Weaver noted this natural blend of Atlanta music, film, and Atlantan identity. "People have always gotten a representation of Atlanta from the music, but this is the first time that they’re really going to be able to see it visually, and to be able to see the different neighborhoods," he said.


Jason Weaver, Albert "Al Be" Daniels, Lauren London

Yet "ATL" manages to be more than just a record exec’s extended music video fantasy; it’s marketed with another subtitle: "A New American Story." It’s this aspect, and the sense that the filmmakers are bringing an underrepresented point of view to the mainstream, that distances "ATL" from other quasi-musicals with record label backing, a la "From Justin To Kelly" or even Usher’s "In the Mix."

Star T.I. plays Rashad, a young Atlanta teen living with his younger brother Ant (Evan Ross) in their janitor uncle’s (Mykelti Williamson) home after their parents’ death. Rashad spends his days in what Robinson presents as a typical life for young Atlanta youth: he hangs out at a roller rink called Jellybeans, romances a ghetto fabulous girl called New-New, and plays mentor to his younger, wayward brother while dreaming of a better life for himself. While Rashad pursues a legit future as an artist, his brother Ant gets caught up in the bling and excitement of the local drug dealer, a negative and ever-present reality that "ATL" attempts to discourage. To poet-cum-actor Albert "Al Be" Daniels, who plays Rashad’s buddy Brooklyn, it is this common, yet under-represented voice that defines "ATL" as a "new american story."

"A lot of times when people talk about black culture, they shy away from calling it "American" culture," Daniels said. "But it is. The stuff that happened to us as a people happened to Americans. We are separated because of what we think America is."


Evan Ross, Malika and Khadija, Antwan "Big Boi" Patton

In defining the "new American story," and rejecting the simple "African-American" label, "ATL" calls to attention the fact that its narrative, as well as the people and culture of Atlanta, is just as much American as it is that more narrow designation. Newcomer Lauren London, who plays New-New, emphasized the significance of including hip-hop music and culture in that "American" identity.

"American culture has changed, if you look at the effect that hip-hop, and urban music, has had. Our culture is hip-hop, it is urban culture, and T.I. is one of the biggest hip-hop heads right now. Look at TRL, MTV, and BET — that’s all that kids watch.

"I think it’s a really big point that Chris (Robinson) makes," London continued, "because Atlanta music has made such an impact on our culture in America, and it’s a really big part of Atlanta itself."

After opening to a high $12.5 million weekend box office, "ATL" exceeded many expectations last weekend, securing the number 3 spot behind "Ice Age 2"’s incredible $70.5 million and continued returns for last week’s "Inside Man."

It’s a mark of success that could prove significant as more young black performers find it easy to crossover from music to film, a direction star Tip "T.I." Harris seems to be aggressively pursuing. At the LA premiere last Thursday, Harris walked the red carpet with "ATL" producer Will Smith, who made a point of passing the torch to the young musician-actor.

Asked how he knew Harris had the right stuff to carry a high profile, big studio-venture like "ATL," Smith replied, "I can see it, and feel it — he’s just a winner."


Tip "T.I." Harris and Will Smith

Smith seldom left Harris’ side down the press line, a gesture that juxtaposed his successes — music, acting, and now producing — with the younger performer’s burgeoning career.

Harris himself appears to be at the top of his game, with a third chart-topping album flying off shelves and an interest in segueing not only into acting, but into producing films as an extension of his Grand Hustle Entertainment venture, with which he co exec-produced the soundtrack to 2005’s Oscar-winning "Hustle & Flow."

"Grand Hustle films is in the process of developing films right now, and I’m trying to become just as much of an entity in the executive production end of making films as well as the performance end," Harris shared.

"ATL" is now in theaters. Click here for more red carpet photos from the LA premiere.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a pair of sequels that will appeal to widely disparate demographics ("Ice Age 2: The Meltdown," "Basic Instinct 2"), a slimy mix of comedy and horror ("Slither"), and a tale of young ATL-liens coming of age ("ATL"). What do the critics say?

For those of you who like a healthy dose of laughs between scares, there’s a gleefully nasty little piece of business in theaters this week. "Slither," a tale of creepy crawly little beasts that invade Smalltown, USA, is a B-movie through and through. But critics say it’s one of the most enjoyable of its type in years — if you’ve got the stomach for this sort of thing. At 86 percent on the Tomatometer, the Certified Fresh "Slither" may make you squirm — when you’re not busting a gut laughing. And it’s the third best-reviewed film of the year, behind only Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (at 93 percent) and last week’s Inside Man (at 88 percent).

The first "Ice Age" was warmly received. The second? It’s getting a chillier reception. In "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown," Manny the woolly mammoth, Sid the sloth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and the cross-species wiseguy Scrat are back, and they confront two major issues: The end of the ice age, and mating. The critics say while "Ice Age 2" may not be red-hot, it’s moderately entertaining. It’s at 59 percent on the Tomatometer, a bit behind its predecessor (78 percent and Certified Fresh).

"ATL" is a movie about the last summer before a group of African American high school students go off into the real world and attempt to navigate potential pratfalls. And critics say the film is at its most involving when it sticks to a smart, laid-back vibe and affectionate portrayals of its young leads; the scribes say that the film is less successful when it starts follow the mechanics of its plot. It’s currently at 61 percent on the Tomatometer.

"Basic Instinct" is something of a recent cinematic touchstone – albeit one many are a bit embarrassed to say they actually enjoy. According to critics, moviegoers may be in an even deeper quandary with the sequel. In "Basic Instinct 2," Sharon Stone is back to play deadly games of cat-and-mouse with spellbound guys. The scribes note that while the original was subversively trashy (and, at 63 percent on the Tomatometer, fresh), this sequel is more in the so-bad-it’s-good category — or perhaps, so-bad-it’s-bad. At 6 percent on the Tomatometer, trust your instincts on this one.

Also, props to lovelykeira, who correctly guessed that the Tomatometer for "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector" would be 4 percent, and to mizzoucritic, who came the closest to "Stay Alive"’s 6 percent.

Top Five Best-Reviewed Wide Releases of 2006 (So Far):
——————————————————
93% — Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
89% — Inside Man
86% — Slither
75% — Nanny McPhee
75% — V For Vendetta

Recent Sharon Stone Movies
———————————–
86% — Broken Flowers (2005)
9% — Catwoman (2004)
12% — Cold Creek Manor (2003)
50% — Beautiful Joe (2000)
53% — The Muse (1999)

Denzel Washington‘s bank heist thriller "Inside Man" snagged the #1 spot at the weekend box office derby, pulling in an estimated $29 million from about 2,800 theaters — which is good news, because if the big-budget, big-actor flick had debuted behind a Disney horror movie or a Larry the Cable Guy comedy, Universal would have been pretty darn angry.

Last week’s #1 title, WB’s "V for Vendetta," plunged more than 50% and raked in an additional $12.3 million, giving it a grand (domestic) total of about $46.2 million. Third place went to Disney’s PG-13 "horror" movie "Stay Alive," which made $11.2 million from 2,000 screens, while fourth and fifth place went to the rom-com "Failure to Launch" ($10.8 million, $63.9m total) and the kiddie flick "The Shaggy Dog" ($9.1 million, $47.9m total).

Debuting in 7th place was Lionsgate’s "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector," which earned about $7 million from 1,700 theaters.

Next week’s big releases are Warner’s urban drama "ATL," Sony’s long-arriving "Basic Instinct 2," Fox’s animated sequel "Ice Age: The Meltdown," and Universal’s tongue-in-cheek splatter-fest "Slither."

For a closer look at the weekend numbers, pop on over to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page!

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