After achieving success with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead, AMC hopes to continue its winning streak with its latest offering, Into the Badlands, which premieres this Sunday, Nov. 15 at 10/9c. Very loosely based on the classic 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West, this action-adventure series is a genre mashup set in a post-apocalyptic American frontier ruled by feudal “Barons” who live on plantations and employ legions of martial artists to do their bidding. While the jury’s still out on its storytelling, one thing is for certain: Badlands wears its martial arts influences on its bloody, tattered sleeve. With that in mind, we decided to offer a handful of feature recommendations that share thematic territory with the show. Martial arts cinema is a rich, surprisingly layered genre, so this isn’t intended to serve as a definitive compilation of the best it has to offer, but as a complementary guide to help pinpoint where Into the Badlands may have gleaned some of its inspiration.


Yojimbo (1961) 95%

Yojimbo1

The primary hero of Into the Badlands is Sunny (played by Daniel Wu), a lethal enforcer for a cruel Baron (Martin Csokas) whose allegiance is tested when he’s approached by a rival Baron hoping to solicit his services. Brutally effective with a pair of katanas, Sunny feels like a kindred spirit to Toshiro Mifune’s Sanjuro, a wandering rōnin who plays two opposing small-town gangs against each other in Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo. Strictly speaking, Yojimbo isn’t so much a typical martial arts film as it is a period crime drama with some swordplay, but its timeless themes have echoed through decades of pop culture, most famously in Sergio Leone’s western remake A Fistful of Dollars. In keeping with modern trends, Sunny’s battles are far bloodier than Sanjuro’s, but if you switched up just a few of the details, Yojimbo’s plot would feel right at home in the world of Into the Badlands, even if it were adapted wholesale.

Watch Trailer


The 14 Amazons (1972)

14Amazons2

The aforementioned rival Baron who attempts to woo Sunny to her cause is The Widow (Emily Beecham), who wields daggers with deadly precision and commands an army of female assassins known as the Butterflies. Chinese cinema has featured women warriors like The Widow since the silent era, so it’s not tough to see where Into the Badlands got its inspiration, but this Shaw Brothers production feels particularly relevant. Based on the well-known folkloric tales of the legendary Yang family, The 14 Amazons centers on matriarch Mu Kuei-ying (Ivy Ling Po), who leads the women generals of the Yang clan on a revenge spree when she herself is widowed by a corrupt warlord. Amazons features a lot of the trademark flourishes that are emblematic of 1970s kung fu cinema – fingerpaint blood, quick zooms, frenetic editing – but it boasts a handful of unforgettable scenes (human bridge, anyone?), and it’s fairly unique in its presentation of a female-centric army leading the charge in a righteous war.

Watch Trailer


Shogun Assassin (1981) 82%

ShogunAssassin1

The action set pieces in Into the Badlands are impressively choreographed exercises in mayhem, and they often conclude with a shot of Sunny standing amidst a pile of severed limbs and skewered foes. The violence on display is graphic and visceral, and it likely owes a debt to this bloody curio from 1980. Originally released as the first two films in a Japanese franchise adapted from the popular manga series Lone Wolf and Cub, Shogun Assassin was recut to combine both movies into one, dubbed in English, then unleashed upon unsuspecting international grindhouse audiences by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. The result — a somewhat muddled tale about a disgraced executioner who embarks on a mission of vengeance with his young son when a powerful Shogun murders his wife — became a sensation with genre enthusiasts who reveled in its unrelentingly bloody swordfights, which were so gruesome that the film was nearly banned in the UK. If Badlands drew any inspiration from Shogun Assassin, it wouldn’t be the first to do so; Quentin Tarantino and the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA are among those who have famously helped perpetuate its cult status over the years.

Watch Trailer


Legendary Weapons of Kung Fu (1982)

LegendaryWeaponsOfChina1

The advent of the Shaw Brothers studio in the 1970s brought with it a significant boom in kung fu cinema, specifically the types of movies that favored grounded hand-to-hand combat over the more supernatural elements of traditional wuxia films. One of the giants of the era was director Lau Kar-leung, who helmed such classics as 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Dirty Ho (not what it sounds like), My Young Auntie, and later, the Jackie Chan masterpiece Drunken Master II. In 1982, Lau broke with his typical kung fu sensibilities and delivered a slightly fantastical tale in Legendary Weapons of China, in which a promising pupil during the Boxer Rebellion is tasked with recruiting warriors who can withstand bullets. While there is a bit of magical voodoo peppered throughout the story, the film’s centerpiece is its climactic duel, a dynamic eight-minute battle that showcases 18 different weapon styles skillfully wielded by Lau himself and his opponent. If the axes, spears, and swords clashing in Into the Badlands make your heart go pitter-patter, wait until you get a load of Legendary Weapons of China.

Watch Trailer


The Tai Chi Master (1993) 86%

TaiChiMaster

The Baron who commands Sunny in Into the Badlands is also father to an impetuous son named Ryder (Oliver Stark), who is visibly perturbed by his father’s affection for Sunny. This rivalry between brothers (full-blooded or adoptive) is certainly not an uncommon narrative theme, and one of the most entertaining versions of the story in wuxia comes in the form of Tai-Chi Master (aka Twin Dragons). Directed by celebrated industry veteran Yuen Woo-ping, Tai-Chi Master stars Jet Li and Chin Siu-ho as a pair of brothers who part ways when one of them chooses to enlist in the evil local governor’s army while the other leads a rebellion. Betrayed by his own brother, the rebel (Li) effectively loses his mind, and it’s only through the power of Tai-Chi that he is able to come to his senses and bring his brother to justice. The film utilizes wire work sparingly but effectively, and the choreography on display is breathtaking, which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Yuen Woo-ping; he gave us Iron Monkey and the original Drunken Master, and his hands are all over the Matrix trilogy, the Kill Bill films, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, among countless others.

Watch Trailer


The Protector (2005) 53%

TheProtector2

With better filmmaking techniques and technology at their disposal, modern fight directors have become increasingly precise and creative in the ways they are able to portray the infliction of martial justice upon the wicked. For example, the opening scenes of Into the Badlands‘ premiere episode include a kinetic action sequence in which Sunny dispatches a gang of bandits with a series of bone-crunching maneuvers, and it looks excruciatingly painful. It’s reminiscent of a scene from this film from Thailand, in which Tony Jaa stars as a martial arts master named Kham who’s out for revenge (natch) when his sacred family elephants are stolen. Okay, so the plot’s as thin as rice paper, but the film is notable both for Jaa’s electric athleticism and a brilliant unbroken tracking shot that follows Kham up a circular hotel walkway as he battles his way through a horde of opponents. Most relevant to Into the Badlands, however, is what happens when Kham reaches the top floor: traumatized by the sight of his elephant’s skeleton (don’t snicker) and assaulted by an endless swarm of baddies, Kham expertly and furiously dislocates every joint in sight. Necks are twisted, elbows are bent the wrong way, knees are hyperextended, ankles are rolled like so much sourdough. If Sunny’s chiropractic exploits on Badlands made you cringe, be prepared to gag when you see what Tony Jaa can do.

Watch Trailer


Ip Man (2008) 86%

IpMan1

If Donnie Yen has yet to achieve the breakout stardom of Jackie Chan or Jet Li in the Western world, he at least has benefited from some stellar collaborations with director Wilson Yip. The baton vs. knife fight in Kill Zone crackles with energy, and the knock-down, drag-out brawl between Yen and Collin Chou in Flash Point is absolutely brutal. But their most famous work together is 2008’s Ip Man, which retells the story of the famed turn-of-the-century master who fought to keep Chinese martial arts alive during the Sino-Japanese War and later went on to teach Bruce Lee. Thanks to the efforts of Sammo Hung (who starred alongside Yen in Kill Zone and served as choreographer here), the film excels at portraying Ip’s almost effortless Wing Chun technique, particularly in a scene when Ip fends off 10 Japanese fighters during a demonstration. Remember the bone-cracking from The Protector? There’s a bit of that here, too, but it’s mixed with a flurry of lightning-fast punches and strategic takedowns. The sight of a single man facing a circle of opponents is another familiar theme repeated both here and frequently in Into the Badlands, and for good reason: it allows for fluid, sweeping camera movement and perspective shots that milk the tension. Lots of films, however, have little else to offer outside of a few well-shot fights, and thankfully, Ip Man isn’t one of them.

Watch Trailer


The Grandmaster (2013) 78%

Grandmaster2

Speaking of Ip Man and well-shot fights, it should be noted that several movies have been made about Ip, especially in recent years. What happens, though, when one of those movies is helmed by an auteur known for dramatic long takes and moody romance? The result is The Grandmaster, a lushly photographed 2013 film by acclaimed director Wong Kar-wai (Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love), which stars Wong regular Tony Leung as Ip Man and centers on his life after the fall of the last dynasty. Wong’s trademark sensibilities are all present, but the reason it appears on this list is its opening sequence, which finds Ip squaring off against multiple opponents on a city street at night during a downpour — something Into the Badlands very closely mimics in Sunny’s first encounter with The Widow. Fights in the rain possess a rather poetic, otherworldly quality that makes them beautiful to behold, so they are, again, not entirely uncommon — 1991’s Once Upon A Time in China and 2002’s Hero both feature memorable battles like this, for example — but the resemblance between The Grandmaster‘s opening and the scene in Badlands look eerily similar, right down to a handful of choice camera angles, that it’s hard not to assume the latter took some inspiration from the former. And if you’re taking cues from Wong Kar-wai’s eye for sumptuous cinematography, you’re doing something right.

Watch Trailer

This week, The Forbidden Kingdom, the long-awaited pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, hits theaters. These two action legends have participated in many a fight over the years, so we figured it was a good time to count down some of the greatest movie brawls of all time.

With so many noteworthy celluloid scuffles to choose from, we felt we had to lay down some ground rules: no weapons allowed, and we’re looking for relatively even matches; we’ll cover the greatest beatdowns another time. These clips are often not for the squeamish, and some contain a good deal of profanity, so we’ve tagged those as NSFW. Without further ado, here are 20 of the greatest fight scenes of all time!


20. Road House (1989) 37%

Patrick Swayze vs. Ben Gazzara’s thugs
One of the most surreal entertainments ever cast out for mainstream consumption, Road House stars Patrick Swayze plays an NYU philosophy grad (!) who becomes a nationally-recognized bouncer (!!).This delirious camp classic features several over-the-top fight scenes; in this one, Swayze is joined by Sam Elliot (who’s sort of a Scottie Pippen to Swayze’s Michael Jordan in the bouncer game), and together, they tangle with the goons of the town’s evil plutocrat (Ben Gazzara) while the late, great Jeff Healy rocks out.


19. From Russia With Love (1963) 97%

Sean Connery vs. Robert Shaw
The James Bond movies have no shortage of memorable throwdowns (like this visceral battle on a stairwell in Casino Royale). One of the finest examples of 007’s superior hand skills is on display in this gritty, down-and-dirty fight from From Russia with Love. After setting off a smokescreen, Bond lays a hurting on SPECTRE assassin Red Grant in the closed quarters of a train cabin; the result is as vicious as anything in the Connery Bond films.


18. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) 80%

Colin Firth vs. Hugh Grant
Though it’s one of the quintessential chick flicks of the last decade, Bridget Jones’s Diary takes time out from its titular character’s battles with her own self-esteem to feature a pretty brutal fight between two of her suitors. Colin Firth and Hugh Grant each land some devastating blows and kicks to the gut before soaring through a pane of glass. In addition, it’s almost certainly the greatest fight scene to feature “It’s Raining Men” on the soundtrack.


17. 2 Days in the Valley (1996) 62%

Charlize Theron vs. Teri Hatcher
Once Pulp Fiction hit, dozens of moderately budgeted, labyrinthine-plotted thrillers filled multiplexes, doing what they could to stand out. 2 Days in the Valley sets itself apart in a number of ways, not least of which is a hotel room-destroying donnybrook between Teri Hatcher and Charlize Theron. After trading some serious disses, our heroines trade punches and kicks, breaking a lot of glass in the process.


16. The Karate Kid (1984) 89%

Ralph Macchio vs. William Zabka
Repeat after me: “You’re the best/around/ nothin’s ever gonna keep you dowwwwnn!” The climactic fight in The Karate Kid may not feature the hyperkinetic athleticism of others on this list, but it’s one of the most iconic battles of 1980s cinema, as Daniel LaRusso finally overcomes those leg-sweeping Kobra Kai baddies who’ve been tormenting him. It also features some of the best dialogue ever, most notably, “Put him in a bodybag! YEEAAAHHH!”


15. Evil Dead 2 (1987) 95%

Bruce Campbell vs. his own right hand
We’re not sure if Bruce Campbell is religious, but his character should have heeded these words from the Gospel of Matthew: “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.” In a scene that brings new meaning to the term mano a mano, Campbell receives a thorough thrashing from his own possessed hand; his solution to this bizarre problem results in the kind of perverse hilarity fans of the Evil Dead series have come to treasure.


14. Night and the City (1950) 81%

Gegorius the Great vs. The Strangler
When Jules Dassin‘s classic noir Night and the City was first released, venerable New York Times scribe Bosley Crowther described it thusly: “If any more cruel, repulsive picture of human brutishness than this is ever screened, this writer has no desire to see it.” He was referring to this, a savage wrestling match between an aging Greco-Roman master and a thuggish upstart. Two-bit hustler Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) hopes to make a killing in the wrestling business, but his dreams slip away when two of the fighters duke it out behind closed doors out of mutual animosity. It’s coldly, heartlessly rendered scene, so tense and bone-rattling that subsequent decades haven’t dulled its impact.


13. Happy Gilmore (1996) 61%

Adam Sandler vs. Bob Barker
Adam Sandler has spent his career playing characters consumed by volcanic rage. In Happy Gilmore, Sandler is in rare form as an ex-hockey-enforcer-turned-pro-golfer, dispensing towering drives and brutal beatdowns with equal enthusiasm. In one of the most gloriously stoopid fights in recent cinema, The Price is Right host Bob Barker goads our hero into a brawl at a celebrity pro/am tournament by talking trash about his golf game — and proceeds to lay the smack down on the hapless Happy.


12. Game of Death (1979) 46%

Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
In Bruce Lee‘s ill-fated final film, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar demonstrated his abilities extended far beyond the sky hook. “Extend” is the operative word here; as the sunlight-averse Hakim, Abdul-Jabbar has a distinct reach advantage on the diminutive action legend. Fortunately for Lee, he’s got an arsenal of moves at his disposal. It’s an eerie, hypnotic duel, and one of the quieter entries on this noisy list.


11. Charlie's Angels (2000) 68%

The Angels vs. Crispin Glover
As George McFly in Back to the Future, Crispin Glover proved he could go toe-to-toe with almost anyone when he felled Biff with some well-placed blows to the jaw. But he’s no match for Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore, who, after dodging swords and bullets, use some innovative teamwork to merge into one mean crime-fighting machine. This hyper-stylized brawl has a kicky (pun intended), gravity-defying energy courtesy of legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping.


10. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) 92%

Bourne vs. Desh
How did Jason Bourne obtain his sick fighting skills? It’s one of the questions that torments our hero throughout the Bourne series. However, one thing’s for sure: however he got them, he sure knows how to employ them. Bourne’s hand-to-hand proclivities are perhaps best showcased in The Bourne Ultimatum, as J.B. jumps off a roof through a window to throw down with the guy sent to kill him; he then proceeds to demonstrate a new definition of “book smart” and a nifty trick with a hand towel.


9. The Transporter (2002) 54%

Jason Staham vs. everybody in the bus depot
It’s the age-old complaint of action-phobes: “Why do the bad guys just stand around while the hero wrecks shop? Why don’t they all go at him at once?” In the case of The Transporter, a score of goons try just that — and it still doesn’t work! Trapped in a bus depot, the ever-enterprising Jason Statham uses just about everything at his disposal, from barrels of oil to the bad guys themselves. He even displays how a long-sleeve shirt can be used to keep multiple attackers at bay.


8. Snatch (2000) 74%

Brad Pitt vs. Elwin “Chopper” David
Forget Fight ClubSnatch features Brad Pitt‘s onscreen pugilistic pinnacle. Pitt plays the thickly-brogued bare-knuckle brawler Mickey O’Neil, a knockout artist so skilled — and so undisciplined — that he can’t bring himself to throw a fight, even with fortunes and lives on the line. Director Guy Ritchie‘s stylistic trademarks — super slow-mo, gonzo sound effects, a thumping soundtrack — are all on display, as O’Neil absorbs a staggering amount of punishment before landing the final blow.


7. They Live (1988) 85%

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Keith David
In They Live, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Keith David beat the stuffing out of each other for five minutes. We’re talking suplexes, head-butts, knees to the groin; in other words, the works. Why, you ask? Well, Piper wants David to wear a pair of sunglasses that will help him understand the truth about an alien conspiracy to destroy humanity. You see, these guys are friends. I mean, if the stakes were that high, you’d resort to such extreme measures too, right? What are friends for?


6. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 96%

Indiana Jones vs. the big, bald Nazi
Try as he might, Indiana Jones can’t seem to avoid engaging in fracases on or near moving vehicles. In The Last Crusade, he dispatched multiple villains on a careening tank, and in this imbroglio from Raiders of the Lost Ark, he has to dodge both flying fists and merciless propellers. Indy just wants to fly to safety, but he’s coaxed into battle by a much larger opponent; the result is probably the most memorable fight from the Indiana Jones series. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing some Nazis get their just desserts?


5. Fist of Legend (1994) 100%

Jet Li vs. Billy Chow
Long before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (a project he turned down), wushu master Jet Li was making historical martial arts films that were epic in scope and dazzling in their fight choreography. While Hero and the Once Upon a Time in China series established Li as a global star, aficionados point to Fist of Legend as his finest effort. A loose remake of Bruce Lee‘s legendary Fists of Fury, Legend finds Li embarking on a mission to avenge the death of his master amidst the turbulent times of the second Sino-Japanese War. The final battle in Fist of Legend features some of the most amazing flying kicks, lightning-fast punches, and statue and bench destruction ever committed to film (heck, even Jet’s slaps are potent).


4. Drunken Master II (1994) 84%

Jackie Chan vs. Ken Lo
Combining unimpeachable martial arts technique with the slapstick comedy and death-defying stuntwork of silent clown Buster Keaton, Jackie Chan changed the face of action cinema. Chan’s filmography is rich with potent fight scenes, but the final battle in The Legend of Drunken Master may be his apex. As a master of “drunken boxing” — so named because inebriation helps loosen the body and lessen pain — Chan attempts to thwart the smuggling of priceless artifacts out of China. It all culminates in a climactic battle royale in a steel factory — a sequence of astonishing dexterity and grace that combines full tilt punches and kicks with maniacal physical comedy.


3. The Matrix (1999) 88%

Neo vs. Agent Smith
Technically influential and viscerally exhilarating, The Matrix‘s subway fight raised the bar for action cinema — and convinced a bunch of people to run out and buy DVD players. With its time-freezing camera effects and Hong Kong-derived fight choreography (courtesy of master Yuen Woo Ping), this duel between Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving brought the movie’s philosophical, what-is-reality musings to a full tilt climax.


2. The Protector (2005) 53%

Tony Jaa vs. everybody
As an attempt to sell Tony Jaa to American audiences, The Protector didn’t quite pan out. But it contains a scene of such crazed genius and technical mastery that it warrants the #2 spot on this list. As Jaa ascends the circular staircase of a hotel, he brings the pain to scores of opponents, twisting arms, breaking glass, and throwing people off balconies. It’s all captured in a stunning five-minute tracking shot (it’s the Russian Ark of action sequences) that seems like it’s getting winded just keeping up.


1. Rocky (1976) 91%

Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed
Here it is — the most influential and iconic bout in the history of Hollywood. Rocky’s battle with Apollo Creed has been reworked in countless ways across numerous genres; it’s evoked in virtually every scrappy-underdog tale. However, none have been quite able to match the original for spine-tingling tension. Even its over-familiarity (it plays on Jumbotrons in sports arenas virtually every night) hasn’t dulled its impact; in addition to being breathlessly exciting and dramatically potent, it doesn’t end quite the way you’d expect.

Batman takes on Cinderella Man at the box office as the Russell CroweChristian Bale Western remake 3:10 to Yuma heads into the multiplexes over what is traditionally a tumbleweed weekend in the marketplace. More action comes in the form of Shoot ‘Em Up which pits Clive Owen against Paul Giamatti while those craving comedy get the new laugher The Brothers Solomon. With summer gone and most students back in school, Hollywood has decided to roll out nothing but R-rated films this weekend.

Hoping to bounce back from last year’s critical and commercial disaster A Good Year, Oscar winner Russell Crowe leads the charge and aims for his first trip to the number one spot in nearly four years with 3:10 to Yuma. Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), the update on the 1957 semi-classic finds Bale playing a down-on-his-luck family man who takes the job of delivering a captured outlaw (Crowe) to the authorities. Having two strong actors face each other on screen is
usually a good thing and here the starpower should help bring in audiences. Reviews have been solid and since this genre plays to a more mature adult audience, the opinions of critics will make a big difference. The marketing push from Lionsgate has been commendable and with few other interesting new choices out there, Yuma should carve out its own space. Heading into 2,652 theaters, 3:10 to Yuma could open with roughly $14M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.


Russell Crowe and Peter Fonda in 3:10 to Yuma.

For cinemagoers who want even more bullets flying across their screens, New Line is offering up the modern-day crime thriller Shoot ‘Em Up. The R-rated film stars Clive Owen as the good guy on the run, Paul Giamatti as the bad guy with a gun, and Monica Bellucci as a hooker out for fun. Just as with Yuma, the film will skew more male but will probably play a bit younger. Competition will be a big factor since the pic has some big guns it’s going up against. Starpower is also lacking as the actors, though well-respected creatively, are not big ticket sellers as leads. Opening nationally, Shoot ‘Em Up might debut to about $8M this weekend.


Paul Giamatti, in a strict departure from his Lady in the Water character.

Will Forte and Will Arnett, two funnymen with little pull at the box office, team up for the new comedy The Brothers Solomon from Sony. The R-rated pic from director Bob Odenkirk (Let’s Go To Prison) finds the two playing siblings on a wacky quest to fulfill their dying father’s wish of having a grandson. With little starpower, the film is not likely to score much business over the weekend as most interested fans will wait for the DVD. Opening in about 650 locations, The Brothers Solomon could bow to less than $2M.


The Wills (Forte and Arnett) in The Brothers Solomon.

After its record-breaking opening weekend, Halloween should fall sharply in the sophomore session since intense fan interest brought out everyone upfront. The three-day gross could drop by 60% to about $11M giving MGM and The Weinstein Company $45M after ten days. With the new action titles likely to skew older, Superbad could be in for another solid frame. A 45% dip to around $7M may be in order giving McLovin and gang a cume of $102M.

LAST YEAR: The worst box office weekend of 2006 was led by the modest opening of the thriller The Covenant which debuted with only $8.9M which was enough to capture the crown. The Sony pic went on to gross $23.3M overall. Opening with weak results in second was the Ben Affleck starrer Hollywoodland with only $5.9M on its way to $14.4M for Focus. Following two weeks at number one, the football drama Invincible dropped to third with $5.6M for Buena Vista. The Weinstein Company’s Thai actioner The Protector premiered in fourth with $5M leading to only $12M. The Jason Statham action pic Crank ranked fifth with $4.9M for Lionsgate.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Four new films open wide, but they may not be enough to stop the North American box office from suffering its third consecutive down weekend.

Leading the way is the Paramount sequel "Jackass: Number Two" which will enjoy the widest release by far. The rest of the films will take moviegoers back in time just as so many other recent releases have done. Focus Features unleashes Jet Li‘s martial arts epic "Fearless," MGM takes off with the World War I adventure "Flyboys," and Sony remakes the political thriller "All the King’s Men."

Four years ago, Paramount shocked the industry with the number one bow for its crude stunts flick "Jackass: The Movie" which managed to keep "The Ring" out of the top spot on the weekend right before Halloween. Its $22.8M debut and eventual $64.3M domestic take and DVD success helped to bring about a sequel, "Jackass: Number Two" which hopes to conquer the charts once again. The R-rated pic regroups the team from the hit MTV reality series including Johnny Knoxville and finds them taking part in another series of outlandish don’t-try-this-at-home antics. Males in their late teens and early twenties are the target audience here although slightly older guys who were devoted followers a half-decade ago might also be up for some nostalgia.

The first "Jackass" bowed to a muscular $9,073 average from 2,509 playdates which at today’s ticket prices would be over $10,000. "Number Two" is not likely to match that amount though. A wider launch will dilute the average a bit and the franchise has aged and is no longer at the peak of its popularity. But since Knoxville has found more mainstream success recently with films like "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Ringer," the studio is hoping that some new fans will give "Two" a try. Competition for males will be fierce with last weekend’s top film "Gridiron Gang" still playing to sports-loving boys and men while Jet Li’s new film "Fearless" will
steal away dudes who dig martial arts fighting, bones cracking, and necks breaking. Male dollars will be stretched to the limit this weekend and an already sluggish marketplace will mean that there will only be so much overall traffic. Busting into over 3,000 theaters, "Jackass: Number Two" will rank number one and may open with around $23M.


Mr. Knoxville and co. are back to cheat death and reason.

Also gunning for young men with R-rated fare is Focus Features with the historical martial arts actioner "Fearless" starring Jet Li. Already a hit at cinemas in Asia, Australia, and parts of Europe, the period pic tells the true story of a legendary fighter who inspired his nation in China at the start of the twentieth century. With a bigger star in the lead, "Fearless" is sure to perform better than Tony Jaa‘s Thai actioner "The Protector" which bowed to just $5M two weeks earlier. Li has a consistently loyal fan following that is likely to turn out especially since the marketing campaign is pushing the claim that this is his final martial arts film ever. This tactic gives the pic a level of urgency, although it should not mean much to those outside of his fan base. Crossover potential to mainstream action fans is not very likely, though the actor’s pull with urban males should not be underestimated.

Still, Li has posted some impressive numbers in his career. Each of his six films from this decade has launched with an opening weekend average of at least $5,500 with five having averaged more than $6,000. His last effort "Unleashed" bowed last summer to $10.9M and a solid $5,570 average while 2004’s Chinese blockbuster "Hero" conquered the North American charts for two straight weeks bowing to an impressive $18M and $8,865 average. Foreign language films pretty much never do that in the U.S. market. "Fearless" will not duplicate the success of "Hero" which used the "Quentin Tarantino Presents" tag to attract extra biz. Plus with "Jackass" taking away many young men this weekend, only the true followers will make it out. But reviews have been very positive (the best for any new
release) and advance buzz from overseas has been encouraging too. Kicking its way into roughly 1,806 theaters, "Fearless" might debut to about $9M.


Jet Li inviting us to his last Martial Arts flick.

World War I bi-planes are the draw in "Flyboys," a new historical action adventure being released by MGM. The PG-13 film stars James Franco as a courageous American pilot in France who devotes his life to fighting for the Allies. With a high pricetag and no proven stars that can sell in America, this is yet another risky period film packed into the slow month of September. The "inspired by a true story" description used by half of the films in the current top ten is once again in play here. With sex and bad language kept to a minimum, "Flyboys" hopes to appeal to a broad family audience so adults can bring their kids. However, the starpower and subject matter are both lacking making this a tough sell at the box office especially since the marketplace is already filled with mediocre product. Zooming into 2,033 theaters, "Flyboys" might climb to around $7M over the weekend.


The real star of "Flyboys": the CGI.

After taking a beating at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sony’s remake "All the King’s Men" enters the marketplace on Friday with more subdued expectations. The PG-13 reworking of the classic 1949 political thriller stars Sean Penn as a charismatic politician from the South who gains power and flirts with corruption in the process. The all-star cast also includes Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, and James Gandolfini. Distributors often utilize the Toronto fest to generate buzz for their Oscar contenders right before their fall commercial openings, but in this case, it seemed to have backfired with so many reviewers panning the pic. "Men" should play exclusively to a mature adult audience as teens will yawn at the premise. The marketplace has been flooded with period dramas in recent weeks with "The Black Dahlia," "Hollywoodland," and "The Illusionist" all going after the same audience. Competition will be a major factor.

Sony is not giving its usual saturation release to "King’s Men," but instead campaigning in just 1,514 theaters this weekend hoping some positive buzz will spread. The lack of screens will keep the gross in check and the bad reviews should sting even more. Last weekend, "Dahlia" found out the hard way how far a serious film for adults can go when the critics give a thumbs down. The film’s starpower is about its only major asset right now, but will it be enough to make moviegoers risk their dollars? With negative press, an abundance of direct competition, and only a moderate amount of theaters, "All the King’s Men" could find itself with only $7M this weekend and a rocky road ahead.


Sean Penn’s politician wins over his constituents, but not the critics.

In limited release, The Weinstein Co. unleashes its horror flick "Feast" in 140 theaters with special midnight shows across the country on Friday and Saturday. The latest winner from the Project Greenlight series is directed by John Gulager and finds a group of people trapped inside a bar fighting off flesh-eating creatures. Filmmaker Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") returns to the surreal with "The Science of Sleep," a new fantasy drama starring Gael García Bernal ("The Motorcycle Diaries") as a man whose dreams collide with reality. Warner Independent is opening the film on Friday in eight major U.S. markets and will expand it across the country next weekend. Miramax platforms its futuristic sci-fi toon "Renaissance" in New York and Los Angeles. Set in Paris in the year
2054, the R-rated tale is the latest film to bring the look of a graphic novel to the big screen.

Last weekend’s top film "Gridiron Gang" is sure to lose its first place ranking. The Rock‘s films never have very good legs on the second weekend as evidenced by the sophomore declines of his recent films – 48% for 2003’s "The Rundown," 46% for 2004’s "Walking Tall," and a horrendous 73% for last fall’s "Doom." While "Gang" was not a favorite with critics, it has been getting favorable responses from moviegoers so its drop this weekend may not be too bad. Competition for young males will be a factor with the dueling R pics "Jackass" and "Fearless," but younger boys may still be up for an uplifting football tale. "Gridiron Gang" might see a decline of 45% to around $8M giving Sony a reasonable ten-day cume of $25M.

Universal’s murder mystery "The Black Dahlia" was not too powerful in its opening last weekend and both critics and moviegoers are giving negative feedback. A 50% fall would leave the Brian De Palma flick with $5M for the frame and a weak $18M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: One A-list Hollywood blonde replaced another at the top of the charts. Jodie Foster‘s kidnapping thriller "Flightplan" flew to number one opening with a strong $24.6M. The Buena Vista release went on to gross $89.7M making it the top-grossing film in the September-October corridor for 2005. In second place, Warner Bros. expanded its animated film "Corpse Bride" nationally taking in $19.1M. The Tim BurtonJohnny Depp collaboration found its way to $53.4M. Reese Witherspoon fell from first to third with her comedy "Just Like Heaven" which collected $9.6M. Opening in fourth place with moderate results was the skating drama "Roll Bounce" which bowed to $7.6M on its way to $17.4M from less than 1,700 theaters. Close behind in fifth was the hit thriller "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" with $7.5M in its third round.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Wrestler-turned-actor The Rock suffered the worst opening of his career with the football drama Gridiron Gang, but thanks to weak competition, it was still enough to capture the number one position at the North American box office.

The new murder mystery The Black Dahlia bowed in second place with moderate results, but fellow freshmen Everyone’s Hero and The Last Kiss both failed to excite moviegoers. For the first time in over a year, only three movies were able to gross more than $5M during the frame. Overall ticket sales rose slightly from last weekend’s dismal showing, but still managed to post the second worst performance of 2006 giving the fall season a worrisome start.

For the third time in the last four weekends, football ruled the box office as Gridiron Gang topped the charts with an estimated $15M kickoff. Playing extremely wide in 3,504 theaters, the PG-13 drama averaged a decent $4,281 per site and gave The Rock the fifth number one opener of his career, but also his smallest debut ever. The action star continued to see diminishing returns on opening weekend with Gang which followed last fall’s Doom ($15.5M), 2004’s remake of Walking Tall ($15.5M), The Rundown ($18.5M) in 2003, and 2002’s The Scorpion King ($36.1M). The Rock also saw a $23.5M bow for 2005’s John Travolta flick Be Cool, but his comedic turn was only a supporting role.

In Gridiron Gang, the charismatic actor plays a juvenile detention camp counselor who inspires delinquent kids by coaching them in football. Budgeted at about $30M, the pic played to a younger and more male audience, as expected. Studio research showed that 52% of the crowd consisted of guys and 55% was under the age of 25. Reviews were not very good.

For Sony, Gang’s top spot bow marked the tenth number one opening of the year for the studio setting a new industry record. Having already banked over $1 billion in box office this year, Sony aims to extend its record performance with promising sequels like The Grudge 2 and Casino Royale which debut in October and November, respectively. The studio has opened a whopping 18 films so far in 2006, the most of any distributor. It has placed films in the top ten in all but two weekends this year.

September is often the worst month of the year at the box office as people shift their attention to other distractions like a new school year, a new television season, and the return of NFL football. But this year, the late summer and early fall have been especially slow at theaters. Over the past two months, only one film (Talladega Nights) has managed to open north of $30M. Four films did the deed during the same period in each of the last two years while five surpassed that mark in 2003.

Universal debuted its new crime thriller The Black Dahlia in second place with an estimated $10.4M. Playing in about 1,300 fewer theaters than Gridiron Gang, the Brian De Palma-directed pic averaged a moderate $4,655 per location giving it the best average among all the weekend’s wide releases. Starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, and Hilary Swank, Dahlia played to a mature adult audience with its tale of the investigation behind the brutal murder of a Hollywood starlet in the 1940s. The $60M film needed strong reviews to score with its target audience, but was met with little support from critics. In fact, the film scored only a 30% rating on RottenTomatoes.com’s critic scale which was even lower than Gridiron Gang’s 43%.

The weekend’s two other new national releases were mostly ignored by moviegoers. Fox opened its animated baseball kidpic Everyone’s Hero to an estimated $6.2M from a very wide 2,896 theaters. Co-directed by the late Christopher Reeve, the G-rated film averaged a soft $2,124 per site. 2006 has seen nearly a dozen toons invade the multiplexes. Hero’s opening ranks as the second worst of the year for an animated pic trailing only Doogal‘s $3.6M launch in February.

Paramount quietly opened its DreamWorks romantic comedy The Last Kiss in fourth place with only $4.7M, according to estimates. Landing in a mere 1,357 theaters, the R-rated film starring Zach Braff as a soon-to-be-dad with jitters averaged a mild $3,465 per location. Reviews were mixed.

Falling from first place was the supernatural teen thriller The Covenant which grossed an estimated $4.7M as well, off 47% from its debut. With $15.7M collected in ten days, Sony’s $20M pic could end its run with $24-26M. Another former number one, Buena Vista’s football drama Invincible, placed sixth with an estimated $3.9M, down only 31%, lifting the total to $50.9M.

A pair of solid word-of-mouth hits from smaller distributors followed. Yari Film Group’s period mystery The Illusionist slipped just 17% to an estimated $3.8M in its third weekend of wide release and upped its cume to $23.3M. Fox Searchlight’s indie hit Little Miss Sunshine became the company’s second-biggest grosser of all-time this weekend taking in an estimated $3.4M, down just 22%, raising the sum to $46.4M. The distributor’s only bigger hit has been 2004’s Sideways with $71.5M thanks to a prolonged Oscar run.

The George Reeves murder mystery Hollywoodland fell sharply in its second weekend tumbling 54% to an estimated $2.7M. Suffering the worst decline in the top ten, the Focus release has taken in a disappointing $10.5M in ten days and looks headed for a quick finish with only $15-17M. Rounding out the top ten was the Jason Statham actioner Crank with an estimated $2.7M as well, down 45%, giving Lionsgate $24.4M to date.

Buena Vista offered sneak previews in 800 theaters on Saturday for its upcoming marine adventure The Guardian and drew a well-balanced audience with males slightly edging out the women with 51% of the crowd. The Ashton KutcherKevin Costner pic played to 70% capacity and will officially open on September 29 opposite Sony’s animal toon Open Season and MGM’s comedy School for Scoundrels.

Arthouses were flooded with new product this weekend as a number of films platformed in hopes of generating strong indie buzz. Lionsgate got off to a good start with its documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon which debuted in only six theaters and grossed an estimated $72,000 for a solid $12,000 average. The film expands on September 29 into more than ten additional markets.

Proving once again that he is not much of a box office draw without pirates or Hobbits around, Orlando Bloom‘s new revenge thriller Haven flopped in its debut grossing an estimated $38,000 from 24 sites for a dismal $1,588 average for Yari Film Group. Fox Searchlight also struggled with its new wedding mockumentary Confetti which debuted to an estimated $20,000 from a dozen sites for a poor $1,701 average. Both films still plan to expand this Friday with Haven widening to about 75 theaters and Confetti falling into over 130 playdates.

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The Thai action pic The Protector grossed an estimated $2.5M in its sophomore frame falling 51% from its opening. The Weinstein Co. has kicked up $9M in ten days and should end up with only $13-15M. Nicolas Cage‘s suspense thriller The Wicker Man dropped 48% to an estimated $2.1M pushing the cume to a lukewarm $20.7M. The Warner Bros. title looks to complete its run with around $25M.

The summer’s top-grossing comedy, Tallageda Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, slipped 34% to an estimated $2M in its seventh lap and boosted its stellar total to $145M. Sony’s Will Ferrell smash could cross the $150M line before calling it quits. Paramount’s Barnyard, another late-summer hit, grossed an estimated $1.6M while also in its seventh weekend. Down 40%, the animated entry has laughed up $69.1M thus far and is headed for $72-74M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $57.4M which was down 14% from last year when Just Like Heaven debuted at number one with $16.4M; and down 4% from 2004 when Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow opened in the top spot with $15.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Tumbleweeds blew through North American theaters this weekend as movie fans forgot that there were films playing at their local cinemas. For the first time in three years, no film managed to generate at least $10M in weekend ticket sales. The new supernatural teen thriller "The Covenant" was able to top the charts while the murder mystery "Hollywoodland" debuted in the runnerup spot. The overall top ten crawled to its worst performance in three years as not a single wide release was able to generate at least $4,000 per theater.


"The Covenant" didn’t break $10M but still managed to lead the B.O.

Limping into first place with a not-so-impressive debut was "The Covenant" with an estimated $9M from 2,681 theaters. The Sony thriller averaged a sluggish $3,357 per playdate, but was big enough to lead the pack over such a weak frame. Budgeted at only $20M, the PG-13 pic features a group of young prep school warlocks who unleash supernatural powers when evil strikes. It was the studio’s ninth number one opening of 2006, but also the worst gross for a number one film since "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" debuted this very weekend in 2003 with a puny $6.7M.

Most of the box office deficit when compared to last year can be blamed on the mediocre debut of "Covenant" which took in less than one-third of the $30.1M bow the studio saw in 2005 this weekend with its last post-Labor Day scarefest "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." The rest of the top ten this weekend grossed a combined $40.4M which was almost identical to the $40.6M from the corresponding films from last year.


Adrien Brody shows who’s boss in "Hollywoodland."

Opening in second place was the crime thriller "Hollywoodland" with an estimated $6M from only 1,548 theaters for Focus. The R-rated tale examining the investigation behind the death of Superman actor George Reeves averaged a mild $3,881 per site. That was good enough to be the best average among all wide releases. Starring Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, and Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland" received mixed reviews from critics, but did manage to win the best actor prize over the weekend at the Venice International Film Festival for Affleck’s portrayal of Reeves.

Dropping from first to third place, Mark Wahlberg‘s two-time box office champ "Invincible" took in an estimated $5.8M falling a steep 52%. After 17 days, the Disney sports drama has scored $45.7M.

Bowing in fourth place was Thai action star Tony Jaa‘s "The Protector" with an estimated $5M from 1,541 sites. Averaging a lukewarm $3,265, the R-rated pic from The Weinstein Co. generated an opening weekend average similar to the $3,449 figure that Jaa’s "Ong Bak" posted last year when it opened to $1.3M from only 387 theaters.


Statham knows people in high places.

Action star Jason Statham‘s "Crank" dropped a hefty 54% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.8M pushing its cume to $19.9M. After ten days, the Lionsgate release is running slightly ahead of the $17.2M that Statham’s 2002 film "The Transporter" made during the same time period, but behind the $30.3M of its sequel from last year. Look for "Crank" to finish up with $27-30M. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten was the Edward Norton-Paul Giamatti mystery "The Illusionist" which dipped just 25% to an estimated $4.6M. Yari Film Group has collected $18.1M thus far.

Following close behind with an estimated $4.4M was Fox Searchlight’s "Little Miss Sunshine" which dropped 42%. Total to date is a solid $41.6M. Nicolas Cage‘s suspense thriller "The Wicker Man" fell 57% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.1M. With only $17.5M in ten days, the Warner Bros. release looks on course to reach a disappointing $25M.


"Talladega Nights" has a lot to cheer for.

"Talladega Nights," the highest-grossing film since Johnny Depp’s "Pirates" sequel set sail, dropped 51% in its sixth lap to an estimated $3M boosting Sony’s total to $142.2M. Rounding out the top ten was Paramount’s hit toon "Barnyard," the only major kidpic in release, which grossed an estimated $2.6M. Off 47%, the PG-rated comedy has grossed a healthy $66.9M to date.

Three August releases dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Paramount’s "World Trade Center" took in an estimated $2.5M, down 46%, for a $67.1M sum. The $65M Nicolas Cage drama should end with a solid $71-74M final. Universal’s teen comedy "Accepted" collected an estimated $2.5M as well, off 45%, and upped its total to $32.3M. A $35-37M final grade is in store for the $23M production.

Buena Vista’s surprise hit dance drama "Step Up" dropped 45% in its fifth weekend to an estimated $2.5M. With $61.6M in the bank, the teen pic looks to finish with around $65M.

The top ten films grossed a puny estimate of $49.4M which was down 30% from last year when "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" debuted at number one with $30.1M; and down 16% from 2004 when "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" opened in the top spot with $23M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we have Ben Affleck playing an actor who plays Superman on TV ("Hollywoodland"), Tony Jaa doing what he does best ("The Protector"), and four young men toying with witchcraft ("The Covenant"). What do the critics have to say?


Affleck as George Reeves romances Lane’s Toni Mannix, wife of MGM studio head Eddie Mannix.

More than a whodunit, "Hollywoodland" explores fame’s transience and the price paid in pursuit of it. The focus of this cautionary tale is George Reeeves (Ben Affleck), a struggling actor who finds notoriety as the Man of Steel on the ’50s TV series "The Adventures of Superman." Much to his dismay, kryptonite for actors turns out to be unemployment, as he finds it difficult to get roles because he’s so well known as Superman. His torrid love affair with the wife of MGM’s studio chief doesn’t help his cause, either. His death, caused by a bullet to the chest, remains shrouded in mystery: Was it suicide or murder? Critics say the movie doesn’t quite fly with its lumbering narrative, but the performers are in top form. As of this writing, "Hollywoodland" has a Tomatometer of 68%.


Say hello to my little friend…

Tony Jaa is out for revenge in the actioner "The Protector." Traveling from his native Thailand to Australia, he seeks those responsible for killing his father and kidnapping his elephants. For action junkies, Jaa’s acrobatics will thrill, but for those looking beyond the back flips and high kicks will find less to enjoy, critics say. "The Protector" currently sits at 55% on the Tomatometer.


Somebody forgot to bring the hot dog buns to this BBQ.

In "The Covenant," the descendants of five families with supernatural powers will settle an old score. Since the movie was not screened, we’ll have to wait to see what kind of spell it will weave on the critics. In the meantime, we can play our favorite game, Guess the Tomatometer!

Mad props to "Jbourne37," who edges out "Dionne Warwick" and "Gary Coleman" as our new favorite psychic friend. He/she came the closest to guessing the Tomatometer for both "Crank" and "Idiocracy." And let’s not forget "gerke," who correctly guessed the Tomatometer for "The Wicker Man."

Recent Ben Affleck Movies:
————————————
41% — Jersey Girl (2004)
07% — Surviving Christmas (2004)
44% — Daredevil (2003)
06% — Gigli (2003)

After welcoming in four new wide releases per week for seven straight weekends, the North American box office slows it down a bit on Friday with only one saturation release and a pair of moderate national bows.

Sony courts the teen horror crowd with its supernatural thriller "The Covenant." Meanwhile, Focus targets mature adults with the crime thriller "Hollywoodland" and The Weinstein Co. goes after the action audience with the martial arts pic "The Protector." With a slate of Labor Day weekend pics coming off of their lukewarm holiday performances, the overall marketplace is sure to be sluggish and could slump to its lowest point of the year.

Four prep school dudes learn of their ancestral powers and stir up some evil in the new teen chiller "The Covenant." Sort of a "Lost Boys" for today’s youth, the PG-13 film will target the horror audience as well as the back-to-school date crowd. Renny Harlin, who has seen highs with "Die Hard 2" and lows with "Cutthroat Island," directs. "Covenant" should play primarily to teens and young adults and Sony has a strong track record when it comes to attracting that crowd with these kinds of films. Last fall, the studio scored a big hit with "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" which bowed this very weekend with $30.1M, but saw more modest results with "The Fog" which opened in October with $11.8M. Each one still hit the top of the charts. The marketing push on "Covenant" has not been too fierce so a debut closer to "Fog’s" is likely. Competition for teens is not very strong at the moment so many should pick this for their weekend moviegoing choice. Attacking 2,681 theaters, "The Covenant" could scare up around $11M in ticket sales this weekend.


More teen-horror hijinks in "The Covenant"

Academy Award winner Adrien Brody plays a not-so-super sleuth in the 1950s who investigates the suicide death of Superman actor George Reeves in the new crime thriller "Hollywoodland." The R-rated Focus release also stars Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, and Bob Hoskins. After last year’s dominance at the Oscars by numerous indie flicks, "Hollywoodland" tries to get the awards season started early by getting a headstart over some of the fall’s other promising non-studio films. The casting of the "Gigli" star as the Man of Steel, however, might diminish its chances a bit as many industry voters won’t be able to help but snicker when the daredevil himself comes on screen. Mature adults will be the target audience and women might outnumber the guys by a small margin. The film’s subject matter will certainly be intriguing for film industry folks, but it will be a tougher sell to mainstream moviegoers. "Hollywoodland" will have to reach its audience in a hurry as parent company Universal will target the exact same crowd with its ensemble-driven period crime mystery "The Black Dahlia" a week later. Debuting in moderate national release in 1,548 theaters, "Hollywoodland" might capture about $8M this weekend.


Adrien Brody gets rough while investigating the death of tv’s Superman

The "Quentin Tarantino Presents" marketing technique is back once again with the Thai martial arts pic "The Protector" starring Tony Jaa. The R-rated film from The Weinstein Co. finds the acrobatic action star seeking revenge on those who wronged his people. Jaa’s "Ong Bak" made a moderate splash at the North American box office last year when it opened to $1.3M from 387 theaters for a mild $3,449 average on its way to a $4.6M domestic take. A year and a half later, more American action fans know of Jaa, though he’s still far from a sizable draw. Two years ago, the Weinsteins saw stellar results when using the "Pulp Fiction" director’s
name in the marketing of Jet Li‘s "Hero" which ended up topping the box office for two straight weeks on its way to a $53.6M gross. Lionsgate also used the QT tactic to drive in business for its horror pic "Hostel" last January which also bowed in the top spot. "Protector" will appeal mostly to young men who love martial arts and crossover to other groups is unlikely. The second weekend of "Crank" will draw upon many of the same folks so competition will be tough. Fighting its way into around 1,400 theaters, "The Protector" might kick up about $6M this weekend.


Tony Jaa, doing his own stunts, in "The Protector"

More independent films open in New York on Friday hoping to expand further around the country in coming weeks. Polychrome Pictures debuts the Asian American pic "Red Doors" in a pair of Manhattan locations. The dysfunctional family pic won the top prize at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Film Philos goes into one solo house with the coffee cart vendor drama "Man Push Cart" which world premiered at Sundance last winter.

"Invincible‘s" undefeated season should come to an end this weekend as the Disney sports drama enters its third outing. A 40% decline would see the Mark Wahlberg pic gross around $7M pushing the 17-day cume to $47M. After a second place bow over the weekend, the Lionsgate actioner "Crank" pumped itself up to the top spot on Tuesday with solid midweek business. Jason Statham saw his "Transporter 2" fall 55% a year ago when it came off of its Labor Day debut. "Crank" could see a slightly smaller drop. A 50% tumble would give the poison pic roughly $5M for the sophomore frame and a ten-day sum of $20M.

Nicolas Cage‘s "The Wicker Man" did not make too much of a dent at the box office last weekend. A 45% drop to around $5M seems likely giving Warner Bros. only $19M in ten days. Indie sensation "Little Miss Sunshine" should step back a bit after a strong Labor Day frame and could slide 30% to $5M as well. That would lift the cume for the year’s most recommended film to $42M making it the fifth biggest hit in company history for Fox Searchlight after "Sideways" ($71.5M), "The Full Monty" ($45.9M), "28 Days Later" ($45.1M), and "Napoleon Dynamite" ($44.5M). In another week, it will vault to number two for the Fox subsidiary.

LAST YEAR: Sony scored a huge surprise winner with the suspense thriller "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" which bowed bigger than expected with a hefty $30.1M grossing more than the next five films combined. The fright flick went on to scare up a sturdy $75.1M. Comedy sensation "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" followed in second with $7.7M in its fourth date while "Transporter 2" fell from first to third with $7.4M. The political drama "The Constant Gardener" and the airline thriller "Red Eye" rounded out the top five with $4.7M and $4.5M, respectively. Samuel L. Jackson debuted poorly in sixth with his action-comedy "The Man" which took in a weak $4.1M on its way to just $8.3M for New Line.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

On the day I was planning to leave for vacation, I was given the task to interview Tony Jaa at the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco in the early morning. He was in the area promoting "The Protector" (aka "Tom Yum Goong"), his follow-up to his breakthrough martial arts hit "Ong Bak." Being a huge fan of his work, how could I refuse? Read on for tidbits about "Rush Hour 3," "Indiana Jones 4," and "Ong Bak 2."

Since I had read pretty much every interview he did for "The Protector" when it originally opened in Thailand and neighboring territories last year, I really didn’t have much else to ask regarding the film, so we took the opportunity to discuss his potential upcoming projects.

Indiana Jones 4
Tony Jaa listed Steven Spielberg as one of his favorite directors, so it wasn’t too surprising to learn that the Indiana Jones movies are among his favorites as well. In a spectacular chase sequence from "Ong Bak," there’s a message on a wall that reads: "Hi Spielberg, let[‘s] do it together." A disappointed Jaa revealed that he has yet to hear from Spielberg (who can blame him, the message is a bit ambiguous). Asked if he would be interested in taking a role in the upcoming fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, he enthusiastically answered, "Yes! Yes! Very interested!" before the question was even finished.

Rush Hour 3
Tony Jaa grew up watching Jackie Chan films and named him as one of his major influences. Brett Ratner had mentioned recently in interviews that he would love to have Tony Jaa in "Rush Hour 3." Ratner had actually called and discussed this with Jaa’s manager and agent a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, they had to turn it down. Jaa will be extremely busy starring in and directing (his first project as helmer) the sequel to "Ong Bak" around the same time. He said he would love to work with Ratner in future projects, though.

Ong Bak 2
He was not allowed to say too much (especially with his manager there), but he did have a few tidbits to share. It will be a period piece and will showcase Muay Thai unlike anything that’s been done before. It will also feature lots of ancient Thai weapons.

Stay tuned for the full interview and a video of his Muay Thai demonstration in the coming weeks. In the mean time, head over to the photo gallery for pics of Jaa’s demo.