For those about to doc, we salute you! Because this week you’ll be joining the king of merciless cool, director Jim Jarmusch, whose new documentary Gimme Danger captures the raw power and influence of Iggy Pop and the Stooges. In addition, there’s Oasis: Supersonic, chronicling the ’90s rise of the Gallagher brothers/musicians/alleged potato. These movies serve as the inspiration for this week’s 24 Frames: Certified Fresh rock documentaries…and remember, a gallery like this goes to 11 (and by 11, we mean 27).

This week, we’re taking it to the screen with Alien vs.
Predator: Requiem
, the latest mash up of modern sci-fi’s two coolest franchises
in a winner-take-all battle royale. Why are they duking it out on Earth? Why not?
Just check out some of our eternal feuds. Boys versus girls. Cats versus dogs.
The left versus the right. Fresh versus rotten. Seeing how the world loves to
crash opposites against each other and watch the sparks fly, here’s a sample of
10 more memorable title fights, all taking place in the silver screen coliseum.
Get your tickets (and DVDs) now!

Wife Versus Secretary (1936)

The set-up: Clark Gable stars as Van Stanhope,
magazine industrialist with a godsend of a secretary named Whitey (Jean Harlow).
Talk slowly bubbles that a secretary that gorgeous can’t be without some special
talents not listed on her resume, which begins to influence Stanhope’s wife,
Linda (Myrna Loy). Stanhope digs himself deeper into trouble with wife through a
series of delightful misunderstandings in this prime example of old Hollywood
upscale comedy and sharp ratatat dialogue.

Winner: Secretary. Everybody gets their happy ending, but I
honestly never trusted Clark Gable, what with his pomade-doused hair and creepy
thin mustache. The secretary gets the better deal — she drives off into the
evening with her beau, played by a little known actor named James Stewart.

Gamera vs. Monster X (1970)

The set-up: Never mind the mindless lumbering and
random fire belching of Godzilla, give me Gamera the turtle any day. Gamera has
motivations. Feelings. Now if only the helpless citizens of Japan
could figure out what those were. In Gamera vs. Monster X, excavations on a
small island accidentally resurrect Gamera’s nemesis, a scaled lizard that can
microwave buildings with a heat ray and shoot pointy things from its horns. In
comes Gamera to save the day, never mind that Japanese army is constantly trying
to murderlize his hide. The movie hits its high point when Gamera gets injected with
Monster X larvae and two children (children always sympathize with the
misunderstood gentle giant) take a mini-sub into his lungs for some emergency
surgery.

Winner: The global community. May we always have
enormous rubber
monsters and bugs to admire!

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

The set-up: A box office success, now somewhat
unfairly marginalized as one of those Best Picture winners that
stole the award from clearly superior movies (in this case, Apocalypse Now).
Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep star as Ted and Joanna Kramer, a New York couple
whose marriage is shaken when Joanna suddenly leaves Ted and their son, Billy.
Indeed, this is no Apocalypse Now. But it is a clean-cut melodrama with tense
domestic scenes as Ted and Billy slowly assemble a relationship. The title fight
refers to the third-act custody battle that ensues when Joanna returns as a more
whole woman and demands her child back.

Winner: Kramer.

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

The set-up: Tom Hanks made a lot of weird comedies
during his early "funny" period (The ‘burbs, Bonfire of the Vanities,
Splash), but none were weirder than Joe Versus the Volcano. After a
fantastically stylized intro depicting the daily grind of factory life, Tom
Hanks’ Joe goes to a Pacific island on a business trip where he meets Meg Ryan
(their first pairing), makes a raft out of steamer trunks (twice!), gets
married, and sacrifices himself to the volcano to appease island natives.

Winner: Tie. In a cute plot twist at the end, both
Joe and the volcano get their final comeuppance.

Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995)

The set-up: Since only the most devoted geek can
keep track of all the Godzilla flicks since the 1954 debut, the franchise
reboots every several decades to renew interest and attract new fans. In the
final installment of this mini-series (which ran approximately from the mid-80s
to 90s), Godzilla faces one of his toughest (and most popular) enemies:
Destroyah, a crustacean mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer that defeated the
original Godzilla. Intriguing fact: 1995’s production values for monster movies
seem to be even less than in 1954.

Winner: In a rare TKO, Destroyah survives long enough to
witness Godzilla succumb to total nuclear meltdown. But then enters Godzilla
Junior…

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

The set-up: After shedding his lovable buffoon image
with Natural Born Killers, Woody Harrelson continued his hot streak playing
sleazy weirdos in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Garnering his only Oscar
nomination in the process, Harrelson portrays Hustler magnate Flynt beginning
with his origins running strip joints to his rise to infamy, his marriage to
Althea Flynt (Courtney Love), the assassination attempt that has left him
wheelchair-bound, and his various run-ins with the law, culminating in a
mega-publicized court battle with Jerry Falwell. Harrelson plays Flynt that
elicits from the audience a canny mix of disgust and curious empathy.

Winner: Larry Flynt, on appeal to the Fourth Circuit. But
with immature smut still available on newsstands at low, low prices, couldn’t
you say everybody wins?

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

The set-up: Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu star as Ecks and
Sever, two agents manipulated into killing each other. After some slo-mo action
shots and an overused techno soundtrack, Ecks and Sever realize they’re better
off working together. And then cue a lot more slo-mo action shots and more
grating techno music. All this without a single coherent moment. Rotten Tomatoes
normally isn’t in the business of recommending crappy movies (even in the name
of irony), but an exception will be made for the Worst-Reviewed
Movie of All Time
.

Winner: Drinking game participants who need something new
to endure, having already done Commando, Street Fighter, and Master of the
Flying Guillotine
.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

The set-up: After years of setbacks and writer’s blocks
looking for a plot that could host both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, New
Line settled on a story about parents medicating their kids so they can’t dream
and fall prey to Krueger. The entire city? Without anybody knowing?
That’s the best they could come up with? Insane set-up aside, Freddy vs. Jason
gives exactly what horror fans want (decent kills, a bit of T & A) along with a
few surprises: the movie has some of the strongest characters in a Jason movie
since Crispin Glover‘s awkward loser in Friday the 13th: The Final
Chapter
.

Winner: Since the winking, ambiguous final shot puts into
question who wins, it boils down to a matter of opinion. People who like Freddy
think he won, while people who prefer (the far awesomer) Jason argue in his
favor.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)

The set-up: John Lennon‘s transformation from mischievous
musician/political activist to perceived national threat by the Nixon
administration is captured in this 96 minute cheer-a-thon for the former Beatle.
Though there’s little educational value in the documentary since few dissidents
are featured among the interviewees, this is an undeniably fun ride through pop
politics with rich archival footage and the image of a flustered Tricky Dick
frightened by a guy who stages bed-ins.

Winner: John. Books, albums, apparel and whatever else
Lennon merch Ono can farm out continue to sell. The best Nixon can hope for
nowadays is ripe Futurama caricatures.

Eagle vs Shark (2007)

The set-up: At an animal dress-up party, Jarrod, gussied up
as an eagle, and shark-sporting Lily hook up. What ensues is a back-and-forth
battle of twits as the two try to navigate a relationship amidst commitment
phobias and Jarrod’s half-baked plan to take revenge on a childhood bully. Popsters The Phoenix Foundation provides a well-used soundtrack and animated
interludes of a walking apple core flesh out the film. Eagle vs. Shark is often
cited as the virulent New Zealand strain of the Napoleon Dynamite epidemic,
which is a simplistic and rather lazy criticism. Sure, it’s quirky and full of
misfit characters, but framing the movie through the girl’s perspective gives
the movie unexpected poignancy that elevates it above indie genre fare.

Winner: A tie match. Even the apple gets its
sunset.

Ashton Kutcher ambushed the top two spots at the North American box office this weekend playing an animated mule and a Coast Guard rookie in Open Season and The Guardian, respectively. Both films enjoyed strong openings pumping in a combined $40M and helped the marketplace beat last year’s levels for the first time in four weeks. The weekend’s other new wide release, the comedy School for Scoundrels, saw more modest results with a fourth place bow.

Sony claimed its usual position atop the charts with the animated comedy Open Season which brought in an estimated $23M in ticket sales over the weekend. Hunting moviegoers in an ultrawide 3,833 theaters, the PG-rated film about funny forest animals fighting off hunters averaged a strong $6,001 per site. Open Season marked the first venture from the studio’s new in-house animation division which will compete in the years ahead with dominant players in CG toons like Pixar and DreamWorks. Martin Lawrence and Kutcher led the voice cast.

Sony research showed that 77% of the crowd consisted of parents with children under the age of 12, while girls were a bigger force making up 56% of the audience. A high 89% marked the film "excellent" or "very good". With strong exit polls and the Columbus Day school holiday coming up next week, the $85M film hopes to last throughout the month of October. For the studio, it was Sony’s record eleventh number one opening of the year. Of the company’s twenty film releases in the first nine months of 2006, half have debuted north of $20M.

Kutcher’s face and body showed up in the weekend’s number two film, the Coast Guard action drama The Guardian, which opened with an estimated $17.7M. Also starring Kevin Costner, the Buena Vista release averaged a solid $5,451 per theater from 3,241 sites. The starpower helped bring in moviegoers who in turn liked the film. The Guardian earned an impressive CinemaScore grade of A-. Studio research showed that 50% of the crowd was in the 26-49 age bracket while males outnumbered the ladies with 53% of the audience. For Costner, who has not been a major box office force in over a decade, it was actually his best opening since Waterworld‘s $21.2M debut in 1995. Kutcher has seen many films debut in the same ballpark like The Butterfly Effect with $17.1M, Just Married with $17.5M, and Guess Who with $20.7M.

Falling an understandable 52% from its top spot debut, Jackass: Number Two finished the weekend in third place with an estimated $14M. With $51.5M in ten days, the $12M production should deliver $70-75M for Paramount plus healthy DVD revenue down the road. The first Jackass film grossed $42.1M in its first ten days on its way to a $64.3M cume in 2002.

Earning passing grades in fourth place was the Billy Bob ThorntonJon Heder comedy School for Scoundrels which opened to an estimated $9.1M. Playing in 3,004 theaters, the PG-13 film about a young loser who seeks advice from an older pro on how to get women averaged a mild $3,032 per site. Reviews were not too encouraging for the MGM release.

Jet Li‘s Fearless dropped a steep 56% in its second weekend and placed fifth with an estimated $4.7M. The action star’s "final" martial arts epic has grossed $17.8M in ten days and looks headed for about $26M. Each of Li’s last five films also fell by more than half on its sophomore frame.

Sony’s football drama Gridiron Gang fell 52% to an estimated $4.5M pushing its cume to $33.2M. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten for the fourth consecutive weekend was the sleeper hit The Illusionist with $2.8M, off only 15%, for a total of $31.5M for Yari Film Group. MGM’s fighter pilot adventure Flyboys tumbled 61% in its second weekend to an estimated $2.3M. With only $9.9M in ten days, a final take of around $14M seems likely.

Yet another period drama The Black Dahlia followed with an estimated $2.1M, down 54%, giving Universal only $20.7M to date. Rounding out the top ten with the biggest cume on the list was indie sensation Little Miss Sunshine with an estimated $2M, off 28%, for a total of $53.2M for Fox Searchlight. The acclaimed comedy has now matched megablockbusters Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Da Vinci Code, and Cars by spending seven consecutive weekends in the top ten.

A pair of critically-acclaimed dramas about world leaders opened to fantastic results in limited release. Miramax launched its Helen Mirren starrer The Queen on Saturday and grossed an estimated $123,000 from just three New York theaters for a potent two-day average of $41,000. The story of Queen Elizabeth II after the death of Princess Diana was double-screened at a pair of the arthouse venues and opened a day later than usual since on Friday it screened as the opening night film of the New York Film Festival. Mirren won the Best Actress prize at the Venice International Film Festival and is considered a major contender for an Oscar nod.

Also a likely Academy Award nominee, but for the Best Actor trophy, was Forest Whitaker whose new film The Last King of Scotland debuted powerfully with an estimated $143,000 over three days from only four venues in New York and Los Angeles. The Fox Searchlight release finds Whitaker playing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the early 1970s. Since its Wednesday launch, Scotland has grossed $172,000 in five days and will expand into the top ten markets on Friday before spreading nationally on October 20.

Posting a respectable debut in moderate national release was the football drama Facing the Giants which collected an estimated $1.4M from 441 theaters for a mild $3,150 average. The PG-rated pic about a coach who finds inspiration from God was released by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Warner Independent Pictures expanded its Michel Gondry pic The Science of Sleep from 14 to 221 theaters nationwide and grossed an estimated $1.2M. Averaging a solid $5,475 per location, the R-rated drama lifted its sum to $1.7M. Lionsgate widened its doc The U.S. vs. John Lennon grossing an estimated $210,000 from 57 sites for a moderate $3,684 average. Cume stands at $361,000.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s big fall flop All the King’s Men crumbled 56% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.6M giving the political drama a puny $6.3M in ten days. Rejected by audiences, the Sean Penn flick should finish its run quickly with a horrendous $9M. The studio’s supernatural teen thriller The Covenant fell 59% to an estimated $1.3M and upped its total to $22.2M. A $25M final should result for the $20M production. Fox’s baseball toon Everyone’s Hero got crushed by the arrival of Open Season and sank 79% to an estimated $1M. With a modest $13.2M thus far, the animated film could end up with only $15M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.2M which was up 15% from last year when Flightplan remained at number one with $14.8M; but down 17% from 2004 when Shark Tale opened in the top spot with a fierce $47.6M.

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

Following the worst box office weekend in three years, Hollywood has nowhere to go but up. It hopes.

Four new pictures enter wide release on Friday led by the sports drama "Gridiron Gang" from Sony which is gunning for its tenth trip to the number one spot this year. Universal goes after an older crowd with the crime thriller "The Black Dahlia," Fox aims for kids with the animated film "Everyone’s Hero," and Paramount tries to court the adult date crowd with "The Last Kiss." Overall, the North American marketplace should bounce back from last weekend’s horrible showing, but only by a small margin.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson hopes to score the fifth number one opening of his career this weekend with the football saga "Gridiron Gang." The PG-13 film finds the wrestler-turned-actor playing a juvenile camp officer who assembles a pigskin squad in order to give lost kids some hope in life. Sony is targeting one of the most reliable moviegoing segments with "Gang" – urban youth. With a young and multicultural cast, plus a star in the lead role, this new film hopes to appeal to the same crowd that made hits out of other sports flicks like "Remember the Titans" and "Coach Carter." Of course, the star this time is not an Oscar-caliber actor. "Gang’s" marketing push has been strong and an ultrawide release will make the product available everywhere.


Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in "Gridiron Gang."

The Rock provides solid starpower, although his box office muscle in recent years has delivered openings in a very narrow range. Pics like "The Rundown," "Walking Tall," and "Doom" have all debuted within the $15-19M range. "Gridiron Gang’s" rating should open the doors to a wider audience and with the start of the NFL and college football seasons, the subject matter is very relevant at this time of year. Plus with a dead marketplace featuring choices that are exciting nobody, teens and young adults should find this one the only film worth rallying behind. Charging into 3,504 locations, "Gridiron Gang" will have no problem conquering the box office and could score around $17M this weekend.

Moviegoers opting for a trip back to the 1940s instead of a football pic can choose Brian De Palma‘s "The Black Dahlia" which Universal opens on Friday. The R-rated thriller stars Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart as Los Angeles cops investigating the mysterious death of a young woman chopped in half and disemboweled. Scarlett Johansson and two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank take the token female roles. Just as with "Hollywoodland" which bowed last weekend, "Dahlia" will play to an older adult audience interested in LA-based crime noir pics from the mid twentieth century. Unlike with the younger-skewing "Gridiron Gang," reviews will play a big part in the success or failure of "Dahlia." This one needs more support from critics than it’s getting in order to become a commercial winner. Starpower is certainly there, but the subject matter may not pique the interest of adults across all 50 states. Add in competition for the target audience plus an overall slowdown in moviegoing activity and it may be hard for the studio to break even on this one. "The Black Dahlia" enters 2,224 theaters and might collect around $9M this weekend.


Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart are on the case in "The Black Dahlia."

Following this summer’s "Superman Returns" and last week’s George Reeves mystery "Hollywoodland," the Man of Steel spotlight now turns to the late Christopher Reeve whose final project, the animated sports tale "Everyone’s Hero," makes its way into theaters on Friday. With voices provided by Rob Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, and William H. Macy, the G-rated flick tells of a boy on a mission to retrieve Babe Ruth’s stolen bat. Reeve co-directed with Colin Brady and Dan St. Pierre. Fox will be looking to attract kids and Little League coach parents with "Hero." The film is not registering too high on the priority lists of children. But the studio does have one thing working in its favor – the current marketplace has nothing major for children. And don’t expect the other new releases to appeal to the family crowd either. Opening surprisingly wide in 2,896 theaters, "Everyone’s Hero" could score around $7M this weekend.


The animated Babe Ruth in Christopher Reeve’s "Everyone’s Hero."

TV stars Zach Braff of NBC’s "Scrubs" and Rachel Bilson of Fox’s "The O.C." join forces on the big screen in "The Last Kiss" which Paramount inherited from its DreamWorks tie-up. The R-rated remake of an Italian film about a man in the early stages of a mid-life crisis also stars Casey Affleck, Blythe Danner, and Tom Wilkinson. The marketing push behind "Kiss" has been lacking so look for the romantic dramedy to become a small blip on the box office radar this weekend. Adult women will make up the primary audience making period pics "Dahlia" and "Hollywoodland" direct competitors. Consumer excitement is pretty low for "The Last Kiss" which heads into only 1,100 theaters. A weekend gross of roughly $4M could result.


Zach Braff and that chick from "The Real World" in "The Last Kiss."

The new fall season brings a flood of activity in limited-release action. Balcony Releasing got the frame started on Wednesday with its New York opening of the political doc "Al Franken: God Spoke" which adds a second Manhattan venue on Friday. The raunchy softball comedy "Artie Lange’s Beer League" opens on Friday in about 175 theaters. With Ralph Macchio in the cast, the R-rated Echo Bridge release should find itself stuck in six-digit territory. Yari Film Group unleashes the Cayman Islands-set drama "Haven," which stars Orlando Bloom and Bill Paxton, into 24 theaters across the country.

The mockumentary wedding comedy "Confetti" bows in a dozen sites from Fox Searchlight. American troops in Iraq are the focus of the Focus Features documentary "The Ground Truth" which attacks eight theaters. Lionsgate offers up its own non-fiction flick "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" in six playdates examining the Beatles icon’s rage against the establishment.

Sony’s ninth number one of the year "The Covenant" looks to get booted out of the top spot by the studio’s tenth chart-topper. A 50% drop would give the teen thriller about $4.5M for the frame and a modest ten-day cume of $15M. "Hollywoodland" lacked strength in its debut and will now face a direct hit from "Dahlia" so a 45% decline could be in order. That would give Focus around $3.5M over the weekend putting the total at a weak $11M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: Reese Witherspoon captured the number one spot with her latest comedy "Just Like Heaven" which grossed $16.4M on its way to $48.3M for DreamWorks. Sony’s surprise suspense hit "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" lost half its business and dropped to second with $14.9M in its sophomore frame. Nicolas Cage bowed in third with his new actioner "Lord of War" with $9.4M. The Lions Gate release reached $24.1M. Steve Carell enjoyed his fifth week in the top five with "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" which laughed up $6M. The horror pic "Cry Wolf" bowed poorly in fifth with only $4.4M leading to a $10M finish.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com