We’re already well aware that actor Thomas Jane has walked away from the "Punisher" sequel, but now comes word that a new director might be attached.

One source indicates that the new director will be John Dahl, the man who gave you "Red Rock West," "The Last Seduction," "Joy Ride," "The Great Raid," and "Rounders." (OK, and "Unforgettable.") He also has "You Kill Me" hitting screens this summer.

We’re also assured that the villain Jigsaw will make an appearance in "The Punisher 2." (No, not that Jigsaw.) Now all they need is a leading man. Any suggestions from the Tomato patch?

Source: Freeze Dried Movies

Another frame packed with four new national releases is led by Oliver Stone‘s 9/11 drama "World Trade Center" from Paramount. A trio of lower profile pics round out the weekend – Sony’s family adventure "Zoom," Buena Vista’s teen drama "Step Up," and The Weinstein Company’s horror flick "Pulse." Despite all the new entries, Will Ferrell will try to win the box office title for the second consecutive time with his comedy "Talladega Nights" which has been racing well ahead of its competition since opening last weekend.

Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Maria Bello star in the high-profile story of courage "World Trade Center" which Paramount debuted on Wednesday. The PG-13 film tells the real life story of John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, two Port Authority cops who were trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers on September 11. Rather than focus on any villains, "WTC" only tells the story of ordinary men put into extraordinary circumstances and how their families coped. Mature adults will make up the primary audience. Teen appeal seems limited. Since the box office is currently lacking choices for older adults, the Oliver Stone film will not face much direct competition. Men and women will be equally drawn to this emotionally-charged story of heroism.

There will be many moviegoers that will find it to be too soon for a film about a tragedy just approaching its fifth anniversary. However, curiousity will bring out others looking for an uplifting story about that fateful Tuesday morning. "WTC" should appeal to many of the same people who turned out for 2004’s "Ladder 49." That film featured Cage’s "Face/Off" nemesis John Travolta as a noble firefighter and just told a tale about American heroes doing the right thing for each other, and not really dwelling on any enemy. "Ladder" bowed to $22.1M over three days.

Center will also be compared to April’s United 93 which was the first Hollywood film to tackle 9/11. With a subdued release in under 1,800 locations, that pic opened well with $11.5M and a solid $6,395 average. "WTC" has more theaters, more starpower in front of and behind the camera, and is not as grim. Reviews have mostly been good which will help. Long-term prospects are encouraging since the rest of August has nothing major for mature adults. Now playing in 2,803 theaters, "World Trade Center" might open with about $18M over the weekend and around $24M over five days.

Tim Allen plays an ex-super hero who is called upon to train a group of slacker kids in Sony’s new family film "Zoom." The PG-rated pic will have plenty of competition as it marks the fourth consecutive week that studios have rolled out movies aimed at young ones. Only this time, it isn’t a toon. Allen has always been a consistent draw in this genre, most notably in his "Santa Clause" movies which sees its third installment this coming holiday season. Earlier this year, he starred in the Disney remake "The Shaggy Dog" which bowed to $16.3M in March. "Zoom," which co-stars Courteney Cox and Chevy Chase, will not reach that level as it is not generating as much excitement. Plus the volume on the marketing push has been typical of a mid-August opener. Flying into 2,501 theaters, "Zoom" might debut with around $9M.

Hollywood seems to have written a new rule stating that 9/11 films must be counter-programmed with teen-girl pics that explore popular extracurricular activities. "United 93" opened against the gymnastics comedy "Stick It," and now "WTC" will face Buena Vista’s "Step Up" which finds a ballerina and a tough street dancer locking hips. The PG-13 film will play primarily to young females and the studio is hoping to score another low-cost hit like Disney’s April comedy which debuted to a better-than-expected $10.8M. "Step Up" lacks marquee stars, but does offer some faces that add value when it comes to the Clearasil crowd. The bad boy meets good girl formula is once again tested and little crossover to older patrons is likely. Competition for teens and young adults is ample so a breakout bow may not surface, but a respectable showing is likely. Dancing into 2,100 theaters, "Step Up" could debut to around $8M.

Supernatural beasties attack us innocent humans through cell phones and email in the new horror flick "Pulse." The PG-13 film is aimed at teens that have seen every other film and want some quick thrills before heading back to school. With no major stars, and a concept that is far from intriguing, the Weinstein Co. release should be in for some modest dollars over the weekend. "The Descent" will be "Pulse’s" major foe, but like most fright flicks, the chicks-in-a-cave movie should tumble down further on the charts in its second weekend. "Step Up" and "Talladega Nights" will also be distracting teens. Opening in 2,326 theaters, "Pulse" might scare up about $8M this weekend.

In foreign film releases, Yash Raj Films opens the all-star Bollywood film "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" (Never Say Goodbye) in top markets across North America. Shot in New York, the Hindi-language film explores the breakdown of marital bonds. Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro ("Central Station") headlines "The House of Sand" which Sony Classics platforms in New York and Los Angeles this Friday. The story of three generations of women in the barren lands of northern Brazil played at the Tribeca Film Festival and will roll out into more cities throughout the rest of summer.

Last weekend’s box office champ "Talladega Nights" hopes to retain its crown in its second lap. The Will Ferrell hit is sure to see a large decline, but competition for teens and young adults is not too fierce. A 50% drop would leave Sony with about $23M for the session and a solid ten-day cume of $92M. Paramount’s "Barnyard" may fall by 40% and rake in around $9.5M pushing its total to $33M after ten days. The Johnny Depp megasmash "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" could drop by another 40% to $6.5M lifting its jaw-dropping total to $392M.

LAST YEAR: Director John Singleton scored a top spot debut with his revenge thriller "Four Brothers" which debuted with $21.2M. Paramount found its way to $74.5M with the Mark Wahlberg drama. Opening in second was the Kate Hudson suspense thriller "The Skeleton Key" with $16.1M on its way to $47.8M for Universal. Falling from first to third was the comedy "The Dukes of Hazzard" with $13M dropping a steep 58% from its bow. Rival comedy "Wedding Crashers" held up much better easing 26% in its fifth frame to $11.8M. Opening in fifth place with $9.6M was Sony’s comedy sequel "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" which ended its run with just $22.3M. The weekend’s other new release, the military drama "The Great Raid," opened modestly in tenth with only $3.4M on its way to $10.2M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got bored marines fixing for a fight with Saddam ("Jarhead") and a small piece of poultry who overreacts to acorns hitting him on the head ("Chicken Little"). Which of these films will score with critics?

Based on the real-life experiences of Marine Anthony Swofford in the first Gulf War, "Jarhead," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx, attempts to show a different kind of war-is-hell scenario; in this case, idle hands are the devil’s playthings. The critics say the movie is different from most war films in that, rather than action, "Jarhead" depicts boredom, exhaustion, and ambiguity. Maybe too much ambiguity. While critics are praising the film for its originality, they say it never quite coheres. "Jarhead" currently stands at 51 percent on the Tomatometer.

No joke: The sky IS falling — at least critically — on Disney’s first CGI feature, Chicken Little. The age-old parable gets a fresh coat of paint, as Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff) becomes ostracized after making under-researched claims of nimbus and cirrus plummeting. While critics say the movie isn’t bad looking, the most important thing — the story — is undercooked. At 35 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics dislike this one more than a "Little." Beware of low flying CGI flicks — "Valiant," 2005’s other animated avian adventure — scored even lower, at 23 percent on the Tomatometer.

Recent War Movies:
35% — The Great Raid (2005)
37% — Tears of the Sun (2003)
61% — We Were Soldiers (2002)
25% — Pearl Harbor (2001)
93% — Three Kings (1999)

John Singleton‘s action drama "Four Brothers" opened in 2,500 theaters to a better-than-expected $20.7 million in its first weekend, handily beating a trio of other newcomers. One of its main competitors was the Kate Hudson bayou thriller "The Skeleton Key," which unlocked nearly $15.8 million (from about 2,800 theaters) in a comparatively slow weekend at the box office.

Still hanging around in third place was WB’s "The Dukes of Hazzard," which added another $13m to its $57.5 total gross. Fourth place went to the powerful "Wedding Crashers," which grossed just over $12 million, adding to its total gross just over $164 million(!) Rounding out the top five was "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," which made $9.4 million in just over 3,100 theaters.

Miramax’s long-delayed "The Great Raid" just managed to crack the top ten by grossing about $3.3 million from nearly 820 theaters.

In milestone news, Christopher Nolan‘s "Batman Begins" became only the third movie this year to gross over $200 million, after "Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith" and "War of the Worlds."

Next week sees the arrival of another cinematic foursome: the bike-racing flick "Supercross" opens on Wednesday, while Steve Carell in "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," Wes Craven‘s airplane thriller "Red Eye," and Disney’s animated adventure "Valiant" will wait until next Friday.

As always, please stop by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page for a closer look at the weekend stats.

This week at the movies gives us four brothers with vigilante justice on their minds, a woman who discovers the frightening secrets of an old house on the bayou, a band of brothers on a mission to save their own, and the latest in sophisticated, lofty humor from Rob Schneider. What do the critics have to say?

What is "Four Brothers"? Is it a neo-western? A blaxploitation update? A family drama? A tough-minded action flick with gritty humor? Critics say it’s all these things and more. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, and Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000), John Singleton’s film tells the tale of four adoptive brothers who grudgingly reunite to avenge their adoptive mother’s murder. At 68 percent on the Tomatometer, critics say "Four Brothers" is not without its flaws, but that it’s rough and inspiring just the same. And it’s helping Singleton’s combined Tomatometer, currently at 64 percent.

Naomi Watts, Jennifer Connelly, Nicole Kidman…. A big-time actress starring in relatively generic horror flick has been something of a trend in the past few years. Now Kate Hudson gives it her best shot in "The Skeleton Key." Big scares in the Big Easy was the plan, and with a distinguished cast (Gena Rowlands, John Hurt), this one may have looked like helta skelta on the delta. Unfortunately, it seems like this gumbo is a little undercooked; critics say the atmosphere is there, but the execution is less than spellbinding. At 36 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Skeleton Key" could use some more meat on its bones.

The Greatest Generation has been the subject of some great films, from "The Great Escape" to "Saving Private Ryan." "The Great Raid," starring Benjamin Bratt, tells the story of a remarkable rescue of POWs in the Philippines. But critics say a great story does not make for a great movie; for all its noble intentions, this one is overlong and not as compelling as its subject matter requires.

Cats and dogs, Yankees and Red Sox, Rob Schneider and movie critics — some things are just natural enemies. Recently, Monsieur Schneider, star of "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," has been publicly dissing some of the scribes for their assessment of his work. He might have listened to the advice of a humorist who slightly exceeds his stature (Mark Twain): "Never pick a fight with someone who buys his ink by the barrel." At a staggering eight percent on the Tomatometer, the latest installment of the "Deuce" saga is unsurprisingly getting pummeled. And it’s lower on the Tomatometer than "The Hot Chick" (at 22 percent! I can’t believe it either!)

Recent Rob Schneider Movies
22% — The Hot Chick (2002)
29% — The Animal (2001)
24% — Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)

Recent John Singleton-Directed Movies:
37% — 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
67% — Baby Boy (2001)
69% — Shaft (2000)
89% — Rosewood (1997)
46% — Higher Learning (1994)

WB’s big-screen adaptation of "The Dukes of Hazzard" had no problem tackling the #1 spot at the weekend box office, pulling in nearly $30.6 million from over 3,700 theaters. Granted, it was the only movie opening in wide release, but WB has to be pleased with the initial three-day haul.

Holding firm in second place is New Line’s surprise smash "Wedding Crashers," which added another $16.5 million to its $144m total. Tim Burton‘s "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" dropped down to thrd place with a haul of $10.5m ($169m total), while fourth and fifth place went to Disney’s "Sky High" ($9m weekend; $32m total) and the rom-com "Must Love Dogs" ($7.4m, $26m total).

Cracking into the top ten in documentary style is the nature film "March of the Penguins," which landed in the number six spot after adding an additional 1,500 theaters to the release pattern. The penguins marched to a tune of $7.1 million, and their total tally to date is $26.4 million!

There’s no shortage of wide release titles come next Friday; moviegoers can choose between the raunchy stylings of "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," John Singleton’s action drama "Four Brothers," the cajun thriller "The Skeleton Key," or the wartime drama "The Great Raid."

As always, feel free to stop by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page for a closer looks at the late-summer movie numbers.

Jennifer Garner is sick with a viral infection and has cancelled public appearances to promote "Elektra," USA Today reports. It is unclear whether Garner will be at the Las Vegas premier of the film. Garner was photographed spending the holidays with her family and boyfriend Ben Affleck in West Virginia.

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