If you’re looking for a good time on DVD this week, you’re in luck — as long as you navigate the minefields of the rotten (Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Hot Rod) and the even worse (Lindsay Lohan‘s career-murdering I Know Who Killed Me) to pick up a genuine charmer (Waitress), a solid familial tale (The Namesake), a mind-boggling anime import (Paprika), or our personal pick, the return of Futurama (Bender’s Big Score)!


The Fresh…


Waitress


Tomatometer: 89%

Small town waitress Jenna (Keri Russell) desperately wants out of her abusive marriage and her dead-end life, passing the time baking delicious and whimsically-named pies while dreaming of leaving town. When she finds out she’s pregnant, everything changes, thanks to a secret romance with the local OB-GYN (Nathan Fillion), a chance at winning a $25,000 at a pie bake-off, and the newfound joys of motherhood. Bolstered by a warmly quirky supporting cast, this southern charmer comes to DVD as a bittersweet coda to the life of writer-director and co-star Adrienne Shelly, who was tragically killed last year. Months after her death Shelly’s film was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and picked up for distribution, and opened to critical acclaim the following spring.

 



The Namesake


Tomatometer: 85%

Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair) returns to form with this solid adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, about the culture clash between two generations of an Indian immigrant family. Comic actor Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) goes dramatic as American-born son Gogol, who struggles to balance his dueling identities and his relationships with two different women; Indian cinema stars Irfan Khan and Tabu play the beleaguered traditionalist parents, who find that their children have grown up very differently than they had imagined.

 



Paprika


Tomatometer: 81%

When a mind-invading device goes missing, doctors enlist Paprika, an electronic persona, to navigate the hallucinogenic dream world and find the culprit. Director Satoshi Kon employs eye-popping visuals and a surrealist touch to invoke the experience of sub-conscious reverie in his artful (if nonsensical) adaptation of the 1993 science fiction novel of the same name. Four featurettes on the disc give insight into the production of the film, but this one is worth it for the film alone.  

 




Bender’s Big Score


Tomatometer: N/A


Good news, Futurama fans! In this first of four new films, evil aliens send misanthropic robot Bender back in time to help them take over Earth, sparking a chain of events that could change the course of history; more importantly, series fans get the return of characters like Zapp Brannigan, Nibbler, Robot Santa, Al Gore as himself, and Kwanzaabot, voiced by the inestimable Coolio. Cast and crew commentary, featurettes, a full 20 minutes of Hypnotoad and more await you in the bonus menu. And remember, the return of the Best. Animated. Series. Ever. hinges on the sales of this and the next three Futurama DVDs, so if you really care about the fate of Planet Express and its dysfunctional delivery crew, snap up this release! (And check out our chat with director Dwayne Carey-Hill and producer Claudia Katz!) 

 


The Rotten…

First Snow
Tomatometer: 55%

This slow-simmering noir follows a slick-talking salesman (Guy Pearce) whose ominous visit to a roadside fortune teller (J.K. Simmons) portends success — and death — on the horizon. Critics were split on whether first time director Mark Fergus (screenwriter of Children of Men and the forthcoming Iron Man) effectively builds tension in his story or deflates it, but the cast in this indie thriller is certainly notable. Besides, it’s supporting actor William Fichtner‘s birthday today, if that’s enough of a reason to give this flick a chance.

Mr. Bean’s Holiday
Tomatometer: 50%


The irrepressible Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) returns to theaters a full decade after his first big-screen endeavor (Bean), and despite improving upon that 36 percent Tomatometer effort, he’s still got the scribes befuddled. This time the silent funnyman finds himself on a prize vacation to Cannes, France, recording his travels en route to the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. If you’ve seen any of the classic television show, you already know what you’re in store for; if not, be happy knowing there will be no more additional Bean movies to suffer through.



Hot Rod

Tomatometer: 36%

Saturday Night Live enjoyed an energy boost when the Lonely Island comedy trio of Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, and Andy Samberg signed on (what fan could live now without SNL‘s brilliant Digital Shorts?), but their first feature film — about an aspiring stuntman named Rod — failed to capture the hearts of the critical mass. We say, what up scribes? Hot Rod‘s got a killer 1980s hair metal soundtrack, a punch-dancing sequence, and enough silly laughs to make us want to drop a Hamilton on some crazy delicious cupcakes.


And The Ugly…




Skinwalkers

Tomatometer: 15%

Canadian horror, eh. A half-blood werewolf boy is the key to ending an age-old curse in one small town, but a band of bloodlusting lycans aim to keep the curse alive. Howlingly bad? You be the judge (or trust us, and listen to the critics on this one).  




Bratz: The Movie

Tomatometer: 7%

We know, we know. Who would have thought that a stereotype-reinforcing, live action version of a children’s toy line aimed at pre-teen mallrats could be anything but stellar fare?  




I Know Who Killed Me

Tomatometer: 7%

Ouch. Lindsay Lohan‘s latest couldn’t even beat the irredeemable Bratz movie’s Tomatometer (some might say it single-handedly killed her career). Comparisons to movies like Boxing Helena and unnecessarily gory torture porn flicks don’t help, either. Sadly, we know as well as TriStar Pictures that the extended stripper sequence will boost DVD sales exponentially… 

Take aim, home theater enthusiasts. May your DVD-hunting arrows fly true.

In the battle of the single-word-titled thrillers, "Fracture" beat out "Vacancy" but neither could dislodge "Disturbia" from the number one spot this weeend. It was mostly a sluggish frame at the North American box office as the top ten slumped to its third worst level of 2007.

The courtroom thriller "Fracture" and the action-comedy "Hot Fuzz" both opened to respectable results while the horror pic "Vacancy" and the drama "In the Land of Women" generated little excitement.

Shia LaBeouf enjoyed his first back-to-back stint in the top spot with the suspense hit "Disturbia" which held up well in its sophomore frame grossing an estimated $13.5M. Off only 39%, the Paramount release of a DreamWorks production averaged a solid $4,464 from 3,015 sites. Teen-oriented thrillers typically fall by more than 50% on the second session. Produced for a mere $23M, "Disturbia" has grossed an impressive $40.7M in its first ten days and could be headed for a $65-70M finish.

Leading the weekend’s crop of new movies was the murder thriller "Fracture" as ticket buyers spent an estimated $11.2M watching Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling go at it. The R-rated film from New Line averaged a solid $4,574 per theater from 2,443 sites. Reviews were mostly good which helped since the film skewed to a mature adult audience.

Will Ferrell scored the third $100M blockbuster of his career, and second in nine months, with "Blades of Glory" which ranked third in its fourth weekend with an estimated $7.8M. Down 44%, the Paramount title is still the widest release in the marketplace with 3,459 locations and the cume has hit $101.1M. The comedy star’s other trips to the century club in a lead role were with 2003’s "Elf" ($173.4M) and last summer’s "Talladega Nights" ($148M).

Opening weaker than expected in the fourth slot was the horror entry "Vacancy" with only $7.6M, according to estimates. The R-rated pic about a couple stranded in a motel where videotaped killings take place averaged a mild $2,979 from 2,551 playdates. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale star in the Sony release. Fright fatigue may have hurt "Vacancy"’s opening as the $19M-budgeted film was the fourth scary flick this month to be aimed at moviegoers. Young adults made up most of the audience as studio research showed that 66% of the crowd was under the age of 25 and 52% was female. "Disturbia"’s better-than-expected hold also made an impact.

Disney followed in fifth with the animated hit "Meet the Robinsons" which grossed an estimated $7.1M in its fourth frame, down 43%, for a total of $82.2M.

Shooting up the best average among all wide releases in the marketplace was the new British action-comedy "Hot Fuzz" which premiered to an estimated $5.8M from 825 theaters for a potent $7,075 per venue. The R-rated buddy cop flick from the creative team behind 2004’s cult hit "Shaun of the Dead" earned glowing reviews and tapped into a built-in audience of fans. "Fuzz" outgunned "Shaun" in all ways beating the latter’s September 2004 bow which delivered $3.3M from 607 theaters for a $5,487 average. Produced for $16M, "Hot Fuzz" has already grossed an impressive $48.5M overseas including $41M from the United Kingdom.

The Ice Cube comedy sequel "Are We Done Yet?" dropped two spots to seventh with an estimated $5.2M in its third weekend. Sony’s family pic fell 42% and raised its sum to $39.6M.

Close behind in eighth was the new chick flick "In the Land of Women" which opened poorly with an estimated $4.9M from 2,155 theaters. Averaging a weak $2,281 per location, the PG-13 film stars Adam Brody as a young man who meets a houseful of women when caring for his sick grandmother. "Women" was the fifth wide opener of the past two weeks to fail to reach a $3,000 average in its debut frame.

Rounding out the top ten were two films that that have been showing how differently starpower can affect the box office. The Halle BerryBruce Willis thriller "Perfect Stranger" collapsed in its second weekend and tumbled 63% to an estimated $4.1M. With only $18.1M locked up in ten days, Sony should find its way to roughly $25M followed by a quick trip to DVD. On the other hand, Buena Vista’s blockbuster comedy "Wild Hogs" starring Tim Allen and John Travolta remained in the top ten for the eighth consecutive weekend with an estimated $2.9M, off 39%, boosting the cume to $156.2M. It is the highest-grossing non-Spartan film of the year.

Four films fell out of the top ten this weekend. The year’s biggest smash "300" dropped 49% to an estimated $2.3M in its seventh adventure and lifted its staggering domestic total to $204.7M. Budgeted at only $60M, the stylish war epic should end its North American run with an amazing $207-210M. That would amount to nearly three times its opening weekend gross which is rare these days for effects-driven action films that debut with monster bows. "300"’s legs have been strong overseas too where it has tallied $216.8M for a mammoth global gross of $421M and counting.

Other R-rated films suffered horrendous drops as they tumbled out of the top ten. Losing two-thirds of its audience was Fox’s adventure "Pathfinder" which grossed an estimated $1.7M in its second weekend. The Viking pic has collected a puny $8M in ten days and looks headed for a wimpy $10M finish. Maybe casting some Spartans would have helped.

Hilary Swank’s horrorfest "The Reaping" grossed an estimated $1.6M, down 65%, boosting the mild cume to $22.7M. The $53M double feature "Grindhouse" crashed 68% in its third try and took in an estimated $1.4M putting its 17-day take at $22.7M as well. Both films should end up in the $25M vicinity.

Miramax expanded its Richard Gere drama "The Hoax" from 413 to 1,069 theaters but saw weekend sales slip 11% to an estimated $1.3M. The average was diluted down to a poor $1,216 as the cume inched up to only $5.1M.

In limited release, Paramount Vantage widened its Molly Shannon pic "Year of the Dog" from seven to 33 sites and grossed an estimated $139,000 for a $4,200 average. Cume sits at $280,000 with more cities being added this Friday. Fox Searchlight’s "The Namesake" collected an estimated $765,000 from 327 locations in its seventh weekend averaging $2,339 for a cume of $9.8M to date.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $70.1M which was down an unsettling 26% from last year when "Silent Hill" opened at number one with $20.2M; and off 10% from 2005 when "The Interpreter" debuted on top with $22.8M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Three new competitors were no match this weekend for the mighty action epic "300," which easily defended its box office crown to rule North American theaters for a second straight time. Sandra Bullock reached a new career high with the thriller "Premonition," which debuted in third place while the horror film "Dead Silence" and the Chris Rock comedy "I Think I Love My Wife" opened in the top five with mixed results. "300" grossed as much as all three new releases combined.

It was another decisive victory for Warner Bros. as "300" commanded the top spot with an estimated $31.2M in its second weekend dropping a sizable 56% from its record launch. Averaging a stellar $9,537 from 3,270 locations, the R-rated historical actioner raised its ten-day tally to a remarkable $127.5M making it the top-grossing film of 2007 in a short period of time.

300’s second weekend gross was even bigger than the opening weekends for recent R-rated spring actioners like "Sin City," "Constantine," and "V for Vendetta." Those films all dropped by more than half in their sophomore frames and collected 66-69% of their final grosses in the first ten days. 300 could follow in the same pattern and reach a colossal $180-190M domestically. That would be an impressive tally for a film with an estimated production cost of $60-65M.

Overseas, the Spartan sensation scored number one openings this weekend in South Korea, Turkey, Thailand, Hong Kong, and India and grossed an estimated $15.6M overall from over 1,300 screens in 13 markets. The international total stands at $24.6M with major invasions scheduled this week in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Buena Vista held steady in second place again with the motorcycle comedy "Wild Hogs," which dropped only 32% to an estimated $18.8M in its third weekend. The Tim AllenJohn Travolta hit crossed the $100M mark on Sunday in its 17th day of release pushing the cume to $104M. Despite dreadful reviews, "Wild Hogs" is holding up very well and could find its way to a sensational $150M domestically.

Sandra Bullock scared up the biggest opening of her career with the supernatural thriller "Premonition," which collected an estimated $18M to land in third place. The PG-13 film about a woman who relives a day in her life and tries to prevent the death of her husband averaged a solid $6,358 from 2,831 venues. Reviews were mostly negative for the Sony release. "Premonition," Bullock’s first spooky thriller, beat out her previous best opening weekend performance of $16.2M which was generated by both "Speed 2" in 1997 and "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" in 2002. Adult women as expected led the way for the $20M production with studio research showing that 66% of the audience was female and 61% were 25 or older.

Universal scared up a decent opening for its new horror entry "Dead Silence," which debuted in 1,805 theaters to an estimated $7.8M. Averaging a moderate $4,305 per location, the R-rated film about a ventriliquist’s dummy on a deadly rampage was marketed as being from the director of "Saw," James Wan. Reviews were not too bad for a fright flick not screened in advance for critics and actually scored the best marks of the weekend’s three new releases.

Chris Rock saw a mild opening for his new comedy "I Think I Love My Wife," which bowed to an estimated $5.7M from 1,776 locations for a $3,218 average. The Fox Searchlight release was written, directed, and produced by the former Oscar host who also played the lead, a mild-mannered husband tempted by a lovely young woman. Reviews were mostly negative. The opening for Wife failed to reach the heights of some of Rock’s other spring comedies like 2001’s "Down to Earth" ($17.3M, $6,850 average) or 2003’s "Head of State" ($13.5M, $6,278 average), which he also directed.

Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten dipping just 24% in its fifth weekend to an estimated $5.1M for a solid $74.9M cume. Sony actioner "Ghost Rider" fell 40% to an estimated $4M lifitng the domestic total to $110.2M. Worldwide, the Nicolas Cage film will surpass the $200M mark later this week.

Paramount’s acclaimed serial killer drama "Zodiac" continued to struggle with paying customers tumbling another 54% to an estimated $3.1M giving the David Fincher thriller a disappointing $28.9M in 17 days. The critically-panned Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit," on the other hand, has been pleasing audiences and dropped 36% to an estimated $2.7M pushing the cume to $92.4M for the studio. Rounding out the top ten was the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore comedy "Music and Lyrics" with an estimated $2.2M, down 41%, giving Warner Bros. $47.4M to date.

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" had strong legs once again and slipped just 17% to an estimated $2M. With $14.4M in the bank, the Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions release could end its run with $20M or more. Universal’s FBI thriller "Breach" has found success with its moderate release. The R-rated entry grossed an estimated $1.5M, off 42%, for a $31.3M total while playing in roughly 1,500 theaters during the past month. A $34M final seems likely. Jim Carrey‘s horror flick "The Number 23" has grossed $33.5M to date and should finish with a not-so-impressive $35M overall.

In limited release, the best per-theater average once again came from Fox Searchlight’s "The Namesake," which expanded from six to 41 theaters and grossed an estimated $692,000 for a strong $16,874 per location. The total for the well-reviewed Mira Nair film has reached $1.1M and the Indian-American drama will widen to over 100 theaters this Friday. Also doing well in limited play was the foreign language Oscar winner "The Lives of Others," which took in an estimated $839,000. The German film dipped only 2% with no extra theaters and Sony Classics has grossed $4.6M to date.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $98.6M which was up 10% from last year when "V for Vendetta" opened at number one with $25.6M; but off 4% from 2005 when "The Ring 2" debuted on top with $35.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

The mighty Spartans won a glorious victory at North American theaters as the bloody war epic "300" exploded with a record-breaking opening and powered the overall marketplace to the biggest March weekend in box office history.

Selling more tickets than all its enemies in the top ten combined, the ancient battle film exceeded even the loftiest of industry expectations conquering every multiplex it invaded. Despite the colossal strength of "300," holdovers performed well with most witnessing relatively small declines of 35% or less.

Capitalizing on intense pre-release anticipation, the Warner Bros. actioner "300" rallied to a staggering $70M opening weekend, according to estimates, ruling the box office with the greatest of ease. The violent and stylish R-rated tale played in only 3,103 theaters and averaged a sensational $22,567 per theater. The tally included a potent $3.4M from 62 higher-priced Imax venues ($54,839 average) marking a new opening weekend record for the large-screen format. Rival studios were scared away from the frame as no other major film dared to go head-to-head in wide release. The lack of competition helped to keep the focus of moviegoers on just one entertaining feature.

If the estimate holds, "300" will set a new March opening weekend record beating the $68M bow of "Ice Age: The Meltdown" from last year. That PG-rated toon played to a wider family audience and averaged a weaker $17,163 from nearly 4,000 theaters. The saga of King Leonidas and his battalion of brave Spartan warriors grossed a stunning $27.7M on Friday (including midnight shows from Thursday night), dropped an understandable 11% to $24.5M on Saturday, and is projected to slide only 27% to $17.8M on Sunday. Final weekend grosses will be reported on Monday.

"300" also generated the third largest opening ever for an R-rated film trailing just "The Matrix Reloaded" ($91.8M) and "The Passion of the Christ" ($83.8M). And among non-sequels, it was the seventh biggest debut in history following "Spider-Man" ($114.8M), "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" ($90.3M), "Passion," "The Da Vinci Code" ($77.1M), "The Incredibles" ($70.5M), and "Finding Nemo" ($70.3M). 300 also posted the sixth largest bow in studio history for Warner Bros. after the four "Potter" pics and the first "Matrix" sequel.

The sheer size of the audience was eye-popping for the stylish film which chronicles the Battle of Thermopylae between the warriors of Sparta and the mighty Persian army led by its ruler Xerxes in 480 B.C. Historical war epics like "The Last Samurai" and "Troy" made tons of money worldwide ($450-500M each) but after flops like "Alexander" and "The Alamo," Hollywood ran the genre into the ground. Warner Bros. developed a new look that audiences would crave with "300" which is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. With digital effects, a stylized look, and brilliant marketing materials, the film began generating excitement last fall when the first trailers debuted. The studio should send a case of Cristal to the team that cut the trailers as they certainly ignited the spark leading to the fever-pitched anticipation.

With a reported budget of only $65M, "300" will easily become a major moneymaker for the studio especially since international theatrical and worldwide video revenue look to be explosive. The film had no pricey stars and featured epic battle scenes created by computers thereby eliminating the need to shoot on location with thousands of extras. In fact, only one scene in the enite film was shot outdoors. "300" debuted in only a handful of overseas markets this weekend but box office was impressive there as well. The film opened at number one in Greece, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines with a combined gross of $6.2M from just 337 prints for a $18,398 per-print average which is phenomenal given the average ticket prices in those countries. The bloody actioner invades Korea later this week and attacks France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and the U.K. on the following weekend.

For those in a less violent mood this weekend, Buena Vista’s middle-aged motorcycle movie "Wild Hogs" was the ticket. The Tim AllenJohn Travolta biker comedy dropped only 29% in its second weekend to an estimated $28M giving the studio a fantastic $77.4M in only ten days of release. Moviegoers are paying no attention to the universally poor reviews for "Hogs" which has now generated the second highest ten-day start of any film this year after "Ghost Rider"’s $79M. The star-driven comedy could be on course to reach $150M or more domestically giving Disney a lucrative hit.

Ticket buyers were fixated on either "300" or "Wild Hogs" this weekend as the dynamic duo combined for a towering $98M in grosses accounting for a whopping 72% of all cash spent on the top ten films. Overall, the top ten posted its second best performance of 2007 with $136.1M narrowly trailing the $138.1M three-day tally from Presidents’ Day weekend when "Ghost Rider" attacked. The North American box office is clearly alive and well.

The rest of the top five saw three films in a narrow range with estimates that were separated by less than $100,000. Final data to be released on Monday could see the rankings change. Third place, for now, went to Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" which grossed an estimated $6.9M, down only 23%, for a $67M cume. Also in its fourth weekend, Sony’s "Ghost Rider" fell 41% to an estimated $6.8M raising the total to $104.1M making the Nicolas Cage actioner the first film of 2007 to break the $100M mark. 300 and "Wild Hogs" could also join the century club as early as next weekend.

Fifth place went to the well-reviewed serial killer pic "Zodiac" which took in an estimated $6.8M, down a disturbing 49%, for a ten-day tally of $23.7M. Paramount’s $65M production hoped to benefit from word-of-mouth, but instead suffered the worst drop by far of any film in the top ten thanks in part to competition from its R-rated foe 300. A disappointing final take of $34-37M seems likely making it director David Fincher‘s lowest grossing film ever.

A pair of funnymen followed with estimated weekend grosses of $4.3M a piece. Jim Carrey‘s psychological thriller "The Number 23" dipped 33% and upped its cume to $30.5M for New Line. The Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit" also shed one third of its audience but lifted its total to a more impressive $88.3M for Paramount.

"Music and Lyrics," the romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, followed with an estimated $3.8M. Off only 22%, the Warner Bros. title has taken in $43.8M to date. Universal’s thriller "Breach" collected an estimated $2.6M, down 28%, for a $29.1M sum. The slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" rounded out the top ten with an estimated $2.5M. Distributors Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside Attractions added over 200 theaters and enjoyed the smallest dip in the top ten sliding just 11%. Cume to date stands at $11.4M.

Fox Searchlight generated the biggest opening weekend average of the year with the launch of Mira Nair‘s "The Namesake" which bowed to an estimated $251,000 from only six locations for a muscular per-theater average of $41,794. Starring Kal Penn, the PG-13 film about an Indian family and their American-born children platformed in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto and will expand on Friday into additional markets. Reviews were mostly good.

Also opening in limited release was the Korean monster movie "The Host" with an estimated $320,000 from 71 theaters for a mild $4,507 average. The Magnolia release about a family that fights a mutated sea creature made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last year and has already played in most of Asia. Critics were overwhelmingly giving praise.

Fox Faith, the new division of Fox dedicated to uplifting religious-themed pictures, opened its new film "The Ultimate Gift" over the weekend to an estimated $1.2M from 816 sites for a poor $1,471 average. The PG-rated film stars James Garner and Abigail Breslin and did not earn many positive reviews.

A pair of struggling films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend suffering large declines. The Samuel L. JacksonChristina Ricci pic "Black Snake Moan" fell 55% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.9M. The Paramount Vantage release has collected only $7.3M in its first ten days and should end with around $10M. Fox’s comedy "Reno 911!: Miami" collapsed in its third weekend dropping 65% to an estimated $1.4M. With $19.1M in 17 days, look for a finish just north of $20M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $136.1M (a new March record) which was up a stunning 53% from last year when "Failure to Launch" opened at number one with $24.4M; and up a solid 35% from 2005 when "Robots" debuted on top with $36M.

Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

For the first time in nearly a month, North America’s most popular movie won’t be about motorcycles. Warner Bros. goes back in time 2,500 years for the epic war saga "300" which aims to conquer the box office with ease.

Other studios have conceded the frame to the effects-driven actioner as the only other film opening wide is the family drama "The Ultimate Gift" which will cater to a non-violent crowd that prefers to keep decapitations to a minimum in their weekend entertainment.

Two and a half years after running the historical epic genre into the ground with "Alexander," Warner Bros. is back to breathe new life into the industry with "300." The R-rated war film stars Gerard Butler as the Greek king who in 480 B.C. led his small battalion of brave soldiers in battle against the mighty Persian army. Directed by Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead"), "300" is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and features stylized action sequences and a visual look unlike the endless line of epics that hit multiplexes a few years ago.

Warner Bros. got the ball rolling early last fall with exciting trailers that really energized the target audience of male action fans who now will be very satisfied by the amount of blood, gore, and female nudity in the picture. Momentum has been building ever since and today, "300" is an event film for many. The film lacks a marquee star but that should not matter much. The unique look and feel should compensate for that as moviegoers will find the film to be worth paying top dollar for to see on the big screen. This is not one to wait for on DVD. And unlike other epics, this one keeps it just under two hours which will allow theaters to offer enough showtimes per day. The marketplace is ready for "300." Aside from "Ghost Rider" which is going into its fourth lap, there will be little direct competition for "300" to face so King Leonidas and his men should prevail in this battle.

Other effects-driven R-rated action films have found success recently in the spring months. In 2005, Keanu Reeves‘ "Constantine" bowed to $29.8M and "Sin City" opened to $29.1M while last March "V for Vendetta" debuted with $25.6M. All three films ended in the $70-76M range. "300" looks like it has the strength to go higher. The marketing has been brilliant, competition is weak, and excitement is high. Warner Bros. will score its first number one opener of the year with "300" which invades 3,103 theaters, including Imax venues which will add a few extra bucks. A Friday-to-Sunday gross of about $38M could result.


"300," finally in theaters.

Fox Faith, the new wing of Twentieth Century Fox dedicated to films with uplifting religious themes, rolls out its family drama "The Ultimate Gift" starring James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Abigail Breslin who comes straight from her high profile Oscar nomination for "Little Miss Sunshine." Based on the best-selling book, the PG-rated film tells the story of a young man who instead of getting his expected inheritance after the death of his wealthy grandfather, is given a series of challenges to help him build character and learn what is truly important in life. Grassroots marketing is being used to court the faith-based audience and a dollar from every ticket sold will be donated to one of a number of different charities. Still, the film is not being given a marketing blitz so large numbers are not expected. Opening in over 800 theaters, "The Ultimate Gift" may gross about $3M this weekend.


"The Ultimate Gift," with Abigail Breslin.

After opening almost everywhere else in the world, the hit Korean horror film "The Host" makes its ways to American shores through Magnolia Pictures this weekend. The R-rated creature feature debuts in about 70 theaters and has been garnering impressive reviews since its premiere last May at the Cannes Film Festival. Fox Searchlight platforms its family saga "The Namesake" from director Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding," "Vanity Fair") in six theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto. Starring Kal Penn, the PG-13 film about the struggles of an Indian-American family will expand weekly throughout the rest of the month.


"The Namesake"

After three weeks of motorcycle flicks ruling the box office, a stylized trip back in time with "300" will come as a welcome change of pace. "Wild Hogs," which powered its way to a surprisingly potent $39.7M bow last weekend, will drop out of pole position. With little direct competition, look for a reasonable dip in sales. The Buena Vista release has been a crowdpleaser and will remain the top choice for moviegoers in the mood for a laugh or anything with big Hollywood stars. A 35% decline could result giving "Hogs" a weekend tally of around $26M and a ten-day cume of $74M.

Paramount’s serial killer pic "Zodiac" got off to a moderate start last weekend and will have another R-rated film aimed at adults to deal with. A drop of 40% may occur putting the murder mystery at $8M for a total of only $25M after ten days. Sony’s "Ghost Rider" will become the first member of the 2007 century club and should fall 45% to $6M for a $103M cume. The Nicolas Cage pic is set to take a serious hit thanks to 300.

LAST YEAR: The Matthew McConaugheySarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy "Failure to Launch" debuted at number one leading a new crop of films with $24.4M. The Paramount release found its way to $88.7M. Opening in second place was the Tim Allen kidpic "The Shaggy Dog" with $16.3M followed closely by the new horror flick "The Hills Have Eyes" with $15.7M. Final grosses reached $61.1M and $41.8M, respectively. The Bruce Willis actioner "16 Blocks" dropped to fourth with $7.4M. After two weeks at the top of the charts, the Tyler Perry comedy "Madea’s Family Reunion" tumbled from first to fifth with $5.7M.

Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got 300 mighty Spartans ("300," starring Gerard Butler) and a reluctant do-gooder ("The Ultimate Gift," starring Abigail Breslin). What do the critics have to say?

Fangirls and fanboys, the wait is over. "300," Zack Snyder’s CG adaptation of Frank Miller‘s cult graphic novel sensation is here. And while critics say it’s a feast for the eyes, many note it’s slightly less a delight for the brain. "300" tells the tale of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans fought a star-crossed battle against the heavily fortified Persian army. Subtlety is not the order of the day here, nor is slavish attention to historical detail, but the pundits say the movie is visually sumptuous, a spectacle of ultraviolence and visceral thrills. However, others say "300" takes itself seriously to the point of self parody, and lacks compelling characters and cohesive plotting. "300" is currently at 60 percent on the Tomatometer.


Because "Anticipate Defeat!" was less rousing.

"The Ultimate Gift" is a movie about learning the true meaning of wealth, and stepping outside one’s self centered existence. These are good lessons to learn, but critics say the movie, while likeable, is too sappy to fully register. "The Ultimate Gift" tells the story of a trust fund kid who stands to inherit the fortune of his recently deceased grandfather — but only after he completes a series of tasks, which include living on the streets, doing manual labor, and being nice to people. Critics say "The Ultimate Gift" is sweet, heartfelt, and well-meaning — but also schmaltzy and dramatically inert. At 35 percent on the Tomatometer, this may not be the "Ultimate" viewing experience.


"’Silverado’ was 20 years ago. You can change clothes now."

Also opening this week in limited release: the South Korean import "The Host," a monster movie/satire/family drama, is at 94 percent; "Maxed Out," a doc that takes on the credit card industry, is at 85 percent; "Beyond the Gates," a drama about a teacher caught up in the Rwandan genocide starring John Hurt and Hugh Dancy, is at 71 percent; "The Namesake," a drama about a family caught between two cultural worlds starring Kal Penn and Jacinda Barrett, is at 70 percent; and "Exterminating Angels," a French drama about voyeurism and taboos, is at 52 pecent.


"KBBL’s going to give me something stupid!"

Recent Historical Epics:
——————————
65% — Apocalypto (2006)
39% — Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
16% — Alexander (2004)
55% — Troy (2004)
78% — Gladiator (2000)

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