The resurrection of yesterday’s movie heroes continues with Sylvester Stallone‘s new film Rambo which finds the vet in Southeast Asia where he is pulled into another battle with baddies. The R-rated film from Lionsgate follows the actor’s Rocky Balboa which defied the odds last winter to become both a critical and commercial success. Stallone directed both films. Rambo also comes after Bruce Willis saw a lucrative reboot of the Die Hard franchise last summer, and arrives before Harrison Ford‘s much-anticipated return as Indiana Jones this May.

John Rambo may not be as loved by fans as those other characters which means it may gross the least amount of dough at the domestic box office. The new Rambo will surely attract older males with the nostalgia factor, but younger men are also being targeted by using today’s rock music in the television spots and print ads with images of a cult-like Sly. The image could easily be spray-painted on a wall next to the heads of Andre the Giant and Che Guevara. Rambo is getting the widest release of any new film on Friday and with football taking the weekend off, male audiences will be more available. Most of the competition will come from Cloverfield‘s second frame, but those wanting intense violence and a ton of bullets flying around will find no better choice. Attacking 2,751 theaters, Rambo could debut to about $18M this weekend.


Good ol’ Sly is back

Diane Lane goes solo anchoring the crime thriller Untraceable which finds the Oscar-nominated actress playing a federal agent on the trail of a psychopath that uses the internet to kill his victims. The R-rated film will cater to adult audiences and skew more towards women. Female-led detective thrillers usually struggle at the box office, however Untraceable will benefit from one the best trailers this winter for a non-monster movie. Sony’s marketing efforts have been solid with Lane’s name and the intriguing plot being the main selling points used to lure in ticket buyers. The rating may keep out younger net-savvy teens that might have interest plus an abundance of films will keep things competitive. The sophomore weekend of 27 Dresses will surely draw away some of Untraceable‘s audience, especially those who would rather see something lighter and not so grim. Landing in 2,368 theaters, Untraceable might take away roughly $10M this weekend.


Diane Lane and that Hanks kid in Untraceable

Fox dishes out yet another dose of spoof comedy with Meet the Spartans skewering all sorts of hit films plus Britney and non-Britney pop culture events of the past year. The PG-13 entry is going after the same teen and young adult audience that came out in solid numbers for Epic Movie, which bowed at number one this weekend last year with $18.6M, and the previous year’s Date Movie which debuted to a similar $19.1M. However, the spoof genre showed signs of aging last October when the studio suffered a lowly $5.6M opening for the sports comedy The Comebacks. The target audience is getting a little sick of these antics so the opening for Spartans should be weaker than Epic‘s but better than Comebacks‘. Hefty competition, especially from Cloverfield, will also be a major hurdle to overcome this weekend. Opening in 2,603 locations, Meet the Spartans may launch with about $9M.


Meet the Spartans

Step dancing is back again, this time in female form, with How She Move which Paramount Vantage is releasing for Viacom sibling MTV Films. The PG-13 pic revolves around a talented young woman’s quest to win a dance competition and honor her dead sister’s memory in the process. Move features mostly newcomers and will target teens and urban youth. The same audience powered January hits like You Got Served and Stomp the Yard to number one openings of $16.1M and $21.8M, respectively. But Move lacks the marketing muscle that Sony has a patent on for these types of films. Success with the core crowd should result, but crossover business with other groups will be tough. Plus teens have Cloverfield and Meet the Spartans competing for their attention too so there will be blood. Stepping into about 1,500 sites, How She Move could bow to around $6M.


How She Move

After scoring seven Academy Award nominations, the most for any big studio title, Michael Clayton goes back out into wide release on Friday. Warner Bros. is hoping to catch audiences who maybe didn’t catch it the first time but are now sold on the George Clooney drama because of all the kudos attention. Clayton, which has grossed $39.4M to date, goes back out into 1,102 theaters. A year ago this weekend, the studio gave similar treatment to The Departed which expanded to 1,453 locations for a $3.4M gross in its 17th frame. This time the studio is using the ads to also inform fans of the legal thriller’s February 19 DVD release date so some may just wait a few weeks to catch the acclaimed pic at home. Michael Clayton may find itself with roughly $3M this weekend.


Michael Clayton gets a second run

Last weekend, the beastly disaster flick Cloverfield exploded with a record opening of $46.1M over the four-day holiday frame. A steep drop is likely on the sophomore frame since frenzied upfront demand led to most fans catching the thriller already. Plus Rambo and some of the other new titles will pull audiences away in different directions. A 55% three-day tumble would leave Paramount with about $18M and a ten-day cume of $69M.

Chick flick 27 Dresses is not worried about Stallone, however Diane Lane and the Spartans could provide some competition this weekend for the Katherine Heigl laugher. Audiences have been having a good time with the Fox release so a 40% drop could occur. That would give 27 Dresses roughly $13.5M over three days and a total of $44M after ten days.

Batman franchise alums Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman enjoyed a terrific hold for their pic The Bucket List last weekend which is playing to an older and more patient crowd. A 30% fall would put the Warner Bros. film at around $10.5M pushing the sum to $58M.

LAST YEAR: Spoof comedy led the way with Fox’s Epic Movie which bowed on top to the tune of $18.6M on its way to $39.7M. Opening right behind in second with almost identical per-theater average was the Universal drama Smokin’ Aces with $14.6M from 600 fewer theaters. A $35.7M final gross resulted. Former chart-topper Night at the Museum followed in third with $9.6M while the dance drama Stomp the Yard placed fourth with $7.7M. A hair behind in fifth with a $7.7M debut was Sony’s Jennifer Garner drama Catch and Release which found its way to just $15.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Competition, or a lack of it, will be the deciding factor at the North American box office this weekend for the half-dozen new releases that studios are packing into already overcrowded multiplexes. Leading the way is the horror film 30 Days of Night followed by the sports comedy The Comebacks which both will be targeting the teens and young adults that Hollywood has been ignoring in recent weeks. Mature adults who already have a wide selection of serious dramas to choose from will be served up three more – Reese Witherspoon‘s Rendition, Ben Affleck‘s Gone Baby Gone, and Halle Berry‘s Things We Lost in the Fire. With far too many films aiming for the same finite audience segment, some are sure to eat into the potential of others.

Sony will monopolize the horror crowd looking for a scare before Halloween with its gorefest 30 Days of Night which tells of vampires that attack a small town in northern Alaska during its annual sunless period. The R-rated film prominently informs moviegoers in its marketing that it is based on a graphic novel hoping to tap into a little bit of the excitement generated by 300 last spring. The first eight months of this year were brutal to R-rated horror films with none reaching number one and high-profile franchise flicks like Hostel II, 28 Weeks Later, and The Hills Have Eyes 2 all failing to reach $10M on opening weekend. But the Halloween remake over Labor Day weekend changed all that and was followed three weeks later by another top spot debut from horror-action hybrid Resident Evil: Extinction. But those have died out so 30 Days stands as the only creepfest at a time when scary movies are in demand. Attacking 2,700 theaters, 30 Days of Night should easily top the charts and could bite into around $19M over the weekend.


30 Days of Night

Fox spoofs the world of sports films with its new comedy The Comebacks which will target adolescents either too young for 30 Days or uninterested in scary movies. With so many mature stories hogging up screens, the market can certainly use a dose of immature humor right about now. The Comebacks is the first viable PG-13 comedy aimed at teens since fellow sports comedy Balls of Fury launched at the end of August. After a mid-week debut, that pic bowed to $11.4M over three days and Comebacks will play to many of the same folks. And with seventeen R-rated films opening wide over the last eight weeks, there has been little to celebrate for the under-17 crowd. Sure The Comebacks looks dumb, but dumb can sell. Add in a trim running time of under 90 minutes and commercial prospects are not bad. This is disposable entertainment for 14-year-olds. It will draw attention upfront, and be forgotten two weeks from now. Thanks to a lack of direct competition, The Comebacks could debut with about $11M from 2,800 sites.


The Comebacks

Leading the charge for the 30-plus crowd this weekend is Reese Witherspoon who headlines the political thriller Rendition from New Line. The R-rated drama finds the Oscar winner playing a woman whose Egyptian-born husband is captured by the CIA after being suspected of being a terrorist. Jake Gyllenhaal and Meryl Streep add to the cast. Rendition follows The Kingdom and In the Valley of Elah as military-themed films this fall with connections to the Middle East. Audiences will want only so much of this content. Witherspoon will have her starpower put to the test since she is the only major commercial star here and she is outside of her safety zone of romantic comedies. The film will play to mature adults and will have to compete not only with this weekend’s other new dramas, but also with an assortment of holdovers already playing to the same audience. Reviews have been mixed which will also make things difficult. Debuting in roughly 2,200 locations, Rendition may capture about $9M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.


Reese Witherspoon and Peter Sarsgaard in Rendition

Ben Affleck makes his directorial debut with the crime thriller Gone Baby Gone which stars his brother Casey in the lead role. The Miramax release also stars Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Michelle Monaghan and carries a R rating. Reviews have been good which will come as a shocker to those that look at this movie as nothing more than Daredevil getting to hop into the director’s chair. Reese, Joaquin, George, Cate, and Halle will all be cutting into the adult pie which can only expand by a certain amount. The marketing push has been highlighting the film as being from the author of Mystic River in hopes of finding those who loved that other Boston-set fall crime drama. An invite to the top five may not arrive for Ben. Opening in approximately 1,500 theaters, Gone Baby Gone could collect about $6M this weekend.


Freeman, Affleck and Monaghan in Gone Baby Gone
Yet another new option for adults looking for serious fare is the Halle BerryBenicio Del Toro starrer Things We Lost in the Fire. The Paramount release about a widow who seeks comfort from her dead husband’s drug-addicted friend will play to a mature audience and skew more female. The R-rated film has generated some good early reviews and both leads have Oscars on their shelves, but it will not be enough to compete with the other films targeting the same crowd. Berry showed in April that she can only open a picture so much when her thriller Perfect Stranger bowed to a $4,211 average even though A-lister Bruce Willis co-starred. With a not-so-wide release in about 1,000 theaters this weekend, Things We Lost in the Fire might debut with around $3M.


Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro in Things We Lost in the Fire

Freestyle Releasing has booked the few remaining empty screens out there for its teen thriller Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour. As one of the only PG-rated suspense pics ever made, the film will try to attract younger teenagers not interested in sports-themed comedies. With only 1,100 theaters, a quiet marketing campaign, no stars, and zero buzz, a weak debut of about $1M could result.


Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour

After a potent number one debut, Tyler Perry‘s hit comedy Why Did I Get Married? should suffer a big fall in its second weekend if history is any indicator. Sophomore drops for the filmmaker’s previous offerings include 50% for Diary of a Mad Black Woman, 58% for Madea’s Family Reunion, and 57% for Daddy’s Little Girls. Lionsgate should see a 50% fall to about $10M this weekend giving the ensemble relationship tale $37M in ten days.

Disney’s The Game Plan once again has no new competition for the kiddie audience. Why studios have programmed so many serious adult dramas into this month and no other good family films is anyone’s guess. A 35% dip would leave The Rock with $7M and an impressive cume of $68M after 24 days.

Both Sony’s We Own the Night and the Warner Bros. thriller Michael Clayton will have to fight extra hard in order to compete with the new releases gunning for their customers. Night looks to slide more and fall by 45% while the strongly reviewed Clayton could ease by 40% with both films grossing roughly $6M over the weekend. That would lead to ten-day totals of $20M and $21M, respectively.

LAST YEAR: Just two months after the release of the similarly-themed magician pic The Illusionist, Buena Vista still managed to score a number one bow for The Prestige which opened with $14.8M on its way to $53.1M. Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed enjoyed a strong hold and ranked second with $13.5M in its third frame. Debuting in third was Clint Eastwood‘s war saga Flags of Our Fathers with $10.2M leading to a disappointing $33.6M final for Paramount. Sony’s animated hit Open Season ranked fourth with $8.2M. Rounding out the top five was rival family film Flicka with $7.7M for Fox on its way to only $21M. Also premiering in the top ten was Sony’s Marie Antoinette with $5.4M which led to a final tally of just $16M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies we have Alaskan vamps (30
Days of Night
, starring
Josh Hartnett
and Melissa
George
), imprisoned citizens (Rendition,
starring Jake
Gyllenhaal
and
Reese
Witherspoon
), private eyes (Gone
Baby Gone
, starring
Casey Affleck
and
Michelle Monaghan
), grieving adults (Things
We Lost in the Fire
, starring Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro),
biblical figures (The
Ten Commandments
), athletes (The
Comebacks
), and teen detectives of the supernatural (Sarah
Landon and the Paranormal Hour
). What do the critics have to say?

Many horror films go to great lengths to create a dark atmosphere. 30
Days of Night
does them all one better, venturing to a place where it’s night for
a month: Barrow, AK, the northernmost point in the U.S. Unfortunately, critics
are left cold by this one. Night stars Josh Hartnett and Melissa George
as an estranged couple defending their town against a horde of bloodthirsty
vampires. Critics say the film has some frightful moments that should please
gorehounds, but overall, the film lacks the nuance and sustained tension to
really put this kind of genre exercise over. At 39 percent on the Tomatometer, Night
doesn’t shine.



Hartnett and company check for undead termites.
 

Reese Witherspoon stars in Rendition as a housewife whose husband is imprisoned
and tortured by the U.S. for his suspected involvement with terrorists. Jake Gyllenhaal co-stars as a government employee trying to set him free, with
Meryl
Streep
as a bureaucrat intent on keeping him there. While critics commended the
film for exploring the issue of torture within the context of combating
terrorism, they say the plot is spread thinly across an abundance of characters
and doesn’t give the film the emotional drive it needs, while arriving at an
oversimplified conclusion of this very complex subject. At 39 percent, this
Rendition is less than extraordinary.




Who needs work when you have Snood?
 

Ben Affleck has had a rollercoaster career, but critics say his feature
directorial debut, Gone
Baby Gone
, is one of the high points. Treading
the same rough Boston streets as
Mystic River
(also adapted from one of
source writer Dennis
Lehane
‘s novels), Gone Baby Gone tells the story of
a pair of private eyes (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) searching for a
lost four-year-old, a quest that delves into the dark shadows of the city, from
the criminal underworld to corrupt cops. Critics say Baby is grim, but
also deliciously noirish and morally complex, featuring standout performances
from its leads, as well as
Morgan Freeman and
Ed Harris. With a score of 89
percent on the Tomatometer, Gone Baby Gone‘s critical reaction should
assuage Ben’s depression over the current state of his beloved Red Sox. (Check
out this week’s Total Recall, where we examine some of Affleck’s notable
cameos).



Affleck ponders another imminent Red Sox defeat.
 

Susanne Bier, famed in her native Denmark for her dark and complex melodramas,
makes her American debut this week with Things
We Lost in the Fire
. Halle Berry
stars as a grieving widow who invites Benicio Del Toro’s character, her
husband’s childhood friend and heroin addict, to move in with her and her
children. Though it frequently drips into maudlin territory (something Bier
avoided with her previous effort, the Certified Fresh
After the Wedding
),
critics recognize it as at least a sincere tearjerker, and an honest and
emotionally raw portrayal of two tortured people. At 64 percent, Fire isn’t
red-hot but should appease viewers out for a soapy drama.




A therapeutic game of thumb war.
 
Movie lovers who lack the patience to sit through the
The Decalogue
are
in luck:
The Ten Commandments
tells the story of Moses in less than an
hour and a half, and in animated form, no less. But is it any good? Well,
critics are forbidden to bear false witness, and they say it isn’t. The Ten
Commandments
follows Moses’ journey from infancy to the point where he leads
the Chosen People to the Promised Land, and features voice work from the likes
of Ben Kingsley and
Christian Slater. But critics say the film’s middling
animation and lack of nuance make for a dull take on one of the Bible’s most
rousing tales. At 20 percent on the Tomatometer, critics say thou shall not
enjoy The Ten Commandments.

This week, the folks behind both The
Comebacks
and Sarah
Landon and the Paranormal Hour
declined to screen their films for pundits. The
Comebacks
spoofs inspirational sports movies, while Sarah Landon is
about a 17-year-old who discovers spectral activity in her hometown. Our only
guess is that it was assumed each film would receive a critical (buzzer)
beating, or wouldn’t stand a ghost of a chance with the scribes. (Thank you.
I’ll be here all week.) Guess those Tomatometers.



"I’ve got a bad case of athlete’s spoof."
 
Also opening this week in limited release:
Meeting Resistance
, a doc
about Iraqi insurgents, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer;
Trigger Man
,
an indie about a harrowing hunting trip, is at 100 percent;
Wristcutters: A
Love Story
, a dramedy about the afterlife starring
Patrick Fugit, is at 71
percent; the Spanish import
DarkBlueAlmostBlack
, about the familial
responsibilities of a young janitor, is at 67 percent;
Out of the Blue
, a
fictional retelling of New Zealand’s largest mass-murder, is at 67 percent;
Summer
Love
, a Polish take on the spaghetti western genre, is at 60 percent;
Weirdsville,
a wacky tale of stoners and satanic cults, is at 58
percent;
The Girl Next Door
, a tale of torture beneath the placid façade
of 1950s suburbia, is at 58 percent;
Reservation Road
, a tale of familial
grief starring
Joaquin Phoenix,
Jennifer Connelly, and
Mark Ruffalo, is at 37
percent (check out our interview with director Terry George
here); and
Klimt
,
starring John Malkovich in a biopic of the great painter, is at 30 percent.




"You have a beard but you’re not the bad guy? That’s weird."
 
Finally, props to Bloody Mathias for coming the closest to guessing
Tyler
Perry’s Why Did I Get Married
‘s 48 percent Tomatometer. Try putting a
bandage on it, and perhaps then you won’t be bloody, Mathias.

Recent Ben Affleck Movies:
—————————————-
26% — Smokin’ Aces (2007)
38% — Man About Town (2006)
63% — Clerks II (2006)
70% — Hollywoodland (2006)
7% — Surviving Christmas (2004)

Recent Casey Affleck Movies:
—————————————-
73% —
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
(2007)
69% — Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
46% — The Last Kiss (2006)
55% — Lonesome Jim (2006)
55% — Ocean’s
Twelve
(2004)