This week at the movies, we’ve got bare-knuckle bouts (Fighting, starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard), the wonders of nature (Earth, narrated by James Earl Jones), a musical friendship (The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx), and some office intrigue (Obsessed, starring Idris Elba and Beyonce Knowles). What do the critics have to say?



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Fighting

Look, you pretty much know what you’re getting into with a movie called Fighting: lots of tough-as-nails dudes beating the stuffing out of each other. And the pundits say that while director Dito Montiel does his best to infuse interesting characterization and a sense of place, Fighting is still a shopworn underdog sports movie. Channing Tatum stars as a kid who’s just arrived in New York City from Alabama; after attempting to make a living on the streets, he falls in with a sketchy character (Terrence Howard) who realizes he may be a natural fit for the world of underground bare-knuckle brawls. The pundits say Fighting is a bit better than its setup would suggest, with a good deal of energy and a dash of gritty authenticity. However, others say the performances are a mixed bag and the script is ultimately weighted down by clichés. (Check out Terrence Howard’s Five Favorite Films.)



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Earth

The popular award-winning BBC series Planet Earth offered some staggeringly beautiful images of life around the globe. If the small screen version was too limited to contain such visual majesty, now comes its multiplex companion: Earth, which critics say is a remarkable document with a timely message. Narrated by (who else?) James Earl Jones, Earth focuses on three mother/child relationships in the animal kingdom, following the exploits of polar bears, humpback whales, and African elephants. The pundits say Earth doesn’t offer a ton of insight, but the images on display are so gorgeous that viewers are unlikely to quibble too much. Plus, it invites audiences to reflect upon our place in the larger ecosystem. Earth is Certified Fresh.



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The Soloist

The Soloist tells an inspiring true story, and its stars and director are Oscar nominees. But distinguished pedigree does not a movie make, and critics say The Soloist is too uneven to fully resonate. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Steve Lopez, an LA Times reporter who befriends, and writes movingly about, a homeless, profoundly mentally ill man named Nathaniel Ayers, who was once a virtuoso cellist. The pundits say all the elements are here for a moving tale, and Downey and Foxx give it everything they’ve got; unfortunately, that’s not enough to overcome the film’s lack of focus and maudlin stretches. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Downey’s best-reviewed films, and find out director Joe Wright’s Five Favorite Films).


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Obsessed

It appears the folks behind Obsessed were dubious that critics would be, ahem, obsessed with their film. Hence, it wasn’t screened prior to its release. The movie stars Idris Elba as a successful asset manager who’s happily married — to Beyonce, no less — before an attractive, brazen office temp (Ali Larter) threatens to bring his world crashing down. Kids, it’s time to guess that Tomatometer!


Also opening this week in limited release:

Finally, props to Brendan C. for correctly guessing Crank High Voltage‘s 63 percent Tomatometer.


Terrence Howard

The Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard has amassed an impressive resume since making his Hollywood breakthrough in the 1995 drama Mr. Holland’s Opus (he also starred in that year’s Dead Presidents), excelling at giving each and every one of his characters an extraordinary complexity that always seems to simmer right beneath the surface, whether as part of an ensemble (Crash, Lackawanna Blues), as a villain (Awake, Idlewild), a sympathetic figure (Four Brothers, August Rush), or a hero in waiting (Iron Man). In this week’s Fighting, he plays mentor to a young street fighter (Channing Tatum) — a performance that critics are lauding as quietly powerful, and one of the standouts of Dito Montiel’s film.

In a discussion about Howard’s favorite films, Rotten Tomatoes discovered that the actor’s affinity for music runs close to his cinematic tastes (in addition to performing his own songs in Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow, he released an album in 2008). Read on for Howard’s Five Favorite Films, his anti-“acting” philosophy, and more.


Jesus Christ Superstar
(1973, 57% Tomatometer)



Jesus Christ Superstar
The harmony of music with the simplistic style of telling that story, as a framework for it, and then the acting… It’s like bringing Broadway — true Broadway — to the desert. Picking up a little naturalism from the desert. I believed Carl Anderson; believed every word of him, every frown, every inflection of his eyebrow. I love musicals. Always have. I think you have to tell a full story; it’s like asking someone, “Do you like black and white films?” or “Do you love 3D?” Music creates that third dimension.

That pick is impressive, especially since not a lot of men would admit to liking musicals.

Well they’re not real men, then.



On The Waterfront
(1954, 100% Tomatometer)



On the Waterfront
It was that basic human story, it was watching the fluid way in which Marlon [Brando] directed the wind around him. We were all moved and swayed by him, and it was the first time that I took notice of truth in acting. There was no acting; everyone else acted around him, but he was there.

How would you compare the way Brando acted to your own approach?

I made a vow never to “act.” Never, ever “act.” If you’re not there, if you’re not the person [whom you’re portraying], then get out of the way and let the real person in. If you’re acting like the person… People respect an ambassador, but they honor the king.

So you’re of the school of acting that really lives in each role, as opposed to just temporarily taking on a character for the time being?

Yes — or, allow the role to live in you. If you live the role, that world has its consequences when you bring it into our present world. But if you allow the character to live in you, then you are always in control and can direct where he is allowed; you allow the character to become a guest in your gracious space.

Does that mean that every actor has multiple personalities living as a guest inside of him?

Every human being is a composite of multiple, multiple atoms. All taking on different roles in the making of that person or that thing. Likewise, the end result of all of those atoms would be like those atoms; so we need a lot of different personalities; but in order to be one personality, you have to be a number of them because of how they balance off each other.



Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
(1968, 59% Tomatometer)



Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: “A posh life!” [From the song “Posh!”] “Lullabye Bay.” [From the song “Hushabye Mountain”] Those songs that Dick Van Dyke (as Caractacus Potts) and his father (Lionel Jeffries, as Grandpa Potts) sang blew me away! I saw it as a child, and I watch it as an adult. I love that movie.


Mary Poppins

(1964, 100% Tomatometer)

 

Mary PoppinsMary Poppins is still one of my very, very, very favorites. There are so many wonderful jewels of knowledge that they put in that film. It’s like that book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. There are some wonderful hints to achieving success in life, and the greatest success is to be happy. That’s what those movies seem to tell me.

Are you a movie watcher who takes the lessons from films and employs them in your own life?

Well, a true teacher is always a true student. And if you are willing and humble yourself, you can learn from a lot; you have to listen very carefully.


Hustle & Flow (2005, 82%)



Hustle & Flow
Hustle & Flow showed me what could have happened to me. I hadn’t recognized that until I’d seen the movie completed; you never know what painting you’re making until the final stroke. And even then, it’s not finished until you put it into the frame. I didn’t understand the full impact of those individual strokes that we were making on a day to day basis until I saw [the film] — where A could have led me. I saw where A would end up at. And taking on B, C, and D… For a film to affect me that way, for a character to affect me that way, to where I feel worry and think about who Djay is… I still wonder about Shug and her baby. I still wonder about Key.

Hustle & Flow also had music in it, which told some of that struggle. Remember, music used to be written for films, conveyed by the actors themselves. They knew when that music was played and they responded to it. Now, [merging a film to its music] is something that’s done as a separate act, and it’s more manipulative and not honest. Music in Hustle & Flow gave us another plane in which to relate everything to, and to play from. It widened the playing field; it brightened the road down the way, because you could move to that music, and be in step with the audience instead of the audience being manipulated into step with you.

Taking that amount of pride in Hustle & Flow‘s musical elements, how did you feel when Three 6 Mafia won the Oscar for Best Song?

I felt absolutely elated, for the fact that the Academy was able to see past the genre lines and the lines of demarcation between individual people and could see the artists themselves, the work and the artistry. They didn’t care whose name was at the bottom of the painting, or who was the initial audience of it, they just saw a painting worth their appreciation. I was so honored to be a part of that.


Watch Terrence Howard in Fighting this Friday. For more Five Favorite Films, visit our archive.

The environment needs saving so Hollywood is doing its part to go green by opening recycled versions of Fatal Attraction and Fight Club in hopes of attracting young adults. In a battle of genre divisions, Sony’s Screen Gems unit offers the relationship thriller Obsessed starring Beyoncé Knowles while Rogue Pictures counters with the Channing Tatum vehicle Fighting released through Universal. Paramount goes for an older audience with the Robert Downey Jr.Jamie Foxx drama The Soloist and Disney aims for families with the nature documentary Earth. Titles are short and succinct this weekend and overall it should be another up session for the film industry during the final frame before the highly-anticipated launch of the summer movie season.

After two weeks of high school superstars ruling the box office, things get a little more mature with Obsessed starring Beyoncé, Ali Larter, and Idris Elba. The PG-13 flick tells of a happily married man being stalked by a seductress working as a new temp in his office. Much like Fatal Attraction before it, this blandly-titled film is centered around a love triangle but the casting allows for a new twist with a white woman invading the sanctity of a black couple’s marriage. Sony should see a strong turnout from females and from African American moviegoers, but male appeal is solid too so the date crowd will be key here.

The former Destiny’s Child singer is always a big draw in anything she does so look for her fan base to show some support this weekend as the storyline is generating interest. Marketing has been top notch too with commercials and trailers selling the pic as a sexy suspense film. Fast & Furious is the only film in the top ten now with any racial diversity on screen so ethnic audiences will add to a solid top spot bow. Entering over 2,400 locations, Obsessed might debut with around $17M.


Idris Elba, Ali Larter and Beyoncé in Obsessed

A decade after Ben Button roughed up punks in Fight Club, Hollywood’s new prettyboy Channing Tatum revisits the same territory with Fighting from Universal and Rogue. The PG-13 pic features the Step Up star playing a small-town guy that moves to New York and discovers an underground world of street-fighting. Terrence Howard co-stars. Teens and young adults are the target here with the film reaching out to males with the fisticuffs and to the ladies with Tatum’s sex appeal. The marketing push has been strong and a solid turnout should be expected. More than anything, this will be a test of the lead’s starpower since the film rests almost entirely on his shoulders. If teen girls don’t feel like they’ve spent enough cash on Zac and Miley over the past two weeks, then they will provide a nice boost to Fighting. But younger males should be counted on since there are few exciting options for them at the moment. Plus Wolverine, Kirk, and John Connor haven’t hit the multiplexes yet. Busting into 2,310 theaters, Fighting may open to around $12M this weekend.


Channing Tatum in Fighting

Iron Man and Ray Charles try to drum up some business for Paramount’s new drama The Soloist which opens Friday after being bumped from last December’s release slate. The PG-13 film stars Jamie Foxx as a gifted yet homeless violinist that is discovered by a journalist played by Robert Downey Jr. This is an adult-skewing pic that will be driven by the opinions of critics and so far reviews have been mixed at best which should spell trouble at the box office. The studio is hoping that audiences will overlook the not-so-original subject matter and instead be interested in a killer star-combo. Rarely do two Oscar-caliber actors pair up like this. But it’s not WashingtonCrowe in American Gangster. Foxx’s hairstyle, conveniently cropped out of the poster, may scare off customers too. Playing in more than 1,800 theaters, The Soloist could take in about $8M this weekend.


Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx in The Soloist

Three animal families take amazing journeys in the new G-rated documentary Earth narrated by James Earl Jones which hit theaters on Wednesday to coincide with Earth Day. Disney hopes to pull in the family crowd with a film featuring adorable animals, a familiar voiceover, and environmentally-aware subject matter. Four years ago, the now-defunct Warner Independent hit gold with its nature doc March of the Penguins which made its $77.4M worth of loot in a different way by slowly rolling out in limited release before going nationwide in late summer when it became a pop culture phenomenon of the moment. Earth will take its own path going wide from day one. Reviews have been positive, but that may not help much at the cash registers. While parents know the film is good for them, many will hold back the dollars since the must-see factor just isn’t there. Now playing in 1,804 theaters, a $5M weekend take could result.


One member of the cast of Earth

Zac Efron, lord of the teen kingdom, should see a sizable drop for his hit comedy 17 Again. The Warner Bros. release dipped 3% on Saturday after its solid opening day tally and fell sharply again on Sunday so the young audience is definitely eroding fast. With Beyoncé and Channing offering up new entrées this weekend, some of the young female audience will shift gears. Look for a 50% decline which would deliver a three-day score of about $12M and a ten-day cume of $39.5M.

Monsters vs. Aliens could enjoy its fifth frame in the top five making it the second-longest streak for the list this year trailing only Taken which logged in seven consecutive weekends. The DreamWorks toon will see its only direct new competition coming from Earth so its drop should be low. A 35% dip would give Gallaxhar and gang around $8.5M pushing the amazing total to $175M.

Also on course to see roughly $8.5M in ticket sales is Universal’s Russell Crowe thriller State of Play. With good word-of-mouth and an older audience that does not rush out on opening weekend, a 40% decline could result. Only The Soloist looks to directly steal away any business. State would then see its total climb to a mediocre $26M after ten days.

Disney’s Hannah Montana The Movie may fall by 50% to about $6.5M giving the teen queen $66M to date. Look for a similar drop for Fast & Furious which would decelerate to around $6M putting Universal at a sturdy $145M so far.

LAST YEAR: Universal’s hit buddy comedy Baby Mama starring a pre-Sarah Palin Tina Fey and a pre-pregnancy Amy Poehler opened at number one with $17.4M on its way to a solid $60.3M. Second place went to another new comedy about a pair of funny folks, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay which bowed to $14.9M nearly tripling the debut of its 2004 predecessor. New Line found its way to $38.1M. Holdovers rounded out the top five over the final weekend before Iron Man launched the summer movie season. Lionsgate’s The Forbidden Kingdom dropped to third with $11.2M, Forgetting Sarah Marshall fell to fourth with $11M for Universal, and Nim’s Island took in $4.5M for Fox. Opening poorly in tenth was that studio’s Hugh Jackman thriller Deception with a pitiful $2.3M and $1,155 average leading to a $4.6M finish.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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