Let’s get this out of the way right up front: We wish only the best for Ted 2, and hope it turns out to be one of the year’s funniest comedies while making plenty of money for everyone who worked on it. But we also know that the track record for comedy sequels isn’t terribly encouraging, and while waiting for Seth MacFarlane and Mark Wahlberg to return for another round of R-rated hijinks between a man-child and his talking stuffed bear, our thoughts turned inexorably to the many times when the sequels kept coming long after the laughs stopped. If comedy equals tragedy plus time, then perhaps the movies featured in this week’s list are still waiting for their moment — or maybe they’re just bad. Either way, it’s time for Total Recall!
How, pray tell, does one go about putting together a sequel to the 1987 hit Mannequin without the raw sexual magnetism between Kim Cattrall and Andrew McCarthy, or the wan unctuousness of James Spader? The sensible answer is “one does not,” but the folks behind Mannequin Two: On the Move had other ideas — mainly consisting of re-enlisting flamboyant Mannequin second banana Meshach Taylor to reprise his role as mincing window dresser Hollywood Montrose for a follow-up with different stars (William Ragsdale and Kristy Swanson, trying in vain to duplicate Cattrall and McCarthy’s unforgettable chemistry) but the same basic plot. Chiefly of interest for fans of prolific character actor Terry Kiser, who used his downtime between Weekend at Bernie’s movies to work in his appearance as Mannequin Two villain Count Gunther Spretzle, this is a sequel so bereft of ideas that it even recycles the original’s theme song, the Starship hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” As Variety wearily observed, “It took four writers to struggle with another idea of why a mannequin would come to life in a department store and what would happen if she did.”
Is the original Weekend at Bernie’s a comedy classic? Assuredly not, but there are still plenty of chortles to be wrung from the sight of a couple of corporate drones panicking their way through a scheme that involves using the body of their recently deceased boss as a comically ineffective prop, and we would be lying if we said we’d turn it off if we happened upon that first Weekend while scrolling through channels. It most certainly did not, however, need a sequel — and yet theatrical grosses dictated that stars Jonathan Silverman, Andrew McCarthy, and Terry Kiser (as Bernie) reunite for a humiliatingly absurd caper involving a voodoo ritual gone awry and millions in stolen cash. “Frankly,” opined Scott Weinberg for eFilmCritic, “I’m stunned that every American who paid to see it didn’t file a class action suit against Tri-Star Pictures for their blatant misrepresentation of the word ‘comedy.'”
It would take a profoundly silly person to argue that Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo was at all deserving of a sequel on qualitative grounds, but Rob Schneider’s comedy pulled in nearly $100 million at the box office, so a sequel was bound to happen — and it did in 2005, when fans of putative comedies about male sex escorts were treated to Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, which sent Schneider to… oh, we don’t need to talk about the storyline, do we? The only thing that really matters about this movie is what it triggered offscreen: the infamous dustup between Schneider and Roger Ebert, who lambasted it in his review (“Aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience”) and later distilled his thoughts regarding European Gigolo to a simple message he relayed directly to Schneider: “Your movie sucks.” The two later had a moving reconciliation during Ebert’s last days, setting an example that almost (but not quite) justifies spending an hour and 28 minutes of one’s life to watch the film.
It’s difficult to watch the original Revenge of the Nerds today without cringing at some of the embarrassing stereotypes and rampant misogyny that passed for comedy at the time, but there were a few kernels of legitimately forward-thinking ideas embedded in all the lewd gags, and in some respects, it can be argued that the first Nerds was a movie slightly ahead of its time. No such arguments have ever been made on behalf of Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, in which our gentle-hearted (and yet oh so horny) heroes descend upon Fort Lauderdale for some old-fashioned spring break debauchery — and once again find themselves forced to contend with persecution from their beefy jock nemeses. With twice the jiggle and half the reason for actually existing, Nerds in Paradise needed to worry less about musclebound frat boys than it did about critics: Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer summed up the nigh-universal scorn of her colleagues when she sneered, “By all evidence, to make Nerds II, it took over 1,000 people with an aggregate IQ of under 1.”
Jason Bateman is an immensely likable performer with sharp comedic timing and a gift for playing the straight man, but he’s also had some pretty rough luck when it comes to picking film scripts, and that snakebitten streak extends all the way back to his big-screen debut. The original Teen Wolf barely got by on Michael J. Fox’s fresh-faced charm and an eager enthusiasm for low-budget B-movie tropes (not to mention Mark Safan’s “Win in the End,” an unsung ’80s teen movie sports montage soundtrack classic), but not even Fox’s refusal to return for more kept the studio from commissioning a sequel in which his character’s cousin (played by Bateman) heads off to college and discovers that he too is burdened with the family curse. While producers may have thought they were recapturing lightning in a bottle by tapping another young TV sitcom star — and Bateman may have made for a more imposing teen werewolf than the diminutive Fox — none of it mattered in the face of a screenplay that barely bothered pretending to go through the motions. “The pacing is near-cataleptic and the movie’s intended comic highlight is a frog-fight in the biology lab,” fumed Michael Wilmington for the Los Angeles Times. “Isn’t that just what you’re dying to see and hear? Bad dialogue, lugubriously paced; awful jokes about werewolves, and guffawing actors churlishly hurling around a lot of little frogs?”
If you’re somehow able to finance and film one movie about a Segway-riding mall cop with a main gag that revolves around the fact that his last name rhymes with “fart,” you might as well make another one, right? Hence Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, in which Kevin James returns to ride his motorized scooter of justice — and in the time-honored sequel tradition, finds himself in a new location (Las Vegas) and in the middle of even more high-stakes action (a hotel heist involving the theft of some priceless art). It all added up to another $100 million-plus outing for the increasingly pratfall-dependent James, whose brightest moments in Mall Cop 2 included fighting an ostrich and punching an elderly woman in the stomach — none of which were enough to distract critics from delivering a swift and vicious pummeling for the film that Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News referred to as “the cinematic equivalent of biting into an old brown banana.”
In theory, a sequel to 1989’s Major League wasn’t necessarily such a bad idea. The first movie made a pile of money, it had a solid cast (most of whom were willing to return for a follow-up), and the seasonal nature of baseball meant it would be relatively easy — and narratively feasible — to bring the gang back together for another round of yuks. Add in the fact that director/co-writer David S. Ward (who doggedly pitched the original for years before it was released) was returning, and Major League II should have been (ahem) a home run. But even with all that going for it, this belated sequel — which opened five years later but picked up the season after Major League — just didn’t have the same zip as the original, and based on the box office, audiences no longer really cared whether Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) and his motley crew of teammates had what it took to send the Cleveland Indians to the World Series. Sighed Caryn James for the New York Times, “There has rarely been such a steep and strange decline between a movie and its sequel as the one between the fast, silly original and the dismal, boring Major League II.”
Caddyshack is a comedy classic that virtually hums with the madcap energy thrown off by director Harold Ramis and his incredible cast, a marvelously motley bunch that included Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase. Naturally, the sequel brought back virtually no one who’d been involved the first time around, limiting the classic Caddyshack vibes to a supporting appearance from Chase and a new song from Kenny Loggins on the soundtrack. This might not have been such a bad thing if these crucial absences had been filled by the right people or a suitably funny storyline, but director Allan Arkush was presented with a cobbled-together script that virtually reprised the original and asked Harvey Mason to serve as a Dangerfield facsimile with Robert Stack as Knight’s proxy. Audiences saw through the flimsy carbon copy and so did critics; the result was, as Steven Rea wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “a sight not to behold.”
Just because a movie makes a bunch of money doesn’t mean it needs a sequel. Case in point: The Whole Ten Yards, the 2004 travesty that reunited the cast of the 2000 hit The Whole Nine Yards simply because the studio seemed to take the first film’s box office receipts as some sort of mandate. Once again, Matthew Perry (as nebbishy dentist Nicholas “Oz” Ozeransky) and Bruce Willis (as retired hitman Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski) find themselves in hot water with vengeful mob boss Laszlo Gogolak (Kevin Pollak), and the sequel’s retreaded plot — as well as a marked decrease in the original’s laughs-per-minute quotient — left critics openly questioning why anyone would bother. “So mirthless is this misbegotten enterprise,” grumbled Peter Howell for the Toronto Star, “the sound of fake chucklers busting a gut would at least have given us valuable clues as to when we’re supposed to laugh.”
If film franchises were professional sports teams, the Police Academy movies would hover somewhere near the 2011-’12 Charlotte Bobcats in the standings, with Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol representing the most painfully lopsided defeat in a long stretch of stunning futility. All of which is to say that critics loathed each of the Academy films in their own special way, and no fewer than four of the seven installments in the series boast a 0 percent Tomatometer rating, but with 20 uniformly negative reviews, it’s 1987’s Citizens on Patrol that represents the jewel in the franchise’s crown of failure. We could go into plot, but it’s a Police Academy movie, and the plot’s all laid out in the title; really, all you need to know is that there’s definitely something better to watch. As Dave Kehr pointed out in his review for the Chicago Reader, “Jim Drake is credited with the direction and Gene Quintano with the script, though they’d probably appreciate it if you kept it to yourself.”
Look Who’s Talking was a pleasantly undemanding comedy that reminded audiences they still liked John Travolta and featured some funny voicework from Bruce Willis as the inner monologue of a baby. Three years later, Look Who’s Talking Too tried to double down on the toddler-driven laughs by adding Roseanne Barr as the voice of Willis’ sister, but that gambit proved woefully unsuccessful — so three years after that, we got Look Who’s Talking Now, in which the kids are old enough to speak with their own voices… and old enough to have pets who, you guessed it, the audience can hear speak. As concepts go, it’s pretty thin, but Now still might have benefited from the talents of its new voice cast if someone had written a worthy script; alas, Danny DeVito (as a streetwise mutt named Rocks) and Diane Keaton (as Daphne the purebred poodle) were left to try and wring a few laughs out of a premise long past its prime while the human stars of the series, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley, bore the onscreen brunt of a series of humiliations that included Alley dressing up as an elf. “The first film had maybe a shred of realism to flavor its romantic comedy,” lamented Roger Ebert. “This one looks like it was chucked up by an automatic screenwriting machine.”
Jon Voight is a very famous, highly respected actor, but he also has bills to pay, which may explain how he ended up alongside Scott Baio and Vanessa Angel playing second fiddle to a diaper-clad quartet in Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. Then again, if you take Voight at his word, he chose the project because “When you look around the world, everybody’s really in a fearful state in some way, and kids are getting that, they’re getting that fear, and they need to be given a kind of empowerment in some sense” — but no, you know what? We prefer the “bills to pay” explanation. Either way, this alleged action comedy about an evil media mogul who’s out to kidnap four freakishly smart toddlers has gone down as one of the more shockingly awful stinkers to seep out of Hollywood in recent memory — as well as, sadly, the final effort from Porky’s director Bob Clark. “The first Baby Geniuses, released in 1999, was one of the most inane, humorless, ill-conceived, poorly acted comedies of the year,” wrote Jean Oppenheimer for the New Times. “As difficult as it is to imagine, the sequel is even worse.”
This week we ask if a certain January box office hit about a portly security
guard in a shopping mall will continue its reign of success on home video (Paul Blart:
Mall Cop), ponder the reasons why Tom Cruise would ever play a German character
with his real-life American accent (Valkryie), and dare to don 3D glasses to get
limbs flying in our face in the comfort of our own home (My Bloody Valentine
3D). We’re also morbidly curious to see erstwhile Jesus Jim Caviezel as an alien
among Vikings (Outlander), see our favorite celeb geek cameos in a long-awaited
comedy about Star Wars adoration (Fanboys), and get up close and personal with
2008’s other vampire-related pop culture phenomenon (True Blood).
earning lackluster reviews and bearing the ignominy of being released during the
prime dumping ground month of January, Paul Blart: Mall Cop skyrocketed to a ginormous box office take – over $176 million and counting, to be more precise.
The tale of a pudgy shopping mall security guard who battles holiday season
criminals armed only with his wits and a Segway was slapsticky and slight, yet
has turned erstwhile King of Queens Kevin James (who not only stars, but
co-wrote the script) into a box office success, whether you like it or not.
(Who’s ready for Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2: Back and Blartier?) Bonus features
include deleted scenes, lots of James (a commentary, career retrospective,
outtakes), making-of featurettes, and a few interesting pieces demonstrating
parkour (AKA free running) in a mall.
do you adapt a life-or-death historical event so dramatic and important that it
could have ended WWII early, pre-empted the Nazi regime, and assassinated none
other than Adolf Hitler a year before he took his own life? If you’re producer
and star Tom Cruise, you opt for bombast instead of authenticity, cast yourself
as a heroic German officer, bring on a dozen esteemed British thespians to play
your countrymen, and let them all speak in their native accents. Valkryie –
based on a real life 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and restore Germany to its
pre-Nazi glory – unfortunately makes a slick Hollywood thriller out of the
proceedings, falling short of both its debt to history and to the combined
potential of its stellar cast (which includes Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom
Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, and Carice van Houten). Two featurettes and two
commentary tracks (featuring Cruise, director Bryan Singer, and scripter
Christopher McQuarrie) are also included.
Next: My Bloody Valentine 3D
dealing with modern horror movies (and even moreso with modern horror
sequels/reboots/remakes), it’s not uncommon to expect bad reviews. That said, a
few percentage points below the Fresh cutoff isn’t too shabby! Patrick Lussier’s
reimagining of the infamous 1981 Canadian slasher flick updated its central
premise – mining town gets terrorized by a pick axe-wielding killer -added in
the gimmicky extra of 3D, resulting in a bloody good time for genre critics (and
horror fans), though the mainstream crowd was less enthused. A commentary with
director Lussier and four pairs of 3D glasses accompany the 2-disc edition,
though you can also watch MBV3D in 2D – but why would you want to?
meet Vikings in this independent sci-fi genre mash-up, in which a soldier from
outer space (Jim Caviezel) lands on Earth, circa 709 A.D., and joins forces with
a village of Viking warriors to fight a common enemy. Sadly for us geeks, the
resulting pic is a clunky, unpolished monster movie that fails to capitalize on
the best plot ever imagined; critics say it doesn’t even begin to approach its
cult potential. Behind-the-scenes peeks are included on the disc, though its
lone commentary track (by director Howard McCain) is notably absent of stars
Caviezel, John Hurt, Sophia Myles, and Ron Perlman.
Wars geeks have been waiting a long time for Fanboys (it was originally slated
to debut in 2007 before director Kyle Newman got funding to do re-shoots) and
mobilized en masse when a central plotline was rumored to have been cut out (it
remains). So we wonder if now, as the flick about friends, nerds, and Star Wars
Episode 1 becomes available on DVD, the Fanboys love remains despite its
less-than-forceful reviews? If your answer is yes, break out your official
Lucasfilm Ltd. replica lightsabers T and watch Sam Huntington, Dan Fogler, Chris
Marquette, and Kristen Bell posthaste!
Next: True Blood: The Complete First Season
most teenagers and tweens know that Twilight’s Edward Cullen was the biggest
heartthrob vampire of 2008, adult audiences fixated on another hunky bloodsucker
for their pop culture vamping: Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), the dark and
handsome 173-year-old love interest in HBO’s hit series, True Blood. Developed
by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) from novelist Charlaine Harris’ Southern
Vampire Mystery books, True Blood follows psychic Louisiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse
(a twangy Anna Paquin) and her circle of friends and neighbors in an alternate
America in which vampires live among humans – tensely, illuminating some obvious
social metaphors – thanks to the invention of synthetic blood. Watch the
riveting first season this week and get ready for Season 2, which airs in June!
Next: 24: Season 7
an amazing (and fan-friendly) departure from the normal DVD timetables, the
folks behind Fox’s long-running series 24 are releasing Season 7 to home video
exactly one day after its season finale! Pick up the continuing adventures of
badass agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) as he deals with new terrorists, an
old friend, and America’s first female President! If only the show’s writers had
worked in a Jack Bauer head-butt here or there.
Next: Eden Log
In what sounds an awful lot like the plot to
Resident Evil, a man wakes up
in an underground laboratory, where he is attacked by mutants and monsters while
seeking the truth behind a place known as “Eden Log.” This French science
fiction thriller, from first-timer Franck Vestiel, debuted on the festival
circuit to mixed reviews; many cited its biggest strength to be Vestiel’s visual
flair, though much of the film (and its creatures) appear more suited to the
confines of a video game rather than a feature film.
Next: Limited Edition T2 Complete Collector’s Set Endoskull
In honor of this week’s supercharged sequel,
Terminator Salvation, what
better way is there to get in the Terminatin’ mood than to revisit the franchise
that started it all? Start with Terminator (and feel free to skip Terminator 3)
but make sure you re-watch Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which we in our humble
opinions regard as not only the best film in the series so far, but one of the
best film sequels ever made. Pick up this new T2 Collector’s Set on Blu-ray for
its awesome “Endo-skull” bust case, but beware that aside from a remastered Blu-ray
version of the film, the additional Extreme Edition DVD and Ultimate Edition DVD
provide extensive previously-released bonus materials that you might already
own. Still, a shiny T2 Endo-skull bust with glowing red eyes and audio sound
effects from the film is hard to pass up; that said, pass on this if you want to
save your money.
Until next week, happy renting!
This weekend Sony became the first studio in over a year to seize control of the top two spots at the box office as its Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop remained at number one for a second straight week while its new werewolf thriller Underworld: Rise of the Lycans opened close behind in second place with a solid showing. Movies nabbing Oscar nominations saw their grosses jump, some more dramatically than others, with a handful using the opportunity to expand their runs nationwide. The overall North American box office remained robust and beat year-ago numbers for the fifth consecutive weekend.
Paul Blart cemented its position as the first blockbuster of 2009 with a relatively low decline in its sophomore frame dipping only 33% to an estimated $21.5M. That put the ten-day cume for the PG-rated laugher at a sensational $64.8M. With a slender $26M production cost, Mall Cop looks on track to find its way to at least $120M if not more, establishing James as a bankable leading man in the lucrative comedy genre. Sony has another PG-rated bumbling crime-fighter comedy coming in two weeks in the form of The Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin.
The Kate Beckinsale-less franchise flick Underworld: Rise of the Lycans enjoyed a solid debut in the runnerup spot with an estimated $20.7M from 2,942 sites for a healthy $7,036 average. The R-rated effects-driven prequel held up well for the third film in the series and the first without its primary star. Expectations were that without Beckinsale, Lycans would not match the openings of the past films which were $21.8M for 2003’s Underworld and $26.9M for 2006’s Underworld: Evolution. The third installment cost $35M to produce with adult men making up the primary audience segment. According to studio research, 59% of the crowd was male and 55% was over 25.
Despite being shut out by the Clint-loving Academy, Gran Torino posted an impressive hold in its third weekend of wide release dipping 27% to an estimated $16M. That pushed the cume up to $97.6M putting the Warner Bros. release on course to cross the $100M mark by Thursday. Also dropping 27% and holding up quite well was the kidpic Hotel for Dogs which collected an estimated $12.4M for fourth place. Paramount’s total after 10 days is a commendable $37M.
Powered by its ten Oscar nominations, and nationwide expansion from 582 to 1,411 locations, Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire surged 80% this weekend to an estimated $10.6M allowing the acclaimed pic to enter the top five for the first time in its eleven-week run. Winning the top prize from the Producers Guild of America on Saturday, the Danny Boyle-directed film also earned the highest per-theater average among all wide releases with a solid $7,477 per site. The total for the $14M-budgeted indie has climbed to $55.9M surpassing the $49M of big Fox’s awards hopeful Australia which cost a hefty $130M to produce.
The horror flick My Bloody Valentine 3D tumbled 53% in its sophomore outing grossing an estimated $10.1M. With $37.7M scared up in ten days, the Lionsgate release should find its way to roughly $55M.
Apparently moviegoers looking for a fantasy adventure about a man who brings stories to life by reading books got their fill last month from Adam Sandler. The similarly-themed Inkheart starring Brendan Fraser opened poorly in seventh place with an estimated $7.7M from 2,655 locations for a weak $2,910 average. The New Line production was released by Warner Bros. and earned lackluster reviews.
Fox’s wedding comedy Bride Wars followed in eighth with an estimated $7M, off 40%, for a $48.7M cume to date. Brad Pitt’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button scored the most Academy Award nominations of any film with 13 and enjoyed a modest bump in sales increasing 8% to an estimated $6M to raise the total to $111M. Since the Paramount release has been in wide release since its Christmas Day bow and no major expansion was done this weekend, the box office boost was not expected to be too large given that it has already reached a large audience over the past month. Button did, however, break the Top 20 chart of top-grossing releases from 2008 bumping Tropic Thunder off the list.
Rounding out the top ten was the rap saga Notorious which crumbled 72% in its second weekend to an estimated $5.7M. The Fox Searchlight release pulled most of its audience out on the first weekend leaving little left for future frames. With $31.8M to date, a $35-40M final seems likely.
With Oscar nominations announced on Thursday morning, several distributors pre-planned expansions for nominated films this weekend hoping to cash in on the extra publicity. Revolutionary Road, one of the major pics snubbed by the Academy with no nods in the top categories, widened from 171 to 1,058 and grossed an estimated $5.3M for a moderate $4,979 average. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the Paramount Vantage release has taken in $11.9M and faces a tough road ahead without major Oscar ammo. Fox Searchlight’s The Wrestler expanded from 144 to 566 playdates and banked an estimated $3.7M for a solid $6,537 average. With a pair of acting nominations for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, the award-winning drama upped its total to $9.5M.
The three Best Picture nominees with the smallest odds of winning the big prize also saw grosses increase. Universal went nationwide with its political drama Frost/Nixon and took in an estimated $3M from 1,099 theaters for a mild $2,750 average. Securing five Oscar nominations, the Ron Howard-directed film has taken in $12M to date and isn’t generating too much moviegoer excitement. The Reader, which also scored five nods, climbed 10% this weekend to an estimated $1.4M for a $9.7M sum for The Weinstein Co. The Sean Penn film Milk rose 11% to an estimated $864,000 giving Focus $21.6M since its Thanksgiving release. The film bagged eight nominations from the Academy.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $117.6M which was up 8% from last year when Meet the Spartans opened in the top spot with $18.5M; and up a strong 43% from 2006 when Epic Movie debuted at number one with $18.6M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya,
This weekend the North American box office was on fire once again as four new releases all scored muscular debuts helping to drive the marketplace to the biggest January weekend in history as ticket buyers flooded the multiplexes over a record-shattering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday frame. The Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop surged ahead of expectations to easily win the session while the R-rated films My Bloody Valentine 3D and Notorious also generated stellar numbers. Kidpic Hotel for Dogs debuted to some nice figures as well joining its fellow newcomers in the top five. All four new films opened to more than $20M each over the extended four-day Friday-to-Monday period.
Santa must have given Hollywood studios crystal balls because just about everything tossed into theaters over the last four weeks has been met with a great response from moviegoers who seem to be in the mood to see anything. In fact since Christmas, a whopping eleven films have opened to $17M or more. That compares to just four from the same period a year ago. The Top 20 grossed a jaw-dropping $185M over the Friday-to-Sunday span this weekend beating last Thanksgiving’s holiday frame by an amazing 15%. Over the four-day span, the Top 20 soared to $222M edging last Memorial Day’s Friday-to-Monday session by 3%. The MLK frame has never been this potent.
Sony topped the charts with Paul Blart taking in an estimated $39M over four days beating the studio’s most aggressive forecasts. The PG-rated comedy averaged a superb $12,405 from 3,144 locations and established James as a bankable funnyman. Look for future paydays to climb rapidly. Having anchored the hit sitcom King of Queens, the actor has never opened a film on his own and instead has taken sidekick roles next to more established box office titans like Will Smith in Hitch and Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Blart’s three-day debut of $31.8M actually beat out the openings of recent films from both of those stars. Smith’s Seven Pounds bowed to just $14.9M while Sandler’s Bedtime Stories debuted to $27.5M. James attracted mostly negative reviews which meant nothing to moviegoers looking just for 90 minutes of mindless fun.
Budgeted at only $26M, the film should turn out to be a nice little moneymaker for Sony and Sandler whose company Happy Madison produced. Exit polls showed that males and females were evenly represented while those under 25 made up 56% of the crowd. Friday saw a solid start with a stellar $9.8M while Saturday jumped a healthy 35% to $13.2M with family audiences making the trip out. Blart also registered the third largest January opening ever.
Clint Eastwood held his own against the $110M of business stolen away by the four new releases this long weekend. His Gran Torino dropped to the runnerup spot in its second weekend of wide release pulling in an estimated $26.2M. The three-day portion fell just 25%. Warner Bros. is enjoying the same strong legs that most of Eastwood’s films have since the Oscar-winner’s older-skewing fan base usually comes out over time and not upfront in the first weekend. With $77.2M already in the tank, Torino could soar to $140M or more by the end of its lucrative run.
The battle for third place was tight but over the four-day Friday-to-Monday period, the horror film My Bloody Valentine 3D eked out the victory. The Lionsgate terrorfest bowed to an estimated $24.2M from 2,534 theaters for a terrific $9,569 average. It was the widest debut ever for a 3D film with 1,033 (41%) of those locations featuring the digital 3D presentation. The extra $2-3 per ticket that exhibitors charged for the new technology also helped to pump up the grosses. The three-day period saw $21.3M in sales. Valentine showed how strong demand is for an interesting horror film at the beginning of the year as it followed the strong $19.8M debut of last weekend’s PG-13 supernatural thriller The Unborn. Critics were surprisingly upbeat for Valentine. This was that rare weekend when the best reviewed new release was a gory horror flick.
Close behind in fourth place, but with the heaviest average of the weekend, was the biopic Notorious which grossed an estimated $24M from only 1,638 theaters. Averaging a sizzling $14,652, the R-rated story of the slain rap superstar gave Fox Searchlight the biggest debut in company history. It was also the best opening weekend average for a wide release since November’s Twilight. The three-day bow was $20.5M. Reviews were mixed for Notorious which attracted the multicultural fans of the late music star. Searchlight’s choice of release date was no coincidence as it knew that a film about a popular African American entertainer would sell opening over Martin Luther King weekend, and just days before the Obama Inauguration.
Kids and tweens lined up for the comedy Hotel for Dogs which debuted in fifth place with $17M over three days and $22.5M over the long holiday frame. The PG-rated Paramount release averaged a respectable $6,879 over four days from 3,271 locations.
A pair of sophomore titles followed. The wedding comedy Bride Wars fell to an estimated $14M pushing its 11-day total to $39.9M. Budgeted at $30M, the Kate Hudson-Anne Hathaway pic should go on to gross about $65M for Fox. Universal’s hit thriller The Unborn scared up an estimated $11M for a cume of $34.2M in 11 days. With a low $16M price tag, the PG-13 fright flick looks to reach $50M.
Paramount Vantage went nationwide with its Holocaust drama Defiance and ended up at number eight with a respectable four-day estimate of $10.7M. The Daniel Craig pic averaged a moderate $5,981 from 1,789 sites and has taken in $11M since its platform debut on New Year’s Eve. Two-time box office king Marley & Me followed in ninth with an estimated $7.5M. The Fox overachiever raised its impressive total to $133.9M making it the top-grossing film of Jennifer Aniston’s career when in a lead role.
A sweep of last Sunday’s Golden Globes helped make Jamal Malik a richer kid. Slumdog Millionaire, winner of Best Picture – Drama and three other trophies, lost 19 theaters but saw sales surge to an estimated $7.2M leading to a potent $12,285 average from 582 locations. The three-day tally of $5.8M soared 54%. Fox Searchlight has already taken in $44M and will expand the indie hit nationwide to about 1,300 runs this Friday, a day after Academy Award nominations are announced. Slumdog jumped up a spot to number one in the United Kingdom this weekend and will open in India on Friday.
Other films winning Globe statues also saw their grosses rise. Searchlight’s The Wrestler which took home two awards for Best Actor – Drama for Mickey Rourke and Best Song for Bruce Springsteen more than doubled its take to an estimated $2.1M. The film also expanded by 84 theaters and averaged a sturdy $14,410 from 144 sites. Kate Winslet’s Revolutionary Road, which won her a Best Actress – Drama prize, grossed an estimated $2.2M, up 24% over the three-day portion. The Paramount Vantage release averaged a solid $12,614 per location over four days from 171 playdates and will expand nationwide this Friday into 800 venues. Totals stand at $5.4M and $6.1M, respectively.
Those snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press suffered declines this weekend. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button dropped 40% (over the three-day portion) to an estimated $6.6M for Paramount lifting the total to $103.6M. The Meryl Streep pic Doubt fell 51% to an estimated $1.5M giving Miramax $25.5M to date. Declining 41% was Sean Penn’s Milk with an estimated $921,000 and a $20.5M cume. Frost/Nixon slid by 26% to an estimated $789,000 putting the sum at $8.7M for Universal. A Best Picture nod from the Academy this week could revive any of these films in the weeks ahead.
Elsewhere below the top ten, Overture expanded its Dustin Hoffman-Emma Thompson comedy Last Chance Harvey from 16 to 1,054 theaters nationwide and posted an estimated $5.1M, a decent bow in a crowded marketplace. Averaging $4,858, the PG-13 title has collected $5.7M since its limited debut in late December. Warner Bros. released its first Bollywood film with Chandni Chowk to China and grossed an estimated $700,000 from 130 theaters for a respectable $5,385 average.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $186.3M over four days which was up an impressive 23% from last year when Cloverfield opened in the top spot with $46.1M; and up a stunning 69% from 2006’s MLK frame when Stomp the Yard debuted at number one with $25.9M.
Compared to projections, the four new releases all soared higher than my three-day forecasts of $11M for Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $17M for My Bloody Valentine 3D, $13M for Notorious, and $14M for Hotel for Dogs.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a guard with insecurity (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James); pampered pooches (Hotel for Dogs, starring Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin); a crazed killer (My Bloody Valentine 3D, starring Jensen Ackles and Jaime King); Brooklyn’s finest (Notorious, starring Jamal Woolard and Angela Bassett); and wartime heroics (Defiance, starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber). What do the critics have to say?
Everybody loves a good dumb comedy — as long as it provides ample laughs. However, the critics say Paul Blart: Mall Cop is good for a couple of lowbrow yucks, but it isn’t exactly a model of disciplined storytelling. Kevin James likeably plays the title character, a portly, self-important (and sidearm-free) crime fighter in a suburban New Jersey mall who must utilize every shred of his training when a hostage situation arises. The pundits say Paul Blart contains some funny slapstick pratfalls, but its thin premise doesn’t generate a headlong comic intensity, and a number of gags simply fall flat. At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to go shopping somewhere else.
Kevin James, in a dramatic moment from Chopping Mall 2.
Marley and Me, Bolt, Wendy and Lucy, Beverly Hills Chihuahua… dog people must feel like they’re in cinematic heaven these days. Hotel for Dogs is the latest pooch-centric flick to hit multiplexes, but critics say its appeal will be limited to little kids and die-hard canine lovers. The film stars Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin as a pair of orphans who are so in love with man’s best friends that they convert an abandoned hotel into a four-star doggie resort, providing posh accommodations for as many strays as they can find. Look, few will go to Hotel for Dogs expecting hyper-realism, but the pundits say this occasionally funny slice of whimsy is predictable and contrived, and the four-legged heroes repeatedly outshine their human counterparts. At 48 percent on the Tomatometer, Hotel for Dogs may not be worth a stay.
“This is one more reason why we need a bailout.”
If you’re the type of filmgoer that really, really enjoys blood and guts, My Bloody Valentine 3D is here to overload your senses. Critics say this extremely grisly slasher flick, which with a sick sense of humor and three-dimensions-worth of wild kills, might just be a gorehound’s nirvana. A loose remake of the 1981 title of the same name, Valentine stars Jensen Ackles as Tom, a coal miner whose mistake costs the lives of some co-workers; now, a decade later, someone donning a miner’s mask and wielding a pickaxe is running amok in town, and Tom looks to be a target. The pundits say this is an expertly crafted, pretension-free genre piece that’s technologically advanced and features plenty of wicked scares. At 83 percent on the Tomatometer, this is one Bloody good time.
“I can’t believe it! That guy didn’t even signal!”
The Notorious B.I.G. was one of rap’s most compelling figures, with the remarkable ability to spin tales of his wayward past with devastating emotional vulnerability and insight. However, the critics say Notorious, George Tillman Jr.’s biopic of the late hip hop great, succumbs to the kind of clichés that Biggie studiously avoided on his records. First-timer Jamal Woolard stars as the man who would be B.I.G., a small-time Brooklyn hustler who became a huge star before his death in a shooting before his 25th birthday. The critics say Woolard is excellent, capturing the nuances of the character with assurance, but the rest of the film isn’t up to its central performance, clicking off the details of Biggie’s life without the complexity or depth of his rhymes. At 57 percent on the Tomatometer, Notorious isn’t quite “Juicy” enough.
“What a drag… Oh well, let’s see if Pizza Hut is open.”
Defiance recounts an undeniably important historical tale: that of a group of Eastern European Jews who fought the Nazis in World War II. And although the critics say the film is well-crafted, they also find it lacking in emotional impact. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell star as brothers who, on the run from the Germans, establish a community of refugees deep in the Belarusian forest; as food becomes scarce and disease runs rampant, the brothers decide to mount an offensive against the Nazis. The pundits say this is a respectful telling of a fascinating story, but the trouble is, it’s overly solemn and clichéd. Defiance currently stands at 54 percent on the Tomatometer. (Check out our interview with director Ed Zwick here)
“So anyway, my agent told me to hold out for $20 million before agreeing to Billy Elliot 2: Feet Afire.”
Also opening this week in limited release:
The German import Cherry Blossoms, the story of an elderly couple making a final journey to Japan, is at 100 percent.
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, a documentary in which famed philosopher Slavoj Zizek pontificates on the appeal of the movies, is at 100 percent.
Chandni Chowk to China, a Bollywood martial arts musical comedy, is at 10 percent.
Recent Daniel Craig Movies:
Four new films roll into theaters hoping to take advantage of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday which will give many a day off on Monday. R-rated fare leads the way with the horror remake My Bloody Valentine 3D and the hip-hop biopic Notorious being the big guns trying to knock Clint Eastwood from his position atop the charts. Also opening are a pair of PG-rated films – the kidpic Hotel for Dogs and the comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
The first in a long line of 3D movies this year opens on Thursday night at 10:00pm in the form of My Bloody Valentine from Lionsgate. The R-rated fright flick takes the industry’s love of recycling past horror films and mixes it with the gimmick of three dimensions which gives moviegoers an enhanced experience, and takes an extra $2-3 from their wallet. In Manhattan, some theaters are charging $15 per stub instead of their normal $12.50. The Unborn‘s surprisingly strong $19.9M bow last weekend shows how much hunger there is for scary movies with intriguing ideas. But Valentine doesn’t take the spooky, no-blood route to a PG-13. It delivers hardcore violence, killings, and gallons of hemoglobin for the genre fans that expect top-notch violence.
Lionsgate has been marketing the pic very well making it stand out in a crowded field of terrorfests packed into the January-February corridor. Plus the distributor has locked in a record 1,033 3D screens, the most ever for this format. And with those venues charging extra dough, the overall grosses will get a nice bump. Early reviews have been shockingly positive which is rare for this genre. That certainly can’t hurt. Add in the holiday weekend and you’ve got back-to-back weeks of horror hits. Attacking 2,534 theaters, My Bloody Valentine might open with about $17M over the three-day Friday-to-Sunday period.
Fox has raked in $125M with Marley & Me. Disney has gobbled up a combined $206M for Bolt and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Now Paramount joins the canine game hoping to score big dollars with not one but a whole gang of pooches with its kid comedy Hotel for Dogs. The PG-rated film should play to children and tweens plus their parents and with most students having a long holiday weekend, the target audience has extra leisure time. The MLK frame has been a good one for kidpics with 2005’s Racing Stripes bowing to $13.9M over three days and the following year’s animated film Hoodwinked opening to $12.4M. Not being tied to a major franchise, Hotel might debut in the same neighborhood. Competition is not too fierce and families are looking for something new to see following two weeks of Christmas leftovers. For those who just haven’t had their fill of doggies, this one will prompt a return trip to the multiplex. Marching into 3,271 theaters, Hotel for Dogs may open to around $14M over the Friday-to-Sunday span.
The life of slain hip-hop star The Notorious B.I.G. makes its way to the big screen on Friday in Fox Searchlight’s Notorious. The R-rated film comes from director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Men of Honor) and stars Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, and Jamal Woolard as the late rap legend. With nearly every fan of hip-hop music being part of the built-in audience, sold out shows are guaranteed to pop up from coast to coast. And with Martin Luther King Day and the Obama Inauguration following in just a few days, the timing could not be better for the release of a biopic on a popular African American superstar.
Reviews have been generally positive which is quite good for a new release coming out in January. Business should come primarily from those between the ages of 20 and 40, especially all the Biggie Smalls fans from the mid-90s. For loyal fans, this is a must-see event film. Notorious has by far the fewest theaters of this weekend’s four new titles, however a sizable number of multiplexes are double-screening it indicating solid pre-release demand. Competition from both holdovers and newcomers will be miniscule. Landing in 1,637 locations, Notorious might debut with around $13M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
Kevin James gives headlining a comedy a try with Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the funnyman’s first film as the sole anchor. The PG-rated film about a security guard at a dull suburban mall who faces off against real bad guys will play to the not-so-mature crowd looking for dumb humor. Following his successful sitcom King of Queens, James started showing up in multiplexes as the secondary dude opposite established box office draws Will Smith in Hitch and Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. With the training wheels off, he now gets to show himself, and the industry, whether or not he can open a picture solo. Younger kids may take interest and the rating promises harmless fun. But Hotel for Dogs will provide some overlap for tweens. Reviews will be terrible, but will eventually be ignored. Debuting wide in over 3,000 theaters, Paul Blart: Mall Cop could take in about $11M over three days.
Clint Eastwood hit a home run last weekend with his latest starring effort Gran Torino. To no surprise, the Warner Bros. hit has been holding up quite well during the week just as most of the actor/director’s films do. Monday and Tuesday each brought in an additional $2.8M. Second wide weekend drops for his recent films include 22% for Changeling, 38% for Flags of Our Fathers, and 31% for Million Dollar Baby. Plus all of the new releases skew much younger so Torino‘s Friday-to-Sunday take may slide by about 30% to $20M. That would boost the early cume to an impressive $71M.
Bride Wars also doesn’t have much in the way of direct competition so a respectable sophomore session is likely. With NFL conference championships on Sunday, and Monday being a holiday for many, Fox’s chick flick has a great opportunity to score with its target audience. A 35% drop could occur giving the Kate Hudson–Anne Hathaway laugher roughly $13.5M over three days for a 10-day cume of $39M.
Look for a massive drop for the horror pic The Unborn thanks to the double impact of bad word-of-mouth and the arrival of a competing horror flick. A 60% tumble would lead to a $8M frame and would lift the total to $31M after ten days. Although a new set of dogs will enter the marketplace, Fox’s Marley & Me will still remain a major contender in the top ten. Sales might fall by 40% to about $7M putting the sum at $133M.
LAST YEAR: A brilliant marketing campaign fueled interest in the low-budget monster flick Cloverfield which shot straight to number one with a stellar $40.1M setting a new opening weekend record for January. Katherine Heigl also generated a solid debut for her new comedy 27 Dresses which bowed at number two with $23M. Final grosses reached $80M for the Paramount thriller and $76.8M for Fox’s wedding tale. Rounding out the top five were holdovers The Bucket List with $14.1M, Juno with $10M, and First Sunday with $7.8M. Premiering with weaker results was the caper comedy Mad Money with $7.7M for Overture on its way to just $20.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com