Let’s be honest, folks; when the Renee Zellweger – Harry Connick Jr. romantic comedy New In Town is the biggest title in new release, you know it’s a direct-to-video kind of week. So why not embrace the DVD movie boom with a Crash-esque LA indie drama (Powder Blue, starring Jessica Biel and Forest Whitaker), a cult film in the making (Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus), an Elmore Leonard adaptation (Killshot, starring Mickey Rourke), or a cutesy romantic comedy about culture clash (Ramen Girl, starring and produced by Brittany Murphy)? High definition owners have a modern sci-fi classic to check out (Children of Men on Blu-ray). Read more inside!


New In Town

18%



The fish-out-of-water formula is applied to the romantic comedy genre – and the dismal economic climate, here used as a plot tool – in New In Town, a decidedly American story told by Danish helmer Jonas Elmer in his English-language debut. Renee Zellweger stars as Lucy Hill, a high-powered Miami executive who is sent to a blue-collar Minnesota town to prove herself by shutting down a manufacturing plant. Will she do it, putting the entire community out of work? Or will the love of a local (Harry Connick, Jr.) help turn the icy Lucy into a down-home gal? Critics widely panned this by-the-numbers and predictable affair; a making-of feature, commentary, and deleted scenes are included in the release.

Next: Biel strips down in Powder Blue


Powder Blue

00%



Let’s cut to the chase: Powder Blue is the direct-to-DVD movie where Jessica Biel gets naked. Sadly, that doesn’t make it watchable. Biel gives it her all as a stripper named Rose-Johnny, a tortured, coke-snorting wretch who, after pouring hot candle wax over herself while crying onstage in the film’s infamous nude scene, describes herself to a prospective beau as “a single mother with a kid in a coma who takes off [her] clothes for a living.” It’s Indie Drama 101 thanks to writer-director Timothy Linh Bui, whose biggest feat here was nabbing the likes of Forest Whitaker (as a suicidal ex-priest), Ray Liotta (as a terminally ill ex-con), Kris Kristofferson (as a crime boss who rides the bus), and Patrick Swayze (as a long-haired, eyeliner-wearing sleazy strip club owner) for this wannabe Crash. Only Sanaa Lathan gets off the easiest, appearing for literally five seconds before moving on to better movies. If only we could have done the same.


Next: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus!


Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

N/A


If you’ve seen the hugely popular trailer, then this is a must-watch: after all, when will we ever again see the combined forces of a giant shark, a humongous octopus, Lorenzo “Renegade” Lamas, and ’80s pop star Debbie Gibson? In the epic creature feature from studio The Asylum (the folks who brought you such classic “mockbusters” as Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, and The Day The Earth Stopped), two prehistoric monsters – a shark and an octopus – are awakened in the present day, and wreak havoc up and down the Pacific until a commando (Lamas) and an oceanographer (Gibson) join forces to pit the two creatures against each other. (Along the way, the Mega Shark kills the Golden Gate Bridge and eats a plane.) You probably won’t have a better time on home video this week; we only wish we could see Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus as it was originally intended: in 3D.


Next: Killshot finally gets a release



Killshot

N/A



After being notoriously shuffled around the release slate for the last three years (it was originally set to debut in theaters in March 2006), Killshot finally finds an audience this week on DVD. Based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, the crime thriller follows a couple (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) on the run from an assassin (Mickey Rourke) and his deranged side-kick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) after the Witness Protection Program fails to protect them; Rosario Dawson and Hal Holbrook co-star. Directed by John Madden (the one that earned a Best Director nod for Shakespeare in Love, not the NFL commentator), Killshot is messy, but watchable, especially for Rourke’s performance as Blackbird, a Native American hit man who lives by his own code of morals.

Next: The anime feature, The Sky Crawlers


The Sky Crawlers

— N/A



Young Japanese fighter pilots wage battle in a televised war backed by corporations in this adaptation of the novel series by Hiroshi Mori, directed by esteemed anime filmmaker Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell). Though peppered with aerial dogfight sequences, this is more an existentialist film than an action pic, as its adolescent protagonist Yuichi Kannami (voiced by Letters From Iwo Jima‘s Ryo Kase) begins to question the joyless, wartorn lifestyle he and his fellow pilots live. For hardcore anime fans, behind-the-scenes features offer in-depth exploration of Oshii’s production.


Next: High school rugby inspires in Forever Strong


Forever Strong — 31%




If soccer is still the second-class citizen among popular American sports, then rugby’s got to be even farther behind; how many people know what a scrum is, let alone can follow the confusing rules of a game that plays like a soccer-football hybrid with no pauses and no pads? The makers of Forever Strong must have been betting that the strength of their film would not depend on the popularity of the sport (which, incidentally, yours truly played in college) but the critics say the tale of a juvenile delinquent (Sean Faris), who joins a rugby team only to face off against his own coach father in the championships, falls victim to the same sports movie clichés that we’ve seen a hundred times. Neal McDonough, Arielle Kebbel, Gary Cole, and Gossip Girl‘s Penn Badgley co-star, while Rudy himself, Sean Astin, shows up as a guidance counselor.

Next: Land of the Lost The Complete Series


Land of the Lost: The Complete Series

Revisit Sid and Marty Krofft’s 1974 Saturday morning series Land of the Lost — and, naturally, get excited for the forthcoming big-screen adaptation, starring Will Ferrell — with an all-new issue of the complete series on DVD! The three-season adventures of Rick Marshall and his kids, Will and Holly, as they navigate an alien world filled with dinosaurs and strange creatures, arrives this week along with audio commentary by the Kroffts and a peek at the new feature film; pick up the set in its collectible lunchbox for a real blast from the past.


Next: Brittany Murphy is Ramen Girl


Ramen Girl
— N/A



If you’ve been wondering, “Where did Brittany Murphy go?” the answer comes this week in Ramen Girl, a dramedy/romantic comedy about an American woman (Murphy) who moves to Japan for a boy, gets dumped, and finds solace in learning the ancient culinary art of… making noodles. Culture shock and a plotline akin to the Karate Kid (only with ramen, see?) ensue, resulting in a strange but fine enough international vehicle for Murphy, who also produced.


Next: Get Carnivorous with DMX!


Carnivorous — N/A




We prefer this direct-to-video creature feature’s original title: Lockjaw: Rise of the Kulev Serpent, but to be honest, the strength of its title is irrelevant; critics say this B-movie Anaconda rip-off isn’t even “so bad it’s good” bad. And although he’s got top billing, rapper DMX doesn’t show up until late in the film, after the titular mystical snake-alligator creature — conjured with a voodoo-powered crayon – has wreaked considerable havoc. A commentary and featurette might enhance the viewing experience.


Next: Children of Men on Blu-ray


Children of Men (Blu-ray) — 92%




Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 dystopian action pic is at once spartan and complex, and looks great in high definition; if you loved the futuristic film about a man (Clive Owen) begrudgingly shepherding a young woman through violent, dangerous terrain, then we highly recommend you pick up the new Blu-ray release. Sound and picture look appropriately impressive, but the disc’s best offerings are the behind-the-scenes features you can watch in tandem with Cuaron’s film which give incredible insight into how cast and crew pulled off some highly orchestrated sequences in the making of the film.

Until next week, happy renting!

This week at the movies, we’ve got a kidnapping plot (Taken, starring Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen); haunted teens (The Uninvited, starring Emily Browning and Elizabeth Banks); and cold comfort (New in Town, starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr.). What do the critics have to say?


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Taken

Taken is an action flick that’s both efficient and absurd, critics say, and so it’s often entertaining — but only up to a point. The film stars Liam Neeson as a retired CIA agent who learns his daughter has been abducted in Paris; upon receiving a frantic phone call from her, he tracks her down — and finds himself on the trail of a massive criminal enterprise. The pundits say Taken is a sprightly piece of work, and Neeson is compelling in the lead role, but the film is weighted down by contrivances and leaps in logic.



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The Uninvited

Another Asian horror remake getting released in January? While the critics say The Uninvited may not live up to the standard set by its source material (2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters), it’s a reasonably involving thriller– though not an entirely successful one. Emily Browning plays a young woman with a history of mental problems who, upon meeting her father’s new fiancée (Elizabeth Banks), is immediately suspicious; creepy goings-on ensue. The pundits say The Uninvited is moody and well acted, but it also contains plenty of haunted house conventions and telegraphed plot twists.



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New in Town

It may be cold in Minnesota this time of year, but that’s nothing compared to the chilly reception the critics have given New in Town. In this fish-out-of-water romantic comedy, Renee Zellweger stars as a hotshot executive who’s sent to the Land of 10,000 Lakes to oversee layoffs at one of her company’s factories; there, she falls for the local union rep (Harry Connick Jr.) and learns about the strange customs of small-town Americans. The pundits say New in Town‘s timely premise and winning leads are no match for the film’s weather-beaten, clichéd script, which tries way too hard to be uplifting.


Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Medicine for Melancholy, a stylish, nuanced tale of two Bay Area hipsters in love, is at 94 percent.
  • The Filipino import Serbis, a documentary that examines at the root causes of the long-running gang war, is at 90 percent.
  • Shadows, about a young man who survives a car crash only to be confronted by ghostly visions, is at 57 percent.
  • Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, a documentary about the famed poet and resistance fighter who attempted to free imprisoned Jews in World War II, is at 50 percent.
  • The Toe Tactic, a live action/animated hybrid about a young woman dealing with the death of her father, is at 43 percent.

Finally, props to AnthonyDidge, who came the closest to guessing Underworld: Rise of the Lycans‘ 34 percent Tomatometer.

With all eyes on Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl, Hollywood offers three counter-programming options for those looking for something a little different. Fox releases the kidnapping thriller Taken, Paramount also delivers teen girls in distress with the suspense chiller The Uninvited, and Lionsgate counters with a few laughs with the Renée Zellweger comedy New in Town. Each will try to prevent “>Kevin James from winning his third championship ring.

After voicing Aslan twice, Liam Neeson takes on a more violent and demanding role in the crime thriller Taken playing a former government operative on a mission to save his abducted teenage daughter. Produced by Luc Besson, the PG-13 film is offering a Jason Bourne-type gritty action thriller filled with hand-to-hand combat scenes hoping to pull in the action audience. Given the star, Taken may skew a bit older and should certainly see the bulk of its weekend business in the first two days given Sunday’s football activities. Neeson is more known for supporting roles and rarely headlines a film himself so his solo box office might is unproven. Fox’s marketing has been good, but many will find this just as entertaining later on DVD. Debuting in more than 3,000 theaters, Taken may take in about $14M this weekend.


Liam Neeson in Taken

Sony and its Screen Gems unit have long used Super Bowl weekend as a time to offer spooky thrillers for young female audiences. But with the pair already hitting theaters last week with the latest Underworld tale, Paramount seizes the opportunity to unleash its own horror flick The Uninvited. The PG-13 film tells the story of two sisters who suspect their soon-to-be-stepmom to be something other than what she claims to be. An American remake of a Korean frightfest, the picture should skew more female and towards teens and young adults. A creepy marketing campaign will allow it to connect with the core audience and the tame rating and trim 87-minute running time will help it at the turnstiles too.

Horror has done well this month, but how long can the boom last? Over the last three weeks, Rise of the Lycans, My Bloody Valentine 3D, and The Unborn each debuted in the $19-22M range. Some fans of the genre may be all scared out and not interested in another helping. Some may be holding their dollars for Friday the 13th. Plus Uninvited is not getting a 3,000-theater push, but instead will be releasing in just over 2,000 locations. That could limit the potential, even though the average should be solid and one of the best in the top ten. Look for The Uninvited to generate around $13M this weekend.


Elizabeth Banks and Emily Browning in The Uninvited

For adult women, Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. come together for the comedy New in Town which Lionsgate opens on Friday. The PG-rated film gives the Oscar-winning actress another chance to show what little box office clout she has as her anchoring duties here should not attract too many paying folks. Connick Jr. has never been much of a draw either so the low star wattage will be a liability this weekend. The story of a Miami businesswoman adjusting to life in Minnesota also is not exciting many. Mature women can be a tricky demo to target on Super Bowl weekend since they are more likely to get involved with football activities than teenage girls and young woman. And those who do hike out to the cinema may instead want to try out one of the many Oscar nominees which deliver more quality for the dollar. Lionsgate rolls into 1,941 theaters with New in Town and could find itself with about $5M.


Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr. in New In Town

Kevin James enjoyed two full weeks on top of the chart, and may have kicked off a new franchise, with Paul Blart: Mall Cop. But can he threepeat? Last weekend saw a strong hold with only a 32% dip so audiences are getting entertained, and this Friday sees no new funny films for young guys. Cop should see its usual declines on Friday and Saturday but Sunday should find a larger fall given the target audience’s preparations for the Super Bowl. Last-minute junk food runs can take up the whole day. So the three-day period may see a 35% decline which would give the Sony hit about $14M for the frame pushing the 17-day tally to a stellar $83M.

Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino should still coast along on its current path so a 25% drop may be in order. That would leave the Warner Bros. release with $12M keeping it in the top five for yet another week and raise the cume to a fantastic $113M. That would make it the top-grossing film ever for Eastwood although past hits like Unforgiven and In the Line of Fire have still sold more tickets.

Sony’s werewolf actioner Underworld: Rise of the Lycans drew most of its fan base last weekend so a steep drop is guaranteed this time. Look for a 60% tumble to around $8.5M for a sum of $34M after ten days. The kinder, gentler beasts in Hotel for Dogs enjoyed a great sophomore hold sliding just 24% last weekend. With Sunday contributing a larger-than-normal drop, this weekend could see sales fall by 30% to roughly $9M pushing the tally to $48M for Paramount.

LAST YEAR: The ladies were in charge over Super Bowl weekend. Disney’s teen 3D event film Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert rocketed into first place with a stunning $31.1M fueled by two million screaming girls and $15 tickets. What was originally advertised as a one-week-only event ended up running for three months pulling in a stellar $65.3M from under 700 digital 3D screens. Jessica Alba debuted in second with the horror remake The Eye which bowed to $12.4M for Lionsgate on its way to a $31.4M final. Rounding out the top five were the Katherine Heigl comedy 27 Dresses with $8.5M, the spoof comedy Meet the Spartans with $7.3M, and the action flick Rambo with $7.1M. Two other films opened but failed to make the top ten. The Eva Longoria Parker comedy Over Her Dead Body launched with just $4M while the nature flick Strange Wilderness bowed to only $3M. Final grosses reached $7.6M for New Line and $6.6M for Paramount Classics.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeguru.com

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