A Wrinkle in Time, adaptation of the Madeleine L’engle kids fantasy novel and Ava DuVernay’s sojourn into $100 million filmmaking, isn’t getting the best reviews. As the score settles in the lower-40s, Wrinkle would place somewhere in the middle of this week’s gallery: the 24 worst children’s book adaptations, each rated PG and ranked by Tomatometer.

The Red Queen ruled once again as Disney’s Alice in Wonderland remained at number one for the third consecutive frame beating out another pack of new releases. Fox’s tween comedy Diary of a Wimpy Kid beat expectations to open in second place while Sony’s Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler vehicle The Bounty Hunter enjoyed a solid debut of its own close behind in third. But Universal’s new action entry Repo Men flopped in fourth with a miserable showing. The overall box office was up over 2009 for the fourth straight weekend.

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Audiences lined up again for some 3D fun with Johnny Depp with Alice in Wonderland easily defending its crown with an estimated $34.5M in its third round boosting the 17-day cume to a stellar $265.8M. It was Disney’s first three-peat at number one since Depp’s megahit Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest from July 2006. Staying atop the box office chart for this long is rare these days. Outside of Avatar, the last film to spend three weekends in first place was Tropic Thunder from the summer of 2008.

Alice smashed the $250M mark on Saturday after only 16 days and looks headed for the $350M mark. The Tim Burton pic is already the second highest-grossing film to ever open in the January-to-April corridor trailing just The Passion of the Christ which hauled in $370.3M in 2004 after a late February debut. This weekend, Alice also joined the list of the Top 50 all-time domestic blockbusters sitting at number 45 between Shrek ($267.7M) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($262M).

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Fox posted brawny numbers for its kidpic Diary of a Wimpy Kid from 3,077 playdates for a strong $7,085 average. Based on the popular middle school-set book, the PG-rated film had no stars but instead capitalized on a built-in audience of fans attracting an impressive amount of business considering how Alice in Wonderland is still playing well to kids of all ages. With a budget of under $20M, the studio should not only see a healthy profit from box office and DVD sales but will also have a new franchise since there are still three more books in the series that can keep the cash coming in. Studio research indicated that 59% of the audience was under 25 and 51% was female. Fox is expecting upcoming spring and Easter school closings to keep the film going.

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Opening close behind in third place was the battle-of-the-exes film The Bounty Hunter which seized an estimated $21M from 3,074 theaters for a solid $6,831 average. The PG-13 pic starring Gerard Butler as a bounty hunter assigned to capture his bail-jumping ex-wife played by Jennifer Aniston catered to an audience of adult women. Studio research showed that 58% of the crowd was female with the 50/50 age split at 30 instead of 25. The opening was almost identical to the $21.6M debut of 2008’s Fool’s Gold starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. Both were battle-of-the-sexes action-comedies directed by Andy Tennant with poor reviews that were sold on the starpower of the beautiful people on screen. Gold, which enjoyed a holiday on its second weekend, ended with $70.2M and Bounty could approach the same vicinity which would be an encouraging performance given the budget that was in the low $40M range. Overseas potential looks solid as Aniston has been a bankable draw and Butler has seen his star wattage rise in the last year.

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The new sci-fi actioner Repo Men failed to capture any meaningful business in its first weekend with a poor opening of $6.2M, according to estimates. The ultraviolent R-rated pic starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker averaged a wimpy $2,440 for Universal from 2,521 theaters. Critics panned the futuristic film.

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Universal found more bad news in fifth place as its other March action title Green Zone tumbled 58% to an estimated $6M for a weak ten-day total of only $24.7M. The studio did what it could to hide the film’s Iraq setting and pushed it instead as a film from the Jason Bourne guys but audiences didn’t buy into it. With a production cost of more than $100M, Zone will end up with a domestic take of just $35-40M. The early overseas tally is $20.4M with many markets still to open, but recovering production and marketing costs internationally will also be a challenging task.

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Paramount claimed the next two spots with the comedy She’s Out of My League which grossed an estimated $5.9M and the thriller Shutter Island which took in an estimated $4.8M. The R-rated laugher declined by only 40% in its second round and upped its ten-day sum to $20M with a $35M final likely – not bad for a low-profile and inexpensive pic that is sure to do even better on DVD. The Scorsese-DiCaprio flick dropped 41% and has banked $115.8M to date.

Avatar spent its 14th weekend in the top ten with an estimated $4M, off 39%, and a $736.9M cume. Fox’s overseas total climbed to $1.937 billion making the global haul $2.674 billion. Fox Searchlight’s Our Family Wedding fell 50% to an estimated $3.8M for $13.7M in ten days. Fellow sophomore Remember Me crumbled 60% to an estimated $3.3M giving Summit only $13.9M to date. Final grosses will be near the $20M mark for each.

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In limited release, Focus scored the best average with its Ben Stiller pic Greenberg which bowed to an estimated $120,432 from only three sites for a muscular $40,144 average. Anchor Bay averaged a sturdy $17,500 from each of two locations for its Andy Garcia film City Island. The 45-minute IMAX science film Hubble 3D debuted to an estimated $453,000 from 39 large-screen venues for a $11,608 average. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opened to an estimated $340,408 from 34 for a $10,012 average for Music Box. And Apparition earned a weak $3,295 average for its rocker girl pic The Runaways which debuted to an estimated $804,000 from 244 houses.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $111.2M which was up 19% from last year when Knowing opened in the top spot with $24.6M; and up 18% from 2008 when Horton Hears a Who remained at number one with $24.6M.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a scheming tween (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, starring Zachary Gordon and Steve Zahn); squabbling exes (The Bounty Hunter, starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler); and hazardous healthcare (Repo Men, starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker). What do the critics have to say?



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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

It’s a (debatable) maxim that the book is always better than the movie. That certainly seems to be the case with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which critics say contains moments of insight and humor but never fleshes out its middle school characters with the same empathy as Jeff Kinney’s books. The movie stars Zachary Gordon as a kid who can’t catch a break with the popular crowd, so he tries out various activities in order to climb the social ladder — all the while chronicling his life in a journal. The pundits say Wimpy Kid accurately captures the uncertainties of the junior high years, but also features abrupt tonal shifts and a story that apes others of its ilk.



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The Bounty Hunter

Given the right material, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler are charming folks. Unfortunately, critics say The Bounty Hunter is decidedly the wrong material — clichéd, shrill, and lacking an ounce of chemistry between its usually winning leads. Butler plays a former cop who’s now a bounty hunter, and his latest assignment is bringing in his bail-jumping ex-wife. Will these crazy kids bicker? Will they relight the spark that brought them together in the first place? Can we expect a little of both, perhaps? Yes, say pundits, along with a shortage of laughs and smarts. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Aniston’s best-reviewed films.)



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Repo Men

Alex Cox’s Repo Man is one of the 1980s’ wildest cult classics, mixing punk rock, aliens, and… Wait, wrong movie. Repo Men, critics say, is a satirical misfire that mixes slasher and sci-fi tropes but never makes the most of its unhinged premise. The plot: a corporation called the Union manufactures perfect artificial organs, but if transplant recipients get behind on their payments, “repo men” reclaim the organs by force. One such repo man is Jude Law, is Jude Law, who has trouble making his payments when he gets his own artificial heart… and… you can see where this is going. The pundits say Repo Men shows flashes of perverse wit, but ultimately squanders its cast on generic chase sequences and oodles of gore.


Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Vincere, a drama about the little-known first marriage of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, is at 100 percent.

  • Neil Young Trunk Show, a live document of the legendary rocker, is at 88 percent.

  • Mid-August Lunch, an Italian comedy about a middle-aged man tasked with entertaining his grandmother and her feisty friends, is at 86 percent.

  • Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller as a fortysomething looking to break out of a midlife crisis, is at 83 percent.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a dark thriller based upon Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel, is Certified Fresh at 79 percent.

  • IMAX Hubble 3D, which showcases some stunning images from the space telescope, is at 67 percent.

  • The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in a biopic of the pioneering girl band, is at 64 percent.

  • Red Baron, a biopic of the famous World War I flying ace, is at 28 percent.
  • Shutterbug, a thriller about a fashion photographer who suffers from hallucinations, is at 20 percent.