Weekend Forecast for June 15-17, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
June 15, 2007

Isn't it romantic?

While it may not contain another trilogy title, this weekend does offer up a pretty high profile franchise sequel for audiences, with hopes to keep the to-date white hot summer box office going.

The Fantastic Four franchise might not seem like the best candidate to get the sequel treatment, seeing as how the first film was greeted with a collective "meh". There wasn't anything particularly bad about it, but there wasn't anything that great about it either. Wooden performances and unremarkable storytelling threatened to sink this franchise before it got going, even with a $56 million opening weekend.

So, it's time to bring out the big guns for the second film, and it's right there in the title: The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. In terms of the cool factor, The Silver Surfer undoubtedly has the highest cachet, even if he isn't quite as well known as a Spider-Man or a Hulk. A morally-ambiguous silver-coated alien arriving from space on a surfboard and wielding almost unfathomable power, he is one of the few comic villains to become a star in his own right.

There's also an ace-in-the-hole that the film's ads aren't revealing in regards to his character, which, if you read the comics, you know about, and if you don't, far be it for me to ruin the surprise. Suffice it to say that the Surfer is a potential precursor to Earth's entire annihilation.

This pits him against the Fantastic Four, all of whom are returning for the sequel, which is both good and bad. Michael Chiklis as The Thing and Chris Evans as The Human Torch are the good, with Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic and Jessica Alba as Sue Storm (only slightly more believable as a scientist than Denise Richards) the bad, at least performance wise. It's a good thing Alba's pretty.

These movies have staked out a relatively vacant area in comic adaptations, with both receiving a PG rating, and aiming squarely at younger and family audiences. For comic fans, this has also had the effect of limiting the enthusiasm for the film, as they might have hoped for a more X-Men like treatment. So despite the inherent zing in adding the Surfer, it's going to remain a hard sell to hardcore audiences. And as we've seen so far this summer, audiences are definitely not so willing to ask for second helpings of mediocre fare. Opening in a super-wide slate of 3,957 venues, it should debut to about $49 million.

While that film is aiming at pre-teen boys and those who still think like them, Nancy Drew will be taking care of the pre-teen girls. Based on the classic series of children's novels, Drew stars Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric, niece of Julia) as the titular detective. In the film, she travels from her small town to Los Angeles on vacation, only to find herself in the midst of a decades-old Hollywood murder mystery. Plucky, self-reliant sleuthing follows shortly after, with the film apparently putting her in some actual dangerous situations, though obviously nothing that would push it beyond PG.

The tone of the film appears to be one of winking irony, which makes sense in a "16-year-olds can't really solve crimes" kind of way, though you wonder if the target audience is sophisticated enough to watch the film on that level. Generally I would think they'd watch it straight, so this is possibly aiming at any parents that will have to provide guidance. The general consensus seems to be that those parents will be pretty bored, and that kids won't get a whole lot out of it, either. Look for a weekend of about $10 million here.

The third new film of the weekend is a refugee from last summer, DOA: Dead or Alive. Based on the video game of the same title, this film has already premiered in just about every other country in the world before hitting only 500 theaters here, in what smells of a contractual obligation.

Directed by Cory Yuen, most notable in North America for helming The Transporter, as well as providing fight choreography for dozens of Hollywood films, the film features five butt-kicking women (Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Natasha Malthie and Sarah Carter – if you recognize more than three of them, you're ahead of the curve) who enter a martial arts competition, first as rivals, later banding together against a common enemy. In one of those quirks of the schedule, this common enemy is played by none other than Eric Roberts, who finds himself opening a film against his daughter. Good times, good times.

Most of what you need to know about this film can be summed up by the fact that this video game is noted for "realistic" breast bouncing mechanics, and spawned a spin-off beach volleyball game. NOW won't be honoring this film at year's end. Mostly going for that "so bad it's good" aesthetic, DOA should find cult status, but only about $3 million this weekend.

The $36 million that Ocean's Thirteen opened to last weekend was enough to win the box office race, but fell short of either of the previous films in the series, showing just what damage Ocean's Twelve did. While not receiving the rapturous praise that Ocean's Eleven did, Thirteen was a big improvement on the huge inside joke that was Twelve. This potentially bodes well for legs, but I think it's just a bit too late for that in this series. Look for a $22 million weekend, with it moving past $75 million total after two weekends.

As expected, Knocked Up was able to translate positive word-of-mouth into a strong second weekend, following up a $30 million weekend with last week's almost $20 million showing. Judd Apatow can do no wrong in the eyes of the public right now, and Seth Rogen is about to become a major star. It's a bizarre but appreciated development, at least from our perspective here. Add another $13 million to the film's total this weekend.

Among the heavy hitters remaining, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End lopped off another half of its business in its third weekend, though managing to hold on to second spot at the box office. It won't be so lucky this weekend, and it will fall to at least fourth spot, and perhaps as low as sixth if the stars align against it. Shrek the Third will come very close to the $300 million mark, while Spider-Man 3 very probably drops out of the top ten, just six weeks after smashing opening weekend records.

Sony's attempt at cashing in on the penguin craze with Surf's Up didn't quite work – its $17 million take is about average for a second tier CGI animated film these days, and it has just one more weekend to rack up business before Ratatouille crushes it. Give it $9 million for the weekend.