The glut of September releases gets gluttier this weekend. Three new wide releases find their way to theaters, while one more expands into national release. The search for quality among these films continues, however.
Weekend Forecast for September 24-26, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
September 24, 2010
Ten, or maybe just five, years ago if you'd heard the title Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, you'd probably assume you were watching Saturday Night Live. Since then, Oliver Stone went crazy(er) and destroyed his marketability with documentaries favorable to Castro. Thus, we get the return to familiar material, and with the collapse of the financial markets, it's actually somewhat relevant again. But oy, that subtitle.
Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gekko, the role that won him an Oscar, having just been released from a lengthy stint in prison for shady financial doings. Only now he's apparently reformed and on the side of the good guys, trying to alert the world about the impending financial meltdown, like Lex Luthor teaming up with Superman to take down Bizarro. Meanwhile, we have on-the-rise stock trader Shia LaBeouf (no, wait, it gets better), who's dating Gekko's daughter (Carey Mulligan) and seeks him out as a mentor (which is a bit like asking Michael Milken for a job).
The jury is still out as to whether people's outrage at the shenanigans of the last couple of years will make them want to see a fictionalized version of it, or whether it might end up like so many Iraq and Afghanistan war films before it, in that the subject is too raw to be treated as entertainment. In other words, you ain't telling us anything we don't already know, Oliver. Aside from one clunky, albeit effective joke in the trailer about technology change since the 1987 original film, Wall Street 2 looks like a dour trip down memory lane.
The last film of any significance in the box office department for Douglas is The Sentinel, which you've almost certainly forgotten about (something about the First Lady and stuff), and his last hit was Don't Say A Word, which had the benefit of one of the more whacked out ad campaigns of the decade. He's had several supporting roles in the midst of those, but we can hardly count those. LaBeouf is the bigger wild card here – although he remains one of the more punchable celebrities in Hollywood, he has a ridiculous resume of blockbusters, which appears to be carrying over into his non-franchise films. You've got to have some draw to open Eagle Eye to nearly $30 million. I think this will end up being just intriguing enough to get audiences in the door to around $23 million.
Zack Snyder is racking up one of the strangest resumes in Hollywood. Starting as a music video director, he broke out with the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and then achieved A-List status with 300 and Watchmen, both of which broke the $100 million mark and entered the culture as touchstones. For his next trick... owls?
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is an allegedly popular children's novel series about owl that do battle and stuff. Owls, really? That's what we're going with? Okay... Anyway, it's a big, rousing adventure film in 3D with a very lush look and a unique-enough style that it'll probably serve youthful audiences quite well in the absence of anything else out there. It should also join the company of some other mid-tier childrens' films that I know next to nothing about, like Bridge to Terabitha and The Golden Compass, with about $18 million.
You Again is dedicated to the idea that we never truly get over what happens to us in high school. It stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver as old high school rivals who meet again when Weaver's daughter (Odette Yustman, one of the people you rooted against in Cloverfield) gets engaged to marry Curtis' son (no one you know). Turns out, the tables have been turned in the next generation, and where Curtis wronged Weaver, Weaver's daughter was a righteous hellion to Curtis' daughter, played by Kristen Bell. Much merriment and wackiness ensues as old scores are settled, mostly involving dresses, apparently. Cause that's just how women fight.
While Bell's script choices (When in Rome?!) haven't been superb lately, she's still on the list of the hottest young actresses out there and can fairly be relied upon to open a film, albeit not to Katherine Heigl numbers. Curtis hasn't acted much at all in recent years, but Weaver has actually picked up her pace – five films in 2008 alone, and something you might have heard of called Avatar last year. It's downright impossible to credit her for the success of any of those films as they were all supporting roles at best, but what they did do was keep her in the public eye as a legitimate top-flight actress, instead of letting her fade into “oh yeah, I forgot about her” status. It's too bad this looks to just another dire hair-puller like Bride Wars. Look for around $11 million here.
Finally for new films, there's The Virginity Hit, which opens in just 700 screens. A faux-documentary style teen sex comedy produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it follows four high schoolers and their attempt to document the loss of the virginity of the last of their group to get laid. Various embarrassments, both private and very, very public (think YouTube), occur as a result. Call it American Pie meets The Social Network and Jackass.
As far as the cast goes, you definitely haven't heard of these guys – in many cases it's their first real big screen credit. That lack of recognizable names is really going to hurt considering the terrible, terrible reviews – a mostly improved script with a bunch of amateurs could very well become a disaster, and judging by reviews, that seems to be the case. This might reach $7 million this weekend if everything breaks right for it.
That brings us to our returning films. The Town was a mild pleasant surprise at $23 million for its debut, proving that crime thrillers don't have to star rappers and himbos to achieve box office success. It also marked the weekend where Ben Affleck became a for real, for real big-time director – two straight critically acclaimed films removes the potential of flukedom and raises the specter of Oscar. As we'll seen this summer, critical reception for grown-up films still matters and with the positive word The Town received, it should be able to carry over for a few weeks. Give it around $14 million this weekend.
An even bigger pleasant surprise was Easy A, which opened to $17.7 million, and may be the star-making performance for Emma Stone. This compares pretty favorably with the inflation-adjusted opening of Clueless, and in fact pretty much equals it, so it's already in good position to become a minor classic of the teen comedy genre. Legs aren't that likely just by nature of it genre, though it should have another $10 million weekend.
Horror films, of both the action and non-action variety, grabbed spots 3 and 4 last weekend. Devil's $12 million opening would barely be worth discussing if it weren't for everyone wondering what it means to its producer's career. M. Night Shyamalan slapped his name all over this supernatural thriller, to what seems like no net effect. So much for the great referendum on his future endeavors. What with the abysmal reviews this film got, we should however see Devil crash its elevator into the subbasement in record time. Give it about $5 million for its second frame.
That probably won't be enough to beat out the third weekend of Resident Evil: Afterlife, which had its usual-for-the-series plummet of two-thirds off its opening weekend. But after its better-than-average start, it's poised to outgross the rest of the films in the series potentially as soon as this Sunday. The 3D does seem to have done its job here, and it should bring in a little more than $5 million this weekend.