It’s another weekend of the “Not Ready For Prime Time Blockbusters” as a trio of mediocre looking films that couldn’t cut it in July find their way into multiplexes. After looking at last week’s quartet, is anyone sensing a theme for March yet?
Weekend Forecast for March 11-13, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
March 11, 2011
At first glance, lumping Battle: Los Angeles into the group of sub-standard films might not seem fair – it’s a slick-looking sci-fi alien invasion film with at least a few recognizable B-listers in the cast (Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan, Michelle Rodriguez), and a compelling plot – Independence Day, but at the ground level and on a battle by battle basis.
Too bad, then, about the reviews, which are vicious in both direction and magnitude, hammering the movie for being a noisy collection of clichés and explosions. What had the potential to be a more serious take on something like Transformers now looks just a little better than last fall’s Skyline, a film that made the news when Sony tried to sue it out of existence, since it was made by the FX gurus who worked on this film. Then it got laughed out of theaters and promptly washed down the memory hole.
That ends up being both good and bad for Battle: LA, as it looks much better in comparison, but the movie's concept has also been cheapened in some respects. The last thing you want people thinking about your movie is “didn't I just see that – and wasn't it crap?” The action packed ads – mostly dialogue-free, to great effect – could be mitigating towards that, and you underestimate the appeal of FX-driven action at your own peril, but it's starting to become readily apparent that this is a botch of a perfect concept. At this scale, that means we're seeing what could have been a $50 million opening weekend cut by perhaps as much as half, though I'm not entirely in disaster mode for it, and it should manage around $31 million this weekend.
The Twilightization of teen cinema continues for a second straight week with Red Riding Hood, a gothic retelling of the classic fairy tale that ramps up the sexuality (which admittedly was there to begin with). Except now we have legions of women openly fantasizing about doing it with a werewolf, so why not get a little more explicit about it? Amanda Seyfried stars as the title character, a doe-eyed maiden in a medieval village (though set design looks like it cost about $328) caught in a love triangle, oh, and there's werewolves and scary religious people (Gary Oldman) about. Stir with chaste romance and overbake.
Last week, Beastly proved that even if you can tap directly into teen zeitgeist about romance, you do at least need someone they recognize. Seyfried qualifies here, after the massive success of Mamma Mia! and the minor hits last year with Letters To Juliet and Dear John. The male leads are more or less unknowns (and there's definitely no Channing Tatum here), which hurts, but Seyfried actually makes this film stand a chance at bringing in willing male viewers. Reviews, again, play a role this week, as they are almost universally negative. Whereas Battle: Los Angeles at least has action to fall back on, Red Riding Hood is banking only on the romance angle, and slo-mo fetishists. I look for this to be torpedoed slightly by its reviews and should come in with about $16 million.
Family films get their second entry in two weeks as well, with Mars Needs Moms, the final release from Robert Zemeckis' creepy animation studio ImageMovers. Based on a children's book from Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed, it's a rare sci-fi animated film, with a young boy (mo-capped by Seth Green, whose voice was fortunately overdubbed, since that would be creepy) forced to travel to Mars after his mom (voiced by Joan Cusack) is kidnapped for their nefarious plans. Upon mounting a rescue mission, he meets up with a man (Dan Fogler) trapped there since the 1980s after losing his own mom to the Martians, and Uncanny Valley fun is had by all.
The quality of this film looks decidedly lower tier in terms of animation quality, plot and starpower, and past releases have shown that there's no reason to consider animation to be a slam dunk anymore. The film this most closely resembles is Planet 51 from a couple of years ago, which managed only $12 million in its opening weekend. This feels even less appealing than that film, which was a broader comedy than this film's adventure theme. This seems headed to a sizable disappointment this weekend with just $10 million.
Some of that disappointment could be a result of Rango, last week's top film, which has the family audience locked up pretty solidly. In fact, it's well poised to hold onto the top spot again should Battle: Los Angeles really falter. The big question about this film remains as to whether it's really been received well by audiences. The concern has always been that Rango has been too weird for the mass market. A great weekend could keep it above $30 million this weekend, while a worst case scenario could see it drop below $20 million. I think we'll see it somewhere towards the lower part of the range, at about $23 million.
The Adjustment Bureau earned a nice result for hard sci-fi with $21 million last weekend. That's kind of low for a Matt Damon movie, but considering the time of year and the actual lack of action in the ads, it's sort of impressive. Most reviews were decent, with few glowing reviews, meaning this should do okay in its second weekend, just not spectacular. Look for a second weekend of $13 million.