It's one of those “something for everyone” weekends at the movies, with four new movies in wide release, each hitting a different genre. Of course, that's “something” if “everyone” is willing to see just about anything without regard for quality.
Weekend Forecast for August 19-21, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
August 19, 2011
Two remakes lead the way, with the highest profile being the Conan the Barbarian. Taking on a role that was so iconically performed by Arnold Schwarzenegger takes some balls, but can pay off tremendously if it's done right. Jason Momoa steps into the loin cloth (hopefully after washing it first) in bringing the swords and sorcery epic back to the big screen.
Reportedly, this version is a bit more faithful to the Robert E. Howard books, which were a lot more sex-obsessed and gory than what could have been plausibly put on the screen back in 1982. It also arrives at a fortuitous time, thanks to the uptick in interest about this kind of thing from the Game of Thrones adaptation (which Momoa also had a significant role in).
What's similar here, though, is that Conan is still rampaging across a continent, bent on revenge against the corrupt ruler who destroyed his village, killed his family and took him into slavery. Stephen Lang (best known from Avatar) is no replacement for James Earl Jones as the main villain, in many ways, but Ron Perlman adds some well appreciated toughness, and Rachel Nichols and Rose McGowan are both steps up over the forgotten female leads of the original Barbarian.
Comparisons for this film are hard to come by, since so few films in this genre are made anymore. The two recent ones (for a generous definition of recent) that jump immediately to mind are The Scorpion King and The Chronicles of Riddick, which were both spinoffs of successful franchises and had leads with significantly more fame than Momoa. Still, as we've seen recently, it's the titles that sell movies these days, and the Conan name is one that's well known, if not much thought about. Thirty years on, is it time to try again? Sure, why not? I'll give it some benefit of the doubt thanks to that, and put it in for $18 million this weekend.
Fright Night's source material isn't nearly as well known as the other remake's this weekend, but depending on what group you talk to, it might be far more revered. The 1985 film stuck out in a world of slasher horror as one that didn't take the genre so seriously, or, at least, knew which conventions to tweak. Starring a pre-Herman's Head Williams Ragsdale as a teen who discovers that his neighbor is a vampire, it was one of the first post-modern horror films and laid down the path that Scream eventually followed in.
The update puts Anton Yelchin in the lead teen role, with Colin Farrell as his next-door neighbor, all oily-cool as a menace that's hiding in plain sight, and making what appears to be excellent use of its suburban setting as social satire – to be expected since the script is by Buffy alumnus Marti Noxon. Updated for this generation, Fright Night looks like a breath of fresh air against the alternatively brooding and slapdash horror that we've been subjected to over the last few years. I'd look for around $14 million here.
Filed under the category of “Wait, who asked for this?” is Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World, the latest in Robert Rodriguez's children's spy series, though this one comes eight years after the most recent entry. Since that one was one of the vanguards of the recent 3-D movement, Rodriguez has stepped up the D factor by one, bringing aroma-vision into the mix. Since the trailer features a plethora of poop and barf jokes, I'd be kind of worried about that.
Jeremy Piven stars as a haberdashed villain who aims to steal all the world's time, a plot so nefarious that you would naturally turn to a couple of pre-teens to stop it. Okay, this series has long ago stopped making much sense. Most of the charm of Rodriguez essentially making a professional looking film for about $80 in his garage has long ago faded. Returning to the well for kids films well after the fact can be quite a crap shoot – your target audience who still has fond memories of your movies has also grown out of them, and the younger generation has their own stuff that they like. Reviewers, at least the ones who've been allowed to see it, have been savage to it, so there's little hope that there's anything someone over the age of 14 would enjoy. While the last Spy Kids film managed an outstanding $33 million, with horrible reviews and a ho-hum cast, this film will be lucky to open with half that. Give it around $13 million for its start.
The weekend's new romance is One Day, an adaptation of a best-selling British novel. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in it as two friends who carry on a relationship one day at a time over 20 years, sort of a linear The Time Traveler's Wife and without all the time travel. Directed by Lone Scherfig of An Education fame, the film is aiming for an epic, bittersweet scope, which judging by its reviews, it doesn't quite reach.
It's also taking a more modest approach to its opening weekend, opening at just 1,719 venues, a concession to the British setting of the film and the lack of splash the material has for a trailer. It's tough to sell romance at the best of times, and these are not them. The natural comparison here is Love and Other Drugs, which shares a similar tone of slightly-doomed romance, and opened to just $10 million last fall despite a heavy marketing push. The screen count should keep One Day down to around $7 million.
The battle for the weekend, then, will depend on how well The Help can capitalize on its word-of-mouth. After opening to an astounding $26 million, and $35 million over five days, it's well poised to be a major factor through late summer and early fall as a rare quality film in this season. Not everyone loved the film, mind you, and many hated it. But the passion and number of people that are championing it ought to lead to this civil-rights era earning a great second weekend of about $19 million.
That'll easily move it past the two-week champion Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which has already broken the $100 million plateau, and can't yet be ruled out from passing the 2001's $180 million total. Against all odds, and rational expectations, the Planet of the Apes franchise looks to be revived. However, it's still not leggy by any means, and should fall to around $14 million this weekend.
Final Destination 5 did a respectable $18 million in its debut, well more than you'd expect for a sequel to a franchise that's long past run out of ideas. This series, like most other horror series, has always been known for its short runs, and I see no reason for this to buck the pattern. Its second weekend should bring just $8 million as it cruises to about a $50 million domestic finish.
The Smurfs continue to defy all the laws of man and good taste by hanging around in the top 5 of the box office. That ought to end this weekend with all the new films debuting, but the rein of terror it's had is already too much. Give it $8 million as well, pointing it towards a $150 million final total and an inevitable sequel.