Weekend Forecast for October 26-28, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
October 26, 2012

Oh, is something horrifying going on back there? Oh well.

While there's no expected heavy hitters for this last weekend of October at the box office, one of the more intriguing mainstream films of the year arrives in theaters after a high profile campaign that has it hunting Oscars. The rest of the weekend's slate of four new movies has a bit of a potpourri feel to it, with studios clearing out inventory before the Holiday season starts.

Whatever you might think of it in the end, Cloud Atlas is surely one of the more ambitious movies of the year. Adapted by the Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer from a sprawling, episodic novel of the same name, it's a story of interconnectedness across centuries and six time periods. Each succeeding story carries on the previous one in some fashion, with what may or may not be the same actual characters reincarnating in each time period meeting up again and again. It's nothing much smaller than the story of humanity and society, and promises to be challenging, infuriating and rewarding, perhaps all the same time.

This isn't the most commercial of all stories to tell, sort of part The Tree of Life, part 2001, part Robert Altman, but it's undoubtedly a film with something to say, and that can definitely bring in audiences looking for a fix of “seriousness”. Helping things along is a star-studded cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess and others, although that's a group that's a lot better on paper than in recent results. Hanks in particular is riding on a reputation that hasn't born itself out well in non-animated or franchise films of late. Last year was a particularly bad year for him, as both Larry Crowne and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close were unqualified bombs (despite the latter snagging an Oscar nomination). The rest of that cast is decently known but generally has been unable to open a film without some larger appeal to it.

Which brings us to the directors. The post-Matrix era hasn't been kind to the Wachowskis, with 2008's Speed Racer alienating many (though it remains a watchable failure). V For Vendetta, which they adapted and produced but didn't direct, was a minor hit, but was well short of any of the Matrix movies. I suspect that most people who think about them think more of the poorly received Matrix sequels than the original Matrix movie, which nearly defined a decade of action films. Tom Tykwer made a big splash in the same year with Run Lola Run, which heralded him as a potential director of Big Things, but he's since faded back into the indie world. Unless you're one of the few who saw The International, this may be the first time you've heard his name since then.

With all these caveats, Cloud Atlas still has the feel of an Important Film, and even if the reviews aren't all that spectacular for it (notable exception, Roger Ebert's 4-star rave), it's the sort of accessible indie film that can bring in higher-minded crowds. It should be the highest grossing of the new films this week with around $14 million.

Although horror seemingly belongs to Paranormal Activity around this time of year, other films keep trying, and that leads us to Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, the sequel to the 2006 video game adaptation. From the dark and trippy mood the original went for, the sequel appears to have gone for a balls-to-the-wall straight up craziness tone, with bizarre monsters, torture porn and psychedelic hallucinations. Relative newcomer (and Michelle Williams doppelganger) Adelaide Clemens stars as the daughter of Sean Bean, who has been moving her around for years following the events of the first movie, when her mother (Radha Mitchell) disappeared under mysterious circumstances. When Bean then disappears too, Clemens is whisked away to an alternate reality populated by demons from hell who are bent on claiming her soul to satisfy some long-ago atrocity. Ah, the Japanese.

The original Silent Hill opened to about $20 million and then limped home to $47 million, and that with the benefit of being seen as genuinely terrifying. The sequel merely looks crazier, and suffers from survival-horror video games not being as much of a thing these days. Look at Resident Evil, which has gone much more in the direction of action as it's developed its sequels. Another troubling element – it's not being screened for critics, which is sort of the universal symbol for “it sucks”. Taking into account these factors, I think we're going to see a significant drop from the original's opening weekend, to around $11 million.

Nickelodeon Pictures gets back into the theaters this weekend with Fun Size, a night-in-the-life-of comedy that seems to think that a loose toddler is an inherently funny concept to teenagers, which seems like a poor bet. Victoria Justice, who is apparently a thing and has had a TV show for *four* seasons, plays a teenager who loses her little brother in a sea of trick-or-treaters on Halloween, which sets her off on an adventure for the night with her best friend (Jane Levy of Suburgatory – and why isn't she the lead?) and two handy nerds to locate him before the night is over. This plays a bit like a PG-13 version of Superbad crossed with Home Alone. However, reviews indicate it has none of the wit and not enough of the raunch needed to pull off a film like this. As well, targeting this at tweens and young teens with the rating as indicated makes this a tough sell outside that demographic. I suspect that the idea here is to end up with something like Project X's $21 million, but even half of that would be pushing it. Look for around $9 million this weekend.

Finally, we have Chasing Mavericks, a based-on-a-true-story film about surfing phenom Jay Moriarity, who rose to fame at 16 following a tremendous wipeout on a gigantic wave near Santa Cruz. This is apparently a big deal in the surfing world. Moriarity is played by newcomer Jonny Weston, and is placed under the tutelage of a local legend (played by Gerard Butler) who trains him to take on the biggest waves in the world. And... that's about it. Look, it's a movie about the purity of surfing, it can't get much more complicated.

Chasing Mavericks might be more notable for its pair of directors, Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson, a couple of guys who seemed like they had something interesting to say a little over a decade ago, but have since faded into irrelevancy. That pattern doesn't seem likely to break here, and this seems like it's going to be the second Walden Media film in about a month to drop to the sound of crickets, after Won't Back Down. It's like the saying goes: Make a film about a subject not many people care about and starring someone audiences actively avoid, and you're gonna have a bad time. I guess that's not actually a saying, but it should be. Chasing Mavericks should debut to around $4 million this weekend.

With this weaker slate of new films, there's actually a good chance for Argo to reach the top of the box office in its third weekend. Dropping just 15% last week to $16 million, a repeat performance would put it around $14 million, and well placed to hold off Cloud Atlas were it to underperform. While financial success is always nice, a strong audience reaction like this also puts it in strong contention for Oscars, since some sort of box office success is usually required to get notice in that avenue. Get ready for “Ben Affleck, Oscar nominated director,” everyone.

Argo could win the weekend despite being $13 million behind the leader last weekend, which tells you just how poor the legs of the Paranormal Activity series typically are. The fourth entry in the series opened to $29 million, well down from the third one, but also still more than enough to make a massive profit in the first, oh, 30 minutes of its first showing. However, these films have almost no appeal outside the first weekend, and even Halloween day can't add too much to the box office. This weekend should see another $9 million or so for this series, which is rapidly running out of ideas and patience from audiences.

Hotel Transylvania is proving to be the much stronger Halloween-themed release, as it's shown a great deal of legs in its four weekend of release. It should also see around $9 million this weekend, thanks to a family-friendly premise and a general lack of competition.

In the dueling thriller category, Taken 2 should easily handle the second weekend of Alex Cross, the ill-conceived in every manner movie that tried to make Tyler Perry into a mainstream star. Add $7 million for Liam Neeson's film, while Perry's drops to around $5 million.