The glut of August releases continues this weekend, with four new films in wide release for the second straight week. In a twist this weekend, two are on the receiving end of some surprisingly strong critical reception, and have a chance to break out of the later-summer doldrums.
Weekend Forecast for Aug 19-21, 2005
By Reagen Sulewski
August 18, 2005
Leading off the slate is The 40 Year-Old Virgin, starring Daily Show alumnus Steve Carell. He stars as - in fairly obvious fashion given the title - a man who has not known the intimate touch of a woman in his 40 years on the planet. As such, the film is a sex comedy about his quest to break this losing streak. A long-delayed version of the Tom Cruise classic Losin' It, so to speak.
Carell came into his own as one the highlights of last summer's Anchorman, playing the clueless and functionally retarded Brick Tamland. His brief but hysterical non-sequitur moments threatened to steal the movie from Will Ferrell, granting him his own leading man shot. His performance as the incompetent and borderline racist boss in the American version of The Office also helped cement his comedy status, although it was seen by far fewer people.
Directed by Judd Apatow, whose brilliant-but-canceled TV series Undeclared arrived on DVD this week, and also starring fellow Anchorman co-star Paul Rudd along with Catherine Keener and Seth Rogan (of Undeclared), it has a deep cast to draw from for comedy, albeit not one that is overloaded with star power. What it does have is a set of dynamite ads, a brilliant and sublime poster, a hilarious premise and a market that has been primed for something like this with this summer's Wedding Crashers. Critical support is also very strong, with its Tomato Meter reading one of the highest of the summer. Look for The 40 Year-Old Virgin to score (sorry) first place on the weekend with around $24 million.
Summer hit Wedding Crashers's It Girl, Rachel McAdams, has a film of her own this weekend in Red Eye. Directed by Wes Craven, it is not a horror film that people might expect from him, but rather, a straight-up Hitchcockian thriller.
Unbeknownst to her, the man sitting next to her (played by current Batman Begins It Guy, Cillian Murphy) on her late-night flight to Miami is an operative in an assassination plot, to which she is the unknowing key. With her father held as insurance, how will she be able to thwart the plot, or even just come out of her predicament alive?
The film is not so much about that as it is in taking filmgoers on a ride of suspense, with the claustrophobic setting of an airplane cabin being a terrific setting for such. Similar in a lot of ways to last fall's Cellular, and 2002's Panic Room, this minimalist brand of thriller has proven to have a decent appear. Attractive and buzz-worthy cast members don't hurt either. Also receiving a strong amount of critical praise (almost uniformly positive, but just slightly positive), it should be able to open strong for its relative lack of star power, to around $16 million.
The third opener of this weekend looks to be the first out-right CGI-flop, putting the lie to the somewhat bizarre notion that it was the CGI that drove the success of Pixar, and to a lesser extent, Dreamworks animated films. Valiant is one of Disney's attempts to step out into the CGI world sans-Pixar, and they appear to have botched it badly (wait, instead for this fall's Chicken Little). They appear to know it as well, releasing it on just over 2,000 screens and pretending the film is a secret. If you've seen an ad for this film, call Buena Vista Studios and collect your prize.
Set in World War II, Valiant focuses on a group of carrier pigeons that deliver vital messages to the front. One little pigeon (voiced by Ewan McGregor) might be too small for the force, but has a big heart. Can he come through when it counts? Is theater popcorn overpriced? The voice cast is rounded out by a large number of British character actors and comedians, including John Cleese, Tim Curry and Ricky Gervais, but even George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey couldn't help a film as buried as this one is. Consider the theatrical release an extended ad for the DVD, and give it $6 million for the weekend.
Supercross seems to be deftly answering the question of what would happen if you released a movie and no one came, earning just under half a million on its Wednesday debut, racing out to... tenth spot. I'll revise upwards to three-quarters of a million pre-weekend, with $2 million over the three-day period seeming a bit more likely now, if not particularly encouraging.
Four Brothers climbed out of the menagerie of films last weekend to take first spot with $21 million. It proved to be just the right mix of drama, action and suspense for a public starved of most of that through the summer. Mark Wahlberg, Andre Benjamin and director John Singleton can pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Legs for the films should be decent, but not incredible, given the young demographics of the film. Look for it to drop to a respectable $12.5 million this weekend.
The Skeleton Key proved just how far spooky and atmospheric visuals can take you in horror, if you have a decent lead. Headed by Kate Hudson, the voodoo-themed thriller brought in $16 million for second place on the strength of said visuals, as well as a strong marketing campaign. Even with the heavily stressed "twist" ending, this feels like a one-weekend wonder, and should end up with about $9 million this weekend.
Redefining such one-weekend wonders was Dukes of Hazzard, which fell nearly 60% from its strong $30.6 million opening weekend. Thoughts of $100 million total can be wiped away, although $80 million looks likely at this point.
Wedding Crashers faces its first intrusion into its market, six weekends into release and $168 million later. Buzz film that it is, however, it shouldn't be affected too much by 40 Year-Old Virgin, especially when its expected relative box office for this weekend is small in comparison. Give it another $8.5 million this weekend on its continuing quest to be the second highest-grossing film of the summer.
March of the Penguins keeps on marching, with a virtual zero drop off on only a marginal increase in screens last weekend. It adds a handful more this weekend, and should show similar results, earning another $6 million or so. It's difficult to see the end of the run for this remarkable nature documentary.