Another weekend is loaded with new films, including some Oscar bait, a family-friendly tear-jerker and yet another noisy action film based on a video game. It's a decidedly mixed bag for this supposed quality time for films.
Weekend Forecast for October 21-23, 2005
By Reagen Sulewski
October 21, 2005
I'm not sure I can really call the movie adaptation of Doom ‘long-awaited', although it's certainly been a long time in coming. The video game was first released in 1993, and was, along with Wolfenstein, the game that popularized first-person shooting-style gaming. Played by millions, it put the player in the place of a U.S. Marine exiled to Mars (sometime in the future, obviously) who finds himself in the midst of a medical experiment gone wrong. With all the inhabitants turned into zombies and inhuman monsters, the Marine must fight his way through the maze like laboratory and destroy the infestation to save himself and the Earth.
Once upon a time, Tom Berenger had lobbied for the lead role, and at the time, it might have been feasible. However, now that technology and interest has gotten to the point where this film has become a reality, the role has gone to someone with a little more star power. Yes, that's why the lead in Doom is... Karl Urban? Oh sure, the ads prominently feature The Rock, but although they'd never admit it, he's only playing a supporting role, and the majority of the screen time is going to Eomer from the Lord of the Rings series. Of course, since most of the film is shot in the same first-person style as the game, that might be cold comfort.
Action horror - especially of the video game genre - has proven to be, if not exactly popular, abundant in recent years, with the two Resident Evil movies being the most prominent examples. Those two films opened to $17 and $23 million respectively, with the latter figure being somewhat surprising, although it is explained in part by brilliant marketing and by a devoted fanbase.
Doom doesn't quite have either one of those, as the current crop of young gamers has probably never specifically played Doom, although they've certainly played its descendants, like Quake or Half-Life. The ads are nothing special, although they've improved, emphasizing neat first-person shots like the chainsaw and, as I said, pushing The Rock. I don't worry about his fans being disappointed here, because if they were content with his five minutes of screen-time in The Mummy Returns, they'll be more than happy with his role here. Debuting on over 3,000 screens, Doom is due for about $16 million this weekend.
One of the biggest Oscar-bait films of the early fall is North Country, starring Charlize Theron. Based on a true story of one of the first successful sexual-harassment suits in the United States, it features Theron as a hard-bitten miner in Minnesota, who, rather than taking her job and shoving it, bucks the system like a modern day Norma Rae.
Directed by Niki Caro (responsible for BOP favorite Whale Rider) North Country also co-stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sissy Spacek and Sean Bean, which, if you're keeping track, means this film has three Best Actress winners and a Best Actor nominee (sorry to tease you, Sean). Reviews have only been somewhat positive, however, with the general consensus being that the film is by-the-numbers melodrama that is raised by its superior acting. Universal acclaim would have helped a lot here, but it still looks like it could be a crowd-pleaser, if it can get some attention. That remains to be seen, but it is seeing about 2,500 screens this weekend, a healthy amount. It should bring in about $8 million this weekend, but could play well through the coming weeks.
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story is also based on something of a true story; it says so right in the subtitle. Playing to the girls-who-like-horseys set, it stars Dakota Fanning as the daughter of horse trainer Kurt Russell. When she witnesses a horse go down on the track, her father decides to save it, at the cost of his job. This could strain any relationship, but over the course of nursing it back to health, they rebond, with Fanning dreaming of bringing the horse back onto the track.
You'd really expect this film to carry the Disney label, and with its backing, might have really been a big hit. Even so, it looks to have a healthy family appeal. Reviews peg it as formulaic, but that's not always such a bad thing when it comes to family films. It sees a moderate release of just 2,000 screens, and should have a weekend of about $6 million.
While it can often lead to very satisfying movies, the term ‘psychological thriller' is not really something that gets associated with big box office. That goes double when we're talking about one that stars Ewan McGregor, who is probably lobbying to wield a light-saber in all of his future films. Stay, starring McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling and directed by Marc Forster of Monster's Ball, is a Jacob's Ladder-esque film that deals with the boundaries between the living world and the dead. Or something, as you can't always trust the ads for these kinds of films.
This one actually seems to be a bit of a mess, and has been more or less savaged by critics. Combined with the lackluster cast, Fox has seen the writing on the wall and has given it only token support and a release of around 1,600 screens. Look for this to bring in just $4 million in its opening weekend.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was arguably the strongest performer of last week even though it came in second. Coming in just behind The Fog, it dropped only 27% in its second weekend after a $16 million opening weekend. The stop-motion animated film is the second feature from Aardman Studios, after Chicken Run, and the clever comedy stylings of inventor Wallace and his long-suffering partner and dog Gromit are superior family entertainment. Look for it to earn another $8 million and perhaps stay in second place for the second straight weekend.
Its biggest challenger there from returning films is the one that finished in third, Elizabethtown, which is Cameron Crowe's latest about a man returning to his boyhood home for his father's funeral and finding romance and general family chaos. Reviewers were generally unkind to the film, at least by Crowe's standards, although some audience reaction has ranged up to the rapturous. The pull of the word-of-mouth should be a little stronger than the push of the reviews, which should give it another $6-7 million this weekend.
The Fog was the number one film last weekend, but no one can really expect it to hold on to that spot, or more than half its box office from last weekend. For one, it's a horror film, and two, it was horribly reviewed and received. If it earns $5 million this weekend, it's doing well.
Two potentially significant films debut in limited release this weekend in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Shopgirl. The first is acclaimed action-writer Shane Black's directorial debut, and stars Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. in the type of testosterone-filled buddy-comedy we don't see much anymore without some kind of input from Martin Lawrence. Downey Jr. plays a con-man who stumbles into an audition for an acting job. While taking lessons in how to be a private eye from Kilmer, they stumble onto a murder mystery, and hilarity ensues. It debuts on eight screens, as does Shopgirl, the long-awaited adaptation of Steve Martin's novella, which also stars Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman. It's a tender and melancholy love-triangle story that is filled with humor and heart, and deserves an audience.