The first event movie of the year hits the screens this weekend, which could jolt a moribund box office out of its winter sleep.
Weekend Forecast for March 17-19, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
March 17, 2006
Although V for Vendetta is not directed by the Wachowski Brothers, the film definitely wants you to think that. Based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore (who you may remember from From Hell, and the as-yet-unadapted Watchmen), this film is actually directed by James McTeigue, who was the number two man on the Matrix films. It carries all those same Matrix-y feeling elements, from a strong visual sense to similar themes, along with a heavy emphasis on stylized action.
The film posits a dystopian future England that has fallen under tyrannical rule after a world war, with citizenry controlled by fear and if need be, by force. However, a mysterious figure known as V is fighting back, using the legend of Guy Fawkes, a 17th century conspiracist who tried to assassinate the King and Parliament. Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent woman is driven to join in the fight after coming under suspicion by the society's Secret Police. Together the two work to awaken the public to the freedom they've lost and to bring down the totalitarian government.
Clearly this is a film that wears its politics on its sleeve with anger to spare, but it's not short on action and ‘splosions. A shaved-head Natalie Portman is the film's biggest draw, though Hugo Weaving appears behind a mask as the titular character. The film is getting tons of praise over and above its action and violence content and has the potential to be the biggest film of the first quarter of the year. A positively brilliant marketing campaign, filled with revolutionary images and slogans, has made the film a compelling-looking project. Opening on about 3,300 screens, V for Vendetta should easily win the weekend, coming in with around $38 million.
The second film of the weekend is She's the Man, a teen recasting of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Starring Amanda Bynes, recently of the TV show What I Like About You along with films What a Girl Wants and Big Fat Liar, as well as a host of other young actors, the film is a broad comedy involving mistaken identity, gender swapping and love triangles. If I had a dollar for every time this happened at my high school...
The teen girl demographic had a run of films catering to it over the past few years, though saturation has started to set in of late. It shares in the same legacy as films like 10 Things I Hate About You, which has had a tremendous run on video after opening to around $8 million, in 1999. This film looks inoffensive enough for the seventh grade set, however, and it should bring in a modest $10 million.
Failure to Launch was last weekend's number one, upsetting a pair of reasonably hyped remakes and repeating the performance of Matthew McConaughey's last romantic comedy, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. This cements his position as one of the solid romantic leads of the "new" acting generation, along with making Sarah Jessica Parker a credible lead again, after her second straight romantic comedy success. It should hold on reasonably well this weekend, for around $14 million.
The Shaggy Dog, the Tim Allen-starring remake, came in second with about $16 million, which was less than a lot of people expected and feared. Still, this is a pretty good showing for a moldy old plot. It holds the family film audience mostly to itself and should come in with about $10 million this frame.
The Hills Have Eyes bucked the trend of recent horror films by not capturing first place, probably largely due to the fact that it was actually pretty good and scary, as well as it not starring a bunch of stars from the WB. However, the $16 million it pulled in is nothing to sneeze at, even if it will drop to around $8 million this weekend.
Opening on a very limited five screens this weekend is Thank You for Smoking, a bitter satire about the tobacco industry, starring Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Bill Macy, Robert Duvall and many more. Directed by Jason Reitman, son of Ivan, this could be a film to watch as it expands in the coming weeks.