Theatre marquees brace for impact this weekend from six new releases, all jockeying for mind space. Some of them are going to get it, and some are going to fail miserably.
Weekend Forecast for March 23-25, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
March 23, 2007
A good favorite to lead this new crop is TMNT, a 14-years-later sequel to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. With the revival of a lot of comic franchises on film lately, and the success of some pretty marginal adaptations (Ghost Rider anyone?) it's not surprising that studios might start to revisit some of the moldier projects out there. What's unique about this one is that while the original movies were live action, TMNT has gone the CGI route, animating the whole deal.
It's a slick enough looking production, and the animation has let them bring in some pretty big names for the voices, including Patrick Stewart, Laurence Fishburne, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Zhang Ziyi (who I don't really think of as a voice actor, but it's their dime).
While the comic was slyly subversive originally, as it morphed into a toy machine, it became a bit of a joke, and by the time the second movie came out – well, the less said the better. It remains to be seen how well this next generation of kids will pick up on the turtles (with a PG rating, it's clearly aiming at kids), and just how much nostalgia there is out there amongst Gen Xers. I think they should be able to grab a pretty good cross section of these folks, although it doesn't look like they've done nearly as good a job as they could have and it lacks that "wow" factor that an animated version really could have had. Still, there's enough value here that on over 3,100 screens, we should see a weekend number of $23 million.
The action offering for the weekend is Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg. He plays a former army sniper who is recruited to provide security for the President when an assassination attempt is discovered. However, it turns out he's being setup to be the patsy, and must prove his innocence and get back at those who framed him, while being pursued in a national manhunt. It's almost as if someone decided to make a movie from Lee Harvey Oswald's point of view.
Wahlberg is riding high after an Oscar nomination for The Departed, and has built up a pretty good CV of box office performances, including Four Brothers and Invincible, which opened to $21 and $17 million respectively. A conspiracy-minded thriller might be the thing to push him into the top realm of action stars. That is, if the film is any good.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who gave us Training Day (that's good), King Arthur (that's bad) and Tears of the Sun (can I go now?), it's a bit of a crapshoot, and reviews are not kind to this point. That's not to say that they've ever been kind to Wahlberg or Fuqua, and their histories should lead to a mild hit. Give it about $20 million for the weekend.
Competing with TMNT for the family dollar this weekend is The Last Mimzy, which makes it to theatres after two weekend of sneaks trying to drum up business. Based on the children's short story Mimsy Were the Borogroves, it's that rare breed - the sci-fi family film. Two young children seem to be developing mysterious powers and abilities, which they attribute to a friend they call Mimzy, who seems to be a stuffed animal. When these abilities continue to manifest themselves, it becomes a question of whether these powers are good or evil.
The tone of the film seems to evoke Spielbergian family films of the mid 1980s, especially E.T. and Joe Dante's Explorers. It comes by some of that feel honestly, sharing a producer with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and its director is Bob Shaye, who was a producer on the Lord of the Rings films (and founded New Line films). It's backed with an eerie and crackerjack trailer, and I suspect this is the kind of film that's going to have a ton of passionate defenders, but it's not the kind of flashy movie that catches on immediately. Still, I see a decent weekend total of about $11 million here.
Reign Over Me offers a pretty compelling drama for the weekend, which are words you don't often seen associated with Adam Sandler movies (though, see: Punch-Drunk Love). He stars as a man who lost his family in the 9/11 attacks and reconnects with an old college buddy (played by Don Cheadle) by happenstance, who takes pity on him. The experience seems to have entirely broken Sandler's character, and he's regressed to an immature state (a real stretch for him, I'd imagine). This renewed friendship puts a strain on Cheadle's marriage, as he's torn with trying to help a damaged friend, but one who's demanding to a extreme degree.
It's an interesting idea for a film, and covers a rarely seen dynamic in male relationships. The biggest concern would be that it becomes too schmaltzy, though ads hint at a dark edge that would serve to put real bite in the film if it is there. This could be the latest "guyjerker" that gains a following after release. It doesn't have a great shot of doing well on opening weekend, largely because it opens on just 1,600 screens. Sandler's typical fans can't be counted on here, and it might be difficult to convince non-Sandler fans to go see his film. I look for a weekend of $9 million.
In a weekend with six new films, some are going to fall short of expectations. There simply isn't enough ad space for them all, nor attention from audiences to go around. In this group, the contender seems to be The Hills Have Eyes 2, the sequel to last year's nuclear cannibal splatter fest. This outing sees a new director, a whole new cast, and very likely more gore. Although the first film was a hit, opening to around $18 million, the crowded weekend plus the diminishing returns seen by these horror sequels mean that this film is in for a nasty shock. Ad support hasn't been strong either, so a $7 million weekend is probably in store here.
Finally, we have Pride, the latest "based on a true story" inspirational sports movie - this one with a distinct racial edge. Terrence Howard plays a Philadelphia swimming coach who starts a program for troubled black youths, hoping to guide them to the state championships. Along the way he runs into the usual selection of racist obstacles, lessons are learned, and tears are shed. I mean, I'm just guessing here, going off my sports-movie-o-tron scriptomatic. There's basically nothing in this movie that looks like it would be a surprise, which I guess is not that big a deal for this kind of film, but it also looks entirely generic except for its potential treatment of race.
Supporting roles in the film go a motley crew of Bernie Mac, Kimberly Elise and Tom Arnold as the evil white swimming coach, which of course just screams quality. I don't see a ton of potential for this film, which releases on just 1,500 screens. It's very likely the lowest earning new film of the weekend with my prediction for it at around $5 million.
300 will lose its top spot at the box office this weekend after two strong weekends at the top and almost $150 million in receipts. It's quickly become 2007's top earner, and is an impressive story in just about every respect. It's quite the triumph for Zack Snyder and Frank Miller's style, and I suspect we'll see quite a few more films in the pipeline to try and copy its blend of over the top action and bravado. In the meantime, it will add another $14 million to its total this weekend.
Among other returning films, Wild Hogs showed some incredible staying power last weekend, holding at $19 million in its third weekend to cross the $100 million plateau. It's about to become the second biggest earner of 2007, passing by Ghost Rider's total this weekend. Premonition was a bit of a surprise for Sandra Bullock, opening to third place with $17.5 million and becoming her biggest opening film ever. It seemed to sync up well with her female fans, and should show some legs this weekend, with around $9 million. Nothing else this weekend will top $5 million, especially with the crowded marketplace.