Weekend Forecast for September 26-28, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

September 26, 2008

Shia rushes from the scene of an accident...

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There's a subtle shift in this weekend's new releases, with a lot more limited and prestige-type runs entering the market, along with some films that pass for what we'd call an early fall blockbuster. Oscar is on his way, and helping to boot us out of one of the worst Septembers in recent memory.

First up is the techno-thriller Eagle Eye, starring Shia LaBeouf, voted most punchable celebrity of 2008, and Michelle "I'm not married to Tom Cruise" Monaghan as two strangers thrown together by a mysterious conspiracy and forced to commit a series of crazy crimes, with the conspirators always seemingly one step ahead of them. Meanwhile, two federal agents (Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson) chasing them down start to suspect these sudden terrorists might not be all they appear.

The premise for Eagle Eye is quietly brilliant, like something Hitchcock might have come up with, which makes sense considering director DJ Caruso aped him last year with Disturbia (and calm down, cineastes, I am not comparing DJ Caruso to Alfred Hitchcock). The idea of being manipulated by an omniscient conspiracy is a rich one in film, and the ads use it to a wonderfully creepy effect. Add in some big explosions and destroyed buildings, and in Hollywood mash-up speak, it's The Game meets Enemy of the State.


LaBeouf's profile has never been higher, following up last summer's Transformers with this year's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, albeit in a sidekick role. While no one is expecting this to come even remotely close to those films in terms of box office, they did both legitimize him as this generation's Matthew Broderick. Asked again to carry a thriller as a lead, he should easily be able to use those films to build on Disturbia and make this a decent-sized fall hit. Opening in over 3,500 venues, it should make a big impact with a $27 million opening weekend.

We now have a clubhouse leader for this year's Worst Film Title award, namely, Nights in Rodanthe. Based on a novel (it would have to be) by the author of The Notebook (oh, the other shoe drops now...), it stars Diane Lane as a woman in a troubled marriage who meets up with a doctor, played by Richard Gere, who has demons of his own, in a beach house on the coast of North Carolina during the middle of a hurricane. Oh, I get metaphors.

While The Notebook is the obvious analog here, The Bridges of Madison County comes a little bit more to mind with the ages of the main characters. With Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, Notebook was able to pull in younger romantics, where they may not relate as strongly to the nearly-60 Gere. It'll be primarily an older audience here. Still, with its direct connection to one of the most successful pure romance films of this decade, it should find a pretty easy path to at least mild success. I see a weekend of $12 million in the cards here.

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