Weekend Forecast for October 17-19, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

October 17, 2008

W. makes another of his daily speeches to reassure the country about the state of the economy.

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Whoever opened up the floodgates for new releases seems to have forgotten where the shut off switch is. Four more wide releases add to the veritable glut of the fall, though we could have a legitimate blockbuster on our hands.

Max Payne could easily be confused by the uninitiated as a comic book movie, with its nearly monochromatic color palette, gothic imagery and strange mix of science fiction and detective movie tropes. However, it's actually based on a 2001 video game by the same name, an innovative shooter that borrowed heavily from cinema for its inspiration.

Now it gives that inspiration back, with a film starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis and directed by Behind Enemy Lines and The Omen director John Moore. Wahlberg plays DEA agent Payne, who teams up with assassin Kunis to solve a series of murders in New York City and avenge the deaths of both of their families.

The combination of eye-popping visuals and the action are the big sell here, akin to, well, a couple of comic book movies, Sin City and 300 (though to a much lesser extent on that last one). Wahlberg's star power took a hit this summer with the execrable The Happening, though as something closer to a straight action movie, Max Payne may let him leave that behind. Commercials for this have been running in what seems like a continuous loop, though more emphasis has been placed lately on the cop part, versus the gothic imagery, which seems like a bit of a mistake to me. It still has an easy line on a win of the weekend, debuting at 3,376 venues, and a probable weekend of about $27 million.


W. appears to be a movie without an audience. Oliver Stone's biography of still-President George W. Bush comes out at a time when his popularity has hit its lowest point, making him one of the least popular presidents in history. Those on the left side of the spectrum undoubtedly have little interest in reliving the misadventures of the last seven years, while it's unlikely that those on the right or that still support him have any stomach for a Stone's satirical take on his administration. It's a bit of a conundrum.

This is Stone's third film about a president (following JFK and Nixon – at this exponential rate, I expect his film about the presidency of George Clooney to be out by Memorial Day 2010) but his first to treat it more or less a comedy. James Brolin stars as Bush, in what appears to be a near dead-on imitation, with a strong supporting cast of the other main political figures of the last decade, including an unrecognizable Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Scott Glenn as Donald Rumsfeld and Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice.

The film also goes through the junior Bush's early, wilder years, and his conflicts with the first President Bush (a somewhat miscast James Cromwell), but seems to mostly focus on the central issue of his administration, the Iraq War. Which pulls us back to the beginning. Like so many other films on this subject, no one really wants to see this stuff right now, as the wounds are still pretty raw. The hook of being so targeted at the current president may help somewhat, but it ultimately fails the escapism test. Opening on just over 2,000 screens, W. looks like it's headed for a lackluster weekend of about $9 million.

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