Weekend Forecast for Aug. 14-16, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
August 14, 2009
It's the shotgun approach to the movies this weekend as no fewer than five new movies hit wide release, along with a couple of high-profile limited release films. There's something for everyone this weekend, though there's no guarantee that something will be good.
Leading the pack is perhaps one of the stranger candidates for a blockbuster in some time, District 9. Directed by South African newcomer Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson, it's a high concept sci-fi film that takes a different angle towards the alien visitor idea than we've seen in a while. The aliens, a rather insectoid-looking group, are stranded on Earth after finding themselves refugees without a homeworld. Penned in a slum-like area in Johannesburg and feared and reviled by humans, they start to try to find a way home, or at least out of District 9. Enter a bumbling government official placed in charge of their area, who stumbles onto a mysterious alien artifact...
A not-particularly-subtle metaphor for Apartheid and South African racism, District 9 sort of came out of nowhere for the North American public, with a startlingly great trailer, featuring effects that belie its reported $30 million budget. There's a good reason to highlight the director and producer and none of the actors in this production, since virtually all are complete unknowns, unless you're a really dedicated CSI watcher (and I mean really dedicated) or are South African yourself. It's not just an FX reel, though; the film actually seems to have a solid story and something to say.
Much like last year's Cloverfield, it's difficult to predict how audiences will react to something they really don't have a basis of comparison for. In its corner, though, is the fact that it's an action movie that's received outstanding critical support, something of a rarity. I think audiences will give this unusual film a try to the tune of about $29 million on the weekend.
Handling romantic duties this weekend is The Time Traveler's Wife, an adaptation of the best-selling novel. Eric Bana stars as a man who involuntarily travels through time because of a genetic anomaly, bouncing in and out of the life of a girl/woman (played in adulthood by Rachel McAdams) that he eventually (does? Had always? Verbs get complicated in time travel stories) falls in love with.
Something of a tragic love story with a science-fiction twist, the story has the potential to carry some rather hefty metaphors about love, loss and distance in relationships. However, the jury is out as to whether the movie has managed to pull that out of the book and onto the screen.
Reshoots delayed the movie for over a year, and Warner Bros. has shown little confidence in the film, taking an eternity to release a trailer, and then dropping it into this late-summer release slot. McAdams and Bana might have seemed like a much better cast when this started shooting, but audiences have pretty soundly rejected Bana in almost everything, only tolerating him in Romulan makeup. McAdams has seemed on the cusp of stardom forever. And reviews, for that matter, have been terrible, with commercials seem to be trying to make it into a new The Notebook. That's fair enough with the presence of McAdams, but it's unlikely to please fans of the book, and with the rather bizarre premise, it's unlikely to bring in the uninitiated. Name recognition will get them part of the way there, but this is ultimately looking like a flub, with an opening weekend figure of $12 million.