Weekend Forecast for October 2-4, 2009

By Reagen Sulewski

October 2, 2009

It's the great traveling banjo and gun show! Only occasional injuries!

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It's High Concept Weekend as five movies, each with their own little quirk, invade the multiplex. There's something new out there for everyone, provided that your definition of "everyone" includes people who aren't looking for the latest blockbuster.

Leading the way is the horror-comedy Zombieland, which with each new ad, has steadily become one of the fall's must-see films. It stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as four survivors of a zombie apocalypse (the best kind of apocalypse) who band together in order to make a final stand against an undead tide. In the meantime, much zany mayhem and creative splattering of zombies ensues, sort of like an American Shaun of the Dead (the filmmakers' admitted inspiration).

The creativity the movie displays in dispatching zombies, sort of like Final Destination for the undead, is just part of the appeal for this movie, but what an appeal it is. There's an obvious glee that the film appears to take in finding new and splatteriffic ways to rid the world of the zombie menace. But this would be pretty monotonous on its own, and thankfully there appears to be more to the movie. Harrelson and Eisenberg's characters have opposite, but equally effective strategies to survive – Harrelson by being ultra aggressive and macho, Eisenberg by being meek and hiding. These two personality types get played off each other throughout the film to hilarious effect.


While horror-comedy isn't usually the most lucrative of genres – horror aficionados often find the horror lacking, and comedy fans can be turned off by the gore – Zombieland has done a terrific job of trying to apply to both camps. Probably the best examples of this are the Zombie Rules, a series of tips that detail how to survive in a world overrun by zombies (Max Brooks is probably seething right now, but still). These go a long ways towards setting the tone for the movie, that of goofy mayhem. It's been greeted with surprisingly good reviews, nearly unanimously positive, and a full-on blitz campaign to the point where awareness has to be near total. Opening at over 3,000 venues, Zombieland should open to about $26 million, with breakout potential for much more.

Hollywood does box office analysts a little bit of a favor this weekend by providing us with something of a control for the effect of 3-D. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 get a re-release in 1,700 theaters, remastered in the new 3-D technology that's been all the rage of late. Running as a double feature, it's probably a lot to ask of families and little kids in one go, but it is a unique experience for Pixar fans, and also serves as a bit of a test run for Toy Story 3 next year. As beloved as the Toy Story films are, I think we can probably reach about $9 million for this re-release.

The Invention of Lying is the directorial debut of UK comedian Ricky Gervais (along with somebody named Matthew Robinson, who has zero other IMDb credits – a likely story, Ricky...). Gervais also stars in the film, which is set in a world where lying simply doesn't exist, and not only can't people lie, but they always tell the truth – and the complete truth at that.

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