Weekend Forecast for January 15-18, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
January 15, 2010
As Avatar threatens to rewrite the box office record books, it's being seriously challenged at the top spot of the box office charts a little earlier in its run than the current champ. Oh well, even if he loses this weekend, James Cameron will simply have to console himself while sleeping on his bed made out money.
There's been a strange sort of unofficial strategy in the movie business the last few years, to release a film with a black lead or about a black subject over Martin Luther King Day, whether that film would actually be appropriate to the sentiment of Dr. King or not. In the past few years we've had Are We There Yet?, Glory Road, Stomp the Yard and Notorious. This year, Denzel Washington and the Hughes Brothers pull MLK duty with the post-apocalyptic thriller The Book of Eli.
Looking a lot like Fallout 3 crossed with Waterworld, the film stars Washington as a nomadic survivor of a nuclear holocaust. He's charged with the protection of a book of knowledge that somehow could lead to the restoration of civilization. Since everyone wants to take it from him, he's forced to kick a little ass.
Along with Washington, Eli also stars Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson and Gary Oldman, in full scenery-chewing villain mode, something we really haven't seen from him since The Fifth Element. Washington's entered a portion of his career where he's gone from inconsistent with potential to a sure thing with a chance at blockbusters. Most of his films in the past five years have opened in the mid 20s, with American Gangster peaking at $43 million. While Eli likely doesn't beat that total, it's created a compelling looking landscape for itself, and Warner Bros. has been thoroughly behind this film as an early year blockbuster, or at least this season's equivalent. Opening at 3,111 venues, it's looking to be about a $35 million opening film, with about $41 million over the four-day weekend.
After a couple of years off American movie screens, Jackie Chan is back in The Spy Next Door, although I kind of wish he wasn't. Now 56-years-old, Chan simply can't perform his trademark stunts like he could, and his increasingly muggy comedic performances are getting broader and less funny.
This film is a fairly savvy career move, though, as he's teamed up with children's shlockmeister Brian Levant, responsible for such crimes against humanity as The Flintstones, Beethoven and Snow Dogs. Here, Chan plays a secret agent pressed into action when his girlfriend's kids accidentally download classified information and are beset upon by bad guys. Oh, the dangers of the Internet.
Most of Chan's adult fans have basically abandoned him at this point, but for kids, he's probably still something of a star and these broad jokes likely work really well. This won't reach the heights of something like The Pacifier or The Game Plan, to used two not-so-random examples of action stars going family, but it should have a solid $13 million weekend, and $15 million over four days.