Weekend Forecast for March 4-6, 2011

By Reagen Sulewski

March 4, 2011

You don't look for acid! It finds you when *it* thinks you're ready!

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After trickling out a couple at a time in the early part of the year, the floodgates open on movie releases this weekend, with four major releases firing at four separate markets. The chance of a huge breakout is small, but overall the box office should see a nice kick up from the last few anemic weeks.

Any time there's an animated film in a market like this, it instantly becomes a favorite to take the weekend crown. When it has one of the biggest box office draws out there, like Rango does, it's doubly sure to be one. Johnny Depp stars as the title lizard, who finds himself drafted into being the sheriff of a dusty western town of (literal) critters and varmints to protect against the tyranny of some outlaw snakes. Unless you count A Bug's Life adapting The Magnificent Seven by way of The Seven Samurai, it's the first animated western, and it seems like rich territory to mine for zany madcap action.

In addition to Depp, there's a pretty solid cast of voice talent, including Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Timothy Olyphant, Alfred Molina and Bill Nighy, which is a sufficiently weird group of people to make me think there could be something interesting in the film itself. Directed by Gore Verbinski, it seems to have a lot of energy and inspired lunacy, and an attractive, if off-beat look. Much has been made about the relatively unique way this film was made, which involved the actors actually performing as much of the film on sets as possible, with the animation being done based on these performances. From what I can tell, that energy seems to have made the transition to CGI wholly intact.


Is it too strange, really, for mass audiences? Possibly, although that shouldn't matter until the second weekend. And while it won't approach the initial success of a Shrek, or even an Ice Age, there's no reason to think it can't compete with the likes of a Madagascar or a How To Train Your Dragon. There's enough quality apparent in both the animation and the concept that both young and old audiences should embrace it right off the bat. Opening at a massive 3,700 venues, it should start with approximately $47 million.

Hard sci-fi – that is, sci-fi without alien invasions and/or space ship and explosions, is a rare visitor to multiplex screens. For every Moon, Contact and Vanilla Sky, there are a dozen or more Transformers, Men in Blacks or I, Robots. It's rare when the subject gets treated like it's for adults, so it's doubly encouraging when a film like The Adjustment Bureau, based on a Philip K. Dick story, arrives with certified star power in tow, making it very likely that it'll have some positive feedback for Hollywood for the genre.

Matt Damon plays a man running for the Senate who has a chance meeting with a ballet dancer (watch out, Matt! They're all crazy, Black Swan tells me so!) played by Emily Blunt and quickly falls for her. Mysterious events seem to conspire to keep them apart, which is when Damon finds out the truth – there really is such a thing as fate, and it's being controlled by actual powers that be, shadowy figures in trench coats and fedoras who run around behind the scenes making things happen the way they're “supposed to”. And they're pretty insistent that Damon and Blunt can't be together if their plans are going to come to fruition.

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