Weekend Forecast for January 20-22, 2012

By Reagen Sulewski

January 20, 2012

Give the people what they want - Kate Beckinsale in a tight leather suit.

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It's an unusually crowded January weekend we have on our hands, with a triple dose of action and two possible Oscar contenders in the mix. As usual, though, it's the franchise film that's likely to do the most damage.

Underworld: Awakening is the fourth film in its series and marks the return of Kate Beckinsale to the vampires vs. werewolves (sorry, *Lycans*) battle (well, the one that doesn't involve sparklies and big shirtless himbos), which has kind of chugged along like the Resident Evil films. Keep 'em cheap, appeal to the international market, oh, and now put them in 3D, and you can probably make a small fortune.

This time, the vampire/werewolf war has spilled over into the human world, who have finally taken notice of all the gunfights and supernaturally pale and hairy people going at it. Yay us for observational powers. Naturally, we freak the hell out, which leads the vampires and werewolves to band together to take us out. I assume the final scene leads into the first scene of Daybreakers.


Direction duties have been handed over to a couple of Swedes who've never done anything significant in the US so far as I can tell, though it hardly matters. Did you care about Len Wiseman directing the other films? Of course you didn't. What's important here is the return of Beckinsale in tight leather, which should lift the lagging returns of this series, along with the 3D addition. Resident Evil is probably instructive here, with its 3D entry seeing about a 15% when it started throwing things at the screen. The overlap between the two series' fanbases has to be pretty close to 100%, so I don't think a $25 million weekend is unreasonable here

The Lucasfilms title card makes a rare non-Star Wars appearance in theaters this weekend in front of Red Tails, as he produces this film about the Tuskeegee Airmen, a group of black fighter pilots in World War II, back when the military was still segregated and the United States still deeply racist. Their success in bringing down German fighters and protecting American bombers went a long ways towards helping the Civil Rights movement in later decades and marked a big turning point in race relations. Also, hey, dogfighting scenes!

Starring a sort of who's who of That Guy young Black actors... and Cuba Gooding, Jr., the film is being pitched as a throwback to the kind of propaganda films that might have been shown during the 1940s. Honestly, that doesn't speak to highly of the film, though I assume we have some extra technical skill in shooting the aerial scenes now. It's directed by nobody you've heard of but written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder (Undercover Brother and The Boondocks, respectively, and boy isn't that there a combination of people to write a serious war film). However, it's a project that's been about three decades in the making for Lucas, so make no mistake that this is his baby and as such will have all his hallmarks – paper-thin characters, terrible, wooden dialogue and judicious use of special effects. And perhaps someday, someone will explain to me why this wasn't released on MLK Jr. Weekend (too on the nose?). Looking at its potential, it depends on whether you look it as a film primarily appealing to action junkies or to black audiences – and with this weekend's slate, I'm guessing Lucas and company would prefer it be the latter so that it gets the Tyler Perry treatment. But without any real stars to headline the film, I'd look for about $13 million here this weekend.

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