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Weekend Forecast for December 22-25, 2006

by Reagen Sulewski

December 22, 2006

The situation grows uncomfortable after Fox refuses to get naked and play the bongos.

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Although two weeks remain in the year, only one weekend remains for new wide releases. Six new films go wide between the 20th and the 25th, all of them hoping for a piece of one of the most lucrative weeks of box office in the year.

Christmas Day is one the biggest days for families at the box office, which will be served by Night At the Museum, starring Ben Stiller. A CG-filled comedy action fest, Night At the Museum hopes to be all things to all people, which is a pretty good strategy at Christmas time. Stiller stars as a new security guard at the New York Museum of Natural History, who discovers the exhibits there are a little less inanimate than is typical for a museum. From a rambunctious monkey to Teddy Roosevelt to a miniature cowboy to a rampaging T-Rex, the museum comes alive at night, and it's up to him to keep it all under control.

This could be a giant mess, or tons of PG-rated fun, though which is which may depend on your opinion of Stiller. However, although he's the lead, he's got plenty of supporting help, including Robin Williams, Owen Wilson and Ricky Gervais and Steve Coogan, among others. This looks nothing like high art, but recent ads have emphasized the slapstick comedy and relatively safe for families action sequences, and this should be enough to make it a strong performer. The director is Shawn Levy, who's had unexpected hits at Christmas before with family films, notably the Cheaper By the Dozen remake. Night at the Museum is a stronger film and should outpace that film's $27 million opening, with about $36 million over four days, to win the weekend.




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Back in 1982, Airplane II's future setting included a joke about a Rocky sequel. Rocky VIII or Rocky XVI, I'm not quite sure at this point. It was a high Roman numeral, and featured a geriatric and emaciated Rocky in a fighting pose. Oh, if they'd only known. Rocky Balboa may not include the traditional Roman numeral title, but it is the sixth film in the increasingly ridiculous series that most people thought was dead. But, in this era of reboots and relaunches, anything's possible.

Rocky Balboa leaves behind the bombast and grandiose plots of the last couple of entries, getting back to how the series started, just a man and the boxing ring. Approaching 60, Rocky is just living out an existence in Philadelphia, when a computer generated fight has him, in his prime, beating current champ Mason Dixon (played by former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver). This, apparently, is enough to spark interest in an exhibition fight, despite how ridiculous this idea would be. Like the first film, the film is largely concerned with Rocky getting himself into shape to fight the champ, but with the complications of old age.

Although this movie could have been the biggest joke ever, it has surprisingly been pretty well received, with Sylvester Stallone getting praise for acknowledging the insanity of the idea, but getting back to basics at the same time. It's started off with a pretty impressive $6.4 million on Wednesday, which is a lot more than many might have expected at the outset. I expect a lot of that was due to nostalgia and curiosity, and we'll see that fall off a bit once the weekend comes. However, that should still bring in something to the tune of about $19 million over four days.

We Are Marshall is the second sports-themed film of the weekend, dealing with the 1970 plane crash that killed the entire Marshall University football team. Matthew McConaughey stars as the coach charged with rebuilding the team from scratch, a less than simple task.

Directed by veteran video director and the man responsible for the Charlie's Angels films, McG, We Are Marshall aims to be a heartwarming and inspirational story about the potential positive effect of sports for community. It's somewhat similar to Remember the Titans, though without the racial baggage of that film. Crucially, the film comes out at a time when college football is near a height of interest, but during a period when almost no games are going on.


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