Christmas Movie Preview (12.22.10)

Christmas is on Saturday, but studios prefer the Wednesday before to capitalize on the holidays as many people are off work. As such, we have an early edition of Weekend Movie Preview. Unfortunately, not all that exciting this year. “Little Fockers,” the third movie in a line of highly successful family comedies, gets the biggest release and will no doubt make the biggest splash. The Coen brothers also open with “True Grit,” a Western remake rated only PG-13, so don’t shy away just ’cause it’s Christmas.

On Saturday, Jack Black in the family comedy “Gulliver’s Travels” will attempt to capitalize on being fresh for the holidays. Don’t expect much box-office wise with only 2,500 theaters and no Friday totals. Oscar contender “The King’s Speech” expands to about 700 theaters Christmas day as well.

New This Week

Little Fockers

Directed by Paul Weitz
Written by John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey, Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke (characters)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner

The Word: Those Fockers are back six years after “Meet the Fockers” became the top grossing comedy in the U.S. This film is all about the kids, with Greg now having to prove himself to Jack as a capable family patriarch. Jack gets particularly skeptical as a cash-strapped Greg starts pushing a new E.D. drug.

Rotten Tomatoes: 7% (awful)

My Thoughts: Comedies like this simply aren’t meant to last three movies long. I would hope there are a few good jokes here and there in this film and some refreshing changes, but a 7% on RT is simply abysmal.

Recommendation: Maybe the only thing for older families this Christmas, but boy, sure seems worth skipping.

True Grit

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Charles Portis (novel)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin

The Word: The Coen brothers remake this 1969 Western that originally starred John Wayne. A young girl hires a marshal with a mean streak to help carry out revenge on her father’s missing killer.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (excellent)

My Thoughts: Remakes are not the Coens’ usual business and their last, “The Ladykillers,” was not received that well, but Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, the role that earned John Wayne his one Oscar? Sounds good to me.

Recommendation: Since “No Country for Old Men,” the Coens have been on fire. Everything has been phenomenal and all is worth seeing. With only a PG-13 rating, this should be one of their more accessible films.

Gulliver’s Travels (Sat.)

Directed by Rob Letterman
Written by Rob Letterman and Nicholas Stoller, Jonathan Swift (novel)
Starring: Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet

The Word: Jack Black was a hit voicing the Kung-Fu Panda, but can he still hold up a family comedy on his own? Nicholas Stoller, the man behind “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek” helped write this modern take on the classic tale of a normal-sized man who washes up in a land of little people.

Rotten Tomatoes: 22% (very bad)

My Thoughts: I see nothing I like here except Jason Segel. I’m quite fond of the original story, but I think this version has put too much of a modern twist on it.

Recommendation: Although “Little Fockers” won’t offer anything better, it’s hard to find reason. “Gulliver” might be geared better to kids, however.

The King’s Speech (exp. Sat.)

Directed by Tom Hooper
Written by David Seidler
Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Timothy Spall

The Word: Nominated for seven Golden Globes, “The King’s Speech” tells of King George VI, who had to overcome a stutter to successfully take the throne in the beginning days of World War II.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (great)

My Thoughts: The accolades pour into this film, which some believe is the front-runner ahead of “The Social Network” to take home the Oscar glory. Certainly more a traditional period piece Oscar film, this will be load with fantastic performances and a nice does of humor too.

Recommendation: A must-see Academy Awards front-runner.

Box Office Predictions

“Meet the Fockers” made $46 million this time back in 2004, which would be optimistic for Little Fockers, but it will do well. $30 million or so seems more likely for the three-day take (remember I don’t predict five-day totals). It’s got the widest appeal of all the Christmas releases and considering what little else has been offered in this genre, it’s poised to succeed.

Little change occurs (and sometimes even improvement) from the films the weekend before during Christmas. I suspect Tron: Legacy will see small losses as it’s the only “blockbuster” out there, but did not receive rave reviews. I think $25 – $30 million would be a great second weekend for the film and numbers that are reachable.

We’ve never had a wide-release Christmas Western, at least not in recent memory, so True Grit is hard to gauge. I want to be optimistic, so I think $15-20 million is the safe zone.

Seeing as few films fall far, I’m even optimistic for second-place finisher Yogi Bear. I think the film will pull in $12-15 million.

At number five, I’m shooting in the dark. I think “The Fighter” will do great business again, possibly not even flinching form $12 million. “Black Swan” expands ever more this weekend and could possibly top $10 million, but I will go with the novelty of Gulliver’s Travels, even though the film will be missing a Friday take. I think “Narnia” will drop the most considering competition from “Travels.”

1. Little Fockers
2. Tron: Legacy
3. True Grit
4. Yogi Bear
5. Gulliver’s Travels


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