Weekend Movie Preview (12.16.11)


After last weekend disappointed, expect all hell to break loose at the box office this weekend — and I mean that in a good way. Winter Break is nearly is about to shoot into high gear with the first action offering since “Immortals” in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and a family film that will have you or children you know shouting “Alvin!” (with two very different intonations). Also, the minds that brought you “Juno” have a new film called “Young Adult” that will expand this weekend to nearly 1,000 theaters and last but definitely not least, most cities will have theaters playing an early roll-out of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”

New This Week

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Directed by Mike Mitchell
Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Jason Lee, (voices) Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate

Summary: Dave and his chipmunk children and their lady counterparts, the Chipettes, go on a cruise vacation, but they accidentally abandon ship and find themselves trying to survive (while singing and dancing).

The Word: After the live-action/CGI reboot of the series exploded globally in 2007, the sequel was inevitable, and in 2009 when said “Squeakquel” made another $100 million or so than the first … well, here are are. “Chipwrecked” retains the writers of the second film but gets its third new director in “Shrek Forever After” helmer Mike Mitchell, not that you could fault anyone for not wanting to make more than one “Chipmunk” movie.

Rotten Tomatoes: 10% (very bad)

My Thoughts: I guess I must finally admit that despite consistently negative reviews, this series flourishes thanks to cute little fuzzy creatures wailing in high-pitched voices and singing and dancing to Top 40 hits. There’s a definitive appeal in that, especially for little kids. Nevertheless, I wish this franchise would just jump off a boat in the figurative sense of the phrase.

Recommendation: For children who loved the previous two and the adults responsible for them.


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Directed by Guy Ritchie
Written by Michele and Kieran Mulroney, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (characters)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris

Summary: Holmes is steeped in his most complex case yet, which will have him tracking down his notorious arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

The Word: It wasn’t your grandfather’s “Sherlock Holmes,” but the pleasant Christmas 2009 caper certainly earned its sequel, which in turn allowed Warner Bros. to give Ritchie a whole lot more money and it shows in the slow-motion explosions featured in the trailer. The plot remains mysterious, but expect some more quirkiness from Downey Jr. and some homo-erotic undertones between him and Watson. Swedish “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star Noomi Rapace joins the cast in her first major Hollywood role.

Rotten Tomatoes: 66% (good)

My Thoughts: The original was an entertaining diversion for sure, and while nothing about it screamed a sequel, it seems by virtue of a bigger budget that this one could out-entertain its predecessor. The introduction of a more formidable villain (who likely relies less on the supernatural) in Moriarty could also help to make this surprisingly better, provided the “mysterious” story is equally improved.

Recommendation: Action and hopefully witty banter is much needed right now. Even casual fans of the first should enjoy.



Young Adult

Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt

Summary: A writer of young-adult fiction novels gets divorced and her life begins to spin out of control. She decides to return to her small-town Minnesota home and tries to steal her ex-boyfriend from high school away from his wife and kids.

The Word: Reitman and Cody, the director/writer combo behind the runaway hit “Juno”  join forces again with a much more adult film than that Oscar-nominated film and Oscar-winning script. Reitman has been on a tear lately as his last film “Up in the Air” made serious Oscar noise, but Cody could use a rebound after “Jennifer’s Body” and “United States of Tara” underwhelming. Theron hasn’t been in a major role in awhile but Wilson and Oswalt have been on the rise.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82% (great)

My Thoughts: If you caught my post this week, you know that I don’t think Jason Reitman can do any wrong. Theron looks terrific in this role and I’m particularly looking forward to what Patton Oswalt does with some Cody dialogue. It might be Reitman’s first non-contender since his debut, but that debut was “Thank You For Smoking” and I’d gladly take anything that good.

Recommendation: Definitely worth seeking out if you particularly enjoyed Reitman’s previous work, but a hearty recommendation for everyone else too, just no rush.


Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, Bruce Geller (TV series)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg

Summary: The IMF is shut down after it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin and Ethan Hunt and his team must essentially go rogue in order to prove their innocence.

The Word: When the ball on this fourth installment got rolling, word was that Cruise had lost it and Renner would essentially take his place in the franchise. Either way, “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird, making his live-action debut, appears to have upped the stakes and the intensity with “Ghost Protocol,” enough so that he has convinced Paramount to premiere the film in IMAX theaters five days ahead of its official release. Parts of the film (like “The Dark Knight”) were filmed with IMAX cameras. It’s safe to say “M:I – GP” is the biggest action film of the season.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (excellent)

My Thoughts: I’ve never loved these movies, but they’re consistently good, and with Brad Bird and IMAX and just how cool it looks in general, I have to say that I’ve never been more interested to see an “M:I” movie in theaters. Critics are loving this one and it could be just what the doctor ordered. With a six-minute “The Dark Knight Rises” prologue playing before IMAX showings this weekend, what more incentive do you need.

Recommendation: A yes of immense proportions.



Box Office Predictions

Things are a bit easier than normal after a horrible performance by all films last weekend. A sequel, a three-quel and a four-quel all enter the picture this weekend, and if we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that sequels have not been outdoing predecessors lately.

If any film outdoes the original’s opening, it will be Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The first film opened on Christmas to $62 million and it seems on pace to do about as much. With a action drought of late, it shouldn’t drastically underperform, but the sneak peak of the other action competitor could pull a little bit. I say any more than $70 million would be a smash for Warner Bros.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is locked for second. The first two opened with $44 and $48 million, not good enough to outwit “Holmes” anyway, but this one should show that its audience is a bit worn down by the singing rodents. I think closer to $35-40 million seems likely. Outside of “Cars 2” and “Kung Fu Panda 2,” that ‘s where most animated films landed. “The Smurfs” made around that back in August. However, with no competition entering the picture, the stubby chipmunks should have longer legs into January.

In third, despite only 400 theaters, you should see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. It will definitely break IMAX per theater average records thanks to glowing reviews, a promising high-def format and “The Dark Knight Rises” prologue. I think it could squeeze $10 million.

I’m going to go safe with New Year’s Eve in fourth. It shouldn’t fall too much despite awful reviews thanks to no competition. Expect $7-8 million there. I also expect The Sitter to edge out “Young Adult” just because the marketing push has been kinda flimsy for the comedy.

1. Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
4. New Year’s Eve
5. The Sitter


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