Weekend Movie Preview (12.17.10)

And boom goes the holiday season dynamite. Though Christmas will be the more profitable weekend, there are some interesting prospects for all ages opening today: Disney’s aspiring franchise “Tron: Legacy,” kid flick “Yogi Bear,” romantic comedy from one of the genre’s finest filmmakers (“How Do You Know”) and Oscar hopeful “The Fighter.” Let’s get to it.

New This Week

Yogi Bear

Directed by Eric Brevig
Written by Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin, Brad Copeland
Starring: Tom Cavanagh, Anna Faris, (voices) Dan Akyroyd, Justin Timberlake

The Word: Warner Bros. hopes that bringing another set of classic animal cartoons to the live/action CGI screen (I’m referring to “Alvin and the Chipmunks”) will result in box office gold. Voiced by Dan Akyroyd and Justin Timberlake, Yogi and Boo-Boo are off to steal some pic-a-nic baskets for the holidays.

Rotten Tomatoes: 13% (horrible)

My Thoughts: Let’s start with the basics: a film about picnics in the winter. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what, in my opinion, is wrong with this adaptation. I’m sure it will have the goofy laughs kids are looking for, but my guess is when we look at the box office results, we’ll see the Chipmunks were the exception of live-action/CGI talking animals, not the rule.

Recommendation: You know how some theme park rides required a child accompany an adult? Ditto with this movie.

Tron: Legacy

Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Written by Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (screenplay), Steve Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird (characters)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen

The Word: Disney has sunk every ounce of its mousey might into making this sequel to the nerd-tacular 1982 computer-world fantasy film a hit. In the film, Flynn (Bridges) has been missing for some time and his son Sam (Hedlund) hears of a “distress call” from his dad’s old arcade. Sam is then sucked into the game grid and must locate his father and stop an evil force.

Rotten Tomatoes: 47% (mixed)

My Thoughts: If this film is the visual spectacle I expect of it, then I think I’ll be okay. A good story would be nice, but much of what was great about the original “Tron” was not the story and I really enjoyed that film. Then again, “Tron” was groundbreaking for its time. Could “Legacy” be the same? Not exactly.

Recommendation: If you’re a nerd, go. If you like visually oriented blockbusters come the holiday season, this film is your only shot.

How Do You Know

Written and Directed by James L. Brooks
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson

The Word: James L. Brooks is possibly the most respected rom-com writer/director out there. Witherspoon plays a woman who has serious doubts about her love life and whether she can follow the “normal” path. Rudd is an old friend being indicted on some serious charges who finds her during a time of some serious strife between her and her rock-headed boyfriend (Wilson).

Rotten Tomatoes: 38% (bad)

My Thoughts: Brooks is a special talent, but I don’t see anything special about his film. Doesn’t mean it can’t be carried by its performances. Rudd is an absolute perfect fit for Brooks’ brand of comedy/drama. He’ll be great. Not so sure about the rest.

Recommendation: Unless you want a straight drama, there’s no romance left in the holiday season save the goofy romance of next weeks “Little Fockers.” Take it or leave it.

The Fighter

Directed by David O. Russell
Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo

The Word: Nominated for six Golden Globes, “The Fighter” tells the story of a boxer who lost his chance (Bale) and how he helps his brother, Mickey “Irish” Ward become a heavyweight champ — but not without some serious familial strife.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (great)

My Thoughts: All the awards love has gone to the performances thus far, so expect knockout acting with a familiar, tride-and-true script. Bale’s the favorite for Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo is a major contender for Supporting Actress.

Recommendation: If you like great acting and enjoy seeing the films that will compete at the Academy Awards, “The Fighter” is guaranteed to be an example of both.

Box Office Predictions

This weekend is tough. This holiday season is tough. And the fact that all these new films minus the drama of the group have mixed or worse Tomatometer scores doesn’t help swing things in any direction. The good news is that last weekend’s best film made only $24 million, so there should not be any problem getting into the top five for most of these new films.

The big competitors are Tron: Legacy and Yogi Bear. The former is under all kinds of pressure to perform at the box office. The other is hoping to become the next Alvin and the Chipmunks, seeing as that’s the only film of its ilk that has had success. Live-action/CGI films have been killed at the box office this year: just look at Marmaduke. Tron: Legacy will get it done, but with modesty. I feel like the range of $40 million is a safe bet. The ceiling is the $70 million Avatar made last year, but that’s a generous ceiling. Disney also did that business a few years back with the second “National Treasure” film.

Yogi Bear will take second, but not impressively. I think somewhere just south of $20 million should do the trick, $15-20 most likely. Most family films didn’t knock it out of the park this time of year until the Chipmunks came along, so that’s a reasonable estimate. In third, expect to see The Fighter. Oscar-buzz films have killed in limited release this year and coming off numerous Golden Globe nominations and SAG Award nominations, I expect that to favor “Fighter.” Awards season boxing films also have a decent track record. I will say $12-15 million.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which did poorly last week, has no saving grace this week with Disney and “Legacy” coming to town. $10-12 million sounds right.

Fifth place will be tough. Black Swan expands to nearly 1,000 films, then there’s still How Do You Know and the second week of The Tourist. I’ve got all three pegged for $8-10 million. So, friends, who do you like? I think the highest ceiling of all those films belongs to How Do You Know.

1. Tron: Legacy
2. Yogi Bear
3. The Fighter
4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
5. How Do You Know


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