Weekend Movie Preview (2.11.11)

Finally, a weekend with a lot to talk about. Four very different offerings are vying for Valentine’s Day attention even though the holiday falls on a Monday this year. Adam Sandler’s “Just Go With It” will look to capture adults and couples, the Justin Bieber concert documentary will take aim at the tweens, “Gnomeo and Juliet” caters to kids and families and “The Eagle” starring Channing Tatum targets an 18-35 male crowd.

New This Week

Just Go With It

Directed by Dennis Dugan
Written by Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling, I.A.L. Diamond (“Cactus Flower”)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson

The Word: Adam Sandler returns to the Valentine’s Day slot and this time toting Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker, the latter of who was ogled by millions during the Super Bowl commercials. Sandler plays a bachelor who pretends to be married to land girls, but when the woman of his dreams (Decker) discovers his “ring,” he ropes his secretary (Aniston) and her children into his soon-to-be “ex” family.

Rotten Tomatoes: 25% (bad)

My Thoughts: We all know how these elaborate hoax movies start, go and end. However, Sandler made lots last summer on the unfortunately no good “Grown Ups,” so his following has not dwindled. The romantic comedy V-Day weekend co-starring Jennifer Aniston ups the ante here too. I tend to like Sandler’s romantic turns, but I’m not so sure about this one, especially since I’m being asked to believe Sandler can rope in Brooklyn Decker of all hotties.

Recommendation: Looking around, there’s no better date option this weekend. There’s literally nothing else I can point you to unless you scope out an arthouse theater and you and your date have finer tastes.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Directed by Jon Chu
Starring: … Justin Bieber …

The Word: We’ve seen 3D concert movies before ranging from wildly successful “Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds” to not as much “Jonas Brothers.” Now, tween sensation and YouTube-discovered idol Justin Bieber gets his own film that aims to please fans and inspire people to “never say never” if becoming a star is their big dream.

Rotten Tomatoes: 62% (good)

My Thoughts: I’m not so sure about the “message” Bieber wants to send his fans, but that’s nice. Have you seen the videos of this kid? He’s talented and even if you think the mania is ridiculous (it is) you have to respect the kid. He was not manufactured, he is merely a talented kid who stood on the shoulders of social media. As easy as this film is to hate, I think the “documentary” side of this will be interesting to more than just Bieber’s die-hard fans.

Recommendation: If you heart Bieber and want the full 3-D experience, yes. If you’re just a little curious about who the heck this kid is and why he’s so doggone famous, you don’t want to pay the 3-D ticket premium.

Gnomeo & Juliet

Directed by Kelly Asbury
Written by Kelly Asbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook (and 7 others)
Starring: (voices) James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith

The Word: Starz Animation brings literally a garden-variety retelling of Shakespeare’s classic story that will fly under the Buena Vista (Disney) banner. Kelly Asbury directs (“Shrek 2”). A team of an inordinately large writers worked on telling the old tale for a G-rated audience.  My guess is they won’t kill themselves in the end.

Rotten Tomatoes: 56% (mixed)

My Thoughts: It looks like the angle here, based on the trailer, is goofy. It doesn’t focus on plot, just the sell points: action, adventure, comedy and the music of “Elton John.” Animation has been on a good run lately and it will be interesting to see if “Gnomeo” can keep up, even financially.

Recommendation: Starz put this film together and that means it will be on Netflix Watch Instantly probably this summer. If you have antsy kids, however, that’s tough.

The Eagle

Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Written by Jeremy Brock, Rosemary Sutcliff (novel)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong

The Word: Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”), helms one of a growing number of roman occupation period action films (see last year’s “Centurion”) Tatum, in his first to-be-taken-seriously action role (“G.I. Joe” doesn’t count), stars as the son of a disgraced soldier who 20 years prior disappeared with the entire Ninth Legion somewhere in Scotland. To prove himself and win back his family’s honor, the son sets forth with his slave (Bell) to find the legion’s emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth, but soon he finds the tables turned on him.

Rotten Tomatoes: 37% (not good)

My Thoughts: Macdonald is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. The Scot now tackles a Roman action film set in Scotland and he’s beginning to seem more and more like Ridley Scott in terms of his versatility. If he can pull this off, I will fully get on that bandwagon. I’m also interested to see how Tatum does in a semi-serious leading role.

Recommendation: I like the upside of this film more than anything opening this weekend. If you’re not tied to a date, kids or driving your tween to the mall, this is the best choice if you want to hit the theater this weekend for something new.

Box Office Predictions

With four new wide releases coming out for the first time since Christmas, you’d think predicting this weekend’s box office would be awful. Sometimes, however, it’s a lot easier than it looks.

Last weekend, a horror film topped the box office with just $15 million. When that happens, it’s usually quite likely that whatever films come out the next week are going to beat it. All four of this weekend’s films have different audiences and relatively different projections from one another and I think all of them will finish above the $7 million that no returning film will exceed.

At the top spot, while I would hate to get caught underestimating Bieber fever, Adam Sandler leads the only new romantic comedy on the weekend before Valentine’s Day. That’s a sure thing right there. I’m estimating Just Go With It will make the $40-million mark of Sandler’s last film, “Grown Ups.”

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the toughest to predict. We saw the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus concert films earn vastly different totals at this same time of year. The safest thing to do is predict middle ground. I think $20 million is a safe target but there will be a good reason to justify lower or higher than that number when the estimates roll in on Sunday.

In third I like the kids fare of the weekend, a genre that has been short-changed in 2011 thus far whereas last year the kids market was already saturated with “The Tooth Fairy” and “The Spy Next Door.” Gnomeo & Juliet should do better than you’d expect in this time slot. I’m saying $15 million, so depending, it could put up a fight with that Bieber kid.

In fourth, I will take The Eagle with $8-10 million. While I’m optimistic about the film’s quality, I recognize that Channing Tatum is a draw for women, and women are not the target audience of “The Eagle.” Nevertheless, at this time of year, films like this one tend to make around that much, which will be good enough to fend off last week’s films.

I’ll also take The Roommate to wrap things up. It will fall a lot as horror films do, but I don’t see a way “The King’s Speech” could jump it.

1. Just Go With It
2. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
3. Gnomeo & Juliet
4. The Eagle
5. The Roommate


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