Weekend Movie Preview (3.4.11)

After the way January and February came and went with a lot of films getting mixed to poor reviews, with March could come relief. A good start appears to be on its way as two of these four films currently hold good to very good scores on Rotten Tomatoes. After the first two months of 2011, I’ll take a 50 percent success rate. Here’s to hoping March follows the old adage and comes in like a lion.

Four films are on tap for the weekend covering a range of genres and ages: the PG-rated animated family film “Rango” starring the voice talents of Johnny Depp, the PG-13 sci-fi thriller “The Adjustment Bureau” starring Matt Damon, the R-rated ’80s comedy “Take Me Home Tonight” and some tween romance in the form of “Beastly” starring Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens.

New This Week


Directed by Gore Verbinski
Written by  John Logan, Gore Verbinski, James Ward Byrkit
Starring: (voices) Johnny Depp, Isla Fischer, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin

The Word: Gore Verbinski had a nice run with the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, so why not try animation, right? It’s essentially the first endeavor for Verbinski using his “Pirates” money as he began his Blind Wink productions. It helps that he scooped up Johnny Depp to voice his titular character, a lizard-out-of-water story about a chameleon in a Hawaiian shirt who stumbles upon a Wild West town and becomes a hero overnight. Trouble is, he’s not all that cut out for the full-time hero gig.

Rotten Tomatoes: 79% (very good)

My Thoughts: If you’ve seen anything about this other than trailers, you’ll know that the actual actors playing these characters were filmed acting out the parts. This served as inspiration for the animators who put it together, so you should really see these actors in their characters and not just from a likeness standpoint. The animation style looks unique and very cool and Depp seems to be clicking. This definitely looks to fit the “fun for the whole family” bill.

Recommendation: I think we have one of those great all-ages animated movies on our hands.

The Adjustment Bureau

Directed by George Nolfi
Written by George Nolfi, Philip K. Dick (novel)
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp

The Word: There have been numerous adaptation of Philip K. Dick novels/stories and “The Adjustment Bureau” aims to be one of them, joining the ranks of “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” for one. Writer George Nolfi (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Ocean’s Twelve”) makes his directorial debut, borrowing star Matt Damon for the lead as a promising U.S. Senator whose run-in with a beautiful ballerina (Blunt) takes his life path in a new direction. Problem is, there’s a secret group out there that sees to it that destiny is obeyed and Damon is not following it.

Rotten Tomatoes: 71% (very good)

My Thoughts: Initially scheduled for last July, the move to March planted a big old seed of doubt in my mind, but I love Dick’s stories and the films they’ve created (for the most part). This re-exploration of his ever-prevalent theme of fate versus free will certainly has my interest and we all know that Matt Damon is really really good at running from stuff, so it should be a good fit.

Recommendation: If you like high-concept sci-fi, it appears as though “Bureau” will not disappoint too much.

Take Me Home Tonight

Directed by Michael Dowse
Written by Jackie and Jeff Filgo, Topher Grace and Gordon Kaywin
Starring: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer

The Word: After wrapping in 2008, you might say the ’80s period comedy “Take Me Home Tonight” has been oft-delayed. Topher Grace has nurtured this child of his the whole time, bringing in “That ’70s Show” writers to help. The film, which kicks off the spring comedies Friday, follows a recent MIT grad who quits his successful job to work at a video store chain, who with his twin sister (Faris) and buddy (Fogler) pursues the once-unattainable girl of his dreams (Palmer).

Rotten Tomatoes: 50% (mixed)

My Thoughts: Supposedly, bad test screenings kept this one in the cutting room for a long time, so it will be interesting to hear (or see if you’re so inclined) how (if at all) they salvaged it. I think Grace is under-appreciated, and if she chooses better movies, Palmer could evolve into something more special as I happened to like her performance (just not her character) in Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

Recommendation: Sort of like last year’s “Hot Tub Time Machine” but with lower-grade stars. Sounds like a future rental.


Directed by Daniel Barnz
Written by Daniel Barnz, Alex Flinn (novel)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris

The Word: Initially scheduled for last July, this modern-day “Twilight”-infused retelling of “The Beauty and the Beast” has found a home eight months later in a crowded March, two weeks after Alex Pettyfer’s big film “I Am Number Four” disappointed at the box office. Pettyfer plays the popular good-looking kid at school who gets cursed by an Olsen twin to look ugly as sin. Locked up in Brooklyn somewhere, he must find someone to love him as he is to break the curse. The recent trailers also want you to know Neil Patrick Harris plays his blind tutor with unconventional wisdom.

Rotten Tomatoes: 33% (not good)

My Thoughts: Aimed squarely at the “Twilight” teen/tween girl demographic, which hasn’t been kind to any film without the word “Twilight” in the title, it’s hard to picture any success for this film. Poor Pettyfer will have trouble breaking the curse of being a piece of meat to look at once “Beastly” does flop.

Recommendation: Read the book or wait for the DVD if you can’t get enough “supernatural” romance.


Box Office Predictions

After last weekend’s log jam with the top eight films finishing within $6-7 million of each other, the box office is ripe for the taking. Four films enter the picture this weekend and most will either surpass or compete hard with the glut of returning films that should all finishing with about $6-7 million this weekend.

The animated film Rango will easily clean up this weekend. We’ve seen a few animated films open to box office glory the past few years in March and “Gnomeo & Juliet” continued to prove the need for family entertainment in the earlier months of the year. Most families suffer a serious bout of cabin fever, but with cold still lingering, the movies become the best choice. “Rango” will make at least $45 million, but more would not be out of the question, especially with good reviews.

In second, I’m taking The Adjustment Bureau. Matt Damon is not a box-office draw as I learned the hard way last March when “Green Zone” made just $14 million. With a wider audience, some marketing that pushed the romantic angle, and audiences still smitten by “Inception,” I think $15 million is in the cards but $20 million would be possible if good reviews continue to come in.

Small theater counts and release delays on the last two films coming out have me reserved about where they can finish, so I’m putting them aside in favor of The King’s Speech. The last time a film came out in November and won the Oscar for Best Picture (“Slumdog Millionaire”), it expanded to a few hundred additional theaters and sales went up about 25 percent. Considering there’s room for more theatrical expansion for “Speech,” I suspect the Weinstein Co. will widen the distribution. Depending on how wide, I could see “Speech” making anywhere from $8-12 million this weekend after $7 million or so a week ago.

As for the rest, I think I’ll give benefit of the doubt to Beastly. I’m not high on this film in economic terms, but the market for films aimed at the “Twilight” demographic has to this point been mostly untested. This summer, a film with a “High School Musical” star in “Charlie St. Cloud” made $12 million, so I’ve got “Beastly” pegged for $8-10 million.

For fifth place, I’m going to pass on “Take Me Home Tonight,” an R-rated comedy with little appeal (few know who Topher Grace is and Anna Faris is not the focal point) and lots of returning competition. Instead, I will stick by Hall Pass and say it will stave off a close call from “Unknown” and “Gnomeo & Juliet.”

1. Rango
2. The Adjustment Bureau
3. The King’s Speech
4. Beastly
5. Hall Pass



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