Weekend Movie Preview (3.9.12)

There aren’t many wide releases in March, so this weekend’s three films will be the most released at any one time. First, it’s Disney’s big-budget blockbuster “John Carter,” which boasts the widest release, followed by horror film “Silent House” and a small-ish roll-out for Eddie Murphy’s “A Thousand Words,” but will any of them compete with “The Lorax?”

Now in Theaters

John Carter

Directed by Andrew Stanton
Written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon, Edgar Rice Burroughs (story)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe

Summary: A Civil War vet named John Carter (Kitsch), presumed dead, ends up having been transported to Mars, where he finds himself in the middle of another war in which he could be a determining factor.

The Word: Disney has placed its faith in “Finding Nemo” and “WALL*E” director Andrew Stanton, who brings the 1917 grandfather of all science-fiction novels, “A Princess of Mars,” to life. The pulp classic has a small group of fans these days, but Disney hopes that will change fast, putting together a beast of a marketing campaign since the Super Bowl.

Rotten Tomatoes: 49% (mixed)

My Thoughts: When “Cowboys & Aliens” struggled last summer, I thought “John Carter” was doomed. Kitsch is merely an aspiring actions star and the other veteran names are not quite household compared to Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. It’s still an uphill climb, but at least the reviews aren’t overwhelmingly discouraging.



Silent House

Directed by Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Written by Laura Lau, Gustavo Hernández (original film)
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens

Summary: A young woman becomes trapped in her family’s lakeside retreat as the creepy events around her continue to escalate.

The Word: ”Silent House” is a remake of a 2010 Spanish-language horror film from Uruguay that presented itself in one entire take. That’s right — no cuts or edits, just one 80-minute-plus take. Olsen, who has left all associations to her older twin sisters behind after her performance in last year’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” looks to elevate this gimmick-driven film. The trailer really milks the whole “see it in real time” thing, but not without drawing parallels to found footage.

Rotten Tomatoes: 56% (mixed)

My Thoughts: The single-take selling point will probably appeal to the same folks smitted by found footage, but for me it’s Olsen that sells the film, even though I admit to not having yet seen “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” You also have to wonder when paranormal happenings in houses will ever take a break from the spotlight.



A Thousand Words

Directed by Brian Robbins
Written by Steve Koren
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Kerry Washington, Cliff Curtis

Summary: Jack McCall (Murphy) makes his living by stretching the truth, but when he messes with a guru, he’s cursed: he can only say a thousand more words. When he runs out, he will die.

The Word: Murphy’s career as a comic actor has waned if you take out all the times he’s voiced a donkey. After a successful turn in the comedy “Tower Heist” last fall, if  ”A Thousand Words” manages not to flop, he could manage to find himself some more consistent work. For better or worse, Murphy worked on this one with Brian Robbins, who directed him in “Meet Dave” and “Norbit.” Longtime “Seinfeld” writer Steve Koren penned this one, but his most recent films include “Evan Almighty” and “Jack and Jill.”

Rotten Tomatoes: 26% (bad)

My Thoughts: A comedy like this would’ve worked well in 1998, but even then it would’ve been deemed unoriginal coming after Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar.” All the pieces are in place for this to be another Murphy flop; Paramount has struggled with which day in March or April to release it and will only do so in 1,890 theaters.



Box Office Predictions

The fate of Disney’s big spring blockbuster “John Carter” has been up for debate since last summer at the least, and the marketing campaign has been scrutinized again and again. Although it’s gotten more attention from the general public, is it making any kind of a connection?

It might be worth taking a flyer on the film in some weekends, but with The Lorax coming off a $70-million opening, it’s hard to envision it being stopped. With no competition in sight, $40 million should be cleared easy and that would be the highest of anyone’s predictions for John Carter.

The sci-fi action-adventure film should manage your respectable March opening. One year ago, “Battle: Los Angeles” made nearly $35 million and a film similar to “Carter” in terms of look in “10,000 B.C.” made that much a few years back. I think that would be the optimistic projection, though the $20-million range seems quite likely. I say respectable, but not when you compare it to a budget of nearly $250 million.

In third I’m going with the newcomer Silent House. It’s not quite found footage, but it’s close, which I think boosts a film that’s otherwise a bit mysterious and doesn’t have as many draws as its 2012 found-footage predecessors. I think it will edge out Project X; both films should finish around $10 million.

In fifth place I have Act of Valor over “A Thousand Words.” The small release for Murphy’s comedy is a death sentence of sorts, and I don’t think it can match the $7-8 million estimated for the Navy SEAL action flick.

1. The Lorax
2. John Carter
3. Silent House
4. Project X
5. Act of Valor


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