Weekend Movie Preview (4.8.11)

Spring break is over, but four new films arrive in theaters this weekend to help bolster the April line-up. The widest release goes to Russel Brand’s comedy remake “Arthur” while the second comedy offering, “Your Highness,” comes from the “Pineapple Express” team and stars James Franco and Danny McBride. The whip-smart action offering of this week, no doubt a competitor for “Source Code” would be the “Bourne”-style assassin thriller “Hanna.” On the family-oriented side, “Soul Surfer” offers a new motivational film for those never-say-die folks out there.

New This Week


Directed by Jason Winer
Written by  Peter Baynham, Steve Gordon (story)
Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Luis Guzmán, Jennifer Garner

The Word: A remake based on the Oscar-nominated British comedy released 20 years ago. Russell Brand has had quite the welcoming party here in the United States for his work, because here he’s much less controversial than over there. He hit the map playing drunken sex-obsessed rocker Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and last summer in “Get Him to the Greek.” Here he changes his tune quite a bit to play a naive and immature heir to a massive fortune who must marry a woman he hates (Garner) or be cut off. Jason Winer (“Modern Family”) directs.

Rotten Tomatoes: 22% (bad)

My Thoughts: I’m in the camp who is curious to see how rangy Brand can be as an actor. Here he’s toned it down to PG-13 at least and he has a complement in the form of Helen Mirren, which, as you saw at the Academy Awards when they presented Best Foreign Language Film,” seems to make for an odd but fun duo. I don’t expect the film to do much in the way of honoring the original, however.

Recommendation: Perhaps watching the original would be a good idea or catching this at some point down the road.

Your Highness

Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by Danny McBride, Ben Best
Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel

The Word: Green (“Pineapple Express”) reunites with McBride and his longtime writer pal Ben Best, who were the right writing team for tackling the job; all “Eastbound & Down” fans should be psyched. When the film was made, I also don’t think they figured to have an Oscar-winning actress on board in the form of Natalie Portman. “Your Highness” features a potent combination of laughs, magic, herbs and dragons.

Rotten Tomatoes: 27% (bad)

My Thoughts: This movie was delayed from last winter to this spring, usually an indication things have gone sour. I hold out hope that this will have its moments because I think medieval garb could dress up the stale elements of today’s comedies, but the reviews are quite dismissive.

Recommendation: Sounds like something worth a watch while inebriated in a few months time.


Directed by Joe Wright
Written by Seth Lochhead, David Farr
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Olivia Williams

The Word: Child assassins is sort of a new action motif being experimented with in Hollywood (see “Kick-Ass”). Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “The Lovely Bones”) stars as the titular character who is raised in the wilderness by her father (Bana) to be a ruthless killer and survivalist. Unbeknownst to her, she’s being trained for a mission to essentially take down an intelligence agent/operative (Blanchett) and her crew. Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “The Soloist”) tries out action for a change, so expect the film to beautifully shot if nothing else.

Rotten Tomatoes: 71% (very good)

My Thoughts: This could be a big stepping stone for Ronan and Wright in their respective careers, this being their second collaboration. I’m most curious to see if this diverges in any way from most action films of its ilk, at least knowing Wright’s previous work and that Focus Features is distributing. Seems like reviews are indicating whatever was done has mostly paid off.

Recommendation: A definite for those who like an alternative to the schlockier action films that litter theaters.

Soul Surfer

Directed by Sean McNamara
Written by Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz and 7 others
Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood

The Word: The film is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a promising surfer who lost her arm after a shark attack and taught herself to overcome it with her father’s help. Carrie Underwood makes her feature film debut as well.

Rotten Tomatoes: 44% (mixed)

My Thoughts: AnnaSophia Robb is growing up. The “Bridge to Teribithia” and “Race to Witch Mountain” star gets dramatic and has her arm CGI-ed off for this solid sports “overcoming the odds” story. With a couple veterans player her parents in Hunt and Quaid, the film should avoid being labeled made-for-TV cheese, but then again, Sean McNamara has been a longtime TV director for Disney Channel and at one time Nickelodeon and he last brought the feature film version of “Bratz” to life.

Recommendation: Seems as though this pick-me-up sports film can wait for a downer day.


Box Office Predictions

With four newcomers, it would seem that 2011 would see yet another box-office champ this week, but I’m not buying it. I think Hop will be the first repeat No. 1 film again as it remains the only family film outside of “Rango” with any pull until “Rio” comes out next week. Knowing how well family films have held up at the box office so far this year, the Easter flick should earn another $20-22 million and hold off any competition.

Of all the new releases, Arthur has the best chance. With the widest release and Russell Brand’s decent track record ($17 million for “Get Him to the Greek”), a PG-13 film from him with the help of Jennifer Garner should earn the film $17-20 million. I would say higher, but Brand’s usual MTV crowd is not the targeted group here and he’s not up to his usual tricks in this role.

Here is where this weekend becomes a crapshoot. I’m not high on Your Highness, but I think McBride and Franco and Portman can get this film to $12-15 million. Closer to ten would not surprise me either given the “stoner male” demographic that the film aims for. I see it having to fend off Hanna which I’m targeting for $10-15 million. The concept of “Hanna” has a wider appeal but the names aren’t as big as for “Highness.”

In fifth, I suspect Soul Surfer can beat out what I imagine to be strong returns for “Source Code” and possibly even “Insidious.” I think the sports drama could earn $10 million whereas “Source Code” should earn $9-10 million.

1. Hop
2. Arthur
3. Your Highness
4. Hanna
5. Soul Surfer



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