Weekend Movie Preview (7.29.11)

How are you holding up? It’s been a long summer of high-buzz projects so far and July will not go out quietly at all this weekend. “Cowboys & Aliens” provides the mainstream blockbuster action this weekend while kiddies get “The Smurfs” and adults have the option of falling in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

New This Week

Cowboys & Aliens

Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Hawk Ostby, Mark Fergus, Steve Oedekerk, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (comic)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell

Summary: In 1873 Arizona, Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes up with no recollection of who he is and a strange device around his wrist. Turns out he’s a wanted man, but all that becomes moot when alien crafts begin to decimate the local town and abduct its people and his device appears to be their best defense against them.

The Word: Favreau takes up a new blockbuster project after the first two “Iron Man” films and its a doozy, having to promote early and often to erase any stigma from the title alone. Having set out to blend sci-fi elements into a Western, it appears as if he’s found a way to do it without coming across as campy, but shouldn’t this kind of a film be campy?

Rotten Tomatoes: 44% (mixed)

My Thoughts: It would seem that a project this outlandish would be in good hands with Jon Favreau. The mixed reviews are discouraging, but mindless summer fun could well be in the cards, though I did expect something a bit less mindless given the talents involved.

Recommendation: If you have the stamina for another action movie this month, here you go. Otherwise I’d be inclined to wait.

The Smurfs

Directed by Raja Gosnell
Written by J. David Stern and David N. Weiss, Peyo (characters)
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Hank Azaria

Summary: The evil sorcerer Gargamel (Azaria) has chased the Smurfs out of their own magical world and into ours. They find themselves in Central Park and eventually to the home of the Winslows who must help them return home and stay out of Gargamel’s clutches.

The Word: Another live-action/CGI hybrid, the trailer for “The Smurfs” arrived to many rolling eyes with dialogue and an ad campaign that sought to use the word “smurf” as a verb as many times as possible. The film looks very much to go the route of “Alvin and the Chipmunks” in giving the Smurfs a modern sense of humor.

Rotten Tomatoes: 19% (unsmurfable)

My Thoughts: If anything/one will save this film, it’s going to be Neil Patrick Harris drawing attention away from the Smurfs with his own cartoony behavior. Jayma Mays (“Glee”) could well do the same thing. However, I have serious doubts that the script allowed them to draw any attention away from their fake blue counterparts. Expect a stinker.

Recommendation: No, unless you have annoying kids.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Directed by Glen Ficarra, John Requa
Written by Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone

Summary: After his wife leaves him, Cal (Carell) takes to the bars to get back in the game. It’s there he meets and develops a friendship with a womanizer (Gosling) who teaches him how to get back in the game, but soon Cal’s ex re-enters the picture and Gosling’s character falls for Emma Stone’s.

The Word: “Bad Santa” writers Ficarra and Requa take over directing duties for the first time in this mostly comic but slightly dramatic-looking film. The cast definitely has the right names to appeal to all audiences from Carell and Moore (middle-aged) to Gosling and Stone (teens and younger adults). Gosling has been known to stick with indies, so his presence here might be telling about Disney writer Dan Fogelman’s (“Tangled”) script.

Rotten Tomatoes: 73% (very good)

My Thoughts: If nothing else, Carell’s ability to create a lovable goof character should lift this film up, but don’t underrate the supporting cast. Stone and Gosling are terrific talents and Moore almost never disappoints.

Recommendation: So many well-reviewed comedies, except this one is PG-13 and a bit more romantic. Go if that suits your taste.

Box Office Predictions

This is an unusually tough week for predictions. With big-ticket returning films and nothing completely massive entering theaters, a lot of films project to finish between $20-40 million which is very uncertain territory.

In a close race, I have favored Cowboys & Aliens over a second winning weekend from Captain America: The First Avenger. This summer has heavily favored box-office turnover. Look at last week; few could’ve predicted “Harry Potter” would drop 70 percent after its mammoth opening. Jon Favreau’s foray outside of the “Iron Man” world has Daniel Craig testing his action-star status outside of “Bond” and tries to get something extra out of Harrison Ford’s tank. Alien premises and Westerns separately are tricky, so predicting the response is not easy. I suspect around $35 million with star power and Favreau’s name the only chance for a number close to $40 million. It will take away a bit of a returning audience from the “Captain,” so I’ve got a typical second-week drop in mind putting the Star-Spangled Man in at $30-35 million.

CGI/live-action hybrids have been polarizing. On one hand you have “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and on the other you have “Yogi Bear” which failed last December. I think The Smurfs should land in the middle, between $20-30 million with enough to edge Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I’m expecting about $23 million tops for “Potter,” so the little blue people should slide in just above it.

In fifth I have Crazy, Stupid, Love. Carell has a lot of box-office pull, which should help it reach $20 million, but rom-coms that lead towards romance and not comedy as the marketing has indicated for this one tend to do worse and a lot of adult entertainment remains left over from previous weeks.

1. Cowboys & Aliens
2. Captain America: The First Avenger
3. The Smurfs
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love


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