Weekend Movie Preview (9.16.11)

Fall barrels on with quite the mix of offerings this weekend. From an independently driven (no pun intended but I like it) action drama to a female-targeted guilty pleasure to the sheer power of nostalgia, there be choices. “Drive” opens in the most theaters but not by much, and it could be that Disney’s animated musical with the most box-office roar finds itself atop Pride Rock almost 20 years later. The remake “Straw Dogs” also comes to theaters along with Sarah Jessica Parker in “I Don’t Know How She Does It.”

New This Week


Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by Hossein Amini, James Sallis (book)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks

Summary: A Hollywood stunt driver moonlights as a getaway man, but things take a sharp turn when he finds a hit has been put on him after a heist goes wrong.

The Word: Word on fall films is always prevalent because they’re screened so early. “Drive” has some of the best early buzz. Gosling has taken his career to the next level of late and Refn will soon be one of the more sought-after directors now that he’s bridged the gap to Hollywood from his British filmmaking days with “Pusher,” “Bronson” and “Valhalla Rising.” This film should be a car-chase film with a bit of an indie edge.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (excellent)

My Thoughts: I have yet to see one of Refn’s films, but I’ve got big expectations for this one. Gosling might be one of the most versatile actors in his age group and Mulligan and Cranston among others are all “it” names in Hollywood right now. What I like most about “Drive” is that the story opens up and dives into the over-looked “getaway” aspect of crime capers and related films, an aspect often wrought with cliche.

Recommendation: Hard to argue with one of the better RT scores in awhile.

I Don’t Know How She Does It

Directed by Douglas McGrath
Written by Aline Brosh McKenna, Allison Pearson (novel)
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer, Greg Kinnear

Summary: A working mother with two kids juggles her job and home life, a balancing act that goes into overdrive when a big opportunity comes up at work.

The Word: Sarah Jessica Parker goes back to doing what she does best: playing the self-empowered working woman who also serves as a narrator. Despite the obvious tropes, the script does come from Aline Brosh McKenna, the most popular feminist rom-com screenwriter in Hollywood after she delivered “The Devil Wears Prada.” Although recent efforts “27 Dresses” and “Morning Glory” received mixed responses, many female viewers have soft spots for them. That’s presumably the hope here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 21% (bad)

My Thoughts: The Weinstein Company definitely put all the right pieces together to get this movie some good business even in September. Parker and Brosnan? Talk about putting a crosshairs right on the 35-and-up female demographic. Still, I can’t help but be bothered by the fact that this appears to be a movie about a working woman being an all-star mom/wife. Where’s the story? If working moms want a pat on the back or some token of appreciation, they can wait for Mother’s Day. I don’t think that’s being unfair.

Recommendation: If you’re that demographic, go have some guilty pleasure. The rest of you have been warned.

Straw Dogs

Directed by Rod Lurie
Written by Rod Lurie, David Zelag Goodman and Sam Peckinpah (1971 film), Gordon Williams (novel)
Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård

Summary: A couple relocates from Los Angeles to the Deep South where they become wrapped up in a nasty local conflict that pushes them to the brink.

The Word: This film is a remake of the Dustin Hoffman film directed by Sam Peckinpah that’s 40 years its senior. The setting goes from rural England to Redneck Country, USA, but the plot remains the same. Rod Lurie (“Nothing But the Truth” and “Resurrecting the Champ”) directs his adaptation of the original screenplay.

Rotten Tomatoes: 36% (not good)

My Thoughts: When it comes to remakes, I generally say leave the films that were good alone and remake the promising ones that turned out decent/okay. Honestly, I knew nothing about the original film but I’m now much more intrigued to see it than I am to see the remake, that’s for sure.

Recommendation: One of those “hey, I should watch the original film instead” movies, whether for the first time or again.


The Lion King in 3D

Directed by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Written by 29 people
Starring: (voices) Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane

Summary: If you don’t know the plot of “The Lion King,” you’re not old enough to been capable of reading this blog post.

The Word: Back in Fall 2009, Disney took advantage of 3D by simultaneously re-releasing the first two “Toy Story” films in the extra dimension. The move earned Disney $30 million in North America over the course of a month, so why not earn some extra cash for little-to-no effort? “The Lion King” is the highest-grossing 2-D hand-drawn animated film of all time, so it seems like the best option. Disney plans on just a two-week engagement, but one would imagine they’ll expand it if they like the response.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (great)

My Thoughts: There’s a big market for nostalgia, and with a lot of the first “Lion King” fans being old enough to purchase their own tickets, I don’t think this one is just for the kiddies. Parents will likely feel inclined to take advantage of this rare opportunity to take their kids to see one of animation’s very best films on the big screen.

Recommendation: As long as you take someone who’s never seen it on the big screen before.



Box Office Predictions

I’m impressed by the buzz so far and I truly think The Lion King in 3D will be this weekend’s winner with close to $20 million. The animation/family market has been incredibly thin for several weeks now and not just kids want to see this one. This one will not have to wait long to be king.

In second I’m going to take a fly on Ryan Gosling and Drive. It’s not a typical action film from a big distributor with big-name stars, so it won’t make a lot of money, but with all the buzz I really think it could make the upper echelon among films with limited commercial appeal, about $12-15 million, which puts it awfully close to Contagion, which should be back strong again with a similar number but closer to $12 million.

In fourth I’m placing my bet with I Don’t Know How She Does It. The demographic is very specific and many women will undoubtedly be swept up by the “Sex and the City” similarities. In general, I think it has more box-office upside than Straw Dogs, which ought to find enough of an audience for $8 million. “The Help” should just  miss out on another week on the leaderboard.

1. The Lion King in 3D
2. Drive
3. Contagion
4. I Don’t Know How She Does It
5. Straw Dogs


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