Weekend Movie Preview (9.23.11)

The September onslaught continues with many more choices for all groups. Families will probably want to seek out “Dolphin Tale,” adults will probably take interest in Brad Pitt’s latest, “Moneyball,” action junkies will get their fix with “Killer Elite” and “Twilight” fans have another opportunity to see Taylor Lautner on the big screen with “Abduction.”

New This Week

Dolphin Tale

Directed by Charles Martin Smith
Written by Karen Janzsen, Noam Dromi
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr.

Summary: The inspirational story of a dolphin who lost its tale and with the help of a young boy and some marine biologists, found a way to live in spite of it.

The Word: Nothing like suckering people with a good “against all odds” movie that’s based on a true story, especially when it involves an adorable animal … and it’s in 3D. The “from the studio that brought you ‘The Blind Side'” tag on advertisements should tell you exactly what Warner Bros. is going for.

Rotten Tomatoes: 86% (great)

My Thoughts: Considering I’m without children, all these “do the impossible” tropes have worn thin. I know that if I try really hard I can overcome any obstacle in my path, I don’t need Morgan Freeman to narrate that to me any longer, even as tempting as his voice might be.

Recommendation: You know what you’re walking into, but this appears to have done it decently.


Directed by John Singleton
Written by Shawn Christensen
Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina

Summary: A teenager and his friend find his picture on a missing persons website which launches him into a conspiracy about his real parents and puts him on the run from those looking to obtain him as he’s some kind of Bourne-type asset.

The Word: The big story with “Abduction” is that it’s Taylor Lautner’s first big starring role that will test whether or not audiences are drawn to him as a leading man and action star or anything for that matter outside of the “Twilight” series. To play it safe, he’s some younger Jason Bourne figure and we don’t know why everyone’s after him. Singleton’s obviously most known for “Boyz in the Hood,” but he’s proven capable as an action director.

Rotten Tomatoes: 0% (abominable)

My Thoughts: I’m of the slightly smaller camp who thinks Lautner has a shot at being magnetic enough to be an action star. I don’t give him much of a chance to blow our minds as an actor, but I think he can be a watchable (and maybe even bankable) leading man in the future. However, it appears as if no one could save this movie.

Recommendation: If you’re not on Team Jacob, you should pass.


Directed by Bennett Miller
Written by Steve Zaillan, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Michael Lewis (book)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Summary: Based on the true story of Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane who in the early 2000s co-pioneered a sabermetric approach to team managing that defied the norm and nearly turned baseball upside-down.

The Word: When Steven Soderbergh left the project, “Moneyball” still kept its all-star talent. In addition to Pitt, Miller directs his second film after the acclaimed “Capote” and “The Social Network” writer and Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin co-wrote with Oscar winner Steve Zaillan, who had been on a bit of a hiatus since churning out “American Gangster” in 2007.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (excellent)

My Thoughts: A highly intelligent yet fun change of pace for the sports movie genre, and it’s definitely still a sports movie. Pitt and Hill are delightful. Read my review.

Recommendation: Definitely worthwhile.


Killer Elite

Directed by Gary McKendry
Written by Gary McKendry and Matt Sherring, Ranulph Fiennes (Novel “The Feather Men”)
Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro

Summary: An ex-special ops agent finds himself in a game of cat and mouse with the leader of a secret military society after he threatens to kill his mentor.

The Word: Statham and Owen are two powerful personalities in roles best suited to their strengths. De Niro has had a rough string lately and these two look to lift him up. The film is based on a true story, but I’m sure quite loosely. McKendry directs his first feature-length film, so he must’ve been rather persuasive with his script in order to get the job.

Rotten Tomatoes: 25% (bad)

My Thoughts: I love seeing Statham kick Owen’s ass while tied to a chair in the trailer, but I’m worried that might be the coolest part of this movie. It’s not a major studio film and frankly, De Niro involving himself in a film of this genre worries me more than excites me these days.

Recommendation: Probably a solid rental come this winter at best.



Box Office Predictions

It’s hard to argue with the “King,” but providing the best box-office puns by weekend’s conclusion should be Moneyball. Arrows have been pointing up all week with reviews and Brad Pitt’s no slouch when it comes to getting an audience. The Lion King in 3D will make it close, but I see “Moneyball” as this year’s “The Social Network,” a bit of a surprise that shows people want well-reviewed films with mainstream appeal. I’m thinking $20-25 million, whereas “Lion King” should hit at $20 million.

Strong reviews and impressive early sales (as well as the weekend’s widest release) have me thinking that Dolphin Tale should get third place despite a lack of star power. I’m thinking $15 million, especially considering a similar film in April’s “Soul Surfer” managed $10 million with a lesser studio and a smaller release.

Next I have the wild card of the bunch, Taylor Lautner’s Abduction. With a breezy action premise, teens could flock to it, but I’m skeptical that anyone else will even consider it, so I think close to $10 million should be accurate. Given Jason Statham’s track record, Killer Elite should have a hard time besting that, ending up with $8-10 million most likely. Returners “Drive” and “Contagion” will likely come up just shy of it, with “Contagion” possibly ending up in fifth if “Killer Elite” doesn’t draw.

1. Moneyball
2. The Lion King in 3D
3. Dolphin Tale
4. Abduction
5. Killer Elite


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