Weekend Preview (9.17.10)

One look at this four-poster movie collage and one might say that last weekend was the zombie apocalypse calm before the storm. Three of these four films have built substantial hype: “The Town” marks the second film from director (yes, director) Ben Affleck, “Devil” has a story credit belonging to M. Night Shyamalan and “Easy A” is one of those rare female-centric modern comedies. Then there’s “Alpha and Omega” which is far from the be all or end all.

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The Town

Directed by Ben Affleck
Written by Ben Affleck, Adam Stockard and Peter Craig, Chuck Hogan (novel)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, John Hamm

The Word: Affleck’s second directorial effort after the acclaimed but under-appreciated “Gone Baby Gone” stays in Boston but focuses on a team of bank robbers. Affleck plays a robber who has fallen for one of the bank managers involved in one of his jobs, but as if that wasn’t enough, he and his buddies are trying to fend off the FBI (that’s where John Hamm comes in).

Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (excellent)

My Thoughts: We thought it might be so, but it does appear as if Ben Affleck has done it again. The tone looks gritty, the action looks palpable and maybe Oscar contention is not out of the question. Could Affleck become the next big director now that he’s getting the attention for this.

Recommendation: If you’ve sat around at home so far this fall, this would be worth going to.


Directed by Drew and John Erick Dowdle
Written by Brian Nelson, M. Night Shyamalan (story)
Starring: Chris Messina, Geoffrey Arend, Caroline Dhavernas

The Word: Time will tell if Universal was wise in deciding to intimately tie M. Night Shyamalan (producer and story credit) to “Devil” in the advertisements despite him not actually directing or scripting. Seeing as “Devil” is a strangers-meet-by-coincidence-but-not really horror/thriller, some people are extending him a last chance with this film though that’s probably unjustified. “Devil” tells the story of a group of strangers trapped in an elevator, one of who is presumably the Prince of Darkness, because strange stuff starts happening.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

My Thoughts: This film is supposed to kick off a trilogy for M. Night Shyamalan. Conceptually I think there’s room for entertainment, but I’m not sure there’s enough talent on or behind the camera to get it done.

Recommendation: There are better horror movies on the docket this fall, but if situational horror is your thing, go. Otherwise, rent.

Easy A

Directed by Will Gluck
Written by Burt V. Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson

The Word: Emma Stone (“The House Bunny,” “Zombieland”) stars as a girl who pretends to have sex with a gay male friend at a party so that guys at school will stop picking on him, but the success leads many others to ask for the same “favor,” and so she sullies her once-good reputation at school. While reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” a girl tells her to embroider an “A” on her clothes to mark her promiscuity and she accepts the challenge.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84% (great)

My Thoughts: It’s usually a good sign when a film feels familiar but you can’t compare it to anything. That’s what I get from this well-cast comedy. Stone is a budding talent and she’s surrounded by some great actors in Tucci and Clarkson among others. Will Gluck could make a name for himself in this business if “Easy A” can somehow make noise despite the thick competition. He’s already got next summer’s “Friends with Benefits” for Sony, so it’s possible.

Recommendation: You might be able to wait, but as far as comedy goes, this might be one of the two or three best options you’ll have.

Alpha and Omega

Directed by Anthony Bell, Ben Gluck
Written by Chris Denk, Steve Moore
Starring: (voices) Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci, Dennis Hopper, Danny Glover

The Word: If you’re a major film distributor, your goal is to pair up with an animation studio (or start your own). Disney/Pixar, Paramount/DreamWorks, Fox/Fox Animation. This year, Universal teams up with Illumination Entertainment for the first time and found massive success with “Despicable Me.” Now it’s Lionsgate’s turn — they’ve embraced Crest Animation Studios to turn out this film about two wolves that couldn’t have different personalities or social statuses who are forced together to survive..

Rotten Tomatoes: 11% (terrible)

My Thoughts: This year has been another amazing success for the animation medium. That said, this film looks bad. The animation is bland and the story couldn’t be more generic. These days, the bar is high for animation. You can’t just make a film with animals and expect a hit on your hands. I’m open, but you’re better off waiting a week for Zack Snyder’s “Legends of the Guardians.”

Recommendation: Another animation film that could well be worth your time comes out next week, so no need to catch the animation bus at this fall stop.

Box Office Predictions

So, who to pick first? All these films are getting releases in about 2,800 theaters, so that’s not a factor. Comps (similar films and how they performed at the box office) is the way to go. Of course movies that come out in the fall are an entirely different animal. At the same time, most fall films have fairly predictable patterns that favor new releases.

My pick for first is The Town. I’m generally wary of picking the film I’m looking forward to most when there’s a lot of choice, but it makes sense. The basement for crime thrillers in the fall like these is usually $10 million, whereas the ceiling is about $25 million (Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”). I think the hype could have “Town” finishing on the upper end at around $20 million. It’s optimistic for the genre, but good reviews and buzz has me confident.

Second, I think, will be Devil. Horror films do well this time of year and I think the Shyamalan buzz will help this one along. I think $15 million, maybe a bit more, is in order. As far as positive buzz goes, I’m going to take a chance on the good reviews for Easy A. Normally you look at the lack of star power and cringe at the box-office chances of this kind of teen comedy, but I think $10 million is doable and enough to fend off the last two films in the top five.

Resident Evil: Afterlife is in for a huge drop, especially given how many films are new this week. Expect $8-10 million. Call me cruel, but I think Alpha and Omega will still finish below that with around $6-8 million. I think the advertising has been poor and Lionsgate is new at the animation thing. Then again, I could be underestimating talking animals a great deal.

  1. The Town
  2. Devil
  3. Easy A
  4. Resident Evil: Afterlife
  5. Alpha and Omega


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