Monday, November 23, 2009

Box Office Predictions (11/25--11/29)

1. The Princess and the Frog - 27.3 Million - +3600%
2. The Blind Side - 12.8 Million - -36%
3. Invictus - 10.9 Million - NEW
4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon - 7.1 Million - -54%
5. Disney's A Christmas Carol - 5.8 Million - -25%
6. Brothers- 5.5 Million - -42%
7. Armored - 4.3 Million - -44%
8. 2012 - 3.5 Million - -47%
9. Old Dogs - 3.4 Million - -50%
10. Up in the Air - 2 Million - +81%

Disney's first animated film to feature a black princess will win the weekend with ease, potentially closing in on 30M. The new Clint Eastwood film, Invictus, should open in the low double digits, though it could go lower if audiences aren't ready for another sports drama (this time South African rugby) so soon after The Blind Side. Up in the Air expands to around 50 theaters this weekend and may go as high as 2m.

Next week: the most expensive film of the year -- Avatar -- also, the Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker rom-com Did You Here About the Morgans?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Box Office Predictions (11/20--11/22)

1. The Twilight Saga: New Moon - 137.3 Million - NEW
2. 2012 - 30 Million - -54%
3. Disney's A Christmas Carol - 18.5 Million - -17%
4. The Blind Side - 13.9 Million - NEW
5. Planet 51 - 12.7 Million - NEW
6. Precious- 10.7 Million - +182%
7. Couples Retreat - 2.6 Million - -39%
8. The Men Who Stare at Goats - 2.4 Million - -59%
9. Law Abiding Citizen - 2.2 Million - -41%
10. Michael Jackson's This Is It - 1.8 Million - -64%

Any weekend where a movie has a chance to break box office records is an interesting weekend. That's the case for the vomit inducing The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which definitely has a chance at breaking The Dark Knight's opening day. It's weekend may be a bigger challenge; yet, if the rabid tween fans go back for 2nds, 3rds and 4ths before the weekend is out, it has a chance.

Elsewhere, The Blind Side and Planet 51 look to scrounge up whatever's left from Twilight's devouring. Sandra Bullock's name should be enough to make TBS a relative success, but Planet 51 will remain overshadowed by the other films, as well as A Christmas Carol.

Next week is a 5-dayer: Old Dogs, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Road and Ninja Assassin

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Box Office Predictions (11/13-11/15)

1. 2012 - 59.8 Million - NEW
2. Disney's A Christmas Carol - 18.3 Million - -39%
3. Michael Jackson's This Is It - 7.9 Million - -40%
4. The Men Who Stare at Goats - 7.4 Million - -42%
5. Precious- 6.4 Million - +350%
6. The Fourth Kind - 5.7 Million - -53%
7. Paranormal Activity - 4.7 Million - -46%
8. Couples Retreat - 5 Million - -18%
9. Law Abiding Citizen - 4.3 Million - -29%
10. The Box - 4.1 Million - -46%
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*** Pirate Radio - 1.1 Million - NEW

Unfortunately, Roland Emmerich is back. Equally unfortunate, is that audiences give a damn. Expect his disaster masturbation called 2012 to make close to 60 million.

Pirate Radio opens in 900 theaters and may struggle to hit 1 million. The real story is Precious, which will expand to 200 theaters. If it hits on all cylinders like last weekend, as much as 7 million is possible, though it will likely be a shade under that mark.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Box Office Predictions (11/06-11/08)

1. Disney's A Christmas Carol - 29.8 Million - NEW
2. The Fourth Kind - 12.9 Million - NEW
3. The Box - 11.1 Million - NEW
4. Paranormal Activity - 10.5 Million - -36%
5. The Men Who Stare at Goats - 9.3 Million - NEW
6. Michael Jackson's This Is It - 8.8 Million - -62%
7. Law Abiding Citizen - 4.1 Million - -44%
8. Couples Retreat - 3.8 Million - -41%
9. Where the Wild Things Are - 2.4 Million - -59%
10. Astro Boy - 1.9 Million - -46%

It's Christmas on the first weekend in November...or something like that. It seems to get earlier every year, but that doesn't mean there won;t be takers. Disney's A Christmas Carol is a huge holiday vehicle, utilizing 3D and motion capture animation in yet another Robert Zemeckis film of such a nature. Jim Carrey will draw in those weary to hear the age old tale yet again, but its haul may not be as frontloaded as some might expect. Like its predecessor, The Polar Express, it may build slow and finish strong. That said, 30M is still likely.

Otherwise, two more horror films enter the marketplace, though each is of a different beast. The Fourth Kind looks to be a shameless attempt to capitalize on footage claimed to be "real" by the advertisements for it. This sort of horror has done well, so around 12M seems likely for it. In addition, The Box the third film from Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales)looks to utilize a more old-fashioned scare machine to scare up bucks. The cast is nice (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden), but the trailers and promos are confusing and the timing is off considering the crowded marketplace. Around 10M looks right. Lastly, The Men Who Stare at Goats will earn some money off of its cast alone and may key into the same vibe that made Burn After Reading a hit last fall. 9M is likely in order.

Next week: the excruciating looking 2012 will likely be a smash success and, on a much smaller scale, the Philip Seymour Hoffman starer Pirate Radio.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Horrorathon Day 31: HALLOWEEN: H20 (Steve Miner, 1998)

It's a shame to end a horror movie fest with a mediocre movie, but that's exactly what I've done. The sad thing is, though, that Halloween: H20 remains the best modern reincarnation of Michael Myers; this is by no means impressive, when the competition is as rigorous as a Busta Rhymes sequel and a couple of Rob Zombie migraines. Perhaps I'm selling H20 short; it's a decent little film, clearly meant to hit each and every narrative beat that the first two Scream films did, and it's nice to see that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), twenty years later, still can't sleep at night.

The script here, isn't bad. One wishes the studio had gotten a bit more of a stylistic director than the "eh" Steve Miner to helm Michael's comeback. Some more interesting choices could have been made visually, but as is, the rather standard mise-en-scene is functional. The slow burn works pretty well too, giving each character a chance to form a little development before being knocked off. This includes the debut role of Josh Hartnett as Strode's son, Michelle Williams as his girlfriend and LL Cool J as an aspiring writer of erotic novels, who currently works as a security guard to pay the bills. There's some ok stuff between them, but all of this is just filler until the last 15 minutes, in which Strode and Myers face off. It's executed well, in the desolate halls of an evacuated private school. Yet even this is just a build up to the final scene, where an axe-wielding Curtis finally puts Myers to rest. Or not, as sequels have shown. "You can't kill the Boogeyman," is a line from the original Halloween and hopefully that rings true for the horror film as well. It's been a fun 31 days. Thanks to all those who've read and responded. I look forward to part two, about 11 months from now.

Horrorathon Day 30: CARRIE (Brian De Palma, 1976)

Brian De Palma, as well regarded as he is, remains one of the most underrated American directors in the last half of the 20th century. De Palma had a philosophy about how to survive in Hollywood: "Make one for me, then make one for them." Carrie was one for them, but like all great directors, the project quickly turned into one for "me." It's, arguably, the greatest film De Palma made in the 1970's, and surely one of the seminal horror classics of that era. The most impressive thing about the film, though, is how much of its value comes purely from De Palma's sense of visual storytelling, rather than from the the solid, but admittedly standard script. Look at the opening sequence, which on the page surely read: "Girls getting dressed after gym class." But in a De Palma film, the mere act is literally transcended by a cosmic grace; time slows down, the post-pubescent grins linger and the undiscovered sexuality of the titular character comes forth with the presence of blood. The sequence is astonishing, but it truly is in service to both the establishment of a filmic world and a supplement to the characters and their behaviors and fears. De Palma is the rare filmmaker whose style over substance approach doesn't lose the humanity of his characters in the process (Hitchcock and Godard are also among the select few).

De Palma always wears the Hitchcock influence on his sleeve, which is no secret to anyone that watched but five minutes of any of his films. He's always framing characters within the frame, often while the character in the foreground has their back turned. This further indicates a self-contained world, where individual characters are caught listening, peeking or wondering. It's utterly self-reflexive, at its most basic function. The characters of the cinema construct their environment with a cinematic aesthetic. Even though filmmaking is never mentioned by them, somehow they are cognizant of this method of seeing. So, when Sue (Amy Irving) "sees" the bucket of blood lingering above Carrie's head, time slows down. She turns the corner, slowly realizing the horror that may spew forth if that bucket is dumped. The filmmaking reflects her inner turmoil. Then, when it's dumped, time speeds up. Now the point of view is with Carrie. The screen splits to mirror her fractured state, which has finally passed the point of no return. Her vision is coated in red, the monochrome indicating the vengeance she wants to enact. These are seamless techniques which turn Stephen King's original vision from banal horror to profound visceral masterwork.

De Palma's handiwork would be enough to make Carrie the great film that it is, but that it also features a half dozen iconic performances makes it truly timeless. Of course, Sissy Spacek plays the lonely, troubled Carrie White and it's likely the performance she's most remembered for today. Rightfully so; she's a fearless performer, that can hone in on the innocence that makes Carrie a sincerely pitiful character. But she has spunk too; she's resilient and Spacek makes that transformation all the more horrifying through that ability to hit so many varied notes. Then, there's Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles and John Travolta, four of the coolest actors from the 1975-1985 De Palma period. Irving went on to make the equally great The Fury (1978), with De Palma, an her performance as Sue brilliantly contrasts the moral emptiness of Allen's and Travolta's characters. The film is able to hit so many beats with the characters, primarily because the performers are mesmerizing enough to not make a departure from Carrie a step down. It also makes their deaths all the more climactic. Then, there's P.J. Soles, who's now more known for her role in Halloween (1978), but has a memorable bit part as the ball cap wearing Norma. But, if you talk about performances in Carrie, it has to begin and end with Piper Laurie, whose Jesus freak mother is likely one of the ten scariest characters ever committed to film. The hammy Southern intonation, the frizzled hair, the searing eyes. Spacek's awkward character is sold by such a monstrous mother, whose past sexual fragility and betrayal has driven her to God and thus made the natural yearnings of her daughter a living hell.

The final scene between Carrie and her mother, ranks with the greatest De Palma ever filmed and thus ranks with the greatest of all film sequences. If you haven't seen the film, well, then you must behold its power, grace, horror, beauty -- sublimity for your self. I fear any attempted description would not do it justice and I am admittedly not capable of relaying its power on all of these levels. But don't get it twisted, it's a masterful piece of filmmaking, fit to end an equally magnificent horror film, one of the greatest ever made.