Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Men in Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012) -- D

Nothing is more disingenuous than a franchise that tries to shoe-horn sentimentality as a capstone for its latest installment - especially if said sentimentality was never earned in previous films. Yet, that's precisely what Barry Sonnenfeld's latest entry into the now comprehensively vapid, void of a sci-fi series has done, sending Agent J (Will Smith) back in time to prevent partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) from being offed by alien-lunatic-killer Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). Eventually, the time-travel is revealed as a means for reuniting J with his father - a most distasteful conclusion that doesn't bear rehashing here. While the first film (a good one) established itself on irreverence and a rambunctious degree of sardonic humor, the premise and jokes the third time around have been thoroughly neutered and watered-down, presumably to make the product more "family-friendly" or "accessible." The latter term is something that could describe a lot of Hollywood fare these days (or the intent), which is why it becomes even more vital to praise films like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance for their, no pun intended, devil may care attitudes. With MIB3, the conceit of revisiting 1960's Americana is simply an excuse to waddle through cultural signposts. Andy Warhol jabs, Mick Jagger punchlines - the list could easily go on, but what's the use? The real potential lies in the possibility of juxtaposing Smith's "street smart" agent against a more tumultuous social background, then wryly revealing that ultimately, not all that much has changed over the last 40 years. That would be social satire - but Sonnenfeld couldn't be less interested in doing anything serious with the material. Furthermore, instead of producing or creating laughs on-screen, every single frame or line of dialogue plays pre-determined or canned, almost as if it's disintegrating right after it leaves the screen. None of these woes should be much of a surprise given the film's production troubles - it's been widely reported that the film began shooting without a completed script and eventually drew the pens of nearly half a dozen writers. All of this spells bad faith on the part of Sonnenfeld, Jones, and especially Smith, whose return after a four year hiatus should have yielded something with far more conviction and far less audience pandering. Luckily, with the film's lukewarm opening - this time, the joke's on them.

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2012) -- B-

It pains me to report that Terence Davies, the man responsible for Distant Voices, Still Lives, The House of Mirth, and Of Time and the City (all truly great films) has lost his way in The Deep Blue Sea, based on the play by Terence Rattigan. Davies has always been a gentle, humanist filmmaker, with an eye towards exposing societal constraint, examining decorum, and probing ruptures in rationality - those which often result in human degradation. Thus, it's no surprise that he's chosen Rattigan's 1950's England melodrama to further examine these issues. Moreover, by beginning with an Impressionistic, chronology-skewing opening, Davies produces what he's always done best - synthesizing feeling and affect with social historicity. While the fractured longings of Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) initially achieve these aims, Davies gradually degenerates her suicidal instability into a series of heated or logophilic exchanges, alternating between her rich, but effete husband (Simon Russell Beale) or her poor, but affectionate lover Freddie (Tom Hidddleston). Davies' linguistic sophistication has often remained implicit, organic. Here - his high art aims are rather clunky, especially in laughable lines like Hester stating her situation "isn't a tragedy. Sad perhaps, but hardly Sophocles." Moreover, Davies seems oblivious to establishing a discernible tone for his melodrama, as when Freddie flings a schilling at Hester and barks: "for the gas meter, in case I'm late for supper." The issue isn't necessarily these moments/scenes, themselves, but that Davies neglects to find means for presenting them with either a coherent, discursive manner or formal devices to further his aims and interests. The tone wanders, the focus lacks, and one gets the sense that the material has been rather dispassionately rendered - without the conviction that drives and propels the best melodramas towards a comprehensive, cathartic destination. When the music cues at the end of The Deep Blue Sea, it's as if Davies thought the viewer would do the work for him, projecting the needed emotive gaps since he neglects to proficiently enunciate precisely what is at stake in this love affair gone awry.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Box Office Predictions (June 1-3)

May ends not with a bang, but a whimper - Hollywood must be reeling after three straight weekends of either out-and-out tanks, or lukewarm receptions, last weekend's MIB 3 joining the latter. Its 70 million 4-day weekend is nearly disasterous considering Sony's troubled production, which is estimated to have gotten close to 300 million! Luckily, the first weekend of June presents a contender with some pedigree to end the losing streak - Snow White and the Huntsman might not outwardly seem like a mammoth moneymaker, but upon closer inspection, its potential is fully realized. Being the only wide opener of the weekend doesn't hurt, but beyond that, its leads (Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth) are two of the hottest young stars on the planet, right now. The joining of leads from Twilight and The Avengers is very likely to excite both sexes, if not leaning more towards females. Nevertheless, the trailer's focus on battle sequences, magical realism, and Charlize Theron (to be seen in next week's Prometheus, as well) indicate there is enough here to draw young males too. The failure of Mirror, Mirror earlier in 2012 should have no bearing on this, as each film is directed at different audiences. However, there remains a possibility of audience fatigue with The Avengers on the way out, so Snow White's potential may not be fully realized if viewers generally decide to take the weekend off. Given the 3700 theater count, expect Snow White to open with about 62 million.

The weekend's other release of note is For Greater Glory, starring Andy Garcia and receiving a modest 700 theater release. The target demographic should respond with some interest, but it's unlikely to see any sort of break-out here. The R-rated drama should make around 3 million for the weekend.


1 Snow White and the Huntsman 61.8 NEW
2 MIB 3 26.6 -62%
3 Avengers, The 21.6 -54%
4 Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 6.9 -15%
5 Dictator, The 4.8 -59%
6 Dark Shadows 4.4 -53%
7 Battleship 4.2 -69%
8 What to Expect When 4.2 -52%
9 For Greater Glory 2.9 NEW
10 Chernobyl Diaries 2.1 -77%

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dark Shadows (Tim Burton, 2012) -- D+

Dark Shadows is perhaps the most slapdash film ever made by the once talented, artistic, and provocative Tim Burton, a director whose name was once a stamp of assurance to filmgoers that they would indulge some shape or form of wacky, eccentric filmmaking. Lately, it's proven to be nothing more than a ruse in offering disposable product. Joining the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Planet of the Apes, the director's latest feels flat and forced from the start, commencing with a mundane, by-the-numbers prologue, in which Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp) explains how he was scorned and made-vampire by witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) in the late 18th century. Resurrected by a construction crew in 1972, Barnabus quickly finds his estate, now occupied by a new generation of Collins, and tries to turn the family's fortunes around. Burton's typically "high concept" premise, much like Barnabus's fish-out-of-water observations, feel decades late compared to the recent works by filmmakers like David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Neveldine/Taylor, Tomas Alfredson, Matt Reeves, and Edgar Wright - directors who have brazenly taken genre and given it a particular, specifically revisionist imprint. Relying on gags that range from Barnabus not knowing how a television works, to thinking a car's headlights are "the eyes of the devil, himself," to a funky-ball/"happening" featuring Alice Cooper, Burton sloppily juxtaposes, and indecipherably waddles through, genre tropes (montage here, set-piece there) to little meaning or affect. Indeed, the set-design is magnificent and Depp's schtick sporadically amuses, but Dark Shadows steadily becomes one of the more bloodless mainstream offerings in recent years, while remaining one of the strangest. While that paradox may sound enticing or even subversive, it never plays as such, since Burton is unable to speak visually as a means to undermine the rote, formulaic script. With other gags about McDonald's and confused terminology ("Are you stoned?" "They tried stoning me, my dear. It did not work."), Burton's film could be read as a cheeky allegory for his anachronistic genre interests - a lament that the times-are-a'-changin', were the film not so seemingly oblivious to its own inert, dispassionate tone and style. Instead, one word consistently comes to mind throughout the film's two-hour running time: irrelevant.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Box Office Update (May 25 - 28)

MIB 3 didn't disappoint like I expected (okay, let's be honest, hoped) it to, but with an estimated 18 million on Friday, it still didn't live up to the expectations Sony must have believed, given the bloated budget and Will Smith star power. With a B+ Cinemascore, word of mouth should be relatively solid. Likewise, Chernobyl Diaries, after positing a nice 525K from midnights, was only able to scrape up 3.5 million on Friday. With a D+ Cinemascore, it should experience a significant Saturday dip. Otherwise, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel expanded to moderate success, with a 1.7 million Friday - and Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson's latest, made a whopping 175K from only four theaters. It stands a chance to take down Dreamgirls for the highest, live-action limited, opening weekend of all-time.

My Four-Day Weekend Estimates:

1. Men in Black III - 69.5 million
2. The Avengers - 48.5 million
3. Battleship - 12.9 million
4. The Dictator - 11.5 million
5. Chernobyl Diaries - 8.9 million
6. Dark Shadows - 8.4 million
7. What to Expect When You're Expecting - 8.1 million
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - 7.8 million
9. The Hunger Games - 3.3 million
10. Think Like a Man - 1.6 million

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pop Culture as Allegory in the Films of Giorgos Lanthimos


As has been widely reported and well documented, Greece’s economy experienced a collapse in 2010 after years of unpaid debts and rising inflation eventually became too much to bear. Indeed, in 2000, almost a decade prior, Greece was allowed to join the European Union, converting to the Euro, a move that many economists believe only exacerbated Greece’s debts, when the move was originally thought to help erase them.[1] In fact, “there were suspicions at the time that Greece was operating a "limbo dance" – squeezing its figures to hit the stringent euro criteria…indeed many believe Greece simply lied about its figures to gain entry.”[2] In effect, aspirations of integration and the self-stripping of economic autonomy and/or cultural identity led to bankruptcy and disintegration, the severity of which has yet to be resolved, as pundits and analysts continually debate whether or not Greece should withdraw from the Euro.[3]

It is the intention of this essay to evaluate Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2012), with these issues in mind, and draw parallels between the EU and Hollywood, in terms of Global dominance, inescapable influence, and a loss of identity via the mimetic impulse. These are the two most recent films from Giorgos Lanthimos, one of Greece’s most prominent, contemporary filmmakers, even though he only has three films under his belt.[4] Though neither film outwardly discusses or even seems to be concerned with the real-word economic woes in Greece, Lanthimos uses the guise of pop cultural discussion, with its Greek characters immersed-in and learning from American culture for their primary means of expression, as a way to align Global Capitalism with what Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi have termed “The Cultures of Globalization.”[5] In a sense, though finance and capital barely factor into Lanthimos’s films, on a textual level, the subtext emerges, as does a consistent, rigid, and clinical mise-en-scene that implicitly denigrates conventional logic, the sort of rational cognition that leads to Global Capitalism (the erasure of sovereignty, the emergence of cultural totalitarianism). Ultimately, Lanthimos seeks to venture away from this sort of cultural (and thus narrative) logic and more towards a “logic of sensation,” to borrow a term from Deleuze – it is my intention to argue that it is not individual scenes, themselves, that evoke sensation in the work of Lanthimos, but the films as a whole. Thus, it will be difficult to point to individual scenes that engage sensation, because Lanthimos’s style is clinical, detached. At least – it appears this way outwardly. Inwardly, the projection is filled with sensation, affect, and echoes Deleuze’s claim that:

There are no longer grounds for talking about a real or possible extension capable of constituting an external world: we have ceased to believe in it and the image is cut off from the external world. But the internalization or integration of self-awareness in a whole…has no less disappeared…the relinkage takes place through parceling…this is why thought, as power which has not always existed, is born from an outside more distant than any external world, and, as power which does not yet exist, confronts an inside, an unthinkable or unthought, deeper than any internal world.[6]

The use of Deleuze here is an attempt to link the internal world of Lanthimos’ films and their refusal to simply adhere to one “meaning,” to a larger, cognitive sensation of meaning that does indeed find distinct parallels in the external world. Deleuze is correct in positing an internalization of self-awareness, but his suggestion that it has become incapable to constitute an external world is disproven by Lanthimos’ auto-dialectic, which does not ascribe particular sensational meaning to individual scenes, themselves, but employs enough recurring themes, images, and technique to achieve a collective sensation that eventually forms a coherent synthesis of the dialectical and the sensorial.[7]

Thus, these qualities are not readily identifiable in either film, though a consistency exists that directly points to such implicit analysis/formal rigidity. Dogtooth is, in many ways, about the construction of identity via cultural forms. On a very basic narrative level, the film concerns a family of five, secluded away from the rest of society. The Father (Christos Stergioglou) manages a factory of some sort, while the Mother (Michele Valley) stays at home with their three, adult children, a Son (Hristos Passalis), an Older Daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia) and a Younger Daughter (Mary Tsoni), all of whom have no knowledge of an outside world, other than the altered, redacted stories they hear from their parents. They learn new words every day, but with changed meanings, as to erase any concept of movement or migration from their minds. In a very Kubrickian manner, the framing of characters operates under the internal logic of the film, itself: stable, observant, and devoid of attempts to heighten the emotion/content of the scene by a negation of conventional filmmaking/continuity editing. Often, characters heads will be just out of frame when talking, or some other sort of metonymic device is used to unsettle a screen-space that is all about uniformity and stability. The unsettling effect comes not through quick editing or canted angles; in fact, much of the film is shot in long takes and with little movement. Nevertheless, the effect is highly contrapuntal and serves as auto-critique of a fascistic, patriarchal construction of society. The content is so absurd that the clinical observance of it creates the film’s heavily ironic, comedic undertones.

These qualities are fairly obvious and, not surprisingly, the ones most critics have latched onto. What has been less discussed in Dogtooth is how innocence becomes disrupted via the infiltration of technology and outside cultural construction. Certainly, the sexual “lessons” taught by Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a worker from the Father’s factory used as a prostitute for his Son, to the Older Daughter, such as erogenous zones and cunnilingus, serve as a conventional starting point for the deterioration of the heavily ordered, ritualized space. Nevertheless, as the sex becomes a means of exchange, often trading sexual favors for something trivial like a headband, it ultimately is something not so trivial:  a VHS tape. The sex (although influential) is not what ultimately drives the Older Daughter’s decision to flee the domestic space (the children are told they may leave when the “Dogtooth” falls out, an event which obviously, will never naturally occur); it is her mimetic desire, her capacity for imitation, after viewing pop cultural heavies like Jaws, Rocky, Flashdance, and Enter the Dragon that drives her towards rebellion. We might say she finds her “double bind,” what RenĂ© Girard calls “a contradictory double imperative, or rather a whole network of contradictory imperatives…it is so common that it might be said to form the basis of all human relationships.”[8] The desire to be self-sufficient, but to also imitate (or, perhaps better stated) and play “follow-the-leader.” In Dogtooth, the leader is not ultimately the most literal form of patriarchy (Father), but the figurative presence of Cultural hegemony via pop art (films), that, devoid of context, provide the Oldest Daughter with nothing to do but carry out empty mimesis – in other terms, not only what contemporary Hollywood cinema is often denigrated for engaging in, but also, in more specific terms as related to Greece, their imitative double-bind of belonging to the EU, at all costs, including their own disintegration.

Some will likely find the claim that the integration of popular Hollywood films from the late-1970’s through early 1980’s can hardly be seen as a means for bridging a gap as allegory for Greece’s current financial crisis. These worries would be reductive in-and-of themselves, however, since the intent is not to simply posit their presence as directly correlative, but more an intimation towards these underlying political and financial problems, which align nicely with contemporary Hollywood’s ethos of imitation over context and product over sensation or emotion. Were Dogtooth an isolated incident, one might be inclined to write these similarities off, as incidental. However, in Alps, Lanthimos takes this relatively tangential facet of Dogtooth and brings it to the fore. Essentially, Alps involves a quartet of amateur actors who decide to begin a business: they will act as replacements for deceased loved ones, “auditioning” and hiring themselves out for live, often-reenacted moments from the past. For instance, Aggeliki Papoiulia plays a hospital worker who fills-in for a young female tennis player killed in a traffic accident. Rather than interacting with the parents for “new” experiences, they request that she look, dress, and act like their daughter in scenarios past; for instance, as if she just finished a tennis match or, later on, being caught getting a little too close with her boyfriend. The hospital worker (no character name) eventually begins to confuse reality (original) from fantasy (imitation), and the film, itself, begins to blur the lines between actual living and performance, again driving towards the double bind that comes to define Lanthimos’s previous film.

Like Dogtooth, there is a key patriarchal figure in Alps, who dons himself “Mont Blanc,” because, “it is the biggest of all mountains.” Monikers and linguistic exchange/confusion play a significant role in both films, especially in the latter’s concern with pop cultural influence. The film’s recurring joke is that people, of any sort, are often defined by their favorite actors or musicians. Riding in the back of an ambulance with a dieing girl, Mont Blanc squeezes her hand: “Who is your favorite actor? Brad Pitt? Johnny Depp…what, not Johnny Depp?” Likewise, another deceased person is said to have been “a big fan of Morgan Freeman. He saw every single one of his films.” Characters openly and often discuss their favorite pop cultural figures as if it were akin to personal experience: in Alps, it is the most essential question anyone can be asked.

In many respects, the integration of pop cultural discussions into feature films has existed for decades. Tracing back to American films like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), and Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), directors began to define not just their own parameters through influence, but their character identities through pop cultural savvy, often in discussing the meaning of specific films and songs, rather than the contents of their own personal lives and themselves.[9] Indeed, one might say these films prompted an excessive obsession and immersion with the past for the past decade: "Instead of being about itself, the 2000s has been about every other previous decade happening all at once: a simultaneity of pop time that abolishes history while nibbling away at the present's own sense of itself as an era with a distinct identity and feel."[10] Moreover, in the ninth annual “State of Cinema” address given at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, author Jonathan Lethem detailed what he calls recent “ecstasies of influence” in cinema, where B-movie ethos can often burrow their way into the subconscious of contemporary popular culture. He notices a recent trend in filmmakers emphasizing a performative nature in the art form, itself, and that their characters are often trapped between personalities, uncertain of what or who they really are.[11] Alps, in particular, embodies exactly what Lethem is talking about, detaching its characters from any singular identity – more a multiplicity, but none that are particularly genuine, honest, or, perhaps worst of all, satisfactory. Moreover, it’s particularly noteworthy that in many of the American films interested in pop cultural influence, characters are often discussing American figures. In Dogtooth and Alps, every single influential figure is American – never is a single Greek or, even, European influence noted amongst the characters. Such an inclusion (or exclusion, as it were), speaks to the crux of Lanthimos’s imitative, mimetic crisis, where not only is identity being constructed outside of the self, but it’s coming from another cultural referent entirely – the pop cultural equivalent of the EU, if you will: Hollywood. That Lanthimos refuses to give nearly any of his characters names (unless they are self-ascribed monikers) further solidifies his aims at revealing identity crisis.

Lanthimos intimates these absences not only through pop culture interests as the primary identity for a person’s lived life, but also through more subtle inclusions within the diegesis. Sticking to Alps, Mont Blanc drinks from a coffee mug that reads “Los Angeles,” a further suggestion of the film’s implicit critique of, shall we say, the Hollywood Industrial Complex. Naturally, the mug becomes a source of trauma later in the film. In another instance, while sitting in for the killed tennis player, the nurse asks the boyfriend: ‘I saw this film. It is about a cop who is going to retire, but on his last day, he must go on one final assignment.” The boy responds, dryly: “I think I’ve seen that one.” The irony of this exchange seemingly defines Lanthimos’s attitudes on performance and repetition. Being the premise for likely hundreds of films, the bland description of plot and meaning could in no way determine the film being discussed – implicitly, Lanthimos is asking us to remember Roger Ebert’s old adage: “It’s not what it’s about, but how it’s about it.” What masks and troubles Lanthimos’s films so vividly is the sense that neither the what or how can be readily identified. The referents are lost, not just for characters, but for everything – form and content, with Lanthimos’s, always seem in medias res, having no sense of a beginning and, ultimately, little sense of an end.

When asked to describe how he came up with the idea for Dogtooth, Lanthimos responded: “[My] original inspiration was almost science-fiction…it’s a thought about the future. What if there were no more families anymore? Do we actually need them?”[12] By questioning the family unit and larger super-structures, his films get to many contemporary issues of identity crisis, be they financial, individual personality, or cultural. To conclude, in February 2010, it was widely reported that Goldman Sachs, the now infamous American investment firm, helped mask Greece’s debt in order to increase profits on a (legal) derivatives deal.[13] Taking into account both Lanthimos films, as a whole, the broad, sometimes surreal and murky strokes of “meaning” are juxtaposed to instances of minutia that lack affect or sensation, but retain an empty specificity. Indeed, Lanthimos might be offering his characters’ (and his country’s) posterior mask – the intrusion of American capital and culture at the expense of comprehensive autonomy.


[1] Harry Wallop, “Greece: Why Did It’s Economy Fall So Hard?” The Telegraph, April 28, 2010, accessed May 20, 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/7646320/Greece-why-did-its-economy-fall-so-hard.html
[2] Ibid.
[3] Gary Becker and Richard Posner, “Should Greece Exit the Euro Zone?” The Becker-Posner Blog, May 20, 2012, accessed May 21, 2012. http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/
[4] His first feature, Kinetta (2005) screened at festivals like Berlinale, but never had a North American release. His second film, Dogtooth, was the first Greek film since Iphigenia (Michael Cacoyannis, 1977) to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It, unsurprisingly, did not win.
[5] Fredric Jameson & Masao Miyoshi, The Cultures of Globalization  (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998).
[6] Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 277-8.
[7] For further discussion on this matter, the link between cognition and sensation, there is no greater book than: Antonio Damasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York, Putnam, 1994).
[8] René Girard. Violence and the Sacred (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 156.
[9] The lineage can certainly be traced back further, to Godard and Fellini, but the above examples are the most notable from an emerging Hollywood obsession with the past, not just with directors, but actual characters in the films, as well.
[10] Simon Reynolds. Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past. (New York: Faber and Faber, 2011), x-xi.
[11] Jonathan Lethem, “Jonathan Lethem’s State of Cinema Address at San Francisco Int’l Film Festival,” Indirewire, April 26, 2012, accessed May 23, 2012. http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/jonathan-lethams-state-of-cinema-address-at-san-francisco-intl-film-festival#
[12] Larry Rother: “Dogtooth: No Indifference Allowed,” The New York Times, February 4, 2011, accessed May 20, 2012. http://carpetbagger.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/dogtooth-no-indifference-allowed/
[13] Beat Balzli, “How Goldman Sachs Helped Greece to Mask it’s True Debt,” Spiegel Online International. February 8, 2010, accessed May 20, 2012. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/greek-debt-crisis-how-goldman-sachs-helped-greece-to-mask-its-true-debt-a-676634.html


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Box Office Predictions (May 25 - 28)

Following two weekends of utter disasters in Dark Shadows, Battleship, and What to Expect When You're Expecting, Sony hopes to avoid the trend with Men in Black III - nearly a decade since the franchise's last entry (a generally despised film, at that). Many prognosticators seem to think, for some reason, that the return of Will Smith and these characters guarantees some sort of 70+ million opening. I am not among them, and these folks clearly haven't learned several box office lessons from the past weeks by their failure to readjust expectations/projections from the cultural tidal wave created by The Avengers. If Burton and Depp's 70's era-humor couldn't reign in audiences, I'm not sure a generally unwelcome third entry (and Will Smith's first film in four years) with similar, "back-in-time" humor will be much of an exception. Indiana Jones this franchise is not, thus Sony should expect their threequel to go the way of Rush Hour 3 or The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon, with significantly diminishing returns, to a four-day haul of just below 50 million. It should be neck-and-neck with The Avengers throughout much of the weekend.

Chernobyl Diaries also opens. Given audiences disinterest in Blockbusters and seemingly surefire romantic comedy vehicles, yet another hand-held horror flick (without a readily identifiable hook or premise) doesn't seem to stand a chance making any sort of dent beyond drawing requisite horror geeks who will consume any and every genre entry Hollywood churns out (raises hand). Look for no more than 9 million. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel also expands into wide release (1100 theaters) after a moderately successful limited run. It should see close to 7 million for the Memorial day weekend.

Official Predictions:

1. The Avengers - 49.2 million (-12%)
2. Men in Black III - 48.9 million (NEW)
3. Battleship - 13.5 million (-47%)
4. The Dictator - 11.1 (-36%)
5. Chernobyl Diaries - 8.3 million (NEW)
6. What to Expect When You're Expecting - 8 million (-24%)
7. Dark Shadows - 7.3 million (-42%)
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - 6.6 million (+106%)
9. The Hunger Games - 2.8 million (-5%)
10. Think Like a Man - 1.4 million (-46%)