Bryan Singer's big budget fairy tale adaptation Jack the Giant Slayer makes its debut in IMAX and 3-D this weekend and will easily top the chart with a debut in the $25 to $28 million range. Taking on a darker tone in an attempt to shed its fairy tale roots, the PG-13 film is hoping to draw a male/fanboy type audience. However, with a reported budget of around $200 million, the expected success of the film overseas will be a necessity to bolster the profit margin. Up and coming star Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies) and Ewan McGregor co-star along with a great cast that includes Stanley Tucci and Ian McShane.
Also opening is 21 & Over. The R-rated raunchy comedy from the writers of The Hangover follows the misadventures of a college kid and his buddies on the eve of his medical school exams. Older teens and college-age kids should eat this up and bring about $12 million to $15 million to the box office party this weekend.
The third wide release debut to hit theaters is The Last Exorcism Part II, the follow up to 2010's The Last Exorcism which earned a profit generating $41 million in North America against a mere $2 million budget. Ashley Bell reprises her role as Nell Sweetzer, but in this follow up the use of "found footage" is jettisoned in favor of a more traditional narrative. Eli Roth produces and Ed Gass-Donnelly directs this PG-13-rated horror entry.
Certainly no weekend would be complete without Melissa McCarthy. Her R-rated comedy Identity Thief (which enters its fourth weekend) is on the cusp of becoming the first film released in 2013 to cross the $100 million mark and should continue to steal box office dollars in the realm of $8 million.
RELATED: Box Office: 2013 Off to a Slow Start
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will also factor in with the second weekend of his action drama Snitch poised to earn in the $6 million range and boost its overall total to over $20 million by Sunday night.
Our final wide release newcomer is Phantom. The R-rated submarine thriller stars Ed Harris and David Duchovny but is only expected to earn around $2 million to $3 million this weekend.
Osacr nominees may see a boost this weekend after all the exposure generated by last Sunday night's telecast. Silver Linings Playbook currently ranks the highest of the nine nominees for Best Picture in the mid-week derby.
RELATED: Oscars Box Office: Best Picture Nominees Get a Nice Boost
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros]
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
When all-American girl Susan Murphy is inadvertently hit by a falling meteor on her wedding day she grows to be nearly 50 feet tall. The U.S. military gets wind of this renames her Ginormica and locks her away with a slacker group of other “monsters” in a top-secret compound. But when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins wreaking havoc these good-hearted but inept creatures are called into action by the President and must band together as a team to save the world from certain catastrophe.
WHO’S IN IT?
As usual Dreamworks has assembled a stellar A-list voice cast led by Reese Witherspoon as Susan/Ginormica. Playing one of the rare female animated heroes Witherspoon’s sweet/confused demeanor — in light of her highly unusual status as a fearsome freakazoid — hits just the right tone generously letting her zanier colleagues steal scenes from right under her (a long way down by the way). Chief among these are a not-so-bright gelatinous blue mass named B.O.B. hilariously voiced by Seth Rogen; the genius Dr. Cockroach Ph.D in the capable hands of House doc Hugh Laurie; and Will Arnett’s half-ape half-fish The Missing Link. In the human roles there’s Stephen Colbert as the idiotic U.S. President Kiefer Sutherland as the monster’s prison guardian Paul Rudd as the ego-driven weatherman fiancé of Susan; and a deliciously villainous Rainn Wilson as Galaxhar the alien determined to take over Earth.
Superb 3-D effects aren’t overdone and add immeasurably to the ginormous fun of the film but even seeing it in theaters that only show it in regular 2-D doesn’t spoil the pure joy of this cartoonish War of the Worlds. Throw in parodies of every cheap '50s sci-fi movie you can think of and you have the ingredients for a silly monster mash sure to appeal to just about anyone who wants to laugh. Despite the impressive production elements it’s the smart and clever script that really sets it apart from its competitors — and that even includes the similar Monsters Inc. from Pixar.
Like any kid-oriented comic ‘toon today the action can be a bit too frenetic and Monsters vs. Aliens piles a lot of it on in its trim 95 minutes. Still the lovable characters carry the day and somehow make it all palatable.
When Susan now Ginormica brings her new friends home to meet her parents chaos ensues and so do the laughs. Also impressive are the large action scenes that make fine use of CGI animation breakthroughs.
BEST SUPPORTING BLOB:
It's easily the one-eyed lame-brained blue lug of a people hugger named B.O.B. perfectly matched to the talents of Rogen. He rolls away with the movie and inevitably the merchandise tie-ins.
Pretty people just don’t understand—you’re not safe anywhere and all the sadists are after YOU! As the two geniuses in The Hitcher Grace (Sophia Bush) and her boyfriend Jim (Zachary Knighton) learn real quickly a cross-country trek to New Mexico in a beat-up car is especially risky. During their first night out on the open road it’s raining cats and dogs when they almost run over a man (Sean Bean) who’s standing aimlessly in the middle of the street his car apparently broken down. The young couple decides against lending him a helping hand with it pouring down rain and all. Bad move. When they stop for gas later Jim and Grace cross paths with the man who goes by the name of John Ryder. He asks the couple if he might hitch a short ride with them to a local motel. This time they oblige. Bad move. One aspect the studio must’ve loved about The Hitcher: Being shot primarily in a car the cast cannot feasibly be more than three deep—four tops. That also means that said cast must wear the tension well if the camera is to be on them throughout. Bush (TV’s One Tree Hill) the movie’s biggest asset as far as its target audience is concerned shrieks well and most importantly is smokin'. And when it comes time to fight back she doesn’t look so bad doing it even if there’s scant giggling in the theater at the now clichéd image of a weapon-wielding hot chick. As the hugely sadistic villain Bean (GoldenEye the LOTR movies et al) is more than adequately creepy. There’s something to be said with most of The Hitcher’s viewers’ inability to recognize him because an A-list movie star just wouldn’t work in this role. Obscurity aside Bean his face lurking around every corner will simply creep the crap out of the young audience. As for Knighton he seems and looks like the garden-variety up-and-comer and try as I might there’s nothing wrong with his biggest role to date—except a scene of um tug-of-war that is tough to watch or look away from. Veteran actor Neal McDonough also pops in with a brief role as a sheriff caught in the proverbial crosshairs. These days it’s tough to come up with anything new in a horror film—so directors just don’t bother. Save for neo-horror maestro Eli Roth there’s no originality to be seen especially when seemingly 99 percent of horror movies are remakes and when they’re not remakes they’re Primeval or Turistas. The Hitcher is much better than those two but director Dave Meyers truly eliminates most of the psychological aspect of the original 1986 Hitcher in exchange for a polished contemporary feel. Of course Meyers is one the most renowned music video directors of the past several years so it's no surprise when he mistakes volume for thrills; in fact the decibels will be the chief reason for almost all of the audience’s screaming. Not that there aren’t scary moments however. The writers Jake Wade Wall (When a Stranger Calls) and Eric Bernt (Romeo Must Die) actually get the film off to a brisk smooth start but they ultimately turn John Ryder into more of a Terminator-like character and ask for too many leaps of faith and suspensions of disbelief—again not that their intended audience won’t indulge them. At least the studio had the guts to retain the intended 'R' rating!
A “bedtime story” is a fairly succinct way to describe Lady. Of course a bedtime story being told by M. Night Shyamalan can go into any number of weird and wild directions. The writer/director says the idea for Lady was based on a story he’d told his kids which began with “Did you know that someone lives under our pool?” and revolves around Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) a lowly superintendent for an apartment building who inadvertently finds Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) a mysterious nymph-like “narf ” living in the pool. She’s there to complete a task and now that it’s done she needs to go home back to the Blue World. But that’s easier said than done. She only has a small window of opportunity and apparently there’s a ferocious beast called a “scrunt” lurking in the grass around the pool waiting to kill her if she tries to leave. Now Cleveland and a few of the other tenants—who find themselves intricately tied to Story’s plight—must help her escape to freedom. Thank god for Sideways. Without it Giamatti would have gone on playing under the radar without the recognition—and juicier parts—he deserves. He is truly a wonder as Cleveland a sad little man with a stutter who is quietly trying to hide from a tragic past. It’s only when Story comes into his life does he face his personal tragedy and learn to live again. Howard on the other hand who wowed most of us with her stunning performance in The Village doesn’t have nearly as much to work with as the pale water nymph. The mystical character is fairly one note—befuddled and cheerless. But the rest of the apartment tenants shine: Jeffrey Wright (Syriana) as a single dad who has a penchant for crossword puzzles; Freddy Rodriguez (HBO’s Six Feet Under) as a weight builder who only lifts weights on one side of his body; Bob Balaban (A Mighty Wind) as a pompous film critic (and as a critic I’m not at all offended when he gets his comeuppances); Cindy Cheung as a Korean college student who is key in telling the epic bedtime story; Sarita Choudhury (She Hate Me) as a quippy young woman looking for her mission in life and Shyamalan himself as her brother the person Story is meant to inspire to write something extraordinary. There’s never a dull moment with this crew around. In a way M. Night Shyamalan has become his own worst enemy having to live up to this reputation as a master of suspense and surprise twists. His last effort The Village left many of his fans feeling unsatisfied—and unfortunately he may alienate more with Lady in the Water. But the fact of the matter is he is still one of Hollywood's more brilliant minds on par with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for originality who has an innate talent for crafting ingenious stories filled with genuine human emotions. So maybe this time around he’s made a movie more for those most ardent of his fans who simply revel in the way his mind works no matter how incomprehensible and frivolous it may seem. So what? The diehards might feel compelled to defend Shyamalan’s choices with Lady—how he has come up with an entire universe where things like “scrunts” and the “Tartutic” (simian-like creatures who form an invincible force that maintains law and order in the Blue World) and “Madam Narfs” interact with humans in the real world. If the story actually took place in the Blue World then maybe it’d be easier to swallow. But that’s sort of the genius of Shyamalan. It’s as if with Lady in the Water he’s crafted a child-like movie for those adults who remember being told wildly creative bedtime stories who then in turn tell the stories to their kids.
Based on H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's bestselling book of the same name Friday Night Lights tells the true story of the dusty West Texas town of Odessa where nothing much happens until September rolls around. That's when the town's 20 000 or so denizens pour into Ratliff Stadium the country's biggest high school football field every Friday night to watch the Permian Panthers Odessa's "boys in black " take to the field. All the town's hope and dreams are pinned on the padded shoulders of these young gridiron heroes--including insecure quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black); cocky self-assured running back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke); headstrong self-destructive tailback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) who must contend with an overbearing abusive dad (Tim McGraw--yes that Tim McGraw the country singer); and the team's spiritual leader middle linebacker Ivory Christian (newcomer Lee Jackson). The Panthers begin their season with one thing on their minds--winning their fifth straight championship for the first time in the team's 30-year history--but for their coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) it also means instilling a love and joy of the game in the boys' hearts amidst tremendous pressures and expectations. Easier said than done.
There isn't a false note in any of the performances and no one falls back on clichéd versions of their characters as is so easy to do in rah-rah sports movies. Thornton does a particularly good job as Gaines keeping you guessing whether he's going to be a hardass insensitive to his players' emotional needs (like so many movie football coaches before him) or if he truly means to coach his boys in a fair and decent way. Gaines too has to deal with his own pressures especially from the townsfolk who are likely to string him up if the team loses the championship. As for Gaines' players Black (the oh-so-serious kid from Thornton's Sling Blade) is all grown up and buffed out and still very serious. It works for the young actor though as the beleaguered Winchell struggles with the love-hate relationship he has with his chosen sport. Other standouts include Luke (Antwone Fisher) as the star player Boobie whose cocksureness leads him to an injury; Hedlund as the volatile Billingsley trying desperately to please his father; and McGraw making his film debut as the father a former Permian Panther champion who sure hasn't given up his competitive spirit basically beating it into his son. First Faith Hill (McGraw's real-life wife) in The Stepford Wives and now McGraw--who knew country singers could act?
From All the Right Moves to Varsity Blues to Remember the Titans Friday Night Lights unfortunately doesn't completely distinguish itself from the pack of football movies before it--like those this is all about how the young players--be they underdogs second-string nobodies or stars--rising above the mounting pressure and playing the best they can bless their hearts. Still there's no question the sports genre--particularly football--always gets the juices pumping with FNL being no exception. It might have something to do with our sick fascination with watching bone-crunching hits and body-punishing tackles. It's dangerous out there for these guys; no other sport (besides maybe hockey) can elicit such wince-inducing emotion and actor/director Peter Berg (The Rundown) exploits that. Obviously influenced by Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday Berg effectively paints his own gritty documentary-style picture of the competitive sport without relying on too many trite gushy over-the-top moments. And to give it credit the film does not necessarily have a feel-good "let's win one for the Gipper" ending; it is based on a true story after all and as we know real life isn't all sunshine and roses especially in the bloodthirsty world of Texas high school football.
Nell Carter, best known for her '80s sitcom Gimme a Break! as well as her illustrious stage career, died Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 54. The singer-actress, who suffered from diabetes, collapsed in her home and was found by one of her 13-year-old sons, spokesman Roger Lane told The Associated Press. Carter had also undergone brain surgery in 1992 to remove an aneurysm. Although most know Carter from her long-running TV series that ran from 1981-1987, Carter's first love was the stage, where she won a Tony for her performance in the Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin' in 1978. Before her death, Carter was in rehearsals for a musical version of Raisin in the Sun called Raisin, scheduled to open next month in Long Beach, Calif.
Following in the footsteps of celebrity ex-couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Entertainment Weekly.com reports new parents Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick have filed a similar $15 million lawsuit against the cosmetics company Sephora for allegedly using their likenesses without consent for a Valentine's Day ad promotion in 2001 that featured several celebrity couples. The complaint states the couple wasn't even aware of the unauthorized use of their images until Kidman and Cruise filed their suit against Sephora last September.
Nicolas Cage's former security guard was convicted of stealing a $45,000 watch and two cases of rare Scotch from the actor, according to the TV show Celebrity Justice. The watch and all but one bottle were returned.
People.com reports actor Taye Diggs, 32, tied the knot Jan. 11 with longtime girlfriend, actress-singer Idina Menzel, 31, at the Round Hill resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It is the first marriage for both.
The Berlin International Film Festival announced their lineup Wednesday. The 22 films include the Chinese-German co-production Mang Jing (Blind Shaft) and Michael Winterbottom's In This World. Entries will compete for the festival's coveted Golden Bear award. The festival runs Feb. 6-16.
MGM and DreamWorks are coming together to do a remake of the 1968 comedy The Party, with Jay Roach (Austin Powers In Goldmember) set to direct. The original movie starred Peter Sellers about an accident-prone Indian actor who is mistakenly invited to an A-list Hollywood party and destroys everything in sight.
Variety reports Miramax Films acquired the distribution rights for the indie film The Station Agent, currently making a splash at the Sundance Film Festival. Peter Dinklage plays a dwarf who chooses a life of isolation and spends his time pursuing his passion for trains, but becomes drawn into the lives of two other loners played by Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is set to star in a remake of Walking Tall for MGM. The original 1973 story followed Buford Pusser (played by Joe Don Baker), a sheriff who rids his small Southern county of corruption mostly by using a two-by-four. The updated version will have The Rock returning from serving in the military to find his small town corrupted by drugs and violence. And yes, he'll also be using a formidable two-by-four to make his point.
Wheel of Fortune's likable host Pat Sajak is getting his own talk show. Called Pat Sajak Weekend, it'll premiere on the Fox News Channel starting in the spring, AP reports. "I enjoy exercising my interviewing muscles and I look forward to having the chance to do that every weekend," Sajak said in a statement.
The soundtrack to the new hit musical Chicago sailed to No. 4 on the album charts in its first week of release, breaking up the otherwise monotonous record sales so far this season. Chicago sold 83,000 units for the week ending Sunday, according to data issued by Nielsen Soundscan on Wednesday, Reuters reports.