Brendan Fraser and the long-awaited return of The Mummy franchise will likely unseat mega-hit The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) this weekend. Industry tracking points to a massive opening for the F/X-laden family-friendly action-adventure movie, and I am targeting $50M-$55M. That would be stronger than 1999’s original The Mummy, which grabbed $43.36M, but shy of the $68.13M start for The Mummy Returns in 2001. For Brendan Fraser, this would mark his all-time second-best opening.
ALL-TIME TOP FIVE BRENDAN FRASER OPENINGS
1. The Mummy Returns — $68.13 million
2. The Mummy — $43.36 million
3. George of the Jungle — $16.54 million
4. Bedazzled — $13.1 million
5. Encino Man — $9.86 million
Director Rob Cohen (xXx, The Fast and the Furious) has added worldwide superstar Jet Li (The Forbidden Kingdom, Lethal Weapon 4), which will pump overseas grosses. Domestically, this film should have no problem reaching $140M-$150M without breaking much of a sweat.
Meanwhile, The Dark Knight should continue its roll for a very strong No. 2 finish with something in the $39M-$44M range. This points out why it is virtually impossible for any film to ever unseat 1997’s Titanic ($600M domestic). The James Cameron-directed Best Picture winner held the No. 1 spot at the box office for 15 consecutive weekends, while The Dark Knight’s reign will have lasted just two weeks. Still, the The Dark Knight has an outside shot at topping the $400M mark by Monday morning.
Kevin Costner’s Swing Vote (Disney) is scoring negligible numbers in industry tracking, and it will have a tough time exceeding $10M. The Oscar winner, who took home the Best Director statue for Dances With Wolves, has a lot riding on this movie. He stars, produces and put up $20M of his own money to make this little movie. Realistically though, Costner has never been a huge box office sensation.
ALL-TIME TOP FIVE KEVIN COSTNER OPENINGS
1. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - $25.62M
2. Waterworld - $21.17M
3. The Guardian - $18M
4. Message in a Bottle - $16.75M
5. The Bodyguard - $16.6M
I have always been a fan of Costner, and he is especially good when he plays the flawed, reluctant hero as he did in films like Bull Durham and Tin Cup. This seems to be right up his alley. I am calling for $7M-$10M this weekend, but the 25 Plus demos, never Early Attenders, may give Swing Vote decent legs in coming weeks.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR WEEKEND OF AUGUST 1
1. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal) - $55M
2. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros)- $41.75M
3. Step Brothers (Sony) - $16M
4. Mamma Mia (Universal) - $11.75M
5. Swing Vote (Disney) - $8.8M
6. Journey To the Center of the Earth (Warner Bros) - $6.5M
7. Hancock (Sony) - $4.7M
8. X Files: I Want To Believe (Fox) - $4.5M
9. WALL-E (Disney) - $4.2M
10. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal) - $2.65M
Stop us if you think you’ve heard this one before: Alex Stillman (Bret Harrison) is a college kid who shows a real talent for poker. He is discovered by legendary player Tommy Vinson (Burt Reynolds) who at the insistence of his wife (Maria Mason) retired from the game 20 years earlier but sees a younger version of himself in Alex and offers to train him for some major tournaments. Although their meeting of minds seems initially promising the whole thing falls apart when Alex starts a brief fling with a girl (Shannon Elizabeth) he later finds out is a prostitute Tommy paid off to keep the kid happy. The two are eventually reunited in a different way when Tommy decides to make a comeback on his own and ends up competing against his protégée in a televised tournament worth $8 million to the eventual winner. Although Reynolds has top billing on the end credits marketing materials list Bret Harrison in first position above Burt in the hope that the bland TV star (Reaper Grounded For Life etc.) can draw his young fans. NO one is likely to turn out for this mis-guided Color of Money wannabe. That 1986 film had a different game (pool) and an identical plotline but it also had Tom Cruise Paul Newman in an Oscar winning role and direction by Martin Scorsese. Here you have Reynolds and Harrison sleepwalking through the banal dialogue and pedestrian situations. Reynolds’ toupee shows more interest than he does! And Harrison is thoroughly unconvincing as a guy we are meant to believe can jump right from college to the very top of the poker world in no time flat. Elizabeth actually makes the strongest impression in the film but she has an underwritten part and three scenes. Mason has the thankless role of Reynolds’ long-suffering wife while Charles Durning and Jennifer Tilly can probably find most of their almost non-existent roles on a cutting room floor somewhere. Director Gil Cates Jr. does no favors for his own screenplay (co-written with Mark Weinstock) with static unimaginative shots and coverage of the numerous poker games so sloppy that he makes Lucky You look like a masterpiece. The performances all clearly suffer from his by-the-numbers direction as well. To be fair it is extremely difficult to make card games compelling to watch on screen but most of his shots look like he just set the camera up in one position called ‘Action’ and went out for a smoke. He should have rented Steve McQueen’s 1965 poker classic The Cincinnati Kid to see how a real director (Norman Jewison) could make this stuff visually interesting. Cates is the son of the veteran producer who runs the Oscar show. On the basis of Deal at least Cates Sr. won’t have to worry about finding seats for his son at next year’s ceremony.
In the tradition of Batman Begins and Casino Royale the clock is rolled back on the legendary icons the D—the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world—as the curtain is pulled back on their secret origins and the demons that drive them are unveiled… OK so it’s not really that deep. Though the heavy metal/comedy combo of Jack/JB/”Jabeles” (Jack Black) and Kyle/KB/”Kage” (Kyle Gass) have long played hip clubs cut an album starred in their own short-lived HBO series and amassed a devoted cult of fans their first feature film reveals how the pudgy duo first meet form the band meet their first fan (Jason Reed as TV holdover Lee) go questing the fabled Pick of Destiny—a shard of Satan’s tooth turned into a guitar pick passed among rock’s most accomplished shredders—and ultimately smack down with the devil himself. Believe it or not it’s a love story. Thanks to their long professional partnership Black and Gass comprise two perfectly crafted sides of a very polished comedy coin: Black is the wild-eyed uncontrolled id Gass is the low-energy manipulative slacker and they meet in the middle with an equal amount of unchecked delusion about their musical ability and potential. They both deftly pull off the trickiest types of comedy: smart jokes in the guise of dumb characters and it’s nice to see Black—obviously the bigger film star of the two—share the funniest bits equally with Gass. Of course all of this hinges on the audience’s tolerance for the ambitiously clueless ego-cases (and moviegoers who only love Black for his tamer version of the same persona in School of Rock should be warned—this is the cruder ruder and more profane incarnation) but we admit we’ve long had a taste for the D. They boys carry they movie squarely on their shoulders though longtime D supporters Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller stand out in cameos—the first Stiller cameo in ages that’s both amusing and non-gratuitous! Also appearing in small bits: SNL’s Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler Oscar-nominee Amy Adams Colin Hanks hard rock hero Ronnie James Dio Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Satan and an uncredited John C. Reilly though you’ll never ever recognize him when he’s onscreen. And kudos to whoever had the inspired notion to cast Meat Loaf as JB’s pious father and Troy Gentile as the young rockin’ JB (Gentile also played a junior version of Black in Nacho Libre). Helmer Liam Lynch who also collaborated on the screenplay with Black and Gass and directed their music video “Tribute ” understands the absurd world of the D completely and demonstrates a clever assured sense of straight-faced silliness. Indeed the first ten minutes of the film alone—a mini-rock opera in itself—announce him as a comedy director to watch. Although we’re sure the bandmates themselves would take full credit for the film’s success. After all they may not have made the greatest movie in the world but in D-speak they came up with a pretty rockin’ tribute version.