Fox will keep it a family affair with the release of its comedy sequel Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, in which Martin Lawrence reprises his role as Big Momma and introduces Brandon T. Jackson to the successful franchise as his stepson. With a built-in fan-base from the first two hit films, look for this Big Momma to weigh in big with a weekend gross in the $20 million range.
Dreamworks suspense thriller I Am Number Four, distributed by Disney is also poised for a strong debut this President's Day weekend, drawing the same younger audiences that drove director D.J. Caruso's previous two thrillers, Eagle Eye and Disturbia, to solid first-place openings. Starring newcomer and potential teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer and featuring Glee's Dianna Agron, the film is loaded with impressive special effects and action sequences that bear producer Michael Bay's stylistic stamp. Add to that, 200-plus IMAX showings and attractive up-and-comer Teresa Palmer of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and watch the teen and action audience spend in the vicinity of $20 million.
The third newcomer to the weekend festivities is Warner Bros.' Unknown, starring Liam Neeson. At nearly 60 years of age, Neeson is still one of the most believable and appealing action stars working today. Given the solid street credentials he developed from his take-no-prisoners role in 2009's Taken, Unknown should benefit not only from a great marketing campaign, but from the audience goodwill generated by that unexpected hit and collect $17 million to $20 million. Producer Joel Silver known for putting his imprint on super high profile and successful action franchises such as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix oversees the proceedings, while Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra takes the helm. Mad Men’s January Jones, Diane Kruger and Aidan Quinn star alongside Neeson.
Disney will be well represented in the top five, with its G-rated Gnomeo and Juliet taking full advantage of its second weekend landing in a holiday frame. This scenario traditionally benefits family films and the resulting small weekend-over-weekend percentage drop could help this animated romance gross in the mid to high teens.
Leave it to Bieber to take fifth position with around $15 million after a spectacular near $30 million debut last weekend. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never will still have appeal to that tiny percentage of teen girl fans who have not yet seen their idol on the big screen.
If the overall box office downtrend continues, this will be the 15th weekend of down revenues vs. a year ago. However, given the strong lineup this weekend and favorable comparisons to the post-President’s weekend last year (President’s weekend fell a week earlier in 2010), optimism is high for a chance for the streak to finally end. The all-time record negative streak was experienced in 2005, when 19 down weeks plagued the industry from late spring into summer.
One thing is certain, this is one box office record no one wants to break.
Anyone who thought Disturbia could be the name of a family bonding movie could get a false sense of security in the opening scene. Kale (Shia LaBeouf) has a sweet fishing trip with his supportive dad but an automobile accident on the way home costs Dad his life and turns Kale into a brooding moping mess. A fight with his teacher lands him under house arrest for the summer with nothing to do but watch the neighbors from his window. A pretty new girl (Sarah Roemer) provides good scenery but across the street something more disturbing is going on. Neighbor Mr. Turner (David Morse) seems to have a lot in common with a serial killer recently on the news but the ankle bracelet limits Kale's investigation. The ankle bracelet creates a false illusion of mobility but crossing the barrier only makes things harder. This may all sound familiar but Disturbia gives a fresh take on voyeurism. You might not expect a thriller like Disturbia to showcase great performances but it is a great vehicle for Shia LaBeouf to show his talent. He plays every moment against the standard conventions. His sullen kid is totally sympathetic. He's not just looking for attention but really trying to cope with a great loss. You actually want him to hit the asshole teacher for presuming to know what's up. Then while home his love struck voyeur is not just some horny kid. He seems moved by the vision not just the body. Then lastly as an action hero LaBeouf is truly desperate not just trying to be a badass. The others fill more traditional roles. Morse does his now familiar bad guy thing and is far more interesting as the friendly neighbor than when he's just going bonkers. Aaron Yoo as Kale’s goofy sidekick tries too hard to be wacky and clueless. Roemer on the other hand is a self-assured sexpot though a little too wise to her seductive wiles. Carrie-Anne Moss does the tough-love mom thing well. In fact she really hasn't repeated herself in her whole career. But ultimately it’s LaBeouf's show. With the whole movie seen through his perspective he creates a well-rounded guide through the sometimes far-fetched adventure. Director DJ Caruso (Two for the Money) knows all the classic tricks of suspense to keep audiences jumping and comes up with a few new ones of his own. The pacing is breakneck. To begin with the auto accident is staged beautifully. It is a realistic portrayal of the dangers caused by speed demon SUVs yet never gratuitous in communicating the horrific tragedy. Having the villain show up under innocuous pretenses also keeps the audience on their toes. But the house arrest hook is the best device of all. It can be a barrier as Kale stretches the limits of his mobility. Or it can be the edge of safety as Kale struggles to signal for help. Of course modern technology to spy on the neighbors is also employed to full effect. The film's tight storytelling packs it all into 95 minutes with no down time. Fans of this genre won't be disappointed
After the death of their parents Rashad (Tip "T.I." Harris) and his younger brother Ant (Evan Ross) have to fend for themselves. Trying not to think about his pending high school graduation Rashad works as a janitor for his stingy uncle (Mykelti Williamson) and hangs out with his friends practicing for the Skate Wars competition at their local roller rink. Ant however approaches life differently after he hooks up with Marcus (Big Boi) a big-time drug dealer in the area. Marcus recruits Ant to do his dirty work and the kid gets himself tangled up in the harsh world of drugs money and violence. It’s up to his older brother to get him out of it and finally steer him in the right direction. ATL proves some rapper-turned-actors can indeed be in a movie not based on their real lives. Known as “The King of the South” in the rap world T.I. displays some notable acting skills. Born and raised in the ATL (that’s Atlanta to us lay folk) his southern slang and cool demeanor lend credibility. As well Big Boi (half of the Atlanta-based hip-hop group OutKast) does a nice job giving his drug lord character multi-layers. He plays it smooth recruiting high school kids and promising them more money then they have ever seen. When they don’t pay up he then turns on a dime and becomes quite menacing. And watch out for Evan Ross the youngest son of the legendary Diana Ross. In his debut performance as Ant he tugs at your heart even when you’re hoping Rashad will smack him for the bad choices he makes. Music video director Chris Robinson makes his feature directing debut with ATL a story loosely based on ATL producers Dallas Austin and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ (of TLC fame) experiences growing up in Atlanta. With many of the hottest hip-hop artists coming out of Atlanta Robinson--along with first-time screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism--impressively incorporates the music without focusing on it. Sure the soundtrack crunks it up but this is not a film about a wannabe rapper trying to make it out of the ‘hood and into the spotlight. There aren’t any lengthy shootouts and no one dies. Instead ATL interweaves compelling themes of family dynamics rich vs. poor--and even a roller skating motif which seems to come out of left field but provides some fun moments. ATL is a breath of fresh air for a hip-hop movie that isn't about hip-hop.
Brandon Lang (McConaughey) had a promising career to look forward to as a pro-football quarterback until he blows out his knee dashing those dreams. Now sidelined he decides to put his football expertise to good use by getting involved in sports gambling. Brandon toils around in anonymity for a while working for a small-time betting company but it's not enough for him. In steps sports-betting magnate Walter Abrams (Al Pacino) who gets wind of Brandon's talents and enlists him to work for his company taking him under his wing. Like everybody else Walter has his vices: he curses like Pacino secretly smokes and gambles large amounts of money. Plus he has a nefarious side that is inexplicably introduced once never to be manifested again. Under Walter's tutelage Brandon sheds his rugged image and his name--becoming known as John Anthony--and seemingly rescues the company. Yet all good things must come to an end as the story unravels into topsy-turvy matrimony and familial sap. "Huh?" would be the right reaction.
Two for the Money is perfectly cast but it's only because the actors seem reluctant to branch out into more daring directions content with staying in their safety zones. Luckily for McConaughey his football scenes are minimal because he can't pull the whole quarterback thing off convincingly. But when it comes his two movie personas--the casual Brandon and the hard-nosed businessman John--the actor shines. Or maybe that's the body oil slathered over his torso for the shirtless workout scenes. And honestly who else could pull off a line like "Me-me-me-me-ow-ow-ow-ow"? Pacino and Rene Russo as Walter's beleaguered wife don't fare as well even though they perform as expected. Pacino plays his usual vaguely corrupted boss man substituting his trademark yelling with merely talking loud (there is a difference). But it's the same Pacino we've come to know and therein lies the problem. Stuff like this just further obscures the days when he actually acted. Same can be said for Russo who deliberates before choosing a role (her last film was the 2002 Big Trouble) but then merely replicates the same character over and over.
For director D.J. Caruso--a relative newcomer in the directing arena but no stranger to film sets--the budgets keep getting exponentially larger and the profits smaller. Caruso was behind such flops as 2002's The Salton Sea and 2004's Taking Lives each of which failed to live up to expectations despite star power. Two for the Money perpetuates the trend. McConaughey's charisma and Pacino's venerability and swagger only have so much room to roam as a result of the fatal flaws that plague the story. What starts out as a somewhat compelling look at the world of sports betting a $200 billion a year industry turns into a run-of-the-mill feel-good drama. The continuity issue subtly sabotages the final act of Caruso's film in an attempt to leave you smiling. It doesn't work.
There have been more than a few Oscar-worthy performances never given their due by the Academy, and Entertainment Weekly is giving us their take on which ones were overlooked in its list of the top 100 performances that should have received Oscar nominations--but didn't. Crowning the list is James Stewart, who failed to get recognized by the Academy for his excellent portrayal of a man on the edge--literally--in Vertigo. Others on the list include Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story, Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and Anthony Perkins in Psycho. The issue hits newsstands Friday.
Actor Jeffrey Jones, arrested last week on charges of possessing child pornography, told reporters outside a Los Angeles courthouse he wants "the truth to come out and for this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible," Reuters reports. Jones, 55, who was in court Thursday for his arraignment, has remained free on $20,000 bail. If convicted, he could face up to three years in jail and be registered a sex offender for life.
AP reports two men were arrested Thursday in connection with the shooting death of actor Merlin Santana Nov. 9. This follows the arrest of a 15-year-old girl last week, who was charged with the murder. The police told AP Damien Gates, 20, and Brandon Bynes, 23, apparently got into an verbal exchange with Santana and his friend on the night of the shooting, which created a "grudge," and may have escalated to violence.
Get set for more scary laughs. David Zucker (Airplane!, Top Secret!) will direct Scary Movie 3: Episode I for Dimension Films. This time film series such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars will be spoofed. Shawn and Marlon Wayans, who were involved in the first two Scary Movies, will not be part of the third installment.
Ethan Hawke and Angelina Jolie have signed on to star in Taking Lives, directed by D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea). Based on the book by Michael Pye, the story revolves around a female FBI profiler searching for a serial killer, who for the past 20 years has taken on the identities of the people he has killed.
AP reports Liza Minnelli and David Gest have hired high-profile attorney Michael Sherman, who recently represented Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel in the Martha Moxley murder case, to help them in their fight against VH1, which pulled the plug on the couple's planned reality series. Minnelli and Gest have not filed a lawsuit as yet, but are looking at all their legal recourses.
HBO's documentary series American Undercover will be soon venturing into a brothel in Nevada. The one-hour docu-show Cathouse takes a peek at the patrons and prostitutes of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, where prostitution is legal. It airs Dec. 8, after the season finale of The Sopranos.
Despite all the controversy surrounding his recent bizarre behavior, Michael Jackson still managed to show up at the Bambi Awards Thursday in Berlin to receive his "Pop Artist of the Millenium" award. AP reports he told the black-tied German audience he loved them and added, "We do not need to have war." Earlier in the week, he shocked fans and press alike when he dangled his infant son over the railing of his hotel room balcony. Berlin police told AP no crime had been committed.
Singer Tom Jones will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at next year's Brits, the British music industry's equivalent of the Grammys. Reuters reports the Welsh singer said, "This is great news. I am really chuffed. See you on the night."