Following the success of the “more action stars than you can shake a stick at” formula of 2010’s The Expendables, Lionsgate unleashed The Expendables 2 in 3,316 theaters this weekend, and the results were solid. This time star Sylvester Stallone handed over the directing reins to Simon West (Con Air, Laura Croft: Tomb Raider) so he could concentrate on more ass whuppin’ and less directin’! The first film debuted at number one with $34.8 million and was a surprise mid-August hit, and thus it’s no surprise that this latest installment topped this weekend’s chart with a gross of $28.75 million. There is almost not enough room here to list all of the action stars that take part in the mayhem, including of course Sylvester Stallone and a supporting cast featuring Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
1. The Expendables 2 - $28.75 million (week 1) (LIONSGATE)
2. The Bourne Legacy - $17,019,855/total to date $69,580,935 (week 2) (UNIVERSAL)
3. ParaNorman - $14,008,498/Week 1 (FOCUS FEATURES)
4. The Campaign - $13,385,000/total to date $51,694,000 (week 2) (WARNER BROS.)
5. Sparkle – $12 million (week 1) (SONY)
6. The Dark Knight Rises - $11,140,000/$409,916,000 to date (crossed $400 million mark this weekend) week 5
7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green - $10,909,000/$15,187,000 to date (Opened Wednesday) week 1
Adding to the excitement of this weekend’s action movie leanings was Universal’s The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, in a re-boot of the “Bourne” franchise. Last weekend the film topped the chart with $38.1 million, and it has been holding steady all week in first place — it crossed the $50 million mark on Thursday after just seven days of release. The action re-boot had a second weekend gross of $17 million and a North American total by Sunday night of over $69 million.
Besides The Expendables 2, there were three additional wide release openers that found themselves in a box office traffic jam of sorts, with Focus Features’ stop-action animated Paranorman (in 3-D) leading lead the charge with a gross of $14 million. Produced by Coraline creators Laika, the PG-rated horror adventure performed similarly to that film, which scared up $16.8 million in its third place debut back in February of 2009.
Warner Bros.’ The Campaign starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis did well in the mid-week box office primary, garnering votes in the mid $2 million range daily. As bitter rivals in a North Carolina congressional campaign, Farrell and Galifianakis duke it out on the campaign trail to comedic effect. In this its second weekend, a gross of $13.385 million put it in the thick of a very contentious fight for a spot in the top four.
Also opening this weekend was Sparkle from Sony Pictures, which had a debut of $12 million and thus earned back its modest negative cost in its first three days of release. This is a re-make of the 1976 film, which starred Miami Vice’s Philip Michael Thomas and singer Irene Cara, and was co-written by Joel Schumacher (director of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin). This update stars American Idol Season Six winner Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston in her fifth and final screen role, in a tale of an up and coming girl group in Detroit in the Motown era 1960’s. Both films were inspired by the iconic female singing group The Supremes, and this version amps up the star power and the production values to great effect.
Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight Rises took the number 6 spot with $11.1 million, and a North American total that passed the $400 million mark on Friday.
The fourth film making its debut, Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green, got a head start on the weekend with a Wednesday debut in over 2,551 theaters with $2.3 million. The PG-rated fantasy stars Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton and CJ Adams in the titular role of Timothy Green, a 10 year-old boy who shows up on the doorstep of a couple that has been wishing for a child but unable to conceive. Of course the young boy is much more than he appears to be and strange events ensue. A gross of nearly $11 million for the weekend enabled the family drama to sprout $15.2 million for the Wednesday through Sunday period.
Only three summer box office weekends left (including this one) as we struggle to keep up with last year’s summer pace.
[PHOTO CREDIT: LIONSGATE]
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
The Expendables is being sold as the ultimate action flick: the alpha and omega of explosions, the Ur-muscle flick, the action film to end all action films. It has all the stars, all the cliches, and all the genre trappings - from the bandoliers of bullets to the the scantly-clad, vaguely ethnic love interest. Sylvester Stallone's movie is poised to take off, and when it does, you know it’s only a matter of time before rival producers, directors, production companies and distributors jump on the “ultimate film” band wagon. After all, why make five formulaic, derivative romantic comedies when you could mash them into one (just think of the money they’ll save on writers!)? In honor of The Expendables' approach to filmmaking, we’re bringing you pitches for ultimate Horror films, Rom-Com chick flicks, and Oscar-Bait tearjerkers. If you happen to be the head of a major production company and are reading this, feel free to give us a call.
The Horrifying Horror Flick
This April, you're only a fool if you're not afraid. From legendary horror directors John Carpenter and Wes Craven comes April Fools, the harrowing tale of a prank gone wrong and one man's psychotic reign of terror…
Jonestown, Iowa: April Fools Day, 1990. When brilliant but misunderstood Malachai Lester's (Paul Dano) beloved girlfriend Mira Lowen (Ashley Greene) accidentally decapitates herself on April Fools Day attempting a harmless prank, Lester is blamed for her gruesome death and chased to the outskirts of town by a mob led by Mira's aggrieved father, the Reverend Tim Lowen (Bill Moseley). Though Lester manages to hide in the old abandoned psychiatric ward, Hollen Asylum, the deranged preacher incites the mob to set fire to the building, despite the protestations of his son, Abel. Consumed by the flames and the town's thoughtless hatred, Lester is scarred beyond all recognition but somehow fails to die.
Twenty Years pass. Surviving on the meat of rats caught in his twisted, elaborate deathtraps, and kept alive by his crazed desire for revenge, Lester (Crispin Glover) emerges from the wreckage of the asylum prepared to play a series of nightmarish April Fools jokes on the children of Jonestown.
Zeke Carlson (Ving Rhames)'s son Trip (Bow Wow) is the first to be found dead, followed shortly by blonde cheerleader Kate (Hayden Panettiere), the daughter of Jonestown supermarket magnate Don Coleman (Robert Englund) and wife Laura (Jamie Lee Curtis). But Lester is only warming up, and he's saving his best prank for last.
As Jonestown's murder toll rises, the clues begin to come together for grizzled but warm-hearted divorcee Sheriff Abel Lowen (Timothy Olyphant), who believes he recognizes a pattern in the deaths of the children of Lester's old assailants. But the lynching of Malachai Lester remains a stain on Jonestown's collective memory, and the town's elders still refuse to mention his name. Only Lester's former psychologist, the eccentric Rube Rosenberg (Jeff Goldblum), is willing to help the Sheriff as they come to the harrowing conclusion that there remains only one way to stop The April Fools Killer before his psychopathic reign of terror reaches its terrifying, final conclusion…
The Rosy Rom-Com
This September, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant star in Love Knows, the heartwarming romantic comedy from Rob Reiner that critics are saying "will make you believe in true love again”.
Beautiful but controlling, career-oriented Kate Cartwright (Bullock) works as an editor at a prestigious, family-owned magazine, where she works under the fatherly direction of her editor-in-chief (Ted Danson). Unfortunately, her personal life is falling apart: while she has the support of her three best friends (Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Hudson, and Ethan Embry), her former model boyfriend Ryan (Orlando Bloom) dumps her and runs off with a much younger woman. Meanwhile, brash, attractive and slightly misogynistic freelance journalist Sean Falco (Grant) gets a big break from the spiteful editor of a successful blog (Stanley Tucci) when he’s given the opportunity to write the site's biggest feature yet, an article on the decline and fall of print journalism. In order to get a new angle on the piece, Sean decides to ingratiate himself with Kate by taking work at her magazine. Though the two are initially repulsed by each other and hate working together, they bond when they try to cover a prestigious political function but instead get stuck outside in the rain. Despite their differences, the sexual chemistry becomes too much to deny.
Against the counsel of his two immature best friends - the loud, obnoxious Brad (Matt Dillon) and the awkward, nerdy Renton (Jason Segel) - Sean begins to pursue a serious relationship with Kate. But tragedy strikes when Kate learns about Sean’s article, and believes their entire relationship to be a ruse. After she dumps him, Sean tries to get back to his womanizing ways, but realizes that his feelings for Kate run deeper than he had known. Can Sean ever convince Kate to take him back? Is there some sort of grand gesture that can save their relationship?
This September, only Love Knows...
The Dramatic Oscar Contender
Based on a compelling true story, Daniel Day-Lewis and Ed Norton star in Cole’s Mine, a heartrending tale of love and redemption that critics are calling a “triumph of the human spirit.”
Cole Danwoods (Day-Lewis) is a teacher at a prestigious New York City prep school in 1954, who has struggled for years to distance himself from his roots in rural coal-mining West Virginia. But after the death of his father, a tough-as-nails yet caring patriarch (Robert Duvall), who could never truly express his love for his sons, Cole must return home to care for his family. he returns to the hostility of his younger brother, Leopold (Norton), who has followed his father’s sooty footsteps into the mines; his tough-as-nails yet caring mother, Mary (Dame Judi Dench), who is secretly dying of cancer; and his older brother, Kenneth (Sean Penn), who was tragically mangled rescuing a canary from a collapsing mine, and now has the intellectual capacity of a 8-year-old.
Cole settles in to life in West Virginia by taking a job at the local school, where he tries to reach a group of tough, underprivileged mountain children with his unorthodox teaching methods, like using puppets constructed from common household implements to explain complex mathematical theory. He also reconnects with his tough-as-nails, yet caring high school sweetheart, Jolene (Meryl Streep) whose daughter is one of his students. The pair slowly rekindle their romance, though Jolene is trapped in an unloving marriage with an abusive bootlegger (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
While Cole tries to rebuild his relationship with his brothers, Leopold must struggle to reconcile his love of mining with his love of his supervisor, Larry (Paul Giamatti). But when tragedy strikes and the pair are trapped in a cave-in, Cole must rally the community together and return to his coal-mining roots to free them from a sooty grave.
This December, you’ll learn that love burns brightly even in the darkest of places...