Its looks like the dudes beat the chicks this as the stars of Lionsgate’s “The Expendables” told their audience to stop being girlie men and head to theatres this weekend, while Julia Roberts may have the last laugh with “Eat Pray Love” and “Scott Pilgrim” searches for a dance partner.
Friday the 13th brought good luck to Lionsgate’s “The Expendables” as it earned an action-worthy $34.8 million weekend gross. This seems to be a magic weekend for genre movies as evidenced by last year’s same weekend $37.3 million debut of “District 9.” Directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone, the film challenged the notion that star power doesn’t matter anymore and to prove the point threw about a million action stars into its R-rated mix. With the watering down in recent years of movies for guys to a more “audience friendly” PG-13 sensibility, it’s great to see some good old-fashioned R-rated cringe-inducing violence and mayhem. It did not hurt that Stallone enlisted a veritable who’s who of the action world including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Steve Austin. This testosterone-fest flexed its considerable muscle, sent all the girlie men packing and easily dispatched all comers in this weekend’s box office battle of the sexes. Even Julia Roberts' big brother Eric Roberts joins the proceedings - see my story on Julia Roberts vs. Eric Roberts at the box office.
“Eat Pray Love,” three words you will most certainly not hear used in a sentence in “The Expendables,” took the number two spot. Not to be upstaged by her decidedly macho competition, Julia Roberts may have the last laugh in the long run with the potential for strong word-of-mouth and a possible Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for co-star Richard Jenkins. $23.1 million for the weekend (and only a 4% drop Friday to Saturday) shows that women are still a box office force to be reckoned with as they lined up to follow this romantic journey of enlightenment with one of the biggest female stars in the world.
The third spot belongs to last weekend’s number one film as Sony’s “The Other Guys” drops 51% and earns another $17.4 million thus bringing its cume to $69.9 million in domestic revenue. Starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, the film was number one Friday through Thursday of last week and has enjoyed terrific reviews and strong audience reaction. In a twisted way, director Adam McKay is to Will Ferrell what Martin Scorsese is to Leonardo DiCaprio with McKay having also directed Farrell in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Step Brothers.”
Of course, Warner Bros.’ “Inception” would never dream of leaving the Top Five and continues to pose a major competitive threat as it marches toward the $300 million domestic mark. With another $11.3 million in the pillow case and only a 39% fifth weekend drop, the film has an impressive domestic total to date of $248.5 million.
Universal’s unique and visually stunning “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” starring Michael Cera debuted in fifth place with $10.6 million. In fewer theatres than the other newcomers the film faced a major challenge from the very male-oriented "Expendables," “The Other Guys” and even “Inception.” Too many dudes on this particular dance floor made it hard for “Pilgrim” to get noticed with so many “guy movies” in the marketplace. Still the film has gotten a positive response on the social networking platforms so that's a plus.
A major box office milestone this weekend as “Toy Story 3” became only the eleventh film in history to cross the $400 million mark in domestic revenue. Congrats to Disney/Pixar and the creative, marketing and distribution teams that perfectly put together the pieces that created this stunning box achievement. See related story - Toy Story 3 finally hits $400 million!
An “up” weekend (barely) vs. last year gives us solid momentum as we head into the home stretch of the summer movie season. Five wide releases (including the start of my Academy Awards campaign for “Piranha” in 3D) hit theatres next weekend as the final mad dash to the end of the summer begins.
The film begins with an unsatisfactory rendezvous between a prostitute (Vera Farmiga) and a brutish carpenter named Eddie (Domenick Lombardozzi) who is unable to perform. It then follows Eddie to the Manhattan apartment of Ellen (Jill Hennessy) a wealthy but neglected client who wants to sleep with him because she thinks her husband is cheating on her. Later that night Ellen tells her husband Robert (Malcolm Gets) "I want to sleep with other men." He answers "So do I." The story then switches its focus to Robert and the object of his desire an artist named Martin (Steve Buscemi). Martin rebukes Robert's advances at first but ultimately gives in. Then Martin becomes the pursuer when he makes advances on a beautiful art gallery receptionist Anna (Rosario Dawson) who eventually sleeps with him. She confesses the infidelity to her boyfriend (Adrian Grenier) who then turns to an older woman Joey (Carol Kane) for comfort until she frightens him off with her desperation. Alone Joey finds herself giving comfort in the form of phone sex to a suicidal Wall Street embezzler named Will (Michael Imperioli). Will then ends the night with the prostitute from the opening scene.
A film like this must be a dream scenario for actors--an ensemble piece that allows each player to be the main character for a short amount of screen time. With the possible exception of the unfortunately miscast Steve Buscemi who seems overly awkward in his love scenes with both sexes the diverse ensemble of actors assembled here are clearly up to the challenge. The nine principals are meant to represent a mixed bag of races ages classes and disciplines ranging from stage to television to independent film and the anecdotal structure gives each of them a chance to shine. Some shine a little brighter than others however. Dawson Grenier Kane and Imperioli in particular stand out in their respective roles during the latter half of the film. This is not to say that the rest are lacking. It's just that there is only so much that can be done with the material which is sluggish at times and laden with heavy dialogue that can be difficult to deliver believably. As a whole the talented cast does the best they can with what they are given.
When writer/director Peter Mattei set out to depict the vapid and money-obsessed world of the 1990's he looked to Arthur Schnitzler's classic stage play Reigen for stylistic inspiration. The play follows one character after another in a series of overlapping vignettes in which each character seeks out some sort of sexual conquest. Mattei emulates that structure in Love in the Time of Money but never manages to escape the play's theatrical roots. The film relies heavily on dialogue with little intriguing visual imagery that couldn't be done on stage. Although the digital video format is well suited to the material Mattei fails to take full advantage of the rich New York background favoring nondescript streets anonymous alleyways and common restaurants that could exist in any city. Another limitation of the multiplot design is the inability to get more than a cursory glance at any one of the nine characters. There is scarcely enough time in each story to introduce them let alone fully explore what makes them tick before the film moves on to the next person. All that is presented are the broad strokes of their desires and actions without any depth or background to give them context. It's a noble experiment but one that ultimately fails to be compelling.