And by “bad” I might actually mean “good” for at least one, perhaps two, of the four new major releases coming this first weekend of the traditional movie fall season.
First off, jolly Carl DiOrio of THR is bullish as he anticipates about $20 million for the latest from Tyler Perry, the hyphenate auteur whose major appeal to African-American audiences, and major lack of appeal to critics, has been proven several times. His latest film version of one of his hit plays, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” is not being screened for the nasty folks of the press. The latest appearance of Madea, Perry’s chunky female alter-ego, is nevertheless thought to be attracting interest with his usual blend of melodrama, broad comedy, and music. (Having both Mary J. Blige and the great Gladys Knight in the cast won’t hurt this one.)
For cinephiliacs and geeks, the most interesting release this week by far is the computer animated dystopian science-fiction fable, “9” — which is not to be confused with the upcoming musical stage adaptation, “Nine.” This may seem a bit odd, but it gets downright weird. I just did little searching on IMDb and found two other films named “9” (not counting director Shane Acker’s original short subject). I also found a total of six films entitled “Nine,” including the upcoming musical version of Felini’ s “8 1/2” starring Danel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard and directed by Rob Marshall. That makes six films named “Nine” and three films named “9” which, of course, comes to nine films called “9” or “Nine.” That either means the apocalypse is nigh this November 25 when the musical “Nine” comes out or, the moment of its release, I should go to Vegas, head straight for the crap tables, and bet everything on hitting 9. How can I lose?
As for Shane Acker’s, “9,” though it’s been the beneficiary of some buzz, I personally wouldn’t bet everything on the dark tale finding a huge foothold with audiences. With a PG-13 rating, a vision clearly too scary for small children, and characters who a friend of mine — who really wanted to see it — likened to a jock strap, this film would be risky even if it was tremendous. However, David Medsker’s mixed review seems pretty much in line with the unspectacular 60% “Fresh” Rotten Tomatoes rating; the consensus being that this expansion of a short film is weak on story though strong on compelling visuals. “9” actually opened Wednesday and made about $3 million. Expectations are fairly high, with DiOrio suggesting the film could reach $15 million, even though the theater count is a relatively modest 1650+.
“9,” by the way, is presented by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, director of “Wanted” and “Nightwatch.” (Both guys who’ve been guilty of the “strong visuals/weak story” thing more than once.) The really good news is that the film was apparently made for a low enough budget that Focus Features is telling everyone who’ll listen they’ll be happy with anything over $5 million, though perhaps they protest too much.
The movie with the highest theater count this week is the thriller “Whiteout.” Though to me its title suggests a salute to Liquid Paper, this latest Kate Beckinsale vehicle appears to be a horrorish sci-fi tale set in the frozen tundra along the lines of “The Thing.” However, apparently that’s not what this graphic novel adaptation is at all, and more than one critic is comparing it to an episode of “CSI: Alaska.” They think it’s a pretty awful episode. So far, the RT people have found found one good review out of 27. Shades of last week’s Sandra Bullock vehicle, “All About Steve.”
Also coming out is “Sorority Row,” which seems to be a sort of female/horror version of something like “Very Bad Things” combined with “I Know What You Did Last Summer” in which a very stupid prank gone very badly awry leads to very bloody revenge. The film is actually a remake of an eighties slasher pic, and has generated mixed reviews with some critics praising its sense of humor and saying it’s a respectable guilty pleasure. I’d call that a major critical triumph for a teen-aimed horror film these days. Expectations for this and “Whiteout” seem to be similar: high single digits to the low double digits. Heck, I’d say, Tyler Perry’s latest aside, this entire week is anyone’s guess. Danger lurks.
Update/Note: When I wrote this, very late last night, the RT Meter had “Sorority Row” at 56%. Apparently a number of mostly bad reviews have come in over night, so it’s currently at lower-than-mixed but not quite abysmal 33%.