Box Office Preview: Spidey like it’s 2002

The Amazing Spider-Man

Everything I’ve heard, read, and seen regarding “The Amazing Spider-Man” indicates that it’s a good, or even great movie. Or, rather, that it would be such if (more or less) the exact same film hadn’t come out just a decade ago. The idea here seems to be that Sony needed to relaunch the franchise to keep the rights to the character from reverting back to Marvel, and that kids young enough not to remember 2002 still love Spider-Man. In spite of all that, the reboot, directed by Marc Webb (of “(500) Days of Summer” fame), has been certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and set a new record for highest Tuesday gross on the day it was released.

I’m not going to tell you not to see “The Amazing Spider-Man,” because the latter fact seems to indicate that you’re going to anyway and the former that it might even be worth seeing. But before you inevitably find yourself in your theater seat, don’t think I was just being cynical when I warned you that this was the exact same movie.

Seriously, there are way more similarities here then there are differences, and the differences really aren’t all that significant. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is a tad less geeky than Tobey Maguire’s. Imagine that. The female lead isn’t Mary Jane Watson, it’s that other one, Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. The “Spider-Man” is evil cause is championed by Gwen’s dad, police captain George Stacy (Denis Leary), rather than J. Jonah Jameson. And right before you point out that the villain is different, think again. The real bad guy here, as in Sam Raimi’s version, is OsCorp. As Bullz-eye’s Jason Zingale put it:

Peter gets bitten by a genetically-altered spider and develops superhuman strength (among other things); Uncle Ben is killed by a petty thief; Peter goes seeking revenge in the guise of a costumed vigilante; and, well, you know the rest. The first hour plays out pretty similar to Raimi’s movie, and though there are some nice changes along the way (like the return of Spider-Man’s web-shooters and the “power and responsibility” speech), it’s hard not to feel a sense of déjà vu in the repetitiveness of it all. Granted, it’s completely necessary to re-tell the origin story because of how it ties into the new characters, but it probably didn’t need to be as drawn out as it is here.

Savages

With competition from Spidey and the July 20 release of “The Dark Knight Rises,” very few big name movies, or movies with big names, are seeing release this month. “Savages” is one of just a few exceptions. Oliver Stone directs and Aaron Johnson (“Kick-Ass“) stars as one of two friends running a lucrative homegrown marijuana business in Southern California. Conflict ensues when they share a love interest (Blake Lively)… and also when a Mexican cartel headed by Elena (Selma Hayek) and Lado (Benico Del Toro) shows up and demands a partnership. A war of sorts breaks out between the cartel and the trio, with the help of a DEA agent played by John Travolta.  Those are some pretty big names, right?

Anyway, Rotten Tomatoes calls “Savages” “undeniably messy,” but also says it “finds Oliver Stone returning to dark, fearlessly lurid form.” Currently at a 60 percent on the Tomatometer, “Savages” has gotten extremely mixed reviews. I don’t think it’ll be all that good, but it’s got some recognizable faces and isn’t “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The latter attribute seems like the film’s primary draw and hints at its target demographic: people who want to see something besides “Spider-Man” this weekend.

  

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Weekend boxoffice: Ben Affleck steals the weekend, but “Easy A” hangs onto to its virtue

A surprise this week. A film that seemed to skew towards an older and more male audience actually grabbed more box office lucre than a high-concept comedy aimed largely — albeit on a weekend where no one made anything close to a cinematic mint.

Ben Affleck and Rebecca Miller in

He might look down in the pic above, but Ben Affleck — whose taken his share of sometimes deserved and sometimes not so deserved lumps as an actor over the years — has something to celebrate today. To be specific, the cowriter-director-star’s heist drama, “The Town,” swiped an estimated $23.8 million for Warner Brothers according to Box Office Mojo’s weekend chart. I’m guessing that the film got a boost from pent up demand for a the kind of plot-centric thriller we adult males seem to crave, as well as the budding  potential superstar presences of Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, and Blake Lively, not to mention female lead Rebecca Miller. Since older people usually pay a bit more attention to critics, it’s actually possible that the unusually good reviews helped here.

If Cinemascore means anything — and I’m not all that sure that it means all that much — “The Town” might have also gotten a boost from word of mouth, since Anne Thompson tell us it got a better than average B+ all around. Thompson also quotes Warner’s distribution chief Dan Fellman, saying that the studio is looking ahead to award season for the thriller. Moreover, Fellman also reminds us that the film is the largest September opening in Warner’s history (that is to say, September kind of sucks for box office). Though it’s not the kind of movie that usually wins Oscars, the loosened up Best Picture category certainly helps a well-reviewed and reasonably popular film’s chances.

Emma Stone in The PG-13 not-having-sex high school comedy with promising youngster Emma Stone,Easy A,” which was supposed to be #1 as of Thursday night, didn’t quite get there. However, seeing as its budget is reportedly $31 million less than the actually rather modestly budgeted “The Town,” it is by far the most profitable film of this frame with  respectable estimated receipts of $18.2  and an extremely respectable $8 million budget. It’s another fiscal win for Sony/Screen Gems, which has been on a sort of hot streak of late.

The M. Night Shymalan-produced “Devil” took the hindmost of the top 3 with a less than spectacular $12.58 million for Universal, which by now is used to disappointments. Though not directed by Shymalan, the PG-13 film was promoted as if it was and Uni and the man they call “Night” may finally be paying the price for all the almost universally disliked but oddly successful films that bore the once hugely promising filmmaker’s name. Anne Thompson wonders if the two other scheduled films drawn from stories by Shymalan to be directed by up-and-comers on low budgets, “The Night Chronicles,” will happen now. Mr. S., I grew up watching Rod Serling productions, I know Rod Serling’s work. You’re no Rod Serling.

The weekend’s other new release proved that audiences can spot a cheaply made 3D animated family film rather easily for something that is likely a far, far cry from Pixar or Dreamworks Animation. “Alpha and Omega” came in below the predictably sinking-like-a-stone-in-week #2 “Resident Evil: Afterlife” with an anemic $9.2 million.

A number of new films came out in limited release this week. The most impressive per-screen average of the week was $30,000 for the Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation, “Never Let Me Go.” The British science-fiction romantic drama earned $120,000 on four screens for Fox Searchlight, though it’s muted reviews may dim its Oscar hopes, which is really the only root to major success for a film like this at present. The highly buzzed, probable documentary (there are doubters, though everyone agrees it’s no “I’m Still Here“), “Catfish,” may have better Oscar hopes if it reassures the Academy that it really and truly is a documentary. It did well this weekend for Rogue with a $255,000 in only 12 theaters.

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Weekend trailer: “The Town”

As a director, Ben Affleck is following up his critical success on “Gone Baby Gone” with another crime thriller adaptation set in Boston., Based on Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, “The Town” appears to be one of those cops-and-robbers tales where the both sides get equal time and a woman is in between them. This time, Affleck is the main robber, Don Draper Jon Hamm is the cop (G-man, actually), and Rebecca  Hall (“Vicky Christina Barcelona,” “Please Give“) is the woman who is, naturally, caught between them. Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively are also about.

My thoughts — this appears to have a good cast, but I wonder if director Affleck should have had second thoughts about casting himself and not his, say, his brother or, really, anyone else. True, in my view he’s gotten perhaps a little too much crap for his acting over the years. He’s been very good in a number of supporting roles. He also has been pretty darn weak in some crucial leading roles. We’ll see. Also, I didn’t love Affleck’s earlier cops-and-criminals drama quite as much as most critics, so we’ll see about this one.

H/t Rope of Silicon.

  

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