Weekend box office: “The Expendables” hold their ground, otherwise things pretty much “Suck”

Sylvester Stallone in I guess all Americans should all be grateful to the very patriotic Sylvester Stallone and company for “The Expendables” for being #1 at the U.S. box office, even with a not-terribly leggy performance of $16.5 million in week 2, a 53% drop. That’s because him and his studly posse turned out to be only standing between us and the spectacle of “Vampires Suck” being the #1 movie in the U.S. of A.

Yes, I know I never have, and probably never will, see more than a minute or two of the parody. However, a very tiny minority of films and filmmakers are so bad and so devoid of even the minimum level of dramatic/comedic acumen that a minute or two is really all you need to see and, from its titles to its sub-idiot-mentality trailer, this is one of those rare films, unless my cine-spider senses totally have failed me.

Yet, the PG-13 “Twilight Saga” spoof, so rated because, if you’re over 13, you should be too old to find anything in its trailer remotely funny, did far better than it surely deserved. It seems the Twi-hards really wanted a spoof movie to call their own, so many went and the film earned an estimated $12.2 million, just barely edging out the roughly $12 million second weekend of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Somebody really blew an opportunity a few years back to rush a quickie adaptation of the Harvard Lampoon’s legendary “Bored of the Rings.”

Overall, this  weekend should be familiar to we Democrats in that it was a real circular firing squad, with too many new movies competing for attention and, I suspect, sort of canceling each other out. Nobody really did that well though some did better than you might assume.

The so-called “urban demos” appeared to turn out for the comedy “Lottery Ticket” which netted an estimated $11.1 million. Not at all bad considering it’s thrifty $17 million budget.

Lottery Ticket

As for nerd male demos, “Piranha 3D” fell squarely into an amount I’m going to just go ahead and name the “geek zone” with an estimated $10 million despite the boost from 3D ticket prices. Despite lots of gore, I’m guessing the movie just didn’t seem scary enough for today’s trauma-loving hardcore horror fans and naked breasts are available in many venues these days. Even so, since that movie cost $24 million, extremely modest especially considering the amount of effects involved, I wouldn’t rule out an even lower budget “Piranha 4D” or something. That might have been a disappointing number, nevertheless, but it still managed to beat two films some analysts apparently expected to do significantly better, the family comedy “Nanny McPhee Returns” and the relationship comedy, “The Switch.”

I’m running short on time this week and there’s a lot more interesting stuff going on. So, I’ll simply refer you the source for my numbers this and most weeks, the mighty Box Office Mojo weekly chart. Also, on the arthouse side, there was good news for the outstanding documentary “The Tillman Story” and liked-by-everyone-but-me folk tale “Get Low,” among many other interesting tidbits. For that, as always, I refer you to Indiewire’s detailed coverage.

  

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Weekend box office: In which we separate the men from the boys, and women from both

The Expendables

If we are to believe the prognosticators this weekend, testosterone will rule in a weekend which could turn out to be the most exciting movie three-way showdown since the climax of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” The impression is that it really does threaten to send the genders, and possibly even the generations, on their separate ways at the nation’s multiplexes.

Of course, when I speak movies of aimed at us penile-Americans, I speak of the R-rated mega-macho ultraviolent action fest, “The Expendables.” The ensemble-action flick is directed, cowritten and co-starring Sylvester Stallone and features Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, and assorted other manly men who are masculine males in supporting roles and cameos.

Cinema prognosticators Ben Fritz and good old jolly Carl DiOrio seem to think this movie will easily take the top spot for Lionsgate to the tune of about $30-35 million with its appeal to males of all ages. Critics, for the most part, aren’t overly impressed, though a sizeable enough minority are treating the film as a campy, action-packed good time. For me, Stallone’s career peaked 35 years ago with his hilarious performance in “Death Race 2000” — “Rocky” has never done much for me and “Rambo: First Blood 2” did even less — but I still might be checking this one out at some point. I do have an affection for the ensemble action film genre. If you do as well, you might want to check out the salute to the sturdy sub-genre posted over at the Bullz-Eye blog.

Julia RobertsFor the more femininely chromosomed, this week’s big draw is supposed to be “Eat Pray Love” from director Ryan Murphy, best known as the creator of TV’s “Glee” and “Nip/Tuck,” and starring an actress you may remember named Julia Roberts. It’s an adaptation of a memoir about a divorced woman going on a worldwide physical and spiritual “journey of self-realization.”  I don’t know about you but when I hear “self-realization” and especially “journey of self-realization” I check out completely. I don’t think that’ s just because I’m male.

While I haven’t seen a single episode of Murphy’s shows, I gather he is associated with a certain degree of offbeat innovation and has clearly touched a nerve on two on the small screen. That doesn’t seem to have translated into much interest from film critics, however, who are mostly kind of unimpressed. Rated PG-13, “Eat Pray Love” does seem to be doing a bit better critically than his poorly received prior adaptation of a hit memoir, “Running with Scissors.” Jolly Carl expects to film to hit the #2 spot with an amount somewhere over $20 million.

And then comes what I hope may be this weekend’s wild card. The consensus seems to be that, despite a torrent of Internet publicity and huge geek buzz, Edgar Wright’s comic book adaptation, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” will be lucky to get much over $15 million which, for a movie costing about $65 million, isn’t great. Though reviews initially looked as they might be “middling,” they are actually shaping up as rather excellent for a film that risks alienating a certain percentage of its audience with its blatantly video-game derived comic book/manga aesthetic. The consensus being that, as with the highly entertaining “Kick-Ass” before it, geek awareness and mass audience acceptance just are not the same thing and it’s entirely likely this will come in the #4 spot behind last week’s #1 film, “The Other Guys.”

I’m sure there’s a good chance this will happen. However,  “Scott Pilgrim” seems to me to be a film that, at least over the long haul, has a potentially much wider audience than some other films because of it’s unusual combination of relationship-driven and action-comedy. The fact that, as a young skewing film, it’s PG-13 but also relatively racy in its advertisements might not hurt either. Not to be put in the position of defending a film I haven’t seen and pre-release online mini-backlash notwithstanding,  there is one thing I feel sure about. In a few years, the new movie from this weekend that people will still be talking about is “Pilgrim.”

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Actually, that’s perhaps not entirely true because there’s also a very interesting new film debuting in very limited release, and this one I did see a couple of months at the L.A. Film Festival. “Animal Kingdom” is an imperfect but highly assured debut from Australian first-time writer-director David Michôd. Though a bit overly dour and slack in the middle, to the point where it very nearly lost me, it’s one of the best crime films I’ve seen in a while with a real doozy of a last act. It’s opening on just small four screens but with a couple of brilliant bad-guy-and-gal performances, this is one I think you’ll be hearing about later on.

  

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I’ve joked about “gender wars” at the box office, but this is ridiculous.

This is, of course, a highly unofficial trailer via /Film’s Russ Fischer for ‘The Expendables.” And I’m pretty sure guerrilla editor Garrison Dean is kidding.

(He also did some funny — if you’re a Firefly fan — eighties style fake openings for the canceled but never quite dead Joss Whedon series.)

Anyhow, for the sake of equal time, here’s the “Eat, Pray, Love” trailer.

  

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