“Shutter Island,” “Cop Out,” and “The Crazies” mine money from mayhem for an R-rated weekend

Pretty much everything happened this weekend the way it was supposed to. As discussed here late Thursday (or very early Friday if you’re on the East Coast), Martin Scorsese‘s cop-psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, “Shutter Island,” was expected to come in at the #1 spot after having a drop of something in the 50% range. Meanwhile, the new Kevin Smith-directed Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan buddy-cop comedy, “Cop Out,” and the quasi-zombie horror remake, “The Crazies,” were supposed to fight it out for the #2 spot and do reasonably well. That’s precisely what happened.

As per the filmic bean coutners of Box Office Mojo,  “Shutter Island” suffered only a lower-than-usual 45.9% drop. It therefore stayed on-top with a healthy estimated $22.2 million for Paramount, which won’t hurt the Scorsese/DiCaprio brand any.

Tracey Morgan and Bruce Willis I thought “Cop Out” was, at heart, a moderately lousy movie but also had to admit to almost kind of enjoying a lot of it. That was a rave compared to most critics. Still, as I suspected, the movie delivered the cop comedy goods just enough to keep audiences coming  and it netted Warners a perfectly acceptable estimated $18.5 million in the #2 spot for a modestly budgeted ($30 miillion) comedy.

“The Crazies,” which actually got its share of decent reviews, scored a solid estimate of $16.5 for the weekend for Overture. That’s actually a bit better than it sounds for the George A. Romero remake, because it was in nearly 500 fewer theaters than “Cop Out” and its per screen was average was nearly $700 higher than the comedy. Also, with stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell presumably asking less upfront than Morgan and Willis, it’s budget was $10 million cheaper.

The highest per screen average this week was, as usual, for a limited release film. Still, considering that it expanded this week from four to 43 theaters this weekend and managed a really good $20,233 per screen, Roman Polanski’s political thiller, “The Ghost Writer” did very well for itself.

As for poor little “Avatar” it made only a measly $14 million estimated this week in the #4 spot. But do not cry for the Na’vi, it’s still on top in the international box office sweepstakes. Nor should you shed tears for Hollywood overall. As Nikki Finke points out, revenue is up, even if attendance is just a tad down.

http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/reviews_2009/avatar.htm

  

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Weekend box office: “Cop Out” and “The Crazies” may duke it out for #2 (updated)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams in As far as I can tell and certainly the way THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio sees it, “Shutter Island” is likely to enjoy a second weekend atop the nation’s box office. Earning some $41.1 million last weekend, it would take a much bigger than average drop for it to be within range of the two new major films debuting this week, but then anything is possible.

And so it’s a showdown for the second spot between an R-rated violent horror remake and an R-rated and fairly violent if wacky homage, of sorts, to eighties buddy cop films. On his weekly video, DiOrio spectulates that either or both could make “mid teen millions or a little bit better.”

The first of these I saw myself last night. As you can see in my review of the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan vehicle directed — but not written — by Kevin Smith, “Cop Out“, I found the movie more bad than good. At the same time, I couldn’t deny that, as bad action comedies go, it was kind of fun. I have a feeling that audiences might be a bit less particular than me and since the movie delivers reasonably on laughs and moves along at a nice enough clip (Smith edited it himself), they may be more satisfied than not.  Still, my overall negative reaction puts me in line with the critical majority, with “Cop Out” netting a rather dismal 13% “fresh” reading on the Tomatometer, not that this kind of comedy has much to fear from critics.

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in

Interestingly enough for a horror remake, “The Crazies,” based on a relatively little seen personal favorite of zombie-master George A. Romero, is getting what are at least numerically better reviews on the Tomatometer than the original film. The new version, directed by Breck Eisner, previously something of a critical punching bag with “Saharaand “A Sound of Thunder,” is getting by far the best reviews of his career with a healthy 74% “fresh” rating. [UPDATE: I failed to double check this. Turns out long-time directorial hack Peter Hyams helmed the failed Ray Bradbury adaptation, so Breck Eisner doesn’t get the blame for that one since he was only an executive producer on the film. According to his IMDb page, Eisner was also a production assistant on “Tango & Cash” and I guess he shouldn’t get the blame for that, either.]

The original version only gets 60%, though a number like that can be misleading in that it doesn’t really measure a critic’s level of passion. Also, most of the top venues seem to have skipped reviewing it at all, so the results could be skewed here by reviews from horror-friendly venues. In any case, horror films are really not critically driven, but stronger-than-average reaction could still bring a few extra bodies into the theaters from folks who enjoyed Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s somewhat similarly-themed, critically praised disease/zombie hit, “28 Days Later.”

  

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The Scream Awards go down the rabbit hole (updated)

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There was a time in this world when young people were frequently slightly ashamed of being bigger than average fans of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and especially comic books. I, personally, wasn’t embarrassed …and I paid a price. Those days may be over. In any case, the capacity crowd that showed up for Spike TV’s Scream awards, largely in costume and largely dramatically over- or under-dressed for a nighttime outdoor show after a very warm day, seemed more like club kids and less like the kind of uber geeks who become entertainment bloggers and film critics and stuff like that.

The Scream Awards are, in their fun/silly way, a big deal. Big enough to attract a good number of stars and even a few superstars like Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp and his living legend “Pirates of the Caribbean” muse, Rolling Stone Keith Richard.

I, however, am not such a big deal and was reminded of that fact when, prior to the show I found myself with the less fashionable members of the not-quite paparazzi on the “red carpet” (actually a checkered walkway) with my little digital camera and even smaller digital recorder device, wondering whether I’d really get a chance to ask a question of one of the super-famed folks, knowing that the only question I could think of at the time would be something in the nature of “What’s it like be the most notorious rock and roll star in the world, having your blood changed, and snorting your late father’s ashes?” That probably would have been inappropriate, especially if I asked it of Jessica Alba.

What actually seems to happen at events like this is that, if you’re a small-timer especially, most of the big stars either go through another entrance or walk right by you at warp speed. Meanwhile, folks who are a bit more anxious to meet the press find their way to you with the help of PR types. As an example, for about half a second, I was almost able to talk with actor Karl Urban, who did such a great job homaging DeForest Kelly while putting his own hilarious stamp on “Bones” McCoy in “Star Trek.” However, within a nanosecond he remembered he was in a big hurry and politely scurried off.

After a few odd reality show people I didn’t recognize, and the pretty young actress who assays the part of “Female Addict” in “Saw VI,” our first actual notable was statuesque model turned actress Tricia Helfer. Helfer is, make no mistake, a true superstar to TV sci-fi fans and is best known as Number Six, aka “the hot blonde cylon” on “Battlestar Galactica.” The actress appeared with her significant other, the owner of a British accent and a Giaus Baltar-style beard, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence. I had a not terribly consequential discussion with her — lost because I apparently forgot to press the “on” button on my digital recorder. One would expect no less an effect from Number Six. UPDATE: Yeesh! As pointed out by my PH compatriot John Paulsen, the actress was actually Kate Vernon, who played the lady-MacBeth-like Ellen Tigh. It is true, all statueseque blonde women in shiny dresses look alike to me! My apologies to all concerned or unconcerned.

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Day of the Dead

First Look Studios is one crafty little company. Attempting to piggyback on the success of Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead,” the indie label greenlit a remake of George A. Romero’s third zombie flick, “Day of the Dead,” and even went so far as to cast Ving Rhames in a supporting role. It was all done in the hope that fans would believe the film was a follow-up to the 2004 remake of “Dawn,” and since it’s a pretty shady move on their part, I have no problem spoiling the fact that Rhames (playing a completely different character) dies within the first 20 minutes. The rest of the film is spent following a group of soldiers (led by Mena Suvari and Nick Cannon) around a small Colorado town trying to escape a virus outbreak that has turned certain people into flesh-eating zombies. Passed around like a bad cold, the new virus angle may sound like an interesting twist to a familiar tale, but it’s actually much worse. Somehow, this outbreak is only affecting one city, and though some victims turn into zombies after being bitten, others don’t. WTF? As for the zombies themselves, director Steve Miner has decided to stick with the newer, faster versions, but in order to produce their superhuman speed, he resorts to amateurish tricks like speeding up the tape. It’s all pretty lame stuff, and though an action sequence midway through offers gory headshots aplenty, it’s the only shining moment in a poorly made cash grab more than deserving of the direct-to-video treatment.

Click to buy “Day of the Dead”

  

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