“Shutter Island” hits big against soft competition

Leonardo DiCarprio in The latest from Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio performed even better than the experts seemed to expect this weekend. The horror-flavored thriller Dennis Lehane adaptation, “Shutter Island,” earned a very healthy estimated $40 million, about $10-15 million more than predicted. This will surprise some because the film was delayed from its original release date last year, which is usually considered not a very good sign. However, as Nikki Finke points out, it turns out to have been a very smart move by Paramount. To me, it’s pretty clear that the general artistic verdict on the film indicates that it wasn’t really Oscar material in any case, but the studio apparently saw the combination of well-known names that the audience trusts with the crime and horror genres could deliver some very nice bucks — if it debuted on a weekend with little in the way of fresh competition.

Taking a look at our handy-dandy Box Office Mojo chart, the competition really wasn’t very strong. Last week’s big winner, the critically drubbed “Valentine’s Day,” took a near nose dive and dropped by 69.5% apparently on word that it wasn’t very good and that V-day was last weekend. Still, $17.16 isn’t terrible box office for a second weekend.

Last weekend’s silver medalist, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” dropped by a more standard 51% percent, but $15.3 million was low enough to put into the fourth place spot. That’s just below, guess what, “Avatar,” still holding nicely with $16.1 million in its tenth week. Meanwhile, the cool-looking but apparently very creatively troubled “The Wolfman” dropped a pretty bad 68.7% in its second weekend to earn an unspectacular $9.8 million and change.

By far the biggest film this week in terms of per-screen average this week belonged to a thriller that is topical in more ways than one. “The Ghost Writer” deals with a writer working on a memoir by a former British Prime Minister accused of war crimes connected to torture, and it’s directed by Roman Polanski. That was controversy/notoriety enough for a solid $44,775 on its four screens. It will be adding a few more theaters next week.

theghostwriterpic6

<a href=”http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/reviews_2010/the_wolfman.htm” target=”_blank”><img class=”photo_right” src=”http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/review_images/2010/the_wolfman/the_wolfman_5.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Benecio del Toro in ” width=”218″ height=”138″ /></a>
  

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Can Marty and Leo take the weekend without women?

That’s the question being posed by The Hollywood Reporter‘s jolly Carl DiOrio as he predicts that the latest from the team of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will enjoy a $25-30 opening. The atmospheric Dennis Lehane adaptation, “Shutter Island” is apparently “tracking” best with older men — I’m definitely interested and by “older” I assume they mean “over 15” — and fairly well with younger men, but not so with female of the species.

Leo and friends in

DiOrio finds this surprising because of Leo’s tried and true girl appeal but it’s really not when you consider that the marketing suggests a sort of hard-boiled cop/horror combo with barely a female or any kind of love interest in site and what appears to be a lot of very male-style histrionics.  The trailer certainly emphasizes the male cast members with Michelle Williams and Patricia Clarkson making what amounts to cameo appearances.

As for the reviews, which for a movie like “Shutter Island” can really make a difference, they are okay but not too impressive when you consider that Scorsese is a long-time critical mega-favorite and easily one of the five or so most revered living directors still living. Our own Dave Medsker was notably disappointed in his mixed review and he’s certainly not alone, with only 61% of “top critics” digging “Shutter Island” according to Rotten Tomatoes. (He gets a somewhat better 67% with the critical hoi polloi.) Scorsese’s last attempt at a big time Hollywood thriller, the 1991 version of “Cape Fear,” is the only one of his film’s I’d personally dare call “bad” and I’m hoping I like this one at least a little better. On the other hand, that one made a relative mint for Marty Mr. Scorsese and his colleagues, so who cares if I like it or not?

What's-his-name and what's-her-name in As for this week’s possible #2 and #3, well, last week’s winner “Valentine’s Day” may be in there, but the question is will the critically dissed comedy have any legs now that it’s holiday is long past. Also, with a lack of competing family films, that “Percy Jackson” movie that I’m simply too lazy too type out a complete title for may do pretty well. And let’s not count out “Avatar” quite yet, either, if one of the other films takes a big dive.

Debuting in very limited release this week is what looks like a nifty little political thriller that’s getting solid reviews, “The Ghost Writer.” It stars Ewan MacGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and my and Max Fisher’s one-true-love, Olivia Williams. The director is Roman Polanski, so there’ll be another test of the “no such thing as bad publicity” dictum, I suppose.

  

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“Valentine’s Day” takes big V-Day/President’s Day weekend

Jennifer Garner smashes expectations in Somewhat exceeding the optimistic predictions I noted on Friday, Garry Marshall’s critically disliked all-star ensemble romantic comedy, “Valentine’s Day,” has earned an estimated $52.41 million for the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. According to Nikki Finke, it is also earning a very nice (and very estimated) $60 million for the WB studios over the not-yet-complete four day holiday period. According to THR/Reuters, the weekend as a whole came in ahead of last year’s President Day with $193 million, compared to $188 million in 2009. Not surprisingly consider, women were the driving force in the success of the Garry Marshall comedy.

Coming in completely on target, we have a photo-finish between the two genre-films duking it out for the #2 spot. The lengthily titled adaptation of a series of young-adult fantasy novels, “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” from Fox and director Chris Columbus, came in slightly ahead with an estimated $31.1 million. Meanwhile, Universal’s trouble-plagued, R-rated stab at reviving it’s grimly furry monster/horror franchise, “The Wolfman,” earned roughly $30.6 million according to estimates.

Benecio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins realize it's a dog-eat-man world

As for the #4 spot, yes, it’s one more strong performance for Fox’s “Avatar.” The film dropped a minuscule 3.7% percent from last week to earn a very solid $22 million in its 9th week. Conversely, Sony’s sentimental wartime love story, “Dear John,” dropped like a relative stone, 49.8% to be exact, and came in with a less exciting $15.3 million to take fifth place in its second week. Still, with a budget of only $25 million and not $120 gazillion or whatever it was that “Avatar” cost, it’s not a terrible performance.

The #1 this week in terms of per-screen averages was “My Name is Khan,” a topical Bollywood drama being released by Fox Searchlight. It scored $15,500 per screen for an estimated $1.8 million. Another win for the growing U.S. popularity of Indian pop-cinema.

  

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Hearts and flowers to lead double-holiday weekend?

He’s been wrong very recently, but that’s what jolly Carl DiOrio confidently predicts over at The Hollywood Reporter.  A fiscally very big weekend at the movies is expected overall because we have three new high profile, high-concept films debuting in over 3,000 theaters each according to Box Office Mojo. Moreover, it’s all happening over a President’s Day weekend which also includes Valentine’s Day on Sunday.

Julia Roberts and some guy in

Everyone’s going to either try to get closer to their special someone, forget that they don’t have a special someone, or perhaps try to forget that they have to pretend like they’re want to get closer to that special someone when they really would rather be in a far away foreign land of fantasy. Movies aren’t a bad prescription in any of those cases.

Garry Marshall’s multi-stor, all-star rom-com, Valentine’s Day,” is the worst reviewed of the three critically unloved films coming out this weekend, but since when does something like a seriously lacking 14% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes stop filmgoers bent on lightly sentimental entertainment? With Julia Roberts on board and Garry Marshall’s brand of uber-schmaltz on offer, a lot of mostly female folks will be interested and their partners better be alongside them. DiOrio is expecting as much as $45 million for Warner Brothers for this one. “Avatar” shchmavatar, I guess.

Director Chris Columbus is, if anything, even less of a critical darling than Garry Marshall. (He’s absolutely no darling of this critic, I can tell you that.) Still, the latest entry in the “Precious: Based on the Noel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” ungainly title sweepstakes is Columbus and Fox’s version of “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” It may look like a teen-Harry Potter knock-off to the uninterested observer, but critics are being a bit less harsh on this entry, allowing it a mixed 48% “Fresh” rating, It’s worth noting that that the Greek mythological background might make things a bit easier for English teachers the world over. DiOrio is expecting something over $30 million. Sure, I guess.

Expected to come in at the #3 spot or thereabouts is the monstrous semi-remake of “The Wolfman,” with Benecio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins stepping in for Lon Chaney, Jr. and Claude Reins in a much bloodier and more elaborate period tale. Del Toro may be the best actor to play the part so far. Still, many critics, including our own Will Harris, are only about 31% impressed with either his acting this time around or the movie as a whole.

http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/review_images/2010/the_wolfman/the_wolfman_5.jpgKind words mostly seem to be mostly reserved for the striking atmospherics from director Joe Johnston’s effects team including make-up genius Rick Baker, which have been getting us fanboys so riled about this long-delayed production for low these many moons. Horror and monster lovers (in a platonic way, I mean) haven’t hard much to work with lately, so that sounds about right to me. I guess.

  

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And in other movieland news….

* MGM is looking more solvent than before, with the help of its significant library. La Finke toldja.

* Willem Dafoe has been cast as sympathetic Martian Tars Tarkas in Andrew Stanton’s upcoming “John Carter of Mars.” It’s been a very long time since I read the books, but the character description reminds me of his “Platoon” character, just a little.

* Where does an actor for whom the ladies swoon go in the masculinity department after playing the hirsuite badass Wolverine and the heroic Gable-esque lead in “Australia“? Well, if you’re movie star/Oscar host Hugh Jackman, you play an Avon cosmetics sales person. I had an aunt who did that; I got aftershave for my tenth birthday.

* After the news of Harry Potter’s big haul (see the post just below), we’ll be seeing more like this, I’m sure.

* Not coincidentally, the blogger-boy cause celebre del dia boils down to a Hogwartsian architectural design and a suspiciously Potter-esque font, and basic concept, in the trailer for something called “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” My reaction: Chris Columbus is directing, so I’m not sure why anyone even cares. See for yourself…

  

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