It’s weekend box office time: “Kick-Ass” will kick..nah, forget about it

Easily the most ‘net hyped movie of the year not based on a Marvel superhero or collection thereof comes out this weekend, and while a monster hit isn’t expected, there will be some very long faces at Lionsgate if the comic-book adaptation “Kick-Ass” doesn’t collect at least about $20 million. I think they’ll be okay.

Kick-Ass

Indeed, if I were to bet, I’d expect the film to exceed expectations, if not this weekend, then later on in the run as the word of mouth among younger filmgoers gets out. True, as Jolly Carl DiOrio points out, it’s R-rating is a bit of a deterrent to the younger teens who’d no doubt love to see it but will have to come up with some clever maneuvers to check out this ultra-violent action non-super-powered superhero comedy any time too soon.

Of course, there’s more than a hint of controversy around “Kick-Ass.” It raised some hackles on its earlier British release and while getting mostly solid reviews, did so again stateside with a somewhat surprising one-star review from Roger Ebert. He seemed genuinely saddened and not amused by the spectacle of ultra-violence being meted out by, and later visited upon, the character of Hit Girl played by young superstar to be Chloe Moretz. Kenneth Turan, who’s often in the running for the title of the nation’s second most respected/well-known critic, admitted to being just a touch disturbed, but liked it and even declared it a pop-culture phenom. The interesting part is that Tarantino-negative Turan, who cites “Kill Bill” in his review, was utterly horrified by the violence in that film (the piece, or pieces, he wrote about it seem to have disappeared off the ‘net), while Ebert was beyond thoroughly amused.

It’s tempting for me to engage in a long speculation about other movies they’ve reviewed — a long time ago Ebert was somewhat similarly moved to anger by the finale of “The Dirty Dozen” but, much more recently, he defended, in amused but guarded fashion, “The Devils Rejects.”  But all there really is to say that what disturbs us, or doesn’t, and whether it does so in a good or bad way, is a highly individual and idiosyncratic matter and it behooves all of us critical types to remember that. Anyhow, whatever controversy there is will no doubt only feed the beast and expectations are for it to go from anywhere between $20 to $30 milliion this weekend and almost certainly taking the top  spot.

Death at a FuneralThe other major new release this week is Sony’s “Death at the Funeral,” a Neil Labute-directed remake of an identically-titled Frank Oz-directed British comedy from just a couple of years back with a primarily, but not exclusively, African-American cast. (Or, as Carl DiOrio would put it, the cast “skews to urban demos.”) Since the African-Americans in question are Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, and Danny Glover while Dominican-American Zoe Saldana, white dude James Marsden and little person Peter Dinklage make for a bit of added diversity, this R-rated comedy should play well with a reasonably broad audience.

Jolly Carl says “a debut in the high-teen millions seems doable.” Still, with possible strong showings for holdovers like “Date Night” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” the box office results could be close on Sunday. While the reviews are not at all particularly good, the original did better with reviewers but didn’t exactly make critics do handstands.

In limited release, we have actually too many interesting small movies to mention this week including the amusingly titled “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead.” (Shame the trailer isn’t as amusing.) However, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” looks to be one of the bigger documentaries likely to come out for a while, while the social satire “The Joneses” with David Duchovny and Demi Moore is dividing critics in general, much as it divided our own David Medsker in particular. According to Box Office Mojo, it’s getting a relatively large first week for this kind of film with 192 screens.

The Joneses

  

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Whatever you don’t, don’t watch this while carving the turkey!

Now, embedding this particular video today might be in slightly poor taste…okay, it’s actually and definitely in deliriously bad taste…but if I’m going to post Eli Roth’s hysterically disturbing fake trailer for a thankfully non-existent seventies slasher flick called, “Thanksgiving,” what better day is there to post it? You’re probably not at work, but FYI, NSFW. Slasher violence, culinary gore, gratuitous grainy film stock, and gruesomely brief sex and nudity follows.

And here’s a brief but fun little promotional film covering the fake trailers shot for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” by Roth, Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead“), and Rob Zombie (“The Devil’s Rejects,”). Shame the damn thing didn’t make any money.

Mr. Roth and I are of similar ethnic/religious background and, though I’d probably be too squeamish to see an actual Eli Roth horror film based on the holiday that kicks off the Days of Atonement  — and I’d definitely be too chicken to cross the ADL picket lines that would be set up in front of every movie theater and video store that dared to feature it — but I love his idea for a Rosh Hoshannah-based slasher flick. I even have a tag line ready: “May you be inscribed in the book  of…death!” All I need to do know is to figure out the Yiddish for “bwa-ha-ha-ha” and I think we’re halfway to another trailer.

  

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3-D “Final Destination” wins horror franchise battle

The Final Destination

Apparently the lure of bizarre deaths in 3-D was somewhat stronger than more traditional forms of slaughter this weekend. “The Final Destination” won the violent, R-dominated movie derby this weekend and died its way to an estimated $28.3 million for New Line. So says THR/Reuters and Nikki Finke, with Ms. Finke mentioning those 3-D ticket prices as its main advantage against  The Weinstein Company’s latest return to the Michael Myers well, “Halloween 2.” The slasher flick came in at the #3 spot with an estimate of $17.4 million, which actually could have been a lot worse. Judging by the post-release reviews that are trickling in at Rotten Tomatoes, the good will Zombie earned from gore-friendly horror fans on “The Devil’s Rejects” seems to have largely dissipated with this entry. Moreover, Finke’s post and comments are full of remarks on the oddness of facing off two scare-franchises on the same weekend when many students start returning to school. And there’s also the matter of the Weinsteins competing against themselves.

Melanie Laurent
And that brings us to “Inglourious Basterds,” which held well at $20 million on its second weekend, dipping a better-than-average 47% according to Pamela McClintock of Variety, which will no doubt be assuaging whatever disappointment Harvey Weinstein may feel re: “Halloween 2.”  The performance of “Basterds” is pretty magnificent considering last week La Finke and her sources were talking about a huge 70% drop because of the perhaps overestimated returning-to-college factor and, I’m guessing, their prejudice that “Inglourious Basterds” simply can’t possibly be an ongoing moneymaker in the U.S. market.

I caught up with “Basterds” yesterday. I guess it’s no surprise that a Tarantino-positive cinegeek with a heavy retro tendency like myself would hugely enjoy this borderline surrealist World War II opus.  However, it really was something to be in the presence of a very mainstream, semi-surburban cineplex audience rapt with attention during long stretches of subtitled dialogue in a film full of the kind of homages and film references that are supposed to ruin a movie’s chances. Proving, I suppose, the power of stories and characterization to overcome an audience’s prejudices, if not the cynical preconceptions of those inside the Hollywood bubble. Of course, it’s just easier to blow things up to please a young and male audience, and Tarantino does that, too. So there’s your formula. The other well-reviewed violent genre actioner, “District 9,” held on as well in its fourth week with an estimated $10.7 million.

Taking Woodstock Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock” was pretty much a bust. It did even less well than I guessed Friday and made only an approximate $3.7 million, though in fewer theaters than the other major releases. To echo myself, fare aimed at older audiences needs favorable reviews and/or buzz to really succeed, and the mild reaction to this fact-based comedy apparently wasn’t cutting it. Even so, this film probably should have started out with an arthouse release.

Speaking of the arthouse circuit, as often happens specialty fare hosted the biggest per screen averages of the week. The documentary “The September Issue” featuring Vogue editor Anna Wintour did smashing business in its first weekend in six New York theaters, with some $40,000 per screen according to Box Office Mojo. Presumably every fashionista in the area turned up to see what I guess might be marketed as the real life version of “The Devil Wears Prada.” Not quite as great, but still at least as strong as a stocky sports geek’s headbutt, was the Bullz-Eye/PH approved “Big Fan,” which did a healthy $13,000 on each of its two coastal screens this weekend.

Patton Oswalt and Kevin Corrigan in

  

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