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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“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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