Box office can be bad all by itself (updated)

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And by “bad” I might actually mean “good” for at least one, perhaps two, of the four new major releases coming this first weekend of the traditional movie fall season.

First off, jolly Carl DiOrio of THR is bullish as he anticipates about $20 million for the latest from Tyler Perry, the hyphenate auteur whose major appeal to African-American audiences, and major lack of appeal to critics, has been proven several times. His latest film version of one of his hit plays, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” is not being screened for the nasty folks of the press. The latest appearance of Madea, Perry’s chunky female alter-ego, is nevertheless thought to be attracting interest with his usual blend of melodrama, broad comedy, and music. (Having both Mary J. Blige and the great Gladys Knight in the cast won’t hurt this one.)

For cinephiliacs and geeks, the most interesting release this week by far is the computer animated dystopian science-fiction fable, “9” — which is not to be confused with the upcoming musical stage adaptation, “Nine.” This may seem a bit odd, but it gets downright weird. I just did little searching on IMDb and found two other films named “9” (not counting director Shane Acker’s original short subject). I also found a total of six films entitled “Nine,” including the upcoming musical version of Felini’ s “8 1/2” starring Danel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard and directed by Rob Marshall. That makes six films named “Nine” and three films named “9” which, of course, comes to nine films called “9” or “Nine.” That either means the apocalypse is nigh this November 25 when the musical “Nine” comes out or, the moment of its release, I should go to Vegas, head straight for the crap tables, and bet everything on hitting 9. How can I lose?

Nine
As for Shane Acker’s, “9,” though it’s been the beneficiary of some buzz, I personally wouldn’t bet everything on the dark tale finding a huge foothold with audiences. With a PG-13 rating, a vision clearly too scary for small children, and characters who a friend of mine — who really wanted to see it — likened to a jock strap, this film would be risky even if it was tremendous. However, David Medsker’s mixed review seems pretty much in line with the unspectacular 60% “Fresh” Rotten Tomatoes rating; the consensus being that this expansion of a short film is weak on story though strong on compelling visuals. “9” actually opened Wednesday and made about $3 million. Expectations are fairly high, with DiOrio suggesting the film could reach $15 million, even though the theater count is a relatively modest 1650+.

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Box Office Preview of the “Lost” Weekend

So, there I was, thinking about what I was going to post tomorrow when it suddenly occurred to me: it’s not Wednesday, it’s Thursday, which means you’re reading this on Friday morning and, damnit, you need your box office preview.

This weekend sees the release of passel of comedies and comedy dramas, and the smart money at both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter agrees that “Up,” which is just about ready to receive the first Nobel Prize for animation and become the basis for a new religion, will likely defeat both of the newcomers. It gets more intriguing become it’s not impossible that the film starring a bonafide comedy superstar could come in at the #3 spot.

I speak, of course, of “Land of the Lost” starring Will Ferrell, which our own Will Harris gave a mere 1.5 stars to on the grounds of being unfunny and raunchily disconnected from it’s own youngster appeal. Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a sad 20% “Fresh” rating (even if Roger Ebert wrote another of his very, very many utterly winning defenses of films I would never spend my own money to see). I’m sure the elaborate comedy will do a certain amount of business based on Ferrell’s appeal and its special effects, but unless audiences like this one vastly more than critics, there may be long faces at Universal on Monday. At least it’s gotten the original TV series reissued, much to the delight of my fellow PH-er, Ross Ruediger.

Ed Helms and a feathered friendOn the other hand, the megastar-free “The Hangover,” which sort of sounds like a retread of the premise of “Very Bad Things,” is apparently a vastly more upbeat affair. My film review overseer, Jason Zingale, gave it a solid 3.5 stars and in general it is being received as a very good thing by RT critics, and may well do very good things for the careers of its up-and-coming cast. An upset at the #2 spot is not impossible.

Other than that, we have a new romantic comedy vehicle from Nia Vardolos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”), “My Life in Ruins.” Despite being written by the very talented comedy writer, Mike Reiss, this film keeps alive director Donald Petrie’s career long record of never making a single well reviewed featured, receiving a truly dismal 7% at RT. I wouldn’t expect another sleeper from this one. Bullz-Eye’s Dave Medsker gave it 2.5 stars, definitely more in sorrow than in anger.

That’s pretty much it, but in very limited release is a new film from Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”, “Road to Perdition”) and literary power couple Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, which we’ll talk about when it’s in more than four theaters. Also, speaking of director’s named “Sam,” please consider giving Mr. Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” a chance this weekend. It’s that or the only horror films the studios will be greenlighting will be “The Grudge 15” or such upcoming torture-porn classics as “I Digest Your Eyeballs” and “The Scrotum Stretchers.” Keep horror sane, see the darn thing. (Also check out Will Harris’s interview with the very cool actor, Dileep Rao.)

  

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