It’s hard to tell from the wilds of deepest North Orange County, but I’m guessing that Hollywood’s in a mild state of shock following the very unexpected death of John Hughes, without a doubt one of the most influential writers and directors of the past two-and a half decades. Nevertheless, life goes on and the box office is the fact of life in the film business.

And so it is that, Lord help us all, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” seems poised to take this coming weekend’s chase for the green fairly effortlessly. Indeed, the always jovial Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter expects something in the neighborhood of $45-50 million. As mentioned here before, the actioner hasn’t been screened for critics, an increasingly common studio ploy that is nevertheless still somewhat rare for a film as high profile as this one.

Variety‘s Pamela McClintock, though not setting any numbers out for us, remarks that the action/sci-fi flick and toy/game marketing device is:

…sparking strong interest among both young and older men, as well as some curiosity among younger femmes, according to tracking.

Why any sensible young person of either gender should be interested in this film eludes me, but I guess we’ll have to see if there’s enough insensible ones from both to make this film more than a young male bastion. I should also add that some critics in the online and foreign press have managed to somehow see the film despite Paramount’s non-screening decision, and the Rotten Tomatoes numbers are less dismal than you would expect. Still, in my estimation, the best reviews lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity, though the rough beast we call the teenage populace will not be stopped from slouching towards the Plex-ville. (My profoundest apologies to Mr. Yeats.)

Intriguingly, while both Variety and THR say “Joe” will be deploying to 3,500 screens, Box Office Mojo has the film in over 4,000 theaters. The cinematic Powell doctrine, anyone?

Meryl Streep is JULIA! Older viewers, some as ancient as thirty-five, will be making their own pilgrimage to see the fact based literary adaptation and Meryl Streep/Amy Adams vehicle, “Julie and Julia.” Though the reviews are only decent (RT rating: 62% “Fresh”), the dual-timeframe cooking dramedy benefits from any number of pluses. Let’s start with the strong appeal of both of its talented leads, and a terrific supporting cast which reunites Streep with Stanley Tucci, a strong foil for her in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

“J&J” also benefits from a somewhat better known and arguably stronger second lead in Amy Adams and, while I’m sure it will skew female, a less sexually divisive topic. Few straight men are fascinated by the topic of fashion, but cooking is a more universal interest, as our own Mike Farley demonstrates here at PH on a regular basis. We all eat.

And I suspect I’m not the only straight male to be personally fascinated and amused by anything relating to Julia Child — there was that voice, and she always seemed so happy….. I haven’t been in a theater for any Nora Epron-directed film that I can remember, but I may make an exception this time. Throw in an Oscar nomination or two, and this one could have some real cash legs over the long haul. However, with perhaps a thousand fewer screens, it will only defeat “G.I. Joe” in my quality-loving dreams.

There is another major release, but no one seems to have a lot of hope for it. Distributor Universal seems unsure how to market “A Perfect Getaway.” The trailer I just linked to emphasizes the conventional thriller aspects while some commercials want to sell it as almost a horror film. With a very strong cast and a writer-director with a bit of a cult following (David Twohy of “Pitch Black”), looking just below it’s underwhelming 44% Rotten Tomatoes score [update: which rose by Sunday to 54% percent], I’m smelling a production that may be worth seeing and with the potential for cult/sleeper status somewhere down the road. Some of the more thoughtful critics seem to be embracing this is a goofy but fun genre piece and the differential between the regular score and the film’s 78% among the nine “top critics” who saw it may be worth noting. [Update: The differential got less dramatic on both ends. The “top critics” rating dropped seven points to 71% when eight more big leaguers got their say.]

Adam Sandler and Seth RogenIn other news, we’re told by everyone that box office watchers will be paying very close attention to how Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” does in its second weekend, though the comedy-meister’s past successes and much discussed three-picture deal probably insulate him from too many harmful after effects of his attempt at increased seriosity. Also, love is in the air as “(500) Days of Summer” continues to significantly widen into over 800 theaters, offering boys and girls a chance to enjoy a movie together.

In smaller release, the predominantly enjoyable is-it-real-or-is-it-Memorex? not-quite-a-romance trifle, “Paper Heart,” opens in 38 theaters this weekend as its publicity continues to sow mild confusion in audiences over the whole “were Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi ever actually dating?” thing. (The latest word in the no doubt deliberately vague/coy saga is “no.”) See it with someone you tolerate.