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Postby Shrykespeare » January 24th, 2010, 6:39 pm

Sixth verse, same as the first. Avatar passes The Dark Knight as the #2 film of all time, and is probably only a couple of weeks away from supplanting Titanic as the biggest film ever, both domestically and internationally. Anyone remember a time when we were all speculating that it might end up being one of the biggest BUSTS in history? Not me, of course, I KNEW that it would be huge. Never a doubt in my mind. Nosiree Bob, never once. (Grin.)

So while we sit back and watch the story about the big boat get sunk by something other than the iceberg, we’ve got a few more films to talk about, as we close out January with four titles, consisting of two wide-release films and two limited-release films, all of which can be found on the January leagues at MMG.

One year ago this week, a little action film that had been postponed numerous times defied all odds and became one of the biggest surprise hits of 2009. Taken marked the beginning of an eventful year for its star, Liam Neeson, who tragically lost his wife, Natasha Richardson, in an accident. However, his role as Bryan Mills, a former spy who pulls out all the stops to rescue his kidnapped daughter, made him even more of a bankable star, which he is parlaying into big roles in 2010 films like Clash of the Titans, The A-Team and the third Chronicles of Narnia film.

On its surface, the plot for Edge of Darkness seems to be quite similar to Taken, with a few minor tweaks. First of all, the main character, Thomas Craven, is a homicide detective and not a spy; second of all, his daughter ends up being murdered, not kidnapped; and thirdly, instead of Neeson, Edge marks the return to the big screen for Mel Gibson, who we haven’t seen in a starring role since Signs in 2002.

Of course, we’ve all heard about the off-camera troubles Mel has had since then, culminating in the drunken anti-Semitic rant leading to his arrest in 2006. He lost a lot of respect then, probably the #1 reason that his directorial effort Apocalypto met with a less-than-stellar reception. The question is: had enough time passed that the average moviegoer is willing to give him another chance?

But let me back up one step: Edge of Darkness, much like last year’s State of Play, is based upon a British television series, and it is directed by Martin Campbell, who has proved that he is no slouch when it comes to helming action movies, having directed both Zorro films as well as two of the better recent James Bond films (Goldeneye, Casino Royale). Its screenplay was penned by William Monahan, who only won an Oscar for The Departed. Not too bad.

The plot: when Det. Craven’s daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is brutally murdered in his home, he goes on a rampage to find the persons responsible. Along the way, he uncovers a rather shady secret life his daughter had been leading, as well as a governmental cover-up to not only have her removed but all the evidence as well. The always-good Ray Winstone co-stars, as well as Wolverine baddie Danny Huston.

Honestly, I like the look of this film. It seems to have all the ingredients that Taken had one year ago, with one or two glaring exceptions, those being 1) the fact that Gibson’s checkered past hasn’t quite disappeared in many people’s rear-view, and 2) the fact that Avatar, six weeks into its release, STILL hasn’t found a worthy adversary. (Note: I asked my local theater manager how long it would be before Avatar’s run in 3D ended, and she said that it wouldn’t be until early March, when Alice in Wonderland debuts. That’s still over a month away, people.)

Since Avatar seems to be losing steam at a rate of about 15-20% per week, that would mean that it will probably pull in a further $28 million this weekend. To beat that number, Edge of Darkness will have to have an opening weekend equal to that of Book of Eli, but I honestly don’t think that will happen, because while Edge’s ad campaign has been pretty good, it hasn’t been plastered all over television and billboards the way Eli was. So, I figure it will come out to about $19 million on its OW ($63 million overall), eight Top 5 points, three PTA and a very decent User Rating (over 7.0).

For $14 in both types of January leagues, I think this could be a worthy pick. It certainly looks better-acted and less cartoonish than next week’s From Paris With Love, and much more adult-oriented than Percy Jackson. If word of mouth and reviews are good, it could be a very solid addition to your slates, particularly if you’ve shunned all of January’s other offerings (for which I probably wouldn’t blame you).

Up next we have When in Rome, a romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Josh Duhamel (Transformers). Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, whose last two films, Daredevil and Ghost Rider, were superhero films which both met with moderate financial success despite being widely panned.

Bell plays Beth, an ambitious young New Yorker who has completely struck out in romance. However, on a trip to Italy’s capital to attend her younger sister’s (Alexis Dziena) impulsive marriage, she decides to steal some coins from a local “fountain of love”, which apparently has magical powers, in that it makes many men in the local vicinity pursue her romantically (as the coins ostensibly belonged to them).

Honestly, could it get any more trite and formulaic? Romantic comedies in general are not usually bastions of creative thought, but oy vey. Bell, while attractive, has not convinced me yet that she can be a solid leading lady, as she lacks the charisma of someone like Reese Witherspoon or Katherine Heigl. And Josh Duhamel, shedding his fatigues and slipping back into his Las Vegas persona, has also yet to convince me that he’s ready to be a top biller either.

The supporting cast is actually quite good: Anjelica Huston, Danny Devito, Will Arnett, Jon Heder and Lee Pace, among others. It’s about the only thing about When in Rome that I can find to recommend. It’s been postponed numerous times, and I expect it to meet with the same lethargic reaction that Renee Zellweger’s New in Town did one year ago. In fact, I’ll go ahead and predict exactly the same stats as that film: $7 million OW, $16 million overall. It might give you a couple of Top 5 points, but that’s not enough to spend $9 on it… not when there are “romantic” titles coming up with a lot more promise (Dear John and Valentine’s Day).

And now, a few words about this weekend’s two limited-release films:

Saint John of Las Vegas ($4 Ult, $2 BO) – I don’t know how many theaters this is scheduled to bow in (ComingSoon has it debuting only in New York and L.A.), and I really wish I could recommend this film as a possible source for PTA, but I don’t know if I can. And it’s a pity, because Steve Buscemi is one of those actors that can turn in a terrific performance no matter who he plays. Here, he plays John, a veteran insurance-fraud investigator who had a serious gambling addiction at one point but found a way to quit. However, when an assignment takes him back to Sin City, he finds himself getting into heaps of trouble once again.

You’d think, with a talented supporting cast that includes Peter Dinklage (Death at a Funeral), Sarah Silverman, John Cho, Romany Malco and Emmanuelle Chriqui would be a surefire hit. However, early reviews have been horrible (0/4 at RT), and its User Rating is less than promising (6.1/90 votes). I have to believe that even for $4, you can do better than this.

Off and Running ($3 Ult, $2 BO) – With not much data to go on, I’ll have to make this one my PTA pick of the week. It is a documentary centered on a teenage Brooklyn girl named Avery, who was adopted at birth by a same-sex couple (two Jewish ladies), and lives with them along with her two younger adoptive brothers (one mixed-race and one Korean). However, when Avery becomes curious about her African-American roots grows, she decides to contact her birth mother, a choice that threatens to distance her from the only parents she’s even known.

The title is a dual reference to not only Avery’s search for her own identity but the fact that she is a budding track star. It debuted last year at the Tribeca Film Festival to favorable reviews, and currently sits on IMDb at a 7.2 User Rating (though with only 11 votes). It will only run you $3 in the Ultimate leagues, which means if you gamble and lose, it won’t hurt you too much. But on the other hand, if it ends up winning the PTA weekend, won’t you be glad if you took it? (Not one person took The Last Station in the December leagues, which is a shame, given that if they had, they’d have scored nine PTA points for only a few bucks.)

My predictions for the weekend of January 29-31, 2010:

1. Avatar – $28 million
2. Edge of Darkness - $19 million
3. Legion - $10 million
4. Book of Eli - $9 million
5. Tooth Fairy – $8 million

Well, that will do it for me for another week. Next week, I’ll break in February with the slate of movies that will open up the Feb-Apr leagues, which include: From Paris With Love, an action movie starring a bald, badass John Travolta as the least subtle American spy in Europe, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as an ambassador’s attaché forced to tag along with him as they try to foil a terrorist attack on the French capitol; Dear John, an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried as a soldier and his GF whose bond is tested when he decides to re-enlist; and a whole host of limited-release films, all vying for the first PTA points of the new season.


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Postby Buscemi » January 24th, 2010, 8:05 pm

I see When In Rome as the movie that makes Kristen Bell realize that her agent sucks, fires that agent and finally lives up to the acclaim that she got while on Veronica Mars.

Meanwhile, I can't see why anyone would want to see When In Rome. The film looks dumb, cliche, offensive towards women (the main character is a screwup and a bitch) and they have the nerve to cast Josh Duhamel, Jon Heder and Dax Shepard all in the same movie. And because Disney knows it's a dud, they are using a last-ditch astroturfing campaign through Facebook to boost opening weekend numbers. I can't remember this ever working and this includes movies that people actually liked (such as Serenity).
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Postby becs » January 24th, 2010, 10:48 pm

I already know I will be seeing it next weekend with the same friend who picked Jumper, and liked it...
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Postby Shrykespeare » January 31st, 2010, 3:15 pm

BOM Sunday Updates:

Top 5
5 points - Avatar, $30M
4 points - Edge of Darkness, $17.1M
3 points - When in Rome, $12M
2 points - Tooth Fairy, $10M
1 point - Book of Eli, $8.7M

PTA (MMG - January)
5 points - Saint John of Las Vegas
4 points - Avatar
3 points - Edge of Darkness
2 points - When in Rome
1 point - Tooth Fairy

PTA (mine - Nov/Dec)
5 points - Last Station (which no one chose)
4 points - Avatar
3 points - Edge of Darkness
2 points - The White Ribbon
1 point - When in Rome

So When in Rome exceeded my expectations, while Legion dropped 61% and out of the Top 5. Tooth Fairy only dropped 28%, as expected. Saint John of Las Vegas, given its horrible reviews, is a total shocker. No word on Off and Running.

And oh, yes: Both The Princess and the Frog and It's Complicated crossed the $100M mark, bringing 2009's final total for blockbusters to 32, breaking 2008's record of 29.
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