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SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

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SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby Shrykespeare » January 31st, 2010, 3:05 pm

(NOTE: I am writing this column under the sincerest hopes that the February leagues will be available come Friday. Things may happen in an extreme rush, so all of you, watch these boards and your in-boxes diligently.)

As we speak, we are but scant days away from watching Avatar pass Titanic’s previously-thought-as-unbreakable domestic box office record. I am somewhat ambivalent about this historical occurrence, having mixed feelings as I do about both films. On the one hand, Titanic was expertly made, fairly well-acted, and quite engaging despite its prodigious length. Did it deserve all of its 11 Oscars? Maybe, maybe not. But it was #1 at the Box Office for four consecutive months, never making more than $35 million in any (three-day) weekend. Slow, steady, the quintessence of consistence.

Avatar, on the other hand, has been able to reach $600 million in far, far less time, starting out with an opening weekend of $77 million and then following it up with weekends of $75 million, $68 million, $50 million, $42 million, $34 million and finally $30 million. Not to mention the fact that it did tremendously well on weekdays, boosted as it was by its continuous run on 3D and IMAX 3D screens. Will it win as many Oscars as Titanic? Honestly, I hope not. It deserves every technical award there is, but Best Picture? No. There were better movies this year. Being a record-breaker should not have any influence on Academy voting, and it never has. After all, The Dark Knight was not even nominated (and it deserved to be).

So, seven weeks and counting… Is an eighth likely? Judging by this Friday’s crop of movies, I’d say yes. Avatar’s final week at #1 will likely be this weekend, as there are no less than three films coming the following Friday with some very decent box office potential. This weekend, there are only two wide-release films, both being put into roughly 2,500 theaters, and neither one really looks like it has enough widespread appeal to dethrone the champ. The first of those two is From Paris With Love, a title that is no doubt supposed to bring back memories of early Bond classic From Russia With Love. But from what I’ve seen (and from what few reviews I’ve read), the comparison should stop right there.

Directed by Pierre Morel (who helmed last year’s surprise hit Taken) and written and co-produced by Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita), Paris seems to be a low-grade, cliché-ridden action-flick-slash-buddy-comedy. Much in the same vein as, say, the Rush Hour films, Paris throws together two men with nothing in common and hope that some on-screen chemistry developes.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Reece, a personal aide to the American ambassador in Paris (Richard Durden). More of an intellectual than a man of action, he prefers time with his fiancé (Kasia Smutniak) and a game of chess over danger. But when he is offered a chance at promotion, he swallows his fear and hooks up with Charlie Wax (John Travolta), an arrogant spy/assassin, with whom he must help to uncover a terrorist plot to destroy the French capital, as well as… uh, shoot some Chinese guys, I guess.

The one review at RT that I’ve read seems to bear out my fears, calling From Paris With Love a complete mess, with Travolta “humiliating himself with a shaved head, jumping from roof to roof, leaning out a car window with a bazooka” and Meyers simply “insipid” as Reece. The villains appear to be straight out of central casting. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily add up to automatic failure, as audiences often go for this kind of thing. We all know that films don’t have to be good to do well (otherwise, how would G-Force have made over $100 million?).

Assuming that the February leagues are up before Friday, From Paris With Love will run you $10 in both the Ultimate and Box Office leagues. It will probably end up at #2 this weekend, but with some pretty good competition coming in the next few weeks, it won’t stay near the top for very long. Say, five Top 5 points, $45 million in total take and a User Rating in the 6’s. For PTA, well, since this is the first week of the new season, that means the PTA slate has been wiped clean. That means that Paris may be able to cop a couple of PTA points, but it may not. There are a lot of limited release films that will probably beat it in that category (which I’ll get to in a bit). I would probably pass on this title.

Up next is Dear John, the latest story to be adapted to the big screen from a Nicholas Sparks romantic novel. Following previous efforts Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John is hoping to capitalize on the success of its author, and using two fairly hot young actors to tell the story.

Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe) plays John Tyree, a loner who lives with his father (Richard Jenkins). While on leave from the army, he meets a college student (Amanda Seyfried) from a wealthy family. As their relationship blossoms, John is called back to duty, pledging to finish his two-year tour in Iraq before returning home to marry her. In return, she promises to write him letters every day.

Sounds very romantic, but Sparks has been down this road before. The Notebook was about reading a year’s worth of letters out loud to a patient with dementia. And all the elements are present in Dear John as well – the writing, the secrets, the other lover, the mental turmoil. At least the director, Lasse Hallstrom, is no stranger to this kind of film, having helmed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.

This is not my kind of movie, but it looks exactly like the kind of film that young women will want their boyfriends to take them to. Older women? Who knows. But I don’t have to tell you that most modern-day stories involving the military tend to fall flat, and Dear John, though a love story at heart, may join those ranks.

This title will run you $9 in Ultimate leagues and $10 in Box Office. I don’t think that much of its box office prospects, given that Valentine’s Day, another romantic movie with better advertising, a much better cast and a more alluring premise, is coming only one week later. Dear John will likely debut at #3 or #4 this Friday, and that will be it. Its User Rating is anybody’s guess, and I wouldn’t pick it for its PTA prospects either.

And now, a bit about the plethora of limited-release films coming out this weekend. I know very little about the prospective number of screens these films will be debuting on, but I’ll do my best to guide you. My best advice: watch the theater counts of all these films very closely.

Frozen ($5 Ult, $3 BO) – Director Adam Green (Hatchet) brings us a dramatic thriller about three skiers (Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers) who try to get one last ski run in at their favorite resort when the unthinkable happens: they are sitting on a chairlift halfway up the mountain when the ski patrol switches off the power and goes home for the week. Stranded fifty feet off the ground, the trio must find a way to save themselves before they freeze to death.

Much like Open Water, Frozen looks to be a tense thriller. It has gotten very good reviews so far (4/4 at RT), with critics giving kudos like “a potent combination of absolute terror and compelling human drama”, “…it will do for skiing what Jaws did for swimming”, and “will send different sets of shivers down the audience’s spines”. Seems like a good pick, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the theater count will be several hundred, which makes PTA a dicey prospect at best.

District B13 – Ultimatum ($4 Ult, $3 BO) – another action film directed by From Paris With Love's Pierre Morel. It is the English language release of a 2009 French action film entitled Banlieue 13 Ultimatum, and a sequel to District 13. In this story, main characters Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) and Leto (David Belle) must return to District 13 – a troubled sector controlled by five different gang bosses – to try to bring peace before the city government attempts a more radical (and final solution).

It’s gotten very good reviews (74% Fresh at RT), but its User Rating is only so-so (6.5 with nearly 4,000 votes). Action movies are very rarely PTA champs, particularly limited-release films, though Luc Besson (who also wrote the screenplay) does carry some weight. Odds are good that it will pick up some PTA, but how many? Who knows.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers ($4 Ult, $2 BO) – Documentaries, on the other hand, are a much surer bet for PTA points, particularly when they pack as much punch as this one. This one centers on Daniel Ellsberg, an insider who “fired the first shot that brought down the Nixon regime”.

If you don’t know who Ellsberg is (and I didn’t), here’s the skinny: he is a former Marine who helped fight the Cold War up close and personal. He worked for years as an analyst, finally releasing the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971, which were basically an extended history of the United States’ involvement in Southeast Asia, along with proof that every administration from Truman through Nixon had lied about said involvement.

It’s too detailed to go into here, but Ellsberg is definitely set up as the white knight here, but most critics agree that directors Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith do so with no grandiosity or pomposity. Dangerous Man has amazing numbers across the board (100% Fresh on 15/15 reviews at RT, 8.5 with 45 votes at IMDb), and it is my choice for PTA pick of the week.

The Korean ($4 Ult, $1 BO) – I couldn’t find much info on this film, beyond its description: “A big city crime-lord is betrayed by four associates. With only hours before his arrest, he calls in the deadliest cleaner to get revenge.” Said cleaner is Lee (Josiah D. Lee), who plies his trade with “two guns, one knife, no mercy”, according to the tagline.

This is the directorial debut of Thomas Dixon, and the first big role for Lee, who has done mostly supporting work in the past. Its current User Rating is an impressive 9.1, but that’s only with nine votes. It could very well pick up a few PTA, and it’s very cheap, so even if it doesn’t, it won’t hurt you too much. The final Rating probably won’t drop much below 7.7.

Terribly Happy ($3 Ult, $1 BO) – This is a Danish film that is bowing on limited screens in New York and Los Angeles. It is a drama that centers on a cop (Jakob Cedergren) who is transferred to a hick town (here inbreeding is common) after suffering a nervous breakdown. I wasn’t able to find out much about the actual plot, but the one review I found was promising. Happy is, in fact, Denmark’s entry for Best Foreign Film in the Oscar race this year.

Its current Rating is 7.1 (with almost 1000 votes), so again, its cheap price tag won’t hurt you much if you swing and miss. However, foreign dramas are often excelling sources of PTA, and this one could a gold mine, particularly when you consider that ZERO limited-release films are scheduled for next week.

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

1. Avatar – $23 million
2. From Paris With Love – $16 million
3. Dear John – $14 million
4. Edge of Darkness – $11 million
5. Tooth Fairy – $8 million

Well, that will do it for me for another week. Next week, three new films to talk about, all of them big ones, as we have finally reached Valentine’s weekend. And those films are: The Wolfman, a re-telling of the classic tale starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro and Hugo Weaving; Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, a Harry Potter-ish story about a youth with magical powers that must face a bevy of unearthly monsters; and Valentine’s Day, the season’s obligatory love-soaked rom-com telling the story of a number of good-looking couples and singles exploring the ins and outs of romantic relationships.

Later!








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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby undeadmonkey » January 31st, 2010, 6:58 pm

I dont think a male-oriented pic released on Super Bowl Weekend will open that high, I think closer to $10M, maybe even below, everything else seems about right though
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby Buscemi » January 31st, 2010, 9:07 pm

Taken opened on Super Bowl weekend and did very well (despite a huge Sunday dropoff).

I don't think From Paris With Love's reviews will be a factor. Taken also had bad reviews but was a big success.

Meanwhile, Dear John will do better since the name Nicholas Sparks is a major draw for women (see The Notebook, A Walk To Remember and some others). Also, Channing Tatum is major beefcake material to girls. And it looks like less of a mess than Valentine's Day (despite looking more corny).
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby BanksIsDaFuture » January 31st, 2010, 10:31 pm

From Paris With Love will be no Taken. It looks terribly stupid, and it'll open anywhere under $20M and drop off terribly after that.

I have no idea about Dear John. It could be big due to Channing Tatum and it looking like The Notebook 2, or it could flop because it's a melodramatic mess and everyone is just saving their money to see Valentine's Day (which will be huge).
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby Buscemi » January 31st, 2010, 10:36 pm

I wasn't suggesting that From Paris With Love would be like Taken. I was just using an example. Anyways, I think the R rating hurts it but it will probably manage a $12-14 million opening (similar to Daybreakers). I'll probably see it this forthcoming weekend with my mother (she seems to like most of the Luc Besson output and likes John Travolta with a shaved head).

Valentine's Day should hit $100 million because no one seems to realize that the movie is basically the same as He's Just Not That Into You (even some of the actors are the same) and that movie did well too.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby thswrestler160 » February 1st, 2010, 1:25 am

dude buscemi who the hell was giving taken bad reviews? you must be living in some fantasy world cuz its got a 7.9 imdb with almost 100,000 votes because it was an amazing movie. I didn't talk to a single person who saw the movie and didn't love it.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby Buscemi » February 1st, 2010, 1:28 am

Critics gave Taken bad reviews. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating was a 57% while Top Critics gave it a 41%. At one point, it was only at 24%.
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby Buscemi » February 1st, 2010, 7:10 pm

By the way, Pierre Morel did not direct District 13: Ultimatum. He only directed the first movie (District B13).
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Re: SPEARE'S TIPS - THE FILMS OF 2/5

Postby transformers2 » February 1st, 2010, 7:23 pm

I like Dear John's chances. High School Girls will drive that film and the adveristing on certain stations is ape-shit. Unsure about From Paris With Love's chances. I think it will do decent but I won't be shocked if it flops.
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