In Theaters This Weekend: June 22, 2012

In theaters this weekend we're greeted with a full slate of films. It's nice to get back to a weekend where I can talk about three different films that just about everyone will have a chance to see. It's a really good collection of films too, each with something vastly different to offer. In what will probably be the box office leader for at least a few weeks, Disney will be releasing its newest Pixar creation, "Brave". From all we've seen, the animation and 3D looks amazing. We also get Timur Bekmambetov's fantasy/action/horror film, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". As the title suggests, this is based around the idea that Honest Abe had a hidden journal, where he recounts his early life as a hunter of the damned. And the third film opening nationwide this weekend is the dramedy starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World". Again, not too secretive in the title, this one centers around two characters who randomly get joined together, and how they play out the last few weeks of their lives before a meteor strikes and destroys the planet.

At least with the three films, if you're looking for an uplifting tale, your decision isn't very difficult.

For a rundown on each of the films, and even some weekend box office projections, hit the jump!

We'll start with the Disney Pixar film, "Brave". Among actors lending their voices for this Scottish-themed tale are Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson. The story revolves around Princess Merida (Macdonald) who refuses to to submit herself to her kingdom's customs, and sets out to make her own path in life. You can see where the title Brave comes from, as this young Princess flees the kingdom only to hold her own against the elements due to her tremendous courage (and maybe a little bit of her bow & arrow skills too). While Pixar has always stressed family in their movies - and I don't think they'll have any problem with that message in this film - to me, the highlight looks to be the beautiful animation featured. Pixar always produces high quality stuff, but even this seems a little more vibrant than usual. Critically, it hasn't really dominated like I was expecting. Currently it's sitting at a solid 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. We'll note that there's not a ton of reviews in as of yet, so I do still expect this to rise a bit more, but 78% is a little lower than the standards we've come to expect from Pixar ("Cars 2" notwithstanding). Believe it or not, since 1995, they've had 10 films that have scored 95% or better. And for a studio that's only released 12 feature films thus far, those are pretty good numbers. From what I'm reading, people are still enjoying the film, and if anything, they're just not overly impressed with some of Pixar's storytelling techniques here - something they've already proved they have an ability to master. I don't think general audiences should have too many qualms with this one though. More than anything it looks way more like the unimaginably high bar that Pixar has set is impossible to continually hit; critics have grown to expect a film so good that subsequent films can't live up to those standards.

Personally, I'm probably one of the worst writers at this site to help you get hyped this movie. I have an an unreasonable disinterest for this section of film (animation), and since I've been an adult I just haven't been able to get excited about any of them. I'm a pretty artistic person, so logically I can appreciate those aspects. And the stories seem to be just the same as anything you're going to find in a live-action movie, so I don't know what it is. I know that at least three of the five writers at this site have high anticipations for this film and will surely be checking it out this weekend. And even though there can't be many more films that could benefit from the movie theater treatment like this one can, I do not believe I will be taking this one in. I'll watch it sometime, because, as I stated on our last podcast, this will be the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature, so I'll need to get on board with it sooner or later. This should be solid entertainment for all ages though. Expect large crowds for quite a few weeks.

Next on the list is "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". This one is brought to us by Producer Tim Burton and Director Timur Bekmambetov. The casual movie fan might not be too familiar with this Russian filmmaker, but he broke onto the scene with films "Night Watch" (2004) and "Day Watch"(2007), and gained American popularity with his efforts on "Wanted", which starred Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy. As I stated above, this one explores the secret life of the American President, Abraham Lincoln, and the untold story that shaped our nation. After discovering that vampires are planning to take over the United States, Lincoln makes it his mission to eliminate them, becoming history's greatest hunter of the undead. The obviously fictional (or is it?) film is an adaptation of the book by Seth Grahame-Smith of the same title. Released only a few years back, it instantly became a cult favorite.

Back to the film, so far the reviews have been less than inspiring. While you could expect that a film like this wouldn't necessarily appeal to the critical audience, you still hope for better than the 24% it's sitting at on Rotten Tomatoes right now. After skimming a number of them, here's what the general consensus looks like: it's incredibly stylized (almost cartoonish with its set designs); the action is fast and intense, though many are still complaining that for a film that got an R-rating it held back too much; it provides a good amount of camp and fun, but even for a film like this, it never takes itself seriously enough. Don't get me wrong, I love a good amount of camp and fun in my vampire movies, but that last fact really deflates my interest in this. It seems like many don't even feel that the character we see on screen gives any feelings of being the Abe Lincoln we know; like he's a caricature of this man. I'm sure that there's a crowd for this style - maybe more of the gamers out there? - but for me, I wanted this approached as a dramatic historical interpretation that also just happened to include Mr. Lincoln slicing up some vamps. The fact that this plays like a video game really disinterests me.

All of that being said though, I think I'll probably still check this one out this weekend. At this point my feelings have sunk to an all-time low for this film, and honestly, maybe that's the ideal time to give this one a chance. I think this has some potential to be some fun if you're a fan of the horror genre, but I definitely wouldn't expect too much. I'm sure it will be action-packed and the visuals, even if stylized, should be unique. More than anything, at this point I'm just interested to see where this film goes. Why do the trailers make it look like Lincoln has super-human powers? I don't want my President to have super powers - it takes me out of the history of it (probably a lot of the reason for the complaints people are having with this never feeling like we're watching Abraham Lincoln on screen). In explaining this film and looking over some of its reviews, I'm more and more talking myself out of caring about seeing this movie in theaters. I will see something this weekend though, so it's going to be between this and...

"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" is the third wide release this week. This dramatic comedy stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as two different people that come from very different lifestyles but randomly get paired together as they try to make peace with the world before their ends. Both are looking for something different in their last days, but together they might be able to help the other. In an interview I saw with Carell the other day, he sums the movie up by saying (and I strongly paraphrase here), we're past the point where space shuttles can save us. You have the people trying to save the world in movies like "Armageddon". This is the other side of that.

The film puts a humorous twist on the reactions and scenarios people would deal with facing this situation. Obviously a film based around the fact of knowing that the world will be destroyed by the end of the film (I'll save full reservations until I actually see this one though) is incredibly depressing, but with so many films focusing around the same subject as December 21, 2012 nears, it's actually refreshing to see a comedy perspective on it. I really enjoy character dramas, and I think following these two very different characters who know they only have a few weeks left will be interesting. As they get closer to the end, will the accept the inevitable and embrace their fates, or will they slowing unravel? Both seem appropriate, but I'll be morbidly interested to watch the journey.

Where it looks like the film struggles a bit - based on Rotten Tomatoes reviews - a mixed 57% currently - is in its presentation, tones, and balance. It doesn't seem too surprising that a comedy movie about the impending end of the planet struggles to settle in and find its niche. Most people seem to appreciate the messages it has to say though, and I think if you can accept that there will be minor pacing issues throughout, this will be a uniquely interesting summer film to take in. I stated on the last CinemaCast that when it's all said and done, I believe this will pretty easily be my favorite film of the three. The only problem I have with it at this point is that I'm not sure the theater will add much to my enjoyment levels. You think of movies like "Brave" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" - regardless of your thoughts on them, those deserve to be seen and heard in a theater; that's the best venue for them. A character drama doesn't necessarily need a theater. I can get just as much enjoyment out of this one watching it at home as I probably would in a theater. Because of that, I'm torn on how I want to approach this one this weekend. It's going to be a last-minute decision between the two, and unfortunately I don't think I'll have time to see both.

As for the box office, I don't think anyone doubts that "Brave" will pretty easily take the top spot this weekend. It's a family film, that's made by recognizable and trusted studios. "Madagascar 3" did about $60MM in its opening weekend. That seems like a starting point for this one, but I still don't think it'll do much more than $65MM. "Madagascar 3" was in the top spot last weekend with $34MM. Using predictable drops for its third weekend, you'd expect this one to make about $18MM-$20MM this weekend. But it will be directly competing with "Brave", so I wouldn't be surprised if those numbers end up just a little bit lower. I expect "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" to be in competition with "Madagascar 3" for the #2 spot, but it seems safe that either way, those three films will all round-out the top three spots. Just like last week, things get messy after that though. "Prometheus" can probably hold with about $10MM; "Rock of Ages" might be able to hold the same type of numbers as well. I don't expect that "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" will show very well - both due to its content and tone (not really your usual summer fare) - so maybe somewhere in the $7MM-$8MM range for this one? There's chance that films like "Snow White and the Huntsman" and even "That's My Boy" could be in this range and possibly even show better. I'll project that the the top five plays out like this (in order of first to fifth): "Brave", "Madagascar 3", "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", "Prometheus", and "Snow White and the Huntsman".

Plenty of good looking films this weekend though. Which do you think you'll be checking out?