In Theaters This Weekend: July 27, 2012

In theaters this weekend, the overall crop might not be incredibly strong, but at least we have options. The film likely to be the biggest hit this weekend (excluding the hold-over business we'll see from last weekend's "The Dark Knight Rises", of course) is "The Watch". This sci-fi comedy stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill. The other film that gets a wide-release this weekend is "Step Up Revolution". Believe it or not, this is already the fourth film from this franchise. And in what will be in limited fashion (but something for us to keep our eyes on, nonetheless), is the release of the William Friedkin directed "Killer Joe", starring Matthew McConaughey.

All three films will definitely provide you with very different experiences this weekend, but for a quick rundown on each, hit the jump. And like always, we'll take a stab at the weekend box office predictions as well.

We'll start with "The Watch" since that figures to be the most broadly appealing film this weekend. The film revolves a suburban group of men who form a neighborhood watch as a way to get out of their day-to-day family routines. It also just so happens that after doing so, an alien surfaces in their neighborhood, and the task falls on them to protect the town. From there, we'll watch this group of clueless dads try to figure out how to actually save the world.

Should be plenty of expected Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn laughs in this film, even if it doesn't seem like there's much passion behind it. My favorite part about the cast these days is Jonah Hill I think, and I never thought I'd say that. A few years back I didn't much care for him, but after memorable turns in films like "Moneyball" and "21 Jump Street", he's swayed my opinions. I think he's really starting to hit his stride, and I feel much more energy and passion out of him and his character than any of the other big names in this one.

I will say, one thing that, if doesn't interest me at least intrigues me, is that the director of the film is Akiva Schaffer, the third member of The Lonely Island who isn't Andy Samberg or Jorma Taccone. The only other full-length film he's directed thus far is "Hot Rod", and if you were a part of our group the summer of 2008, you were watching that film just about every day. It wasn't amazing by any means, but it must have just caught us at the right time or something; it was always enjoyable to pop in. I'm not sure this film will be quite as silly as "Hot Rod" was, but I've really liked most things that The Lonely Island has done, so I have faith that Schaffer can make at least some things work here.

It's late Wednesday night as I'm writing this, and an embargo is still up for the film, meaning no reviews are allowed to be released yet. I expect they'll start coming in at some point today, but any time reviews aren't allowed until the day before release probably isn't a good thing. Generally it just means that films are trying to delay the inevitable (which are negative reviews). Either way, I don't expect the reviews to factor much into this film's box office takes, at least not for the first week or two; after that if buzz isn't strong the fringe audience might not show up, but for now, people who want to see Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill in a new comedy movie are going to go see it. I can't imagine it will be terrible, but probably nothing that many remember six months from now, either. I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I'll head to the theater for this one tomorrow. On one hand, I really just want to check out "The Dark Knight Rises" again and try to absorb that film a bit more. But on the other, for some reason or another, I've just really been in the mood for mindless, silly comedies lately, and this film is seeming more and more appealing by the day. If I do go for it, I don't expect to leave the theater with any grand revelations or anything, but it just feels like a comfort movie or something; something easy to digest that might be a fun change of pace to the summer blockbusters we've been focusing on lately.

I think for the right crowd, this will be a great summer flick. For most others, it should still be an enjoyable couple hours of your life, with comedy reminiscent to previous Stiller/Vaughn films. Regardless of your situation, don't expect to leave with anything memorable, but most should be able to get some laughs from this one.

The other film releasing wide this weekend is "Step Up Revolution". I think I saw this first film sometime after its release (definitely not in theaters though), but I'm quite positive never any of the rest. I'm probably not the best person to ask about this, as I have very little interest whatsoever in dance. It's hard for me to grasp how a movie revolves around dancing, and what kind of silly plot you can work into it. Overall I think I have to look at these more like performance shows than actual movies. I mean, is anyone really watching any of these for the plot (or, weak excuse for one)? From what they've always shown in the trailer though, I can at least give credit there: these people are very good at dancing, in all of the films. It's quite impressive to see human beings doing things like this, I just don't need a full-length film revolved around it (I'll stick with my 3-minute YouTube videos for my dancing fixes).

The films have done increasingly worse at the box office since the first installment, and will probably continue that trend this time around. The reviews haven't necessarily flowed in the same pattern, but none have been very positive, either. So far, this latest film is sitting at a lowly 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. Other than the third film which managed a climb all the way up to 46%, this rating is pretty much in-line with the first and second films.

It appears that the fanbase has tapered off over the years, but I'm sure there's still a solid block of people (and a whole new generation of high schooler's who are into these types of things) that will enjoy this film. I can't imagine this will offer anything but bad acting, a terribly weak plot, a complete re-hash of what the other films did, and plenty of good-looking people doing dancing that most of us can't (nor would really ever want to) do. If that sounds like what you want in your movies, then this might just be for you. If you're like many of us though, this is an obvious theater pass. I've went this long without seeing any of the other sequels, and I don't see anything changing that with this film.

The third film I wanted to talk about for this week is "Killer Joe". I don't think this is rolling-out in more than a handful of theaters this week, so most of us probably won't get a shot at this. But if so, it looks like there's a good chance this could be something worthwhile. This odd combination of mystery, crime, action & comedy stars Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Hayden Church, and Gina Gershon. McConaughey is a police officer by day but hitman by night. Hirsch's character needs money fast, and the best thing he can think, hire a hitman to kill his very unlikable mother and cash in on her insurance policy. Here is a trailer for the film if you haven't yet seen it and are looking for a better description of the film than what I just offered. First off, I just want to note that even at 50-years-old, Gina Gershon is still looking so good. I've had a crush on her for years and that will continue today. Second, I think this is a great role for McConaughey, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do with this character. Some critics are already saying that this is the best performance of his career.

As you probably noticed, the film has received an NC-17 rating, which will surely cripple its theater run. That being said, the NC-17 rating isn't the kiss of death quite like it was in years past, but it does hurt the ability for your film to reach mass audiences; most theaters still refuse to show films rated NC-17. But I look at last year's "Shame", which garnered strong buzz, and even came down to the wire with people thinking that Fassbender could earn an Oscar nomination for his role in the film, and know that there is hope here, too. It doesn't look like this one got this rating for anything more than some scenes with extreme violence and brutality, with of course a little sexuality mixed in throughout as well. Personally, I can appreciate when directors don't hold back and present a story how they want to present it, ratings aside. And speaking of the director, William Friedkin helms this one, and many are saying that this is his best film since "The Exorcist" (not that there's been a lot of competition; I liked "Bug" just fine though).

The film has received a strong reception in the critical community thus far - debuting to a healthy 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many praise the film for its smart story and Friedkin's focused directing, but some feel even with these accomplishments it's hard to tell what the point of the film was. Personally, I like the idea of these white trash characters trying to concoct this extravagant plan and making themselves to be big-time criminals. I can only imagine that the film will really point out the idiocy in most of them. Plus the violence is supposed to be pretty graphic and stylized, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the film is doing so well in that department that's earning it such praise.

I will be checking this one out at some point this year, one way or another. Unfortunately it probably won't be in a theater (unless one of our art theaters pick it up), but I'll check it out when it hits VOD or Blu-Ray if not.

As far as box office numbers go, we still need to start with "The Dark Knight Rises". I can't imagine any scenario where that doesn't again take the top spot this weekend with ease. The film made $160MM last weekend, a standard-ish 50% drop should be expected here, amounting to an $80MM+ gross. There's a chance it could do a bit better than that, but I think this film is directed at such a specific audience that it makes for pretty predictable gains. It barely hit the $160MM mark last weekend when most expected it to get to the $180MM range; I'm not sure this film is as widely appealing as people want to expect, even if it is a great watch.

For the new releases, "The Watch" will do the best. Comedies have have a pretty good run lately, so we'll see if it can continue here. I didn't much know how to figure an amount for this film, so I tried taking the last two films from each of Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller (live-action; I excluded Madagascar 3), and Jonah Hill, and averaged out their opening weekend grosses. It gave me a number of $26.6MM. And believe it or not, I'm actually quite happy with that amount. Even for the second weekend of a superhero blockbuster, $25MM-$30MM seems attainable, especially for such widely-known stars headlining the film. Outside of that, "Step Up Revolution" will probably continue the decline of totals from the first film, and pull in somewhere around $12MM this weekend. The last film did $15MM in its opening weekend, and that was the highest rated film of the series. If anything, I'd expect a touch less from this film, as I think a lot of the crowd for this one crosses over with the Watch crowd.

Shouldn't be anything too notable for other hold-overs this weekend. "Ice Age: Continental Drift" should manage about $10MM or so, but it will be lucky to hit that mark.

But that's what we're looking at this weekend. Which film(s) will you be checking out?