In Theaters This Weekend: October 19, 2012

It's not the most inspiring lineup of films this week - especially coming off one of which that included three solid titles - but there are a few options available. Unlike last week, which saw four new films in wide release, we're only met with two this week. Both "Paranormal Activity 4" and "Alex Cross" open up across the country, while one notable film, "The Sessions", starts its limited theatrical run. The latter seams like an awards-caliber film, while the first two might not amount to anything but some good ol' October fun.

Hit the jump for a further rundown on each film, as well as what we might be able to expect with the box office numbers.

We'll start with "Paranormal Activity 4", since it figures to be the biggest player at the box office this week. As you can probably tell from the title, this is now the fourth installment from this franchise, and the fourth consecutive year in which the studio is releasing one of these films in the second-half of October. The story this time around takes place five years after the last film, with a new family moving into a new house, only to see a mysterious woman and small child enter the neighborhood as well, presumably Katie and Hunter, focal points of the previous films. If you've seen any of the previous films, then you know that the plot isn't much of a concern though, as this is more about atmosphere and plenty of jump-scares.

I was into the first one. I went to the theater with my friends and let myself get scared. Sure, it would have been easy to not care about it, but it was a fun experience. After that though, I lost most interest. The first one was a great idea and executed very well. After that, it was just more of the same though. I was still entertained enough with the second film, but don't think I even got around to watching the third.

If you're into this franchise or are even just looking for a few theater thrills before Halloween, there are definitely worse options for you out there than this one. I can't imagine I'll be heading to the theater for this, but if a large group of my friends were going, I don't think I'd say no. These films are probably some of the best for group fun and getting great theater tensions/reactions. If you have a group to go with, go have fun with this one. If you expect anything more from this film than that, I'd look elsewhere. Not a bad choice if you're looking for a pre-Halloween boost though.

On to "Alex Cross", which provides me some intrigue. The film centers around a homicide detective (Tyler Perry), who is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer (Matthew Fox) who specializes in torture and pain.

I've never cared much for many of Tyler Perry's films (the ones in which he's written and directed), but I've always respected him as a businessman and entertainment mogul. That being said, he has absolutely nothing to do with this latest picture outside of starring in the film - and minus his fat old woman suit we're generally accustomed to seeing him in, I might add. I'm interested to see how Perry can handle a "real" acting role in which he's headlining a film. Also, having recently concluded watching all of the television series LOST, I have a certain interest in Matthew Fox, who's playing the villain in the film. I feel like I want to support his movie career and help him become more of a star.

While the trailers make me think there will be plenty of good tension and action in the film, the reviews so far don't much support my hopes. Currently sitting at a very low 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, most all complain of Perry poor casting in this role. While one can appreciate him wanting to branch out from his Madea franchises, this was not a proper vehicle. Most say the film falls flat and offers very little outside of standard action fare.

This was a very fringe possibility for me this weekend, but after these reviews, I think this film just begs for a rental down the road. As much as I can see what all involved parties were going for here, it doesn't look like they managed to pull it off - not unlike most of my very early expectations when I first heard about this film. If you want to support Perry or Fox, or even if you're just looking for a bit of action to fill your weekend, this seems acceptable with the right mindset. Don't expect anything new, but you can probably get an hour and a half of entertainment out of it.

I'll finish up this week with some thoughts on "The Sessions". Initially titled "The Surrogate", the film stars John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy. Hawkes plays a man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity and contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest. Playing mostly as a drama, this film required precise tonal direction for any chance of success. Luckily, lesser-known director Ben Lewin stepped in and provided just that. Premiering at a variety of earlier film festivals, the film was a hit with most crowds, playing both as a heartfelt character drama and subtle dark comedy. The real treat apparently is the acting performances in the film though. Many expect Hawkes will earn an Academy Award nomination for his performance, while Hunt and Macy could both garner supporting nods.

Currently at a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, it's hard to find much negative commentary on the film. Most all praise Lewin's direction and characters, as well as the strong performances by all actors in the film. If you're offended by the idea of a priest helping a man hire a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity, then you might want to give this one a pass; but if you can see not only the humor but also the compassion and humanity there, then this seems like a very safe bet. Unfortunately, it only hits a handful of theaters this weekend in some of the larger cities. Most of us, like myself, will be waiting on our local art house theaters to pick up the picture.

I do look forward to this one though, and I think this could be a very entertaining film, in a variety of different ways.

As for the box office, last weekend saw "Taken 2" retain the top spot, but it seems very unlikely to do so this week. "Paranormal Activity 4" seems like one of the safest opening weekend bets we've predicted this side of "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises". Don't expect those types of numbers (or the same quality of film, for that matter), but each of the previous installments have been very strong in their openings, and I can't imagine things slowing down much now. The first film opened in limited release, so we'll ignore those numbers, but #2 opened with $40MM, and #3 managed $52MM in its first weekend. I don't expect this installment to out-do what the third film did (the third film of a franchise is generally about the apex of box office success), but somewhere around what the second film did seems reasonable. I'll say $40MM-$45MM, and much more than that would be a big surprise. "Alex Cross" should get some attention too, and seems destined for second place this weekend. I can't think of many comparables, but I still feel like somewhere around $15MM or so is possible for this film. I think Tyler Perry has a strong enough fan base, and probably even Matthew Fox with his LOST fans, and with "Taken 2" yesterday's news, this might be the new action selection for those same crowds.

In regards to last week's films, "Taken 2" will probably suffer even worse drops than last week, which might even push it out of the top five. I expect "Argo" to maintain strong holds though and grab the #3 spot, with "Sinister" right on its heals. From there it will be a battle between "Taken 2" and "Hotel Transylvania for the last spot in the top five. Expect something like $12MM-ish from "Argo", while "Sinister" will probably grab around $10MM-ish. "Taken 2" will probably grab about $10MM as well, but I give the edge to "Sinister". "Hotel Transylvania" probably can't do any better than $8MM-$9MM this weekend, so it would take an even bigger step back from "Taken 2" to surpass it.

That's what we can expect this weekend though. I don't think there's anything new for me this weekend that I need to see, so I might instead focus my attentions of some of last week's films like "Seven Psychopaths" and "Sinister". 
Which film(s) will you be checking out?