It doesn't appear to be an incredibly strong weekend, and probably more of the calm before the storm in terms of films with awards potential ahead, but nonetheless, "Frankenweenie" and "Taken 2" will hit the screens for all of us, while independent films like "The Paperboy" and "Butter" will start limited runs. And, as mentioned, last week's limited success, "Pitch Perfect", gets a +2,700 theater increase this week, making it a viable option for most this week as well.
Hit the jump for a full rundown on each title, as well as some box office predictions.
I'll start with "Frankenweenie" this week, though I'm positive "Taken 2" will take the top spot at the box office. "Frankenweenie" looks like a solid animated feature though, and comes from Tim Burton, the mind behind other animated films like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "The Corpse Bride". This one revolves around a young Victor, who conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.
Most aren't aware that a 1984 short-film version of "Frankenweenie" was actually one of Burton's first projects. As outlined in yesterday's Top 5 Movie Guide though, Disney deemed it inappropriate for children and refused to release it. That's relevant, however, because now you know that this is a major passion project for Burton. Don't get me wrong, it's great when artists are able to tangibly create these projects that have been floating around in their heads for years, but at the same time, in many cases these lead to unfinished or super-focused pictures, not always able to latch on with general audiences. If you have a very specific visualization of a product in your head, and you have complete control over its creation, many times it's these projects that don't pan out because filmmakers refuse to take input from others or change anything from what they've visualized. We'll see if that's a result here, but it's something to at least be cautious of.
As far as critical reception for the film so far, it's actually doing quite well. It currently sits at an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, with most critics praising Burton's vision, saying this is some of his best and most enthusiastic work in years. As usual with Burton films, the general art direction is incredible, and while the story lacks some substance, the mixture of eeriness and youthfulness is exquisite.
I like all that I'm hearing there, and these solid early reviews make me wonder if this black & white film could make a run at a Best Animated Feature nomination, something I hadn't given much thought to before now. This looks like another winner from Burton in the animated department, and if you're into animated and/or Tim Burton films, I don't think you'll go too wrong here. Don't expect anything terribly different from what we normally see from Burton, but it looks like this could be the best film he's released in the last five or six years, at least. I have no plans to see this in theaters, but I'm leaning towards wanting to check this out on Blu-Ray upon its release. For the right audience though, this seems like a safe-ish bet this weekend.
We move next to "Taken 2", the sequel to the 2008 film, starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. The sequel looks to be a lot of the same stuff that we saw in the original, but with probably Grace and Janssen playing bigger roles this time around - plenty of fast-paced action, lots of killing, exotic locations, and Liam Neeson being an all-around bad-ass. But even though those traits are all things I always want to see in a film, I got the exact same thing with "Taken" four years ago. If I want to see this combination of pieces, I'll just watch that film and save myself that eight bucks at the theater.
"Taken" received a 58% from the critics upon its release, and while those are still respectable numbers for an action film, I think most would praise it more now than they did back then. While only four years later, the film has held up very well, and I personally think it's one of the most enjoyable action films I've seen in the last decade. That being said, "Taken 2" is off to a much slower start, already sitting at a dreary 9%. Critics have been even harder on the film than I would have expected, saying it's pointless, exploitative, lacks the gruesome action that the first film offered, provides zero story, and doesn't advance any of these characters or their situations at all. I think most of us could have assumed most of that would be the case, but it is nice to get validation.
As you can probably guess, I have no intentions of seeing this in theaters, or probably ever for that matter. If you like cheap action, this might be entertaining enough for the weaker-minded, but for the most part, I'd say save yourself the time and money and go for something else. I think "Looper" is probably still hanging around in theaters...
I'll quickly hit on the two films opening in limited release this weekend, though most of us will have to wait for future expansions before we get a chance at them. The titles opening though are "The Paperboy" and "Butter"'. "The Paperboy" is directed by Lee Daniels ("Precious") and stars Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, and John Cusack. Taking place in the 1960's, the film centers around a reporter chasing a high-profile story, heading to the backwoods of Florida to investigate the convictions of a man on death row claiming to be framed for murdering the local Sheriff.
I really like the cast in this film and I think this could be a good platform for Efron if he can keep up with the likes of some of the other names in the picture. Daniels is a proven commodity in the gritty, violent world (also directing "Monster's Ball"), so this seems like a subject he can handle. Reviews have so far been mixed, but even those with negative reviews generally had some good things to say about the film. This seems intriguing and one I'll definitely want to check out as soon as I get a chance. I don't expect that will be in theaters, but whether VOD or Blu-Ray, I'll see this shortly after it's release.
"Butter" is a dark comedy with just as impressive a cast as the last film. Starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde, Ashley Greene, Ty Burrell, and Alicia Silverstone, the film centers around a small Iowa town and the über-competitive world of butter carving competitions.
The films looks entertaining to me, and I love Garner and Wilde. The cast should make this easy to digest, and I imagine that if the film can provide more satire than just plain crudeness, then this could be a fun one. Don't expect anything grand, but if you enjoy small-town, simple-minded political satires, this could be up your alley. I've had my eye on this for a while now, and will definitely be looking forward to a chance at seeing it.
And as mentioned in the intro, "Pitch Perfect" gets an expansion this week, so if that's a film you had your eye on last week, this could be your chance to jump on it. Reviews have been strong so far, so if you're a fan of the Bring It On female-driven comedy styles, this could make for a fun option. I have little interest in this aside from Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, who are both entertaining young actors. Not sure it will ever amount in any kind of viewing for me though.
As for the box office numbers, as I stated earlier, I get the feeling that Neeson's "Taken 2" will take the top spot this week, just because a black & white animated film is a hard sell. You'll get plenty of Tim Burton regulars, but even if the quality of the film is high, I don't think many parents will be running to the theaters to get their kid into this one. Not only is it black & white, but it also features some more mature tones that don't make it anymore appealing for the kiddies, either (from a parents' perspective at least). I think "Taken 2" will probably take most of the dollars that "Hotel Transylvania" earned last week, most likely finishing in the $25MM-$30MM range. This will probably have rough drops in following weeks, but Neeson has developed a strong action following, and many of the fans who loved the first installment from this franchise will probably be back for more. "Frankenweenie" probably figures to fall into place somewhere around where "Looper" did last weekend, making a $20MM weekend possible. That being said though, another horror-themed cartoon, "Hotel Transylvania", enters its second week in theaters and figures to take a bite out of "Frankenweenie"'s potential. Transylvania made a record $42MM last weekend, and it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect a solid $20MM from the film this time around. $22MM-ish seems sound here, probably bringing the totals for "Frankenweenie" down to a more realistic $16MM-$18MM range. Either way, expect the battle for the #2 spot to be close between these two animated features.
Neither of the limited releases seem to factor in at all, but if "Pitch Perfect" can replicate last week's success, it could very well hold with $12MM-$15MM. That seems a bit high, but I feel unsure about anything for this film this weekend. And expect "Looper" to hang in the top five with a probable $10MM-$12MM week-two.
Those are the films we have to look forward to this weekend though. Which will you be checking out?