Thursday, November 1, 2012

In Theaters This Weekend: November 2, 2012


Only three films hit theaters in wide release this weekend, but all seem to be above-average in quality and will probably offer something positive to movie-goers who have interest in them. "Flight" is the favorite amongst this group, and it will be fun seeing director Robert Zemeckis finally make his way back to live-action. "Wreck-It Ralph" is Disney's (not Pixar's) addition to the animation world this week, with their video-game themed story. With a solid voice cast and plenty of great video game cameos, this could be enjoyable for both children and adults alike. And rounding it out is "The Man With the Iron Fists". It's yet to be determined what first-time director RZA (Wu-Tang Clan) will bring to the table, but with a script from Eli Roth, and Quentin Tarantino producing the film, there's a chance this kung-fu flick could provide quite a bit of entertainment.

Hit the jump for a full rundown on each of this titles, along with some predictions for the weekend box office numbers. Hopefully I can get closer than last week's disaster.

I'll start with "Flight", because as I said, this one is pretty easily the favorite amongst the group here. The film, about an ace pilot suddenly thrown into a world of scandal and conspiracy, stars Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, and John Goodman. Robert Zemeckis will return to direct, and it's been a while since he's worked with live actors (I supposed you could argue that his motion capture work was actually working with "real" actors, they just weren't portrayed as "real" actors on the screen). His last film in this medium was "Cast Away" in 2000. That film earned his leading man (Tom Hanks) a Best Actor nomination, and there's chatter that the same could happen this time around as well.

So far, reviews have been strong for the film. It's currently sitting at a healthy 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, already amongst 40+ reviews. Everyone praises Washington's efforts, and applauds Zemeckis on finding a great balance between a serious personal drama and a thrilling crowd-pleaser. There are few negatives so far, and the ones who do turn away from it seem to completely miss what the majority of critics saw with it. I'm not familiar with any of the names who gave it a negative review, so I'm unsure of their credentials and interests. Regardless, this seems like a great adult drama/thriller. I am definitely seeing this film this weekend, and I think for anyone over the age of about 16, it will probably be worth your time and money as well.

Next up is Disney's latest, "Wreck-It Ralph". The film is being released by Disney's Buena Vista Studios, the same division responsible for such recent 3D animated films as "Frankenweenie" and "Tangled". This latest feature includes a voice cast of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and tons more in cameo varieties. The film centers around a video game villain who wants to be a hero. But in his journeys, he brings chaos to all of the other video games in the arcade where he lives. The trailers do a much better job for this one, so I recommend checking those out if you're still unfamiliar with it - though with Disney's marketing, that seems unlikely.

The film has received even better reviews than the previously-mentioned "Flight", currently at an 89%. Hard to find a bad word about this one, as most all agree that the heartfelt story is one of the best Disney has featured in a 3D animated film not from Pixar. It definitely seems like a solid option for fans of all ages too - the nostalgia is ripe for older fans wanting to revisit the bygone era of arcades, while the action-packed story and beautiful graphics should strongly appeal to younger audiences. Critics are definitely falling in love with this one, and if you have any history or familiarity with video games, I think this makes for a must-see this weekend. From these early reviews, it's starting to feel like a lock for a Best Animated Feature nomination, something that seemed questionable even a few weeks ago. I myself do not have much of a history with video games, but even that fact mixed with my general disinterest in animated films, I'm starting to feel like I just might want to head to the theater for this. Until I read a few of the reviews, I would have said I'll wait for the Blu-ray; but now that everyone is loving it and the film is playing so well to adult audiences, I just might have to give it a watch. Even if I don't get around to it, this feels like an incredibly safe pick for all audiences. Go forth with ease, and enjoy the trip down memory lane.

The third film opening this weekend is "The Man With the Iron Fists". As previously mentioned, this will be the first feature film directed by former Wu-Tang Clan member, RZA (I'm not sure why I'm okay with this, but I almost definitely boycott anything from McG simply for his "stage name"). It is co-written by both RZA and Eli Roth, and is produced by Quentin Tarantino. There are a lot of strong pieces in this mix, but I'm not completely sold on if they'll form a powerful combination as of yet. The film takes place in a feudal China, where various clans converge for an all-out battle royale for gold and power. RZA, who will also act in the film, plays our iron-fisted man, a native who looks to defend his homeland. The genre meshing here looks to be something of a kung-fu/western/action.

I really like Russell Crowe's involvement, as it's something pretty unique for him, but also something not too far from his wheelhouse (he's playing a six-shooting westerner, something he has familiarity with). The rest of the cast doesn't give me much interest, though I'm not too familiar with most of them. While it's nice to see Lucy Liu get some work again, the role she's portraying doesn't look too different than that of what she played in Tarantino's Kill Bill movies (two movies I've never had much interest in). I made a comment on this week's CinemaCast about how it almost feels like the wrapped up Kill Bill, changed some wallpaper, brought in Russell Crowe, and started filming this one. This is the main aspect that gives me pause. I think RZA has the ability to do a solid job here, but if this plays out anything like Kill Bill, I don't think I'd much enjoy my theater experience. Also, I'm just not that into kung-fu movies, and obviously this is one.

There haven't been any reviews yet on the film, but I'm not sure how to take that with this particular film. Generally, it means not very good things; and while I'm not expecting this to blow too many people out of the water, I feel like the pedigree of all involved is too high and this is too much of Tarantino's forte to mess things up too much. There is a lot happening, and new director RZA could struggle with the pacing and tone, but overall I expect it to be deemed a success.

As much as this movie fascinates me, I don't think I'll be going to theaters for it. I really want to see what other critics have to say about it first, but otherwise, this plays out more to me like a future rental - though I definitely will want to see it. If I got roped into seeing it in theaters, I'd go into it with open arms, just unsure of what the future would hold. If you like kung-fu movies, I would venture a guess that this will be a suitable option. There seem like safer picks this week, but I don't think this one will be a disaster; there's too much talent in every facet of this film to expect such.

Now for some box office predictions. Last week "Cloud Atlas" really let me down. I really enjoyed the film, but apparently only myself and ten other people saw it. It was something of a financial disaster in its first weekend, and even with strong word-of-mouth, it'll be difficult to generate amounts that can move the meter. Between that, "Argo", and "Hotel Transylvania", those seem like the only holdovers that have the ability to hang around in the top five. If "Argo" continues its gentle decline, something like $8MM this weekend could be completely possible. I expect both "Cloud Atlas" and "Hotel Transylvania" to finish with something around $6MM, give or take a million or so in either direction.

As for the new releases, it seems impossible to expect anything but "Wreck-It Ralph" finishing on top. The film has reviewed really well so far, it has the advantage of the Disney marketing push, and it should be attractive to all age groups. When I look back at a film like "Tangled", which also opened in the month of November, the $48MM it opened to seems possible here as well. I can't expect much more than $50MM, and even something in the low-$40MM range wouldn't surprise me, but my gut says $45MM-$48MM. Zemeckis' "Flight" should attract a decent adult crowd. Luckily "Argo" has had three weeks to address most of its core audiences, so those same people can now seamlessly transition into this new feature. "Argo" opened with $19MM, and I think at least that much is possible here. As strong as Ben Affleck's directorial career has been so far, Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington are still a more renowned commodity. I'll put $19MM as the low end, but something closer to $22MM-$25MM seems likely to me here. And that just leaves "The Man With the Iron Fists", which I expect to struggle to find a large audience this week. Kung-fu is already a pretty small sect of audience members; Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino's involvement help, but I don't see anything more than $10MM here. We'll see if strong word-of-mouth helps this one down the road, but I think something around $8MM is most likely.

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