Friday, February 25, 2011

Movie Openings: Weekend of February 25th, 2011 - Drive Angry/Hall Pass

Last weekend, we had a surprise number 1 at the box office. Liam Neeson's crime thriller "Unknown" beat out the projected box-office topper, "I Am Number Four" in a light week of movie releases. "Unknown" inched into the top spot with $25.45M, followed very closely by "Gnomeo & Juliet" with $25.41M in a dramatically tight photo finish. The teen sci-fi thriller "I Am Number Four" rounded up the top 3 with $22.7M. That "Number Four" could not wrest the number one spot in its opening weekend might be cause for concern for Disney's Buena Vista, which had hoped to put this movie on a strong footing in order to create a new film franchise ala Twilight. Unless things improve dramatically the next couple of weeks, that's just ain't happening.

The most impressive gainer this week is perhaps the animated children's film "Gnomeo & Juliet," which not only kept up with its opening week numbers but actually improved on it slightly. The Sandler-Anniston romcom, "Just Go With It," stayed strong and came in at number 4 with $21.5M, followed by the disappointing bad Martin Lawrence-in-drag comedy, "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son." In its 2nd week of release, the Justin Bieber movie dropped almost 45% from its opening weekend business to come in at number 6 with $16.3M. Oscar nominee, The King's Speech stood steadfast in 7th place, even gaining more than 10% from its previous week's gross. And speaking of the Oscars, remember that the glitzy ceremony is this Sunday (2/27). So set your DVRs. The two hosts this year, James Franco and Anne Hathaway may not excite people as much as maybe a Billy Crystal would but let's give these two a chance, shall we? The Oscar show producers are obviously trying to attract a younger audience to the show and these two fit the bill perfectly. Who knows, maybe we might even see an Arcade Fire-like upset at the Oscars, like what happened at the Grammys this year.

Now on to this week's new movie releases:

Remember Gone in 60 SecondsGhost Rider and Con Air? Well, mash those three movies up and you get Nic Cage's new supernatural action thriller, "Drive Angry." Well, sort of. You see, unlike those films, this one is even less rooted in reality and is a throwback to those raunchy 70's exploitation films that has been made famous by the likes of Robert Rodriguez. Directed by Patrick Lussier, whose previous credits include My Bloody Valentine 3D and White Noise 2, "Drive Angry" is a non-stop action flick that barely takes its foot off the accelerator. Shot in 3-D, expect some nifty and impressive visual effects to appear. Paired with blonde bombshell Amber Heard (Zombieland) as Cage's sidekick and pursued by the deadpan bounty hunter from Hell called The Accountant (Michael Fichtner), "Drive Angry" promises to be one of those low rent films that will eventually find an audience once it hits the home video market. "Drive Angry" is currently rated at a passable 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here is the synopsis:

"Drive Angry 3D" stars Nicolas Cage as Milton, a hardened felon who has broken out for one last chance at redemption. Hell bent on stopping a vicious cult of fanatics who murdered his daughter, he has three days to stop them before they sacrifice his infant granddaughter beneath a full moon. Milton must use his anger to go beyond all human limits in order to save his last connection with humanity.

He's joined by Piper, a young sexy-smart waitress who liberates her ex-boyfriend's cherry red muscle car in order to help Milton. Now, the two of them are hot on the trail of the charismatic Jonah King and his murderous followers. King will throw every one of them faithful under the wheels of Milton's turbo-charged Black '71 Challenger, to fulfill hist destiny and unleash hell on earth.

Another week, another weak comedy. Owen Wilson hasn't been in the spotlight in a while, not since 2008's tearjerker, Marley & Me. Well, he's back this week in the new comedy "Hall Pass", together with Jason Sudeikis (The Bounty Hunter) as a couple of middle-aged guys who are feeling restless in their respective marriages. Given a free pass to do whatever they want for a whole week by their wives, these guys soon find out that the single life may not be as they had imagined. Directed by the famed Farrelly brothers (There's Something About MaryDumb and Dumber), "Hall Pass" may not the big comeback the brothers are looking for. True to the Farrellys' reputation, "Hall Pass" can be crude, gross and occasionally outrageous but those moments do not always gel together into a cohesive and funny comedy. But if you like the Farrellys' brand of caustic humor, this may be the movie for you. "Hall Pass" is currently rated at a measly 31% on RT. Here is the synopsis:

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are best friends who have a lot in common, including the fact that they have each been married for many years. But when the two men begin to show signs of restlessness at home, their wives (Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate) take a bold approach to revitalizing their marriages: granting them a "hall pass," one week of freedom to do whatever they questions asked. At first, it sounds like a dream come true for Rick and Fred. But it isn't long before they discover that their expectations of the single life-and themselves-are completely, and hilariously, out of sync with reality.

Loosely based on true events, "Of Gods and Men" is an uplifting and inspirational tale of sacrifice and faith. Set in the early 1990's, a time before the Islamic faith was hijacked by terrorists, this French drama details the intermingling of different religions and the important role that faith plays in the lives of the austere monks who are faced with difficult life-changing decisions. Reviews are in for this movie and they are all generally positive, giving it an impressive 88% rating on RT. Here is the synopsis:

Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay... come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.

Opening in limited release this week is the new darling of Canadian cinema, Xavier Dolan's comical ode to unrequited sexual obsession, "Heartbeats." Winning the Youth Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and an official selection for the Toronto International Film Festival, "Heartbeats" explores the complexity of our wants and desires within the context of a love triangle as Dolan brings us through all the stages of obsessive love. This Canadian French film is currently rated at a healthy 67% on RT. Here is the synopsis:

Part farce, part exploration of the complexity of love and desire, HEARTBEATS centers on two close friends, Francis (Xavier Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri), who find themselves fighting for the affections of the same striking young man (Neils Schneider). The more intimate the trio becomes, the more unattainable the object of their infatuation seems, sending the friends' obsession into overdrive.

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