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Resident Evil: Extinction set an opening weekend record for its franchise this weekend, bringing in $24 million from 2,828 theatres for an $8.4k average. Mysteriously, this critically maligned franchise (Extinction rolled into theatres with a 28% rating on rottentomatoes.com) has gained financial steam with each successive entry, in spite of being headlined by box office heavyweights like Milla Jovovich and Mike Epps.
All of which begs the question: Huh?
The first two films in the series finished up with $40 million and $51 million domestically, which are hardly the kind of impressive numbers one would expect of a franchise. But they’ve been more popular overseas, with each earning over $100 million worldwide. And thanks to the absence of A-list stars, the budgets came in at $33 million and $45 million, making them profitable little programmers for Screen Gems.
As it happens, your humble narrator subjected himself to the first two entries, and found them to be exactly that: little programmers. Not terribly offensive, but not good either, and instantly forgotten. The first Resident Evil at least had some engrossing camera work and visuals, plus some creative violence (I was particularly fond of the criss-crossing laser beams, although they were strongly reminiscent of the lower-budget but creatively superior Canadian film, Cube). Writer, director, and critical whipping boy Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with critical darling Paul Thomas Anderson) stepped down as director for Apocalypse, but still handled scripting duties (as he did on Extincition), thus costing the sequel the visual panache and leaving little else to recommend it.
So why in pluperfect hell did Extinction make more than either predecessor? Why does everything about this franchise remind me of the equally unimpressive Underworld series? And, on a slightly broader note, has there ever been a good movie made from a videogame? The good people over at BoxOfficeMojo.com have compiled a list of movies adapted from video games, and they include such treasures as: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Doom, and Super Mario Bros (poor Bob Hoskins…). In fact, the only movie on the entire list that I have any affinity for is Roger Avery and Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill, which was still a disappointment but kind of an interesting one, as well as providing the great Sean Bean with one of his few non-bad guy roles.
So, seriously, anybody out there who can justify Wing Commander or any other video game adaptation, have at it.
Now that that little tirade is out of the way, what can I say about the opening for Good Luck, Chuck? Well, very, very little. Stars Dane Cook and Jessica Alba could be classified as rising stars, and Chuck‘s $14 million opening and $5.3k average are so middle of the road, so totally bland, that they will neither help nor hurt the young actors’ careers. The critical beating the film took won’t endear their next project to critics, but in reality, that’s neither here nor there. And while I understand Jessica Alba’s appeal (as anyone who saw Sin City understands…), I have yet to see anything from Dane Cook, including his standup, that makes me want him to succeed. So this little comedy will flit away into the ether, neither a success nor a failure. Just another movie that no one will be talking about in a month.
It also appears that no one will be discussing The Brave One around the water cooler this week. It dropped 45% to $7.4 million and a $25 million total in it’s second week, and will probably finish with about $35 million, thus ending Jodie Forster’s run as the most financially viable female heroine. That said, if you were producing a Flightplan-ish thriller requiring a female lead, what actress today would you trust to secure a decent opening? I can’t think of one.
3:10 to Yuma seems intent on spiting me. It continues to show very good legs, dropping 29% to $6.3 million and a $37 million total. I still insist that it will not find any black ink stateside, but if the cast can attract any business overseas, Lionsgate may not find the film a total wash. Expanding into 1,404 theatres and landing in fifth place was Eastern Promises with $5.7 million for the weekend and a $6.5 million total. Those numbers don’t look promising (get it?), but reviews are terrific, and director David Cronenberg has a loyal following who no doubt turned out this weekend, leading to good word of mouth and good legs as the film continues to expand. It should wind up in the neighborhood of A History of Violence‘s $30 million domestic haul.
Opening in sixth was the Amanda Bynes vehicle Sydney White, about which, I am actually proud to say, I know absolutely nothing. It made $5 million from 2,104 theatres for a $2.5k average. A quick glance at imdb tells me it is also known as Sydney White and the Seven Dorks. In the immortal words of Stan Lee, ’nuff said. Mr. Woodcock followed in seventh with $4.9 million, down 43%, for a $15 million total. I caught a few minutes of Bad Santa this weekend, which is a brilliant comedy that served to remind me how much better Billy Bob Thorton can do. Be careful, BBT, I’m a fan, but you’re losing me.
Superbad… I’m out of adverbs to describe it’s never-ending run in the top ten. Suffice it to say, it dropped 39% to $3 million and raised its total to $116 million. Same problem for Bourne Ultimatum. Dropped 32%. Made another $2.7 million. Total stands at $220 million. Dragon Wars rounded out the top ten with $2.5 million, a shockingly reasonable 50% drop (I expected at least 60-70%), and an $8 million total.
And in limited release, Sean Penn’s Into the Wild opened to relatively spectacular numbers, bringing in $207k from four theatres for a $51.7k average. Pic is universally being hailed as Penn’s best effort as a writer and director, and has gotten very good, though not perfect, notices from critics. Look for Wild to compete in some peripheral Oscar categories (adapted screenplay, supporting actress), and Emile Hirshe may emerge as a star. Also faring well was The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose title is going to hurt it in the long run, I think. It earned $144k from five theatres for a $28.8k average. Critical consensus is far more divided on this one, but those who love are very passionate about it, and Westerns are known to appeal to the older Academy crowd (cinematographer Roger Deakins is all but assured his sixth nomination in what has been a spectacular year for him). Pitt gets all the press, but word is that Casey Affleck owns this movie, and between this and his star turn in brother Ben’s directorial debut Gone, Baby, Gone later this year, his agent could find his phone ringing off the hook come January.
And that about wraps it up for this week, folks. Check back next Monday when Robert Benton’s Feast of Love tries to compete with the Rock in The Gameplan and Peter Berg’s much-hyped thriller The Kingdom. Plus, in limited release, we get a peak at Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited and find out how the controversy surrounding star Owen Wilson will affect its appeal, and the latest from Brokeback Mountain helmer Ang Lee, the NC-17 rated Lust, Caution. See you then.