Zac Efron to Crush Jason Statham, Russell Crowe the Only Way He Can
Welcome to the first installment of Movieline Attractions, your guide to everything new, noteworthy and Zac-alicious at the movies. This week: Efron faces an unusual enemy in Jason Statham; Russell Crowe scoops the world; and a Disney film you probably haven't heard about commands attention at the art house. Fearless, peerless box-office predications await as well -- and it's all just across the jump.
WHAT'S NEW: You may know how this column works from its previous residency at a late, lamented outlet down the street. But if not, jump right in and let's discuss this week's prime offerings (and their box-office prognoses). They don't get much "better" than 17 Again, featuring Zac Efron as a teenager who grows up to become Matthew Perry, who in turn discovers the fabled Jacuzzi of Youth; and resumes his adult life in Efron's youthful guise. Nothing to say here that hasn't been said already, but you don't need to strain to hear the fleet of Brinks trucks barreling toward America's multiplexes. Still, Efron is basically a one-quadrant star, and with no franchise backing them up (yet), Warner Bros. won't likely have the luxury of his youngest admirers. Call it for $24.4 million and first place overall.
And while no right-thinking adult can stomach the thought of Efron even metaphorically kicking Jason Statham's ass, Crank: High Voltage is neveretheless locked in for a distant second-place finish. (Then again, it's on two-thirds the screens hosting 17 Again.) The sleeper hit that began the franchise three years ago drew $10.5 million on its own opening weekend; on the strength of Movieline cover girl Bai Ling alone, the sequel should manage a healthy boost to $15.1 million for the weekend. Russell Crowe's D.C. journo-potboiler State of Play will benefit from being this week's only new release for grown-ups (not to mention a cast also featuring Helen Mirren, Ben Affleck and Rachel Macadams), pulling inaround $13.9 million for Universal.
Also scrapping for cash this weekend in limited release: Every Little Step, a behind-the-scenes doc about the Broadway smash A Chorus Line; Michael Caine's latest, Is Anybody There?; the geriatric ensemble comedy The Golden Boys; the British gangland drama/romance The Butterfly Tattoo; the indie farce Ante Up; the rich-brothers-vs.-the-U.S.-government saga Chasing the Green; the Palestinian-widow-vs.-the-Israeli-government saga Lemon Tree; and the wildly overrated, futuristic fest-circuit darling Sleep Dealer.
THE BIG LOSER: Generally I'd select a new release facing an imminent stumble out of the gate, but what steeper plunge will you find than that of Hannah Montana: The Movie? Facing competition from both Efron and the steady-going Monsters and Aliens, the Miley Cyrus smash will be lucky to reach Monday without a 65-70% plunge from last week's No. 1 opening. Which is par for the course, sure, but no less bruising on the way down. Expect her fellow Mouse House alum Efron to apologize on national TV by next Tuesday.
THE UNDERDOG: Every week there's always one good film you have to look a little harder for -- sprinkled in a couple theaters here or there, often underpromoted and destined for a quick dispatch to DVD. That's the Attractions Underdog, and this week it's American Violet. Based on a true story of a young, single African-American mother wrongly accused in a small-town Texas drug raid, Violet spends most of its first act climbing down from the high, Lifetime-esque fever pitch of justice denied. The rewards arrive once activist director Tim Disney, who never met a Bush-election archival clip he didn't like, lets his cast do the political heavy lifting: A great Nicole Beharie, Alfre Woodard, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael O'Keeffe and a couple riveting turns by Will Patton and Malcolm Barrett as the aggrieved woman's civil-liberties champions. Sincere, humane and wholly engaging, Violet might be -- or at least deserves to be -- the first big surprise of 2009.
FOR SHUT-INS: A light week for new DVD's includes the spectacularly trashy failure The Spirit, the Meryl Streep indie Dark Matter, and the long-awaited second season of Knots Landing. Walk, don't run.