Girlfight at the Box Office!
Welcome back to Movieline Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy and super-fierce at the movies. This week brings offers the counterprogramming event of the summer, with your inner child, your inner foodie and your inner genre fan battling for control of your weekend moviegoing. But don't underestimate your inner art-house dweller. See what they're all squabbling about after the jump.
WHAT'S NEW: OK, fine -- "girlfight" is only one facet of the complex, deeply humanistic chamber drama that is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. There are guyfights as well -- big, strapping guy fights, with accelerator suits and samurai swords and the most cutting-edge movie weaponry Hasbro's money can buy. And you'll also get tenderness for your ticket price, from sensitive Cobra commander Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the romance of post-Eiffel Tower-era Paris. Never mind that odd, preemptive shellshock you're feeling. Whether you're a 12-year-old boy with allowance money burning a hole in your pocket or a drunken 35-year-old on a Friday-night dare from your friends, you and about $39 million worth of your fellow filmgoers know this will be an experience worth savoring. Ibuprofin sold separately.
Meryl Streep will keep the less adventurous among you busy with Julie and Julia, the twin biopic of legendary chef Julia Child (Streep) and legendary foodie fangirl Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who cooked more than 500 of Child's recipes in one year and lived to blog the tale. This is a pretty wide-demoed crowdpleaser with impressive momentum to date, though it remains to be seen how the gay segment Sony foresaw for this will react to Child's less homo-friendly side. Either way, the studio has long-legged hit here, opening to a strong $19 million and likely building well past $50 million bythe end of the month.
Universal hasn't done a bad job angling its thriller A Perfect Getaway, featuring Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich as a couple whose tropical honeymoon falls apart when their new pals start getting murdered. Tough luck there, but maybe good luck at the box office, where whole gangs of 18- to 25-year-olds -- the relatively sophisticated ones who would mutually lance each others' eyeballs before watching G.I. Joe -- will be grateful for the genre reprieve (which, by the way, looks like it might be genuinely good. I like this for at least $11 million on the grounds of word-of-mouth and pure market desperation.
Also opening: The Michael Cera/Charlene Yi mock-doc comic romance Paper Heart, the pulpy, microbudget graverobber saga I Sell the Dead, and Andrew Bujalski's twin-sister dramedy Beeswax (NY only; opens Aug. 14 in L.A.).
THE BIG LOSER: By massive-budget standards, G.I. Joe will probably be a letdown for Paramount and its partners at Hasbro. Still, the number I'm least looking forward to seeing on the spreadsheet Monday morning is the one to the right of Funny People. Viewers' general apathy in week one was bad enough; the one-two punches of Julie and Julia and Perfect Getaway will all but devastate that movie in week two.
THE UNDERDOG: I swore I wasn't going to mention Charlie Kaufman (damn it, there I go) in discussing Cold Souls, starring Paul Giamatti as an actor named... Paul Giamatti, struggling with the title role in Uncle Vanya and seeking answers to assuage his mounting spiritual burdens. One possibility: Soul removal, as practiced by a nice-enough doctor (David Strathairn) on Roosevelt Island. Or maybe even a soul exchange, which does the trick professionally but won't quite work out when Giamatti is thrust into an international black-market of sould to retrieve his own. Comparisons to Kaufman might seem fair on paper, but writer-director Sophie Barhtes and her cinematographer/creative partner Andrij Parekh keep it light while downplaying the manic self-awareness of Being John Malkovich or Adaptation. This Giamatti fellow may be a neurotic fool, but at least he's sincere. "She has a beautiful soul," he says of the destitute Russian woman whose life he comes to occupy (and ultimately reject) in flashbacks -- and beautiful isn't the half of it, with Parekh's desaturated New York and stunning soulscapes just the latest herald of his extraordinary talent. Cold Souls might ultimately play too fast and loose by its own early standards, but with revelations to spare, Barthes and Giamatti's broken rules rarely feel anything less than virtuous.
FOR SHUT-INS: As you already know, all of this week's new DVD's must surrender priority to Delgo. But among what's leftover you'll find The Soloist, Obsessed, Race to Witch Mountain, the 25th-anniversary edition of The Last Starfighter, and the complete second season of Flight of the Conchords.