Attractions: Anyone Wanna See Avatar Again?
Welcome back to Movieline Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy and/or bringing up the rear at the movies. This week, a trio of new wide releases attempt to siphon some of Avatar's record-brushing haul, while a double dose of Paul Bettany isn't everything it's cracked up to be. Sift through the hard choices after the jump.
WHAT'S NEW: There's an outside chance that the combined opening grosses of today's three new wide releases -- Extraordinary Measures, Legion and Tooth Fairy -- may not even be enough to eclipse the sixth week of Avatar. James Cameron's blockbuster is looking at around $34 million domestically, and it could break Titanic's worldwide box-office record of $1.8 billion by the time the sun rises Sunday in Hollywood. It's obstacles? Start with Tooth Fairy, which kids, Dwayne Johnson fans and exactly no one else might be in the market to see. In other words, probably not you, unless your hankering for a Julie Andrews comeback role can't wait for something a little more dignified than the fairy overlord who turns hard-hearted hockey bruiser Johnson into the title character. Either way, that's still a lot of people -- as in "$16.5 million" a lot, or "second-place" a lot.
Behind it is Legion, another R-rated post-apocalypse horror show featuring Paul Bettany as an angel sent by God to aid the survivors of some demon plague. Aaaannnnnd as it happens, one of the womenfolk is pregnant with the Messiah. Tough break! Self-seriousness (and huge gaping monster jaws) notwithstanding, I like Legion to find some traction among some religious righters as well as the usual younger-male quadrant that Screen Gems always coaxes out of culture's sad winter woodwork, rolling to around $13 million. But for the more docile faith-based crowd, at least, there's Extraordinary Measures, starring Harrison Ford as a doctor attempting to cure Brendan Fraser's terminally ill child. CBS Films's debut has saturated advertising markets across the country, from TV and Web to CBS-owned billboards and radio stations; despite generally crummy reviews, the result should be something better than anyone's projecting, probably close to (and maybe even surpassing) $11.5 million.
Also opening: Misconceptions, about a Christian conservative who receives a message from God to be a surrogate mother for a gay couple (take that, Legion); the Andrew Cunanan (a/k/a Gianni Versace's killer) biopic Murder in Fashion; a gay-repression drama called Watercolors (featuring Greg Louganis!); the personal-redemption tale To Save a Life; and in New York City only, the Argentinian effort The Paranoids, the French anti-Semitism drama The Girl on the Train, and the Oscar-shortlisted doc about the Civil Rights Movement, Soundtrack for a Revolution.
THE BIG LOSER: I think I've said all I have to say about Creation, the Charles Darwin biopic that utterly stunk up the opening night of last year's Toronto Film Festival. The only thing left to consider about the miscast (Bettany as Charles Darwin? Why not Jason Statham?), misdirected, boring, ponderous and overbaked film is its box-office chances this weekend in limited release. Jennifer Connelly's presence is enough to nudge it over $7,000 per screen, isn't it? OK, $6,000? Tell you what: You e-mail me when you've seen it, and we'll extrapolate an average from there. Either way, it won't be good.
THE UNDERDOG: There's nothing much that stands out today at the art house unless you're in NYC, where you've got the rather fantastic option to take in Murray Lerner's long-lost concert film Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970. But that's only an hour-and-a-half of your time, and really, there are more essential pop-culture underdogs in need outside the cinema. To wit: The New Orleans Saints will this week attempt to knock off Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings en route to their first Super Bowl in the franchise's 42-year history. Screw the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys -- this is America's real team, rebuilt from the mud and squalor of Hurricane Katrina and on the verge of redeeming decades' worth of futility and humiliation. New Orleans needs them, we need them. And the even less-likely to succeed New York Jets -- who take on the formidable Indianapolis Colts -- wouldn't make a bad opponent. Forgive the self-indulgence, but I promise you: It's the best drama on the market.
FOR SHUT-INS: This week's sparse new DVD releases include Ricky Gervais's sublime The Invention of Lying, the Gerard Butler actioner Gamer, the B-sci-fi effort Pandorum, and the real hit of the week, Girlfriends: The Complete Series.