Attractions: Category-5 Romcom, Werewolf Plague Grip America
Welcome back to another edition of Movieline Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy, and date-ruining at the movies. This week, a pair of holidays gives you a bonus day to take in every gooey, gory treat, and sorry, guys -- football viewing won't get you out of it this time. Pick your poison after the jump.
WHAT'S NEW: It doesn't feel so long ago that the star-bloated romcom-to-end-all-romcoms Valentine's Day was merely in development. One almost couldn't believe such a top-heavy vehicle might actually turn the production corner without capsizing, but there it is: Garry Marshall's criss-crossing tale of love and relationships on one Feb. 14 in Los Angeles. Quality-wise, Valentine's Day is pretty much what you expect; box-office wise, it might be even more. The second week of Avatar-slayer Dear John will steal a few bucks from the Kleenex-clutching masses, but Valentine's Day was shameless from the start, and it won't hesitate to shake down a robust $40 million -- and that's a three-day estimate. Add President's Day, and it's threatening $50 million.
I know how generous that sounds against such wide-release genre competition as The Wolfman. But Christ I'm tired of the multiplex monogamists who, despite ample evidence to the contrary, continue to theorize and insist that people decide on exactly one new release every weekend, and then see another the next, and so on forever. That might be true of families for whom a visit to the movies is a $100 trip. For the demographics these top two films are looking at, the only thing prohibiting Wolfman from keeping up with Valentine's Day is the R-rating. Which is a long-winded way of saying that the lycanthropian horror show could notch up a three-day total of $29 million, mostly comprising guys walking between theaters while whining "You promised!" to dates still moist from Ashton Kutcher and/or Taylor Lautner.
And who knows what to expect from Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief? This has been a surprising weekend historically for action-fantasy family fare, perhaps none more so than when Bridge to Terabithia almost broke $23 million in 2007. Of course, that was Disney; this is Fox, which also went the kid-lit route in attempting to build a new franchise but cut some pretty dramatic corners on the script and director front. I'll have a review later, but unless I'm completely missing the buzz on this (which is entirely possible; I'm not exactly hanging out at the Barnes & Noble kids' section), the literary phenom will hit the box-office ceiling pretty hard around $21 million.
Also opening: Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan's American road movie My Name is Khan; the indie paranoia-thriller Order of Chaos; the spellbinding Silvio Berlusconi doc Videocracy (NY only); the gritty Bronx drama Falling Awake (also NY only); and the expansion of the epic Red Riding Trilogy to the Nuart in L.A.
THE BIG LOSER: Avatar could never be a loser, obviously, but there would be something weirdly profound about seeing it drop from second to fifth place overall in one week. Which is very probable, unless Percy Jackson bombs out of the gate.
THE UNDERDOG: The documentary October Country takes you through a little over a year in the life of the Moshers, an ordinary middle-class family in New York's Mohawk Valley. Except they're not exactly ordinary: From the crusty, Vietnam-vet patriarch Don to his pagan, arthritic sister Denise to the three teenagers battling paralyzing cycles of abuse, abandonment and unwanted pregnancy, the Moshers make no secret of the ghosts who've insinuated their ways into the family tree. Yet in the camera eye of co-directors Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, their afflictions reflect the sweeping, inexorable march of American woe. All-access, beautifully shot and as dramatically taut as any scripted feature on the market, October Country is tomorrow's probable Oscar fare today. Why wait? (Unless you live in L.A., where it opens in a week.)
FOR SHUT-INS: This week's new DVD releases include the Coens' latest Best Picture nominee A Serious Man, the underachieving romance The Time Traveler's Wife, the hit ensemble comedy A Guitar Hero Commercial, the violent Tom Hardy tour de force Bronson, the not-Gary Coleman-approved Midgets vs. Mascots, and the unrated director's cut of The Stepfather.
Sigh. What are you seeing this weekend? Any recommendations?