Weekend Forecast: Will Adam Sandler Take Justin Bieber's Lunch Money?

That might feel like a stiff breeze winter breeze you're shielding yourself from this morning, but it's really just the chilly, collective sigh of relief from multiplex owners who finally have some desirable movies to show their patrons. "Desirable" being relative, of course, but still: For the first time in 2011, some significant opening-weekend money will be changing hands. But of the week's four (!) new releases, who stands the best shot of taking first place? To the Forecast!

NATIONAL OUTLOOK

· Justin Bieber: Never Say Never: On the one hand, at least from the executive level, it's among the most cynically conceived movies in Hollywood history. On the other, well, apparently the docu-concert flick is halfway decent, even good. To which I say, huzzah! We need more good movies -- or more interesting movies, anyway. But the teen-pop heartthrob's cinematic breakthrough (in 3-D, no less) remains pinned beneath the estrogen layer of our planet's atmosphere, a one-quadrant quasi-blockbuster that was made to open and open big. I mean, this kid may be over with before the movie even hits DVD; neither "legs" nor "long tail" are the anthropomorphic metaphors I'd ascribe to this sucker. Nevertheless, I like its 3-D chances to hurdle over Grandpa Sandler in the final tally, and by more than anyone thinks. FORECAST: $35.7 million

· Just Go With It: So this happened: Adam Sandler roped in no less than Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman as supporting players in his tale about a guy who pretends... something married... fake family... Brooklyn Decker's rack... Dennis Dugan directs... etc. Michelle Orange's review really does say it all, and quite exquisitely to boot. All I care about at this point is the opening, and all I can really tell you about that is that of Sandler and Dugan's six collaborations to date, only one -- 1996's Happy Gilmore -- opened below $30 million. But! None have been released within a year of each other until Grown Ups (their second-highest opening at $40 million) and this one, so this is probably less a test of their combined box-office muscle than a test of how quickly audiences can chew and digest mouthfuls of Sandugan Inc.'s factory-farm gristle. I think they'll see a dip, Aniston notwithstanding. FORECAST: $31.6 million

· Gnomeo & Juliet: I know, I know -- CGI garden gnomes do Shakespeare for the whole family, with songs by Elton John. What's the harm? Well, CGI garden gnomes do Shakespeare, for starters. I could see this working in an R-rated context with Ricky Gervais and Lucy Punch voicing the doomed Veronans, but come on. CGI garden gnomes do Shakespeare! Stephanie Zacharek has the low (low) down, and even the younger girls Disney is hoping to attract to this one will be puking with glee in the Bieber auditorium next door. Not optimistic. FORECAST: $13.8 million

· The Eagle: This one appears to have maybe gotten away from Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald: Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell star as a pair on a quest to retrieve the lost, titular object and avenge Tatum's father's death in the uglier days of the Roman empire. Fighting, despair, vague homoeroticism and much grime ensue, all under a PG-13 rubric that will probably make you wish you'd just rented the grittier, nastier (i.e. more "realistic") Centurion instead. Anyway, they're pushing it out to 2,500 or so theaters, which shouldbe enough to crack $10 million, maybe a little better. FORECAST: $10.7 million

AWARDS STORMWATCH

· The Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Help bolster your Oscar-pool odds with a trip to take in this year's Oscar shorts -- 15 films in live-action, animated and documentary categories that historically prove to be heralds of fantastic new talent and, of course, the edge you need when trying to come out on top on awards night. For the record, God of Love is presently favored in live-action; it's director, Luke Matheny, will drop by Movieline later today with his peerless selections for Valentine's Day viewing that won't leave you in a diabetic coma/apoplectic fury/crying jag. Check them out.

REGIONAL OUTLOOK

· Cedar Rapids: Fox Searchlight kicks off its platformed release of Ed Helms kicking off his own leading-man career, starring as a naive, sheltered Wisconsin insurance guru who travels to a convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, only to tumble into one debauch after another. Anne Heche, John C. Reilly, Isaiah Whitlock and Alia Shawkat co-star; no one is quite over the moon about it, but the film has its following coming out of Sundance and will fare reasonably well on 15 screens. Look for more to come here as the release widens.

· Orgasm Inc.: Hey ladies! They made a movie about your orgasm! Liz Canner's documentary about Big Pharma's quest to diagnose and commodify the mythical "female sexual dysfunction" was years in the making -- and not necessarily in a good way, as its cheese-comic visual elements suggest when attempting to tie together the true 30- or 40-minute heart of the film. But when it's on, it's really on, from exposing the connections between widely cited studies and the pharmaceutical companies that helped fund them, calling out the "genital mutilation" better known as vaginal rejuvenation, and showcasing the grassroots lobby against these and other lady-travesties. Come (ahem) for the shocking deployment of something called the "orgasmatron"; stay for the transfixing images of obliterated sexual-enhancement pills beneath the closing credits. [NYC and Chicago only; more cities forthcoming throughout April]



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