‘This Week In Movies’ – ‘Unstoppable,’ ‘Skyline,’ ‘Morning Glory’
By Pete Hammond
HollywoodNews.com: Hollywood has two major movie seasons: Summer which starts the first week in May (at least as far as the film industry is concerned) and the Holiday season which for all intents and purposes kicks in the first week of November. That would mean we are already in the thick of it and if that is the case it’s looking pretty underwhelming at this point. The week’s big new popcorn action film opening, “Unstoppable” (also known as speed on speed) actually drew an incredibly strong 85% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but even with raves from critics couldn’t score the number one spot at the box office, settling instead for second and a decent, but not unstoppable estimate of $23.5 million. With the potent pairing of Denzel Washington, “Star Trek’s” Chris Pine and director Tony Scott this should have burned up the megaplexes but now will have to rely on word of mouth (it got an A- Cinemascore rating) to stem the “Harry Potter” tsunami that is about to hit next weekend. With Russell Crowe’s adult appeal thriller, “The Next Three Days” also be thrown into the mix, “Unstoppable” will have to try to stop everything in it’s path or face derailment even before the holidays really kick in with, well, an actual holiday like Thanksgiving. For my money it’s way better than last year’s train-themed Washington/Scott flick, “The Taking Of Pelham 123.” I can’t help but think that, different as the two films are (Pelham was a Subway train), audiences may have thought it was a bit déjà vu. I mean how many times is Denzel going to drink out of the same well. The fact is the current picture almost went off the tracks during pre-production when 20th Century Fox tried to lower the budget and Washington’s reps reportedly balked at getting anything less than his normal quote which is a cool $20 mil. Obviously in the end it all worked out, Denzel signed on and the movie got made. Still you have to think Fox must be a little disappointed they aren’t leading the pack. Pre-release tracking was said to be predicting a less-than-blockbuster opening which is why the studio decided to sneak the picture last weekend to goose word of mouth.
Perhaps “Unstoppable” lost a little business to another high testosterone picture new to the marketplace this week, Universal and Relativity Media’s “Skyline” which placed 4th with an unimpressive $11.7 million. This alien invasion sci-fi turkey boasted no stars, had no advance screenings for critics and, with a D- managed to get one of the year’s worst Cinemascore ratings so it’s not likely it was stealing much thunder or potential customers from “Unstoppable.” With only a 14% fresh RT rating so far the film probably should have been called “Unwatchable.” Look for it to be gone from theatres before Thanksgiving leftovers are gone from refrigerators. Interestingly there’s another case of movies being a little too similar brewing in connection with “Skyline.” Sony’s upcoming 2011 release “Battle: Los Angeles” (3/11) is virtually the same sci-fi thing: Aliens invading big cities. Does Sony think it was ripped off? Sure, but are there really any original ideas in Hollywood?
The saddest results from this week’s openings involve Paramount’s smart and lilting romantic comedy, “Morning Glory” which stars Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams. Actually to show how youth affects studio thinking these days McAdams’ name appears above the two veteran co-stars in all the advertising. Yes, she as the producer of their morning show is the titular character in the film but that hasn’t stopped studios from putting the bigger names in first position or agents from demanding it. At any rate all are terrific and the film is much, MUCH better than its middling 54% RT fresh rating would indicate. Still, even getting the jump with a Wednesday opening , its weekend gross of just $9.6 million and 5th place finish is hugely disappointing. There is a silver lining. It’s the most adult skewing of all the week’s newbies and could be a slow-grossing long distance runner like recent examples of “Red” and “Secretariat,” both of which have had minimal drops in subsequent weeks due to glowing word of mouth and the penchant of adult audiences to show up somewhat later than their kids normally do. The film’s title is not exactly a barn burner either but here’s hoping clever, well-crafted adult comedies can still find their niche in today’s green-screened cinematic world.
Finally, we should mention the week’s number one movie. It’s the same as last week’s number one movie. Dreamworks Animation’s hilarious “Megamind” wins again, handily, with a $30 million estimate and just a 35% drop. The hiked 3D prices help but the bottom line is families rule at holiday time and with nearly $90 million after just 10 days it looks like Dreamworks, so far, has the most to be thankful for this young holiday season.
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