This Week In Movies – ‘Resident Evil,’ ‘The Romantics,’ ‘Heartbreaker’

By Pete Hammond It was a week in movies where all the action was in other countries with the Venice Film Festival wrapping up in Italy and the Toronto International Film Festival just getting under way in Canada.

So with the field all to itself in this country and not shown in advance to critics, a wise move considering its current dismal 14% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the week’s one lone wide release “Resident Evil: Afterlife” shows there is some life after all in Screen Gems’ durable but dopey franchise mixing Zombies and Jovavich (as in Milla). Earning an estimated $27.7 million for the SLOW three day back-to-school post-summer weekend, ‘Afterlife’ scored the series’ best opening numbers ever, well over the last two entries “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” and “Resident Evil: Extinction” which both opened to about $23 mill(a)ion each without the benefit of 3D’s hiked prices that this one had. For those who care the original that started this whole thing opened to about $17 million in 2002 dollars. It’s hard to recall another weekend this year that one studio had all to themselves but Sony’s Screen Gems not only had the number one film, it also took the number two slot with its third weekend of the Matt Dillon heist movie, “Takers” which, considering it is also completely forgettable tripe, has racked up a pretty decent $48 million so far. George Clooney’s “The American” was expected to experience a huge drop in this its second weekend but fell only an average 55%, not good but not disastrous considering its D minus Cinemascore last week that might have indicated treacherous word-of-mouth ahead. Actually it was the better-scored “Machete” a spinoff from the Grindhouse flop that fell the most of any flick this week, a whopping 63% which should finally convince director Robert Rodriguez to step off the Grindhouse beat once and for all.

Now despite the fact that there was only one new nationwide release this weekend there were PLENTY of other movies hitting the marketplace. You just had to live in the right town, namely LA or NY. According to Boxoffice Magazine’s Sara Schieron who diligently tracks down new releases like it was a cult religion, there were a possible record 30 films opening somewhere in the U.S. this weekend. Wow. It would appear that in this purgatory period between summer and fall tiny distributors were looking to get a foothold one way or the other before being shut out entirely, hence the big dump. In addition to the week’s number one film, here are the other titles Sara came up with: “Honeymoons” (excl NY); Leonard Cohen’s “Songs From The Road” (excl L.A.); “I’m Still Here” (Ltd.); “Legendary” (Ltd.), “The Romantics” (Ltd.); “Expecting Mary” (Ltd.); “Heartbreaker” (Ltd.); “White Wedding” (Ltd.); “Sequestro” (L.A. N.Y.); “Lovely, Still” (NY); “Hideaway” (NY); “Who Is Harry Nilsson” (NY.); “Bran Nue Dae” (Ltd.) ; “Genius Within: The Inner Life Glen Gould” (NY); “Biker Fox” (NY); “Fool For Love” (Ltd); “Race To Nowhere” (LA, NY); “Last Rites Of Ransom Pride” (Ltd.); “Something’s Gonna Live” (Ltd.); “My Suicide” (Ltd.); “Logan” (Ltd.); “Ahead Of Time” ( NY); “The Afterlight” (NY); “Arjun” (Ltd.); “Modus Operandi” (NY); “Sparkle” (Ltd.); “Sayonara Itsuka” (Ltd.); “Dabangg” (Ltd.); “Daddy’s Home” (Texas). This list doesn’t even INCLUDE a slew of documentaries that also opened on one screen in LA, NY or both simply to qualify for Oscars. They include: “Precious Life”; “Cameraman: The Life And Work of Jack Cardiff”; and “Striking A Chord.” So while moviegoers in Cleveland may be complaining about getting only one lousy new movie choice , the bi-coastal set had an embarrassment of riches if they wanted to search the listings, but it wasn’t easy for many of these movies even to make it this far. John Scheinfeld’s (“The U.S. Vs John Lennon”) fascinating Harry Nilsson documentary has been floating around for at least four years before finally being granted a limited release. “The Romantics” featuring a lively turn from Katie Cruise…er Holmes is the first on the low budget Paramount Famous label which was formed after the success last year of the $15,000 budgeted “Paranormal Activity.” It did well on modest terms with $44,000 from just two screens.

Okay so among those big 30 movies getting U.S. theatrical exposure for the first time this weekend I have say, unequivocally, the one NOT TO MISS is promising French director Pascal Chaumeil’s debut feature, “Heartbreaker (L’Arnacoeur)” which IFC is releasing in Los Angeles and New York after attaining huge hit statues in its native France where it took in over 4 million admissions. Starring Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis (Mrs. Johnny Depp), the movie is a gallic charmer about a professional seducer who specializes in breaking up happy couples for a price. It won the audience award at this year’s L.A based COLCOA film festival and also played Berlin and Tribeca before gaining distribution from IFC which should have a nice arthouse hit on its hands if this weekend’s $54,000 opening gross on just three screens is any indication. The interesting thing about it is that it was co-written by Detroit-born Jeremy Doner (along with Laurent Zeitoun and Yoann Gromb) who spent three seasons writing the Glenn Close FX series, “Damages” for which he earned a WGA nomination. Oddly he is an American writer who also works in France and is actually now currently working on the script for Universal and Working Title’s American remake of “Heartbreaker” even as the French original is just hitting theatres (Universal and Focus International were the big guns behind the French version as well). His second French film, “Marsupilami and the Orchid of Chicxulub,” co-written with comedian Alain Chabat starts filming this month in Mexico.

Finally, although it doesn’t open stateside for a couple of weeks, Christina Aguilera stole the show at Sunday night’s New York Lincoln Center premiere of “Nowhere Boy,” the Weinstein Co. drama about the young John Lennon that has come and gone in England (it’s already on Blu Ray) and which I saw, and really liked on a British Airways jet going to London in May. Now finally Americans will get the chance to see this fine, atmospheric drama with a terrific lead performance from Aaron Johnson (“Kickass”) and a wonderful supporting one from the criminally underrated Kristin Scott Thomas. Aguilera , who has her own flick “Burlesque” opposite Cher opening for Thanksgiving, sang Lennon’s “Imagine” for the gathered guests in honor of what would have been his 70th birthday coming up on October 9th, the day after the film’s U.S. opening.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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One Comment

  • September 21, 2010 | Permalink |

    I completely agree with you that Kristin Scott Thomas was “criminally” (I love how you used it) unrated especially in the US. I don’t understand that she didn’t win Oscar for her role in “English Patient” and wasn’t even nominated for “I’ve loved so long” which made me think the Oscar is just a distorted scheme and not for true talents…Those Oscar voters should really feel shamed…

    Kristin Scott Thomas is truly brilliant. I do believe she is the greatest actress in the decades!! In one of the articles, Ralph Fiennes perfectly described her performances as “thousand delicate nuances of thought, feeling and sensation”.

    From what I gathered, KST is in such great state of her career, with many interesting roles in the many French movies, such as “Sarah’s Key”, “Leaving”, “Love Crime” and some English movies, such as “Nowhere Boy”, “Bel Ami” and “The Women in the Fifth”, etc. Hopefully those movies will be distributed in the US soon so the US audience would get chance to enjoy and appreciate her talent. And hopefully those Oscar voters will make efforts to see her movies!!

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