This Week In Movies – “Wall Street 2,” “The Town,” “Waiting for Superman

By Pete Hammond Some studios put sequels into production after getting the first weekend’s boxoffice results. Some don’t even wait for that like Summit’s about-to-shoot “Twilight” finale or the upcoming “Harry Potter And The Deathly Gallows” which both decided to make two films at once and then release them six months apart. Of course those titles are not exactly what you might label big risks. On the other hand it is sort of unusual to see a sequel, like this weekend’s boxoffice leader “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” show up a full 23 years after the first installment but that’s exactly what 20th Century Fox and Oliver Stone have pulled off and judging by the nifty estimated $19 million take it’s already paying dividends. Then again it seems a natural as there was a financial meltdown in 1987 when the stock market crashed and there is a financial meltdown now so the more things change , the more they unfortunately stay the same. Michael Douglas of course is the reason the new version got made. Without the star willing to reprise his Oscar winning Gordon Gekko , there would be no point in heading down this trail again. It’s a bigger-than-life character and he hasn’t lost a beat in recreating him for a brand new generation. His co-stars, particularly Shia LaBeouf as his new protégée and Carey Mulligan as his daughter help young things up here, but it’s Douglas who carries the day. Can you name another actor who came back to a role so many years apart and gave it new meaning? Not many, although Al Pacino managed to bring Michael Corleone back a third time in 1990’s “The Godfather Part III” exactly 16 years after Part II swept the Oscars and of course ,most impressively Paul Newman (with the help of Martin Scorsese) was able to reprise his Eddie Felson pool shark from 1961’s “The Hustle” a quarter of a century later in 1986’s “The Color Of Money,” even finally winning an Oscar for his efforts. For his part on screen Douglas has been having a banner year. He won some of the best reviews of his career in May’s indie drama, “Solitary Man” and now once again leads the box office parade with another go-round as Gekko. It’s ironic then that his serious bout with stage 4 throat cancer should come at such a pivotal and successful point in his long career.

Another guy having a great return to movies this year is Ben Affleck whose crime drama “The Town” which he co-wrote, directed and stars in, fell only 33% this weekend, a terrific hold in an era where box office leaders usually fall between 50 to 60% from opening weekend to the next. It’s proving word-of-mouth is taking hold but even more encouragingly the one/two punch of Fox’s “Wall Street” and Warner Bros’ “The Town” at the top of the charts indicates that when major studios offer adult fare that fickle audience will show up in droves if they want to see it. It’s true that the 3D family Owl flick, “Legends Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’Hoole,” technically came in second according to Warners’ estimates but both of the studio’s films are hovering in the lower $16 million dollar range to the point where the order could even be reversed when final numbers come in later Monday. Whatever the case, to see two major studios turn out ADULT DRAMAS, a genre thought only a year ago to be dead and still be able to fly high at the ticket windows is a very good sign. Let’s hope they get the message.

And finally in yet another encouraging turn for a major, Paramount‘s ( using its mostly defunct Vantage label) “Waiting For Superman” got one of the highest per screen averages this year for a specialty movie at $35,000, which also repped the biggest by far in 2010 for a documentary. It’s a great beginning for the studio on a title that, taken literally, may sound like a fanboy’s dream, but obviously isn’t. The fact that this Davis Guggenheim effort is actually about the broken U.S. education system would indicate it’s not exactly the kind of whiz bang material that has people lining up, but line up they did in New York and Los Angeles where on four screens the movie grossed $141,000. This is the same team that turned another seemingly dry subject , the film version of Al Gore’s global warming slide show, “An Inconvenient Truth” into a smash Oscar winning hit (at least for a doc). The film will expand into another ten markets next weekend and we will see if the momentum continues. In order to do that Guggenheim and producer Lesley Chilcott have been on the road with educator Geoffrey Canada and none other than Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates trying to spread the message. One key factor in the success of “Waiting For Superman” has to be the hour Oprah devoted to it on her show earlier in the week. It may be her last season but she’s still got clout where it counts. Paramount should be congratulated for using the movie’s release to get people “to take the pledge” and try to make a difference.

I think this has been such a good week for the “product” coming out of major studios that I am going to mercifully ignore the week’s other wide opening, Disney/Touchstone’s “You Again” which barely registered in 5th place with a pretty anemic estimate of $8.3 million.

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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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