This Week in Movies By Pete Hammond – “Paranormal Activity”

By Pete Hammond It’s rare that a third edition of a horror movie franchise could not only actually outperform its predecesors at the boxoffice but actually get good reviews in the process. Paramount’s latest annual installment of the Paranormal Activity series of creep-you-out genuine spookiness “home movies” did just that earning a way over-performing estimated total of $54 million and 72% positive reviews on the aggregated Rotten Tomatoes site.

Overall the film which only cost around $5 million to make is seemingly already in profit. Of course that $5 million total is gargantuan compared to the original cost of the first PA film which was reportedly made for $11,000 before Paramount acquired it for release in 2007. Since then they have kept the series going with back to back installments last Fall and now. It’s a tricky concept to keep pushing since the surprise element that made it work so well is by now a formula. Without giving too much away PA3 stretches that formula to the limit. Still at its heart this is one of those films, like Blair Witch Project that works because it touches the core of our fears, things that go bump in the night in our own homes. I would say it is also the anti-horror movie , at least of the sort like the ever-so-bloody Saw franchise that wore out its welcome long ago. Whether Paramount can figure out a way to keep this thing going throughout this decade like their Friday The 13th franchise managed to do in its own time is another question. Signs of viewer fatigue may already be creeping in if you go by the mediocre C+ Cinemascore rating of audience satisfaction this one got and the perilous 30%+ drop the film experienced from Friday’s blazing boxoffice to Saturday’s numbers. Actually you have to wonder what the deal is when a supposedly crowd-pleasing horror movie pleases the critics more than the “crowd”.

Proving no competition at the box office at all was the latest attempt to turn the time-honored tale of The Three Musketeers into gold at the ticket window. This souped-up 3D version of the classic tale earned only an estimated $8.8 million , good for an underachieving 4th place. Was it the marketing? Even its star, Milla Jovavich went public via twitter to complain. Sorry Milla it was the movie which is a far cry from previous versions including my own favorite, Richard Lester’s 1974 take on the immortal characters. Hell, this one isn’t even as good as the candy bar! The fact that it got a ‘B’ Cinemascore won’t help. And critics hated it, giving it only a 28% positive RT rating. Expect this swashbuckling wannabe to make a quick exit from theatres in the next couple of weeks before the big crowd of Fall holiday releases kicks in.

Doing even worse was Universal’s Rowan Atkinson comedy Johnny English. Atkinson is the guy who made Mr. Bean such a worldwide comic phenomenon and he clearly has an international following, but like the Bean films this one played well just about everywhere BUT in America where it tanked with just $3.8 million (albeit on less than half the number of screens as its competition). International audiences appreciate a different sort of comedy, more in the slapstick sight gag vein, than American audiences sometimes and this is a textbook example of that. Still personally I will take the rubber-faced Atkinson over American comedy darling Adam Sandler anytime but clearly, at least in the States, I am in the minority. But when you make $100 million like Johnny English did before even hitting one U.S. multi-plex who is really complaining?

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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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