Reject Report: Pitt, DeNiro, Pacino, Perry Get ‘Burned’

You know, I’m kind of looking forward to this change from summer popcorn movies to the more adult-oriented fall lineup. The summer is great for special effects, superheroes, and raunchy comedy. And fun CGI-animated movies and other good stuff for the whole family.

Eventually, though, it’s time to take a break from all that. The fall and winter flicks can be good, too: more drama, more hard-hitting productions based on news and current events (ie. W.), more spies (this means you, James Bond), and generally, greater variety in the types of movies you see — westerns, period pieces, you name it. Also, I notice there tends to be more onscreen female nudity this time of year (this means you, Julianne Moore). You can always count on some good horror flicks showing up around Halloween. Most of all, there are more efforts by big, important directors and more big stars on screen — because everyone wants to win an Academy Award and be famous.

There is also more than your fair share of family SCHLOCK from the likes of Disney and, uh, Tyler Perry. (Just kidding.) Anyway, so much for my attempts to cheer up all you depressed comic-book fans. Really, it’s not so bad at the theaters. It’ll be easier to get a good seat, too.

I think this weekend serves as a good barometer of what is to come in the next few weeks and months. We’ll be seeing some family stuff (Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys), some black comedy (Burn After Reading), some big stars and some action (Righteous Kill), and something for the ladies (The Women). Those are the four flicks that are opening wide on over 2,000 screens, and those four will get the big preview treatment here at the Reject Report.

We begin with Burn After Reading, which screened last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, a festival covered by every entertainment TV show on the air here in my homeland of frozen Canada. So at the very least it’s gotten a lot of publicity in Canada, so maybe people have actually heard of it and may actually show up! It’s directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, who brought you No Country for Old Men, Fargo and other great movies, and stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. And YES, it’s about SPIES. In this flick, private documents of a CIA agent (played by John Malkovich) winds up in the possession of a couple of gym employees (Pitt and McDormand) who decide to cash in and blackmail this guy.

Sounds good. But it also sounds like this is aimed at the art-house crowd and Oscar-type people. All I basically have to do here is look up the weekend grosses for Michael Clayton and similar movies, and put that down as the gross for this flick. That’s basically the entire audience for this thing. I think $14 million is a good bet.

Next we have Righteous Kill, a crime thriller starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, both of whom have lengthy histories of onscreen criminal activity. This time, they play two cops looking to find the possible connection between a recent murder and a case they solved years sgo — or at least, thought they solved. 50 Cent, Carla Gugino, Brian Dennehy, Donnie Wahlberg are all in the cast. Jon Avnet directs and Russell Gewirtz wrote the screenplay.

Sounds interesting, but I read at Rotten Tomatoes that this flick is getting only 17 percent over there. Al Pacino hasn’t had much recent luck at the theaters, either: he starred earlier this year in 88 minutes, a movie with a running time that turned out to be far longer than 88 minutes. I don’t see a winning weekend for him this time out, either, although I think it will be close. This one should only do $17 million, in spite of the great cast.

The Women is a remake of a 1939 flick directed by George Cukor that starred Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell. But that was 1939. The 2008 version is directed by Diane English that stars Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith, among others. Basically, all the queens of the “chick flicks” are in this one as far as I can tell. Even Bette Midler and Candice Bergen are in this thing. Ryan plays a clothing designer who seems to have it all until her husband starts cheating on her, and that puts all her friendships to the test.

I read somewhere that the people distributing this thing think they can capitalize on the vast untapped female audience for Hollywood movies, on the heels of the big success of Sex and the City. Well, I’ve got news for you: this ain’t Sex and the City, and Rotten Tomatoes has this running at 5 percent. Fat chance you’ll see too many women packing the theaters with that kind of negative buzz out there. Anyway, I am giving this flick $8 million.

Last but definitely not least, I give you Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, the latest in a long line of Tyler Perry movies at the theaters, all of which seem to have a ready-made audience of mainly African-American women flocking to see them. They all do pretty well at the box office, too. Anyway, this one is not as big a comedy laugh-fest like some of his other flicks. Instead, it goes towards more dramatic territory as two families, one black and one white, see their families’ fortunes intertwined as their family members are mired in turmoil of one sort or another. The flick stars Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates as the matriarchs of these two families. It also stars Sanaa Lathan, Rockmond Dunbar, Robin Givens, Cole Hauser, Taraji P. Henson, KaDee Strickland, and who am I missing here? Oh yeah: Tyler Perry, who also writes and directs.

So given Perry’s track record alone, this one should win the box office easily. Here’s a question I have, though. Aren’t people sick and tired of Tyler Perry by now? It’s been one Tyler Perry movie after another, and people have got to be bored silly with seeing these things. Just as people are sick of seeing Judd Apatow movies every couple of months. One of these days, Tyler Perry movies are going to start flopping at the box office. But not this week. $18 million.

So here is how I see the box office breaking down, and believe me, these numbers look to be a big improvement over last weekend’s train wreck of a finish at the box office:

1. Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys $18 million
2. Righteous Kill $17 million
3. Burn After Reading $14 million
4. The Women $8 million
5. Tropic Thunder
$5.7 million
6. Bangkok Dangerous
$5.5 million
7. The Dark Knight $5.3 million
8. The House Bunny $4.5 million
9. Traitor $3.5 million
10. Babylon A.D.
$3.2 million

Yes, modest numbers again, but much better than last weekend when a movie could finish in first place with a take of $7 million dollars! And believe you me, the grosses on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty grim, too. Of course, it doesn’t help matters when hurricanes keep on smashing into the United States every weekend, forcing devoted movie fans to flee from their homes. This weekend, folks in Texas are getting hit by Hurricane Ike. Life sucks down there.

Anyhow, to sum up: it’s not looking like such a bad weekend at theaters. Things are looking up –sort of.

Back with a look at the final totals later this weekend here at the Reject Report.

(Editor’s Note – We had some technical difficulties again with the numbers reverting back to last week’s numbers…again. We fixed the problem and updated the numbers.)

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