Weak 'Thunder' Still Strong Enough to Rain on 'Dark Knight' Parade
Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your bulletproof one-stop resource for the weekend in new moviegoing. Or sort of bulletproof — Pineapple Express burned us last week with a late slowdown, but we're preparing to bet the farm on The Dark Knight's fall from box-office supremacy by Sunday night. But is what's replacing it even any good? Yes and no, but we'll get to that, as we will with this week's best release off the beaten path and a look-see at new DVD releases for the tired, cheap and/or agoraphobic among us. As always, our opinions are our own, but as long they're right, what's to argue? WHAT'S NEW: We're avowedly Team Tropic Thunder, a genuinely funny (if perhaps too-close-for-comfort) satire that nevertheless looks likelier and likelier to slide softly into history as DreamWorks' last noble misfire. We'll discuss that more below, but our skepticism doesn't mean it can't finish on top for one happy weekend — the question is, How happy? Opening opposite Star Wars: The Clone Wars and still facing a formidable money magnet in The Dark Knight, we could see Thunder surmounting the new Harry Knowles favorite with around $25 million. Clone Wars will finish close to $19 million, with TDK wielding enough juice to creep as far north as maybe even $18 million. Pineapple Express will holdover nicely around $13 million.Also opening: The disposable Kiefer Sutherland thriller Mirrors; the Luke Wilson disease-of-the-week dramedy Henry Poole is Here; the 3-D housefly-in-space adventure Fly Me to the Moon; the seedy, acclaimed LA saga Falling; the Argentinean hermaphrodite coming-of-age story XXY and finally! In the city limits! At the Nuart! Lionsgate's dump-and-run splatter flick The Midnight Meat Train. See it while you can. THE BIG LOSER: Can a film finish in first place at the box office but still be considered a disappointment at Defamer Attractions? Sure — especially Tropic Thunder. It's turned into a bit of a headache for DreamWorks, which has saturated the media to the point of overexposure — literally to a place where the casual viewer they so desperately need for a $90 million R-rated comedy (especially women) is dead to the stimulus. Some folks we've talked to are avoiding it on principle alone, arguing they've already seen the movie via its infamous redband trailer and on about 50 billboards flanking Santa Monica Blvd. Love it though we do, we can't really argue with them.
THE UNDERDOG: Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen's admittedly overrated return to mid-level form: Two nubile Americans abroad (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall) fall into a love triangle with smoldering artist Javier Bardem, which becomes a skewed quadrangle after the entrance of his batshit ex-wife Penelope Cruz. We could take or leave its hammy narration (or hell, the entire narrative) and postcard cinematography, but Hall nearly redeems the film with a fantastic performance recalling Diane Keaton's tart, tormented other woman in Manhattan. We'd watch her in anything, even a dirty old man's overindulgent Euro slop job. FOR SHUT-INS: Slim pickings among new DVD's this week, including the Ellen Page/Sarah Jessica Parker ensemble comedy Smart People; the Val Kilmer/Stephen Dorff prison flick Felon, the complete 11th season of South Park and the must-have The Love Boat: Season One, Volume Two. Two volumes! Who knew? So choose your outs, kids: Is Tropic Thunder a bigger success or disaster-in-waiting than we're foreseeing? Do you dare spend money on The Clone Wars, let alone speak up here on its behalf? Or is it just another sluggish Olympic weekend at home. Speak up — what's good?