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Box Office – Weekend of March 28th, 2008

Welcome to the Box Office! In this weekly feature, I’ll look at each week’s wide releases, summarize their plots (i.e. pasting from, and give my opinion of whether or not they’re worth your 8 dollars (or whatever godawful price they’re charging these days). This week has several new releases, with the majority of them seeming to target the younger crowd:

“21”starring Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, and Kate Bosworth
Plot summary – “21” is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.
My take – I quite liked Sturgess in “The Other Boleyn Girl” (Poor George!) and somewhat in “Across the Universe” (I loved the music and stylistic elements – I just didn’t buy the love story for a second.) As for Spacey (aka Lex Luthor in “Superman Returns”), he’s excellent in most of what he does, so I’ll trust that he is at least decent in his role as the ringleader of the students. Kate Bosworth (Oh look, another “Superman Returns” alumni!), has never been a great actress to me, but I trust she holds her own in the film. The casino story has been done to death as of late, but the element of college students in a sort of non-school sponsored “heist club” helps differentiate it a bit. The fact that they changed the original story to make it more “mainstream” (they changed the students from Asian-Americans to a hunky white guy and pretty blonde girl) irks me, but I guess you have to make everything “Hollywood” these days. As for the movie itself, it doesn’t grab me as a “must-see” film, but it looks entertaining enough. It certainly won’t win any Oscars, but it’s decent entertainment for a few hours. You could honestly do worse (i.e. Superhero Movie).
[ Click for more info on the movie ][ Click to see the trailer ]

“Run Fatboy Run”starring Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, and Hank Azaria
Plot summary – A chunky, clueless guy leaves his pregnant fiancée on their wedding day only to discover — 5 years later — that she is his one true love. But in order to win back her heart, he looks to finish his first marathon while making her realize her new man is the wrong guy for her.
My take – I’ve never seen “Hot Fuzz”, so I’m not in on all the Simon Pegg hype. This movie does look funny, and it apparently did well enough in Europe to get a decent release date over here, so it looks worth a shot. First-time director David Schwimmer (yes, Ross from “Friends”) is getting good reviews for his work. The movie doesn’t seem to rest too much on its slapstick nature. It has a heart, but at the same time doesn’t look too sappy. I’d say this looks like a pretty good comedy, as it doesn’t seem to be one of those movies that relies too much on overdone gags to get laughs. It stands out amongst other recent run-of-the-mill comedies, and that’s enough these days to warrant a viewing, I’d say.
[ Click for more info on the movie ][ Click to see the trailer ]

“Stop Loss”starring Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, and Joseph Gordon-Levvitt
Plot summary – Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind. Then, against Brandon’s will, the Army orders him back to duty in Iraq, which upends his world. The conflict tests everything he believes in: the bond of family, the loyalty of friendship, the limits of love and the value of honor.
My take – The war in Iraq is definitely a touchy subject – even more when discussing the double-edged sword of deciding whether or not to serve as commanded. I don’t have any immediate family in the army, so this doesn’t hit as close to home as it could, but I admire the message they’re sending. Whether you’re for or against the war, most people seem to agree that we should support our soldiers, and that is a basic element in this movie. When I first heard of this being an “MTV Films” movie, I was hesitant, and the seemingly 50-year-old Drowning Pool song in the trailer doesn’t do it much favors, especially since “Rambo killed that song again a few months ago. It’s most likely an MTV-fied film, with music and other pop-culture elements taking center stage, but as war films go these days, it seems to have definite heart. However, it doesn’t seem to be too preachy, as is the fate of some of the Iraq War-themed films, and can possibly give a helpful perspective on soldiers serving in Iraq and their families, and how they deal in these turbulent times. Whether or not is succeeds is yet to be determined, though. I’m not a big “war movie” person so I’ll likely skip this, but if this is your cup of tea, by all means!
[ Click for more info on the movie ][ Click to see the trailer ]

“Superhero Movie”starring Drake Bell, Sara Paxton, and Leslie Nielsen
Plot summary – A send-up of superhero films, from Batman Begins to Fantastic Four.
My take – I haaaaaaatteeee the spoof films. They often do nothing more than lift jokes from other movies and string them together with tired pop culture references, so it doesn’t take much talent to make them. This doesn’t look to be much different, although it looks to use one movie as a base to string it together – 2002’s “Spider-Man”. Maybe it would’ve madem ore sense to do it last year with “Spider-Man 3”‘s release, but then again, this summer has three superhero movies in the pipeline – “Iron Man” in May, “The Incredible Hulk” in June, and “The Dark Knight” in July. Still, this spoof concept is so overdone, it’s obvious that they’re piggybacking on this genre’s overwhelming success. I don’t respect anyone who makes use of others’ success and elements to make their own crappy movie. The gags in the trailer and tv spots don’t look funny – Break dancing on a wall? “The incredible black cock”? Seriously, did DX write this? – and even Leslie Nielsen, who starred in the classic spoof film “Airplane!” can’t raise the movie’s credibility. It’ll probably make decent money and come out on top of this weekend’s box office, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t suck as bad as “Epic Movie”, “Date Movie”, and “Meet the Spartans”. I like my superhero movies (well, most of them, anyway), but even guaranteed nods towards them isn’t enough to make me want to see this. I love the “Spider-Man” trilogy and don’t mind when people poke fun at it, but this doesn’t look even as funny as Peter Parker’s John Travolta-esque strutting in the 3rd one.
[ Click for more info on the movie ][ Click to see the trailer ]

“Flawless”starring Demi Moore, Michael Caine, and Lambert Wilson
Plot summary – A crime/drama set in 1960 London, where a soon to retire janitor convinces a glass-ceiling constrained American executive to help him steal a handful of diamonds from their employer, the London Diamond Corporation.
My take – I haven’t heard much at all about this, but I assume there’ll be lots of “flawless” puns in its reviews, good or bad. I haven’t seem a Demi Moore movie since “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” and safe to say it’s not a true testament to her acting skills. Michael Caine is excellent as Christian Bale’s counterpart in the Batman movies and “The Prestige”, so I expect him to do quite well in this. But then again, the tired “heist” premise (“21” is doing the very same thing in the very same weekend) is kind of tired out, and I don’t know if I’m interested in seeing something that somehow reminds me of “The Score (janitors, convincing someone to help you steal something, retirement, a heist) but doesn’t have the promise of Edward Norton or Robert DeNiro. I can’t say I’m planning on seeing this – there’s nothing to motivate me to do so. I like Michael Caine quite alright, but he doesn’t exactly make it worth the money – not this time, at least.
[ Click here for more info on the movie. ][ Click here to see the trailer. ]

So what, in my opinion, is most worth your money, and what is the equivalent of tossing your cash out of a moving car’s window? Let’s see:
THE BEST BET“21”. It’s the safest bet, as it has the star power and guaranteed excitement through its “risk and reward” theme.
THE WORST BET“Superhero Movie”. It’s practically a guarantee that the best gags were in the trailer and tv spots, so even if you found yourself laughing at them, chances are that when spread over 85 minutes, they’re not going to make for a gut-busting movie. Rent a real superhero movie and make up your own jokes. Chances are, they’ll be better than the ones in this film.

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