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Each week, I will highlight the movies that are opening wide in most markets over the weekend and take a stab at guessing who will come out on top of the box office.

Opening April 22nd, 2011:


Water for Elephants, starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz. Directed by Francis Lawrence.

Rating: PG-13.
Length: 2 hours and 2 minutes.
Synopsis: A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a traveling circus as their vet (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Reviews are coming in slowly (only 13 are in as of this writing), but what's been said so far isn't very good. Most of the complaints seem to stem from that fact that the charm of the book doesn't present itself in the film, and as consequence the movie's missing an essential spark. Speaking of spark, the chemistry between the romantic leads (Pattinson and Witherspoon) isn't lighting up the screen either. The number of metaphors for sleep employed in these reviews tell me that it's not the most thrilling movie, but the criticism I would lay the most stock in is the drop in quality from book to screen. It's often that novel adaptations don't match the quality of the source material, and this looks to be another example of that. I haven't read the book yet, but I've heard much better things about it than I have about this movie.
Box office prospects: Predictions have Water for Elephants coming in third at the box office this weekend, making $18 million. As the movie has a built-in audience and the cast features a heartthrob and two Oscar winners, one would think the film would draw a bit more, but given that its appeal skews older, this is probably a nice chunk of change. It's estimated that Reese Witherspoon's paycheck for the movie is a lot smaller than those from her most recent films, so maybe the budget is tiny enough that an $18 million opening could be considered a success.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.


Watch the trailer for Water for Elephants:




Madea's Big Happy Family, starring Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine and Bow Wow. Directed by Tyler Perry.

Rating: PG-13.
Length: 1 hour and 46 minutes.
Synopsis: Madea jumps into action when her niece, Shirley, receives distressing news about her health. All Shirley wants is to gather her three adult children around her and share the news as a family (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Tyler Perry very rarely screens his movies in advance for critics, much less his audience-friendly Madea movies. Big Happy Family is no different, so there are no reviews floating around yet. In a way, it doesn't matter: these movies are virtually critic-proof, making plenty of money no matter what the critics may say.
Box office prospects: A $29 million opening is expected, placing it atop the box office for the weekend and narrowly beating out Rio. Like I said, these Madea movies are critic-proof: Tyler Perry has accumulated quite the built-in audience, and they'll see these movies no matter what. While I'm not convinced it'll beat Rio, I have no doubt that it'll rake in plenty of money.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for Madea's Big Happy Family:




African Cats, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey.

Rating: G.
Length: 1 hour and 29 minutes.
Synopsis: A nature documentary centered on two cat families and how they teach their cubs the ways of the wild (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: As it's a documentary, reviews aren't as plentiful as they are for your average movie, but from the reviews that have surfaced, African Cats seems to be a rather light romp in the world of the African animals. Some call it story-driven, as the directors have crafted a makeshift story in following these two families. Whether that quality adds of takes away from the spectacle, critics are split. It seems that this is a documentary fit for a younger audience, making the animals relateable by telling a story rather than observing them. The reviews so far don't match up to the more favorable reviews of its Disneynature predecessors, Earth and Oceans.
Box office prospects: Predicted to make around $8 million this weekend, African Cats looks to somewhat take advantage of its Earth Day opening (when proceeds will go to benefit the animals the film showcases), but trail behind the openings of Earth and Oceans. That could be attributed to its more focused subject and lessened spectacle.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for African Cats:




Which movie has the most buzz? Madea's Big Happy Family is positively owning Facebook, boasting fans in the millions. This is proof that the movies have an iron-clad fanbase and promise a nice gross for this one. On Twitter, Water for Elephants has the most buzz, probably due to excited Robert Pattinson/Twilight fans. With the power young people have demonstrated to hold on Twitter (see every Justin Bieber trending topic), it's no wonder that a movie starring their chief heartthrob is getting a ton of buzz. Whether that will translate into a bigger than expected box office take is uncertain, but the fact that Pattinson's non-Twlight movies, such as Remember Me, haven't exactly made bank either doesn't make me think those fangirls and boys will mob the theaters unless he's sparkling and sporting vampire fangs.

What am I going to see? I'm not too interested in any of the films: I'd prefer to read Water for Elephants before seeing it, I haven't seen any of the Tyler Perry movies, and I prefer to watch documentaries on the small screen. Maybe, though, I'll finally get to see Jane Eyre, as it's made its way to a close enough theater.

Who will come out on top? I have full faith in Tyler Perry's ability to sell tickets, but I think Rio's got another upset up its sleeve. The animated movie still have a lot of gas left in it, and I think it will end up topping the box office this weekend, Big Happy Family coming in a close second. Water for Elephants may outperform its expected haul, but I don't see it being much of a contender for the top two slots.

Posters courtesy of OnlineMoviesHut.com and ReelMovieNews.com.
The Movie: Scream 4, starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette. Directed by Wes Craven.

Release date: April 15th, 2011.

Rating: R.

Synopsis: Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer (via IMDB.com).

Background: It's been 11 years since the last installment in the Scream franchise. Scream 3, released in 2000, was received poorly by critics and seemed to forget the franchise's original purpose: taking on horror movie cliches. Instead, it seemed to use them instead, becoming the very thing the franchise was made to spurn. With over a decade to cool off, the franchise returned this year with Scream 4, brining back the core cast, adding some new faces, packing the movie with cameos and tackling 11 years worth of new cliches.

Strategy: The push towards the modern wasn't limited to the confines of the movie. To promote the film, the studio sought to utilize decidedly current techniques, ones that certainly weren't available during the last Scream go-round. Using Facebook, the massively popular social networking site, they packed content on the Scream 4 fan page, luring fans to "like" it in order to access more goodies. For the regular viewers, the page offered highlights from the film's premiere, a trailer, a soundtrack preview, a Twitter feed and easy access to showtimes and tickets. The page's photo gallery features, in addition to production stills, winners of a fan-made posters design contest and fan-uploaded photos, which range from pictures of them with Ghostface Photoshopped into the background to shots from them attending midnight premieres. The page encouraged fan participation and did its best to assure that Scream 4 landed on as many Facebook update feeds as possible.

But that doesn't mean the strategy for selling Scream 4 turned a blind eye to the past. The movie's first teaser trailer, released appropriately just before Halloween, referred heavily to the history of the franchise, opening with a familiar sequence:



This teaser let everyone know, in basic terms, that along with Sidney, Ghostface was making a return to the town, and that many of the original characters were still alive and well. That is, for the moment anyways. The teaser also mixed in the newer elements, showcasing the younger portion of the cast and going all self-referential with talking about the anniversary of the original murders and listing how horror movie cliches have changed over the years. The thrills and scares are the same, though with as many different faces we see in the teaser alone, it seems like this movie would have a pretty large body count. In terms of hitting all the right notes, this teaser seemed to accomplish its mission.

In addition to the Facebook strategy, the studio released a game for the iPhone and iPad, aligning its release with the movie's release in theaters. The game gave fans of the Scream movies the chance to, for the first time, assume the role of the Ghostface killer, strategically taking out unsuspecting victims and avoiding the police. As unsettling as the idea sounds, placing the audience in the role of the villain instead of the hero, it seems to fit the idea of the Scream movies perfectly: they were originally intended to turn the conventions of horror movies on their heads, and this game, in a nutshell, does exactly that. It also builds buzz for the movie as fans play the sure-to-be-addictive game, possibly intrigued by the idea of playing the killer. Click the thumbnail below to see a full-sized image from the game:



All in all, the strategy seemed to mix the franchise's history (the good parts, at least) with modern touches, taking advantage of the technology advances seen in the last 11 years as well as the young actors that have come of age in the interim. Certainly, it was more nuanced than the usual horror movie promotion, but did it attract the moviegoers?

Did it work?: Predictions had Scream 4 easily fending off the competition and topping the box office with an impressive $45 million weekend. However, most experts must have been blindsided by the movie's actual performance: Rio outperformed expectations and took the top spot, leaving Scream 4 in its dust, with the film making just over $19 million, less than half of what it was expected to earn. With such a big difference between expectations and reality, what could have happened to take the movie so far off track?

Maybe it was the movie's reliance on social networking tactics. Instead of going viral, as is the trend, and utilizing the rabid fanbase in a way that could have spread buzz about the movie organically, the studio chose a safe, contained method through building a Facebook fan page, which undoubtedly gave the movie a great deal of "likes", but didn't result in nearly as many ticket purchases as they would have liked. Maybe some of the audience, outside the built-in fanbase, didn't think the movie brought enough to the table, relying on young stars to sell a movie whose franchise started when they weren't old enough to see it themselves.

Perhaps, even, the 11 year gap made the audience lose interest in Scream althogether in a "you snooze, you lose" situation. Recent horror movie failures, updating classics franchise to the modern day (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, My Bloody Valentine), may have led the audience to believe that this would be more of the same: a movie relying on sexy new actors instead of relying on what worked in the first place. No matter what the cause was, the truth is that Scream 4 really underperformed, and that the marketing strategy didn't sell the movie to enough people. Maybe the movie will have legs that will help it regain some ground, but with the start of the summer movie season only a few weeks away, there's little chance of it surviving that onslaught. Scream 4's plight might serve a lesson to other movies: when you have a built-in fanbase, you need to make use of their enthusiasm and interact with them directly, not through the social networking plexiglass.

Poster and photo courtesy of Filmofilia.com and Scream-Trilogy.net.
Each week, I will highlight the movies that are opening wide in most markets over the weekend and take a stab at guessing who will come out on top of the box office.

Opening April 15th, 2011:


Rio, starring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway and George Lopez. Directed by Carlos Saldanha.

Rating: G.
Length: 1 hour and 36 minutes.
Synopsis: When Blu, a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel, he takes off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro with this bird of his dreams (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Rio is getting pretty good reviews, lining up with the response for the director's first Ice Age movie. Critics are calling it funny, cute and colorful, its voice cast performing well. Apparently, it's not overly aggressive or annoying, as many talking animal movies can be. That's good news for a movie sporting a voice cast full of celebrities--usually those films lack a certain charm. Still, it's not Pixar fare, as some critics point out; it's a light and fluffy romp which, for a movie aimed at families, is really all that's being asked for.
Box office prospects: Predictions of a $37 million weekend promise a healthy start for the movie and place it close behind Scream 4. It looks like it will fend off box office topper Hop, another animated family movie, without too much trouble. There are also predictions that this could be the first film in a future franchise, so this start is likely to satisfy the studio heads.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.


Watch the trailer for Rio:




Scream 4, starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette. Directed by Wes Craven.

Rating: R.
Length: 1 hour and 51 minutes.
Synopsis: Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: While it's not matching up to the first two films in the franchise, Scream 4 is getting decent reviews for a 4th go-around. Critics are calling it funny, clever and just "meta" enough. Most seem to think that 11 years on the bench did the franchise some good, allowing for a fresh, revitalized take on Ghostface's terrorizing. It, like its predecessors, it taking on the cliches of the genre, and over a decade away had given them plenty of fresh material. The cast, including a few original core characters and some new young faces are sympathetic, so you're not sitting there rooting for Ghostface to pop up and the credits to roll.
Box office prospects: Experts think that Scream 4 is going to top this weekend's box office and take home an impressive $45 million. This is a great haul for a spring movie, one that in itself perhaps signals an early start to the summer movie season. The fact that it's a fun, familiar movie probably helps a lot--people have gone 11 years without a new Scream movie, so there's a good chance that there's been a lot of anticipation brewing for this one.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for Scream 4:




Which movie has the most buzz? It's Scream 4, by a landslide. On both Facebook and Twitter, the horror movie four-quel is taking no prisoners, boasting over 300,000 Facebook fans over 15,000 tweets. This is to be expected for a long-anticipated franchise movie, especially in a series as crowd-pleasing as Scream. From those who watched the originals in the theaters a decade ago to the younger horror movie fans, it has a good deal of appeal, and that spans both social networking platforms. That doesn't mean Rio is dead in the water--it just means that not many people are talking about a family film when there's a film coming out that's been 11 years in the making.

What am I going to see? Rio definitely looks cute, and I'll probably see it eventually, but I'm most interested in Scream 4. I haven't seen any of the originals (I know..), but this is the perfect excuse to finally see them. I'm hoping to catch up on at least the first film before checking out this new one. That probably means I won't be seeing it right away, so this weekend may not be weekend at the theater for me.

Who will come out on top? I have no doubt in Scream 4's appeal, and I definitely agree with the experts who say that it'll walk away with a victory this weekend. The mass appeal, long build-up and familiar cast are a recipe for big bucks. The only question is how long it can keep up the momentum with summer blockbusters breathing down its neck. Rio's no slouch, of course, but it's just no match for Ghostface.

Posters courtesy of FilmoFilia.com and IMPAwards.com.
The Movie: Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgård. Directed by Lars Von Trier.

Release date: TBA.

Rating: TBA.

Synopsis: Two sisters find their relationship challenged as a nearby planet threatens to collide into the Earth (via IMDB.com).



Warning: the trailer contains nudity.

Anticipation meter: This movie looks absolutely haunting, from the mood the trailer creates with music to the spectacular visuals. I've yet to see a Lars Von Trier movie all the way through (only part of Dogville when it was on TV), but I know of his reputation for making movies that disturb and move the audience. The science fiction element, with the mystery planet heading towards Earth, should feel implausible, but with how grounded and real the rest of the movie looks, it makes the disaster seem all too possible.

Of course, we can't riddle out the entire plot with this one trailer, but it sets the scene nicely. We know that there is dysfunction within a family as a planet, once hidden by the sun, is moving closer to Earth, threatening to collide with it. Some seem resigned, some don't, but all have a general calm about the situation that is haunting in itself. The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 this is not--it's a frightening apocalyptic story, but framed in a way that gives you a sense of calm, rather than panic. Perhaps that's the most unsettling part. My anticipation is at a 9 out of 10. I'm terrified to see it, but I can't wait to do so.

Something to tide you over: If you find yourself eagerly anticipating this movie, I'd suggest checking out something similar in the meantime. One movie I plan on watching (or, rather, seeing the rest of) before I see Melancholia is Dogville, Lars Von Trier's 2003 movie starring Nicole Kidman. It's a surreal movie, having the set-up of a stage play, and has its share of disturbing elements. Watch its trailer below:


With all the controversy surrounding Von Trier's latest film, Antichrist, it's easy to forget Dogville. Still, I feel it's the movie that looks to be closest to Melancholia, telling the story from a female perspective and following her through hardship. There may be no planetary collision imminent, but Nicole Kidman's character is obviously a woman haunted by her past, much in the way Kirsten Dunst's character in Melancholia is a woman haunted by her present: she's deeply unhappy and is living through what in all likelihood is the apocalypse. Both movies have their disturbing aspects, and while they differ in the way they reach you, both make you keenly aware of your mortality.

Photo courtesy of FilmTwitch.com.
Each week, I will highlight the movies that are opening wide in most markets over the weekend and take a stab at guessing who will come out on top of the box office.

Opening April 8th, 2011:


Arthur, starring the Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner and Greta Gerwig. Directed by Jason Winer.

Rating: PG-13.
Length: 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Synopsis: A drunken playboy stands to lose a wealthy inheritance when he falls for a woman his family doesn't like (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Likely to end up with around the same critical response as last weekend's Russell Brand movie, Hop, Arthur is getting mostly negative reviews. Most of the reviews compare it to the original 1981 Dudley Moore movie and find that it doesn't hold up some 30 years later. It looks like Arthur is suffering the fate of many remakes: the viewers find them unnecessary and mediocre when compared to the original films.
Box office prospects: The film is expected to make around $17 million, coming in 2nd only to Russell Brand's other movie, Hop. It's a solid take for a spring comedy, but one would think that the studio would hope it could out-do an animated comedy in its second week of release.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.


Watch the trailer for Arthur:




Hanna, starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana. Directed by Joe Wright.

Rating: PG-13.
Length: 1 hour and 51 minutes.
Synopsis: A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Critics seem to quite like it, applauding star Saoirse Ronan's performance and the action. Being a revenge film, it seems to make even those who like it almost feel like they shouldn't, which is a unique reaction that could end up dividing audiences.
Box office prospects: A $10 million opening expected, Hanna is set to end up at the bottom of this week's new releases. It's a relatively small movie, so perhaps it isn't a bad showing, especially considering the movie's subject matter (a young girl on a murderous revenge rampage) may not appeal to the broadest of spectrums.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for Hanna:




Soul Surfer, starring AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt. Directed by Sean McNamara.

Rating: PG.
Length: 1 hour and 46 minutes.
Synopsis: A teenage surfer girl summons the courage to go back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: This true story of Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack, is sure to be emotional. Critics, though, think the film lays it on a bit too thick, becoming sappy and overcome with faith-based overtones. It may not technically be a Lifetime movie, but it appears to have a lot of the classic hallmarks of one.
Box office prospects: A projected $10.5 million opening weekend sounds pretty good for a small movie that hasn't been broadly promoted. It, as mentioned, is predicted to outdo Hanna, another film with a young female protagonist conquering adversity that has been more heavily promoted, so maybe faith and waves appeal to more people than revenge and blood.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for Soul Surfer:




Your Highness, starring Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel. Directed by David Gordon Green.

Rating: R.
Length: 1 hour and 42 minutes.
Synopsis: When Prince Fabious's bride is kidnapped, he goes on a quest to rescue her... accompanied by his lazy useless brother Thadeous (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Compared to the last David Gordon Green/Danny McBride collaboration, Pineapple Express, Your Highness is getting pretty poor reviews. It looks like the pot-and-poop humor that made Pineapple Express work doesn't translate well to the Medieval time period. This movie seems to rely too heavily on the modern humor, with Natalie Portman and James Franco playing straight men to McBride's anachronistic slacker. Critics think the concept, which sounds decent on paper, doesn't deliver on film.
Box office prospects: An $11.5 million weekend is predicted, which is not terrible for an R-rated comedy released at this time of the year. The aforementioned Pineapple Express made twice that amount, but it was released in August, where it could still ride the wave of the busy summer box office. Still, I'm sure the producers were hoping that the high profile cast (which includes Natalie Portman and James Franco, Oscar nominees from this year), would have proved to be a bigger draw beyond the college crowd.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for Your Highness:




Which movie has the most buzz? Your Highness has a lock on Facebook buzz, dominating the competition in terms of fans. This makes sense, since Facebook is still a social network chock full of college students, who are undoubtedly the target audience of this movie. On Twitter, Arthur edges out the rest in terms of tweet volume, but there's no telling whether those tweets are from people anticipating the movie or venting about the fact that it's another Hollywood remake. Though, since it's predicted to make more money than the rest of this weekend's new releases, maybe the Twitter buzz really does reflect an eager movie-going audience.

What am I going to see? The comedies don't do much for me, even though I don't mind Russell Brand and really liked Pineapple Express. The movie I'm really looking forward to seeing is Hanna--the reviews promise a decent action movie, and I have enjoyed what little I've seen of Saoirse Ronan. It also doesn't hurt that it's female centric--female-led action movies took a hit with the critical lashing of Sucker Punch, and this seems to redeem them a bit, in terms of quality. Director Joe Wright hasn't disappointed me yet, either.

Who will come out on top? Spring fever is still alive and well, so I think Hop will retain its hold on the box office, with some Easter anticipation helping it to do so. Of the new releases, Arthur seems to have the best shot at contending with Hop, though I think the experts are underestimating Your Highness's drawing power just a bit.

Posters courtesy of FilmoFilia.com and ScreenCrave.com.
Back before the Oscars, I mentioned the possibility of The King's Speech getting a PG-13 makeover. Well, that has indeed happened. On April Fools Day of all days the movie, scrubbed of its already scant curse words, was re-released into theaters with a new PG-13 rating. Television spots and a new poster (seen on the left) proclaimed that the movie is "now the family event of the year". Nevermind that the subject matter, story and characters were all already suited for family viewing. Even the R rating didn't prevent that; guardians could bring children with them. The only deterrent seemed to be the dreaded R rating, giving the film an "adult" stigma. The way to fix that apparently was, among other things, to cut out the charming character moment where soon-to-be-King George spits out a string of curse words in a speech exercise designed to get him out of his comfort zone. Entertainment Weekly detailed the change:

"When the Duke of York, fed up with the rage and repression that have fueled his lifelong stutter, and goaded by his speech therapist (“Do you know the F-word?”), decides to let out his feelings by dropping a chain of F-bombs that would make Melissa Leo blush, the audience no longer hears the dramatic, and funny, and liberating sound of Colin Firth spitting out those fulminating “f—s” (which was still a very naughty thing to say if you were British, and living in the ’30s, and part of the royal monarchy). Instead, the word is said softly, and used exactly once (all that’s allowed under PG-13). The rest of the time, despite what Colin Firth’s lips may be saying, we hear “S—t! S—t! S—t!” Which, as I’m sure the ratings board would be the first to agree, doesn’t quite have the same ring. Later, just before the newly crowned king delivers his big World War II speech, he’s nervous, regressing back to his old stammer, and so he reaches into his bag of tricks, standing at mock attention in his medallioned uniform, mixing “f—” and “s—” and “bugger” into a little symphony of blasphemy. It’s a knockout of a scene — one of the best in the movie. Only now it’s not nearly as good as it was."

One could pin the blame for the film's change on the MPAA's stringent policy on curse words (for example, their "one F-bomb per movie" restriction for PG-13 movies), but the precedent this sets is dangerous: will neutering movies to reach a wider audience become commonplace? Well, hopefully, after this weekend's box office receipts came in, that method was canned. Over the weekend, the "revamped" version of The King's Speech raked in just $1,194,000 in 1,011 theaters, landing it in 14th place. To put things in perspective, #13 on the list was Jane Eyre, a movie available in only 180 theaters.

Part of the reason for the PG-13 version's lukewarm recpetion could be chalked up to fatigue following the film's Oscar publicity or the fact that, since the film's initial release in November, most people had already seen it. However, the fact remains that opening the film up to new viewers did not bring in a significant amount of money. Realistically, the only new age market the film was opened up to this past weekend was teenagers going to the movies without a 17-or-above guardian. Families could bring in all the youngsters they wanted to the R version if they were willing to subject them to a few f-bombs.

So, in a sense, claiming that The King's Speech was only just now becoming a "family event" is not only B.S., but a failed marketing strategy. Take note, Hollywood: neutering a movie and re-releasing it with the word "family" all over the advertisements isn't a recipe for box office gold.

Poster courtesy of IndieWire.com.
Each week, I will highlight the movies that are opening wide in most markets over the weekend and take a stab at guessing who will come out on top of the box office.

Opening April 1st, 2011:


Hop, starring the voice of Russell Brand, James Marsden and Kelly Cuoco. Directed by Tim Hill.

Rating: PG.
Length: 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Synopsis: E.B., the Easter Bunny's teenage son, heads to Hollywood, determined to become a drummer in a rock 'n' roll band. In LA, he's taken in by Fred after the out-of-work slacker hits E.B. with his car (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: As is with most live action humans/animated creature feature, the critics aren't charmed. Complaints about Hop resemble those for recent movies in this genre like Marmaduke and Yogi Bear: critics felt the movies were sacrificing humor and story for childish gags. Of course, these kinds of movies aren't expected to be akin to works of Shakespeare, but family comedies have the potential to be funny and appeal to everyone in the family (such as the first Shrek film). Hop's shortcomings are obvious, but this is one of those movies where the target audience (families with young children) don't exactly make decisions based on the opinions of critics.
Box office prospects: The Easter-themed film is predicted come out on top of this weekend's box office, making $23,000,000. Though Easter isn't for another 3 weeks, the holiday theme and cute animated animals are enough, experts believe, to bring in a nice first weekend profit.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.


Watch the trailer for Hop:




Insidious, starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Ty Simpkins. Directed by James Wan.

Rating: PG-13.
Length: 1 hour and 42 minutes.
Synopsis: A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Reviews are generally favorable, calling the film genuinely scary in its use of both jump-out and subtle scare tactics. Critics are calling it both disturbing and fun, which is an odd combination, but probably tells us that the experience of watching Insidious will vary from person to person. That means that this movie could be very sense-oriented, something that elicits real reactions from people. For a film about possession, which can become hokey if relying heavily on The Exorcist tropes, that's a very good thing.
Box office prospects: Insidious is forecasted to make $10.5 million this weekend. While this isn't exactly out-doing the competition, horror movies like these are usually made on shoestring budgets, and since this was made by the director of the original Saw movie, a famously cheap film, it's likely that a gross like this is decent, though not putting it on track to make Saw kind of money.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for Insidious:




Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga. Directed by Duncan Jones.

Rating: PG-13.
Length: 1 hour and 33 minutes.
Synopsis: An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train (via IMDB.com).
What are critics saying?: Critics are really liking Source Code, with a level of positive response that almost mirrors the acclaim of director Duncan Jones's first movie Moon. Like Moon, critics praise Jones's ability to craft an original science fiction story that is relatable, human and has heart. They say that the film allows to viewer to empathize and care about the lead character's journey throughout the perplexing time travel leaps. It looks like Source Code avoids the trap a lot of sci-fi films fall into, which is forgetting the human side of the story in embellishing the unreal. Judging by the critical response, this film balances both sides well.
Box office prospects: Predicted to take in $14.5 million, Source Code isn't expected to be much of a threat to Hop, but that gross alone would almost triple that of Jones's Moon. So, while the film's budget isn't known, and $14.5 million doesn't seem like a nice profit for an effects-heavy sci-fi movie, it looks like this will be a bigger success for director Duncan Jones, who is known to make movies on deceptively small budgets.
Want to see it?: Find showtimes by clicking here.

Watch the trailer for Source Code:



Which movie has the most buzz? Being the most mainstream movie, it's easy to see why Hop is dominating Facebook discussion, clocking in its number of fans in the 6-digit range. It is, however, dead last in terms of talk on Twitter; its number of tweets is less than both Source Code and Insidious, the latter holding a sizable lead over the others in number of tweets discussing the film. It makes sense, because Insidious is one of those buzzworthy horror films that generate the "Is it really scary?" discussion. Source Code is middling on both Facebook and Twitter, showing definite interest, but not lighting up the charts.

What am I going to see? Initially, being a fan of Patrick Wilson, I was planning on seeing Insidious first. Though, after seeing that great reviews that Source Code is getting, I've shifted my priorities and have made that the movie I need to see the most this weekend. The premise interested me, but the trailer and television spots, with their fast, repetitive cuts, made me believe it to be mediocre. Seeing such glowing reviews coming out about the movie has totally changed my stance, and I'll definitely be seeing it this weekend. Insidious will be seen eventually, but likely not this weekend.

Who will come out on top? Popular consensus is that Hop is the film to beat this weekend. Given that Easter is around the corner and cuddly animals in family films always have a certain drawing power, it's hard to see any movie outperforming it. Families will rush to see it, like they did with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules last weekend. The only question is whether its success will prompt a squeakuel.. I mean sequel.

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