As I mentioned last week, this week feels a little familiar. We’ve got another animated Halloween-themed feature, and another action film. Of course, Looper proved to be a whole lot more than just an action film, something I don’t think Taken 2 has up its sleeve. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if last week’s films can put a dent in the newcomers due to their perceived similarities.
Even the odd film out has a bit of a been there, done that feel to it. Pitch Perfect comes across a little bit like Glee: the Movie, and the ship on that show has sailed. Even people who like Glee don’t like it much anymore, so this seems like a weird time to try to cash in on its popularity. Universal did do a smart thing by sneaking Pitch Perfect last weekend to try to build some word of mouth for the film, and managed to drum up a little over $5 million. Whether that translates into an audience this weekend remains to be seen. It does have the advantage of being the only film geared towards young women, who’ve been a little ignored at the box office lately. If Pitch Perfect can provide a viable alternative to cartoon monster and star-powered fisticuffs, it could end up being a surprise.
I miss Tim Burton. Not the Tim Burton who’s been wasting time over the last decade turning everything he liked as a kid into a Hot Topic ad. No, I miss the Tim Burton of Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood and Big Fish, the one who channeled his quirks into an actual story rather than letting them overwhelm the story. So while Frankenweenie has been getting some decent reviews, in comparison to what he’s done recently, it wouldn’t take much for him to be praised for a return to form. I’m afraid the most positive aspect I can find to the film is that Johnny Depp is nowhere to be found. I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for Burton going back to the Burton well one more time, and with something he essentially already did thirty years ago. It seems like Burton always turns to something personal after a film or two that feels like something he didn’t really have his heart in, but this time, it feels like it’s the personal film he’s just going through the motions with. This will make money — the Burton name all but guarantees it — but I want the Burton for whom box office wasn’t the main concern.
A sequel to Liam Neeson’s surprise hit Taken has the same problems as a sequel to Die Hard or any other “normal guy in extraordinary circumstances” film: how many times can the same thing happen to the same person? And even if you manage to come up with a reasonable explanation for that, you’ve got to figure out how to basically tell the same story all over again, only without repeating yourself. So Taken 2 has that working against it, as well as not being able to sneak up and catch us out of nowhere like the first film did. Not that Taken worked solely based on lowered expectations, but if it had been hyped as much as Taken 2 has been, the charm of discovery would have been gone, and it might have gotten a bit more scrutiny. But I have a feeling Neeson’s presence is going to make this at the very least watchable, if not as entertaining as the first film. Besides, with The Grey already under his belt this year, I’m willing to cut him a little slack.
Next week is absolutely huge, at least numerically, with five new releases. As I’ll talk about then though, the prospects of quality aren’t quite as beefy.