By Sarah Sluis
The fall has a reputation for being a quiet time at the box office, but if "quiet" means no comic book movies and megabudget sequels crowding the screens, adult moviegoers may be in luck. This weekend, Contagion and Warrior, both currently rated 82% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, will battle for the top spot at the box office.
Contagion (3,222 theatres) turns a global epidemic into a taut, thrilling ride. The premise is plausible enough to make the movie both more educational and scarier than a loose, over-the-top vision of a plague. The fact that Steven Soderbergh directed this movie says it all. Besides being able to wrangle a great cast that includes Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard, the thriller has a slick energy to it that brings to mind his Ocean films or Traffic. Variety is projecting the movie will be this week's winner with a $20+ million opening weekend.
A low, $20 million budget and good reviews could make Warrior (1,869 theatres) a big moneymaker for Lionsgate. The "macho" sports movie traffics in all the normal cliches, "but its raw emotional power will make strong men (and women) weep," according to Maitland McDonagh. Two brothers from hard-knock backgrounds end up facing each other in a mixed martial arts tournament, through a series of twists and plot turns that includes such unlikely backstory as "a viral video of Mad Dog Grimes' beat-down [that] has both made [one of the brothers] an underground sensation and revealed his identity to a group of marines he anonymously rescued from certain death." Whoa. I give the movie points for incorporating recent technology into the plot.
The R-rated comedy Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (1,500 theatres) follows an unfortunate looking small town boy (Nick Swardson) who discovers his parents were porn stars, so he moves to Hollywood--or would that be the San Fernando Valley?--to follow in their footsteps. Christina Ricci and Stephen Dorff round out the cast of what could be a funny movie. However, since no critics have been allowed to see it in advance, it's probably not going to end up on any must-see lists.
Finally, the horror movie Creature (1,507 theatres) will appease those in need of a more visceral adrenaline rush. The creature in question is a half-man, half-alligator dubbed Lockjaw. Need I say more? The movie also failed to screen for critics.
Burke & Hare (1 theatre) marries the macabre to comedy in this retelling of the story of two 19th century cadaver sellers who decide the best way to get fresh corpses is to murder them. The unusual documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (1 theatre) compiles interviews with black power celebrities, such as Angela Davis, on Swedish television. "One feels like this most lily-white and seemingly tranquil of countries must have been mesmerized by the raw fervor and vivid passion and personalities involved," critic David Noh speculates.
On Monday, we'll see how the first post-Labor Day frame played in what has traditionally been a quiet time at the box office.