Damn, but there are a lot of movies opening wide this week -- or in the case of two of them, that opened wide on Wednesday. So I'm going to go waaaaay out on a limb and make this bold prediction: This is the weekend that Night at the Museum FINALLY falls out of the top five. You heard it here first! Or second, or third, or you know, whatever.
Ghost Rider: Nicolas Cage is the cyclist with the flaming skull and Eva Mendes is the love of his life in this adaptation of the Marvel comic book. To paraphrase the song from Grease 2, "He's a ghooooost rider ... and if he's hot enough, he will burn you through and through, whoa, whoa!" Granted, I may be the only person in history to reference Grease 2 and Ghost Rider in the same sentence ... and I'm OK with that. The film, which is about cyclist Johnny Blaze -- who sells his soul to Mephistopheles to save his father's life, and must then become the vigilante Ghost Rider -- is high-profile to say the least, and it's the only action film opening, and it's showing on a whopping 3,619 screens. You do the math.
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Bridge to Terabithia: We swing to the other end of the moviegoing spectrum with another adaptation, this one of the Newbery (yes, that's how you spell it) Award-winning children's book. Josh Hutcherson (Zathura) is Jess, an introverted farm kid; AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is Leslie, the decidedly not introverted new girl who moves in next door. They become friends and create an imaginary kingdom, Terabithia, in the woods across the river. I saw the film last week, and, having read the book, I'll admit I was nervous at the prospect of this being turned into a fantasy flick, with what was only suggested on the page -- Terabithia and its inhabitants -- being made "real." But I shouldn't have worried. The movie manages to pump up the story's visual elements while capturing what makes the book special: the strength of Jess and Leslie's friendship, the power of imagination, and the joy and pain involved in having to grow up. Move over, Museum ...
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Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls: It's the rare director who's so much more of a draw than the film's story or its actors that he gets his name affixed to the title of every movie he makes. Can you imagine if this were standard practice? We'd have Martin Scorsese's The Departed going up against Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima ... there wouldn't be enough space on the theater marquees. Unlike his previous films (Madea's Family Reunion, Diary of a Mad Black Woman), Tyler Perry's latest doesn't feature the director in a fat suit, so don't expect this romantic comedy -- about a single dad (Idris Elba) trying to win back custody of his daughters, with Gabrielle Union as the love interest -- to haul in the same box office take as the Madea movies. But Perry's got a good track record, and the movie already finished No. 1 on Wednesday by beating out this next film ...
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Music and Lyrics: One of these days, the whole Hugh-Grant-as-befuddled-charmer thing is going to get old. But as this movie proves, it ain't old just yet. Grant plays Alex Fletcher, a has-been '80s pop star (the film opens with a mock video of his band's hit song, and it's genius -- Wham! meets A-Ha meets Duran Duran) who's reduced to singing his old hits at amusement parks; Drew Barrymore is Sophie, who comes to water his plants and displays a hidden talent for writing lyrics. Alex recruits Sophie to help him write a hit for hot young singer Cora (played by Haley Bennett with hilarious hip-shaking vacuousness), and the musician and the lyricist, inevitably, wind up as a perfect match. There's nothing about this movie that's earth-shatteringly different from a ton of other romantic comedies, but it's funny and sweet and thoroughly enjoyable ... and as a bonus reward -- or torture, if you will -- you won't be able to get that song they write out of your head for days. DAYS, I tell you.
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Breach: This thriller-drama is based on the true story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who for 15 years sold secrets to the Soviets. The terrific Chris Cooper plays Hanssen, and Ryan Phillippe plays the clerk assigned to shadow him and bring him down (though at first he's only told that Hanssen's a "sexual deviant" -- which he kind of is, despite also being a devout Catholic). The film does an excellent job of portraying Hanssen as a complex figure, a decent man who did some horrible things, and overall it's a very strong film; but it's opening in only 1,487 theaters, and I'm not sure that Cooper and Phillippe (plus Laura Linney, as Phillippe's superior) are big enough names to carry Breach into the top five.
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Whew! Ready to predict some box office? I know I am. It's a three-day weekend, so let's make the deadline noon ET on Sunday. And even if you don't want to make a prediction, please feel free to weigh in on what seems like -- after weeks of releases like Norbit and Epic Movie -- an embarrassment of movie riches. And here we go: