BOX OFFICE FORECAST: OVERCAST
The Kingdom would appear to hold the keys to the top position at the box office this weekend, judging from analysts' projections, but it's unlikely to earn more than $18-22 million, and the overall box office is expected to remain in its annual September slump. Targeting the "tween" audience, Disney's The Game Plan, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, is likely to earn $14-18 million and place second. But MGM is unlikely to pull out of its recent tailspin, with Feast of Love, starring Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear, expected to do just $3-5 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE KINGDOM
The Kingdom refers to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the movie is set (it was filmed mostly in Arizona), and it concerns the efforts of U.S. special agents played by Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman to discover the perpetrators of a terrorist attack in Riyadh, the country's capital. It is opening to vastly mixed reviews. On the one hand, there's this description of the movie by Lou Lumenick in the New York Post: "A xenophobic, overblown, revenge-driven action thriller that exports the Rambo mentality to the contemporary Middle East." It reminds Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times of all those "Yellow Peril" films of World War II. He criticizes "the film's determination to blatantly play on our emotions, to shamelessly exaggerate the good and evil in all of its plot elements. The Kingdom is in many ways a film that doesn't want us to think, doesn't trust us to feel on our own and is more than willing to strip everything of nuance as if it were a disease." But that's not necessarily bad, suggests A.O. Scott in the New York Times, who calls The Kingdom "a slick, brutishly effective genre movie: Syriana for dummies." (Ty Burr in the Boston Globe uses an almost identical description in his review.) Or as Glenn Whipp puts it more unmannerly in the Los Angeles Daily News, it's "a rock-'em, sock-'em action movie that is unapologetic in its ethos of butt-kicking revenge."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE GAME PLAN
One thing that most critics appear to agree on: If Disney's game plan was to make The Game Plan a movie that would appeal strongly to kids 15 and younger, it succeeded. Jane Horwitz writes unenthusiastically in the Washington Post: "It is an amiable enough movie and ought to give warm and fuzzy amusement to kids 8 and older, even as it will appear utterly contrived to adult eyes." The film stars wrestler-turned-actor Duane "The Rock" Johnson, who draws polite applause. David Germain of the Associated Press says that "Johnson combines an effective mix of swaggering charm, cluelessness and childish enthusiasm." Gene Seymour in Newsday asks, "Why isn't Dwayne Johnson a big star by now? The camera loves him. He's funny, self-deprecating. ... It could be that he hasn't quite found the right vehicle to drive home his persona." This movie may not be that vehicle, either. As Robert W. Butler notes in the Kansas City Star: "Johnson pretty much drips on-screen charisma, but he can't overcome the banality of The Game Plan, a comedy so formulaic and uninspired that you'd swear you've seen the movie before." And Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News concludes her review of the movie by remarking, "The only mystery, in fact, is why Johnson chose to make this film in the first place. He could be -- should be -- one of the biggest action stars of the era. Instead, he's wasting his talents on one mediocre movie after another."
MOVIE REVIEWS: FEAST OF LOVE
In director Robert Benton's Feast of Love, Morgan Freeman is once again playing another variation of his previous role as God. "Just once, it would be great to see him play a spiteful neurotic or a selfish bastard," Carina Chocano remarks in the Los Angeles Times. Stephen Holden in the New York Times says that Freeman "has a role he could act in his sleep." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post comments that Freeman "has devoted entirely too much of his screen career to selflessly helping white folks." Most critics have gagged on the movie. Lumenick calls Feast of Love "diabetes-inducing." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe & Mail suggests it's "like a buffet of contrivance." And Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune uses this analogy: "This feast is more like an artfully arranged appetizer plate."