"Borat" is now picked by everyone to triumph at the box office this weekend and make even more money than it did on its opening frame. That's the prediction I made on Monday, even before Fox announced they would be expanding the film to 2500+ screens. (As we learned, anything over 1500+ screens is just window-dressing. More than 90% of the box office will come from 1500 screens. The other 1000 screens will apparently be lucky to gross $3 mil total. I also think it's a mistake to open the film that wide and dilute the audience. I would have gone to 1200 screens and packed everyone in like sardines. Never underestimate the pleasure of seeing a comedy with a full audience -- not to mention the desirability of actually having screenings sell out and build demand. I would have bumped it to 1200 screens. Box Office Prophets has the rundown for the weekend.
As for the new movies opening or going wide:
Stranger Than Fiction ** 1/2 -- I resisted the film (much as I like Emma Thompson) because it felt like warmed-over Charlie Kaufman and I don't like Charlie Kaufman. But everyone plays it very low key (not any big laughs here for Will Ferrell fans) and I was finally kinda sorta won over until it lost the courage of its convictions at the very finale.
Harsh Times ** -- I really like Christian Bale and he's terrific again. But this story of an unhinged war veteran feels too familiar.
A Good Year * -- I have no problem with Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott making a gentle romantic comedy. But this is a bad gentle romantic comedy, with embarrassingly lame moments like a running gag of a dog peeing on Crowe's leg and a jaw-dropping moment where Crowe is driving a car around a small town plaza and the film actually speeds up so it looks like he's zipping around a la a Keystone Cops comedy. Lord, is that Scott's idea of how to direct a comedy. Very, very mild.
Babel * -- many critics like this multi-layered tale of numerous stories around the world vaguely connected in not-so-surprising ways. A fine cast, but they did the same darn thing in "21 Grams" and "Amores Perros." It's like watching a magician doing the same trick three times in a row. And the ultimate connections between these stories feel so forced -- and the actions in the one involving little kids playing with a gun so bizarrely absurd -- that I swallowed none of it.