'Saw III': Remember back in 2004, when 'Saw' became a runaway hit ($55 million in all) and promised to usher in a new era of gratuitous gore, forecasting the end of Western civilization as we knew it? Ah, how young we were then! How innocent! Now, the drama here lies not in whether 'Saw III' will take the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend -- if I'm wrong, I'll run naked through Times Square singing 'Achy Breaky Heart' -- but in how much it will earn. While recent horror sequels 'The Grudge 2' and 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning' have both performed respectably, they haven't come close to matching the success of other films in those franchises. But here's the difference: While those movies were missing the fetching young female leads of their predecessors, the star of 'Saw III' -- Tobin Bell, as a guy who likes to torture people -- is back. And he still likes to torture people. I'll go out on a very short limb and say that in its opening weekend, 'Saw III' will earn considerably more than 'The Grudge 2' did.
'Catch a Fire':The only other new movie opening in a significant number of theaters this weekend is 'Catch a Fire,' which also features torture, though not in quite the same way. The movie stars Derek Luke ('Friday Night Lights,''Glory Road') as the real-life Patrick Chamusso, a South African foreman and soccer coach living under the shadow of apartheid. After being wrongfully accused of terrorism, beaten and broken, he became a radical political activist, training in guerrilla warfare in order to help bring down the country's system of oppression. Tim Robbins plays a police detective who heads up Chamusso's interrogation. While the movie is incredibly powerful, and of course having an Oscar winner as your co-star is always a good thing, there's no getting around the fact that 'Catch a Fire' feels like an indie. I can't really see it approaching big numbers, but on the other hand, Luke gives an extraordinary breakout performance that should allow him to leave sports movies behind for good.
That's about it as far as the wide releases this weekend. 'Running With Scissors,' the quirky ensemble film based on Augusten Burroughs' growing-up-crazy memoir, is expanding to 586 screens, and though that's not enough to run (sorry) with the big boys, it may achieve the kind of moderate success that 'Marie Antoinette'had last week.
OK, let's get to the picks. I'm surprising myself a little by predicting that 'Open Season' might crack the top five again, but after four weeks in a row, I'm not about to second-guess Ashton and friends this time. The guy has some kind of magic touch. Anyway, what do you think? Take your best shot, and check back Monday to see how you did.
Saw III, Catch a Fire, Running With Scissors, movies, box office