Projection Booth: Can Ninja Turtles Stop Spartans’ Slaughter?

'Shooter' also hitting theaters; 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin gives his two cents.

After two weeks of record-breaking numbers, the Spartan warriors of “300″ face their greatest challenge yet at the box office this weekend: ninja turtles. “300″ has soared to a lofty status as the top-grossing film of 2007 in short order, but with six new wide releases visiting your local multiplex this weekend, a third consecutive #1 weekend is looking nearly as unlikely as, say, 300 men defending Sparta from Xerxes’ army.

The aforementioned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could pose the greatest challenge to “300.” Reborn for the 21st century as “TMNT,” the turtles are now computer-generated, of course, but still playing to a PG audience unlike the historically darker comic. That family-friendly rating could be the edge the turtles need to break out from the rest of the pack of newcomers.
Mark Wahlberg is hoping audiences haven’t had their thirst for action quenched by “300.” He’s a man on the run in the Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”)-directed flick “Shooter.” Certainly Mark is hoping for better success than brother Donnie experienced last weekend — his “Dead Silence” opened in a disappointing fourth place (see ” ’300′ Slays Evil Puppet, Chris Rock For Another Box-Office Victory” ).

If you love sequels, remakes or horror films, we’ve got one special recommendation for you that uniquely fills all those categories: “The Hills Have Eyes 2.” Opening a year after the remake that restarted the series, this one welcomes Wes Craven back to the fold, who co-writes along with his son, Jonathan.

We’re honestly still not sure what “The Last Mimzy” is about except that Rainn Wilson seems to be playing the straight man in the flick (see “Not Your Average Kiddie Flick: ‘Last Mimzy’ Invokes Buddhism, Genetic Code” ). Good idea? We’ll find out when the numbers come in. Billed as a kind of throwback to “E.T.,” this strangely marketed flick will have to rely on great word of mouth to overcome the “What the heck is that?” factor.

Two more adult-minded flicks open this weekend, though one may surprise you. “Reign Over Me” is a melancholy meditation on damaged lives in the wake of 9/11. Headlining the cast is none other than Adam Sandler in a much weightier role than anything you’ve seen him in (well, at least since “Spanglish”). Meanwhile Terrence Howard tries his hand at inspiring a bunch of young men in 1970s Philadelphia to create the city’s black swim team in “Pride.”

The Predictions: I would venture to say that neither MTV News writer Larry Carroll nor myself have quite the intimidation factor that our celebrity guest prognosticator, Mr. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, possesses. What we do have is a track record of success in the booth: We’ve won the weekly prediction crown a combined 19 out of 21 times. Can “Stone Cold” put us in a metaphorical projection-booth headlock this week and raise the belt triumphantly over his head? You’ll have to check back Monday.

What’s the #1 flick? How much will it rake in?
Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “300″ ($24 million)
“Much like the giant mutant guy that plays gimp to the Immortals, I think ’300′ has only begun to be unchained. Strong word of mouth will keep the Spartan spectacular at the top of the box office for another week, and I don’t think Zack Snyder’s flick is going to be decapitated any time soon. I predict a $24 million weekend, which will be just enough to shoot down ‘Shooter’ and make the sure the Turtles’ pizza is served cold.”

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “TMNT” ($35 million)
“Has it really been 16 years since I walked up to a ticket window and said aloud, ‘One for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze,” please’? How time flies. The Turtles were a surprise hit nearly two decades ago and I think it’s going to happen all over again this weekend.”

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, star of “The Condemned”: “TMNT” ($50 million)
” ’300′ or ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’? Man, I tell you what — ’300′ killed this week, put up just gigantic numbers. So what would ‘TMNT’ have to do [to top it]? $50 million? Hmm. OK! You talked me into it. I’m taking a flier on “Turtles.” … You got kids flocking to it … but it’s gonna be close.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “TMNT,” “300,” “Shooter,” “The Hills Have Eyes 2″ and “The Last Mimzy.”

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