Will George Clooney And Brad Pitt Mutilate Eli Roth This Weekend?

Sequels continue to hit box office — and so do penguins.

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was a movie schedule that didn’t contain guaranteed $100 million openings. It was before “Pirates” and “Shrek” and “Spider-Man,” when the box-office winner wasn’t preordained, when there was genuine excitement about what film may wind up on top, when smaller films wouldn’t be instantly buried beneath CGI behemoths.

OK, so this weekend isn’t exactly a return to that long-forgotten paradise. After all, there are two sequels and an animated penguin movie opening. But for the first time in a long time, we can’t for the lives of us figure out who the ultimate winner will be. We welcome the respite.

The contenders for the crown really couldn’t be more different. The widest release, “Ocean’s Thirteen,” is considered to be the prohibitive favorite, but even a return to form might not be enough after a sour taste from “Ocean’s Twelve.” Still, the first movie opened with $38 million, while the second hauled a nearly identical $39. Something in that neighborhood would no doubt please Clooney, Pitt, Damon and company to no end — and we mean that literally, America. This movie is likely to open north of $50 million and the crew will be spinning cons until they’re 80. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

One movie that definitely should come with a warning is “Hostel: Part II,” Eli Roth’s sick, twisted, demented, torturous follow-up to last year’s sick, twisted, demented, torturous “Hostel” (see ” ’Hostel: Part II’ Director Eli Roth Relates To Eminem — And Al Bundy?” ). With “Captivity” not far away and “Halloween” not far beyond that, gratuitous horror isn’t going anywhere soon — but surely Lionsgate is hoping for more than the first flick’s $19 million opening weekend, especially since that film became a cult favorite on DVD.

Every animated film becomes a cult favorite on DVD — that is, if you define cult as “my 7-year-old nephew” and favorite as “watches it literally nonstop from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. every single day.” But how will “Surf’s Up” do with the adult set (see ” ’Surf’s Up’ Is Latest Example Of Hollywood Deja Vu (Cartoon Penguins, Anyone?)” )? The CGI-animated flick stars Shia LaBeouf and Jeff Bridges as surfing penguins (penguins = yawn), but it’s the style that should turn heads. The film is like an animated “Spinal Tap,” edited together like a mockumentary.

Finally, though not new, “Knocked Up” is not to be discounted. The coming-of-middle-age comedy was already beating “Pirates” at the box office by Tuesday, and after a boffo opening, strong word of mouth could propel it to the top of the heap (see ” ’Knocked Up’ Knocks Some Wind Out Of ’Pirates’ Sails At The Box Office” ).

Horror, comedy, animation: Which film will win? We asked our experts.

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “Ocean’s Thirteen” ($160 million)
“These summer grosses are out of control! But to quote another box-office hit, ’something’s gotta give’ this weekend. There’s just too much product competing for your hard-earned dollar. ’Pirates’ will no doubt fall like a rock to the bottom of the ocean after hauling in a ton and ’Knocked Up’ will have a very strong showing in its second go-round. But there are three newcomers that have very strong cases for this week’s crown. After much mulling, I’ve decided to go with ’Ocean’s Thirteen.’ Even the abominable ’Ocean’s Twelve’ opened to nearly $40 million, so this one seems the safest bet.”

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “Hostel: Part II” ($38 million)
“What an interesting weekend — we have ’Ocean’s Thirteen’ and the fans who seem far less interested in it after ’Ocean’s Twelve'; ’Surf’s Up’ and the penguin-enthusiasts who could make it another ’Happy Feet’-sized hit; and ’Hostel: Part II,’ which could reap the benefit of the first movie’s strong DVD presence. Throw in the still-lingering ’Pirates,’ and it looks like a photo finish. I’m going to be daring and go with Eli Roth’s ultraviolent torture flick, simply because it’s been so long since we’ve had something genuinely scary. I could see it taking in as much as $38 million.”

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Check out everything we’ve got on “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “Hostel: Part II.” and “Surf’s Up.”

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