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New in Theaters August 17: Expendables 2, ParaNorman, Odd Life of Timothy Green, Sparkle

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By Chris Kavan - 08/16/12 at 05:45 PM CT

Last week provided a noticeable improvement to the box office after a couple weeks of disappointing returns. The Dark Knight Rises may have fallen against The Campaign and The Bourne Legacy, but all three films are looking to continue to perform strong. Now, four other films look to join the fray and they offer a little something for everyone: action, comedy, family and drama. But with an already-crowded market, how will these movies compare?

Looking to challenge The Bourne Legacy for the action crown over the weekend is The Expendables 2. Featuring an all-star cast of classic actions stars and a mix of new: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liam Hemsworth and Chuck Norris (amongst quite a few others), this is an action fan's wet dream. It looks to challenge the original film's $103 million haul. I'm just still incredibly happy they ended up giving the film a solid R rating rather than back down to a PG-13. All these incredibly gun-happy, curse-spouting action titans would have been hamstrung by such a rating. No offense to Norris, but this kind of film would just not have worked without making things a little more violent. If you're in the mood for action, you're not going to get a better chance to slake that thirst.

There are two family films to choose from this weekend, and I'll start with the medium that usually draws the bigger crowd: animation. ParaNorman isn't a usual subject: speaking with the dead, zombies - it looks more in line with Monster House or Corpse Bride. I would almost expect this to be released nearer to Halloween, but at least the vocal cast looks good: Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all lend their talent to the film. We've been in a lull for animation, Ice Age: Continental Drift has already been out for five weeks, but even so, I don't know how well this is going to do given the subject matter. I don't necessarily think this will be a disaster, but I also doubt it's going to wind up one of the top 10 films of the year. I have a feeling middling numbers are the best it can hope for.

Competing directly with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days for the live-action family audience is The Odd Life of Timothy Green. You know how I know this is going to be at least interesting? The credited writer is none other than Ahmet Zappa, son of musical genius/madman Frank Zappa. Essentially it's about a childless couple who wish for a son and he shows up in their garden - though he's not a "normal" boy, but he grows up none-the-less. The cast is truly an interesting mix: Common, Jennifer Garner, Shohreh Aghdashloo, David Morse, Dianne Wiest and CJ Adams as the titular character. Compared to usual family films, at least this looks to be trying something different. I don't know if that will result in a good box office, but at least it gives me heart to know Hollywood isn't tapped out of originality yet.

Finally that brings us to Sparkle, an updated version of the 1976 original. Although this film has plenty of talent, including Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Mike Epps and even Cee-Lo - the legacy of this film is that is features the final film appearance of Whitney Houston, who died in February. While I don't know if this film is going to wind up a hit, I think this will be a fitting tribute to Houston. Compared to the final film roles of other actors and actresses, I think this is not only a role that fits her, but one that will do justice to her legacy.

So what will the weekend hold? While I don't know if the lineup is as strong as last week, but I have a feeling there is enough here for the box office to remain strong. See you back Sunday with the final results.


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