No two ways about it. It's official: superheroes sell. Add to that the fact that a superhero doesn't even necessarily need to possess any innate superhuman qualities to impress. He could, for example, just have a piece of metal lodged in his chest to help soup him up. Of course, being a handsome, billionaire geek surrounded by beautiful women and non-stop rollercoaster action, while you're trying to save the world doesn't hurt either.
Audiences around the world proved that this past week, charging in droves to check out Marvel Studios' "Iron Man 2." Released in 53 countries last week, ahead of its May 7 debut here in the U.S, the film has already rung up a colossal $120 million in foreign box office sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
Distributor Paramount Pictures says the Robert Downey, Jr. comic book sequel has already beat out its hugely popular 2008 predecessor, "Iron Man," whose foreign launch bagged $99.1 million. With the film set to open in 4,000 theaters across the country Friday and still with notable foreign openings slated for China, India and Japan in the coming month, the sequel is well on its way to breaking the total grosses held by the original "Iron Man" ($265 million overseas and more than $300 million in the U.S. and Canada).
Not surprising since the director, Jon Favreau, has tried to capitalize and build on what fans loved about the first film. Billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) picks up where he left off at the end of the first film, dealing with the repercussions of announcing to the world that he is "Iron Man."
Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Stark's very correct assistant Pepper Potts and Don Cheadle is his right hand man. Sam Rockwell plays rival tycoon, "Justin Hammer." Add to the mix Mickey Rourke, as the villain "Whiplash," and the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, whose character turns out to be a little more complex than that of a new eye-candy assistant. (Watch this week's "Showbuzz" to hear what both she and Rourke had to say about coming on board for the second installment.)
With online buzz at fever pitch and Box Office Mojo reporting that 62 percent of its users voted "Iron Man 2" as their top choice to see in May, moviegoers may face long ticket lines. And for all you die-hard fans, word on the street is that there is already talk that a third installment may be in the works - turning the "Iron Man" franchise into a potential winning trifecta.
Turning from a superhero to a super-villain, "Casino Jack and the United States of Money," a story of greed and political corruption, also opens this week.
The documentary about uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff traces the rise of the Conservative party during the '70s and '80s and the emergence of Abramoff as a prominent voice within the GOP.
Director Alex Gibney draws a scathing, fact-based picture of Abramoff as a con-man, driven by personal greed and a penchant for personal decadence, who used underhanded tactics to gain influence and become one of the most powerful lobbyists of his time, before it all unraveled and landed him behind bars. This is a must see for those wanting a behind-the-scenes look at what lobbying at the time was all about.
And finally, we turn to the tale of a man with very different motives from those of Abramoff.
Coming soon to U.S. theaters is "Robin Hood." In this $155 billion remake of the timeless children's classic, Oscar winner Russell Crowe stars as the fabled archer. A sword-wielding Cate Blanchett, another Oscar recipient, plays his leading lady - the widow Maid Marion of Loxley. This version of the tale depicts a young Robin as a member of Richard the Lionheart's army, fighting to save England from ruin at the hands of Norman invaders.
After the king's death, Robin travels to Nottingham and, together with a band of mercenaries he recruits, begins to right the injustices and suffering he sees, becoming an unlikely hero in the process. Max von Sydow and William Hurt also star in this Ridley Scott-directed retelling.
And that's the buzz for now. Next week, look for an exclusive interview I had with Queen Latifah on her upcoming film, "Just Wright."