Katherine Heigl's 'One for the Money' and 'Man on a Ledge' also make the top five.
By Ryan J. Downey
It must be wintertime, because Liam Neeson is #1 at the box office again.
Following the January 2010 release of "Taken" and the February 2011 success of "Unknown," Liam Neeson returned to theaters in another action-heavy role with "The Grey" over the weekend and beat back all other contenders. "The Grey," about a group of oil workers stalked by wolves while stranded in the Alaskan wilderness, debuted with an estimated $20 million.
Katherine Heigl's "One for the Money" had a decent $11.8 million opening, which placed the PG-13 action comedy at #3 on the box-office scorecard. The Sam Worthington-led thriller "Man on a Ledge," on the other hand, opened at #5 with just $8.3 million.
Having proven his biopic mettle with heady fare like "Schindler's List" and "Kinsey," 59-year-old Neeson has entered a career groove playing rough-and-tumble anti-heroes in barn-burning action thrillers. While its opening numbers were slightly lower than "Unknown" ($21.9 million) and "Taken" ($24.7), "The Grey" enjoyed the best critical reviews of the action trio. "['The Grey'] takes death seriously, and partly as a consequence, every moment, every frame, feels alive," wrote New York Times film critic and former "At the Movies" co-host A.O. Scott.
The same cannot be said for "One for the Money," which at press time sat at just 3 percent on Rotten Tomatoes' "Tomatometer," which assigns ratings based on reviews from film critics.
"Heigl's comic timing is solid, and she knows her limitations well enough, but there's a hollowness at the movie's center, right where Heigl's heart should be," wrote Sam Adams of The Onion A.V. Club. The film's opening was lower than Heigl's 2010 rom-coms "Killers" ($15.8 million) and "Life as We Know It" ($13.2 million).
"Avatar" and "Clash of the Titans" star Sam Worthington received top billing in "Man on a Ledge," which sat at 25 percent on the Tomatometer at press time. Worthington plays a wrongly accused man who hatches an elaborate scheme to prove his innocence. The last movie co-starring Worthington was the war criminal/ spy drama "The Debt," which opened with $9.9 million.
The rest of the weekend's top five included "Underworld Awakening" at #2 with $12.5 million, which gave the fourth entry in the vampires-and-werewolves franchise a two-week total of $45.1 million, and "Red Tails" at #4 with $10.4 million. The George Lucas-produced World War II flick has made $33.8 million since it opened last weekend. Lucas financed the film's $58 million budget himself.
"The Descendants" and "The Artist" both received a boost from their respective awards season attention. George Clooney has racked up trophies for his starring role in the Alexander Payne-directed "Descendants," which expanded from 600 theaters to 2,000 and took in another $6.5 million for an 11-week total of $58.8 million. "The Artist," meanwhile, spiked 42 percent from last week. The Weinstein Co.-produced silent film has made $16.7 million after big wins at several award shows, including three prizes at the Golden Globes.
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