"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays.
If it weren't for Bradley Cooper, we're pretty confident that the literary thriller The Words wouldn't be in half as many theaters as it will be this weekend. In the movie that premiered at Sundance, Cooper plays a writer at the peak of his success who discovers the consequences of stealing another man's work. The movie costars Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons and Dennis Quaid, but with a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this might be the first weekend in a long time in which no film makes over $10 million.
Although word of mouth might edit The Words' stay at the box office, it probably won't have any effect on the rise of Cooper's star. The handsome 37-year-old actor has been kicking around in the business for over a decade, appearing on TV shows like Sex and the City, The $treet and Alias. His big-screen debut came in 2001's Wet Hot American Summer, a movie set in 1981 at a Jewish summer camp where Cooper and Amy Poehler try to choreograph the best talent show in Camp Firewood's history.
For the next seven years after Wet Hot American Summer, Cooper went back and forth between TV series like Nip/Tuck (as a heartthrob doctor on a medical TV show) and Jack & Bobby, and parts in movies like My Little Eye, Wedding Crashers, Failure to Launch, The Comebacks, Older Than America and The Rocker. In 2008's creepy The Midnight Meat Train, Cooper plays a photographer who attempts to track down the "Subway Butcher" and discovers a whole new hell under the city streets. The film—now available on DVD and Blu-ray—is based on one of Clive Barker's Book of Blood stories and the way Lionsgate scaled down its release in favor of movies like The Strangers angered the author. You probably wouldn't think of Cooper as being effective in a hardcore horror film, but here he is holding up nicely. Fans of the genre should definitely seek this one out.
Cooper's career picked up steam with Yes Man and He's Just Not That into You, but his big breakout role came as Phil Wenneck in 2009's The Hangover. The raucous comedy about Phil and his buddies blacking out in Las Vegas during a bachelor party and waking up the next morning to find their friend missing grossed over $467 million worldwide and reinvigorated raunchy R-rated comedy. Not even his Razzie win for Worst Screen Couple with Sandra Bullock in the same year's All About Steve tarnished his appeal. Although it wasn't as appreciated by critics as much as the original—probably because the plot was too similar—The Hangover Part II was still a big hit two years later after moving the mayhem to Thailand as the guys try to piece together another lost evening.
In between blinking those sky-blue eyes in fluffy ensemble pictures New York, I Love You and Valentine's Day, Cooper went scary again in Case 39 and has a memorable scene with a swarm of hornets coming out of his body. Then, someone took notice of Cooper's action-movie physique and cast him as Lt. Templeton "Face" Peck in the big-screen adaptation of The A-Team, alongside Liam Neeson, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Sharlto Copley. The smarmy Face gives good face to Jessica Biel and generated even more sparks in the already explosive action hit.
The movie that really pushed Cooper in a new direction—and the film that likely inspired someone to release The Words in more theaters than it should—is the 2011 thriller Limitless with Robert De Niro. Cooper turned that film into a surprise hit as a struggling author with writer's block who comes across a new drug that increases one's mental capacity exponentially. Cooper transforms from slacker into slick business tycoon/playboy almost overnight, but his newfound success is hindered by the potentially lethal side effects of the drug, including criminals who would kill to get Cooper's stash. In real-life, Cooper's evolution from bit player to A-list leading man took just a few years longer.