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Multiplex Mayhem, the Sunday Night Post-Mortem

Shockingly, terrifyingly, it turns out that most of my predictions in the Friday post turned out to be correct.

*”21” earned a respectable $23.7 million for the film’s budget ($35 million), winning the weekend though not doing much to reverse the modest box-office trend right now. As for theories about why it won, here’s a quote from Variety

Sony prexy of domestic distribution Rory Bruer credited a great cast, a compelling story and out-of-the-box marketing for the film’s perf.

“People knew they were in for a fun ride. The film brought to life a world you really felt you were a part of. We got a great mix, from older adults to younger adults, to males and to females,” Bruer said. “It was cool, fresh and different.”

Yes, “cool, fresh and different.” It’s not just a movie, it’s a salad dressing. (I also gotta say, I know some folks hate the Variety lingo, but I get a kick out of the word “prexy” for “president.” It sounds so non-threatening and sort of like a Keebler elf. On the other hand, I don’t think I’d want to entrust thermonuclear launch codes to a “prexy.”)

*Not one bit to my surprise, “Horton Hears a Who” stayed strong at #2 with a reasonably elephantine $17,425.00 as per the mighty Weekend Mojo. I’m a firm believer in the “nobody knows anything” school of looking at show business; there is nothing in this world harder to gauge than human irrationality. However, the one formula that seems genuinely unbreakable is that a family film that kids like and parents find even mildly entertaining is as close as the universe gets to a license to print money.

*I doubt the Mighty Fanboy boycott can truly take credit for it (though I can’t blame them for claiming it), but as predicted/wished, “Superhero Movie” came up with a fairly lousy third place showing for this kind of movie of $9,510,000 on 2,960 screens (more than 300 more screens than “21″ opened on), despite the demonstration-disbanding efforts of the non-galactic storm troopers of mall security. “Just like Beggar’s Canyon back home”? Well, we take our triumphs where we find them, even if, to be fair, there’s some indication “Superhero Movie” might be at least a tiny bit better than other recent spoof films, as Cinematical’s Eugene Novikov schools us on the gradations.

*Of the other new movies this weekend, I’m not all that happy to report that Kimberley Peirce’s “Stop-Loss” did the predicted mediocre-to-terrible business, given that while it had a few fans among critics, its reviews and overall buzz were nowhere near strong enough to give it half a chance with such tough subject matter. Always sad to see the movie that at least tries get nailed.

Nevertheless, while its earnings of $4,525,000 were dismal, the per-screen average of “Stop-Loss” was $3,505 — actually nearly $300 bucks higher than “Superhero Movie,” so there’s that. Even, so, audiences bear the ignominy of being slightly more kind to both “Shutter” and “10,000 B.C.“, proud owners of 7 and 9 percent ratings on the RT meter. (Of the former, a PG-13 remake of a Thai horror film — points for originality since it wasn’t Japanese or Korean — Bullz-Eye’s own Jeff Giles wrote: “This will not be a theatrical hit. It will not find a new audience on DVD. You can officially pretend it was never made.”)

*Meanwhile, good ol’ Simon Pegg has had his cult status confirmed in the harshest way possible with the drubbing of his David Schwimmer-directed “Run, Fatboy, Run” which netted only $2,390,000 and had the lowest per-screen average of any new film this week. On the plus side, it also had the lowest budget, a mere $10 million, so there’s something to be said for thrift.

Meanwhile in Indiewood…. And, here too, yours truly seems to have called it. The immigration weepie, “Under the Same Moon” came in just below “Run, Fatboy, Run” with $2,251,000 — but did so while being in only 390 theaters (“Fatboy” was on over 1,100 screens, far too many for a modest comedy.) Its growth seems strong and this one could be headed for something like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” territory, driven, no doubt, by the eternally under-served Latino audience.

The only film I was sort of wrong about was that the highest per screen average of any film this week was “My Brother is an Only Child,” an interesting sounding, politically driven Italian film with great reviews, about which I made a crack implying I’d be the only person reading this column who would consider seeing the movie, nevertheless managed a whopping $10,500 per screen average. Of course, it’s only on one screen in NYC, but still….

And, finally, I was appalled to realize only too late that I had not mentioned the opening in limited release of the boxing-themed Adam Carolla vehicle, “The Hammer” because it wasn’t mentioned, well, anywhere, but last week’s “Ebert and Roeper” and perhaps some L.A. area local media, and so it had completely slipped my mind.

Now, some of you will be hooting in derision because you think of Adam as the slightly less unfunny guy on the early seasons of “The Man Show” and others will be perking up because he’s the even funnier guy on the early seasons of “The Man Show,” but radio fans, especially out here in SoCal, know Adam as the host of the only-ever listenable iteration of “Love Line,” and something of an actual comedy genius in terms of mastering the art of the impromptu rant about idiots who try to argue that they cheated on their signifant other’s “on accident,” or garbage collectors who refuse to pick up certain types of garbage. After he left “Loveline,” I feared that he’d never find a format as amenable to his particular skills. Certainly a well-reviewed movie was about the last place I expected to find him. However, in perhaps the most shocking development in filmed entertainment history, critics seem to like this movie, more or less, netting a very healthy 72% Fresh rating on the Tomato Meter.

But here’s the really strange part — even though it entirely failed to even register at Box Office Mojo, according to RT, “The Hammer,” which also got “two thumbs up” from Richard Roeper and Michael Phillips, did a very respectable per screen average of $4,857 for a total of approximately $97,000+ at twenty theaters. Not bad for a movie even confirmed movie-geeks aren’t hearing about just yet.

Could “The Hammer” wind up doing better than “Run, Fatboy, Run,” with a similar sports/rom-com set-up, but with possibly far better, old fashioned slow-roll-out release pattern? Weirder things have happened.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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1982 World’s Fair TV spot

I lived only 30 miles away from Knoxville, Tennessee when I was a lad, so the fact that the World’s Fair was coming to town was a big friggin’ deal. Lemme just be the first to tell you how lame it actually was. The glorious Sunshphere still stands in K-Town, a decrepit monument to a decrpeit event. Enjoy the commerical!

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Multiplex Mayhem, the Friday Report

Okay, so this is the start of a new, ongoing feature we’re going to be trying here at Premium Hollywood in which I’ll be taking a look at the slate of new movies releases for the coming weekend each Friday, making highly opinionated remarks about them, and perhaps engaging in some box-office prognostication — though I’ll mostly avoid specific numbers as I am certain to be wrong. Then, on Sunday night/Monday morning, I’ll be reporting back with information on just how very wrong I was, with further apt comments on same.

Let the madness begin….

* 21seeks to draw on the the commercialized glamor of Las Vegas and the age old impossible dream of beating the house. As per the Hollywood Reporter, Sony is expecting the film to win the weekend and perhaps earn as much as a cool $20 million for the relatively low-budget film. It’s likely they’re not wrong, I’m afraid, though, even in its third weekend, the family appeal of “Horton Hears a Who” may be somewhat hard to beat with a film that really doesn’t seem to be exciting anyone all that much. It certainly didn’t wow Bullz-Eye’s own Jason Zingale, nor the Rotten Tomatoes gang, where the consensus seems to be that “Legally Blonde” director Robert Luketic and screenwriters Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb have done the usual Hollywood thing with a fact based film, and left out all the interesting parts of the story described in Ben Mezrich’s bestseller, Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions. Also, with a cast led by Jim Sturgess (“Across the Universe“), and Kate “Lois Lane” Bosworth, it’s depending an awful lot on the star power of Kevin “Lex Luthor” Spacey as well as another give-away-the-whole-story trailer that so irritated The New Republic‘s Christopher Orr, he dispensed with seeing the film and reviewed the trailer instead.

(Bret Michel of The Phoenix has a semi-spoilerific rundown on the changes from book/mostly-true story to film, which includes de-Asian Americanizing the real-life main character of the book, Jeff Ma. Ma, presumably well paid, doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, and there is a token Asian in the filmic group of unusually attractive overachieving nerds turned card counters, but I count this is as a cop-out and a missed opportunity. Hollywood really seems to have an issue with Asian-American men not practiced in the martial arts, and, in world where John Cho exists, there really isn’t that much an excuse other than rank cowardice. Besides, there’s more to life than playing Harold and Sulu.)*

* If “21″ is the main commercial hope of this weekend, then the Iraq war drama, Stop-Lossis the leader of this week’s quality derby. Not only is it a look at the effect of extended warfare on young soldiers fighting the war in Iraq, it’s the first film since 1999 from writer-director Kimberly Peirce, whose stunning gender-bending debut, “Boys Don’t Cry” seemed to announce her as a major directing talent — though her only directing credit since has been a single episode of “The L Word.”

“Stop-Loss” predictably fared better on the Tomatometer than “21″ — but not all that much better. That’s bad news, because “serious issue” films generally need at least borderline ecstatic reviews to succeed, not half-hearted appreciations of good intentions. Though it has a moderately big name in the stolid Ryan Phillippe and the always outstanding Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a supporting role, I would be flabbergasted if this one did anything but mediocre-to-abysmal business. In any case, if ever a war seemed to be box-office poison, it’s this one. W didn’t only screw several nations with his war, he had to include filmmakers as well

* Not screened for critics, I think it’s safe to say that “Superhero Movie” isn’t going for quality. Especially lately, Hollywood has rarely lost money underestimating the intelligence of America’s teenagers, but I can’t help but wish a massive box-office defeat on the latest entry in a string of inexplicably successful films that seem to think that merely recreating one scene after another from recent popular films on a lower budget amounts to hilarity.

In this case, there’s an odd wrinkle, because the Weinstein Company is the target of a boycott by outraged Star Wars fans, angry over the treatment of the upcoming film, “Fanboys.” If I may engage in an act of outrageous self-linkage, I can’t help but sympathize with fanboys and fangirls in the fight for justice. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this come down in the second or third slot on Sunday.

* Run Fat Boy Run,” benefits from the hotness of leading lady Thandie Newton and some geek appeal of it’s own with star and co-writer Simon Pegg, hot-off the mega-cult successes of both the zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead” and last year’s terrific buddy-cop homage “Hot Fuzz.” But this debut feature from “Friends” actor-turned-director David Schwimmer has generated unenthusiastic reviews despite Pegg being a critical favorite. Even worse, perhaps, it is hampered by a severely unfunny trailer. I wouldn’t expect this one to burn up the multiplexes, though it obviously has some date movie (or at least fantasy date movie) appeal for romantic fanboys avoiding “Superhero Movie”

Meanwhile in Indiewood….
The highly lauded political drama, My Brother is an Only Child hits arthouses this week. It’s a tale of politicized brothers in sixties and seventies Italy who become radicals at opposite ends of the political spectrum. I know, you won’t see it…I might see it. On the other hand, the well-intentioned and semi-lauded sentimental illegal immigration drama “Under the Same Moon” with America Ferrera did substantial business last week, and looks to be around for some time, whether Lou Dobbs likes it or not.

Also David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels” is expanding some this week. I personally failed to fully grok the arty wunderkind’s ultra-lauded debut miniature, “George Washington,” and have lost track of him since, but at least this drama “of love and loss converging” is a chance to see Kate Beckinsale play a human.

*H/t to Greencine for the Bret Michel and Chris Orr pieces on “21″

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“Fifteen”

Good God, I remember watching this crapfest on Nickelodeon back when it was new and thinking it was the most overdramatic, poorly acted piece of hack work to come around in a long time. Still, you can enjoy a young Ryan Reynolds as “Billy,” one of the many overly sensitive shmucks on this teen soap opera.

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American Idol: Ramiel Hangs On

Remember how bad Ramiel was on “American Idol” Tuesday? Remember how I wrote yesterday that she was just about a lock to go home? Well, she wasn’t even in the bottom 3 in last night’s results show. I know there are always surprises, but geez. Anyway, here is how the show went down.

30 million votes, blah blah blah. Group song, blah blah blah. Recap of Tuesday, blah blah blah.

Chikezie, bottom 3….I didn’t think he was all that bad but apparently America did. Brooke White, safe. Carly Smithson, safe. Then a break, blah blah blah.

David Archuleta, safe. David Cook , and we find out he didn’t arrange that cool version of “Billie Jean”…it was in fact Chris Cornell, who Ryan Seacrest had to mention called in to the show and said he loved Cook’s version of his version. Anyway, David, very safe. Syesha Mercado, Bottom 3. What? She was amazing on Tuesday, so America in my mind right now is not a great judge of talent. Michael Johns, safe.

“Idol Gives Back,” blah blah blah. Dolly Parton mentoring next week, blah blah blah.

Then Season 2′s Kimberly Locke performed her song, “Fall.” She looked great and has an incredibly powerfull voice, but this song was as bland as a plain potato. The music industry suits need to start letting real songs back in instead of formulaic crap, or it’s all going to blow up in their faces.

Then they took some phone calls….and this was pretty funny last night, as one of the callers asked Simon Cowell if he thought it would be easy for her to eventually take Ryan Seacrest’s job. Then another caller asked David Archuleta why he picked that awful song, “You’re the Voice,” on Tuesday.
David claimed that it’s one of his favorite songs, and he was hoping he would get to perform it at some point. Um, dude, your musical taste is um, not very good.

Back to the results. Ramiel, safe. Here we go….I mean, she’s cute and all, and has a decent voice…but better than Syesha? No way. Did Danny Noriega call 5000 times to vote for his pal? Kristy Lee Cook, safe…and that was no surprise, because she really did a very smart thing by grabbing all the red state votes with “God Bless the U.S.A.” What’s that, Ryan Seacrest? Lee Greenwood also called in and said he loved it? Lee also says thank you for the royalty check. Oh, and if Dolly Parton is the mentor this coming week, can we assume country music theme? If so, Kristy just got another free pass. So it was Jason Castro in the bottom 3 along with Syesha and Chikezie, but he was almost instantly sent back to safety.

So down to Syesha and Chikezie. Mrs. Mike said Chikezie, and she said it as soon as he was sent to the bottom 3. Well, she has been right for 2 weeks in a row, so no reason to doubt her, and she called it AGAIN. So no more Chikezie on Idol, but I know this guy is going to find a recording niche as a young Luther Vandross type.

So now, my power rankings for the remaining nine:

1. David Cook
2. David Archuleta
3. Brooke White
4. Michael Johns
5. Carly Smithson
6. Syesha Mercado
7. Jason Castro
8. Ramiel Mallubay
9. Kristy Lee Cook

There you go….eight more weeks of Idol, or maybe nine if you include “Idol Gives Back”…remember, last year no one was eliminated on that show. See you next week, I’m going back to watching the NCAA tournament tonight.

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American Idol: Top 10 Step It Up

Last night’s “American Idol” featured the Top 10 finalists, and with it only being 90 minutes, it’s like Fox handed me change back from a $20 bill. Good stuff. Anyway, the contestants had to sing a song from the year they were born, and most of them really stepped up their game. But it’s also worth mentioning this…..that it had to make most of us feel REALLY OLD seeing years like 1987 and 1990 come up.

Anyway, here is the recap…

THE REALLY GOOD

That sound you just heard was David Cook stamping his ticket to superstardom. He closed out the show last night with a grungy version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” What, you say? Just how far can Mr. Cook push the envelope with his song choices? Well, he saw the ball coming and hit it clear around the world. It was that good, and dare I say one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on the show. I’m getting goose bumps thinking about it. I turned to Mrs. Mike and said, “There is your winner,” and then the judges agreed with me. Randy said “You might be the winner” and used the term “molten hot.” Paula said it was brave and brilliant. And Simon, who rarely uses such words, uttered this one: “Amazing.” This is clearly David’s competition to lose.

THE GOOD

Syesha Mercado was born in 1987, and sang Stephanie Mills’ “If I Were Your Woman,” and it was, for me, her best performance yet Read the rest of this entry »

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The Departure of “Jezebel James”

After a mere three episodes, Fox has opted to yank “The Return of Jezebel James,” the sitcom created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Gilmore Girls”).

Although Sherman-Palladino’s skillful dialogue-writing abilities are well-documented, even stars Parker Posey, Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”), and Dianne Wiest couldn’t save this thing…mostly because it was saddled with a God-awful laugh track which never gave the rhythm of Sherman-Palladino’s writing an opportunity to breathe nor Posey a chance to really let loose. The chemistry between Posey and Ambrose was more than acceptable, but, honestly, I can’t tell you how Wiest fit into the proceedings because she didn’t appear in either of the episodes on the screener that had been sent out by Fox, and neither of those episodes were funny enough to inspire me to try and seek out the show in its regular timeslot. But don’t ask me when that timeslot was, because I didn’t bother to look for that, either.

Yes, it was just that disappointing…and this is coming from someone who owns every single season of “Gilmore Girls.” If this experience doesn’t sour Sherman-Palladino on television, I’ll still be curious to see what she produces in the future, but what I’m really curious about is what she’ll have to say about why “The Return of Jezebel James” went so horribly wrong.

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Review: “John Adams” – Episode 3

When we last left John Adams, the Declaration of Independence had been signed, but now that we’re back, it’s time for him to head over to Paris – with his son, John Quincy Adams, in tow – in order to assist Benjamin Franklin in establishing a treaty with France so that they will assist America in its efforts to battle against Great Britain.

John’s initial announcement of his impending departure goes over poorly with Abigail, given that he’s only just returned from an expedition, but as those of us who’ve ever found ourselves as part of a couple can appreciate, her reaction is one which begins with utter infuriation but concludes with concern that he’s packed properly for his trip. The two Johns soon get aboard the ship to head to Paris, and there’s a humorous moment where young John Quincy lies in his hammock and continues to do his lessons while his father pukes his guts out. (Some people just can’t handle the motion of the ocean.) Things quickly get dramatic, however, as the ship encounters a vessel on its way from Great Britain, resulting in a oceanic battle with guns and cannons blazing. Certainly the most profound moment from a character standpoint occurs when Adams ignores the demands of the ship’s captain and joins the battle, but it leads to a disconcerting sequence where one of the hands is struck by a cannonball and requires immediate surgery. Note to self: if I’m ever time-traveling back to the 1700s, avoid any injury that might result in amputation.

Upon their arrival, the Adams boys meet up with Benjamin Franklin, and while John Quincy begins the matter of his further education, his father quickly learns that his erratic temperament has no place in France. Franklin first announces that a tentative treaty between France and America has been signed, thereby making Adams’ sea voyage predominantly unnecessary, but when Franklin discusses the specifics of the treaty, Adams immediately gets out of sorts, demanding more. It’s not an attitude which sits well with the French, and it’s made worse by the fact Adams hasn’t bothered to learn a lick of the language. The audience clearly sympathizes with Franklin in the scenes where he chastises Adams for his poor ambassadorial methods, and it’s even harder to treat Adams as a good guy when he continues to fly off the handle on these matters. Again, Tom Wilkinson’s performance as Franklin is wonderful, interspersing Franklin’s well-documented wit with his knowledge of politics and infuriation at Adams’ refusal to pay him any heed.

Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s official: CBS has canceled “Jericho.” Again.

I’m not surprised, of course, but nor am I any less sorry about it.

CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler just released the following statement: “The March 25th episode of Jericho will be the series finale. Without question, there are passionate viewers watching this program; we simply wish there were more. We thank an engaged and spirited fan base for keeping the show alive this long, and an outstanding team of producers, cast and crew that went through creative hoops to deliver a compelling, high quality second season. We have no regrets bringing the show back for a second try. We listened to our viewers, gave the series an opportunity to grow, and the producers put a great story on the screen. We’re proud of everyone’s efforts.

Clearly, the fact that I stopped blogging the show had absolutely no effect on its low ratings, but I still feel bad about it. (It was one of those situations where circumstances prevented me from blogging one week, and it just snowballed.) These episodes of Season 2 were consistently strong, powerful, and packed with both plot development and action, but, ultimately, if America would rather watch lesser programming, that’s their choice.

It’s the wrong choice, of course, but you know what Doris Day sang: “Que Sera, Sera.”

Do I think the Sci-Fi Network will consider picking it up for a third season? No, not really. I mean, I’d love it if they did, but when a show has been rescued from oblivion once and still can’t get its ratings up, you’re clearly dealing with a situation that isn’t going to be remedied by moving the program to another network. But at least you can’t say the series didn’t go out the same way it began: with a bang.

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Lost 4.8 – Meet Kevin Johnson

If you were sad to see Michael go at the end of season two, well, tonight was your night. If you were like me, however, and felt like his departure couldn’t come any sooner, then you were probably cursing the TV gods for bringing him back. In what quickly became a special “Lost” version of “Where Are They Now?,” tonight’s episode did little more than run through what Michael has been up to since leaving the island. It was a major departure from the basic narrative structure of the series (though they’ve done something like this once or twice before), and it was easily the worst episode of the season.

After failing to commit suicide by driving his car into a dock container (is that really the best he could come up with?), Michael goes to visit Walt at his mother’s house. Unfortunately, Walt won’t talk to his father after what happened on the island, and so Michael tries to kill himself (again) using a gun he swapped Jin’s watch for at a local pawnshop. Before he can pull the trigger, though, Michael is visited by an unexpected guest in the alley. It’s Tom (AKA Mr. Friendly), and he doesn’t waste any time in letting Michael know that Ben has been keeping tabs on him since his departure. He also insists that Michael can’t kill himself because “the island won’t let [him].”Nevertheless, being the sorry-ass idiot that he is, Michael decides to test this theory out, and the gun jams.

Whether or not this means Tom was actually telling the truth is a moot point, because after seeing footage of the wreckage on TV, Michael is quick to agree to go undercover and play hero to his “friends.” Given a new identity (Kevin Johnson) and a job as a deckhand on the freighter, Michael’s first day on board brings him a present from Ben. It’s a giant fucking bomb, but after activating it, he discovers that it doesn’t quite work. Instead, Ben wants Michael to simply sabotage the ship so that it will never reach the island, but when Michael relays his tale to his fellow Losties, Sayid turns him over to the boat’s captain as a traitor.

Read more after the break.


Read the rest after the jump...

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