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Weekend Box Office: “Up” Surprises; “Drag Me to Hell” in Limbo

Everyone expected a big weekend for the latest from the seemingly unstoppable Pixar/Disney creative team, but who knew that an elderly human could outperform an immature robot?

Yes, despite apparently being a bit intense for the very small ones, “Up” benefited from its widely noted ability to make adults cry and then laugh a lot as well — and perhaps more pointedly from being shown in what Nikki Finke reports is a record number (over 1,500) of 3-D digital screens. It raised $68.2 million, beating “WALL-E” by about $5 million, making it the third highest grosser in Pixar’s illustrious history. (Though, as always, one should remember that ticket prices keep getting higher.) But for those who think pristine visuals and high tech sound are the only attractions, I also have reason to believe it did well at the few remaining drive-in theaters as well…but more about that in a bit.

Overall, “Family” was apparently the watchword as “Night at the Museum: The Battle of the Smithsonian,” as Brandon Gray points out, dropped what is now considered a very respectable 53.5% to net $25.5 million smackers, buoyed by those premiums for IMAX theaters, both legit and “Liemax.”

Meanwhile, there was just a slight whiff of disappointment in horrorland as the ethically fascinating creepfest “Drag Me to Hell” netted a mere $16.6 million, but Sam Raimi’s presumably lowish budget flick is not quite in the movie toilet. Variety‘s Dave McNary cites a Universal bigwig thusly:

“It was a solid start,” [distribution chief Nikki] Rocco said, who asserted that “Drag Me to Hell” should benefit in coming weeks from a slew of positive reviews.

And, word of mouth of course. Like me, right here. As mentioned in my pre-weekend b.o. post, I really did head down to the Mission Tiki Drive-In in otherwise scenically challenged Montclair, CA. Alongside seeing hordes and hordes and hordes and hordes of families scrambling to see “Up” and meeting some very, very cool fellow cinenerds (some famed far and wide, relatively speaking), I can also say that “Drag Me to Hell” is a genuine hoot. You serious horror fans should be aware that, while it has laughs, they are mostly of the nervous and ironic variety, if that makes you feel any better. I mean, God forbid if a horror movie should actually be, you know, fun — and I don’t mean Dick Cheney’s idea of fun.

Meanwhile, “Terminator Salvation” did a lackluster $16.1 million in its second weekend, meaning that McG, Christian Bale and company likely feel like they’ve been dragged to the unhappy place themselves.

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Torchwood – Children of Earth (and a new companion for the Doctor!)

It’s been two days of steady announcements for fans of both “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood.” Yesterday came the news that instead of Sci Fi airing the latest episodes of “Who,” BBC America would instead be premiering the final five David Tennant adventures beginning in June with “The Next Doctor,” and then July will see the premiere of “Planet of the Dead.” Granted, it’s a shame that BBC America isn’t in as many homes as Sci Fi, but isn’t BBCA really the proper place for the Doctor?

This morning the BBC issued a press release naming the newest companion to travel with the Time Lord. Her name is Karen Gillan, and she’s Scottish and all of 21 years old. She’ll be time travelling with new Doctor Matt Smith when Season Five gets under way in 2010.

Incoming head honcho Steven Moffat had this to say about Gillan: “We saw some amazing actresses for this part, but when Karen came through the door the game was up. Funny, and clever, and gorgeous, and sexy. Or Scottish, which is the quick way of saying it. A generation of little girls will want to be her. And a generation of little boys will want them to be her too.”

And last, but certainly not least, the latest trailer – clocking in at just over 2 minutes – for “Torchwood: Children of Earth” has been unveiled. It’s still so difficult to tell anything about this miniseries. Will it rock, or will it just roll? Will the ante be upped, or will it flail around on the ground? Chances are this thing’s going to be a solid five hours of entertainment, based simply on the quality of the first two seasons, and yet the whole “kid” thing seems like a huge gamble for this series. Fingers crossed! Take a gander for yourself:

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Spring Breakdown

“Spring Breakdown” has been circling the movie release schedule for what seems like years now. After numerous date changes, though, the Ryan Shiraki-directed comedy finally appeared set for release following its premiere at Sundance, only to be dumped on to DVD a few months later. Though it didn’t get rave reviews in Park City, it wasn’t too harshly criticized either, which makes me wonder why Warner Bros. didn’t at least give the movie a limited run in theaters. After all, the film stars two of the best comediennes in the business and features a plot that, while not very original, offers plenty of opportunities for its leading ladies to shine.

Indie darling Parker Posey stars as Becky St. Germaine, the homely office manager of Texas senator “Kay Bee” Hartman (Jane Lynch), who’s heavily favored to replace the current Vice President after a scandal forces him to resign. Afraid that her daughter, Ashley (Amber Tamblyn), will attract negative press while partying on South Padre Island for spring break, Hartman assigns Becky to go undercover and keep Ashley out of trouble. Along for the ride are Becky’s childhood friends, Gayle and Judi (Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch, respectively), both of whom are looking for a second chance at reliving their college years. What follows is your standard series of comedy shenanigans, and while many of them aren’t funny, the movie is still harmless fun. It’s not nearly as good as the quality of its cast suggests, but “Spring Breakdown” still deserves kudos for making what’s essentially a mild-mannered frat boy comedy with women as the stars.

Click to buy “Spring Breakdown”

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Bullz-Eye’s TV Girlfriends, Round Five: Married to the Job

Married to the Job

You’ve exercised your right to vote through the first four rounds of Bullz-Eye’s TV Girlfriends, choosing your favorites from the Hot and Smart, Pretty, Vacant, Girls Next Door, and Coworkers with Benefits categories…and now it’s time for round five: Married to the Job.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to survey our shapely (and professionally driven) lineup of potential TV Girlfriends — a list that includes more recent hotties like Nancy Botwin of “Weeds” and Veronica Mars, as well as classics like Mary Richards — and pick the one you’d most like to spend your weekends with. Will it be Chloe O’Brian of “24″? Sarah Connor? Elaine Nardo from “Taxi”? Or another of our fine choices? Take a look and cast your vote!

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A Chat with “Harper’s Island” Victim #7

Yes, this week’s interview with the “Harper’s Island” Victim of the Week is late, and I apologize wholeheartedly for that. I’d had the best of intentions to do the interview on Tuesday while in Columbus for a Bullz-Eye editorial meeting, but due to a combination of equipment malfunction, poor reception, and general bad timing, it was pushed back to Thursday, so I could be in the comfort of my own office to hold the conversation. Fear not, however: I’ll be talking to Victim #8 bright and early on Monday, so expect to see that conversation in a timely fashion.

For now, however, you’ve clearly waited long enough to read this week’s chat, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Your Weekend Movie Choice: “Up” in the Heavens, Or Dragged to “Hell”

Yes, we’ve got a weekend of strong contrasts and a real rarity, two critically lauded films that each have a chance of doing some seriously good business.

Of course, the big movie this week is Disney/Pixar’s “Up” which is already, predictably enough, a huge hit not only with our own David Medsker, but with critics across the board, rating a mondo-boffo-socko 98% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. As I write this, only two critics have seen fit to turn thumbs down — and one of those two is the increasingly mindless contrarian, Armond White, who, I gather, loathes us all. (See David Hudson at IFC for more review excerpts and a concise reaction to the ever-more self-parodying White.)

It seems logical to expect something like the money that past smashes from the studio have made (Variety is saying about $60 million for the weekend), but there is always the possibility of audiences turning contrarian themselves, mindlessly or otherwise. If people were concerned that a gourmet rat or a wordless robot might turn off audiences, then a crochety and rather uncute 78-year-old lead could bring out latent movie ageism. Though, as others have pointed out, it doesn’t seemed to have harmed Clint Eastwood much. In any case, the experts seem convinced that the Pixar name, and the fact that this is the very first 3-D production from the amazingly reliable studio, will ensure that the Emeryville studio’s unprecedented track record of critical and commercial success should continue for one more film. (For more on “Up” you are commended, if not commanded, to read Medsker’s interview with director Pete Doctor — at least until the place where David suggests that maybe you should stop.)

As if that weren’t enough, this weekend brings that rarest of all cinematic creatures: A PG-13 horror film that not only is not drawn from an Asian hit, but was actually shown to critics in advance, and got a Pixaresque 96% positive RT rating. I speak, of course, of Sam Raimi’s return to his humor-spiked pulp horror roots with “Drag Me to Hell.” Now, this seems to be less of a sure thing in that the conventional wisdom has been that audiences don’t trust the cinematic chocolate of comedy — even in relatively small doses — combined with the peanut butter of actual scary horror, but Raimi’s name and some credible frights will perhaps cause filmgoers to decide these are two great tastes that go great together. All in all, this could be a canny bit of counterprogramming for teens looking to avoid the wholesomeness of “Up” and the still potent “Night at the Museum” sequel. Besides, Bloody Disgusting gave it 4 and a half skulls.

Also, cinema-chicken though I be, emboldened by that PG-13 rating, I personally, as well as world famous, horror-lovin’ cinephile blogger Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and, I’m told, numerous friends and filmic potentates, will be pumping up the grosses of “Hell” in the place where, some say, pulpy horror movies may best be viewed. I speak of the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair, California. If you’re in the area on Saturday, 5/30, there may be more hellish things to do, though if you stay for co-feature “Angels and Demons” all bets may be off.

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2009 Summer Television Preview put together a nice preview of what’s in store for us this summer on the tube.

“Weeds,” “Eureka,” “The Closer,” “True Blood” and “Leverage” are returning, while “Nurse Jackie,” “Hung,” and “Dark Blue” are just a sampling of the new shows that are debuting this summer.

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Pete Docter looks back, ahead, and “Up”

Pete Docter header

Pixar’s 10th full-length feature, “Up” — which critics have, unsurprisingly, dubbed another in the studio’s long line of critical winners — lands in theaters this weekend, and to celebrate the occasion, “Up” director Pete Docter set aside a few minutes for a chat with Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker.

What’s on the Pixar vet’s mind these days? Of course, there was much discussion of “Up,” but the conversation covered plenty of other ground, from the studio’s overall philosophy to Docter’s thoughts on other companies’ animated output, and what makes a good movie:

“You have to think about good storytelling and characters first. Then hopefully, the rest of that stuff will follow, some more than others. But if you don’t have a good film and strong characters, then you don’t have anything down the road.”

To read more of the interview — and to find out why Medsker kicked things off by addressing Docter as “you bastard” — just click here. And don’t forget to follow Bullz-Eye’s coverage of “Up”!

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Walter White did a bad, bad thing

It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: If you’re a “Breaking Bad” viewer and haven’t yet seen last Sunday’s episode, then you may want to just skip to the next post, because there are serious spoilers ahead.

Are they gone? Yeah? Good.

Chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-kingpin Walter White has done some sketchy things in his day, but facing imminent death with no financial safety net for his family, it wasn’t too difficult to give him a pass. But over the course of the second season, this has changed. Walter’s cancer is in remission, and he’s scheduled for a surgery that could cure him completely. But instead of winding down his life of crime, he insists on expanding it. Part of the problem is that he’s realized how boring his life is without it. His marriage is teetering on the edge of disaster, and producing meth is the one thing in his life that he has mastered.

In last week’s episode, “Mandala,” Walter chose to make a huge transaction (~$1.2 million) instead of rushing to the hospital to be with his wife as she gave birth. But in Walter’s mind, it was no choice at all. If he didn’t make the deal, he would miss out on any future opportunities with one of the biggest (and most careful) drug runners in the Southwest. You see, for Walter, it’s no longer about the money or providing security for his family. It’s more about his being a success, despite what his friends and family think.

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Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno” goes green

…Green band, that is — as in the trailer for the July 10 comedy, which takes Cohen back to his guerrilla comedy roots as he pretends to be a loudly gay reporter in order to surprise, offend, and humiliate…well, everyone, really; Ron Paul and Paula Abdul are just a couple of the famous names that have added themselves to the “fooled by Bruno” list. The red band trailer hit first, but Universal has just released a green (read: safer for work) version that you can watch below. And don’t forget to follow Bullz-Eye’s coverage of the movie!

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