“Basterds” at the box office

There are actually four new major releases coming out this weekend, but only one you’ll likely be hearing much about…and you’ve already been hearing about it, and hearing about it, and hearing about it, and we (mostly me) here at Premium Hollywood have been as guilty as anyone.

Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” is set to make upwards of $25 million says jolly Carl DiOrio of THR and The Wrap’s Lucas Shaw. Those of you who have been following this know that the film’s take has been given more attention than a lot of movies because many suspect it will be crucial to the fortunes of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, formerly of Miramax and now of The Weinstein Company. (They say that they’re actually doing okay.) Harvey Weinstein is such a well known character that all the makers of “Entourage” had to do was hire similarly proportioned character actor Maury Chaykin and call him “Harvey” and 1/3 of the audience probably knew who was referenced. The Weinsteins have always been something of a throwback to the movie moguls of old times with their seat of the pants judgments and risk taking, so that lends a bit drama to the matter.

As for the critical reception, it’s about as good as Tarantino and the Weinsteins could have asked for, especially given that the film’s Cannes premier was greeted with a chorus that some have described as negative but was really all over the place; some proclaimed instant love, others expressed varying degrees of disappointment, and others were baffled. Now, after some apparently very effective tinkering on Tarantino’s part, the U.S. chorus at is singing mostly in harmony with an 88% “Fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes.  Though there has been a smattering of controversy over the film’s “once upon a time in Nazi occupied France” tone/plot no-longer-surprises, it’s a far cry even from the debates over violence that raged over “Kill Bill, Volume 1.” Oh well, one less source of free publicity.

Inglourious Basterds There is an additional lure this time. For once, Tarantino isn’t reviving the career of his lead actor but is actually benefiting from the presence of an A-lister in no particular need of a comeback in Brad Pitt. The possible fly in the ointment is that we critics are different from other people: we see more films. No director on the planet so makes movies for movie fans as Tarantino and, as with his other films, there’s always the chance that viewers who aren’t fully steeped in cinema might be lost at sea. As Anne Thompson wrote a couple of weeks back after seeing what she thought was a greatly improved cut of the film:

“Inglourious Basterds” is great fun—for cinephiles. It’s not a mainstream movie. If it gets to $50 million domestic there will be cheers through the corridors of Universal and Weinstein Co. And it should easily do better than that overseas.

That second part of Thompson’s prophesy has already begun to be proven, with Variety‘s Pamela McClintock reporting Tarantino’s strongest opening yet in France, Belgium, and Francophone Switzerland. As for the reaction of regular ol’ Americans, only time will tell. Still, everybody seems to be expecting it to defeat the similarly male-leaning and violent “District 9” and at least match the $25.1 million opening weekend of “Kill Bill, Volume 2.

Robert Rodriguez's Carl DiOrio is guessing $8-10 million for the new release from Tarantino’s good pal and “Grindhouse” partner, Robert Rodriguez, who is using the same weekend to put out a film aimed at a completely different audience. Rodgriguez is almost the definition of an uneven director and his last family film, “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl” was detested by PH/Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker and earned the eternal enmity of another family man of my acquaintance. (Of course, the hatred is exacerbated by the fact that his kids liked it, forcing him to endure parts of it over and over again.)

The PG-rated comedy, “Shorts,” got a similar 1-star reaction from Medsker but it did slightly better with critics as a whole with an unimpressive 36% RT rating. Still, I’m sure my friend will be hoping this one flies well below his kids’ radar, and he might not be alone. “Shorts” may be booked into nearly as many theaters (3,000+) as “Basterds,” but I doubt RR and QT will be mutually high-fiving each other over similar mega-million receipts on Sunday night.

Post GradBooked into just under 2,000 screens, “Post Grad” is a PG-13 comedy starring Alexis Bledel of “Gilmore Girls” and “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” about a recent college graduate who returns home to her wacky parents (Michael Keaton and Jane Lynch). It failed to impress our own Jason Zingale and did even worse with critics as a whole, netting a miserable 6% “Fresh” rating. Expectations are very, very modest — perhaps $5 million or so.

The last of the new major releases is a semi-interesting movie anomaly from Disney/ESPN. “X-Games 3-D: The Movie” will on about 1,300 3-D screens for a special one-week only engagement. Unfortunately, critics aren’t seeing anything special here other than an lengthy and expensive advertisement for the popular games and overall expectations here seem nearly as muted. There’s obviously an audience for this sort of thing, but I guess they’ll be too busy seeing the Basterd’s bash their way through alternative history.

Like I’ve been saying, this is Tarantino’s week.

  

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