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Belated box office wrap-up: “The Rite” leads devilishly dull weekend as “The King’s Speech” fails to rise above it’s indie station

One benefit of waiting until Monday night to write up the weekend’s results is that the Box Office Mojo results I have are not estimates but “actuals.” It’s nice not to have to stick in the word “estimated” before every number for a change but, I fear, that’s about the most exciting news I have to report today.

As predicted back on Thursday night, the PG-13 exercise in exorcist hi-jinks, “The Rite,” lead the weekend and gave Warner Brothers #1 bragging rights. It was not the prettiest victory, however. With roughly $13.8 million in grosses, it was either at the low end or even slightly below the numbers that were trumpeted before, with some estimates going up to $20 million. Also,of course, in actual business terms being #1 is pretty meaningless except for the next weekend’s advertising.

Ashton Kutcher and Lake Bell in The #2 movie was last week’s topper from Paramount, “No Strings Attached.” It earned $13.4 million, falling a significantly better than average 31.8% in its second week, indicating good worth of mouth. (Which, since I kind of hated the movie, kind of annoys me. Why are you people saying good things about it?) The attempt at raunchy but adult romantic comedy will be breaking $40 million total by tomorrow, which is pretty decent considering that veteran director Ivan Reitman kept the budget to a modest $25 million.

The Mechanic,” which I’ve been covering here and at our sister site, performed not-horribly for the revived CBS Films with $11.4 million and change. It’s very reasonable budget for an action film, $40 million, means that it’s another modest success for star Jason Statham. I nevertheless agree with Bullz-Eye reviewer David Medsker that Statham deserves better. The original 1971 version of the film also deserved better, though even I have a hard time arguing that an action-inflected meditation on the nature of modern day evil like the original would do any better. Still, I wish they had cut the budget by half and kept it closer to the blunt spirit of that film or, failing that, increased it by one-third and just made a silly action-movie that was fun. Instead, it’s kind of a neither fish-nor-fowl situation.

The King’s Speech,” which expanded significantly in terms of theater count this weekend, failed to generate the surprise some said might be in the offing. It did pretty much exactly the kind of solid and stately business one would expect from a figurehead and came in at a very solid and respectable $11 million or so. It was in 5th place just barely behind “The Green Hornet” which, at about $78 million so far, still has a ways to go to match its $120 million budget.

Jay Chou and Seth Rogen in

clomid, synthroid, zithromax, accutane, celebrex

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RIP John Barry

Good film music enhances movie scenes. Great film music takes a good, bad or indifferent scene and lifts it into the stratosphere. Really great film music does that and is also enchanting to listen to in any context. By that measure, John Barry is one of the best film composers ever.

He might have lacked some of their complexity, but in emotional and melodic terms he is very much on a par with the greatest film composers of all time, including Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, and Bernard Herrmann — and their music charted much less frequently. John Barry could write a complex, soaring pop hit that might make Burt Bacharach jealous. He wasn’t afraid to be over-the-top when the job called for and embraced a certain level of kitsch where appropriate. He didn’t over-value subtlety.

Mr. Barry died yesterday in New York from a heart attack at age 77, not super young but another twenty or thirty years of his presence on the planet would have been nice, too. Even today, when many young film viewers are only barely aware that some guy named Sean Connery once played James Bond, if I ask almost anyone to think of “spy music,” they’re probably going to think of either the actual music from the early James Bond films or music heavily influenced by it. That’s just scratching the surface.

Barry evoked beauty, longing and mystery for all kinds of films. His 111 composing credits included Oscar-winning scores for “Out of Africa,” “Born Free,” the colonial war classic “Zulu,” his groundbreaking combination of scoring and music supervision on “Midnight Cowboy,” the cult fantasy-romance, “Somewhere in Time,” a now very obscure 1972 live-action musical version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and Richard Lester’s masterpiece, “The Knack and How to Get It.” Other scores include “Dances With Wolves,” “The Lion in Winter,” and the three movies that starred Michael Caine as anti-Bond workaday spook, Harry Palmer. Barry had the spy market cornered, and he was one very cool cat.

If you’ve never heard his fascinating and funny 2004 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross where he discusses “million dollar Mickey Mouse music,” now’s a good time. As you can always bet on, there’s much more at MUBI and be sure to check out this anecdote from Sir Michael about being present at the creation of a pop masterpiece. After the flip, just a few somewhat random clips of some of Barry’s best.

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A roundtable chat with screenwriter Lewis John Carlino of “The Mechanic,” (2011 and 1971)

If there’s a picture of Lewis John Carlino anywhere on the Internet, I haven’t been able to find it. Does it matter?

Unlike other notables, writers are still allowed to be a little mysterious. Indeed, other than the fact that he wrote several widely acclaimed movies, an episode of the legendary television series “Route 66,” some plays, and directed a few movies, very little information is available online about Lewis John Carlino.

The Great SantiniCarlino is probably best known as the director and writer of 1979′s “The Great Santini,” a beloved sleeper about a military family based on a novel by Pat Conroy and featuring one of Robert Duvall’s greatest and most bombastic performances. “Santini” is, however, one of the more conventional films in the Carlino cannon.

In 1966, he adapted a novel by David Ely into John Frankenheimer’s famously eccentric paranoid science-fiction thriller starring Rock Hudson, “Seconds.” Less well remembered are his non-”Santini” directorial efforts. “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea,” a bizarre and intense 1976 drama based on a book by Yukio Mishima, and “Class,” a 1983 comedy in which Jacqueline Bisset has an affair with brat-packer Andrew McCarthy, the best friend of her son (Rob Lowe). In between, Carlino also wrote the acclaimed fantasy drama, “Resurrection” starring Ellen Burstyn. After 1983, Carlino stopped directing movies entirely and his credited writing work declined dramatically.

Now a soft-spoken seventy-something intellectual, Carlino met with a group of writers to discuss a remake of one of his best known films, “The Mechanic.” The 1971 original starred Charles Bronson as a troubled but ultra-stoic hit-man who tries to end his isolation by taking on a protegee (Jan-Michael Vincent), even though his last hit was on the young man’s father (Keenan Wynn). Despite its action film trappings — including a nicely accomplished quarter-hour dialogue-free opening set-piece — it’s an often chilling look at men who have embraced death and cruelty. Bronson’s character does have a “code,” but it’s not a moral one. His aim is to embody an amoral version of existentialism that might be familiar to readers of Albert Camus’s “The Stranger.”

The new version, which stars Jason Statham and Ben Foster as the cool-blooded killer and his more hot-headed mentee, keeps enough of the original story and dialogue that Carlino is a credited screenwriter on the film. This time, around, however, Statham’s character is less vicious and the movie hits a number of more familiar action-flick beats. Viewers looking for traces of Camus will have to go elsewhere.

THE MECHANIC

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have your new Superman and, yeah, he’s British too

Englishman Henry Cavill in his ordinary street clothesSomeone wake up Lou Dobbs. I mean, Spidermen and Batmen hailing from the UK is one thing, but what’s Henry Cavill going to do, fight for truth, justice and the British way? Will Luthor try to do him in with a Kryptonite crumpet?

But, seriously, folks, the main reason I’ve decided to put off this week’s box office round-up is that the entire geek film Internet is having a fangasm because Mike Fleming and La Finke and also, possibly, la Harry, broke the news this morning that busy working English thespian Henry Cavill is the new man from Krypton.

If, like me, your first reaction to the news is “Who’s Henry Cavill?,” the answer is that he’s best known as a macho nobleman on TV’s “The Tudors.”  The assumption is that producer-director Zack Snyder and company are going with a more ultra-masculine Superman in reaction to the underrated and underseen Brandon Routh, but thats probably jumping the gun. Let’s see what he actually does with the part. If, like me, you’ve never watched “The Tudors,” Cavill also played supporting roles in the 2002 version of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and as the obnoxious Humphrey in Matthew Vaughn’s underrated and underseen, “Stardust,

I still haven’t decided just what I think of Zack Snyder as a filmmaker and I haven’t seen enough of Cavill to have a pre-opinion here though, just looking at some of his pictures, he seems a slightly better fit to me for either James Bond or Batman, both characters he was actually in the running to play. Still, my hunch is he’ll do fine. I would, however, like to remind casting directors that Americans can save producer’s substantial sums on dialect coaches. Or, let’s make the next 007 American, and in two or three years, when they decide to do a Harry Potter reboot (this time, he’ll be tougher and sexier) let’s make him a Yank as well. America’s acting superheroes needs jobs!

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Oscar madness kicks into high gear at the DGA and SNL

People who want a real Academy Award horse-race got probably the best possible news last night at the Director’s Guild Awards. As you’ll no doubt be hearing many, many times over the next month or so, the DGA Award for Best Director and the Oscar for Best Director have only not lined up six times in the history of both awards. Also, of course, the directorial Oscar and the Best Picture Oscar often tend to correlate as well because, sometimes rightly but occasionally wrongly, most of the credit for a good movie tends to go to the director.

Those who remained confident that “The Social Network” remained the favorite for an Oscar sweep despite it getting beaten out in the number of Oscar nominations by two films, were given a sharp jolt because the winner last night was not David Fincher, but the extremely talented fact-based-drama specialist Tom Hooper of “The King’s Speech.” Count me among the surprised.

I’ll save for later why I still think the Oscars’ are either movie’s ball game or could easily be a sort split decision. However, in an amusing not quite coincidence, “Social Network” star and Oscar nominee Jessie Eisenberg had a small surprise of his own to reveal as he hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night.

Let’s see Colin Firth pull that off with King George VI. Also, Mark Zuckerberg can’t complain that he was misrepresented in terms of height, at least. H/t Nikki Finke.

The winner in the best documentary DGA category, by the way, was Charles Ferguson of the hugely acclaimed “Inside Job” which might actually guarantee that it won’t win the Best Documentary Oscar, because that’s the way the documentary category often rolls. We’ll see. For you TV fans, I’ll post/paste the complete list of DGA Awards (nice wins for Mick Jackson and Martin Scorsese,) after the flip.

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Love conquers all at Sundance

Just last night, I was writing about an assortment of ultra-dark, transgressive films that were getting a lot of ink at Sundance, but it seems the festival journey was in the mood for something a lot gentler. To be specific, a film in which true love poignantly meets its match in U.S. immigration laws has won the top prize at the festival.

The maker of “Like Crazy,” Drake Doremus, is apparently so guileless that he admitted to being partially inspired by “Paper Heart,” a perfectly okay and good-natured little movie that was hated out of all proportion to its attributes by many festival-going sophisticates and duly stomped upon. I already like the guy. Female lead, Felicity Jones, won a special jury prize for her performance. Leading guy Anton Yelchin will just have to be happy that he’s Lt. Pavel Chekhov, damnit.

I don’t have a trailer to show you, but I did dig up this very brief clip in which almost nothing happens except unbelievable romantic tension.

Indiewire has a complete write-up of the awards and a list of winners.

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Celebrar la violencia con “El Mariachi”

The celebrate/plug the release of Blu-Ray release of Robert Rodriguez’s complete “El Mariachi” trilogy (“El Mariachi,” “Desperado,” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”), Sony has put together this little red-band trailer. NSFW if you work with vegans. Enjoy.

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A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991′s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006′s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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It’s the bloody end of week movie news dump

As this year’s apparently rather upbeat and successful Sundance winds down, this is just a sampling of some of the movie news stories that have been making the rounds.

* There’s a constant stream of stories about indie films being acquired by studios — like, say, artist Miranda July’s “The Future” and the gentle Paul Rudd comedy, “My Idiot Brother.” Most of these sound like more or less traditional “Sundance” films (docs, small relationship-centric dramas and comedies). At the other extreme, there’s also been an undercurrent of transgression in Park City this year as three films are said to be pushing the envelope regarding extreme graphic violence and gore/blood.

“I Saw the Devil” doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time though it’s twisted revenge premise has a kind of sick cleverness to. If this movie really is as gory as people say, I don’t quite get the comparisons to “Oldboy,” which was often unpleasant and, I suppose, somewhat shocking and definitely brutal in places, but not really particularly gory — I don’t think I closed my eyes once and I’m, you know, me.

oldboy

“The Woman,” is a film about a misogynist torturer who eventually gets his that has really divided viewers and caused one gentleman to completely flip out at a screening. Reading Drew McWeeney’s extremely positive review and description of the utterly insane showing, setting aside the issue of the treatment of women onscreen, I sort of fail to see the point of the exercise. Okay, he was traumatized by the movie. Why is that a good thing? Gore and violence aside, in my view, art and that kind trauma may actually be antithetical because it doesn’t allow you any room of your own in which to think. We could maybe use a little more of Bertolt Brecht’s “alienation effect” and a little bit less total immersion cinema these days.

On a somewhat less serious tack, the most popular Sundance premiere with the fanboy set by far is the long ballyhoed “Hobo With a Shotgun,” in which the gore and brutality is mostly, but perhaps not entirely, played for laughs in what I understand is deliberately cheesy grindhouse style. Even so, it sure sounds as if the envelope may be pushed too far for this extreme-gore-phobe, funny or not

Actually, there’s always the matter of festival hype to consider with all of these films. Something about the air in Park City sometimes makes people exaggerate how violent/gorey/scary/upsetting movies are. Remember when “Blair Witch” was the scariest movie of all time?

* Speaking of “Oldboy” director, Chan-wook Park, Mia Wasikowska is in talks to star in his first U.S. film, “Stoker.”

* Yes, the concept that men and women think somewhat differently will be entirely fresh concept for a romantic comedy, I can hardly wait.

* Mel Gibson’s DVD of his new film, “The Beaver” was stolen. Sometimes, the jokes really do all but write themselves.

* A.J. Schnack has some very solid explanations of why “Waiting for Superman” wasn’t nominated and also wasn’t “snubbed” by Oscar.

* Seth Rogen’s going to make a comedy road movie with Barbara Streisand as his mom? It really seems to be happening.

* Another “Hobbit” delay, but a short one caused by a nasty perforated ulcer for Peter Jackson, who surely has had one hell of a year.

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Friday trailer: “Soul Surfer”

The fact-based story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark, has a PG rating, so you know it’s no “127 Hours“-style survival tale, but a story about overcoming adversity aimed at young girls and their parents.

Not to sound too cynical, but this could be an interesting blend of the “girl power” genres and the overcoming-disability biopic, or not. At least it has some very good people in the cast.

H/t THR/Risky Business.

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