“New Moon” to rise over the box office

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Jolly Carl DiOrio, my favorite box office prognosticator, appears to be taking the weekend off, and Variety isn’t getting specific. However, it’s not like even someone as bad at guessing these things as I am really needs a guru to figure out that, barring the sudden disappearance of all females between the ages of 10 and 40 from our nation, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” is about a certain a bet as ever exists to win the weekend for Summit Entertainment. And, judging from the boffo early worldwide receipts as reported by Nikki Finke, it’s likely to be a very big win domestically.

Now, this is usually the point where I discuss the reviews of the week’s most high profile new release, but I’m not sure what the point is because this series was proven review proof long before the first movie. In fact, it seems to be impossible to find an adult of either gender who will admit to reading the books, except as a guilty pleasure. Vampire-human intra-species love might be a critical favorite when it comes via author Charlaine Harris and Alan Ball in HBO’s “True Blood,” or Joss Whedon’s “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” but not so with the “Twilight” series.

Our own David Medsker is fairly tolerant of this inevitably PG-13 entry, but “New Moon” at this point has nearly halved the lukewarm 49% “fresh” rating of the first film with a 27% RT rating. It’s doing somewhat better with the usually slightly tougher “top” critics for whatever reason — interestingly that was also the case with the prior film. On the other hand, the usually generous Roger Ebert gifted this with a single star and the requisite derogatory one-liners, putting it in the running to be included in the inevitable sequel to his “Your Movie Sucks” collection.

Next up is an intriguing bit of counter-programming, Warner’s PG-13 “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock in a somewhat Oscar-buzzed performance as a wealthy woman who takes in a homeless African-American youth (newcomer Quinton Aaron) who eventually emerges as real-life NFL player Michael Oher. The role strikes me as the flipside of Bullock’s racist upscale homemaker in “Crash” and people always seem to like it when a critical non-favorite like Bullock starts to get some positive attention for her acting. The movie itself is getting okay, but not spectacular, reviews at this point. Once again, as I write this the “Cream of the Crop” critics are a bit more generous than the ink-stained hoi polloi. As for the film’s commercial prospects, my hunch is that it should be profitable. It’s a movie with a little something for largely, but not entirely, male sports fans and largely, but not entirely, female schmaltz fans.

Planet 51
The weeks’s third major release is “Planet 51,” which on the surface looks like a return to “Monster vs. Aliens” territory with a PG-rated CGI animated role reversal tale in which a human astronaut, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, finds himself an alien invader on a planet full of wholesome humanoids. The consensus here seems to be that the potential for clever social satire, or just the mildly adult-friendly comedy of the Dreamworks hit, is pretty much squandered and the feature from a Spanish animation house bankrolled by Sony is strictly for the little ones. Still, to a casual onlooker, it looks like it might have a dash of interest for grown-ups, so this one might have a nice enough opening weekend.

As for limited releases, this weekend brings the kind of movie that gets cinephile pulses racing. Apparition’s R-rated “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is apparently a somewhat comedic not-really-remake of the Abel Ferrara mega-downer policier “Bad Lieutenant” starring Harvey Keitel, as reinterpreted by cinema living-legend Werner Herzog. In the Keitel role this time around is Nicolas Cage and critics seem delighted to have something nice to say about their one-time favorite again, which I guess could also be the start of some Oscar potential.

The oddball police tale will be in 27 theaters, which is only a fraction of the 83 theaters that the Bollywood hit, “Kurbaan” will play according to Box Office Mojo. It’s a  controversial, sexually charged (by Indian standards) thriller about a woman who falls for a terrorist and find herself a prisoner in New York City. It’s got music but doesn’t really appear to be a traditional Bollywood musical. You can’t have everything.

  

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The Scream Awards go down the rabbit hole (updated)

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There was a time in this world when young people were frequently slightly ashamed of being bigger than average fans of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and especially comic books. I, personally, wasn’t embarrassed …and I paid a price. Those days may be over. In any case, the capacity crowd that showed up for Spike TV’s Scream awards, largely in costume and largely dramatically over- or under-dressed for a nighttime outdoor show after a very warm day, seemed more like club kids and less like the kind of uber geeks who become entertainment bloggers and film critics and stuff like that.

The Scream Awards are, in their fun/silly way, a big deal. Big enough to attract a good number of stars and even a few superstars like Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp and his living legend “Pirates of the Caribbean” muse, Rolling Stone Keith Richard.

I, however, am not such a big deal and was reminded of that fact when, prior to the show I found myself with the less fashionable members of the not-quite paparazzi on the “red carpet” (actually a checkered walkway) with my little digital camera and even smaller digital recorder device, wondering whether I’d really get a chance to ask a question of one of the super-famed folks, knowing that the only question I could think of at the time would be something in the nature of “What’s it like be the most notorious rock and roll star in the world, having your blood changed, and snorting your late father’s ashes?” That probably would have been inappropriate, especially if I asked it of Jessica Alba.

What actually seems to happen at events like this is that, if you’re a small-timer especially, most of the big stars either go through another entrance or walk right by you at warp speed. Meanwhile, folks who are a bit more anxious to meet the press find their way to you with the help of PR types. As an example, for about half a second, I was almost able to talk with actor Karl Urban, who did such a great job homaging DeForest Kelly while putting his own hilarious stamp on “Bones” McCoy in “Star Trek.” However, within a nanosecond he remembered he was in a big hurry and politely scurried off.

After a few odd reality show people I didn’t recognize, and the pretty young actress who assays the part of “Female Addict” in “Saw VI,” our first actual notable was statuesque model turned actress Tricia Helfer. Helfer is, make no mistake, a true superstar to TV sci-fi fans and is best known as Number Six, aka “the hot blonde cylon” on “Battlestar Galactica.” The actress appeared with her significant other, the owner of a British accent and a Giaus Baltar-style beard, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence. I had a not terribly consequential discussion with her — lost because I apparently forgot to press the “on” button on my digital recorder. One would expect no less an effect from Number Six. UPDATE: Yeesh! As pointed out by my PH compatriot John Paulsen, the actress was actually Kate Vernon, who played the lady-MacBeth-like Ellen Tigh. It is true, all statueseque blonde women in shiny dresses look alike to me! My apologies to all concerned or unconcerned.

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Seven shows that just don’t get enough love

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to put together a list of my favorite television moments before the end of 2008, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the tube. (Come to think of it, maybe my television addiction was the reason I didn’t have the free time to write about the best of 2008. Hmm.)

Anyway, here is a list of seven terrific shows that seem to be flying under the proverbial radar.

1. “True Blood” (HBO)
Alan Ball, the writer of “American Beauty” and the creator of “Six Feet Under,” brings us a series based on vampires in the Deep South. The series is based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series of books and stars Anna Paquin — whom I argued, under the moniker of Eli Cash a few years back, would have made a better Penny Lane than Kate Hudson — as a mind-reading waitress in a small town in Louisiana. The first season was excellent, though it got off to a bit of a slow start. Paquin is the key, but her best friend Tara (played by Rutina Wesley) often steals the show.


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Greetings to the New Show: “True Blood”

You’ve got to give HBO credit: they know how to hype a new series.

The amount of pre-publicity for “True Blood,” the new series from Alan Ball (creator of the late, great “Six Feet Under”), has been so tremendous that it’s been almost impossible to ignore. I certainly saw my fair share of the hype when I was out in L.A., but the network’s viral marketing campaign for the show has taken awareness of the series far beyond California. It all started with BloodCopy.com, but there have been billboards, fake ad campaigns for a product called TruBlood, MySpace accounts, and more.

All this for a TV show about vampires…?

Actually, it’s a pretty savvy move on HBO’s part to throw their marketing muscle behind “True Blood,” which is based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires Mysteries book series. Anyone who reads this blog knows that vampire-themed shows make for dedicated…oh, who are we kidding? They inspire straight-up obsession in their viewership, whether we’re talking about “Forever Knight,” “Angel,” or – yeah, baby! – “Moonlight.” HBO’s just playing it smart and getting the word out about the show from the get-go, to make sure it’s full-fledged event television when it premieres.

But is it…?

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