Box Office Preview: In the Cold Winter between two Megahits, only an Ice Age can Survive

Ice Age: Continental Drift

With “The Amazing Spider-Man” eating up more than its fair share of moviegoers (for some reason) and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” coming out next Friday (oh, and new “Breaking Bad” on Sunday), we’re stuck in a bit of an awkward week. Studios didn’t want to compete with these sure to be giants, so the only movies coming out will be those with distinctly different demographics. This week, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” fits the bill, and, well, that’s all there is, there isn’t any more.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the newest Ice Age film, the fourth in the series. Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary, who have been around since the first film, will reprise their roles as Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger, respectively. Do you really want to hear about the “plot”? Alright, here it is:

Scrat’s nutty pursuit of the cursed acorn, which he’s been after since the dawn of time, has world-changing consequences – a continental cataclysm that triggers the greatest adventure of all for Manny, Diego and Sid. In the wake of these upheavals, Sid reunites with his cantankerous Granny, and the herd encounters a ragtag menagerie of seafaring pirates determined to stop them from returning home.

Currently at a 51 percent on the Tomatometer, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” is exactly what it seems to be: a movie that will get the kids to stop screaming for a few hours, without really breaking any new ground for the series, and offering what little apologies and in-jokes it can for the adults along for the ride. Oh, and if the first three movies are any indication, it’ll probably drag in over $150 million while it’s at it. The first film, which was the weakest financially in the series so far, still hauled in over $176 million at the domestic box office. The more recent releases each grossed over $195 million.

Perhaps the only interesting thing about the film is the sheer number of recognizable names on that cast list. Along with the big three there’s Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage (who I’m very disappointed in, then again, get your golden dragons Tyrion, you’ve earned it), Wanda Sykes, Aziz Ansari, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and even Sir Patrick Stewart.

Save your money for Batman, people.

  

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Kinda midweekish movie news

Again, plenty to do so I’ll try to keep things efficient this evening as I go over a few stories. Some of them, I must admit, are left overs from last night. Still, just like the way cold chicken can be even better after sitting in the fridge, maybe this news will have improved slightly with time.

* If we can believe the Wall Street Journal, it appears that the Weinstein/Burkle deal to kinda-sort retake Miramax is off, writes Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical.  Since the company is actually named after the parents of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, I imagine this might hurt a little.

Dominic Cooper in * John Slattery of “Mad Men” was one of the more pleasant surprises of “Iron Man 2” as a middle-aged (actually long-deceased) Howard Stark. Now, we know who’ll be playing Stark as a young man in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” It’s Dominic Cooper, the male ingenue of “Mamma Mia,” whose other recent parts includes playing Uday Hussein, so he’s definitely running the gamut.

* Jesse Eisenberg, who had a rather good weekend with two films in limited release, is reteaming with his “Zombieland” director, Ruben Fleischer. The picture sounds like a pretty fun black comedy about a bizarre bank robbery. Aziz Ansari is also in the film as a middle-school teacher which, right off the bat makes me laugh.

* Sam Rockwell as…Joe Christ?

* There’s very little reason to expect the Paul W.S. Anderson 3-D version “The Three Musketeers” is going to be anywhere near one of the better versions of the oft-filmed adventure tale, but I actually like the idea of elf-to-punching-bag actor Orlando Bloom as a bad ass villain. I’ve missed most of his non-elven performances, so I’m not yet a Bloom-hater. Anyhow, it’s good for actors to stretch a bit.

*  I might have been tempted to run clips from the ongoing “Star Wars” spoofery going on at “The Family Guy” only I have this strange, yet deep, inner conviction that Seth MacFarlane should in no way be confused with someone who makes funny shows. The clip from a table read embedded on a  post by Geoff Boucher only strengthens that conviction. I seriously do not understand what those people are laughing at. I’ve asked this question before and have never received a good answer: is the “joke” of his shows that all the jokes are bad?

* If the movie adventures of young Jack London get more kids to actually read Jack London, I think that’ll be great. Confession time: I’ve only read The Sea Wolf. The movie, despite having Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, and Ida Lupino in it, didn’t begin to do it justice. Steling Hayden or Robert Ryan were the only men ever born to play the half-insane, ultra-macho, pseudo-intellectual control freak Wolf Larsen. Actually, Russell Crowe could not only play Wolf Larson, I suspect he is Wolf Larsen.

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It’s your end of week movie news dump…

And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

* Champion poker player Chris Ferguson is making movies, writes Mike Fleming. He’s probably as well prepared for the business as anyone could be.

* I can’t help but think that this Anne Thompson item about two sets of brothers bidding for Miramax — one pair of them being Mira and Max’s sons, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, and the other being the wealthy Tom and Alec Gores — is somehow related to an odd claim by actor Michael Madsen. In a radio interview, the voluble and consistently amusing Madsen stated that Quentin Tarantino‘s long shelved concept for a combined “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs” prequel about his and John Travolta‘s characters has been revived. How? Well, it will now be a sequel and…well, you have to go over to Peter Hall’s post at Cinematical, but it also involves two pairs of siblings.

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Do I buy this? Well, it does sounds like Tarantino in that it’s kind of a doubling up of a gimmick used by a favorite director of his to overcome a similar sequel obstacle.  (If anyone out there has seen John Woo’s great 1980’s Hong Kong pistol operas, “A Better Tomorrow” and “A Better Tomorrow II,” they’ll know what I’m getting at.) Still, the whole thing has a shaggy dog story vibe to it that I suspect means we’ll never, ever see a “Vega Brothers” movie of any sort. I also get the vague feeling that it’s just possible Mr. Madsen and/or Tarantino is having us all on, as the Brits say. Still, I’m sure Mr. Tarantino’s trips to Tijuana can have a way of stimulating the imagination.

* Anne Thompson also brings up a very real issue that we Angelenos will recognize regarding the move of the Los Angeles Film Festival to Downtown L.A. L.A.’s downtown is in the middle of, I guess, a rebirth of sorts, but the issues associated with setting it there are legion. We’ll start with the exorbitant cost of parking.

* The porno “Big Lebowski” is upon us. Great production values for porn but, otherwise, I can’t say the (sex free) trailer looks in any way “good,” though I guess Tom Byron does qualify as the Jeff Bridges of the porn world. (Ron Jeremy is it’s Pacino/De Niro, I suppose.) Also, spoofs of comedies almost never work. Still, kind of gives a whole new meaning to “Achievers.”

* I’ve never heard anyone say they miss Michael Ovitz and his noxious effect on Hollywood back in the eighties and nineties. However, Nikki Finke’s lingering venom towards him fifteen years after his departure from the scene is utterly pointless.

* Could it be? An Asian-American comic headlining his own comedy and his character is named neither “Harold” nor “Kumar”? Yes, maybe. The very funny Indian-American stand-up/actor Aziz Ansari, who first came on my radar screen championing the cause of movie consumer rights, could be in the new comedy from “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer, writes Jeff Schneider of the Wrap.

* RIP Meinhart Raabe who has passed on at age 94. He was the Coroner of Munchkin City, so I’m not sure who’ll confirm his passing. (I’m so sorry for that, really, but I’m sure the late Mr. Raabe had a sense of humor about that kind of thing, assuming that what I wrote qualifies as something resembling humor.)

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TCA Tour: Parks and Recreation

NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” suffered through a first season which impressed only a handful of viewers and critics, only to return for its second season with everyone suddenly trumpeting it as one of the funniest shows on television. Now, this is certainly not unprecedented for shows from executive producer Greg Daniels, who endured the same fate with “The Office,” and when you think about it, every series has to endure a certain amount of growing pains. But what’s required of a show’s creative team to take a confused show and straighten it out?

“Well, I think it’s fair to say that we make some kind of change to the overall idea of the show for every episode,” said co-creator / executive producer Michael Schur. “It’s a constant process of learning what is good and what is not so good, and there is a little bit of an arbitrary pause, in that our first season is only six episodes, so that was the time that we had the most amount of time to sit around and think about what we liked and what we didn’t like. But there wasn’t, like, a ‘Eureka! Oh, here’s what we do’ moment. It’s just a constant kind of process of shooting episodes and writing episodes and cutting them together, seeing which way the characters seem to be developing and talking to the actors and getting their input. I think that…again, we had this sort of weird mini season of six episodes like ‘The Office’ did, and then we took, whatever, four months off, so when it came back, I think there was a temptation to say, ‘Oh, what has changed now?’ I would like to think that, if we had just been airing continuously, the episodes would have turned out the same way and that it would have seemed like a more gradual evolution, because I think that’s what character comedies are all about: evolution.”

I don’t know about the rest of the cast, but at the very least, Nick Offerman remembers precisely when he firmly grasped his character, Ron Swanson. “When I was originally auditioning for the role, Mike said, ‘I think this guy has a really big mustache,'” he recalled. “I think that was probably the moment. I was, like, ‘Ah, yes, I see…'”

Nonetheless, Ron has evolved a bit since then, something which Greg Daniels spoke to. “I guess it was the ethics episode in the first season where he kind of stepped up and defended Leslie,” he said. “Originally, he was more of an antagonist, I think, because he was a person who didn’t believe in the mission of the department that he was in, she was so optimistic, and they were so at odds. But then they developed a nice kind of grudging friendship, and when we saw how well that worked, we wrote towards it.”

Amy Poehler chimed into the discussion as well, adding, “What was discovered, too, was (that) Ron liked Leslie because she made his job easier.”

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship at this point,” said Schur.

“Co-dependent,” corrected Poehler. With a wink and a nudge, she added, “But we all know what those relationships are like, right?”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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NBC takes us behind the scenes for the new season of “Parks and Recreation”

It’s still undeniably in the shadow of “The Office,” but Amy Poehler’s “Parks and Recreation” really started coming into its own during its first-season run this year — and if we’ve learned one thing from creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, it’s that even if their shows take a little time getting up to speed, they make for appointment viewing once they hit their stride. In other words, the best is yet to come — and with season two set to premiere September 17 at 8:30, we don’t have to wait long to see it.

And actually, you don’t even have to wait until September 17, thanks to NBC’s behind-the-scenes peek at the upcoming season, which we’ve helpfully embedded below. Have you missed Leslie Knope, Tom Haverford, and Ann Perkins? Hit “play” on this clip and whet your appetite for more uncomfortable situations, awkward pauses, and laughs!


  

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