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“That’s why we’re superheroes. They love us.”

The box office preview is coming along later today, I promise, but in the meantime it seems it’s never a bad time for a new “Kick-Ass” trailer. Yesterday came the announcement that this highly buzzed about non-supernatural/non-sci-fi superhero action black comedy from the highly underrated director Matthew  Vaughn (“Layer Cake,” “Stardust“) will be opening the big SXSW Film festival in Austin this March.  Now, via the Heat Vision blog, here’s a very decent general audience trailer  — the movie itself is certain to be a “hard R”  — which describes the story in a bit more detail.

And, just for a bonus, here’s an earlier Red Band clip-trailer via Trailer Addict that I failed to run a while back, It adds a bit to what we saw previously of Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage as the not at all ordinary alter egos of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. It kind of makes you all gooey inside.

I think it’s safe to say that, between this and his stellar reviews for “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,”  Cage certainly appears to have his regained his performing mojo. From what I’ve been reading, I’m also looking forward to more people agreeing with me that Vaughn, once  known only as Guy Ritchie’s producer, is the better movie storyteller.

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Fangirls give fanboys a run for their money as “New Moon” hits the record books

New Moon Even more than before, studio development executives will be combing through scripts looking for something about female humans in love with handsome young monsters whose unspeakable urges can only be controlled if they immediately remove their shirts. “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” earned an estimated $140.7 million this weekend for mini-major Summit Entertainment, which is now a bit more major and a bit less mini. As both jolly Carl DiOrio and Nikki Finke remind us, that puts it right behind the opening weekends of “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 3,” displacing, as per Finke, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” with its pitiful $135.6 million.

“New Moon” enjoyed a spectacular Friday performance of $72.7 million, an all-time record one-day take, but dropped by what DiOrio describes as a “manageable” 41% to earn a still terrific $43.2 million on Saturday. (Finke, plays the baseball statistician and mentions that the two-day total $115.9 million makes for the biggest two-day gross of all time, and also gets into other November openings, if you think that stuff is important.) Still, by the end of this weekend, most of the really hardcore “Twilight” fans will have seen “New Moon.” The question remaining is how many casual viewers, plus repeat hardcore fans, will return for the big Thanksgiving day weekend.

There was another surprise this weekend: I was right about one of my casual box office prognostications! Based on the true story of the NFL’s Michael Oher, “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock and newcomer Quinton Aaron supported by country singer Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates,  proved the sturdiness of the inspirational sports film genre. The sub-genre goes back at least as far back as 1940′s “Knute Rockne All American” and in this case won an estimated $34.5 million for the gipper and Warner Brothers, pretty much in line with what I wrote on Thursday. Astonishing.

According to Finke, the prognosticaters had only pegged this one for a maximum of $20 million, but they didn’t reckon, I suppose, with the cross gender and generational appeal of the story as well as its cross-cultural/ethnic impact which spans the inner-city and red state America, and both conservative and liberal perspectives common in Obama’s America. Lou Loumenick quotes this line uttered by country star Tim McGraw in the role of Bullock’s husband: “Who ever thought we would have a black son before we knew a Democrat?”

Woody H. in In the #3 spot this week was the big holdover from last weekend, Roland Emmerich’s “2012” which dropped a not-so-great 59% in its second week — spurred on, perhaps, by bad word of mouth from people  like the 20-something male checker at the Walgreen’s next door to me who volunteered his views to me a couple of nights back. The mega-disaster flick earned a relatively modest estimated $25 million for Sony on it’s second weekend for a total so far of $108 million. That’s still well short of it’s $200 million budget, which I find a bit obscene, but it’s current foreign total is $341.1 milion. Ah, the international language of blowing-shit-up.

Bringing up the rear of the new releases is the poorly reviewed “Planet 51,” which apparently shows that even CGI animated family comedies can be hurt by poor buzz if that buzz is bad enough.  Also, while our own Jason Zingale was unimpressed, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” continued its unusually strong performance as it expanded this week. As explicated via table at Box Office Mojo, the downbeat tale of inner city dysfunction earned an impressive $11 million in only 629 theaters (as compared to 3,035 for “Planet 51″).

Of the two films debuting from undisputed world class directors and huge international stars, German man-of-the-world/universe Werner Herzog’s critically embraced “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” starring Nicolas Cage had a disappointing debut of only $257,000 in 27 theaters despite great reviews and considerable buzz. On the other hand, Spain’s brilliant twosome of Pedro Aldomovar and Penelope Cruz earned back some of that lost “Planet 51″ cred for their nation by taking in the week’s highest per screen average ($54,000) with their latest, “Broken Embraces.” That’s on only two screens, but it’s a start.

broken-embraces-001

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“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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Late Friday night news dump

A few more items than usual may be slipping through the cracks this week as my iMac has let me know in no uncertain terms that it’s hard drive is ready to be sent off to the digital happy hunting grounds and has been temporarily mothballed.  In the meantime, I am writing to you now, dear reader, via my trusty, if Vista-laden lap top and minus a few links I’ve been saving up over the last couple of days.

But enough about me and my choice of blogging weapon, what’s going on as Hollywood’s denizens ready for the weekend by hit the bars and/or gyms?

* MGM is officially on the auction block, and the secret word to protect against bankruptcy, writes Sharon Waxman, is “forebearance.”

* I’ve never watched “Nip/Tuck” and I couldn’t get past the first twenty minutes or so of “Fantastic Four,” so Julian McMahon is a new name/face to me. Nevertheless, Heat Vision blog wants us to know that he’s in negotiations alongside Richard Dreyfuss and 92 year-old Ernest Borgnine to join an already very impressive cast on the action-espionage comic book adaptation, “Red,” which includes Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John C. Reilly, and Mary Louise Parker. Considering whose on board, director Robert Schwentke of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” really needs to step up his game. (H/t CHUD.)

* “Paranormal Activity” has past $100 million in grosses. I think Anne Thompson is correct that there are lessons here for other films. It’s true the movie is a one-off creatively speaking, but the slow roll-out and “by popular demand” tactics can definitely be transferred to all kinds of movies. It’s also silly to argue that the success of the movie was all the result of some kind of wide belief that it was “real.” In general, I’m a proponent of slow releases, except that there’s a problem — it works better with movies that are actually entertaining.

On a different note entirely, be sure to check out Ms. Thompson’s three part video interview with Michael Stuhlberg, the heretofore unknown star of  “A Serious Man.”

*Word has it that Nicolas Cage’s crappy streak appears to be ending in a big way with Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutanent: Port of Call New Orleans” which I’m really starting to looking forward to despite, or perhaps because, I was not a fan of the original film, much as I love Harvey Keitel. Via The Auteurs Daily, Manohla Dargis considers Cage’s career ups and downs. Good stuff, but, well, since Ms. Dargis mentions it, I can’t resist indulging in, well, you know….

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Renew! Renew!

No, I’m not reminding you about your subscription to Better Homes and Gardens but merely suggesting that you check out Glenn Kenny‘s amusing post today about “Logan’s Run,” Jenny Agutter, and a certain key moment in the lives of young males in the days of a more forgiving MPAA. And, though I still a bit punchy after my epic look at the Scream Awards yesterday (which I’m still correcting punctuation errors and typos in), there is movie news to recount as second, third and fourth lives for news stories seem to be the theme of the day.

logans_run_001

* Setting  a movie going record shouldn’t be too hard to pull off if you’re one of the world’s most famous, talented, and bizarrely controversial pop stars and the memory of your unexpected death is still fresh in everyone’s mind. It’s even easier if you open your movie on a Tuesday. However, it sure seems that critics and audiences mostly agree that “This is It” delivers the goods and that the Jackson shows really would have been remarkable. Given all that, I think we can agree that yesterday’s $2.2. million is only the beginning.

I also want to direct your attention to Roger Ebert’s extremely positive review in which he wonders aloud about Jackson’s ability to perform on an extremely high level while apparently shot full of drugs. Frequent readers of Ebert will have long sensed that addiction is a topic he has some first-hand experience with (he confirmed it recently when he came out as a recovering alcoholic), so this is an especially poignant read.

* I meant to post this on Monday, but Joe Mozingo of the L.A. Times put together a pretty excellent run-down on the entire Roman Polanski debacle. I have some relatively minor differences with certain aspects of the article, but on the whole this is the best round-up of the actual information on the case that I’ve read and is appropriately tough and factual. One interesting fact that I’d actually forgotten in all this: the victim herself has said on television of the crime that “It wasn’t a rape.” You can speculate on her reasons for saying that, but perhaps people should have been a bit less hysterical in their criticism of Whoopi Goldberg over her notorious statement. You’d think she’d committed “rape-rape,” when a certain amount of confusion about this case is actually pretty natural. My single favorite word in this piece: “alleged.”

* Another story that keeps renewing, Variety gives us the upside of ten Best Picture nominees and a second life for lesser known classic era Univerasl horror flicks too. Very nice.

* Anne Thompson argues for a second chance and a “serious release” for “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” I’m not a fan of the original movie, but she makes Werner Herzog’s more humorous take sound infinitely preferable to the rather pretentious original by Abel Ferrara.

* Speaking of second chances, the inspired comedy of “Black Dynamite” is in bad, bad trouble. It’s not just the man keeping it down, it’s sheer ignorance. See the damn movie, folks. In any case, if you wait much longer, you might not get to see it in a theater at all. That would straight up suck. And remember, we all deserve a second chance.

I’m still not sure what a kid from Hawaii was doing in South Central that fateful night, but you get the point.

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Gearing up

As I recall, not a whole lot of work really got done on the first day of school, but as people trickle back in from vacations, film festivals and the like, things are starting to happen.

Nicolas Cage* THR blogger/reporter Borys Kits has been keeping busy over the long weekend. He reports that Nicolas Cage will be starring in an action/revenge film, and another action/revenge film, with cars and in 3-D, entitled “Drive Angry.” Don’t take the car, Nick, you’ll kill yourself!!!!! (It’s a reference to an old commercial that you may not be in the right age/geographic group to get, but Mr. Cage most certainly is.) Kits also reports that Steven Soderbergh will be entering the action game with martial artist Gina Carano. As if that’s not enough, Kits also has a news story posted on a new documentary about Stanley Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s late mother who figured prominently in today’s ever-so-controversial “work hard and stay in school” speech, to be directed by acclaimed Los Angeles-based indie filmmaker, Charles Burnett (“Killer of Sheep”). I actually have some very slight personal connections with the group behind this film, so this one has my extra attention.

* Fans of Shinya Tsukamoto’s “Tetsuo” series should maybe brace for a disappointment.

* Anne Thompson summarizes the Telluride Film Festival in the time of recession. BTW, she has some very kind words for Nicolas Cage’s performance in Werner Herzog’s unauthorized Abel Ferrara homage (or something), “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” After debacles like “The Wicker Man” (my nominee for worst remake of all time with one of the worst lead performances by a major star), Cage badly needs to at least give a well-regarded performance or two. He’s a hugely talented performer — anyone remember “Leaving Las Vegas”? — but they all run the risk of sort of falling into themselves.

* I don’t know how to work this in tastefully. Let’s face it, most of what I talk about here is trivia — and then real life enters the picture and it’s hard to know what to say or do. Anyhow, critic/cinephile blogger Noel Vera has more thoughts, and some affecting links, on the lives of 28 year-old Canadian-Filipino critic Alexis A. Tioseco and his partner, film journalist Nika Bohinc. Both of them were killed last week when they apparently surprised a burglar in their Manila home.

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Nicolas Cage is not a deaf-mute…and he couldn’t be happier about it!

In the 1999 version of “Bangkok Dangerous,” the film’s lead character, Kong, was a deaf-mute assassin for hire. In the 2008 remake, Nicolas Cage plays the lead…but while he’s still a hitman, his name is now Joe, and he can hear and speak quite fine, thank you. There’s still a Kong in the film, however, and that character is still a deaf-mute…but now she’s a pickpocket hired by Joe as his assistant.

Was Cage, a man who has been known to enjoy an acting challenge once in awhile, disappointed about the change for the American remake?

He was not.

“I actually thought it worked out better to have the leading lady have that aspect to her behavior,” Cage told Bullz-Eye, during a conference call to promote the release of “Bangkok Dangerous.” “It made it more emotional somehow. Also, my interests were more about the story of this white man in an entirely Asian world and trying to fit in and trying to connect in some way to the culture.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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