Box office preview: Will “The Green Hornet” sting? Will anyone want to solve “The Dilemma”?

Time is at a total premium tonight, so I’ll be keeping the bad puns and what not brief.

There’s some disagreement about whether it’ll make an amount in the $30 millions or $40 millions at my usual sources. However, I don’t think there’s any way around the likelihood that this will be the weekend in which Seth Rogen, co-writer Evan Goldberg, and director Michel Gondry’s take on “The Green Hornet” will dominate things.

Seth Green and Jay Chou lose their cool in

If only because the trollish fanboys who pre-decided to hate this movie irritate me no end, I’ve been rooting for this action comedy approach to the masked hero of old-time radio and a short-lived sixties TV program, remembered today mainly for the presence of Bruce Lee. In fact, there’s been some positive buzz on it lately and our own Jason Zingale mostly likes it. Overall, however, the overall critical reaction is disappointing, with top critics being significantly harsher. Even the usually rather gentle Roger Ebert calls it “almost unendurable” and gives it the one-star rating qualifying it for his next edition of Your Movie Sucks.

Still, I’ll probably check this one out eventually, if only to see new-Kato Jay Chou, who I really think might be a very big U.S. star in the making (he’s already huge in Asia), do his stuff. I’ll probably avoid the extra price tag for an extra dimension, however. The 3D on this is getting a negative reaction from at least some. It’ll be interesting to see whether audiences who’ve been stung by sub-par 3D before steer more towards the 2D “Hornet.”

Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder think about their odds in With Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, and Winona Ryder starring and Ron Howard directing and a easily understandable premise, you might expect big things from a comedy like “The Dilemma.” However, the box office gurus tell us that not a gigantic people will actually go to see it this weekend. The critics mostly tell us they shouldn’t.

Maybe see one of those potential Oscar nominees you’ve missed so far this weekend. Perhaps “Black Swan,” which is still expanding several weeks into it’s run and expected to continue its strong run. That’s what I’ll do if I can find the time. If you’ve seen all of those and live in New York or L.A., there’s “Barney’s Version” featuring a great lead performance by Paul Giamatti and an outstanding supporting cast and getting mostly good reviews, if only for the great acting. Of course, I didn’t think even the cast made up for the drab second half of the film. Still, you could easily do worse in this or any January.

  

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Totally random movie moment #1

We’re deep, deep, deep, in the holiday doldrums as far as movie news and trailers go. Since I don’t feel like paying any attention whatsoever to Kevin Smith’s latest answer to the question “What is the stupidest possible way to react to some bad reviews?” that really leaves nothing to do but present Bruce Lee playing a game of death with Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

  

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Ip Man

Donnie Yen has enjoyed a pretty successful career over the years as one of Asia’s premier action star, but if his phenomenal work in “Ip Man” doesn’t transform him into a global superstar, then he probably never will. Loosely based on the middle years of the grandmaster of Wing Chun (and the man who would become Bruce Lee’s mentor), “Ip Man” stars Yen as the title character, a skilled martial artist who refuses to take on any students, despite living in a city renowned for its martial arts. But when the Japanese invades China towards the end of the 1930s, Ip Man must rely on the only thing he knows in order to protect his fellow countrymen, transforming him into a national hero in the process.

Obviously, director Wilson Yip has taken some liberties with the story, but that’s to be expected from any biopic. What’s most upsetting is that the movie doesn’t feel quite as epic as the source material demands. Several years of history are missing from the middle of the movie (replaced by title cards explaining what happened), while the ending feels a little too rushed for someone who accomplished so much later in his life. Thankfully, “Ip Man” makes up for its questionable direction with great performances from Donnie Yen (stoic as ever) and Gordon Lam, and easily some of the best fight sequences of the last decade. And with martial arts veteran Sammo Hung credited as the film’s action director, I wouldn’t expect any less.

Click to buy “Ip Man”

  

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What Else Ya Got? “Ninja Assassin”

James McTeigue’s “Ninja Assassin” certainly has its share of problems (the acting is subpar and the script is even worse), but while it definitely chooses style over substance, that style features so many killer action sequences that it’s still worth checking out. The Blu-ray release smartly hews towards those strengths, resulting in a nice collection of bonus features that fans of the film will definitely appreciate.

The Myth and Legend of Ninjas

This 18-minute featurette delves into the history of the ninja, using interviews with real-life ninja masters to discuss how the warring states of Japan during the 16th century led to the demise of the ninja. There’s also a brief discussion about the various kinds of weapons used (some basic and some so specialized that only a certain clan was proficient in it), as well as how ninjas have become a pop cultural icon in comic books and movies over the last few decades. It’s not a particularly well-made special, but diehard martial arts buffs will enjoy it nonetheless.

The Extreme Sport of a Ninja

By far the best of the bunch, this stunt featurette offers a brief glimpse at the making of every major action sequence in the film. Though the stunt team consisted of the usual suspects, it’s also revealed that other likeminded athletes (like free runners and gymnasts) were also recruited and trained as stuntmen in order to provide the ninjas with a unique style. There’s so much raw awesomeness packed into this 10 minutes that by the time it’s over, there’s a good chance you’ll want to change career paths.

Training Rain

This featurette follows the grueling martial arts and body fitness training that Rain was put through in order to transform him from a Korean pop star into a super-ripped badass. The stunt guys have nothing but praise for the wannabe actor, admitting that his background in dance helped him pick up and memorize the complex fight choreography so quickly. The comparisons to Bruce Lee are mostly unwarranted, but it’s easy to see why these guys are so impressed.

Additional Scenes

You’re not really missing anything here, as most of the so-called deleted scenes are mostly just missing bits from events that still take place in the film. There’s a brief flashback to the ninja camp during the Laundromat scene, another where Raizo jacks a car, and two more involving the Europol characters getting chewed out by their respective bosses.

The story doesn’t really benefit from any of the additional material, so they were probably best left on the cutting room floor. The other extras, however, are all interesting in their own right, and they more than make up for a lack of an audio commentary or proper making-of featurette. The two-disc set also includes a digital copy of the film and a sneak peak at the upcoming “Clash of the Titans” movie. It might not be Warner Brother’s finest hour, but it’s certainly more than I would have expected from one of the studio’s less successful films of 2009.

  

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Mid-week movie blips and bleeps

Another night under the Klieg lights.

* Nikki Finke is obviously in a nasty mood over it, but Rachel Abramowitz at the L.A. Times has a fairly interesting piece on Angelina Jolie‘s upcoming portrayal of best-selling mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta. Even though this will be character’s first appearance on film, they’ve decided to preboot the character by starting with an new “origins” story for the medical examiner character. (Was she bitten by a radioactive pathologist, perhaps?)

* You may think Sundance has been over for a few weeks now, but Anne Thompson details hows it’s not even close to being so simple as she describes how the indie film world is doing its business. One takeaway point: though indie filmmakers are making the most of new media with VOD and slightly older media with DVD, you still need “robust” theatrical to be in the mix if you’re hoping for significant bucks. (H/t Mr. Ebert’s Amazing Twitter feed.)

* The Coen’s have found the young, female lead to play opposite Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn in their sure-to-be interesting nouveau “True Grit,” and it’s 13 year-old Hailee Steinfeld. Mike Fleming has the scoop.

* Pulp loving writer-director Shane Black of “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is going to be helming a new cinematic take on Doc Savage writes Renn Brown of CHUD, via Variety. Brown admits to not knowing his Doc Savage, but I myself went through a pulp phase and read several of the good doctor’s adventures as a youth. I can tell you that “Scooby Doo” is not really the first thing that comes to mind. He’s really more of a non-superpowered Superman, or a much more clean living and nonviolent James Bond, but with the mental faculties of an Indiana Jones and a touch of Jesus Christ. (He has hangs out with a bunch of somewhat more flawed guys who help him to do his various earth-shattering good deeds. He’s so tough, however, he only needs five of them.) Buckaroo Banzai owes his very existence to Doc. Pretty much the only thing Doc couldn’t do was to get through a day’s work without ripping his shirt into shreds. In the world of pulp heroes, he was definitely the daylight yin to the dark yang of “The Shadow.” The character has foiled filmmakers before, but I think Black may be the man for the job.

docs

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