Box Office Preview: Breaking Up with a Teddy Bear Roommate, Male Strippers, and Tyler Perry

Ted

This one isn’t going to win any most original premise of all time awards, but those who claim originality equals greatness are kidding themselves. After all, there have only been seven basic plots in storytelling over the history of all mankind. “Ted” falls fairly clearly into number five on that list, the comedy: “Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.”

When you think about it like that, it almost seems like you’ve seen this movie before. The dark force is a roommate who needs to grow up and move out, so the straight-faced main character, in this case Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, and his lady love (played by Mila Kunis) can live happily ever after. Along the way the relationship with the roommate matures as well, and he grows to be mature and “straight-faced” in his own right. This is where “Ted” plays with the trope, as the roommate character is not in fact a person, but a stuffed teddy bear (I wonder how they thought of the title) magically brought to life.

But these days, when everything’s been done a thousand times over, originality is useless, especially when the chosen genre is comedy. People aren’t there for story, but to laugh, any dramatic twists and turns are an added bonus. When you think about it that way “Ted” actually offers more than your standard comedy fare.

It really doesn’t matter that we’ve heard this story before, that Ted sounds exactly like Peter Griffin, or that Seth McFarlane is voicing another talking animal (of sorts). What does matter is that in his debut in both film and live-action, Seth McFarlane has been able to make a funny movie that doesn’t rely (too much) on his trademark cutaway gags and pop culture riffs. Furthermore, he deftly handles the few dramatic sequences the film does employ, and manages to justify Mila Kunis’ character’s demands rather than making her seem like an uppity bitch doing a Yoko Ono impression.

“Ted” currently sits at a 69 percent on the Tomatometer. Although it may seem like a live-action version of “Family Guy” at times, it’s well worth the price of admission for fans of McFarlane’s or anyone looking to have a laugh.

Magic Mike

The official synopsis reads: “Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money.”

But director Steven Soderbergh’s newest production just might be better than you’d expect, even if you do have XY chromosomes. “Magic Mike” has been certified fresh and currently sits at a 79 percent on the Tomatometer. Film.com’s Eric D. Snider says it “does a better job of mixing Chippendales-style guilty pleasures with reality-based cautionary tales than you might expect.” But Bullz-eye’s David Medsker wrote, “There are lots of things to like about ‘Magic Mike,’ but a few key ingredients, mostly story-related, prevent the film from hitting its mark. You can almost see director Steven Soderbergh at odds with himself, torn between making a mainstream film or a gritty indie, and ultimately doing neither.”

A film starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and a bunch of other are tanned and ripped young fellas loosely based on the former’s real life beginnings as a Chippendale’s “employee” who made it big. It’s hard to say whether or not this film’s for you. But what with all the dancing and the Tatum, I’d say this one’s probably going to skew female in all the ways “Boogie Nights” didn’t. And that’s more or less what “Magic Mike” is, “Boogie Nights” with male strippers.

Madea’s Witness Protection

I can’t even talk about this one. I really can’t. Tyler Perry, Madea, and something about a ponzi scheme. This movie isn’t for anyone. Even if you’re a huge (and I mean huge) fan of Tyler Perry, and I can’t imagine why you would be, “Madea’s Witness Protection” is currently sitting at a 29 percent on the Tomatometer. As Peter Howell of the Toronto Star put it: this is “less a movie than it is an exercise in product branding.”

  

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Box office preview: Will “Just Go With It” flow well? Will “Never Say Never” make Bieliebers of us all?

This is the first weekend in some time when we have more than a couple of new movies opening wide and it’s a weird one. We’ve got a powerhouse team of A-listers vying for first place against a 16 year-old musical phenom whose talent is, as least in the opinion of most adults and nearly all males, vastly less than phenomenal. Gotta love show biz.

If you’re betting on this weekend, you should probably demand some odds if your choice for the #1 spot is not “Just Go With It.” At least on paper, this is a smartly designed movie in terms of attracting a mass audience. To be stereotypical about it, there’s a little romance for the women, and little raunchy comedy for the men and a slightly unusual pairing of rom-com reliable Jennifer Aniston and raunch-com superstar Adam Sandler.

Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in

The cinematic seers and soothsayers referenced over at the L.A. Times and THR differ only very slightly in suggesting that the comedy from Sony/Columbia, will do something in the neighborhood of $30 million, or perhaps a bit more. Neither Aniston nor Sandler have ever been critical darlings and their latest outing isn’t changing that.

The strange aspect of this is that the film is an unheralded remake of 1969’s “Cactus Flower,” which had a screenplay adapted by the later-career collaborator of Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, and starred Walter Matthau and my hugest crush ever, Ingrid Bergman, in the roles now inhabited by Sandler and Anniston. I’ve liked both Sandler and Anniston in movies from time to time but, my God, talk about devolution. I’ve never seen model-turned-actress Brooklyn Decker in anything, so I’ll spare her the comparison to Goldie Hawn, who won an Oscar for her role.

Meanwhile, there’s more than a little mystery about just how much Paramount’s “Justin Beiber: Never Say Never” will make. Apparently, Beiber’s very young, very female fan base is defying marketers’ ability to measure and predict the results for this 3D docu-concert flick. The really weird part of all this is that, of all four movies being released this week, the biographical documentary has the best reviews with a respectable enough 64% Fresh rating over a Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing. A sad commentary, perhaps, or just another sign of the show biz apocalypse. Could this film actually top the week’s box office? Probably not, but never say “never.”

Gnomeo and JulietNext is the 3D animated comedy, “Gnomeo and Juliet.” Disney apparently wanted to keep this one at arm’s length and is releasing it through Touchstone, usually reserved for racier properties, despite the film’s G-rating. My hunch is that animation chief John Lasseter felt the rom-com suitable for the very young wasn’t quite up to snuff all around. The reviews, however, are not completely awful and the voice cast — which includes James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Sir Michael Caine, Dame Maggie Smith and, in a voice-acting debut, Jason Statham — is beyond first rate. It also boasts music by Elton John and parents can also feel like they’re prepping their kids for Shakespeare even if this is comedy and not tragedy. So, the guess of $15-20 million seems reasonable enough to me.

Finally, we’ve got swords, sandals, Channing Tatum, and Jamie Bell in “The Eagle.” No one seems very excited about this costume actioner and that non-excitement seems to be communicating itself through some underwhelming box office guesses to match its deeply “meh” notices.

In limited release in some 16 theaters according to Box Office Mojo, the world always needs a good, or half-way decent, comedy and the large majority of critics seem to agree that “Cedar Rapids” is just that. With a cast of tip-top comedy veterans including Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche, among others, it’s hard not to have an upbeat attitude about this one.

Ed Helms and Anne Heche are in

  

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More midweek movie news — it bleeds so, alas, it leads

* It’s probably just the aftermath of a quiet holiday week or two, but there’s been an awful lot of movie news I haven’t mentioned this week. Tonight, however, all of the usual casting tidbits and what not are being overshadowed by an extremely dramatic new development in the murder or Ronnie Chasen. Chasen, you’ll recall, was the highly respected and well-liked industry publicist who was shot five times in her car with hollow point bullets in a murder that seemed senseless, yet not random. Tonight, the big news if you turn on any local news station out here is that police went to serve a search warrant, one of a few, on a “person of interest” in the case but before they could talk to the man, he committed suicide with a handgun. Not surprisingly, Nikki Finke has the latest on what has to be the strangest and saddest Hollywood story of the year.

* Speaking of Finke, she claimed another “toldja” tonight. Channing Tatum will be Jonah Hill‘s costar in the upcoming comedy rendering of “21 Jump Street” written by Hill and Michael Bacall.

* A ballet comedy with Chloe Moretz, Kristen Bell and Jackie Earle Haley? Works for me. Moretz makes a lot of sense here. As we discussed when I interviewed her last summer, she has a background in ballet. She was also fairly gaga over the portions of “The Black Swan” she’d been able to see.

* A sweet tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen by David Zucker.

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* Anne Thompson has a rundown of the selections for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is just about six or seven weeks away already, if you can believe it.

* Speaking of Anne Thompson, she posted an early review of the Coen Brothers new version of “True Grit” tonight. She was very positive about the movie herself but seemed to feel  that younger viewers don’t “get” westerns because they happened a long time ago. (Does that mean they dislike all films taking place more than a hundred years in the past? I find that a sad thought.) She also said the response at the screening she went to was “mixed.”

Well, at least so far it’s not so mixed with the geek elements of the film blogosphere because Drew McWeeney, Harry Knowles (who, yes, tends to be excitably positive), and Eric Eisenberg of CinemaBlend posted flat-out raves. This fan of Westerns, who recently read the Charles Portis novel and is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the 1969 version really soon, is excited. Only blogo-blowhard Jeffrey Welles has labeled it a “misfire” in what I’ve read so far, and I can’t help but consider the source. At least he didn’t spend the review calling Jeff Bridges fat or something. It seems like every time I read Welles, he’s criticizing someone for being overweight.

* Left over from last night. Christopher Nolan makes sense and tells us to embrace the ambiguity. Actually, the deliberate little bit of doubt at the ending was one of the few things I liked unreservedly about “Inception” which, overall, was a big, cold, glittering disappointment for me.

* Michael Douglas is apparently doing well in the health department and, from a totally selfish point of view, the best part is that it really does look like the Soderbergh Liberace movie is going forward.

* Whedonesque reveals a non-story as Entertainment Weekly manufactures a dubious scoop on the Joss Whedon-less “Buffy” movie.

* I’m sure Peter Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing, but it blows me away that a big scale fantasy epic like “The Hobbit” is going to be shot with RED Epic digital cameras. I know I have huge retro tendencies, but somehow, I’d feel better if he were using those massive old 3-strip Technicolor cameras.

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Filmgoing young females end the reign of the Na’vi, finally

arts-dear-john-584

Yes, so for those who read Friday’s post, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Carl DiOrio was wrong and Nikki Finke was more right than even she knew on her first, non-updated, version of her weekend box office post. The Nicholas Sparks adaptation starring Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum, “Dear John,” seriously exceeded even the most optimistic expectations this Superbowl weekend and took down, at last, the seven-weekend long domestic box office “Avatar”  juggernaut. The make-up of the audience that generated $32.4 million for Sony and Relativity Media according to Box Office Mojo was not surprising. As per Finke:

Females made up 84% of the opening weekend audience, while 64% of the moviegoers were under age 21.

Still, I should add that this was definitely a case of “Dear John” winning, not so much “Avatar” losing. James Cameron‘s science fiction spectacle from Fox is still holding remarkably well, dropping less than 25% this week and netting some $23.6 million. The distinctly shorter length of “Dear John” is another obvious advantage.

John Travolta in On the other hand, Pierre Morel’s all-out action picture, “From Paris with Love,” starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is shorter still, but it’s possible this was just the wrong weekend to release that kind of a movie with male fans of balls-out action distracted by the year’s #1 sports event. The film came in a very poor third with only a bit over $8.12 million for Lionsgate. C’est la vie. And here’s one more plug for the Bullz-Eye feature on Parisian-based films of all genres, “We’ll Always Have Paris,” which I say completely without bias or pride of co-authorship.

In other news, “Crazy Heart,” the country music drama featuring a nearly certain Oscar-winning performance from Jeff Bridges, was not a tale of Americana-style heartbreak. It nailed a very respectable $3.65 million in 819 theaters, which got it into this week’s #8 position. The week’s biggest per-screen was for a movie that is technically a television miniseries. The “Red Riding” Trilogy, which originally aired on English television, nailed a per screen average of $15,500 thousand. Of course, that’s in exactly one theater. Still, not bad considering it’s actually three films.

  

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Will “Avatar” become the Octo-b.o. king?

HmmmYes, folks, at last we have a teeny-tiny bit of suspense and disagreement among the prognosticators of b.o. (that’s “box office” for those who’ve never read Variety).  Hot off the news that’s she stands to be mythologized by HBO — and make no mistake, the “no-holds-barred” fictional film blogger “Tilda” will be inspired primarily by Finke and not Sharon Waxman or especially Anne Thompson — she most definitely bars certain holds, including insulting people for sport — Nikki Finke writes that it’s just possible that “Avatar” could be knocked off its perch by a movie that few males will see except under the most extreme forms of feminine duress.

The kicker here, of course, is Superbowl Sunday, when a large majority of the male public will be obsessed with the game as well as the beer and fat-heavy snacks that go with the event. Of course, some women like football, some men lack the sports-obsession gene (that’s me), and lots of people who really don’t follow football at all will still be watching the game with friends and family. But many females will still be flocking to our nation’s cinemas, and the younger ones especially may be attracted to “Dear John.”

The wartime love story is currently at 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and directed by Lasse Hallström,who is a long way from his “My Life as a Dog” days as an arthouse favorite. La Finke notes that Sony and Relativity Media’s sentimental romance starring Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum was defeating the mighty Na’vi on Fandango by a margin of 20 percent. Even rival Fox execs concede re: Sony executives’ hopes for an upset: “They are not suckin’ on a crack pipe.”

Still, the more establishment voice of The Hollywood Reporter‘s jolly Carl DiOrio states fairly unequivocally that James Cameron will, in fact, reign for one more week — though that may well be it. Still, I wonder just what kind of pipe he and his editors might have been smoking that allows him to describe the violent action thriller-comedy, “From Paris with Love” as another female skewing movie — it’s certainly not a traditional romance.

From-Paris-With-Love_jpg_595x325_crop_upscale_q85

Okay, the title might skew could be misleading to some (at least those who don’t know their early James Bond), and women certainly won’t mind looking at “The Tudors” star Jonathan Rhys Meyers.  However, take one look at the trailers and clips and it’s clear this is a real testosterone-fest of an over-the-top action film, embodied by a goateed, shaven-headed John Travolta as a brutal CIA agent and Finke is probably right that it could steal some of the male thunder of “Avatar.” Well, everyone’s allowed the occasional foul-up and jolly Carl certainly is part of “everyone.”

The consensus seems to be that the film from future “Dune” director Pierre Morel will perform below the numbers for “Dear John,” especially given a male-drained Sunday. Its reviews, by the way, are about equally underwhelming. On the other hand, this highly biased critic definitely recommends you take a look at “We’ll Always Have Paris”  — a Bullz-Eye feature on Paris-based movies that I had, of course, absolutely nothing to do with.

That’s pretty much all the news that fits save for noteable Oscar-nomination driven expansions in terms of theater count of “Crazy Heart,” the very good “An Education,” and “Precious.”  Those latter two-films especially might also not be harmed by the big game.

Gabourey Sidibe in

  

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