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Box Office Preview: Two kinds of romance, chimps and Bob Marley

What’s new this week? Well, not much. In terms of wide releases we’ve got a romantic drama starring Zac Efron, a rom-com based on a Steve Harvey book, and a nature documentary from Disney. A critically acclaimed documentary about Bob Marley could break up the monotony. It won’t be in a huge number of theaters but it will be available through on demand television services. For you glass half-full types, at least we won’t be subjected to any sequels or 3D re-releases.


The Lucky One
This movie is exactly what you think it is. It’s an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel (you know, that guy who wrote “The Notebook”) starring Zac Efron. Reviews have been mixed, but tilt towards the not so good side. Even the nicer critics are quick to point out that there’s a formula at work here.

It’s rarely a good sign when you can figure out the entire plot of a movie from a trailer.

While serving in Iraq, U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a picture of a woman he has never met and decides it’s lucky. So lucky in fact that he credits it with keeping him alive. Sound familiar? Didn’t Channing Tatum star in this movie like two years ago?

Logan comes home determined to find the woman, Beth, and succeeds after just a bit of internet stalking. Right when things start to get romancey, boom, conflict. Beth discovers the picture and is understandably creeped out before things inevitably work out in the end. Moral of the story: stalking is OK as long as you look like Zac Efron.


Think Like a Man
Again, nothing new to see here. “Think Like a Man” has gotten mixed reviews and looks like any other romantic comedy with an ensemble cast. Although to its credit, the movie seems like it could be appealing regardless of gender. Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter sums it up nicely:

As executed by an appealing ensemble of smooth operators, this adaptation of the Steve Harvey advice book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man often hits its amusing marks, but with a weighty running time of two hours, it often feels more like a lecture than an intended romp.

My fellow TV junkies will see some familiar faces. Most prominent is Jerry Ferrara, also known as Turtle from “Entourage.” Also appearing are Michael Ealy and Meagan Good, who’ve had recurring roles in “Californication,” as Ben and Kali, respectively.

Hopefully Kevin Hart and Romany Malco, who had a hilarious exchange in “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” will get to interact again.

Last and least, R&B singer/Rihanna-beater Chris Brown has a role as well. Because nobody belongs in a romantic comedy more than a man convicted of felony assault. Hilarious!


Chimpanzee
Jane Goodall’s appearance on “The Daily Show” on Monday certainly made “Chimpanzee” sound intriguing. The nature-doc has received more good reviews than bad ones.The consensus seems to be that the spectacular raw footage outweighs the sometimes forced, cutesy narration. Above all this is a Disney movie, so even its primate stars can probably count to the average age of its target audience.


Marley
It’s probably just a coincidence that a documentary about Bob Marley is being released on 4/20, also known as the stoner’s Fourth of July. When I say “coincidence,” I mean brilliant marketing. I’m going to stop right there, I don’t want my discussion of a critically acclaimed film directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald to descend into pot jokes. But believe me, they’re up my sleeve.

The film’s official site describes it as “the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom.” “Marley” celebrates its subject’s life, the good parts and the bad. Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice called it “a rousing tribute to a mesmerizing performer that forgoes blind hero worship.”

Despite its Oscar-winning director and overwhelmingly positive reviews, “Marley” will see only limited release. The good news is the film will be available through various on-demand television services. VOD is the future of film. You won’t have to “get up, stand up” and go to the theater, you pay $10 total instead of $10 a piece, and you can pause the movie for bathroom breaks.

Happy holidays.

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Weekend box office: A crime caper, a demon (non) con, and some bulked up Na’vi head to the ‘plex

The good news is that it seems pretty clear that “Vampires Suck” will not be the #2 movie again this weekend. The not-quite-news is that, with the reign of “The Expendables” also almost certainly over, there is some real doubt about what will be #1 because of the special extended edition, all 3D, release of box office champion “Avatar” in over 800 theaters.

While Ben Fritz confesses to some actual confusion, jolly Carl DiOrio cautiously leans toward the heist thriller “Takers” to take the weekend with some amount in the “teen millions.” Although our own Will Harris found some things to like in a thoroughly mixed review, the thriller is being out-and-out bashed by many critics, with the consensus being that the film, which stars Chris Brown, potential A-lister Idris Elba, and “Avatar” leading-female-life-form Zoe Saldana (well, Will says she’s hardly there), is a tinsel-laden rehash or, as Cinemablend’s Josh Tyler puts it (via Rotten Tomatoes pull quote):

The logical result of watching Heat over and over and over until your brain burns out, and then wondering what it would look like if the whole thing were remade as a Smirnoff Vodka commercial.

Doing better critically is this week’s other new wide release, “The Last Exorcism.” Producer Eli Roth’s first foray away into PG-13 scares, the movie boasts a premise that actually threatens to justify one more shot at the increasingly large horror mock-documentary subgenre with a premise I know I’ve seen somewhere before in some form. It’s about an avowedly phony exorcist who opts to document his own con job only to find himself beset by…well, just guess. It’s a premise ripe for laughs and satire as well as scares and a majority of critics find this an auspicious debut for first time helmer Daniel Stamm.  There’s been some viral promotion for this film. Considering the style and the no-name cast, I’m sure the budget for this “Exorcism” was good and low and that’s nearly always a smart move, especially with an attempt at horror that’s more than just frightening.

One proviso, however. Most seem to agree that the ending is a let down. One thing about the most commercially successful entries in this genre, they might not have been great cinema in the usual sense, but they had wowser endings.

Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Lucas Black In the indie world, the year’s next candidate for break-out film turns out to be “Get Low,” which will almost no longer be a limited release as it expands onto 570 screens. Yes, I’m one of the very few writers not to be the least bit charmed by the film. So, what’s the voice of one-almost-lone movie critic versus a wave of good reviews and enormous, well-earned goodwill built up by three great stars like Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray? Don’t answer that.

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American Idol: finalists realize what’s on the line

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, a competition. Last night was the first time that the “American Idol” finalists actually sang like they gave a damn. As if there was a prize attached to them performing well. Imagine that. Of course, the show was still two hours long despite now only having ten performers, meaning, lots of fluff and filler. The guest mentor this week was Usher, as it was R&B/soul week, and let’s just say the guy was much more credible than Miley Cyrus. Here is the recap as we saw it….

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Hollywood manages its baser instincts (updated)

Yes, it seems to be a day when we’re avoiding the worst that the film biz has to offer. Take that Sammy Glick! Maybe.

* Notorious screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who brought the world such morality plays as “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls,” is handling the kind of character/person you’d never expect him to write about, or meet. A virgin. Apparently the once severely overpaid, self-aggrandizing writer not exactly known for any particular virtues of any particular sort became a born-again Catholic following a bout with cancer. Naturally, a recent memoir tells of his conversion.

* I’ve never watched the most recent iteration of “At the Movies,” but I’m happy to say that the next version will be hosted by the New York Times‘ A.O. “Tony” Scott and the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips. They had both been my favorite subs for the still-going-strong but voiceless Roger Ebert during the final days of the old show’s run, and having them both return gives me a small but solid happy. These guys know movies and should be worthy successors to Mr. Ebert and the late Gene Siskel. I’ll be tuning in.

UPDATE: Glenn Kenny weighs in on “when good things happen to good film critics.” He also has something to say about the predecessors…and one of their daddies. It’s critical go-time. A humorous must for fans of critic-on-critic pugilism and praise.

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