Cameron attacks Beck! Beck attacks Cameron! Kevin Smith attacks me (and every other critic in the world)!! MI:4 gets jiggy with directorial possibilities!!!! It’s auteurs gone wild!

I was honestly going to take tonight off to focus on some other stuff I need to get done but then Kevin Smith, James Cameron and, er, Glenn Beck — yes, you heard me, Glenn freaking Beck, have made that impossible.  Between the three of them, I could probably do five thousand words alone. Just let’s say there’s a whole lotta lameness going on. On the other hand, Michael Bay is actually making as much sense as Cameron these days. It’s a weird world we live in. And that’s not all,  to wit…

James Cameron
* In a massive example of what this liberal feels falls under the category of “dude, I’m not sure you’re helping,” while talking to the press, James Cameron launched into a somewhat humourous expletive filled tirade against Glenn Beck, the newest and by far the looniest resident of the Fox News asylum. Naturally, this was grist for the mill of John Nolte over at Andrew Breitbart’s frequently even more unhinged far right film blog, Big Hollywood.

Now, it would probably take me the aforementioned five thousands words to explain why the vast majority of what Nolte ordinarily writes is, I believe objectively and factually, complete horse puckey. However, here there is a definite kernel of truth in noting that Cameron’s decision to release an initially stripped down “Avatar” single disc with zero extras on Earth Day, naturally to be followed by more deluxe editions in the future, doesn’t exactly fit in with the environmentalist message of the film or Cameron’s claims to be not too terribly concerned with making scads of money. Though, to be fair, Fox — owned by Rupert Murdoch — does have something to say here as well.

Of course, Glenn Beck has responded and, watching said response, during the first half I was thinking: “Good work, James Cameron, you’ve given Glen f–king Beck a chance to look sane.” But, fortunately for my view of the universe, Beck’s need to over-dramatize, even in an attempt at humor, prevented him from looking too stable or stable at all.

glenn-beck-making-a-pt

Steven Zeitchik of the oh-so-liberal (in comparison to Big Hollywood) L.A. Times provides the video and some context involving Cameron’s involvement in a 2007 documentary touching on the historical reality of the New Testament. Big Hollywood provides the same video and some very different context on the same film. I simply don’t have the time to investigate that one right now.

Three things I’m sure of, however: 1. One of these men is a gifted egomaniac; 2. the other is a former “Morning Zoo” shock jock who has found the only job on the planet requiring even less intelligence and sense of responsibility; 3. the best way to turn the public off the entire issue of the environment is for James Cameron and Glenn Beck to have a debate about it.

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Monday night and Tuesday morning at the movies

* The Playlist informs us that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass have pitched a way to keep the “Bourne” options as open as possible. Personally, I think the idea sounds far weaker than I’d expect from either of them. On the other hand, “The Bourne Open Option” sounds like as good a title as any for the proposed reboot.

* A Disney-style title change for Zack Snyder’s upcoming animated family film. Some stories just don’t have good titles.

* After the fiscal success and critical bashing of “Cop Out” and the Southwest Airlines mishegas, Kevin Smith shows his sensitive side to Steven  Zeitchik. But is he really trying to tell us he did a big studio movie to make less money? Really, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a filmmaker making a “one for them” movie for career or fiscal reasons. Many a great movie or book have basically been made for quick cash — though never only for that — and I think he perceived more of a dig from the A.O. Scott review than was really meant, accuracy aside.

* Bill Murray goes on Letterman and spills a little cold ectoplasm over “Ghostbusters 3.”

* Writer Dustin Lance Black took on the first openly gay politician to make his mark with “Milk,” and now he’s apparently about to do a film about without a doubt the most powerful closeted gay man in American political history, J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. Pajiba has the scoop. The Playlist has some good background, but I didn’t find the humor in Harry Shearer and Tom Leopold’s radio-musical, “J. Edgar” all that “cheap,” well, maybe in a good way.

On an unrelated note, I’m  still trying to figure out a way to claim that I somehow imparted the Westal-bump to Black’s career with this interview back in 2003, but, nah.

* It’s just days until the Oscars, and here’s a look back at one broadcast that didn’t go so well.

* I’ve had more than one person ask me if, as a Jew — and a quite learned one for a Hebrew school drop-out — I had any special clues into just what the Coens had in mind with A Serious Man. I really don’t, not in a literal way, anyhow, though I loved the film. Writer Michael Tolkin, a far more observant and knowledgeable member of the Tribe than I, has an interesting theory about just what’s going on that turns my relatively realist reading of it completely tuchas backward, via Anne Thompson.

  

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“Shutter Island,” “Cop Out,” and “The Crazies” mine money from mayhem for an R-rated weekend

Pretty much everything happened this weekend the way it was supposed to. As discussed here late Thursday (or very early Friday if you’re on the East Coast), Martin Scorsese‘s cop-psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, “Shutter Island,” was expected to come in at the #1 spot after having a drop of something in the 50% range. Meanwhile, the new Kevin Smith-directed Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan buddy-cop comedy, “Cop Out,” and the quasi-zombie horror remake, “The Crazies,” were supposed to fight it out for the #2 spot and do reasonably well. That’s precisely what happened.

As per the filmic bean coutners of Box Office Mojo,  “Shutter Island” suffered only a lower-than-usual 45.9% drop. It therefore stayed on-top with a healthy estimated $22.2 million for Paramount, which won’t hurt the Scorsese/DiCaprio brand any.

Tracey Morgan and Bruce Willis I thought “Cop Out” was, at heart, a moderately lousy movie but also had to admit to almost kind of enjoying a lot of it. That was a rave compared to most critics. Still, as I suspected, the movie delivered the cop comedy goods just enough to keep audiences coming  and it netted Warners a perfectly acceptable estimated $18.5 million in the #2 spot for a modestly budgeted ($30 miillion) comedy.

“The Crazies,” which actually got its share of decent reviews, scored a solid estimate of $16.5 for the weekend for Overture. That’s actually a bit better than it sounds for the George A. Romero remake, because it was in nearly 500 fewer theaters than “Cop Out” and its per screen was average was nearly $700 higher than the comedy. Also, with stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell presumably asking less upfront than Morgan and Willis, it’s budget was $10 million cheaper.

The highest per screen average this week was, as usual, for a limited release film. Still, considering that it expanded this week from four to 43 theaters this weekend and managed a really good $20,233 per screen, Roman Polanski’s political thiller, “The Ghost Writer” did very well for itself.

As for poor little “Avatar” it made only a measly $14 million estimated this week in the #4 spot. But do not cry for the Na’vi, it’s still on top in the international box office sweepstakes. Nor should you shed tears for Hollywood overall. As Nikki Finke points out, revenue is up, even if attendance is just a tad down.

http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/reviews_2009/avatar.htm

  

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Weekend box office: “Cop Out” and “The Crazies” may duke it out for #2 (updated)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams in As far as I can tell and certainly the way THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio sees it, “Shutter Island” is likely to enjoy a second weekend atop the nation’s box office. Earning some $41.1 million last weekend, it would take a much bigger than average drop for it to be within range of the two new major films debuting this week, but then anything is possible.

And so it’s a showdown for the second spot between an R-rated violent horror remake and an R-rated and fairly violent if wacky homage, of sorts, to eighties buddy cop films. On his weekly video, DiOrio spectulates that either or both could make “mid teen millions or a little bit better.”

The first of these I saw myself last night. As you can see in my review of the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan vehicle directed — but not written — by Kevin Smith, “Cop Out“, I found the movie more bad than good. At the same time, I couldn’t deny that, as bad action comedies go, it was kind of fun. I have a feeling that audiences might be a bit less particular than me and since the movie delivers reasonably on laughs and moves along at a nice enough clip (Smith edited it himself), they may be more satisfied than not.  Still, my overall negative reaction puts me in line with the critical majority, with “Cop Out” netting a rather dismal 13% “fresh” reading on the Tomatometer, not that this kind of comedy has much to fear from critics.

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in

Interestingly enough for a horror remake, “The Crazies,” based on a relatively little seen personal favorite of zombie-master George A. Romero, is getting what are at least numerically better reviews on the Tomatometer than the original film. The new version, directed by Breck Eisner, previously something of a critical punching bag with “Saharaand “A Sound of Thunder,” is getting by far the best reviews of his career with a healthy 74% “fresh” rating. [UPDATE: I failed to double check this. Turns out long-time directorial hack Peter Hyams helmed the failed Ray Bradbury adaptation, so Breck Eisner doesn’t get the blame for that one since he was only an executive producer on the film. According to his IMDb page, Eisner was also a production assistant on “Tango & Cash” and I guess he shouldn’t get the blame for that, either.]

The original version only gets 60%, though a number like that can be misleading in that it doesn’t really measure a critic’s level of passion. Also, most of the top venues seem to have skipped reviewing it at all, so the results could be skewed here by reviews from horror-friendly venues. In any case, horror films are really not critically driven, but stronger-than-average reaction could still bring a few extra bodies into the theaters from folks who enjoyed Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s somewhat similarly-themed, critically praised disease/zombie hit, “28 Days Later.”

  

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President’s Day movie news

It might be a national holiday, but movie news hasn’t been taking anything like a break.

* It’s not really even movie news in the usual sense, but Kevin Smith has been making big Internet news by making a big Internet stink about being ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for being “too wide for the sky.” The latest: He might go on Larry King or “The Daily Show” to prove his point. Of course, this is movie news if it helps out the grosses for this upcoming buddy police comedy, “Cop Out.”

* This is really interesting and weird. All weekend, we’ve been hearing that Martin Scorsese has announced that he and old friend Robert De Niro would be revisiting the world of the mob in an upcoming film. Secondarily, there are numerous stories — actually not much more than written down rumors that he, together with cinema bad boy Lars von Trier, would be doing a series of remakes of some sort of his classic early collaboration with De Niro, “Taxi Driver,” possibly with the participation of the actor.

taxidriver2

If anyone out there has seen “The Five Obstructions” they’ll have some clue what is supposed to be going on here. It’s a highly entertaining documentary in which the director challenged his filmmaking mentor, Jørgen Leth, to remake an experimental short film of his that von Trier admired five times, each time with some creative limitation thrown in the way. The idea being that creative obstacles can sometimes lead to more interesting work.

Of course, Scorsese and De Niro aren’t going to make five full-length “Taxi Driver” remakes based on the Danish director’s whims, but if there’s anything to this, it’s certainly something I’d pay to see. Peter Hall at Cinematical has the most concise version of this confusing story or non-story that I’ve seen, and likes the idea as much as I do.

* And that’s not all on the Scorsese speculation front. The Playlist passes on word from the paywall encrusted Variety that he may be contemplating making his next film, a movie about movies called “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” in 3-D. It was good enough for Alfred Hitchcock in “Dial M for Murder,” so I wouldn’t be surprised and, for this particular project, it might make sense.

* Can you imagine the Oscars — or any award show — without innumerable thank yous? I can’t. Still if what Peter Sciretta at /Film reports turns out to be for real, it would prevent any more unpleasantness like this.

* Another Oscar institution really does seem to be on its way out: Barbara Walters’ post show interviews.

* Patrick Goldstein quizzes Quentin Tarantino on influences, why he likes them and why he doesn’t like them being used against him.

* The estimates for the entire three-day weekend are out. No huge surprises based on what I wrote yesterday.

  

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