“American Pastoral” Official Trailer

This film starring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly and Ewan McGregor looks interesting. It’s set in 1968 as a hardworking man, who’s been a staple in his quaint community for years, watches his seemingly perfect middle class life fall apart as his daughter’s new radical political affiliation threatens to destroy their family.

  

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“Date Night” ahead (right now) in titanic weekend box-office photo-finish (updated)

It’s important to remember that the weekend estimates I report every week on these box office wrap-ups are just that, estimates.  “Actuals” come out later in the week and, if there’s a really significant difference I might mention it, but there rarely is.

Nevertheless, considering that I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, West coast time based on material that was largely written some hours ago, there’s obviously some element of the unknowable, and when the week’s top two films are separated in the current estimates by only $225,000, a reversal is far more likely than usual. However, thank God, this isn’t an election and “almost” here counts even more than in horseshoes and about the same as in hang grenades. For the studios and the filmmakers, the point is to make money, not so much to best the competition.

Tina Fey and Steve Carrell in And, in that sense we certainly had more than one winner this weekend as the non-3-D, and therefore more reasonably priced, “Date Night” most certainly won the day in terms of keisters-in-cushions and also, as of now, cash in hand.  As per the mighty Box Office Mojo weekend estimate chart, the Steve Carrell/Tina Fey zany action rom-com earned an estimated $27.1 million for Fox while being seen on about 425 fewer screens than its main competition. Also, since it’s budget was a relatively modest $55 million, not counting the film’s heavy promotion, it will go into the black relatively quickly as well, which should please the bean counters.

UPDATE: Late last night, Nikki Finke had word that the estimates for Sunday’s take were looking significantly off. Today, THR/Jolly Carl DiOrio tell us the current revised estimates has “Titans” collecting $26.7 million and “Date Night” a lower than previously mentioned $25.2. These are, still, however, estimates and not “actuals.” Nevertheless, they are likely more accurate.

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“The Bounty Hunter” to ride shotgun for “Alice”?

Karl Rove and Ken Starr in That seems to be the trend in Hollywood conventional wisdom this busy March weekend, at least as reflected by my only source for such matters right now, the thoughts of jolly Carl DiOrio and Greg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter. It certainly seems fairly impossible to argue that “Alice in Wonderland” won’t continue to enjoy its ride at the top of the box office for another week, with the aid of all those extra-pricey 3-D tickets. If it makes less than $30 million or so, I’m thinking it would be a rude shock for Disney.

As for the #2 spot, the appeal of Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler seems to be working, as per the mysteries of “tracking,” for “The Bounty Hunter.” The film aroused some serious vitriol, however, from our own David Medsker, who has lost all patience with Ms. Aniston. It’s not doing much better with critics as a whole. Scott Tobias of the A.V. Club opines that:

Based on the onscreen evidence, not a single person in front of or behind the camera cared a whit about how The Bounty Hunter turned out…Some movies are passion projects; The Bounty Hunter is an inertia project.

That’s actually mild compared to the zinger Tobias ends his review with. As you might guess, it’s Rotten Tomatoes rating as of this writing is pretty bad, a very lowly 8%.

Jenifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, and the back of bald guy's head star in

Still, audience members may be lured by the film’s effective advertising. Its effective advertising promises a lively ride as a sort of two-fisted spin on “It Happened One Night,” though the PG-13 “Bounty Hunter” is apparently more of an attempt at a light-hearted actioner than the action-packed rom-com you’d expect from the marketing.

DiOrio and Kilday are guesstimating $20-23 million for Sony. Sounds doable to me, though the second weekend might have a huge drop if the film is as much of a creative misfire as it sounds.

Next up is Fox’s PG-rated “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” based on a popular series of young adult “novels in cartoon.” (My pet peeve: why can’t we just call them comics?) I have to say that I hope the movie is much better than the trailer, which I found completely unfunny — just a collection of pale sub-“Wonder Years” jokes. The reviews seem to promise something at least a little better, with “Kid” dividing critics somewhat, though no one seems all that excited in either direction.

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