Weekend Box Office: “Tangled” enjoying good hair and $ days, a “Warrior” doesn’t get its way, but “Black Swan” is no ugly duckling

Everything pretty much is working out at this weekend’s box office as was predicted Thursday night. The exception being that, as a whole, the post-Thanksgiving Day letdown may be slightly bigger than expected. To be specific, as prognosticators prognosticated, Disney’s “Tangled” led the box office derby.

Showing the usual strength of well-received family-animated comedies, the film formerly known as “Rapunzel” earned an estimated $21.5 million over the weekend. The less than thrilling news here is that, as calculated by Box Office Mojo‘s indispensable weekend chart, it suffered a rather larger than usual second weekend drop for its genre of 55.9%. Still, I’m guessing we can attribute some of that to the post-holiday doldrums.

Tangled up in Rapunzel

On the sunny side of the equation, the musical action comedy is already very close to the $100 million in its second weekend, and that’s never bad. On the other hand, the typically enormous CGI animation budget of $260 million makes that kind of number seem a hair less impressive. On the other other hand, when you consider not only the the worldwide box office, but the licensing, I think it’s fair to say that “Tangled” will be another profitable feather in the ever-more-humongous Disney cap.

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A Roundtable Chat with the Cast and Director of “Saw 3D”

In 2003, director James Wan and screenwriter Lee Whannell put together a short film featuring a man with a rusty metal “reverse beartrap” on his head and a creepy-looking puppet in hopes that someone would take a chance on this film script they’d written.

Someone did.

Eight years later, the “Saw” franchise is reportedly coming to a close, and although the history of the horror genre – specifically, the fourth “Friday the 13th” film – has taught us that no chapter is ever truly final, they’re at least trying to make us think they’re going out with a bang, eschewing a straightforward “Saw VII” and instead offering fans an additional dimension of gory fun with “Saw 3D.”

Although the studio is predictably taking a pass on providing press screenings for the film (since everyone knows it’s going to be critic-proof, anyway), director Kevin Greutert and a trio of actors from the cast – Cary Elwes, Costas Mandylor, and Betsy Russell – turned up at the New York Comic Con to do a series of roundtable interviews for members of the media.

The demand to chat with these folks were significant, as you might imagine, so in order to maximize our time while working with minimal space, both the interviewers and the interviewees were split into two groups, with the interviewees switching groups after 15 minutes.

First up, Costas Mandylor and Kevin Greutert…

Journalist: So there’s, like, a volcano eruption of 3D films out there now, with the whole “take that and run with it” Hollywood attitude. What sets this one apart from other 3D horror films?

Kevin Greutert: Well, for one thing, this film was actually shot in 3D. We didn’t do a post-conversion like a lot of the other movies that have come out lately. I think that shooting it in 3D makes all the difference in the world, so it just looks that much better. This was shot with state-of-the-art cameras that are a lot more lightweight than any previous 3D films, so we were able to preserve the “Saw” style of doing a lot of stuff handheld and keeping the camera moving around a lot and very dynamic. Because technology is advancing so quickly, we were able to just take advantage on all aspects.

Journalist: Has 3D changed the blocking of the set and what you’re actually doing in the film?

KG: Yeah, it affects the way we block the scene, because we want to maximize the feeling of depth in the image, even if it’s not an in-your-face moment where stuff’s flying into the camera. We still wanted it to look as rich and full of space as possible.

Journalist: At what point in the production process was the decision made that the film was going to be in 3D? Was that from the outset, or did that happen…

KG: It was decided…that was probably the very first decision made on the film, and I had actually hoped even before we made “Saw V” to direct “Saw VI” in 3D but wasn’t able to make that work. So by the time “Saw VII” came along, now there’s enough infrastructure in terms of theaters that are equipped with 3D equipment to go forward, and…yeah, no one ever thought twice about doing it in 3D.

Journalist: How does 3D enhance the storyline?

KG: Well, I don’t know how much it actually plays into the story. There’s a bit of self-reference in the opening scene of the movie, which is the first “Saw” scene that takes place in broad daylight, with a big crowd watching one of Jigsaw’s big contraptions at play. There’s, I think, a little bit of an implicit message about horror audiences watching voyeuristically. 3D, I think, just kind of takes that to another level.

Journalist: Costas, what keeps bringing you back to this franchise?

Costas Mandylor: You know what? In a way, luck. And the character seems to have worked. And, you know, when you collaborate with people like Kevin and a couple of the other guys before him, and you know what you’re doing together, it’s a comfortable situation where you don’t have to get really… (Hesitates) I mean, some guys in life are a pain in the ass, and they die. “Saw” does that really easy. I committed to it as best as I could, and spending time with Tobin (Bell) and seeing how committed he was to keeping a certain standard, not letting the fans down was really important to him, so it wasn’t just going to a gig, doing my thing, and leaving. I actually paid attention. There’s a great example of…when I first started, I think it was in “IV,” he had a great idea for a scene and he called me at, like, 11:30 at night. He goes… (Does a Tobin Bell growl) “Hey, Costas, are you awake?” Jigsaw’s calling me at midnight on the phone. I’m in trouble here. (Laughs) I went to see him…reluctantly…but we spent some time together, and the scene…that was a really long scene that we did, with the gun to the…? It just worked beautifully, because he put the effort in and forced me to be okay with putting in my ideas as well. So I’m still here ‘til the end of this one, and…we don’t even know the endings. But for now, I’m in.

KG: We have more control over Costas by not letting his character die. (Laughs) We hold that over his head every year.

Journalist: But that doesn’t keep Tobin from coming back!

KG: (Laughs) He has more screen time dead than he did alive!

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Midweek movie news — the fatigue edition!

I’m overtired and miles from home in a West L.A. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and I probably should have just thrown up another embed and gone for home and some sleep, but the movie news is just not waiting tonight…

* Johnny Depp is apparently wanting to star in a new version of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man,” or perhaps the series of really fun movies starring the great William Powell and Myrna Loy that the original 1934 movie adaptation spawned. I’ve no particular clue why he’d want Rob Marshall — not a bad director at all, but also not a great one and prone to ADHD editing — when he could have his pick. Of course, selecting a Nora Charles to go with his Nick will be half the fun — the possibilities are pretty endless though for some reason the only person I can think of right now is Cate Blanchett. She’s great, but don’t ask me why she comes to mind. It’s probably the fatigue. One big problem: Nick and Nora are a couple of merry alcoholics — or at least huge problem drinkers. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that aspect of the property in today’s more abstemious world, although I suppose Nick Charles isn’t that far removed from Jack Sparrow or Keith Richard.

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* They worked mostly in other media, but they all had their moments in the movie sun: RIP Barbara Billingsley, Tom Bosley and, er, Bob Guccione.

* Cinephile’s cinephile uber-blogger David Hudson, who is based in Germany, gives us a fascinating post-mortem look at a writer and filmmaker I’ve never heard of until now, Thomas Harlan. The key fact here: Harlan’s father directed “Jew Suss,” the most notorious narrative antisemitic film produced by Joseph Goebbel’s Nazi UFA, and had been actively dealing with the legacy.

* Sometimes an actor blends so seamlessly into a part you wonder whether she is really even acting at all.

* In the battle of Hobbit-man Peter Jackson versus the NZ/Oz/U.S. unions, it sure looks like the unions blinked. This is probably the first such battle where I’m glad of it.

* “Giallo” is the name for the subgenre of bloody horror flicks from Italy that predated American slasher films with more mature characters and a heck of a lot more style from directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Apparently wanting to get in on the whole self-awareness thing, Argento, who unbelievably is only just turning 70, made a movie actually called “Giallo” starring Adrien Brody. Brody says the producers didn’t pay him and is suing them and blocking the release of the movie for the time being. That’s always a mistake — not paying your star, I mean.

* Ben Affleck is considering switching from character-driven crime fiction adaptations to a character-driven fantasy-drama adaptation, “Replay.” I gather the book by the late Ken Groomwood is an old favorite of my highly esteemed colleague Will Harris and won a World Fantasy Award in 1987. Why have I never heard of it before?

* “Heckraiser“?

* Today’s tie for the “is this really news” prize: Robert Downey, Jr. “eyes” playing a really intense guy who gets involved in paranoid wackiness. Also, crazed lunatic Mel Gibson follows the path of reformed ear-biter Mike Tyson and will appear in “The Hangover 2” according to the totally awesome-in-my-book Jodie Foster, who seems to be doing whatever she can to try and salvage her widely discussed movie, “The Beaver” by trying to help repair his insanely in-shambles image. Talk about strange bedfellows.

  

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It’s your pre-Labor Day end-of-week movie news dump. Yay.

As the madcap summer movie series ends, just a few items to wrap up the silly season.

* Not silly at all and quite possibly tragic. It appears there was a very serious stunt-related accident on the set of “Transformers 3,” or perhaps it was a not so stunt-related “freak accident,” says Nikki Finke.

* L’affaire Depardieu et Binoche est tres bizarre. (If my French is incorrect and it almost certainly is, please send complaints to the UCLA languages department.)

* The concept art from the canned Pixar film, “Newt,” is beautiful. Maybe someday we’ll get to see the abandoned footage. Their discards are probably at least twice as good as most finished films.

newt3

* I have a feeling we’re going to hear a lot about “The Black Swan” through Oscar season. It apparently wowed them in Venice though the thoughtful and quirky cinephile critic emeritus J. Hoberman of Village Voice finds it “borderline risible.” To me, remaking “The Red Shoes” with a dash of Dario Argento and even DePalma (not my favorite) sure sounds pretty cool.

* Christopher Rosen may be a doubter, but I say keep hope alive, Kristen Bell!

* Director Tomas Alfredson, who did such a great job on “Let the Right One In,” is shifting genres from very young vampires to depressive real-world style spooks like George Smiley (Gary Oldman this time ’round) in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Michael Fassbender, however, left to be a superhero so now Tom Hardy of “Inception” is stepping in. That should work okay, too. (I finally saw “Inception,” by the way, and…I’m too tired to talk about it now, which is sort of how I felt as I was watching it, actually.)

* Is “Hunger Games” really “The Running Man” with teens or more like “Battle Royale” made safe for an American audience? Sam Mendes, Gary Ross and David Slade duke it out to see who’ll realize whatever it is. Interesting to see the name of the talented writer Billy Ray involved here.

* Crocodile Dundee may now roam free in the Outback — I mean the branch of the steakhouse chain in Burbank.

  

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Midweek movie news of the world

I’m getting a very, very late start tonight/this morning so let’s see how efficient and brief I can be. Also, we’ll see how many utterly huge stories I’ll miss.

Mark Ruffalo in *  I suppose the big news today is that it really appears as if there’s already an Edward Norton replacement after his departure as the Hulk from “The Avengers” was egregiously mishandled by Marvel’s Kevin Feige. The choice appears to not be Joaquin Phoenix but the first-rate, not nearly famous enough Mark Ruffalo. He is the deceptively low-key actor I’ve been rooting for since catching him in “You Can Count On Me” back in 2000. (It was my favorite movie of that year and also made me a life-long fan of Laura Linney.) Ruffalo is currently in the year’s probable indie-smash, “The Kids Are Alright.” As sussed out from various reports by Kevin Jagernauth of the Playlist, it appears he’s still in some pretty serious negotiations that are not yet really anything like a done deal. He’s a shrewd choice for Marvel and this would be a good way to salvage a thoroughly unfortunate situation.

* Joaquin Phoenix might not be the Hulk, but the probable mockumentary (or not) about him made by his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, has been picked up by Magnolia. I’m not looking forward to the already infamous “Cleveland steamer” scene. Just FYI, much as I admire John Waters, “Pink Flamingos” is on my short “never see” list, but that infamous final scene is a lot worse, I suppose. I get ill just thinking about it.

* The fascinating outlandish career of arthouse poet turned stoner-action-comedy specialist David Gordon Green may take another fascinating turn if he really does remake Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” — which, I somehow managed to sit through some fifteen years or so back despite my squeamish/scaredy cat ways, because, among other reasons, it’s so freaking beautiful. Also, I’ve always had the hots for Jessica Harper.

Suspiria4

* If you want to know who the best, most essential, and most thoughtfully cinephilish bloggers and blogs are, check out the terrific blogroll from the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Congrats to my old bloggy compadres Dennis Cozzalio, Kimberly Lindbergs, Farran Smith Nehme, and Greg Ferrera, among others, for making the prestigious list.

* Nathaniel Rogers didn’t get a mention, though he certainly deserves it. The openly actresexual blogger did, however, get a very nice interview with his idol, Julianne Moore, who I kind of idolize myself. More congratulations are in order.

* I suspect that those old Steve Reeves Hercules movies will wind up being a lot more watchable than whatever Brett Ratner makes of the mythical strongman. I’m sure he can’t top the Disney animated film, even if it wasn’t the greatest of the studio’s nineties animation output. Cue the “do you like to watch gladiator movies”  jokes.

* If you’re wondering why the post two posts below this one has no video, here’s why. Somebody let me know if there’s a new version up, since the whole thing is a bit of a legalish technicality.

* Note to my friend, Zayne: Yeah, I missed this reconstruction of a lost ultra-obscure exploitation gangster film tonight about kidnapping the Pope (and asking for a $1.00 from every Catholic in the world — though  these days I doubt they’d pony up). I’m therefore bummed.

* Alison Nastasi has an interesting response to a fairly thoughtful rant by Dustin Rowles on the controversy around the new cover art for the remake of another film on my probably never-see list, “I Spit On Your Grave.” The poster is obviously in horrible taste, but isn’t that kind of the point?

* Now that a fourth tape is out, I wonder if Mel Gibson will get the message and give up the drunk dialing.

* I’m confused. If the planned film with Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane is in any way actually closely modeled on John Cassavettes’ “Husbands,'” as director Mark Pellington seems to say, then I don’t think it should be called a “thriller.”

  

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