A roundtable chat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer of “Take Me Home Tonight”

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Usually, I start roundtable interview pieces with a rather large amount of biographical information about whoever’s involved. In the case of Topher Grace, former star of “That 70’s Show” as well as movies like “In Good Company” and “Predators,” I’ve already covered him pretty thoroughly in my one-on-one interview with him over at Bullz-Eye.com. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as a hands-on executive producer and coauthor of the film’s story, he has a lot riding on the profitability of “Take Me Home Tonight,” a comedy about post-collegiate growing pains in the 1980s. Although I liked the film quite a bit, my review is but one, and to be honest, I appear to be something of an outlier. The good news for actor-producer Grace is that reviews mean next to nothing commercially for youth comedies, and people are laughing in screenings.

As for the striking, Australian-born Teresa Palmer, she’s still something of a newcomer to the American screen, having gotten good notices in the otherwise critically bashed, “I Am Number 4,” as well as Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Bedtime Stories.” She shows every sign of becoming a more familiar face to audiences — and her face is definitely one of the prettier ones you’re likely to see right now.

While one journo tried to use a then-upcoming holiday to pull some personal info out of Palmer and Grace — at more than one point in the past, the pair have been rumored to be dating — the business and pleasure of making a youth oriented comedy was the chief topic during this mass interview from the “Take Me Home Tonight” junket.

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The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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Legion

The origins of “Legion” – a group of strangers fight off an unholy invasion – can be found in a dozen low-budget movies from “Assault on Precinct 13” to “Evil Dead,” and as source material goes, those are two damned fine titles to borrow, as it were. And “Legion” pays decent tribute in the process, serving up some enjoyable moments both humorous and dreadful (as in full of dread, not as in miserable). Paul Bettany is the archangel Michael, rebelling against God’s order to essentially launch the apocalypse by killing the unborn child of a truck stop waitress in the middle of nowhere. Instead, Michael leads the truck stop employees and their few patrons into fending off an army of angel-possessed (that’s right, angel-possessed) people who have suddenly swarmed on them. And what a group of employees and patrons this is. You’d expect Dennis Quaid and Charles S. Dutton to be here, but Kate Walsh’s appearance as an angry mom is a nice surprise. The dialogue is decent enough for what is clearly a B movie, but it’s a bit too slick for its own good. Movies of this ilk should have swagger and personality, not glossy production value. Still, Bettany handles the lead role with aplomb, taking the role seriously but not too seriously. Overall, it’s an acceptable entry into the supernatural horror genre, but if we’re lucky, this won’t pull a “Prophecy” and inspire a series of unnecessary sequels.

Click to buy “Legion”

  

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Zzzzz….”Avatar”…zzzz

We’re deep, deep into the January doldrums this week with the studios putting out three new movies that will be lucky to be fodder for late night cable or very hard trivia questions after a few weeks. We also, of course, have one true-blue blockbuster dominating the box office for the sixth week in a row.

Sam Worthington in And so THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio is beyond certain that James Cameron will, by Sunday, not only be the director of the #1 and #2 moneymakers of all time (not adjusted for inflation) but also will be matching his own “Titanic” record of six consecutive #1 showings at the U.S. box office. He also says “Avatar” will make roughly $25 million. That sounds about right to me, but all I can really say for sure is that it does seem reasonably sure to wipe the floor with the three fairly lackluster looking films on tap for this weekend.

The Tooth Fairy,” at least, benefits from a quickly understandable premise which has some comic potential, as well as a very strong supporting cast. Dwayne “no longer ‘the Rock'” Johnson is an unpleasant hockey star forced to become the winged pixie of everyone’s childhood. Playing M to his emasculated James Bond is a slightly stern Julie Andrews, with Billy Crystal and Stephen Merchant of “Extras” as his Q branch operatives, while Ashley Judd performs love interest duties. The consensus on this one is that, while¬† it’s the very rare critic who will go so far as to admit to actually liking the thing — it has a lousy 11% “fresh” Rotten Tomatoes reading — it could have been worse. Talk about faint praise. The trailer isn’t exactly huge on laughs, but Crystal variation on his old Miracle Max shtick got a chuckle out of me. Considering the family factor and Johnson’s appeal, I suspect this Fox comedy will stand up nicely to the weak competition of the other new releases.

Speaking of weak competition, every review I glanced at, including the one from our own David Medsker, compared “Extraordinary Measures” to a TV movie. This fact-inspired maiden voyage for the newly formed CBS Films stars Brendan Fraser as a corporate executive with two children suffering from a rare disease who joins forces with Harrison Ford‘s curmudgeonly scientist to find a cure while battling the medical and corporate establishment.

Brendan Frasher and Harrison Ford take

This type of material can work in theatrical films as was proven by both Steven Soderbergh with “Erin Brockovich” and, before that, George Miller with the underrated “Lorenzo’s Oil.” (Nick Nolte’s Italian accent wasn’t all that bad, besides, he got the emotions right.) The consensus here, however, is that pedestrian execution destines this film to fairly instant obscurity — a familiar face and an aging superstar won’t be enough to attract major audiences to a film that really could have used a few some good reviews. Instead, it got only 23% percent of critics at Rotten Tomatoes admitting to even a mild liking for the film.

Only one critic we know of has even seen “Legion.” Released by Sony and made by a first time director with a background in effects work, this one sounds to me like an action/horror remake of Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” or “Wings of Desire” gone very, very wrong. The film has very literal killer angels besieging a diner — because hashhouses are always the best place to start an apocalypse. Starring Paul Bettany as the week’s second ass-kicking winged mythological being and Dennis Quaid as a sick looking middle-aged guy, DiOrio says this is “tracking best among young males” and I can’t imagine who else would see this one. Judging by Mr. One Critic’s ultra-harsh review, even they may find better better things to do. As for what religious people will make of a film which has angels wielding machine guns, I can only imagine.

  

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“Cloudy” with a certainty of poor news for new releases

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Never bet against family entertainment, especially when it’s in 3-D and generating strong word of mouth. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” declined a very small 19% and collected an estimated $24.6 million over the weekend, which puts it at a $60 million “cume” or thereabouts according to Bruce McNary of Variety. Not bad.

I’m not one one bit surprised that the new Bruce Willis science-fiction tale, “Surrogates,” didn’t get the over-fluffed $20+ million that was expected, despite the help of costar Radha Mitchell. The movie hasn’t generated much excitement, is getting “meh” to bad reviews, and the appeal of older stars like Willis just doesn’t seem to be that powerful at the box office these days.¬† Does Bruce Willis even register that much with people under thirty? If it wasn’t for the success of the last “Die Hard” flick, I think this would have done significantly less than the non-terrible estimated $15 million it actually netted for the #2 slot. On the other hand, the film cost $80 million. How much of that was Willis’s salary?

Fame

The remake of Alan Parker’s “Fame” got mostly bad reviews, and the box office wasn’t too exciting either with a mere $10 million estimated. Though the film apparently attracted a youngish audience — a possible reflection of the film being perceived as not very good since it’s a well known property to we mid-lifers — apparently most of them were taken up with other films. The week’s other major new release, the Dennis Quaid sci-fi horror entry, “Pandorum,” did a predictably awful estimated $4.4 million.

In more positive news, “The Informant!” held better than expected with roughly $6.9 million in the #4 spot and a mere 33% decline according to the Box Office Mojo chart. An interesting real life story, a funny trailer, an imaginative director, and more youngish star power may still count for something.

The week’s highest per screen average was documentary superstar Michael Moore’s latest, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” earning about $60,000 each in four theaters before going wide next week. The French language biopic, “Coco Before Chanel” starring Audrey Tautou (“Amelie”), earned a stylish estimated $35,000 average on five screens.

coco_before_chanel02

  

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