Weekend box office: “Megamind” stops the “Unstoppable”; “Morning Glory” rises, but doesn’t shine

All us entertainment scribes — Anthony D’Alessandro most certainly included — are busting out their train metaphors and similes. In a very mild surprise according to some, but not all, of the conventional wisdom pre-weekend, the 3D animated “Megamind” hung on with the vigor of a locomotive in its second week and beat the runaway train thriller “Unstoppable” into the money station.

According to the mighty Box Office Mojo, the supervillain tale showed the long-lasting strength of animated family comedies. “Megamind” dropped a mere 36% in its second weekend, earning a very solid estimate of $30 million and change in its second week for Paramount/Dreamworks. Meanwhile, the all-star comedy, “Morning Glory,” proved to be a one very slow moving train.

Though it was not the #1 film this week, Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine actually came in pretty much where it was expected to, with an estimated $23.5 million for Fox. The good news is that strong reviews and a somewhat older-than-usual audience may well contribute to some strong legs. The bad news is that its $100 million budget — a big chunk of that no doubt coming from the stars and director’s paychecks (Washington reportedly nearly left the project because of salary haggling) — means it’s going to have to keep chugging for a while to be profitable.

This week’s #3 film was the star-driven comedy “Due Date,” which suffered a fairly average second weekend drop of 52.5% to earn an estimated $15.5 million. Fourth place was taken by another new wide release that was, actually, off to a very decent start relative to its budget. Although nobody seems to like the science-fiction destroy L.A. tale, “Skyline,” a whole lot, the $10 million dollar film made back its budget plus a bit extra, with an estimate of just under $11.7 million.

Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford in
It was not an exciting weekend for stars Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, and Diane Keaton. The not so well received “Broadcast News”-esque “Morning Glory” earned just a bit over $9.6 million for Paramount, which is a long way south of its $40 million budget. Also, “the nation’s #5 movie!” is not much of a come on for audiences.

Meanwhile in limited release, the IFC-released indie comedy first feature from 20-something Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture,” earned the week’s biggest per-screen average of $22,450. On the other hand, it was only on one screen. Somewhat more of a test was the 22 theater run of the Danny Boyle-directed James Franco endurance vehicle and near certain Oscar-nominee, “127 Hours.” It earned the week’s second highest per screen with $20,591 on 22 screens. If you don’t have a calculate handy that translates into an estimated total of $453,000 in its second week for Fox Searchlight.

  

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Box office preview: “Unstoppable”? Perhaps

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Apparently Tony Scott and Denzel Washington enjoyed making their underground run-away train thriller, “The Taking of Pelham 123” so much, they decided to turn around and make an above-ground run-away train thriller. Not everything would be the same. This time Chris Pine would be in tow instead of John Travolta. Another difference is that, this time, the critics are majorly onboard as well, which may or may not indicate that “Unstoppable” will do better over the long haul than its sister film.

Both of my usual b.o. gurus are suggesting a low-to-mid twenties opening for the thriller from Fox, but there is still some daylight between them. Ben Fritz of the L.A. Times is expecting a tough race for the #1 spot with last week’s big winner, “Megamind,” which grossed over $46 million.  The Hollywood Reporter’s Carl DiOrio, who remains jolly even while his intro music grows oddly sinister, seems more sanguine that the amped-up train ride will do better. However, Fritz may be on to something considering that family animated films have proven to be leggy in the past and that a decline of significantly less than 50% seems very possible. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Unstoppable” overperform.

Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, and Harrison Ford wonder: What's the story?There are two other major releases this weekend, but neither of them really seems to have much oomph behind them. True, jolly Carl is fairly high on “Morning Glory.” It’s a sort of update on “Broadcast News” minus the critical acclaim putting 32 year-old beauty Rachel McAdams alongside 60-something icons Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton. My money is on Ben Fritz’s take, which is that it’ll be fortunate to break $10 million. Exhibit A is that the comedy from Paramount actually opened yesterday and hasn’t shown much life.

Coincidentally, $10 million is the reported budget for the effects-heavy science-fiction tale being released by Rogue and Universal, “Skyline.” The few critics who’ve seen it mostly agree that all the film really has to boast of are the effects. Fritz thinks it’ll do about the same as “Morning Glory” — though obviously from a younger and more male demographic. Since that amount is also roughly its budget, however, this film may just be a success.

Debuting in a fairly aggressive 41 screen limited release is the latest documentary from Ondi Timoner, who made the excellent “DiG!” and “We Live in Public” both of which never really got much distribution. This time, however, her film is getting some critical flack, not too surprising considering it’s kind of an anti-“An Inconvenient Truth” and features a maverick scientist who isn’t exactly a climate denier and who isn’t coming from a politicized perspective, but who does insist that all the global warming fear is just plain overdone. That is no majority scientific opinion. Entitled “Cool It,” it’s so far been ignored by far-right film blog Big Hollywood, which can only be a good sign.

Another film we all might be hearing from later on is the award-winning festival-friendly first feature from Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture.” It’s a comedy, but I don’t find this trailer funny so much as aggressively quirky and mildly annoying, perhaps because of the deliberately flat performances of the nonprofessional cast. On the other hand, I sort of dig the look of the thing. See if you disagree.

  

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Directors Hall of Fame movie moments #1: The dangerous allure of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

In honor of the new class of fine filmmakers selected by the film writers of our mothership site, we start with a scene from the movie my colleague, Jason Zingale, accurately selected as Quentin Tarantino‘s most underrated.

Be forewarned that, typically enough for Mr. Tarantino, this scene — which features a brief appearance by the late Tony Curtis via TV — contains lots of NSFW language. In particular, Samuel L. Jackson as murderous arms dealer Ordell Robbie uses enough n-words here that some took umbrage — perhaps because it showed he hadn’t been dissuaded when Denzel Washington gave him a talking to about using the word on the set of 1995’s “Crimson Tide.” One difference: in Tarantino’s earlier films, he has low-life white criminals using the word, possibly accurate but definitely on the edge of acceptability in mainstream films, here he has low-life African-American crooks using the word, more or less de rigeur in the nineties.  Personally, I doubt I could justify changing a single word here in any case.

Come to think of it, I don’t think there’s been a single n-word in a Tarantino film since 97’s “Jackie Brown.” Denzel Washington, however, did use the word repeatedly (though with an “a” instead of an “er” on the end) as an unsavory copper, and won an Oscar for it, in 2001’s “Training Day.”

  

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Another trailer: “Unstoppable”: If at first you don’t succeed…

In the wake of their blandly received remake, “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” Tony Scott and Denzel Washington are hopping right back on the runaway train with “Unstoppable” with Chris Pine in tow for the youngsters. This time, however, the premise is apparently based on a real incident and as simple as, yes, a runaway train…filled with toxic chemicals…on a collision course with another train filled with schoolchildren…and nuns blessing a cross-state shipment of puppies and kittens. (Okay, I think they cut out that last part.)


Just another meditative arthouse flick from Mr. Scott. H/t /Film.

  

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A roundtable chat with Kevin Kline of “The Extra Man”

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A highly accomplished stage actor, trained at Julliard under the tutelage of such exacting instructors as the legendary John Houseman, Kevin Kline pretty much started his film career as one of the best of the best, a genuine “actor’s actor” and also something of an old fashioned movie star with the presence to match. His first movie role was opposite Meryl Streep in Alan Pakula’s 1982 Oscar-winning film version of “Sophie’s Choice.” That was followed by Lawrence Kasdan’s Oscar-nominated ensemble dramedy, “The Big Chill,” and a leading role opposite Denzel Washington in Richard Attenborough’s portentous 1987 apartheid drama, “Cry Freedom.”

Though that was followed up by a part in Kasdan’s lighthearted homage to classic westerns, “Silverado,” Kevin Kline’s comic gifts remained under-recognized until his utterly ingenious, deservedly Oscar-winning turn as the murderous and hilariously insecure and pretentious Otto in the farce classic, “A Fish Called Wanda.” After that Kline became one of the screen’s most reliable comic leading men with parts in such high-quality mainstream comedies as “Dave” and “In and Out,” was well as the occasional part in such hard-edged tragicomic dramas as “Grand Canyon,” again with Lawrence Kasdan, and Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm.”

Kline, who recently completed a successful stage run in Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Jennifer Garner, has — like other outstanding actors of his generation — gracefully moved from the A-list to the art-house. Though once noted for turning down movie roles in favor of stage work — John Stewart reminded him of his “Kevin Decline” nickname on his recent “Daily Show” “Colbert Report” appearance — Kline has been a busy and hugely reliable film actor for decades. More recent roles include the screen’s first correctly gay Cole Porter in the 2004 musical biopic “De-Lovely,” Garrison Keillor’s radio detective Guy Noir in Robert Altman’s 2006 swan song, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Jacques in Kenneth Branagh’s version of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” and the 21st century’s version of Inspector Dreyfus opposite Steve Martin‘s Inspector Clouseau in the rebooted “Pink Panther” series.

Add to those the role of the suave but irascible platonic male escort Henry Harrison in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s adaptation of the Jonathan Ames novel, “The Extra Man.” Taking in a confused and nervous younger protegee (Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood”), Harrison is an utterly reactionary self-made throwback to another time and place, and an ideal role for an actor gifted with the finest of old fashioned acting virtues.

Kevin Kline and Paul Dano in

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