I guess a little more graphic violence helps

We’ll be revisiting this tomorrow, but it looks like the mass-murdering-angels action-horror flick, “Legion” appears to be the #2 movie in the country this weekend. Right after “Avatar.”  Which leads me to wonder why “Dogma,” which took a comedic approach to the same material back in 1999 didn’t do better despite a lot of free-publicity generating controversry.

I know Kevin Smith is no one’s idea of a cinematic stylist, but he can write. Do the young men who go to these things have an actual aversion to decent writing? Just a thought. Anyhow, here’s the most “Legion” like scene.

  

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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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A buncha movie stuff….

When in doubt, lead with Disney, even if you’re not sure what the story actually means….

* Mark Zoradi, the Big D’s head of worldwide marketing and distribution for movies, is stepping down. This surely has something to do with the arrival of Rich Ross and the departure of Dick Cook some weeks back.

* As per Company Town, Lions Gate is doing better right now from TV than movies. Could “Mad Men” have been their biggest money maker the last quarter? I’d like to think so.

* Self-appointed protector of Catholicism from the scourge of Hollywood Bill Donoghue has found a new source of “anti-Catholic bigotry” (i.e., not conforming 100% to his highly particular and extremely reactionary view of how all things Catholic should be treated in the media): “2012.” Chris Kelly at the Huffington Post mocks accordingly and appropriately.

Here’s a fascinating quote from idiot boy Donoghue on his life’s work:

Every time I say Hollywood hates Christianity, especially Catholicism, my critics cringe. But they never offer evidence that I’m wrong.

I’m not cringing and I’ve got evidence. Skipping around the decades and off the top of the my head: “Going My Way,” “The Bells of Saint Mary’s,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Lilies of the Field,” “The Trouble with Angels,” “Dead Man Walking,” “The Sound of Music,” “Sister Act,” “Signs,” “Gran Torino,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “City of Angels,” “The Apostle,” “Tender Mercies,” “Ben Hur,” “Shadowlands,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Shoes of the Fishermen,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “King of Kings,” “The Exorcist,” (who saves the day there?) and on and an on and on. In fact, it’s much easier to find a pro-Christian or Catholic Hollywood film than to find one that even features an openly Jewish, Islamic, or, heaven forfend, openly atheist or agnostic, character. Even the movies Donoghue attacks, like “Dogma” or “Saved” or most especially “The Last Temptation of Christ” are actually highly pro-Christian films, though espousing a more liberal version of the religion than he personally cares for. If there is a bigger idiot on this planet than Donoghue, I doubt he has the brain function enough to breathe. Every time the guy opens his mouth, he makes a new atheist.

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Old dogs, new tricks, and Matt!

Matt Damon in

You’re pre-weekend box-offfice preview will be up bright and early tomorrow morning, but first I have a couple of what Rachel Maddow calls “Holy Mackeral stories.” Both of them involve old movie reliables trying new stuff, and somehow Matt Damon is involved in both movies.

* Back in 1955, Clint Eastwood had uncredited bit parts in two sci-fi monster/horror flicks from director Jack Arnold, “Revenge of the Creature” (the sequel to the 3-D hit, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”) and “Tarantula.” Since then, he’s somehow managed to steer clear of anything remotely fantastical either as an actor or a director — until now. “Hereafter” is being kept under wraps but the story is said to be in the same general ballpark as “The Sixth Sense.” It’s being written by Peter Morgan, also a first-timer in tales of the supernatural, though the playwright/screenwriter of “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen” is also branching out genre wise with the 23rd James Bond movie. As suggested above, the star will be Matt Damon, who has been around the supernatural before. However, I suspect this film won’t have a whole lot in common either with Terry Gilliam’s ill-fated “The Brothers Grimm” or Kevin Smith’s “Dogma.”

All of this is not to say that director Eastwood can’t do scary. His 1971 directorial debut, the witty and suspenseful “Play Misty for Me,” was pretty thoroughly grounded in our reality but had some definite terror elements.

* Now, Michael Douglas found himself in a pretty similar predicament to Eastwood’s “Misty,” character in the 1987 hit, “Fatal Attraction,” but there’s pretty much no similarities in anything he’s done before with his next project. I don’t know how I’ve missed it, but the actor commonly associated with such super-macho characters as Gordan Gekko (soon to be reprised in the upcoming “Wall Street” sequel) and ultra-horny cop Nick Curran of “Basic Instinct” will be playing Liberace, the glitzy pop-classical concert pianist for whom the word “flamboyant” might have been coined. Directing the film will be Steven Soderbergh, returning to his nonfiction well that earned him one of his biggest commercial successes with “Erin Brokovich” and, he hopes again, with this week’s wide release of the fact-based comedy, “The Informant.”

Just to tie things up in a nice ribbon, as reported by People — who somehow found a picture of Michael Douglas looking oddly like Liberace might have looked later in life — “Informant” star Matt Damon will play Liberace’s longtime partner who ultimately sued the Las Vegas star in a palimony suit. I’m not sure it’s fair to say he “outed” Liberace. This will not, of course, be the first time that Matt Damon has played a gay character. That would be “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

And, now, a moment of vintage Liberace. Definitely not with Matt Damon.

  

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