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This Weekend at the Movies: A Second Hangover, Animals Do Battle, and the Palme d’Or Winner

Memorial Day weekend used to mean the start of the summer movie season, but by now we’re already in full swing! Nevertheless, the studios have seen fit to give you two sequels to two massively popular films. And maybe some artsy stuff for the coasts.

The Hangover Part II


And yes, they’re going roman numeral style. This is some classy stuff right here. I saw this on Monday, and while there are a lot of funny moments with the same gang (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis), you will be shocked at how incredibly similar it is to the first. Way beyond the even standard “same premise, different locale” set-up you would expect. It robs it of some of the insanity the first, which I loved, had in spades. Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 32% fresh rating. Nevertheless, it opened to a whopping $10 million on midnight showings alone last night. With a five-day weekend in which to run rampant (Monday’s a holiday!), this is going to do some serious damage at the box office.

Kung-Fu Panda 2


Once known with the much sillier subtitle “The Kaboom of Doom,” this one seems to do what a good sequel should – offer the same delights as the original in a new package. It boasts a 75% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and while some critics fault it for hewing too closely to the original, many were too swept up by its charms to care. Kung Fu Panda became unexpectedly beloved upon its release, and many cite it as one of Dreamworks’ few great films. It’s hard to imagine those fans, and their kids, won’t come to see this in droves.

The Tree of Life


While the latest film from Terrence Malick certainly won’t make the same imprint at the box office as the previously-mentioned films, this is the film event for cinephiles this weekend. That is, if you live in New York or Los Angeles. I have my ticket to the midnight show tonight, and could not possibly be more excited. If you live elsewhere, don’t fret – you’ll be able to see the Palme d’Or winner within the next few weeks, as Fox Searchlight rolls it out across the country. Click here to see when your city is getting it. And although this doesn’t have the mass appeal of your kung-fu pandas or your 30-something frat boys, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of that Cannes buzz fuel it to a respectable hit for Fox Searchlight.

Beyond that, New York gets two art house release - Tuesday, After Christmas, a sparse study of infidelity that received solid reviews when it premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and United Red Army, an epic about a revolutionary group in Japan in the 1970s.

Next week, it’s all about the X-Men back on the screen again, while at least a couple of cities will get one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Stay tuned!

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Weekend boxoffice: Ben Affleck steals the weekend, but “Easy A” hangs onto to its virtue

A surprise this week. A film that seemed to skew towards an older and more male audience actually grabbed more box office lucre than a high-concept comedy aimed largely — albeit on a weekend where no one made anything close to a cinematic mint.

Ben Affleck and Rebecca Miller in

He might look down in the pic above, but Ben Affleck — whose taken his share of sometimes deserved and sometimes not so deserved lumps as an actor over the years — has something to celebrate today. To be specific, the cowriter-director-star’s heist drama, “The Town,” swiped an estimated $23.8 million for Warner Brothers according to Box Office Mojo’s weekend chart. I’m guessing that the film got a boost from pent up demand for a the kind of plot-centric thriller we adult males seem to crave, as well as the budding  potential superstar presences of Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, and Blake Lively, not to mention female lead Rebecca Miller. Since older people usually pay a bit more attention to critics, it’s actually possible that the unusually good reviews helped here.

If Cinemascore means anything — and I’m not all that sure that it means all that much — “The Town” might have also gotten a boost from word of mouth, since Anne Thompson tell us it got a better than average B+ all around. Thompson also quotes Warner’s distribution chief Dan Fellman, saying that the studio is looking ahead to award season for the thriller. Moreover, Fellman also reminds us that the film is the largest September opening in Warner’s history (that is to say, September kind of sucks for box office). Though it’s not the kind of movie that usually wins Oscars, the loosened up Best Picture category certainly helps a well-reviewed and reasonably popular film’s chances.

Emma Stone in The PG-13 not-having-sex high school comedy with promising youngster Emma Stone,Easy A,” which was supposed to be #1 as of Thursday night, didn’t quite get there. However, seeing as its budget is reportedly $31 million less than the actually rather modestly budgeted “The Town,” it is by far the most profitable film of this frame with  respectable estimated receipts of $18.2  and an extremely respectable $8 million budget. It’s another fiscal win for Sony/Screen Gems, which has been on a sort of hot streak of late.

The M. Night Shymalan-produced “Devil” took the hindmost of the top 3 with a less than spectacular $12.58 million for Universal, which by now is used to disappointments. Though not directed by Shymalan, the PG-13 film was promoted as if it was and Uni and the man they call “Night” may finally be paying the price for all the almost universally disliked but oddly successful films that bore the once hugely promising filmmaker’s name. Anne Thompson wonders if the two other scheduled films drawn from stories by Shymalan to be directed by up-and-comers on low budgets, “The Night Chronicles,” will happen now. Mr. S., I grew up watching Rod Serling productions, I know Rod Serling’s work. You’re no Rod Serling.

The weekend’s other new release proved that audiences can spot a cheaply made 3D animated family film rather easily for something that is likely a far, far cry from Pixar or Dreamworks Animation. “Alpha and Omega” came in below the predictably sinking-like-a-stone-in-week #2 “Resident Evil: Afterlife” with an anemic $9.2 million.

A number of new films came out in limited release this week. The most impressive per-screen average of the week was $30,000 for the Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation, “Never Let Me Go.” The British science-fiction romantic drama earned $120,000 on four screens for Fox Searchlight, though it’s muted reviews may dim its Oscar hopes, which is really the only root to major success for a film like this at present. The highly buzzed, probable documentary (there are doubters, though everyone agrees it’s no “I’m Still Here“), “Catfish,” may have better Oscar hopes if it reassures the Academy that it really and truly is a documentary. It did well this weekend for Rogue with a $255,000 in only 12 theaters.

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Weekend box office preview: It’s a “Nightmare” all around

So, we have just two major releases this week and while one is hard-edged remake of a franchise-spawning eighties horror hit and the other is a purported family film, to me all signs this weekend in terms of major new releases (and one tiny release) scream: “Be afraid, be very afraid.” For the most part, the critics aren’t disagreeing.

For starters, we have “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which brings us Jackie Earle Haley in the role made famous by Robert Englund — the child-murderer of everyone’s dreams with the specially augmented fingers, Freddy Kruger. Now, as someone who is such a wuss that he was unable to get past the first twenty minutes or so of the original on VHS — that Wes Craven guy really knows how to scare people — I’m not really one to judge. However, the critics are thoroughly unimpressed with the new version directed by another music video alum, Samuel Bayer, granting it a dismal 11% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.

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Still, even if the original version is regarded as something of a classic today by critics, this movie has “critic proof” written all over it. Indeed, jolly Carl DiOrio, assures us that it’s “tracking” very well and will top the box office with “as much as” $30 million for Warner Brothers. He also gets a bit less jolly in his video this week and actually complains about the use of the word “reboot” to describe films like “Nightmare.” Well, considering that you’re starting over an existing franchise as if the original had never happened, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to call it. It’s not only a remake.

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Midweek movie news

It’s quite late, or quite early, here on the west coast, so this edition will be swift.

* Captain America has got his girlfriend, and I’ve never heard of her! However, those of you who keep up with your TV may know Hayley Atwell, who’ll be playing Peggy Carter, Cap’s WWII era love interest. Among other shows, she was featured on the not-so well received AMC redo of “The Prisoner.”

* The folks over at Dreamworks have been busy beavers. First, they began the roll out of their “Kung Fu Panda” “virtual theme park” — basically a collection of Panda-based games for kids. Also, their gearing up for the May release “Shrek Forever After.” Today, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) confab about, naturally, 3-D conversions on the first three “Shrek” productions and how they won’t suck like certain live-action 3-D conversions.

Still, there was a fly in the family-friendly ointment, and that was a photo spread that’s coming out in the glossy Vman Magazine that apparently caused some unhappiness at Dreamworks Animation. I could explain why, and you may definitely read the Paul Bond’s THR article about it. On the other hand, I don’t have to tell you how many words a picture is worth.

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