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!

clomid, synthroid, zithromax, accutane, celebrex
  

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Box office preview: Will “Just Go With It” flow well? Will “Never Say Never” make Bieliebers of us all?

This is the first weekend in some time when we have more than a couple of new movies opening wide and it’s a weird one. We’ve got a powerhouse team of A-listers vying for first place against a 16 year-old musical phenom whose talent is, as least in the opinion of most adults and nearly all males, vastly less than phenomenal. Gotta love show biz.

If you’re betting on this weekend, you should probably demand some odds if your choice for the #1 spot is not “Just Go With It.” At least on paper, this is a smartly designed movie in terms of attracting a mass audience. To be stereotypical about it, there’s a little romance for the women, and little raunchy comedy for the men and a slightly unusual pairing of rom-com reliable Jennifer Aniston and raunch-com superstar Adam Sandler.

Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in

The cinematic seers and soothsayers referenced over at the L.A. Times and THR differ only very slightly in suggesting that the comedy from Sony/Columbia, will do something in the neighborhood of $30 million, or perhaps a bit more. Neither Aniston nor Sandler have ever been critical darlings and their latest outing isn’t changing that.

The strange aspect of this is that the film is an unheralded remake of 1969’s “Cactus Flower,” which had a screenplay adapted by the later-career collaborator of Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, and starred Walter Matthau and my hugest crush ever, Ingrid Bergman, in the roles now inhabited by Sandler and Anniston. I’ve liked both Sandler and Anniston in movies from time to time but, my God, talk about devolution. I’ve never seen model-turned-actress Brooklyn Decker in anything, so I’ll spare her the comparison to Goldie Hawn, who won an Oscar for her role.

Meanwhile, there’s more than a little mystery about just how much Paramount’s “Justin Beiber: Never Say Never” will make. Apparently, Beiber’s very young, very female fan base is defying marketers’ ability to measure and predict the results for this 3D docu-concert flick. The really weird part of all this is that, of all four movies being released this week, the biographical documentary has the best reviews with a respectable enough 64% Fresh rating over a Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing. A sad commentary, perhaps, or just another sign of the show biz apocalypse. Could this film actually top the week’s box office? Probably not, but never say “never.”

Gnomeo and JulietNext is the 3D animated comedy, “Gnomeo and Juliet.” Disney apparently wanted to keep this one at arm’s length and is releasing it through Touchstone, usually reserved for racier properties, despite the film’s G-rating. My hunch is that animation chief John Lasseter felt the rom-com suitable for the very young wasn’t quite up to snuff all around. The reviews, however, are not completely awful and the voice cast — which includes James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Sir Michael Caine, Dame Maggie Smith and, in a voice-acting debut, Jason Statham — is beyond first rate. It also boasts music by Elton John and parents can also feel like they’re prepping their kids for Shakespeare even if this is comedy and not tragedy. So, the guess of $15-20 million seems reasonable enough to me.

Finally, we’ve got swords, sandals, Channing Tatum, and Jamie Bell in “The Eagle.” No one seems very excited about this costume actioner and that non-excitement seems to be communicating itself through some underwhelming box office guesses to match its deeply “meh” notices.

In limited release in some 16 theaters according to Box Office Mojo, the world always needs a good, or half-way decent, comedy and the large majority of critics seem to agree that “Cedar Rapids” is just that. With a cast of tip-top comedy veterans including Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche, among others, it’s hard not to have an upbeat attitude about this one.

Ed Helms and Anne Heche are in

  

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A really #@#$# afternoon outside the MTV Movie Awards

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I know, you all secretly envy the glamorous life of we entertainment writers. The high pay, the fast cars, the loose women, the expensive perks, the free bottled water — okay, it’s only really the last of those that I’ve come to expect as a matter of course. That’s especially the case when I’m in a red carpet line and expected to stand in direct sunlight on a very warm day for three hours waiting to talk to people of note who never stop by.

Yes, we entertainment writers do occasionally get  free food and beverages in return for showing up to cover red carpets and press days and the like.  It’s all part of the PR machine and I suppose you could argue that sometimes it goes too far. However, most of it is is far from gourmet quality, very few of us are well paid, and if all takes to influence you to cover something positively rather than negatively is a free hoagie, some pasta salad, and a cupcake, integrity wasn’t exactly your middle name to start with.

Still, if people are going to be forced to stand around outside on quite a hot day for close to three hours, quite literally risking a case of mild sunstroke (my mistake for not bringing a hat, I suppose — and thanks to the nice guy next to who allowed me to use his freebie sunblock), then providing access to water might be a good idea. No one I saw fainted or became ill, but no one around me seemed very happy either. Of course, what we all really wanted was a chance for some fun and shallow conversation with celebrities. Since I mainly cover movies, and this was, after all, the MTV Movie Awards, people somehow related to them would be nice. Television is good, too, though my knowledge is not as broad there. Reality television is something else again.

And this is  part where I have to confess that I went to the MTV Movies Awards Red Carpet and I only got a few odd celebrity photos and two brief interviews with young and, I’m sure, quite skilled young actors who are anything but household names. Considering the huge crush of better known media outlets, I wasn’t likely to get a moment with any genuine superstars — just, you know, someone. Okay, so Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, or Michael Cera or even Betty White or Zach Galifianakis or Ed Helms and Ken Jeong might be off the table, but, well, give me somebody or don’t bother to put me there at all. I’ve got better things to do than to make celebrities feel important by trying to get pictures of them as they rush into the air-conditioned confines of Universal’s Gibson Amphitheater.

Given the high ratio of big stars and the small number of mid-level personalities, interesting newcomers, or behind-the-camera talent, I had my suspicions early on. When I saw the costumed and photogenic young lady below, who turns out to ace celebrity stalker La Coacha, the “first protege” of Perez Hilton, I figured I’d better request a picture. It was just possible the attractive junior gossip hound would be the most famous person I’d meet. She was, as it turns out, definitely the prettiest.

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What Else Ya Got? “The Hangover”

One of the biggest box office hits of the year, “The Hangover” finally comes to Blu-ray and DVD just in time for the holidays boasting a theatrical and unrated cut of the film (for once, you don’t have to choose between the two) and a slew of extras that are fun to watch once, but aren’t necessarily as good as you would expect.

Picture-in-Picture Commentary

The highlight of most Blu-ray releases is typically the audio commentary, and though this track featuring director Todd Phillips and co-stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis doesn’t start out strong, it gets better over time as they discuss everything from the music to Helms’ fake tooth to the different babies used during production. The picture-in-picture video doesn’t exactly, though, help because everyone involved looks positively bored (or just trying to enjoy the movie, you decide), so it can hardly be viewed as an incentive for Blu-ray owners.

Map of Destruction

This interactive feature lets you retrace the guys’ crazy night by visiting all of the locations they hit up along the way. From Caesar’s and the Riviera to Mike Tyson’s house, every stop includes interviews with the cast and footage of on-set antics. Tyson himself even gets a chance to shine with a great comeback on director Phillips.

The Madness of Ken Jeong

I’m not exactly sure why we needed eight minutes of Ken Jeong improvising, but this series of deleted scenes/alternate takes shows how he created the character of Mr. Chow through some experimenting.

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