Weekend box office preview: All the cool kids to see “The Social Network”; “Let Me In” bullied

So, I guess when vampire movies actually have a strong story and believable characters played by terrific young actors, they suddenly become box office poison, easily beaten by a movie about an unlikable computer geek. That’s encouraging.

Jessie Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield in

I guess I should be jumping for joy that a movie — almost any movie — from the provocatively counterintuitive team of Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher is primed to head things up at the box office. Sony’s “The Social Network” has been getting mightily hyped, generating some of the year’s very best reviews and just a bit of controversy over its accuracy. It all spells awards-season hit with the added bonus of a youth-friendly cast and topic — the creation of Facebook, though it’s a big mistake to think only young people use Facebook. In any case, the $25 million or over weekend suggested by both Jolly Carl DiOrio and Ben Fritz seems reasonable.

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen “Let Me In” and while I agree with our David Medsker that it doesn’t do a huge amount cinematically to justify its own existence apart from the outstanding original Swedish film, it benefits from the same creepily heart-string tugging story as the original, which will be totally new to most viewers. Moreover, the one area where the film is an improvement over the original is in its performances, Kodi Smit-McFee and Chloe Moretz are just breathtakingly good and I can’t imagine most viewers not being drawn into the very moving and very creepy twice-told tale.

Chloe Moretz is Richard Jenkins' boss in One obvious problem is that this is a film a lot of older kids will definitely want to see, but it’s rated R and, I have to say, not entirely inappropriately. It’s no gorefest, but it’s violent and bloody enough and it tricks us into sympathizing with some pretty immoral actions by very young people, which is not a bad thing but really kind of the point. In other words, you need a certain level of moral maturity to get what the film is really about. I nevertheless think parents should consider taking more mature tweens who are interested to see it, even if director Matt Reeves juices up the blood and violence just a hair from the original film. It’s still a highly intelligent and thought-provoking tale that definitely de-romanticizes the vampire myth while also being a wonderful metaphor that explains why parents might worry about the kinds of friends their kids make.

More infuriating than the fact that this relatively excellent film being expected to make significantly less than $10 million this weekend, is the fact that it might be beaten by the lame looking, poorly reviewed more adult skewing horror flick from Paramount/Vantage, “Case 39” with Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper. We need armies of cinema counselors out this weekend, folks, steering filmgoers desirous of chills away from this and towards “Let Me In” — whose with me? Okay, fine.

There is some action on the limited release front. Yet another R-rated horror film from a company I’ve never heard of called New Films Cinema (aren’t “Films” and “Cinema” the same thing?), “Chain Letter,” is going out unreviewed and all but undiscussed into 401 theaters this weekend according to Box Office Mojo.

We also have a major expansion of the highly buzzed documentary “Catfish” and the highly touted documentary spin-off of a very popular non-fiction tome from Magnolia, “Freakonomics.” My own very mildly positive reaction to it is just a hair better than the overall critical reaction, but there’ll no keeping fans of the book away from it, even if the movie is mainly eliciting a bit of a shrug.

  

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Movies news on a Monday night

Direct from the Starbucks at Pico & Robertson…

Jon Hamm in * Rumors have been circulating for at least a week that Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” and now “The Town” is being considered to play Superman. I’m a huge fan of the guy, but count me among those who think he’s a bit old to play an eternally youthful superguy, if there’s going to be more than one movie anyhow. Kal-El is not Tony Stark. In any case, apparently someone else who it appears did turn down the role of Superman director was Guillermo del Toro. Actually, if they ever make a movie set in the Bizarro world, del Toro would be the guy. Otherwise, I don’t see it at all and, it seems, neither did del Toro.

* In terms of film biz transactions, the Toronto International Film Festival surprised everyone and did rather well with numerous indie films being purchased for release. What doe it mean? Mike Fleming sees a modified return of the indie market, though with a thriftier than ever edge.

* The first casting news has come for the J.J. Abrams’ science fiction Steven Spielberg homage/collaboration, “Super 8.” Naturally, one of the stars is a young person — Elle Fanning. The other is closer to my age and is best known for his TV work. No, it’s not Abe Vigoda, but Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights.”

* Speaking of people in my general age cohort who can’t escape their youth, Keanu Reeves is apparently getting colleauges like Alex Winter ready to do a middle-aged edition of the “Bill & Ted” epic. As actors go, Reeves may not be a Philip Seymour Hoffman-level thespian, but he really excels at certain kinds of comedy and I’m board for this. He does a pretty good Werner Herzog, besides.

* Tim Burton is going back to where he started as a director with a stop-motion version of his career-starting live-action short, “Frankenweenie.” The voice cast has just been announced and it will include Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, and SCTV alums Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.

* Did anybody out there ask for a “Timecop” reboot? Simon Brew is game.

* Re: l’affaire du Hulk back in July, Edward Norton continues to kill Marvel’s Kevin Feige with perhaps not kindness, but civility. Ouch.

* I beg to differ with Sarah Silverman, her “full frontal” nude scene will be pretty. Very pretty.

sarah_silverman

* I’ve seen movies in some mighty small “shoebox” multiplex theaters and screening rooms, but if you’re wondering how small a movie theater can be, this promotion for “Buried” answers the question.

* As I write this I’m getting ready to watch the multi-director documentary “Freakonomics” for free. You however, may pay as little as a penny and as much as a $100 to see it this Wednesday. It’s your choice. Still, we know there’ s no such thing as a truly free, or almost free, anything and, as with writers like myself, some effort is expected in return. Details here.

  

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A chat with Alex Gibney

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There’s no doubt that Alex Gibney is on a historic roll as a documentarian. Within only a few years, he’s been involved with probably the largest number of popular and influential documentaries of any single human being not named Michael Moore. Those works would include the outstanding “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and the equally strong, and Oscar winning, “Taxi to the Dark Side,” about American use of torture in the “war on terror.” Gibney has also made his share of more historically themed documentaries, including “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.” He was also involved as a producer in two of the other most important and controversial documentaries of recent years, the Iraq-war expose, “No End in Sight” and “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

If Gibney’s past output is hugely impressive, however, his upcoming list of films is dizzying. At the recently wrapped Tribeca Film Festival in New York, he premiered as a “work in progress,” a new and apparently very revealing, look at former New York state governor, attorney general, and Wall Street watchdog Eliot Spitzer and the sex scandal that drove him from office. He also has a segment in the upcoming film version of the super-hot bestseller, Freakonomics, as well as new films about two very different cultural legends: bicyclist Lance Armstrong and author/super-hippie Ken Kesey of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Merry Pranksters fame.

There’s also the recently completed “My Trip to Al-Qaeda” and the film Gibney was promoting at his publicist’s L.A. office one recent afternoon, “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.” It’s a work of amazing journalistic detail that also works very hard to be lively and accessible.

Jack Abramoff is

 

Even if I felt that Gibney didn’t quite master that “accessible and lively” aspect too consistently this time around, his “Casino Jack” reviews so far have been great overall. He’s certainly a filmmaker to be reckoned with and one with an outstanding body of work behind him and much, much more to come. Not my idea of a lazy person.

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