Directors Guild and Visual Effects Society Nominations

Historically, the Directors Guild nominations, and even the actual awards, have tended to correlate with the Oscars both for Best Picture and Best Director to some degree. Now that the Oscars have ten nominations, that might dilute things a bit. Even so, I think it’s fair to say that the this year’s five nominees have excellent shots at getting a Best Director nomination and are close to a lock for Best Picture nominations.

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The nominees are: Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan,” David Fincher for “The Social Network,” Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech,” Christopher Nolan for “Inception,” and David O. Russell for “The Fighter.” Among the directors excluded who made films a lot of people are pulling for are two women: Lisa Cholodenko of “The Kids Are All Right” and Debra Ganik of “Winter’s Bone.” As Anne Thompson points out, the Guild has been slightly more open to nominating women than the Academy in the past. On the other hand, after last year’s big win for Kathryn Bigelow, it’s possible some of the pressure is off, or not.

Though it’s not as earth shaking, we movie fans like our movie special effects and the Visual Effects Society has made their nominations. No big surprises here either as the nominees for the movie with best effects are “Inception,” “Iron Man 2 ,” “Tron: Legacy,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.” I think it’s fair to say that visually stunning “Inception” should have the lead here, but we’ll see. In animation the nominees are: “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Toy Story 3,” “Tangled,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.”

The complete lists of award nominations, including a huge list from the VSA, are after the jump.

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Weekend box office: “Megamind” rules the ‘plex, more or less

MegamindThe “divide and conquer” strategy for this weekend pretty much worked as planned. The cuddly supervillain-centric 3D animated comedy with an all-star voice cast from Paramount/Dreamworks “Megamind” underperformed slightly to come in at $47.65 million according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a couple million lower than the numbers bandied about earlier, but actually a few million above the opening of another Dreamworks Animation, “How To Train Your Dragon.” As Anthony D’Alessandro reminds us, that one had strong enough legs to carry it to a major success after an opening that was originally deemed very disappointing.

Next up was the heavily promoted Robert Downey, Jr./Zach Galifianakis vehicle, “Due Date.” The R-rated road comedy earned an estimated $33.5 million for Warner Brothers. It’ll be interesting to see if the lackluster reviews are reflected in less than awesome word of mouth and theatrical legs for the film. Nikki Finke reports that it got a decent B- from Cinemascore, but I remain eternally somewhat skeptical of those surveys.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis exchange bon mots in

The #3 film was Tyler Perry’s theatrical adaptation of a very non-Tyler Perry play, “For Colored Girls.” The heavy-duty drama earned true to Mr. Perry’s form with his traditional audience base, and generated an estimate of $20.5 million for Lionsgate. Say what you will about Mr. Perry, an adaptation of an acclaimed poetry-based play earning that kind of cash requires someone with his kind of populist sensibilities and appeal.

In the #4 spot, the age-spanning action-comedy, “RED,” continues to maintain its hold on the box office with an estimate of over $8.85 million for Summit. Last week’s Halloween #1, “Saw 3D,” had the expected big second weekend drop, plus a bit extra. It lost 63.6% for a Week 2 estimate of $8.2 million. “Paranormal Activity 2” is also dropping, but less dramatically (55.8%). It earned an estimated $7.29 million for Paramount in its third week.

Among limited releases, the four theaters showing Danny Boyle’s much discussed James Franco near-one-man-show, “127 Hours,” showed that audiences were willing to pay an arm, if not a leg, to see the fact-based ordeal film and things look promising for a wider release. It endured a spectacular per-screen average of $66,500 for a total of $266,000. Less stratospheric, but still healthy, was the 46 theater debut of the fact-based political ordeal drama, “Fair Game,” featuring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts as Bush-era National Security Council analyst Joe Wilson and his wife, spy Valerie Plame, who was very illegally outed by members of the Bush Administration. (Their defense: it was an accident. Woops.) It earned a per-screen average north of $15,000 and a total of $700,000.

fair-game-watts-penn

  

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Weekend box office: “Iron Man 2” holds on in U.S., but “Robin Hood” makes out like a bandit abroad

Seeing as we have two action movies in contention this week, I’ll cut to the chase. Marvel and Paramount’s “Iron Man 2,” as was universally expected back before the weekend started, easily held on to its #1 spot at the box office. Ir scored a weekend estimate of $53 million that nevertheless included a somewhat higher than average drop of over 58%, indicating that the movie, as I imagined, isn’t quite wowing filmgoers the way the first movie in the franchise did.

This week’s big debut, “Robin Hood” has generally received a decidedly mixed reaction from, as far as I can tell, everyone who sees. It came in slightly below expectations at an estimate of roughly $37.1 million for Universal. (Earlier, the box office gurus were talking about figures in the range of $40-50 million.) Nevertheless, though the reaction be “meh,” not all the news for brave Sir Robin is mediocre. Indeed, THR this morning trumpeted a take of $74 million from just under 6,944 screens across the globe, making it the world’s #1 movie.

Russell Crowe is, I guess, It’s been a long, long time since my stint in an International Sales wing of a smallish film company, but it appears that, then as now, the combination of a really well-known star like Russell Crowe, action, and a strong (at least in theory) storyline remains the formula for success in non-English-speaking territories. I’m sure this news is music to the ears of the suits of recently bad luck/bad decision prone Universal.

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Can “Robin Hood” steal some of the shine off “Iron Man 2”?

Well, maybe just a little, seems to be the collective answer for this coming movie weekend. Both Daniel Frankel of the Wrap and THR‘s ever jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree that those mysterious tracking figures point to a strong, if not really earth-shattering, performance for this “secret origin” tale of the quasi-mythological hero, “Robin Hood.”

Russel Crowe is

The film reteams director Ridley Scott for the fifth time with today’s ultimate A-list macho man, Russell Crowe, but the reception will not be that of a “Gladiator.” The problem, I think, is that there’s another general consensus developing about the film amidst the very mixed reviews: it’s just not a whole lot of fun.

Our own Will Harris, in his 2.5 out of 5 star review, admits the film looks terrific but also that it feels completely unnecessary. Roger Ebert is even more pointed. After opening up his review about the slow death of innocence and joy in movies — something we’ll all forget about the next time Pixar releases something — and remembering great Robins of yore, he moves in for the rhetorical kill:

Have we grown weary of the delightful aspects of the Robin Hood legend? Is witty dialogue no longer permitted? Are Robin and Marion no longer allowed to engage in a spirited flirtation? Must their relationship seem like high-level sexual negotiations? How many people need to be covered in boiling oil for Robin Hood’s story to be told these days? How many parents will be misled by the film’s PG-13 rating? Must children go directly from animated dragons to skewering and decapitation, with no interval of cheerful storytelling?

Okay, so I think Roger is still a bit grumpy that he’s one of the few critics and filmgoers who wasn’t thoroughly charmed by “How to Train Your Dragon,” but his point is well taken. It really does seem at times like the movies have largely ceded real wit and fun to television, and his view of this “Robin Hood” really does mirror the reaction I’m hearing pretty much everywhere. Of course, it’s not like people listen to critics, but critics are, I once again remind you, people. The lack of emotional resonance could hamper the film’s chances of making a large profit over time, especially given its engorged $200 million budget. Universal is a studio badly in need of a home run. This may not be it.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow relate in In any case, at a projected $40-50 million or so, “Robin Hood” stands not much chance of beating “Iron Man 2” in it second weekend. For all the sense of mild-letdown the Marvel-Paramount superhero flick generated from the first film, it’s reviews and word-of-mouth are pretty darn solid. Even with a rather large possible 60 percent drop in attendance, given last weeks $128 million and change (a relatively steep decline from last weekend‘s estimate of $133.6 million), Tony Stark’s take is expected to be well north of brave and oh-so-gritty Sir Robin.

We two have two cannily counter-programmed PG-rated films aimed at girls and women coming out. “Letters to Juliet” features the very-much up-and-coming Amanda Seyfried, living legend Vanessa Redgrave, and some guys. Its reviews are south of “Robin Hood” — but not as much as you’d think, especially considering that there seems to be some confusion about whether or not it’s a comedy. The Box Office Mojo theater count informs us that it’s booked into 2,968 theaters and should earn between somewhere between about $14 and $18 million or so, based on what Frankel and DiOrio have guessed. This one has “female guilty pleasure” written on it to some degree, so it could do reasonably well for Summit Entertainment, given that it benefits from a reasonable $30 million budget. (Though even that figure sounds high to me for this kind of a movie.)

Just Wright” from Fox Searchlight might feature a sports backdrop and a somewhat more unconventional female romantic lead in the extremely talented Queen Latifah, working opposite rapper/actor Common and another living legend, Pam Grier. At heart, however, the film strikes in very similar territory in terms of genre, if not in terms of ethnicity and setting, to “Letters to Juliet” right down to it’s mother-daughter-day friendly PG rating.  It’s also only in 1,831 theaters as compared to over 3,500 for “Robin Hood” and nearly 4,400 for “Iron Man 2.” It’s expected to earn something approaching $10 million.

Just Wright Movie Trailer

  

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Weekend box office: poor, poor “Iron Man 2″…

“It broke no records” seems to be the fairly silly refrain. According to Box Office Mojo, “Iron Man 2” made only an estimated $133.6 million Paramount and Marvel Productions. Why, that’s not even enough money to buy a pound of Kobe beef for the entire state of Hawaii! Of course, at $163,193,428.00 they’ll hit that milestone shortly. (Yes, I did the math, based on the $380.00 it costs to buy four pounds of Kobe New York steaks via mail order from Neiman-Marcus.).  That’s the problem with all this bar setting, it makes massive success look like failure.

I personally succumbed to that mania partially on Thursday. I did that mostly in deference to the gurus who generated the mania, even knowing that, while it’s not a bad movie, almost everyone seems to agree it’s some level of let down from the first film — the only real disagreement is how much. (There are people out there who didn’t even care for the first film for perfectly legitimate reasons, shocking as that might be to some of you.)

Jon Favreau has made some charming movies — I love “Elf” — but “The Dark Knight,” this ain’t. However, Anthony D’Alessandro points out some good reasons why, in terms of box office at least, that might be an unfair comparison. He also mentions that it pulled a 31% improvement over the original’s opening, which is “well within the perameters [sic] for most sequels.” It’s worth noting that the movie more than justified the one record it really did break — the number of theaters it was booked into. It’s 4,380 screens enjoyed by far the week’s best per screen average (which usually goes to a limited release film) with a terrific per-screen average of $30,502.00.  Still, I can’t help wondering if Favreau’s improvisational approach, which he discussed in some detail at the film’s press conference, might have limited the power of the film’s story and hence it’s long-term appeal. We’ll see.

In any case, given the film’s international take of $194 million so far according to Nikki Finke, it’s already significantly exceeding its $200 million production budget by roughly $127 million. That is not shabby. ($200 million is now considered low for this kind of movie, I guess. Marvel is the stingy maker of efx laden epics. I guess there are a number of big salaries to pay.)

Freddy contemplates his rapidly dropping grosses in despairComing in a very poor second indeed is the latest horror remake, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” It dropped a gigantic 72% in its second week, obviously not generating a whole lot of excitement in terms of word of mouth and also probably sharing a big part of its youngish audience with “Iron Man 2.” Coming in third place is Warner’s extremely strong “How to Train Your Dragon” which is leggy as all get out and made $6.76 million in its seventh week. It cracked the $200 million mark this week, though it’s $165 million budget shows just how risky a gamble this kind of movie can still be. However, if you can make a family picture that parents truly enjoy, you can be reasonably sure the world will beat a path to your door.

It’s also important to remind everyone that Sunday hasn’t actually happened yet as I write this and I’m not sure the Mom’s day factor is all that easily predictable. One movie that could benefit from a Sunday surge is the “awww” generating documentary, “Babies,” which did okay in it’s 534 theater release, earning $1.575 million and a per-screen average of $2,949.00. The week’s second highest per-screen according to Box Office Mojo (which is missing several key movies on its list) also benefits from a mom’s day tie-in as its title, “Mother and Child,” makes clear. It earned about $11,000 per screen at four theaters for Sony Classics. According to Indiewire, that figure was nearly matched by a movie that is just a few years younger than Betty White, Fritz Lang’s once-again re-restored “Metropolis” which — visually, anyhow — blew me away at the TCM Classic Film Festival just a weekend or two ago.

Actually, there’s much more going on regarding limited releases than I have time to discuss, including strong business for “Please Give” and “Exit Through the Gift Shop” as well as not-bad biz for “Harry Brown” and perhaps some spectacular showings on individual screenings for that horror movie I’m not talking about. The above-linked Indiewire is the place to go for such information.

Do not f*ck with Michael Caine. Trust me.

  

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