Belated box office wrap-up: “The Rite” leads devilishly dull weekend as “The King’s Speech” fails to rise above it’s indie station

One benefit of waiting until Monday night to write up the weekend’s results is that the Box Office Mojo results I have are not estimates but “actuals.” It’s nice not to have to stick in the word “estimated” before every number for a change but, I fear, that’s about the most exciting news I have to report today.

As predicted back on Thursday night, the PG-13 exercise in exorcist hi-jinks, “The Rite,” lead the weekend and gave Warner Brothers #1 bragging rights. It was not the prettiest victory, however. With roughly $13.8 million in grosses, it was either at the low end or even slightly below the numbers that were trumpeted before, with some estimates going up to $20 million. Also,of course, in actual business terms being #1 is pretty meaningless except for the next weekend’s advertising.

Ashton Kutcher and Lake Bell in The #2 movie was last week’s topper from Paramount, “No Strings Attached.” It earned $13.4 million, falling a significantly better than average 31.8% in its second week, indicating good worth of mouth. (Which, since I kind of hated the movie, kind of annoys me. Why are you people saying good things about it?) The attempt at raunchy but adult romantic comedy will be breaking $40 million total by tomorrow, which is pretty decent considering that veteran director Ivan Reitman kept the budget to a modest $25 million.

The Mechanic,” which I’ve been covering here and at our sister site, performed not-horribly for the revived CBS Films with $11.4 million and change. It’s very reasonable budget for an action film, $40 million, means that it’s another modest success for star Jason Statham. I nevertheless agree with Bullz-Eye reviewer David Medsker that Statham deserves better. The original 1971 version of the film also deserved better, though even I have a hard time arguing that an action-inflected meditation on the nature of modern day evil like the original would do any better. Still, I wish they had cut the budget by half and kept it closer to the blunt spirit of that film or, failing that, increased it by one-third and just made a silly action-movie that was fun. Instead, it’s kind of a neither fish-nor-fowl situation.

The King’s Speech,” which expanded significantly in terms of theater count this weekend, failed to generate the surprise some said might be in the offing. It did pretty much exactly the kind of solid and stately business one would expect from a figurehead and came in at a very solid and respectable $11 million or so. It was in 5th place just barely behind “The Green Hornet” which, at about $78 million so far, still has a ways to go to match its $120 million budget.

Jay Chou and Seth Rogen in

clomid, synthroid, zithromax, accutane, celebrex
  

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Pretty funny/Less funny or “Actors With and Without Benefits”

I’m returning to my occasional game of comparison between successful and not so successful attempts at humor with a contrast that’s less outrageous than usual. Today we have two new trailers for comic films dealing with the not-really-so-new phenomenon of people having sex with friends they’re not actually dating.  Neither is bad, exactly, but I think one is definitely funnier than the other.

The trailer that came out last night for “No Strings Attached” isn’t terribly unfunny. It also isn’t all that terribly funny or compelling and, in my view, there’s mostly one reason for that and he’s winking at you right now. See if you agree.

Now, we move along to today’s Red Band (and hence a bit mildly NSWF) trailer for the similarly themed movie with the title you knew someone was going to use: “Friends With Benefits.”

Not necessarily a work of genius but pretty entertaining stuff that had me laughing out loud right at the end. The difference? Well, it’s pretty clear that we have a leading man issue. Though I might be tempted to argue he’s a better producer than director, Ivan Reitman has certainly proven he can make a very decent, or better than decent, comedy. However, Billy Wilder, himself would have probably made a mediocre film if the studio saddled him with an Ashton Kutcher equivalent. Natalie Portman‘s a very good actress who I’m sure will bring out the best in Kutcher, but his best, as far as I can tell, isn’t good.

Starting out as a teen idol, some initially dismissed Justin Timberlake in much the same way I still dismiss Kutcher and, before I actually saw him in anything, I might have expected to feel the same. Funny part is, Timberlake turned out to be a hard working and very likable actor, and his notices for “The Social Network” indicate he’s going to continue to be moving up. He also he has no problem making fun of himself and his career so far. Here, it really pays off and with Mila Kunis — another actor who’s turned out much better so far than I originally expected — he’s really got something to work with. A wise choice by “Easy A” director Will Gluck.

So, my advice to directors considering casting choices is clear: seek the Timberlake; avoid the Kutcher.

H/t Screencrave and /film.

  

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“Dinner for Schmucks,” and you’re invited!

Joining “Kick-Ass” in the pantheon of film titles that would have been considered too crude by exhibitors and the MPAA not so terribly long ago is this buddy comedy. Directed by “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” alum Jay Roach, the film stars Paul Rudd as an up-and-coming executive working for a company with a mean streak, Steve Carrell as the zany, small-of-brain titular character and some pretty great supporting comic cast members. (Just for the benefit of those of you outside the Jew-loop, “schmuck” loosely translates from Yiddish as “dick” — no capitalization needed.)

American remakes of French comedies don’t often seem to work and Roach is not really my all-time favorite director, but Carrell and Rudd are both very good in these kind of roles and the trailer makes me laugh. I think there may be some hope here. (H/t Peter Sciretta of /Film.)

Oh, and I should hardly even comment about the crudeness of this title, given that apparently Paramount has a movie coming up which, at least for a time, was entitled “Fuckbuddies.” I think they’ll be going with “Friends with Benefits” or some other name instead — or look for the from director Ivan Reitman to be coming to a theater near you shortly before or after the Rapture.

  

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Amanda Seyfried, Erin Cressida Wilson, and Atom Egoyan on “Chloe”

Movies involve looking at people. Sometimes those people are doing some pretty intimate things, too. No wonder then that voyeurism remains about the single most pervasive and discussed theme in the movies and, no matter how often the particularly cinematic obsession of voyeurism has been recycled, there’s always room for a new angle.

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In the case of “Chloe,” which is hitting about three hundred theaters nationwide today, voyeurism in the form of morbid curiosity threatens not only the desiccated relationship of an affluent middle-aged couple played by Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, but also the woman’s familial ties with her son (Max Theiriot) and possibly her entire life. The vehicle for all of this is a young woman Dr. Catherine Stewart bumps into who turns out to be a high-end sex worker named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried). The sex work in question here is that Dr. Stewart has some pretty good reasons to worry that her professor husband may be cheating, and so she asks Chloe to test her husband’s fidelity in the most direct way possible.

As for the results, all you really need to know right now is that this is an erotic thriller, that it’s directed by the elliptical art-house master Atom Egoyan at his most Hitchcockian, and adapted with some definite cunning by writer Erin Cressida Wilson from a relatively banal French import (2003’s “Nathalie”). Interestingly, “Chloe” is also produced by Ivan Reitman. Reitman is, of course, the famed director and producer far better known for broad comedies like “Meatballs” and “Ghostbusters” than for stylish melodramas. These days, he’s perhaps even better known as the father of “Up in the Air” co-writer and director Jason Reitman.

Sadly, “Chloe” will likely also be remembered as the movie that was interrupted when leading man Liam Neeson got the horrific news that his wife, Natasha Richardson, had died as the result of what appeared to be a minor skiing accident. Even a year later, it’s obviously a sensitive topic that was not broached at the first of two press days I attended at the L.A. Four Seasons to promote the film with Amanda Seyfried, a burgeoning film star after the success of such films as “Dear John” and “Momma Mia!,” and Erin Cressida Wilson, who is probably best known for her screenplay for the kinky romantic comedy-drama, “Secretary” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader.

Things got off to what I suppose is an appropriate start given the kind of movie “Chloe” is. Asked about a word tattooed on her ankle, Seyfried volunteered it was crude British slang word for “vagina” — it’s apparently a kind of joking term of endearment used by her and friends. And then there was the European journalist who was clearly tasked with getting material as gossip-rich as he could manage. As the inevitably top-of-mind topic of the film’s somewhat explicit nude sex scenes came up, as well as the inherent difficulty of doing those scenes, his felt the need to ask which of the cast members was the best kisser. Seyfried, somewhat outspoken and girlish, but also clearly a pro at 24 years of age, sidestepped the icky question. Fortunately, someone came up a query that was more germane if no less sensational: Did she meet with any real-life prostitutes to research the role?

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“No. Atom actually met with some working ladies in New York and I believe in Toronto as well…It was interesting what he had to say and how he approached it. He was very open about the information that he needed and they were very willing to share. And that’s the same with Chloe; she’s very willing to share that part of her life because she feels like it and in a way it’s being justified by [the fact that] someone’s asking you about your job.”

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(500) days of Spidey news?; all together now in the uncanny valley…and a whole lot more

Yes, we ‘ve got movie news…

Peter Parker/Spiderman
* Nikki Finke’s new best friend, Mike Fleming (or someone, it’s written in the third person), writes tonight that director Marc Webb of the very popular indie relationship comedy, “(500) Days of Summer” is right now the most likely director for the just announced “Spiderman” reboot.  Fleming, or whomever, writes that  Webb has “no superhero experience,” which is not really the issue. The issue is that, while he’s quite capable of making an okay indie comedy (I’m not the movie’s biggest fan), he has no action experience and Sam Raimi had obviously quite a bit before attempting “Spiderman.” Still, the choice of Webb wouldn’t be half so strange as another one mentioned by Fleming (or whomever) apparently in all seriousness: Wes Anderson.

I wish we lived in a universe where studio executives would be so weirdly brave. And, hey, if Anderson’s not available, they could try David Lynch. I don’t know about the masses, but I’d definitely pay to see either movie.

Fleming (or whomever), however, is absolutely correct that, if he were just a bit younger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be the guy to play the new Peter Parker. Oh, well.

* Fleming also has it that Daniel Craig is “in talks” to replace a vacating Robert Downey, Jr. on the comic book adaptation, “Cowboys and Aliens.” Interesting transition. Downey seems more alien than cowboy; Craig is definitely more cowboy than alien.

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