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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Thursday trailer: “X-Men: First Class”

It’s still the dead of Winter, but Summer (or the movie version of it, which actually stars in late Spring) is getting closer every day. “X-Men: First Class” is of special interest to me as it marks the return of director Matthew Vaughn to the franchise. (Vaughn famously dropped out the third X-Men installment shortly before production and was replaced by nobody’s favorite, Brett Ratner.)

Ironically, I’m not the biggest fan of any of the “X-Men” movies I’ve seen so far. However, Vaughn and his writing collaborator, Jane Goldman, most recently of “Kick-Ass,” have batted 1000 a with me as they careen from genre to genre and fail to rake in the big money I think they richly deserve. Let’s just hope this isn’t only a movie for critics and hardcore genre geeks. As you probably already know, James McAvoy is a much hairier and more ambulatory Dr. Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender is a much younger Magneto.

H/t Deadline. I’m definitely digging the retro vibe here.

  

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It’s time for midweek movie news

I used to be disgusted, now I try to stay bemused…

* Yes, they weren’t kidding. Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are teaming up to make a Les Grossman movie, declares Nikki Finke. I try never to prejudge films, and I really did think Cruise was hilarious in “Tropic Thunder.” However, I think writer Michael Bacall, Ben Stiller, and whoever winds up directing really have their work cut out for them in terms of this not turning into some kind of inverted ego-fest (“look at me — I’m willing to act all crazy!”) like what we saw on MTV a few nights back.

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* A new James L. Brooks romantic comedy by any name will probably be worth a look, and maybe better than that.

* It’s always seemed to me that the best part of the guilty pleasure appeal of “Entourage” — aside from Ari, Lloyd, and Johnny Drama, anyway — is the lightning fast pacing that nearly always leaves fans wanting more. Now, producer Mark Wahlberg is determined to give us more in the form of a movie to follow up from the conclusion of the television show. I’m concerned about whether he gets the concept of why you want to always leave an audience wanting more. If not, “Entourage”¬† could become the male equivalent of “Sex and the City” in theaters as well as the small screen.

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Midnight movie news

Well, depending on how long this takes.

* The Oscar voting deadline passed today and the big story ’round the town was on the punishment meted out to producer Nicolas Chartier, whose over-aggressive e-screeds against “Avatar,” and in favor of his own, “The Hurt Locker.” He’s banished from the ceremony. Still, as Nikki Finke reports, don’t feel too bad for him, if you feel bad at all, and I’m not sure why you should.

Wouldn’t it be nice — and naive — to think that stuff like this actually affected no one’s vote, in any direction?

* I like Tim Burton‘s work and dislike Timur Bekmambetov’s films, but the two nevertheless insist on working together to produce “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” based on the book by the author of the also soon to be filmed “Pride and Prejudice with Zombies.” The reportedly erratic but extremely talented writer-director David O. Russell, who infamously got into a scuffle with George Clooney over the treatment of extras while making 1999’s “Three Kings,” is “circling,” Mike Fleming says.

* Hef on Bogie. And, when you think about the Playboy mansions, almost everybody really does come to Hef’s, or wants to, anyway.

Joseph Gordon-Leavitt* James McAvoy leaves a “cancer comedy” for mysterious reasons and Joseph Gordon-Levitt jumps on board, reports THR‘s Gregg Kilday. McAvoy’s pretty good, but that still might be an improvement.

* Martin Scorsese is so busy these days I get tired just reading about him. Oh, and that gangster film with De Niro is starting to take shape, alongside at least three documentaries about Fran Lebowitz, George Harrison, and the history of British cinema, including much, I’m sure, about his old friend and mentor/influence, Michael Powell — the greatest director even many cinephiles barely know. Oh, and elsewhere he discusses the possibility of making films “like ‘Precious‘” in 3-D. I see his point about how the technology could theoretically be used to enhance intimate stories. I guess. Maybe.

* I meant to mention this days ago, but this lawsuit over the fictional destruction of the “Christ the Redeemer” statue in “2012” is based on the fact that the statue is covered by copyright — something one usually doesn’t think about for iconic statuary. In any case, I really just wanted an excuse to quote Matthew Belloni‘s opening to the story:

With apologies to the Coen brothers, Columbia Pictures is learning the hard way not to f— with the Jesus….

  

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An action-packed movie Monday

Lots going on…

* Via Merrick at THR.

New Line has picked up a pitch from Darren Lemke, the writer behind the studio’s Bryan Singer project “Jack the Giant Killer,” that reimagines the classic tale of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” as an action-adventure movie.

I’m thinking Steven Seagall for the lead, with Jet Li as Kato, though I’m not sure how either of them are at dancing to the music of Tchaikovsky. Okay, actually, this version won’t be a ballet¬† (obviously) and they’re going for more of a “Chronicles of Narnia” vibe.

* Brad Pitt will be producing, but not playing the lead, in an action-oriented flick about the young Vlad Dracul (his buddies call him “the Impaler”). I’d prefer if they would be honest and call this “Dracula Begins,” but the actual title is “Vlad.” The studio will be the “Twilight” driven Summit. How much you wanna bet this vampire-to-be has a tortured love-life?

* Hand drawn animation appears to be coming back to Disney in a big way. Yay. Film-maker Brendon Connolly has some interesting hints.

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* And one more item from THR/Heat Vision that I can’t really ignore. Cowriter-producer Peter Jackson has announced that auditions for “The Hobbit” have begun and the only role that’s precast is Ian McKellan as Gandalf. So, actors, if you’ve got a snub nose, a pasty complexion, are never chosen first for basketball, and have hairy feet, I suggest you get into gear. They are denying rumors that James McAvoy could be in the running for Bilbo, though he does have an overall Baggins thing going on, I think. Another actor who screams “hobbit!” to me is writer Peter Morgan’s favorite star, Michael Sheen of “Frost/Nixon,” “The Queen,” and “The Damned United.” Of course, whoever it is, I guess it will have to believable that he’ll look like Ian Holm when he gets on in years.

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