American Idol: two go home

That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back, but more on that in a minute. Last night’s “American Idol” results show was a bit different than usual, as they had contestants perform in small groups rather than in those larger, pageant-type numbers. And I liked it.

They kicked off with the two country singers, Lauren and Scotty, performing “I Told You So,” and it was really, really good. Then Ryan Seacrest told them that they were both….safe!

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So I guess Jamie Foxx is playing the strong and silent type.

Another day, another trailer.

Via THR, this one is from Warner Brothers and Todd Phillips, who directed “The Hangover,” and stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis and is called “Due Date.” Don’t get your hopes too high.

So, am I missing something was that all just a big ball of not-humorous? Obviously, “Due Date” is going for a bit of pathos along with the road trip a la “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” but, if you’re trying to be funny, it’s awfully important that people laugh. I didn’t even smile. The movie could still be good — one of the flattest comedy trailers I ever saw was for the actually really funny 1996 comedy “The Impostors” with Stanley Tucci, who also directed, and Oliver Platt. Of course, that flick didn’t do very well. A better trailer wouldn’t have hurt.

  

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American Idol: how serious are you?

To the contestants on “American Idol,” if you’ve made it to this week’s Final Four, you’re either on the verge of winning it all, or of being a pretender and fading into the show’s collective oblivion soon. Mentor Jamie Foxx signified as much when he had t-shirts made up that said “contestant” and “artist,” and told each one of them that they had to earn their artist shirt this week to prove they are ready. Corny, yes, but effective and correct. The theme this week was songs from movies, which is about as vast a catalog as there is.

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Here’s the problem with “Law Abiding Citizen”

**SPOILER ALERT**

Well, after reading David Medsker’s review over at Bullz-Eye, maybe there’s more than one problem with “Law Abiding Citizen,” but I rather enjoyed it, save for one thing.

Can a good thriller still be good if it’s based on a faulty premise? In the opening scene — and again, I feel compelled to write **SPOILER ALERT** here — Gerard Butler’s character (Clyde) witnesses the rape and murder of his wife and daughter. There were to men who invaded his home — Clarence Darby (who actually committed the rape and murders) and his accomplice Rupert Ames.

Fast forward to the deal that Jamie Foxx’s character (Nick) struck, and I’m confused. If he has Clyde as an eyewitness, why would he make a deal with Darby when he was the one who actually committed the most heinous acts that night? If Darby was prepared to cooperate but Ames was not, why not go to Ames (knowing that he’s the “less guilty” of the two) and say, “Look, if you don’t testify against Darby, he’s going to testify against you, and you’re going to get the death penalty. We know Darby is a bigger sh*t than you, so why not do everyone a favor and testify against him?” Is there anyone that wouldn’t take that deal?

This, coupled with Nick’s decision to shake hands with Darby at the ensuing press conference (knowing full well that he’s a rapist and murderer) sends Clyde off the deep end. The entire movie is based on this faulty premise.

On a side note, is it just me or does Butler have one of the worst American accents of all time? Between “Law Abiding Citizen” and “The Ugly Truth,” the guy just seems to have a tough time swallowing his Scottish accent. I like him as an actor, but I find his American accent incredibly distracting.

  

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“Where the Wild Things Are” rides atop the box office.

Where the Wild Things AreAt least this week I have some company in being a bit off the mark.  The estimated grosses for Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers’ adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” overperformed the most optimistic assessments and nailed an estimated $32.5 million. So says jolly Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter, as the significantly less jolly Nikki Finke factually reminds us that Warners chose to push the film as more of an adult picture. The decision certainly seems to have paid off.

It seems likely that the approach widened rather than narrowed the potential audience (parents with kids were likely to show up regardlesss) and added to the “cool” factor, with Cinemascore indicating that younger adults actually seem to enjoy it more than those over 25. In any case, as past somewhat deceptive campaigns I can think of attest, a certain degree of honesty in movie marketing may actually be the best policy.

Also earning more than expected is Overture’s poorly reviewed violent thriller “Law Abiding Citizen.” The macho appeal of the revenge/serial killerish premise, bolstered no doubt by the familiarity of stars Gerard Butler and  Jamie Foxx, proved fruitful with roughly $21.2-3 million estimated, depending on which sites you read.

Colm Meany, Jamie Foxx, and Gerard Butler in

In the #3 spot, “Paranormal Activity” continued to do extremely good business for Paramount with the week’s highest per-screen average ($26,530), netting an estimated $20.1-2 million on only 760 screens, still a fraction of the number of theaters showing competing flicks. As for the small discrepancies in these figures, looking at the numbers provided by Finke, DiOrio, and the Box Office Mojo chart, it sure looks like the glass-half-full DiOrio is rounding up while the glass-half-empty-and-shattered-beyond-repair Finke is rounding down.

Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell in
Though it has precisely zero appeal for yours truly and got almost uniformly bad reviews, audiences are being kind to troubled Universal Studios and Peter Billingsley, the now grown-up star of “A Christmas Story,” with his feature film debut as a director, “Couples Retreat.” The relationship comedy held well and lost a very respectable 47.7% from its opening week, earning an estimated $17.9 million in its second week. Not too surprisingly, then, the #5 spot went to the PG-13 rated horror remake, “The Stepfather,” with an estimated $12.3 million. In this climate, it might have done a bit better if it held onto the R-rating of the original. Lesson for Sony: If you’re making a horror picture, throw in a few extra f-words and maybe a c-word if you can manage it, just for safety.

On the limited release front, “An Education” had a very good weekend. The Nick Hornby-scripted period memoir adaptation from Swedish Dogme alumna Lone Sherfig, making her English-language directorial debut, earned $505,000 in 19 theaters. The Coen Brothers’ adventure in domestic Judaica,  “A Serious Man,” performed its due box office mitvot with an estimated $860,000 in 82 theaters. The #2 movie this week in terms of per-screen average after “Paranormal Activity,” however, was the critically lauded Chilean drama, “The Maid.” True, that terrific $18,000 was on only one screen, but for a satirical drama from Chile, it’s a success worth noting.

Finally, I have to demand that my brothers and sisters in L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Seattle get down to their local theaters and see the blaxsploitation parody par excelance “Black Dynamite,” post haste. The film earned what a less jolly Carl DiOrio termed a “mild” $2,014 average on seventy screens for an estimated total of $141,000 for Sony’s Apparition films.  Not horrible, but not what a powerful brother like Mr. Dynamite (absolutely no relation to Napoleon D.) so powerfully deserves! And if I read one more blog commenter saying this movie has already “been done” via the disappointing “Undercover Brother” or the pleasantly fun, but not nearly so brilliant, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” I’ll know the Man is up to his usual tricks and it’s time to take back the movie theaters!

BlackDynamiteMovieStill

  

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