Weekend box office preview: Will the Kutcher and Natalie Portman swarm “The Green Hornet”?

There’s only one major new release this week and, yeah, I kind of hate it, but that’s never prevented a movie from making a nice sum at the box office.

No Strings Attached” features easily my last favorite star of this, or really any, generation, Ashton Kutcher. It also features the vastly more talented and likable Natalie Portman, a really strong supporting cast, and what I see as really lousy screenplay that can’t be salvaged by director Ivan Reitman or anyone else. The film is an attempt to do an Apatow-style comedy for youngish women and, leaving aside my personal dislike of the film, I have a hunch it will do rather well. It’s actually splitting critics which, considering it’s an Ashton Kutcher film, is probably the equivalent of an Oscar sweep.

Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman have

Given the film’s positive tracking among women discussed by THR’s Pamela McClintock, Ben Fritz says that the conventional wisdom is the movie will make roughly $20 million. That makes it a real threat to the #1 status of “The Green Hornet.” The action comedy earned roughly $33 million last weekend and, for that kind of film, a 50% week #2 drop is actually not doing at all badly. Also, considering the very modest budget of “No Strings” ($20 million), it’s almost sure to be profitable for Paramount.

A couple of interesting and well reviewed movies are also getting much more aggressive than usual limited releases. Director Peter Weir (“The Truman Show,” “Witness”) returns with Ed Harris in tow in the Gulag escape drama, “The Way Back” from Newmarket and the very topical star-driven “The Company Men” from director John Wells is out from the Weinstein Company. The real mystery is why these well-regarded, if not quite ecstatically received, films weren’t at least given a shot at awards with a pre-2011 Oscar-qualifying run.

  

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Movie news for a semi-new week

I was going to put this off as long as possible this week, but the movie news tonight is like a burden upon my soul.

* In case you haven’t heard, the epic speculation about just who will play the Pippi Longstocking-via-the-Velvet-Underground Lisbeth Salender of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (American style) is over. The part has gone to 25 year-old Rooney Mara. Anne Thompson has the inside dope on this relative unknown.

rooney-mara

Still, I find the comparisons with the legendary battle to cast the role of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind” to be slightly much. It’s more like casting Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter or Sean Connery as James Bond.

The obvious differences aside, Connery was, by the way, very much like Mara. He was actually the second person to play the role. The first was Gene Barry in a nationality flipped 1954 TV version of “Casino Royale” in which “Jimmy Bond” was American and “Clarence Leiter” was British.

* As if we Angelenos don’t have enough problems with aliens invading our town and the ensuing legal battles therein. The President’s in L.A. raising money from the godless sodomites of H-wood with help from communist money hating writer-producer-director-moguls John Wells and J.J. Abrams. And we know what this means — a new round of liberal criticism of the Obama Administration for, yes, the traffic. Even Hef was bothered.

* I once transcribed and informally partially edited an “as told to” book by the son of the entrepreneurial founder of a major multinational with huge ties to the film industry through his son. Nikki Finke today reminds me of a quip the second-generation captain of industry quoted: “There’s nothing wrong with nepotism, as long as you keep it in the family.”

* It sounds like he’ll be okay, but think good thoughts for Michael Douglas anyway.

* Because of my recent roundtable piece with Kevin Pollak, I’ve been giving his interview program a listen. Ironically, Christopher Walken, like William “the Shat” Shatner before him, is jumping into the interview game, perhaps inspired by Pollak for all anyone knows. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’ve heard.

* Some of my best friends have post-graduate degrees in psychology but, Lord amighty, headline grabbing psychologists and their journalistic/PR enablers can really produce a special kind of stupid and shallow when they go all pop-cultural on us. Get this:

“In today’s media, superheroes and slackers are the only two options boys have,” said Lamb. “Boys are told, if you can’t be a superhero, you can always be a slacker.”

They were writing the same thing when I was kid, only the terms were different. I’d give you a more detailed case on why I consider this complete idiocy, but since I’m clearly not a superhero, I must be a slacker. (H/t Anne Thompson.)

slacker

  

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“Southland” has been saved

In a delightful screw-you to the programming powers that be at NBC, TNT has saved the day and picked up “Southland.” Although I must, as ever, remind you that I have never claimed to be Nostradamus, I am pleased to say that I did predict that this would be the case when I originally posted about the show’s cancellation by NBC, so it’s nice to see that I can get something right once in awhile. (I’m still smarting over the fact that, in Bullz-Eye’s Fall TV Preview that “Trauma” has been canceled, but I stand by my position: based on their pilots, I can’t imagine anyone would’ve expected “Mercy” to last longer.)

Here’s the official word from TNT on the latest addition to their line-up:

TNT has picked up the critically acclaimed series “Southland,” closing a deal with Warner Bros. Television that will bring the drama from Emmy-winning producer John Wells (“ER,” “The West Wing”) to the network in January. TNT has obtained exclusive rights to air all six episodes that have been shot for the second season, as well as the seven episodes from the series’ first season. “Southland” will air on TNT Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (ET/PT), beginning with the first episode of the series on Jan. 12.

“This is a great win for fans of ‘Southland’ and a perfect opportunity to introduce the series to new viewers,” said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. “It’s also another outstanding example of how TNT has established itself as the go-to place for the best dramas on television.”

“We are extremely pleased that TNT has acquired all 13 episodes of ‘Southland,’ giving devoted fans the opportunity to watch a show that they passionately support,” said Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television.

“We’re delighted that TNT has stepped forward to pick up ‘Southland.’ We are all extremely proud of the show,” Wells said.

Of course, if you’ve been following the Twitter feed of “Southland” star Michael Cudlitz since he started making with the obscenities over NBC’s treatment of the series, then this is old news to you, anyway. He reacted to the news minutes after the story broke, thanking everyone in Twitterland and saying, “The reason this happened was because of you. They never would have picked this show up if they didn’t think it had an audience.”

But will the audience make it over to TNT come January…?

  

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NBC kills “Southland” in a manner which will annoy even those who DIDN’T watch it

It’s one thing to kill a show when it’s been struggling in the ratings but hasn’t managed to gain a sufficient foothold with viewers. It’s quite another to pull the plug after the show has been renewed for a second season, several episodes have been completed for said season, and it hasn’t even made it back to the airwaves yet.

Sadly, you’ve probably deduced that it’s the latter which has happened to NBC’s “Southland.”

The news broke yesterday via The Hollywood Reporter, who revealed that production on the John Wells-produced cop series is being shut down before any episodes of its second season even make it to air. “Southland” was originally slated to make its return to NBC on at the same time the rest of NBC’s new shows emerged, but instead of having Season 2 kick off on September 18th, the 9 PM timeslot was filled on that Friday by “Dateline NBC.” So it has remained ever since. Plans had been afoot for the series to come back on October 23rd, but…well, obviously, those plans changed.

You barely need to read between the lines of Wells’ statement on the matter in the Reporter’s article to see that it was uttered through gritted teeth:

“I’m disappointed that NBC no longer has the time periods available to support the kind of critically-acclaimed series that was for so many years, a hallmark of their success,” Wells said. “We remain extremely proud of ‘Southland’ and are actively looking for another home for the series.”

Wells may have managed to maintain his politeness in the midst of being profoundly pissed off, but the same can’t be said of Michael Cudlitz, one of the stars of the show.

PopEater.com offered up a piece about the show getting its walking papers from the Peacock and cited Cudlitz’s comments on his Twitter account, which – as of this writing, anyway – remain out there for the world to see:

* Don’t go quietly…….. People need to know when they fuck up this big. Saw ep 2.1 …….. Dumb fucking people.

* season was so fucking good this year…….. I mean good.

* we are still in production. The shows are very, very good………… They have broken their word. I should know better.

* Honestly, not bitter. Kinda pissed. I still believe the show would have done well on Fri.

I reckon we’ll never know if “Southland” would’ve succeeded on Friday nights or not, but here’s hoping that someone…maybe TNT?…will be agreeable to saving the series and giving it a chance to play out for at least a little bit longer. Wells and his cast sat for a panel during the TCA tour in August, and the plans for the upcoming season sounded promising. This actually was a surprise to me…not because I didn’t like what I’d seen during Season 1, but because when NBC’s President of Primetime Entertainment, Angela Bromstad, talked about it, it sounded like it was going to be turning into a show that would feel more at home on CBS.

“I think we’ve made some creative adjustments. I think they tried to do too much in those six episodes, and instead of re-piloting the pilot and letting the audience get more familiar with these characters, they sort of…you know, it became very serialized, and they were a large, large ensemble. So it’s really going to focus on Regina King and Ben McKenzie and the two sets of officers and detectives and sort of focus on, you know, crimes and how they come together.”

To me, that sounded like they were basically going to be getting rid of the type of stuff that Wells brought to shows like “E.R.” and “The West Wing.” But when we talked to Wells later in the tour and Bromstad’s comments – which he hadn’t heard – were brought up, he first smirked and said, “Well, I think we are all interested in reading what Angela had to say to you the other day,” then tried to calm us down:

The show we are making is the show that we wanted to make. I think that, for people who have been watching the show, they will recognize it as the same show, and I think some of the more serialized elements that began to take over a couple of the final episodes will be less serialized, so that someone who shows up and just watches that episode will fully understand what’s happening in the episode. But we are very proud of the show we were making last year, and I think for most casual viewers of the series, they will not see a significant difference in what the show is bringing to them when they watch it. What they had asked us to do when we were coming back was to make certain that the characters of the patrol officers and the detectives were appearing in every episode. When we originally began planning the series, we had talked about doing episodes that would be solely about one group or one character, and they’ve asked us not to do that in the future or move towards that. They would like it to be an ensemble show, which has all of the characters in it on a weekly basis.

In the end, I think you have to trust Wells’ track record as a producer and presume that he and fellow producer Christopher Chulack would’ve still made Season 2 of “Southland” more than worth checking out.

In closing, I feel like I should offer up this comment from Wells during the “Southland” panel about NBC’s decision to wipe out five hours of programming in favor of “The Jay Leno Show.” I don’t think I’m wrong in suggesting that he might well have offered a more succinct response if the panel had taken place on NBC’s TCA day rather than on the Warner Brothers lot, but whatever the case, it strikes me as ample proof that, although he might not be happy that NBC has kicked “Southland” to the curb, he’s probably thrilled at the possibility that he has a chance to peddle his wares elsewhere:

“Well, you know, it would be disingenuous for me to say anything other than this is what I do for a living, and we lost five hours’ worth of time periods that had been known throughout the history of the network for putting some really terrific shows on. So I wish NBC and Jay Leno well, personally. He’s a very nice guy. But I hope he falls flat on his face and we get five dramas back. I mean, you know, that’s what I do for a living. That’s what I think should be on network television at 10:00. It should be an opportunity for narrative programs to be on the air. So it’s only one more thing that’s going to force more and more dramas into the basic cable and pay cable world. And they made the decision that they felt was necessary to make for financial purposes and whatever other decisions they had, but I hate it.”

  

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: NBC newsflash

Angela Bromstad, President of Primetime Entertainment, and Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President of Alternative Programming, just popped up on stage to offer the following tidbits of information, some of which were announced awhile ago but which we haven’t yet covered on Premium Hollywood:

* “Southland,” the new drama from John Wells (which was formerly known as “Police”), will premiere on April 9th, Thursday at 10 PM.

From Emmy Award winners John Wells, Ann Biderman and Chris Chulack comes a raw and authentic look at the police unit in Los Angeles. From the beaches of Malibu to the streets of East Los Angeles, “Southland” is a fast-moving drama that will take viewers inside the lives of cops, criminals, victims and their families. Michael Cudlitz plays John Cooper a seasoned Los Angeles cop assigned to train young rookie Ben Sherman. Cooper’s honest, no-nonsense approach to the job leaves Sherman questioning whether or not he has what it takes to become a police officer. Cudlitz and McKenzie are joined by other cast members including Regina King who plays Detective Lydia Adams. Adams lives with and is the primary caregiver of her mother. Her partner, Detective Russell Clarke (Tom Everett Scott) is an unhappily married father of three. Michael McGrady plays Detective Daniel “Sal” Salinger. Sal oversees fellow gang detectives Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) and Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy). Arija Bareikis plays as patrol officer Chickie Brown, a single mom who dreams of being the first woman accepted into SWAT.

* They have ordered 3 more episodes of “ER,” bringing the season total to 23. The series finale will now air on April 2nd, with a one-hour retrospective preceding the two-hour finale. Why the additional episodes? “Why not?” asked Bromstad. She then clarified, however, that it allows John Wells time to get “Southland” ready.

* They have officially signed on for additional seasons of “The Office” and “The Rock”

* NBC has signed Don Cheadle and his company, Crescendo Productions, to a two-year, first-look television development deal.

* Due to its success up against “American Idol,” they will indeed be picking up another season of “Biggest Loser” for next season.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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