“The Rum Diary” premieres in New York

Johnny Depp arriving at the ‘The Rum Diary’ New York premiere at the Museum of Modern Art on October 25, 2011 in New York City.

Here’s Johnny Depp arriving at the “The Rum Diary” New York premiere at the Museum of Modern Art. We would post a photo of Amber Heard at this event, but she wore a black dress that completely covered her up. It’s not quite the sexy outfit we enjoyed when she starred in “The Playboy Club.” Instead, here’s a photo of Amber with Johnny Depp from the film.

  

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Late night (PST) trailer: “Rango”

I never thought a movie from Gore Verbinski would be one of my most anticipated movies of any year, but the the third really effective trailer in a row for “Rango” is having the effect I’m sure Nickelodeon and Paramount desires. The first movie I’m looking actively forward to in 2011 stars a lizard.

Of course, I’m a sucker for the western tropes, but it’s really the wonderfully detailed and engaging character designs and great site gags cooked up by screenwriter John Logan that’s selling me. I’m not saying it’s going to be Pixar quality, but it might be close. I also love the fact that this is also subtle propaganda to get kids ready for classic westerns.

Johnny Depp leads the all-star voice cast here. As for the earlier trailers you see can them here and here.

H/t /Film.

  

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Weekend box office: “The Voyagle of the Dawn Treader” and “The Tourist” on a dull trip

Things should perk up a bit at the box office next weekend with “Tron: Legacy” and “How Do You Know,”  but this weekend is proving to be a bust. As was just about certain on Thursday, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” came in on top, but that doesn’t mean the news is good.

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The estimate of $24.5 million for the weekend over at Box Office Mojo is more than $10 million shy of the low-end figures that jolly Carl DiOrio trumpeted and which sounded perfectly reasonable to me. Apparently, this series is not being greeted with anything like the same sort of loyalty a Harry Potter or “Lord of the Rings” receives. Just as apparently, Fox and Walden Media’s strategy of targeting those sometimes Harry-negative and nearly always C.S. Lewis-positive evangelical Christian groups didn’t do much. Sometimes people can tell when they’re being marketed to and they don’t always like it.

Even so, this series tends to do very well abroad. Also, as Nikki Finke mentions, the studio is banking on word of mouth to help smooth things over. I imagine the reason for that is the Cinemascore A rating mentioned by Anthony D’Alessandro. Fox’s decision to take this off Disney’s hands, while reducing the outsize budgets, may still prove wise.

It’s budget was a mere $100 million, about $50 million less than “Dawn Treader, and the difference between the prediction and the reality is not as enormous. However, this weekend’s #2 film’s grosses are not something that will put a spring in the step of Sony executives. “The Tourist” nailed an estimate of $17 million for the weekend, as opposed to the $20 million figure that was thrown out earlier. It might be a bit harsh for Nikki Finke to use the “tank” word, but expectations had already been tamped down hugely for a movie from a hot young director starring, pretty literally, the two most famous actors in the world.

Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in

When a movie directed by a critical darling like Florian Henckel von Donnersmark (“The Lives of Others”) gets drubbed by critics the way this one has — and the Rotten Tomatoes “top critics” have been especially harsh — there’s more at work than the sophomore slump. On the other hand, “The Tourist” did nail a decent B from Cinemascore, for what that’s worth. We’ll see whether my glib line about this being a movie with a great pedigree that could turn out be just a dog applies to the worldwide box office over the long haul. Despite everything, this could be another “Knight and Day.” Unfortunately, a movie doesn’t have to be particularly liked by anyone to do well.

It’s award season and things are looking a lot more interesting right now in the world of limited release. The week’s highest per-screen average by far was at the four theaters showing “The Fighter.” Grosses for director David O. Russell’s apparent comeback after the box office failure of “I Heart Huckabees” averaged $80,000, for an outstanding opening weekend estimate of $320,000. It’s pretty clear that Paramount’s evident commercial confidence in this film was eminently justified.

Natalie Portman in Also doing amazing business, “Black Swan” enjoyed a boffo second weekend with an average of over $37,000 in 90 theaters. It was actually the #6 movie in the country while showing in only a tiny fraction of the theaters its competitors are playing in, and garnered an estimate of over $3.3 million. Considering the ballet thriller’s $5.6 total take so far, a budget of only $13 million, and the near certainty of multiple Oscar nominations, this could be the year’s sleeper cash cow. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will say that studios should never underestimate the cross-gender appeal of over-the-top melodrama and a bit of terror. Fox Searchlight was smart not to.

  

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Box office preview: “Dawn Treader” to take a reasonably lucrative voyage but “The Tourist” may be a stranger to big b.o. bucks

We have two new major releases and which one will be on top is a pretty clear cut case. Even so, it will be relatively muted victory.

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“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” is the third installment in the adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s immensely popular fantasy novels. Though it was helmed by veteran filmmaker Michael Apted, it’s not entirely smooth sailing for the family-friendly adventures. Disney dropped the series after the somewhat disappointing showing of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” back in 2008. Since then, as discussed by both Ben Fritz and jolly Carl DiOrio Fox has picked it up and trimmed the budget in partnership with Walden Media to an oh-so-thrifty $155 million (!).

That’s probably a good thing because it doesn’t seem to be generating a huge amount of excitement, at least from critics. On the other hand, Narnia fans are a sure bet to turn out and, as the first 3D installment in the series, “Dawn Treader” could enjoy a bit of a bump from those inflated ticket prices. DiOrio’s guess of $35-45 million seems reasonable.

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in From everything I’ve seen today, Sony’s “The Tourist” looks like it may be one of those movies that comes with the finest pedigree but just turns out to be a bit of a dog. Not only does this remake of a French thriller little-seen in the U.S. boast the truly enormous star voltage of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, it’s the follow-up film to the Oscar winning worldwide success, “The Lives of Others” by German writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. I saw von Donnersmark introduce that film before its domestic opening. He turns out to be an extremely fluent and completely unaccented English speaker who, even before his film opened in the U.S., was not shy about his lust to take on American films.

The maker of the compellingly dour political thriller has taken on an attempt at a sophisticated, lighthearted thriller along the lines of such non-Hitchcock Hitchcock films as “Charade.” And, where that film had a screenplay by the great Peter Stone, this one has one credited to von Donnersmark, Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”). You can’t blame a guy for trying.

The review by our own David Medsker was entirely unenthusiastic, but it was a rave compared with the highly negative reaction of critics overall. The same scribes who rhapsodized over “The Lives of Others” largely found “The Tourist” an exercise in high-gloss boredom. While audiences will be lured by the appearance of an ideal date movie the first weekend, you’ve got to wonder how the film will do once people see it for themselves. Still, about $20 million seems to be figure for the first weekend. We’ll see about the legs later on.

There’s also a bunch going on in the realm of limited releases. Looking at Box Office Mojo, we have a significant expansions of “Black Swan” after its boffo opening weekend. One brand new entry this weekend in five theaters is a new version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” which, despite starring the great Helen Mirren in a bit of gender-altering casting is getting pretty dismal reviews for famed/infamous director Julie Taymor.  A Shakespeare adaptation with bad reviews is a movie in trouble. “The Fighter” debuts also on four screens, though you can expect many more later.

Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg in

  

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Box office preview: It’s the boy-who-lived versus the-girl-with-the-hair

Yep, though there is only one new major release, the real action this weekend is going to be between the two very strong holdovers: the third week of Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” and week #2 of “Tangled,” which may be well on its way to reviving Disney’s supposedly endangered princess brand. Figuring out which will emerge on top i’s really a matter of how much the respective films drop off and, as jolly Carl DiOrio wisely admits, involves a big guess. Still, he and Ben Fritz seem to agree that power-haired Rapunzel has some slight edge over horcrux-seeking Harry.

Both films did roughly equivalent business last weekend, though the Potter juggernaut earning extremely well over the entire Thanksgiving period. Still, family animated comedies traditionally have great holds, while the madness of the Potter fans generally makes for huge openings with huge drop-offs to follow. Fritz expects about $18 million for the Potter film and about a 50% drop off for “Tangled,” which I guess would mean roughly $23-25 million or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if the drop-off were small, though post-holiday doldrums could also hamper overall box office this weekend.

This week’s one major new release, a martial arts fantasy shot in New Zealand but set in a sort of Never-Never land version of the American West, “The Warrior’s Way,” is opening in a relatively very modest 1600 theaters. That’s probably a good thing because the film, which was made independently but is being distributed by upstartish Relativity Media, doesn’t appear to be generating any excitement. It’s been in the can for some time, though it boasts an interesting cast including Geoffrey Rush and Danny Huston in supporting roles as well as Kate Bosworth and talented Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun (“Typhoon“), whose been compared to Johnny Depp, as the butt-kicking super-swordsman lead.

The Warrior's Way

In an attempt to square the marketing circle, members of the press were shown clips from the film, wined and dined (in this case saki’d and sushi’d as the post-not-screening reception was held at an apparently very good Japanese restaurant) and allowed to interview some of the stars — including, in my case, Tony Cox of “Bad Santa” and “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnussus.” We’ll see how well the approach works. Ben Fritz is extremely pessimistic about its chances, jolly Carl is more jolly, but even he admits it’ll be somewhat lucky to break $10 million. This one’s best hope might be in the international market, but the refusal to show the film in its entirety to the press should be a tell to wary audiences.

There’s more because, as awards season heats up, several very interesting films are opening in limited release. Among them is “I Love You Phillip Morris.” It’s the long delayed but well-regarded same-sex romantic comedy and true-crime tale with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as lovers on the run. Also opening in a relatively aggressive 18 theaters is a very likely Oscar contender and already one of the most discussed genre-blending films of the year, “Black Swan.” It’s being described frequently as Powell and Pressberger’s “The Red Shoes” meets Polanski’s “Repulsion” and that’s good enough for me. More about that to come, for sure.

Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in

  

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