Big weekend at the box office: Twi-Hards turn out; proof that young men don’t listen (to critics)

This week, most of whatever suspense there was was not at all about which movie will be #1 or, as it turns out, #2 (not quite a 100% sure thing earlier). It had to do with what actually matters when the show business rubber meets the audience road: how much cash did the movies generate from the summer’s biggest holiday weekend but amid gloomy news and gloomier punditry regarding the economy? The answer seems to be what Joel McCrea learned at the end of “Sullivan’s Travels,” people in dire straights need entertainment and fantasy more, not less. I only wish they were getting something as thoughtful as “Ants in Your Plants of 1939.”

Edward and Bella...ooooohhhhhhhhhOver the three day Friday-Sunday weekend, Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” earned an estimated $69 million according to the Box Office Mojo chart. For the broader and potentially confusing numbers covering the extended movie weekends for the two new major new releases this week, I’ll rely on Anne Thompson’s pal Anthony D’Alessandro. He tells us “Eclipse” earned an estimated $175 million and change, just a few million bucks below the similar six-day frame of 2004’s “Spiderman 2,” though not adjusted for ongoing movie-ticket inflation.

This is the point in the series ordinarily where some might wonder if interest is starting to flag, but this is a long-running movie/book soap opera and a continuing tale similar to the Harry Potter in terms of fan interest/involvement. Also, this entry overall got significantly better reviews than the second film in the series, which might indicate the film itself is more boyfriend friendly for this very female-driven franchise.

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Tuesday late night movie news

It’s pretty clear that nothing going on in movieland tonight is going to be able to compete with the sheer entertainment value of the NBC late night TV quagmire, but there’s definitely stuff to talk about.

* Peter Saarsgard of the very good “An Education” is a highly intriguing actor who I’ve been following for some time, especially since catching his work in the underrated “The Dying Gaul” at Sundance a few years back. No matter what kind of character he’s playing, he seems to have a real gift for moral ambiguity. If he’s cast as a villain, we think he must have a good side, and if he’s cast as someone more upright, we wonder if there isn’t something underhanded going on. Anyhow, Borys Kit reports that it looks like he might be playing the villain side of the street in the Green Lantern movie. Could be good.

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* The longest named director in show business is back on “The Tourist,” a remake of a French thriller to star Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.  Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is the very talented and personable multilingual director behind “The Lives of Others.”

* Simon Brew has some more on the upcoming “Spiderman” reboot announced yesterday. His list of possible new Spideys has two interesting entries that I can’t quite agree with. Daniel Radcliffe actually makes some sense, but we’ll have to see how his American accent is, though I’d personally advise the soon-to-be ex-Harry Potter to avoid overly franchisey roles for a while. Michael Cera would be interesting but, I fear, disastrous. He’d have to get muscular and we know what happens to funny young actors when they become too obviously physically fit. Just ask Anthony Michael Hall.

The trick with Peter Parker is that the actor has to be believable both as a vulnerable demi-nerd, and as the sinewy superhero. Tobey Maguire was actually a really outstanding choice.

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“The Ugly Truth” is that no one will beat “Harry”

A slightly rushed Comic-Con box office preview….

This week sees the release of three movies with a certain degree of box office potential, middling-to-awful reviews, and little hope of outdoing the projected $31 million-floor for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” The most likely runner-up, says THR‘s Carl DiOrio, is “The Ugly Truth,” which got a facially challenged 08% “fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes. DiOrio says the tracking augers about $20 million worth for the R-rated comedy featuring beefcake Gerard Butler and beauty Katherine Heigl.

Guinea PigAlso hitting theaters is the 3-D CGI animated “G-Force,” a critically derided action-comedy focusing on what Jason Zingale terms “the goldfish of the rodent world.” This one, of course, has the benefit of family appeal, and 3-D doesn’t seem to be hurting movies these days. Variety is calling $20-30 million, and I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see either a photo finish or a minor upset here with “The Ugly Truth.”

Orphan” has aroused some minor controversy and outright disdain with its horror variation on the old “Bad Seed” storyline, but apparently its tracking (whatever that is, I’m still trying to figure) isn’t showing all that strongly. Ironically. This is actually by far the best reviewed of the three new releases, with a not-even-close-to-steller 50% “fresh” RT rating. Everything is relative.

Finally, a couple of smaller films are continuing to gradually grow wider as they show some promise of breaking through. Kathryn Bigelow’s highly acclaimed and buzz-heavy “The Hurt Locker” continues to roll on to what I’m guessing is a more than possible “Best Picture” nomination given the doubled number of slots this year. “(500) Days of Summer” is already experiencing what may be the start of a small critical backlash, which is seemingly inevitable with successful indie comedies. Given the track record of “Juno,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” etc., this is probably a good sign, commercially speaking.

  

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