It’s weekend box office preview time: It’s “Jackass 3D” vs. Helen Mirren with a gun.

Guess which movie I’m rooting for? As usual, however, I won’t get what I want. It’s hard to imagine that the audience for “Jackass 3D” will accept seeing the gross-out-a-thon in any other format and for that reason alone the docu-comedy is expected to outgross the very strong competition from the comic book adaptation, “RED” (as in “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”) which stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary Louise-Parker, Karl Urban, and Fred Grandy as Gopher, I think.

Helen Mirren and John Malkovich are

Both the L.A. TimesBen Fritz and THR’s ever-jolly (despite his lousy new theme music) Carl DiOrio agree that the cleverly pitched comedy thriller, putting mostly older actors in the traditionally young-skewing over-the-top action genre, should net about $25 million. The even more cleverly framed “Jackass 3D” should, however, ride those expensive tickets, the spectacle of three dimensional bodily by-products, and the tendency of young males to see movies opening weekend, to about $30 million or more. “RED” should have the longer legs, but presumably “Jackass” has the smaller budget (medical insurance bills for the cast notwithstanding). Both will do fine.

It’s a very busy weekend in limited release. Artistically speaking, the most important films of the bunch will likely turn out to be Olivier Assayas’s mega massive and hugely praised true-life political thriller, “Carlos,” about the notorious far-left terrorist of the 1970s which you can watch all 330 minutes of this weekend in a few showings at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, and I’m tempted to. A shorter 2.5 hour cut is also available for people with less stout buttocks and/or lives to lead. On the other hand, one can never sneeze at a new movie by Clint Eastwood, and “Hereafter,” his second movie to star Matt Damon, begins to appear. This time, the octogenarian Mr. Eastwood takes on the topic of death itself.

Meanwhile, 542 theaters are going to be empty save for a few hardcore tea parties, I predict, this weekend as “I Want Your Money” opens. I’m actually sitting on an interview with director and would-be conservative answer to Michael Moore, Ray Griggs, from Comicon which will likely never see the light of day because it’s mostly quite dull and he had really nothing to say of interest to say about the movie we were actually supposed to talk about. It only got interesting when he mentioned this movie, which he dishonestly tried to pitch to me as nonpartisan. I smelled a cinema rat and, as I now know, the cast is dominated by famed Republican pols like Mike Huckabee and Newt Gringrich. However, a PR person ended the interview before I could try and figure out what the story really was.

Most conservatives would never believe me, but I don’t assume “I Want Your Money” is extremely bad because I disagree with its politics, I assume it’s extremely bad because Griggs last (apolitical) movie got a rare 0% from Rotten Tomatoes, including being slammed by the New York Post’s conservative Kyle Smith. He also couldn’t discuss “I Want Your Money” — or the other movie — with me in a straightforward fashion which doesn’t speak well for him or either movie.  To quote the old rock and roll song, sometimes bad is bad.

  

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”  “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

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Read the rest of this entry »

  

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You want a violent movie trailer? I’ve got two.

I’m still a bit busy and distracted by various matters including the ongoing Los Angeles Film Fest and last night’s L.A. premiere of “Animal Kingdom,” an ultra-neo-noir Aussie crime drama/suspense film that’s a bit dour for my taste but which boasts some outstanding performances and characterization, and a dynamite third act that my mind is still reeling from. Nevertheless, I’ve got a couple of trailers here that promise some fairly provocative manners of death dealing of the more frivolous and, perhaps, fun variety. We’ll start with the Red Band trailer for “Predators” for the wanton monster bloodshed and destruction you demand and the F-word you expect. H/t Den of Geek.

Via Cinemablend, and on a somewhat higher plane — because how can the sight of Dame Helen Mirren wielding a machine and blowing shit up not be on a very high plane indeed — comes the non-superhero comic book adaptation “RED,” as in “Retired, extremely dangerous.” Yep, it’s the action movie first-wave baby boomers have all been waiting for. It’s also got Morgan Freeman, the beautiful Mary Louise Parker, an excessively MK-Ultra‘d John Malkovich, and some other bald dude from the eighties.

Did you know that a quite young Helen Mirren might have been the first actress to appear nude in a mainstream studio film, 1969’s “Age of Consent,” directed by Michael Powell? I just felt like mentioning that.

  

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Late Friday night news dump

A few more items than usual may be slipping through the cracks this week as my iMac has let me know in no uncertain terms that it’s hard drive is ready to be sent off to the digital happy hunting grounds and has been temporarily mothballed.  In the meantime, I am writing to you now, dear reader, via my trusty, if Vista-laden lap top and minus a few links I’ve been saving up over the last couple of days.

But enough about me and my choice of blogging weapon, what’s going on as Hollywood’s denizens ready for the weekend by hit the bars and/or gyms?

* MGM is officially on the auction block, and the secret word to protect against bankruptcy, writes Sharon Waxman, is “forebearance.”

* I’ve never watched “Nip/Tuck” and I couldn’t get past the first twenty minutes or so of “Fantastic Four,” so Julian McMahon is a new name/face to me. Nevertheless, Heat Vision blog wants us to know that he’s in negotiations alongside Richard Dreyfuss and 92 year-old Ernest Borgnine to join an already very impressive cast on the action-espionage comic book adaptation, “Red,” which includes Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John C. Reilly, and Mary Louise Parker. Considering whose on board, director Robert Schwentke of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” really needs to step up his game. (H/t CHUD.)

* “Paranormal Activity” has past $100 million in grosses. I think Anne Thompson is correct that there are lessons here for other films. It’s true the movie is a one-off creatively speaking, but the slow roll-out and “by popular demand” tactics can definitely be transferred to all kinds of movies. It’s also silly to argue that the success of the movie was all the result of some kind of wide belief that it was “real.” In general, I’m a proponent of slow releases, except that there’s a problem — it works better with movies that are actually entertaining.

On a different note entirely, be sure to check out Ms. Thompson’s three part video interview with Michael Stuhlberg, the heretofore unknown star of  “A Serious Man.”

*Word has it that Nicolas Cage’s crappy streak appears to be ending in a big way with Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutanent: Port of Call New Orleans” which I’m really starting to looking forward to despite, or perhaps because, I was not a fan of the original film, much as I love Harvey Keitel. Via The Auteurs Daily, Manohla Dargis considers Cage’s career ups and downs. Good stuff, but, well, since Ms. Dargis mentions it, I can’t resist indulging in, well, you know….

  

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TV Roundup: Poor ratings for Prison Break, TiVo’s ratings plans and more

– The ratings for the return of “Prison Break” were poor, and TV By The Numbers says that it’s bad news for “Dollhouse.”

– One of my favorite shows, “The Unit,” is on the bubble, but the good news is that producer Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) has been invited by CBS to present ideas for a fifth season.

– The NY Post says that Mary Louise Parker is thinking about leaving “Weeds” after next season.

– FOX’s “Sit Down, Shut Up” didn’t do all that well (ratings-wise) in its debut on Sunday, considering it was sandwich between stalwarts “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” I’m a fan of both of those shows, but I couldn’t make it through a full episode of “Sit Down, Shut Up.”

TiVo is continuing to move into Nielsen’s territory. They’ve been offering national ratings since 2007, but now plan to provide market-by-market ratings as well. It makes sense — the TiVo is essentially a computer that can track what a household watches (if they choose to opt-in).

– Variety compares “Heroes” to “Lost” in that both programs started off really strong before faltering a bit. The question is — will “Heroes” find its way like “Lost” did? (Methinks maybe an end date two or three seasons down the line would do the trick.)

  

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