So, guess what’s topping the box office this weekend

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in Yes, the holiday weekend is barely half-way over and tonight’s Golden Globes could alter things slightly. Nevertheless, the Box Office Mojo’s weekend estimates are out and, don’t even bother to wait for it, Fox’s “Avatar” was once again the box office leader with a solid $41.3 million estimated take and a still very low drop of only 17.9% on its fifth go-round. Domestically, “Avatar” is already the #3 all-time moneymaker with a total of $491,767,000. Worldwide it has defeated, “The Return of the King” and is now #2 at just over $1.6 billion, just a couple billion shy of another movie you might have an opinion about, “Titanic.” James Cameron might have to buy an additional Malibu estate for his self-esteem to live in.

Just to keep us from falling completely asleep, however, there were some new members of the top 3 this week. The post apocalyptic actioner with a spiritual tint, Warner Brothers’ “The Book of Eli,” performed as per the expectations I described last time and has a current weekend estimate of roughly $31.6 million. That will definitely be happy news not only for star Denzel Washington but for directors Allen and Albert Hughes, whose last film, “From Hell” was not a box office success despite the presence of another big star, Johnny Depp. (Indeed, one of that film’s producers left the film business and has gone on to become one of the most powerful and annoying members of the left hand side of blogosphere, but that’s a story for another time and place.)

Denzel Washington in

As for the #3 spot…it’s not really a weekend if I don’t make an completely wrong predictive comment — when will I learn to keep my trap shut? Anyhow, the marketing strategy turning a critically dissed piece of Oscar bait into a film aimed at female tweens and teenagers has paid off with a very decent estimated third place showing of just over $17 million for “The Lovely Bones” and Paramount/Dreamworks. The film has been out in limited release for several weeks, but went into over 2,500 theaters and apparently the timing was correct.

A brand new wide release, “The Spy Next Door,” a frankly lame looking vehicle for Jackie Chan, did fairly unimpressive business for a wide release film on its opening weekend despite . It came in the #6 spot with an estimated $9.7 million for Lionsgate, which might be enough if the film’s budget is low enough. In other “cudda been worse” news, it’s 0% on the Tomatometer on Friday has blossomed to 9% with four critics failing to dislike it.

Michael Cera in Finally, the vampire role-reversal flick a la Monty Python’s “Bicycle Repairman” sketch, “Daybreakers,” which did rather well last week, suffered a huge 67% drop in its second time out, going from a $15 million last week to about $5 million this week. And, because I’m a nice guy, I’ll keep the word on “Youth in Revolt” to myself.

  

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A Na’vi, some singing rodents, and Sherlock Holmes walk into a movie theater…

…And never leave.

Well, that’s the scenario provided by jolly Carl DiOrio, the only box office prognosticator I have access to now that Variety has gone behind that pay wall. I certainly have little reason to doubt that Fox’s “Avatar” will experience a fourth weekend atop the box office pile, considering how the film has most definitely emerged as one of those rare demographic-spanning productions that becomes a self-perpetuating “must see” phenomenon. It’s already the tenth biggest domestic money-maker of all time at $380 million+ and I’m almost afraid to check the international numbers.

The last movie like this was “The Dark Knight,” which also ruled the roost four weekends running, but sometime tells me that the appeal of James Cameron’s movie might actually be wider over the long run in terms of attracting an older and less gender-specific audience. I could be easily be wrong about that but, considering how excellently the film has been holding up to now, even a relatively precipitous post-holiday drop still seems to promise another very hefty payday for Cameron’s epic spectacular.

Family appeal should never be underestimated at the movies. However, I have to admit that I’m a bit stymied by the degree of success of Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.” It’s just that I can’t imagine adults wanting to see it. Still, the movie came in third in a photofinish with Warners’ “Sherlock Holmes” last week (both made $35-36 million), and both movies apparently seem set for a similar repeat. Personally, though I wouldn’t be surprised if either film experienced a bigger than expected post-holiday drop. I found the opening hour of “Holmes” pretty dull stuff, despite a lot of running around and mucking about and it’s not like moviegoers don’t have some interesting options this weekend.

Indeed, unusually for the first post-holiday weekend of the New Year, we have two rather solid-looking entertainments on tap. Hopes are reasonably high for “Daybreakers,” to be a strong #4 for Lionsgate. It appears to be a clever, horror/sci-fi/action/satiric variation on an old Monty Python sketch, in which a world dominated by vampires  must deal with dwindling supply of delectably sanguinary humans. It’s an intriguing enough conceit to draw my attention despite the film probably having too much gore for my taste and having almost certainly way too much of leaden star Ethan Hawke for my preference. Still, a second billed Willem Dafoe can go a long way toward fixing that and critics are reasonably, though not ridiculously, positive, as in type O. Top critics are a leaning a hair negative, also as in type O, though it definitely has its fans.

Finally, there’s something about “Youth in Revolt” which, despite the fact that most people, including most critics, seems to like it well enough, makes people somewhat downplay its commercial possiblities — despite being part of the ever-popular genre once dubbed by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel as “the horny teenager movie.” The plot is also a variation on Woody Allen’s “Play It Again, Sam” (a horny adult movie and stage play), which certainly worked well in its day and has more than little appeal to the nerd within all of us. Certainly, director Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl,” “Chuck and Buck”) has a low key comic style that may not spell blockbuster though being based on a popular series of novels won’t hurt, I suppose.

Another side of Cera In any case, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Michael Cera‘s box office appeal even if he’s inevitably been the subject of something of a backlash from those who argue he’s a one-comic-trick pony, though playing a dual role as his dangerously roguish alter ego might help there. Also, Cera’s memorably named costar, Portia Doubleday, is generating her own interest. That can’t hurt. The Weinstein Company could certainly use a bit of commercial help, right now. DiOrio is calling for the film to just break double-digits, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a surprise, especially given the lack of youth-friendly films and actually funny comedies right now.

  

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This Tuesday in TV-DVD – Oct. 27, 2009

You’re familiar with Jason’s “Blu Tuesday” column? Well, given how many TV-DVD sets continue to hit the market on a weekly basis, it occurred to me that it might not be such a bad idea to do a regular round-up of the highlights of what the TV geeks out there…and, obviously, I count myself among their number…can look forward to finding on store shelves on a given week. And, thus, I bring you…

This Tuesday in TV-DVD!

Yeah, I know: it’s not a great title. But at least you can’t claim there’s any false advertising.

Let’s get started, shall we?

* Battlestar Galactica: The Plan: I was able to talk with Dean Stockwell on Friday about this new flick, but at the time, I hadn’t seen it yet…and, y’know, you can’t bluff when you’re talking to Cavil, so it was a little embarrassing when I had to admit my ignorance. Fortunately for you, John Paulsen has since reviewed it for us, giving it four stars and providing this warning: “Newbies who are considering jumping into the series should not — I repeat SHOULD NOT — start with ‘The Plan,’ for three major reasons: 1) this was meant as an epilogue, not a prologue, 2) it could be extremely confusing, and 3) there are way too many secrets that would be revealed in one fell swoop. Don’t do it.” Listen to the man, I beg you.

* Monty Python: Almost the Truth – The Lawyer’s Cut: If saw my posting about my trip to NYC to attend the Python reunion on behalf of this film, then you already know I’m partial to this set. As such, you don’t really need to see my proper review of the full-length documentary on Bullz-Eye, but if it helps, I’ll just offer up the last line, in which I state, “If you’re looking for the no-holds-barred story of the group (but not their subsequent solo projects, which – aside from what they’re doing currently – are ignored), then this is definitely the place to go.” It’s also worth noting that there are a couple of other Python DVDs which have in no way coincidentally emerged this week, but while I’m sure “Monty Python: The Other British Invasion” and “The Best of Monty Python” have their merits (and, indeed, I believe the former will soon be reviewed by our own David Medsker), there’s no question that “Almost the Truth” is the absolute must-own of the bunch.

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What’s all this, then? – “Monty Python: Almost The Truth – The Lawyer’s Cut”

If you’ve been checking in on Premium Hollywood over the course of the past few days, then you’ve probably spotted our man Bob Westal’s tributes to the 40th anniversary of Monty Python, and if you haven’t…well, they’re here, here, and here. Python fans will likely have already seen Bob’s finely-chosen clips, but if they’re new to you and made you laugh, then you really ought to be tuning into IFC’s ongoing six-part documentary about the history of the Python organization: “Monty Python: Almost the Truth – The Lawyer’s Cut.” As evidenced by the fact that there’s an Amazon link in the midst of the title, the documentary is indeed being released onto DVD on Oct. 27th, but don’t let that stop you from checking out the remaining episodes as they air on IFC. Those who aren’t obsessive types might find it a bit more Python than they can stand, but it’s definitely the comedy equivalent of “The Beatles Anthology,” leaving no stone unturned from the group’s career, showing their origins, discussing their TV series, films, and infamous live performances, and offering insights from other comedians who’ve received inspiration from the gentlemen in the Flying Circus.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that there is actually a theatrical cut of “Almost the Truth,” which comes in at a decidedly tighter run time of under two hours…and I know this because I was in attendance at the Ziegfield Theater in New York City last week when it was screened. The best bit about it, though, was that the screening was attended by John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, not to mention the group’s female in residence, Carol Cleveland.

Oh, no, wait, that wasn’t the best bit. The real best bit was when, after the screening, the gentlemen took the stage – with Cleese carrying a cardboard stand-up of the late Graham Chapman under his arm – to answer questions which had been submitted by the audience, which you can experience for yourself below:

No, hang on: the actual, honest-to-Brian best bit was the fact that I actually got to meet the Pythons.

Well, mostly.

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Comparative religion, Python-style

Tonight we have one more pair of movie moments in honor of the 40th anniversary of Monty Python. This time, unbowed by the controversy stirred up by the allegedly sacrilegious “Life of Brian,” the Pythons take on Christianity, both Church of England and Roman Catholic style, in their final official work, “The Meaning of Life.” First, a look at prayer as it is most often offered.

And then a look at the most basic form of the right-to-life debate, with mild apologies to the interminable musical sequences of the dreadfully over-Oscared”Oliver” and assorted other badly bloated musicals. This is the sequence that deserved an award.

And, once more, we remind all Python lovers to check out Will Harris’s piece on Python solo projects at Bullz-Eye.com

  

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