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Get ready for “Birdman”

“Birdman” is getting a ton of buzz with its all-star cast featuring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Amy Ryan. Check it out this weekend.

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Dream House

Months before its late-September release date, we received notification that “Dream House” would be screened in our area. And then, at the last minute, the screening was pulled. The screening for a movie that starred Daniel Craig, Rachael Weisz, and Naomi Watts…was pulled. That is not a good sign, to say the least. It speaks to a sudden lack of confidence in your product, and the studio has gone into damage control mode in order to preserve whatever box office potential it may still have.

Good call, as it turns out, though that’s not to say that “Dream House” didn’t have a wealth of promise. Will Atenton (Craig) quits his job to spend more time with his wife (Weisz) and kids while writing the Great American Novel, but almost as soon as he’s home, his family is threatened by a mysterious stalker. His neighbor Ann (Watts) is sympathetic, but she’s the only one. Once Will discovers that a mass murder took place in his house, he decides to find out more about the crime in question, only to discover that the trail leads directly back to him.

That’s a pretty damn good setup – the only question is where you go from there, and that is where “Dream House” loses its way. There are a myriad of paths the story could have taken, but damned if they didn’t take the simplest option available. Seriously, the explanation for why things went down the way they did is just head-slappingly dumb, and it kills us that we cannot explain why. Add just one more layer to the story, and this could be one of those “Jacob’s Ladder”-type movies where you never really know what is real and what is fantasy. Instead, they took the easy way out. Sometimes it’s better to keep it simple. This, however, is not one of those times, not when you begin the movie by pulling the wool over the audience’s eyes. If your movie is high-concept, then see it through to the very end.

Anyone who grew up watching M. Night Shyamalan movies – and are therefore always on the look for the hook or the twist – will not miss the clues in “Dream House,” which form a veritable trail of bread crumbs. Hopefully the three leads will make another movie down the road, because goodness knows that under better circumstances, they could create something special. (Universal 2012)

Click to buy Dream House from Amazon

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Weekend box office: “Megamind” rules the ‘plex, more or less

MegamindThe “divide and conquer” strategy for this weekend pretty much worked as planned. The cuddly supervillain-centric 3D animated comedy with an all-star voice cast from Paramount/Dreamworks “Megamind” underperformed slightly to come in at $47.65 million according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a couple million lower than the numbers bandied about earlier, but actually a few million above the opening of another Dreamworks Animation, “How To Train Your Dragon.” As Anthony D’Alessandro reminds us, that one had strong enough legs to carry it to a major success after an opening that was originally deemed very disappointing.

Next up was the heavily promoted Robert Downey, Jr./Zach Galifianakis vehicle, “Due Date.” The R-rated road comedy earned an estimated $33.5 million for Warner Brothers. It’ll be interesting to see if the lackluster reviews are reflected in less than awesome word of mouth and theatrical legs for the film. Nikki Finke reports that it got a decent B- from Cinemascore, but I remain eternally somewhat skeptical of those surveys.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis exchange bon mots in

The #3 film was Tyler Perry’s theatrical adaptation of a very non-Tyler Perry play, “For Colored Girls.” The heavy-duty drama earned true to Mr. Perry’s form with his traditional audience base, and generated an estimate of $20.5 million for Lionsgate. Say what you will about Mr. Perry, an adaptation of an acclaimed poetry-based play earning that kind of cash requires someone with his kind of populist sensibilities and appeal.

In the #4 spot, the age-spanning action-comedy, “RED,” continues to maintain its hold on the box office with an estimate of over $8.85 million for Summit. Last week’s Halloween #1, “Saw 3D,” had the expected big second weekend drop, plus a bit extra. It lost 63.6% for a Week 2 estimate of $8.2 million. “Paranormal Activity 2″ is also dropping, but less dramatically (55.8%). It earned an estimated $7.29 million for Paramount in its third week.

Among limited releases, the four theaters showing Danny Boyle’s much discussed James Franco near-one-man-show, “127 Hours,” showed that audiences were willing to pay an arm, if not a leg, to see the fact-based ordeal film and things look promising for a wider release. It endured a spectacular per-screen average of $66,500 for a total of $266,000. Less stratospheric, but still healthy, was the 46 theater debut of the fact-based political ordeal drama, “Fair Game,” featuring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts as Bush-era National Security Council analyst Joe Wilson and his wife, spy Valerie Plame, who was very illegally outed by members of the Bush Administration. (Their defense: it was an accident. Woops.) It earned a per-screen average north of $15,000 and a total of $700,000.

fair-game-watts-penn

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Trailer: “Fair Game”

With Fall starting it’s approach, it’s time for the award hopefuls to start showing their faces. And we start with a movie guaranteed to get the ideologues over at Breitbart-land (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re just lucky) into their usual state of apoplexy. Hey, it’s not the fault of liberals like me, or borderline radicals like Sean Penn, that more than one person extremely high up in the Bush II Administration pretty clearly engineered the outing of a CIA agent as an act of political revenge against her husband, directly breaking a law signed by the President’s father, Bush I, in the wake of the Phillip Agee affair.

Naomi Watts is, I think, probably the perfect person to play Plame. As young as she looks, she’s even about exactly the right age for the part as well (she’s five years younger than Plame). How often does that happen?  Doug Liman, whose father was a prosecutor in the similarly unresolved Reagan Administration Iran-Contra scandal, directs.

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Midweek movie news, the Cannes kick-off edition

With the super-hum0ngous Cannes Film Festival opening today — with Tim Burton heading the festival jury, btw –the movie news is in a kind of hyper-drive.  Also, it’s been a few days since I’ve done one of these newsy posts. So, you’ll have to excuse me as I merely skim the surface.

* Is it that no one’s writing books or plays anymore, or do we really need to keep making movies based on games? Tim Burton, it so happens, is the next to contemplate the matter. Will “MONSTERPOCALYPSE” be the first game-based film to screen at Cannes, or will that be “Checkers: the Movie”?

* Here your fix of Cannes-related glitz, and also details on the rather big film-making names. Meanwhile THR takes a moderately bullish look at the market-side of the event.

Read the rest of this entry »

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