“Carancho” meets Spiderman

I generally don’t like to do “first look” posts (the first still released from some putatively highly anticipated new flick). I only do two of these a day and, really, I just don’t give a flying whatever nearly all of the time. Stills are fine, but the ones they release early usually tell you next to nothing are nothing more than a way to try to ignite some buzz based on next to no information. However, I do post trailers extremely often if they’re interesting, even for movies I was barely aware of prior. They’re like stills, only 24 times a second. Today, because the trailer is genuinely enticing and I know at least some of you probably can’t wait to see Andrew Garfield as Spidey, I’ll do both.

First, of course, the trailer. In this case it’s for an Argentinian thriller which looks exciting and sexy — especially if you happen to be an ugly middle-aged guy. (H/t to Brian Clark at MovieLine.)

And now that Garfield/Spiderman picture — after the flip!

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Bond is coming back; Soderbergh promises he’ll retire

In 1962, a bouncing baby franchise was born when superspy assassin James Bond did in the evil “Dr. No.” Now middle aged and needing a bit of exercise to keep its financial heart pumping after nearly five decades of very hard living, the Bond machine survived the end of the Cold War that spawned it, only to be stalled by MGM’s financial morass. Some thought, “It’s a 22 movie run, more if you count a few non-canonical Bond flicks, give it a rest already.” Today, however, Nikki Finke has word that Bond 23 is officially going ahead with star Daniel Craig and the long-rumored Sam Mendes in tow as director. You’ll have your next serving of Bond with your Thanksgiving turkey in November of 2012, assuming nothing untowards happens in post-production.

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In 1963, a bouncing baby human being was born in Louisiana. 26 years later, director Steven Soderbergh personally gave the modern day independent film movement one of its biggest kickstarts with 1989’s “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” Now, he’s announcing officially that he’s packing it only two decades into a career that, at least in theory, could go another four or five.

Though Mike Fleming jokingly pre-accuses him of doing a Brett Favre, movie directors are not sports figures, and, to paraphrase Marcellus Wallace of “Pulp Fiction,” their asses really can age like a fine wine. John Huston, who led the kind of life that might have killed a lesser man in his forties, made one of his greatest films, “The Dead,” when he was pushing eighty and about to be dead himself. Old French New Waver Alain Resnais is scheduled to release a movie more or less to coincide with his 90th birthday, and Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira released “The Strange Case of Angelica” in 2010, the year of his 102 birthday. (He’s supposedly working on another.) Almost no one, except Matt Damon, seems to be taking Soderbergh seriously about this.

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You know what, I’m on board with both moves. James Bond has become far bigger than any one set of filmmakers and, like Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and Mickey Mouse, there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep on chugging along indefinitely in new incarnations. And, given how surprisingly good “Casino Royale” was, I’m willing to let the current James Bond team overcome the disappointment of “Quantum of Solace.” All I ask is for a little more of “From Russia with Love”-era Bond and a little less shaky-cam Jason Bourne.

As for Soderbergh, I’m a fan who admires the fact that he’s unafraid to take risks and make movies that, admittedly, sometimes kind of suck, but always in interesting ways. Re: his impending retirement, I’ve watched too many creators repeat themselves over the years to have anything but respect for his decision. I think it’s possible that we all have only so many stories to tell in a particular way and that, perhaps, when we feel we’re through telling them in one medium, maybe the thing to do is switch to another that might permit new stories to emerge. Later, if we return to the first medium, maybe we’ll then have a new story to tell, or at least an interesting new way to tell it. So, if Soderbergh just wants to spend his life painting, I say, “bless him.” If he gets the urge to start making movies again from time to time and unretires as many times as Frank Sinatra, that’ll be great too. The thing not to do is stagnate.

  

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Weekend box office: “Tron: Legacy” leads a slow weekend; “How Do You Know” when you’ve made an expensive bomb? Not hard this weekend.

It came in at the top spot without  breaking a sweat, but if Disney was expecting “Tron: Legacy” to turn a cult-hit 1982 science fiction concept masquerading as a movie into an instant mega-franchise, they made a problematic bet. On the other hand, while it doesn’t explain the miserable performance of the latest from James L. Brooks (“Broadcast News”), Nikki Finke points out that this is a weekend when an awful lot of people are busy traveling and shopping and movies tend to take a back-seat.

Tron: Legacy

So, that leaves it to the young fanboys to support something like “Tron.” They shelled out the money for those expensive 3D tickets and Anthony D’Alessandro says that 3D accounted for an unsurprising 82% of the tickets. This is not a movie you see for the story and characterization. The total estimated take for the Mouse House was $43.6 million according to Box Office Mojo, well short of the 50 million La Finke says they were hoping for. This includes a Friday morning 12:00 A.M. opening, by the way.

The #2 film this weekend was “Yogi Bear.” In its favor, it is a partially CGI animated family comedy. In its disfavor, it’s a cheap looking knock-off of a character that kids love and adults remember fondly — but rarely watch because, to an adult, those old Hanna-Barbara cartoons aren’t hugely funny. On the other hand, it’s always fun to say “pic-a-nic basket.” With unsurprisingly lousy reviews, the 3D film was able to get enough families in the door to earn an estimated $16.7 million for Warner Brothers.

In its second weekend, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” managed to keep its drop-off to 48.3% and earned an estimate of $12.4 million for Fox in the #3 spot. The $150 million film is benefiting from decent business overseas.

Going wide for the first time this week, “The Fighter” punched slightly above its weight and earned a very solid $12.2 million estimate. With a total so far of roughly $12.6 million, the award-contending David O. Russell crowd-pleaser has already won enough purses to get more than half its $25 million budget back. “Black Swan” which expanded much more modestly in terms of theater counts, also did extremely well with an estimated $8.3 million in the #7 spot, despite being in only about 1/3 as many theaters as most of its competition.

Jack Nicholson phones home in And then we get to “How Do You Know” — a movie I once had hopes for. Still, I knew something was up with word that it cost $120 million but, as I’ve joked before, couldn’t even afford to purchase the correct punctuation for its title. As Brooks is a more reliable Oscar nominee than a money maker and the movie is, after all, a romantic comedy and not an EFX showcase, this seemed weird. With poor reviews and no award nominations, this is a movie without a constituency other than whatever power the all-star cast led by Reese Witherspoon can muster. Jack Nicholson, in particular, is being accused of a phoned-in performance. At a salary of $12 million, that’s one expensive toll call.

  

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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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It’s your of end the week movie news non-filibuster

While Bernie Sanders did his thing on the floor of the senate today, Hollywood liberals, and a few conservatives too, we’re busy doing their thing so that the guys who owned all the studios would have all the more money to save from their big, big tax break. To wit…

* Robert Rodriguez and the other makers of  the modestly budgeted “Machete” got a nasty surprise from the Texas Film Commission, which appears to be reneging on $1.7 million in tax rebates. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, It has something to do with a law against providing the incentives to films portraying Texas and/or Texans negatively. Every film portrays people negatively. This reeks of political selectivity, probably related to the film’s deliberately nonpartisan lampooning of anti-immigrant hysteria and demagogic politicians. “Machete” goes out of its way to avoid naming the evil politician played by Robert De Niro as a member of either party, in fact.

If Texas doesn’t change it’s tune, and fast, I agree for once with the L.A. Times‘ Patrick Goldstein and seriously hope nobody from outside the state shoots a single foot of film in Texas until such time as the state seeks to elect non-mouthbreathers to statewide office. They have, indeed, fucked with the wrong Mexican.

Danny Trejo is

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