“Despicable Me”: the bad guy wins big, but it’s a weekend full of winners.

Despicable Me

Complaints about summer box have evaporated with the release of well-marketed movies that people seem to actually like. Weird. Leading the pack is the PG-rated animated family comedy, “Despicable Me,” which starring voice Steve Carell has been madly promoting everywhere. The zany villain-centric tale has also benefited, as per Anthony D’Alessandro, from the usual cross-promotional synergies which are as diabolical yet effective as the words are annoying to write/read.

The 3-D animation nearly doubled the already healthy amounts that I mentioned Friday and scored a weekend estimate of over $60.1 million today according to Box Office Mojo. It’s a much needed break for troubled Universal which is launching a new animation division with the film from two French first-time feature directors.

Coming in at #2 was a quite decent second weekend for Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” The PG-13 rated female tween-teen-young-adult attracting flick suffered an average drop of about 48% and brought home about $33.4 million worth of estimated bacon.

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga in The blood quotient rises considerably for the third genre flick in this week’s lineup, “Predators.” The action-horror pic, which according Jason Zingale, contains an unlucky character who is literally filleted, is apparently being greeted as a bloody good time for action/horror/creature-feature fans and brought in $25.3 million, just a tad higher than the higher end of expectations. That’s especially good considering the remarkably low budget by current action-film standards, $39 million, thanks to the cost-cutting genius of producer Robert Rodriguez and, one assumes, the efficient work of director Nimrod Antal.

(Some of us geeks will remember the praise Joss Whedon generated from making his space-action flick, “Serenity” for $40 million — and shooting the movie entirely in the greater Los Angeles area — back in 2005. Us “Firefly” fans would have been a whole lot happpier with $25 million  than the very disappointing $10 million it’s first weekend actually generated. Damn you people for thinking the movie had something to do with spas or adult diapers.)

Following close behind is the latest leggy smash from Pixar/Disney. “Toy Story 3” generated $22 million in its fourth week, having already earned $140 million over its admittedly enormous (but no longer unusually large) budget of $200 million. I’m sure a lot of that is largely probably due to one of the highest paid voice casts in entertainment history, considering not only the status of Tom Hanks and, to a vastly lesser extent, Tim Allen, but also the enormous success of the prior films. Also, this level of CGI animation appears to be a pricey proposition, still.

Last week’s very successful #2 film, the critically-loathed and C Cinemascore family-action pic, “The Last Airbender” dropped 57% in its second week to this week’s #5 spot. That is actually a fairly typical, though not great, drop for a genre film. Still, with a $150 million budget, critical nightmares of this TV-animation adaptation becoming a long-running live-action film series may remain the stuff of dreams.

Meanwhile, expectations are also being exceeded in limited release. “The Kids are Alright” got the best per-screen average not only of the week but of the year with a whopping per screen of over $72,000 on seven screens. Also opening this week in a very large for limited 110 theater release was the second film of Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which is quickly emerging as something of an international Harry Potter phenom for over-educated grown-ups. “The Girl Who Played with Fire” made it to the #11 spot with $965,000 estimated despite muted reviews. “Cyrus” continues to do very well, also.

John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and Jonah Hill as

There’s more. As usual, the details as compiled by Peter Knegt are over at Indiewire.

  

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It’s a villain vs. vampires, and some predators vs. an airbender

Things are crazy for me this weekend, so forgive me if I cross the line between succinct and downright terse, and I make no typo-free or anti-cliche guarantee either. Even so, this is an unusually interesting box office weekend, though inevitably a far less lucrative one than last weekend’s holiday free-for-all.

The major new entry that just might hit the #1 spot is the PG-rated 3-D animated comedy, “Despicable Me.” Though not every film geek loves this movie about a James Bond-style super-baddie redeemed by instant parenthood — veteran animation critic Charles Solomon was particularly cool to it on the L.A. area public radio show, FilmWeek — it’s being noted for having a bit of a more of a Looney Tunes/Spy vs. Spy vibe than your typical family animation and is getting solidly good reviews.  Indeed, the only thing that looks bad about this film is that it’s come out only two weeks after all-but-univerally praised and hugely successful “Toy Story 3,” but then Pixar exists in a world of its own anyhow, where a perfectly entertaining little movie like “Cars” somehow becomes the “bad” one.

Jolly Carl DiOrio at THR is predicting a $30-35 million weekend. Since “Despicable Me, helmed by two first time French directors, is from a new animation division from beleaguered Universal, every little of good luck is badly needed right now. Jolly Carl says that all the suspense will be over the holding power of last week’s huge winner, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” which has already passed the $200 million mark. It’s all up to the Twi-hards now.

The other major new release is “Predators.” Produced by Robert Rodriguez and directed by Nimrod Antal, it’s an attempt to revivify the old action/monster franchise with a straight-forward multi-star action plot largely lifted from one of the most frequently borrowed of all horror/suspense premises, “The Most Dangerous Game,” which even spawned an episode of “Gilligan’s Island.” This version has been getting relatively good reviews for a movie which is decidedly not critic’s bait and it appears to be very much in the spirit of the effective, if not wildly brilliant, original. It’s Rotten Tomatoes stock has lowered considerably over the last 24 hours or so, however.

Preying on “Predators” is the widely unloved yet successful family action picture from M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount, “The Last Airbender.” This weekend will be an interesting test to see if there’s any effect from all that critical hate and a lowish Cinemascore result which has to have translated into some poor word of mouth, at least among adults. In any case, “Predators” should almost certainly emerge victorious in terms of profits considering that the frugal and innovative Rodriguez has kept the budget to an extremely reasonable $38 million — a minuscule budget for an effects-heavy action film based on long-running franchise. The production budget of “Airbender,” we are told is nearly four times as much. Jolly Carl says the R-rated action-monster picture should earn $20-25 million.

On the limited release front, the movie getting all the attention this week is the highly lauded dramatic comedy from Focus Features with a title borrowed from the Who, “The Kids Are Alright.” Even considering the no-longer-terribly-edgy subject matter (gay women raising children), this movie stars two of the best and most famous actresses of our day in Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, it’s a little sad this is considered a “small” film, but then I keep writing stuff like that.  Welcome to 2010.

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Armored

Most people will take one look at Nimród Antal’s “Armored” and be immediately tempted to write it off as the kind of B-movie action thriller that you’d only watch if you were stuck home alone on a weekend. It really isn’t that bad, but with all the talent that’s involved, it should have been a whole lot better. Columbus Short stars as Ty Hackett, a decorated war hero who returns home to take care of his younger brother after their parents pass away. Although his godfather, Mike (Matt Dillon), gets him a job working alongside him as a security guard for an armored truck service, Ty still struggles to make ends meet. Desperate to get some quick cash before he loses his house to the bank, Ty begrudgingly agrees to join Mike and their co-workers in a plot to steal the $42 million they’re transporting and make it look like a robbery.

After all, it’s a foolproof plan with no “bad guys.” At least, that’s what everyone thinks until a nosey bum is accidentally killed in the process and Ty locks himself inside the truck with half of the payload. With the clock ticking down to their scheduled check-in with headquarters, Mike and his team get to work on removing the door, only for a meddlesome cop (Milo Ventimiglia) to get in the way. The further along the movie gets, the more ridiculous it becomes, with a series of preventable plot holes riddling the story like a piece of Swiss cheese. The film’s biggest crime, however, is its misuse of the cast. You’d think Antal would want to make the most of actors like Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, and even Skeet Ulrich, and yet each one is barely given more than a few lines. Had they played a bigger role in the movie, “Armored” might have been more entertaining, but as it stands, it’s something you’ll likely forget the minute it’s over.

Click to buy “Armored”

  

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“Predators” trailer

The buzz has been building on this new iteration of the old sci-fi action flick. This time producer-co-writer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal add an impressive cast and a healthy portion of “The Dirty Dozen” and a dash of “The Most Dangerous Game” to the monster mash. Could be okay — assuming any actual attention was paid to the screenplay.

H/t Den of Geek.

  

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Another touchdown for “The Blind Side”

First of all, my apologies for the pedestrian football metaphor in my headline tonight, but all the good ones have already been taken. Add to that the fact that, with my knowledge of sports, you’re likely to end up with “‘The Blind Side‘ hits a grand slam'” or “‘The Blind Side’ scores a 3-pointer.”

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Be that as it may, the up-beat social issue/sports drama starring Sandra Bullock did indeed do extremely well this week. Taking a look at the Box Office Mojo chart, the $29 million film earned a very nice estimated $20.4 million for Warners and Alcon Entertainment in its second weekend and has so far earned a really terrific total amounting to roughly $129,264,00 so far.

As a comparison, my favorite movie of the year (that I’ve seen…I’m way, way behind), “Inglourious Basterds,” was considered quite the success. With a $70 million budget, after 16 weeks it has earned $120,467,000 for Harvey and Bob Weinstein. “2012” cost $200 million to make, a rather obscene sum that was unthinkable not so long ago, and in four weeks in wide release has earned a mere $148,787,000. I haven’t seen “The Blind Side,” but it just makes me happy that a modest movie about people is proving, I think, to be significantly more profitable than at least one pretty obviously bloated spectacle.

As for that other movie about teen vampires, werewolves, and waifs, B.O. Mojo’s Brandon Grey is here to tell us that “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” dropped another 63% this week. However, it’s opening week take was so stunning that meant it still took in a respectable estimated $15.7 million for Summit. It’s total domestic bankroll at this point is about $255.6 million and, as per Variety‘s Pamela McClintock, the worldwide total for “New Moon” is $570.1 so far. All that, with a budget of only about $50 million for a fantasy film. The “Twilight” films might not be seen by anyone as great cinema, but they are pretty awesome business.

Some bad guy in For you schadenfreude fanatics, Nikki Finke reminds us that both “The Blind Side” and the “Twilight” franchise were placed into turnaround by Fox and Paramount respectively. However, it’s always possible that those other studios would have found a way to mess up those pictures or their marketing, so who knows how things would have turned out with different studios?  In any case, no one wins all the time.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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