Box Office Preview: ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Madagascar 3’

Prometheus

“Prometheus” is the story of a team of explorers who “discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth.” Which makes sense because I feel like I’ve been hearing about it since the dawn of man. This is one of my biggest problems with the Hollywood hype machine, even when a movie is (supposedly) good, I start to hate it before it even comes out simply because I’m sick to death of hearing about it. Anyway before I get too off topic, the rest of the synopsis is that the clue leads the explorers “on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”

If we read between the lines a bit, what we get is this: Ridley Scott (the man who gave us “Alien” and “Blade Runner” returns to sci-fi, which is probably a good thing. In fact, “Prometheus” was originally intended to be an “Alien” prequel. Luckily, that notion was abandoned, because prequels suck. Instead, Scott says the film shares “strands of “Alien’s” DNA” and takes place in the universe but creates and explores its own mythology.

Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof (of “Lost” fame) wrote the film, and its stars include Noomi Rapace (the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series), Michael Fassbender (the British dude who fucked up three in “Inglorious Basterds“), Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Idris Elba. “Prometheus” has been certified fresh and stands at a 74 on the Tomatometer, so check it out if your a fan of the genre or any of those involved.

Madagascar 3

It’s the second sequel to an animated children’s movie. It still stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith as a lion, zebra, giraffe, and hippopotamus, respectively. And they’re all still trying to return to blissful captivity in a New York zoo after being shipwrecked in Madagascar and a host of other misadventures. So if you’re the kind of person who a) thinks animated films are only for children or b) enjoys the unexpected at the theater, “Madagascar 3” isn’t for you, right? Let’s ask Bullz-eye’s David Medsker:

A culture change is clearly taking place at DreamWorks Animation. After spending years making films that made lots of money but had no soul, the studio slowly but surely began making smarter films and, for the first time ever, one of their films outclassed a Pixar movie released in the same year (“Kung Fu Panda 2” vs. “Cars 2”). The first two films in the “Madagascar” franchise were definitely products of the old regime; there was lots of busyness, but little to sink one’s teeth into. When grown-ups dismiss animated films as kid’s movies, it’s movies like “Madagascar” and its sequel that they’re referring to.

Aw, rats… But wait, there’s more:

Which is what makes “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” such a pleasant surprise. For starters, the movie is batshit crazy… It is so ridiculous that it becomes sublime.

See what I did there? A little preview switcheroo for ya. Medsker seems to believe there’s a changing of the guard going on over at Dreamworks, and the rest of the movie reviewing establishment seems to agree. “Madagascar 3” is at a 75 percent on the Tomatometer, and Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post (who gave the film three and a half out of four stars) wrote: “From time to time the improbable occurs: A sequel outdoes its original.”

I think my sheer hatred of all thinks sequel is giving me an ulcer, perhaps “Madagascar 3” will make me (and those like me) just a little less cynical. Alright, let’s not get crazy here, probably not, but Madagascar 3 just might be one of those exceptions that proves the rule.

  

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Box office preview: Will “Saw 3D” bloody “Paranormal Activity 2”?

I have no bloody idea, actually, because the entire box office prognostication community — all two members of it that I rely on, anyhow — seem to be taking a break. I know for a fact that both the L.A. Times‘ Ben Fritz and THR‘s ever jolly Carl Diorio are writing stuff, they’re just not venturing any guesses or passing along the usual tracking rumors about this coming weekend. I guess with only major new release, it just didn’t seem worth it. Mr. DiOrio did, however, write a piece yesterday, which is not visible on THR but is via Reuters, explaining why, beyond the fact of Halloween, there actually are a number of reasons why horror pictures tend to come out when the leaves turn orange and the breezes turn chilly. Interesting, but not what I need to get me out of this predicament.

Saw-3D-2-550x366

Indeed, I don’t even have any reviews of “Saw 3D” to mention, because we all know that critics can’t really help, and just might hurt, a picture like this. For you “Saw” fans, however, I can pass along some roundtable interviews our own Will Harris posted a bit earlier today as well as David Medsker’s Bullz-Eye compilation of the most beloved “Saw” series deaths and near-misses. Honestly, though, I’m at a loss, especially I’m too squeamish to have ever seen a single entry in the series.

Regardless, the gory horror tale will be facing some serious competition from the second week of the so-far over-performing ($40 million worth) non-gore driven scare follow-up, “Paranormal Activity 2.” On the other hand, there’s no particular reason to think it won’t suffer something like the typical horror-flick second week drop of 50% or over. That shouldn’t be too hard for the 3D sado-splatter film to beat, but you never know. We’ll see whether the ticket-price raising format can ameliorate the fatigue the “Saw” series has shown on past sequel go-rounds.

In terms of limited releases, we have the final film in the “Millennium Trilogy,” Swedish edition. “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” which isn’t overly exciting critics opening in 123 theaters according Box Office Mojo’s theater counts. Though an internationally huge franchise like this should, in theory, be critic-proof, this is the art-house trade we’re talking about and some might decide to wait for home video or, like me, who enjoyed the first film but haven’t read any of the books yet and skipped the last film, might decide to simply catch up with the books at some point instead. On the other hand, the even-growing fame of the “girl” herself, Noomi Rapace, might help things out a bit.

Also suffering the slings and arrows of often unimpressed critics is “Welcome to the Rileys” a festival drama starring James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, and Kristen Stewart. Directed by Jake Scott, son of Ridley, the film has generated a little attention but I fear that may be over now given its decidedly “meh” critical reception.

Doing a little better with critics, including my esteemed colleague Jason Zingale, is Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters,” a very unusual monster flick arriving just in time for the holiday. It’s generated a lot of online attention and you absolutely have to give it props for its visual power — accomplished on a truly miniscule budget by is special effects trained director — and for its good intentions in attempting a character driven romantic tale with, yes, actual monsters and some genuinely clever chilling moments. Still, like 37% of Rotten Tomatoes critics, I was kind of let down by it and I blame the fact that the film was made with only a story outline and no formal screenplay. On the other hand, it’s easily the most visually striking monster flick that I can think of not directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Whitney Able in

  

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A trailer double bill: “The Black Swan” and “The Red Shoes” and some movie news too, I guess (updated)

I’m miles from home, I’ve left my mouse at home, and the barristas where I am are annoying while talking about movies, which is extra annoying to me. Can’t they talk annoyingly about sports instead? Why am I here? I got here early to beat the traffic and am across the street from the New Beverly Theater where I’ll be frittering hours away doing something unspeaking geeky on the occasion of the birthday of a fellow film geek blogger.

So, there’s no time for discuss the more interesting than usual casting news that Idris Elba will be taking over the role of James Patterson’s Alex Cross in the upcoming series reboot, that January Jones will try something different from tantalizing and annoying “Mad Men” viewers as Betty Draper and will be taking over the role of Emma Frost in “X-Men: First Class” or that Noomi Rapace, who originated the role of Lisbeth Salender in the Swedish “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is about to be heavily promoted for an Oscar nomination and may be taking on some blockbuster roles in big time American flicks, except that I just did. Instead, I’m presenting the really terrific — and outstandingly creepy — trailer for “The Black Swan” which seems destined for the title of most unnerving ballet film of all time, which I guess is just what we should expect from Darren Aronofsky after all this time. 13 year-old Chloe Moretz has already endorsed it in my recent interview with her. [UPDATE: Anne Thompson has thrown some very cold water over the Nikki Finke/Noomi Rapace story. I’m sure readers of both blogs may be seeing more about this one.]

I think I’ve presented it before here, but what the heck, after the flip is the trailer for the rather strange and very ravishing classic film Aronofsky pretty much had to have been thinking about as he made his film. I hope Mr. Scorsese, whose directing her “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” guides young Ms. Moretz to “The Red Shoes” — I can’t imagine he wouldn’t, seeing as he’s said it’s his favorite movie.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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