Movie news for a no longer new week

A few items of note…

* Back in 1939, Hollywood’s best-paid screenwriter, Preston Sturges, sold his screwball political satire, “The Great McGinty,” to Paramount for the grand sum of $10.00 on condition that he also be allowed to direct the movie. (I think he might have gotten a buck for the actual directing gig.) To this day, writers often take a pay cut for the privilege of becoming what Sturges used to call “a prince of the blood.”

Today, Mike Fleming reports that writer Dan Fogelman may be about to be paid in the neighborhood of $3 million to direct his first feature. “Imagine” is set to star Steve Carrell and will pair him with an older actor –presumably an aging superstar — who will be playing his extremely absentee rock musician dad who discovers a letter from John Lennon and decides to actually meet his now-middle-aged son for the first time.

lennon-rolls-royce-almeria

* My colleague Will Harris forwarded me a press release with some exciting news for serious movie fans and fans of serious movies. Screenwriter and director Paul Schrader, still best known as the writer of “Taxi Driver,” but also a fascinating director in his own right with credits ranging from “American Gigolo” and “Cat People,” to “Mishima” and “Auto Focus” is poised to come back with “The Jesuit.” The deal for closed at the ongoing American Film Market, still underway in Santa Monica, and is set to star Willem Dafoe, Michelle Rodriguez, and Paz Vega. It’s a revenge film and, between that title and the Calvinist-raised Schrader’s well known inclinations from past films, you can hope for more than just a bit of spirituality meshing with the blood, guts, and sexuality. The Playlist has more.

* The Playlist also passes along the news that Christopher Doyle, an Australian-born cinematographer who made his name doing absolutely stunning work in Hong Kong for Wong Kai-Wai and others, is going to be making his first film in 3D. That should be interesting.

* From “True Blood” werewolf to Superman? Is it a Great Dane? Is it a lycanthrope? No, it’s Joe Manganiello.

* Hot on the heels of producing “Paranormal Activity 2” and wrapping “Area 51” the very shrewd Oren Peli is going back to the roots of American horror with a film loosely based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe.

* Screenwriter John August responds to a less than intelligent quote attributed to Jessica Alba.

* No, Ahmet Zappa and Michael Wilson aren’t writing “Tiki Room: The Movie” but an Polynesian tale that was inspired by the Tiki Room. I don’t care, as long as the birds sing words and the flowers croon.

  

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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.

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Weekend box office: It’s paranormally delicious

I’ve got places to go and movies to see (and other stuff to write), so I’m going to keep it short and sweet today. And things were definitely sweet for Paramount this weekend.

http://screenrant.com/paranormal-activity-2-spoilers-vic-84039/

For starters, this week’s #1 is “Paranormal Activity 2.” It seems that prognosticators were avoiding specific numbers but this is a bit higher than expected with Anne Thompson describing the $41.5 million estimate figure as “jaw dropping.” Judging by good-to-meh reviews, the shot-on-video moc-reality-flick gave the audience what they wanted: more of the same, with maybe a bit of a new twist or two to keep things reasonably fresh. For some reason, Nikki Finke is reporting a slightly higher estimate of $43 million and also tripling the reporting budget from $1 to a whole $3 million. Is she the scoop lady or the wrongish lady this weekend? Box Office Mojo has the figure at $41.5 million also.

Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich hang out in This week’s #2 picture is last week’s #1 and it’s also from the former home of Bob Hope on Melrose in East Hollywood. (Line from obscure 1941 Cole Porter song, “Let’s Not Talk About Love”: “Let’s talk about drugs, let’s talk about dope; let’s try to picture Paramount minus Bob Hope.”) “Jackass 3D”  dropped a very-much par-for-the-youth-oriented-course 57.1% in its second week and reported a dandy $21.6 million for Paramount’s coffers. The elder-action comedy, “RED,” is in the #3 spot and looking leggy with a drop of 31.1% for $15 million in its second week.

Though it’s in the #4 spot, Clint Eastwood‘s “Hereafter,” written by Peter Morgan and starring Matt Damon, actually did better than expected according to La Finke. It earned an estimated $12 million and change and should hold reasonably well, given the strength of the names involved and some good reviews from prominent critics mixed with a lot of “meh” or worse from others.

  

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Box office preview: Can the ghostly demons of “Paranormal Activity 2” defeat the ghastly pranksters of “Jackass 3D”?

My Ouija board and jolly Carl DiOrio both agree that, yeah, Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity 2” has a very decent chance at unseating last weekend’s record setting debut of it’s “Jackass 3D.” While it may seem like an impossible-to-replicate one-off, apparently some care has been taken to avoid the kind of pitfalls that befell such unfortunate sequels as the non-mock-doc “Blair Witch 2.”

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Even more shockingly, 17 of the 21 Rotten Tomatoes critics that have so far reviewed this seemingly destined to (creatively) fail sequel are saying quite the opposite, praising the film for a reportedly clever set-up that ups the ante and even somehow manages the return of Katie Featherston from the original “Paranormal Activity.” Given they’re competing with themselves on two unconventional, low budget projects, it seems like a sure bet Paramount will have a very good weekend and there will be smiling faces on Melrose Monday morning. That’s especially so considering the $1 million reported budget for the horror sequel — which is huge compared to the $15,000 originally spent on Oren Peli’s smash, but tiny in a world where $20 million films are considered to be low-budget. The profits will come very quickly for this one.

“Jackass 3D” should suffer a significant drop as it’s the kind of movie that tends to blow it’s b.o. wad (boy, that sounds gross) on the first weekend. Still, given it’s $50 million opening weekend, that means that “Paranormal Activity 2” will have to get something well over $20 million to top it, assuming the drop isn’t truly catastrophic. A photo-finish — or in this case a creepy security camera finish — is far from impossible.

Matt Damon seeks out the Also dealing with otherworldly matters is Clint Eastwood‘s “Hereafter” from, as always, Warner Brothers. With Matt Damon leading an ensemble cast in another multi-story drama, the film is expanding from a very limited run last weekend to a wide 2000+ theater release. In a bit of critical topsy-turvy, the movie is not getting anyway near the critical goodwill of this week’s quickie horror sequel. It’s dividing reviewers, with “top critics” from major publications being significantly more friendly to the film. A good example would be Roger Ebert, whose written quite skeptically on his blog about an afterlife, a topic that’s he’s obviously been forced to deal with in the most personal way by real-life events. His conclusion about Eastwood’s movie, written by Peter Morgan of “The Queen” and the hugely underrated, “The Damned United,” are almost opposite to our own Jason Zingale and he’s given the film an outright rave review.

Things movie-wise are otherwise slow, with most of the activity this week in limited releases being in expanding films that have already been out for awhile. Among the movies adding scores of theaters nationwide are the very hot documentaries and meh-ish reviewed drama with a whiff of made-for-basic-cable to it, “Conviction.”

Sam Rockwel and Hillary Swank have

  

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It’s October and that must mean…

There’ll be days when you forget there are genres other than horror over these next 31 days. Naturally, we kick things off with inevitable “Paranormal Activity 2” trailer, attempting to repeat the unrepeatable.

I really don’t know how having a family being terrorized by the scary whatsit from “Paranormal Activity” will be enough to not make this feel like the quickie retread it undeniably is, even if it’s brilliant, but anything is possible. Anyhow, original writer and director Oren Pelli’s house may still be the star of the movie, but he’s only on board as a producer this time. Smart guy, I’d say. Let someone else do the impossible.

H/t /Film.

  

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