Weekend box office: “Jackass 3D,” a big win for creative stupidity; “RED” a smaller win for chronological maturity

Back on Thursday night, we were talking about a possible $30 million or more for the latest from the usual gang of self-declared prankster-daredevil idiots, “Jackass 3D.” Well, one quick look at the Box Office Mojo’s chart will show you that it turned out to be an estimated $50 million. Considering the film only cost $20 million, that’s a pretty great start, even with a rather large possible second week attendance crash.

No doubt a lot of “Jackass”-generated cash for Paramount — a new record for this time period, though with constant inflation of movie tickets, even in a stagnant economy, I’m never too impressed by these constantly broken records — comes directly from the 3D bump. It seems clear that the format can still make a big difference for the right movie, and this is obviously a special case. Regular readers know I was born without the gene that makes people enjoy the feeling of being grossed out, but even I get that if seeing something, or someone, squirt out of an orifice in 2D is hilarious, then watching it/him practically fly into your lap in 3D must be completely hysterical. The only fly in the stinky ointment here is that inevitable R-rating. I can only imagine how many younger, mostly male, teenagers and tweens are trying to figure out how they can scam their way into a theater (and the correct glasses) or begging older relatives and/or paying neighborhood winos to take them.

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Slightly early midweek movie news

Just a few items that have been swirling about the movie media news/blogosphere…

Ving Rhames in * I know conservative Hollywood-bashers think all we film people both love and fear James Cameron and will leap to his defense with the ferocity of an intimidated momma grizzly on principle. They should take a look at the hub-bub the man has kicked up with some remarks in Vanity Fair that are perhaps best described as 3D snobbery run amok. To use his own terminology, he threw “Piranha 3D” under the bus — presumably with the resulting exploding innards heading directly at the audience’s face. I’m sure the fact that, as per Hollywood legend, Cameron was fired after a week directing “Piranha 2” decades ago, has nothing to do with this.

Anyhow, here’s the oft-quoted choice bit:

…that is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the 70s and 80s, like Friday the 13th 3-D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3-D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that’s not what’s happening now with 3-D. It is a renaissance—right now the biggest and the best films are being made in 3-D. Martin Scorsese is making a film in 3-D. Disney’s biggest film of the year—Tron: Legacy—is coming out in 3-D. So it’s a whole new ballgame.”

One of the first to get in on the attack — and with the ferocity of a poppa grizzly, I might add — was our pal (and “Piranha” guest reviewer) Dennis Cozzalio. Numerous others have joined Dennis in the good fight for low-budget 3D horror. Apparently not one bit concerned about being able to work in this town again, producer Mark Canton has joined the fray with a sharp counter-attack.

* John Woo directing a movie about the American trained Chinese WWII aces the Flying Tigers in Imax? Where do we send our $15.00? Remakes of his long-time favorite, Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samurai,” and his own international breakthrough hit, “The Killer”? Not my absolute first choice for Woo projects, but I’ll pay to see those too. I just hope he really has something new he wants to say with those stories.

* RIP director Alain Corneau.

* A truly intelligent man like Martin Scorsese knows it’s never time to stop learning. The Onion has the scoop.

*Via an e-mail from the elusive BKS: Cecil B. DeMille rewriting Billy Wilder? Sort of like James Cameron trying to rewrite Quentin Tarantino (and he would too, I bet), but anything is possible in this crazy town.

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Movie news for a no longer new week

A fair amount of stuff happening…

* Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts may star, and Stephen Daldry might direct, an adaptation of a 9/11 themed novel by Jonathan Safran Foer called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Lou Loumenick is, I’m sure, not the only one to hope the project never happens. The backlash against author Foer seems to be going full-steam. Since I”ve never read anything by him and missed the movie version of his “Everything is Illuminated,” I’m completely in the dark on this one.

* I mentioned in a tongue-in-cheek way on Sunday that, despite a fairly disappointing $10 million showing for “Piranha 3D” over the weekend, given the modest $24 million, I thought a sequel a possibility. I certainly didn’t expect this quick a turn-around, but there you go. Seems the foreign returns, combined with an okay take domestically on the famished fish tale were sufficient to justify another go-round at this price level.

* One person who I know for a fact to be delighted by the “Piranha” news is film blogger and devoted horror dad Dennis Cozzalio who reviewed — and kind of loved — the movie for the Bullz-Eye team this week, doing us all a solid as everyone in the staff was indisposed in one way or another. (My infamous gorephobia wasn’t helping any, either.) Coincidentally, Dennis’s excellent and already world-famous cinephile blog — Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule — got a little more world famous today through the attention from the lofty likes of Richard Brody of The New Yorker today. The topic, strangely enough, was the work of the late action director Sergio Leone. The infield fly rule will have to take care of itself for now.

* Oh, and if you reaction to the idea of a sequel to the aforementioned silly horror flick was “when pigs fly!” the great Japanese animator Hiyao Miyazaki has a planned sequel for you.

* It’s too sad to mention in this silly context, but it also seems wrong to ignore it and I don’t know how else to handle this. Sincere condolences to comic actor Martin Short and his family. Extremely tragic news regarding his wife.

* Apparently, unlike most /Film commenters, I actually do care that there’s may be a “Fantastic Four” reboot as they’ve always been my favorite Marvel characters, but I couldn’t even make it past the oh-so-thin first half-hour of the first movie. Why not reclaim a lost opportunity? Casting rumors, however, I never care about. Actual casting news gets really old sometimes.

* If movies are making you sick, it might not be just the content. Nah, it’s probably the content.

* The Playlist is correct. Pedro Almodovar’s new film is definitely high up on my list of highly anticipated movies for next year. It’s nice to see the Spanish director reteam with Antonio Banderas, who appeared in four of the director’s early successes starting with “Matador” in 1986 and wrapping with the controversial “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” in 1991.

However, they’ll forgive us for anticipating even more the next film from Winnipeg’s own resident eccentric cine-genius Guy Madden, which will feature Isabella Rosellini, Jason Patric, and Sir Simon Milligan himself, Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe. No insult to Mr. Patric, but his costars appear to be two of the coolest humans extant as far as we’re concerned here at PH. Ms. Rosellini gave a great interview to Will Harris some time back, and Mr. MacDonald has a terrific career-spanning chat over at the Onion which brings up the fact that, in drag, MacDonald has a small visual similarity to the luminous Ms. R.

* The end of one of modern journalism’s greatest hates? Sharon Waxman extends an olive branch to Nikki Finke. This could be interesting.

* Capone at AICN has a great interview with thinking geeks’ favorite Guillermo del Toro. A couple of items that were new to me, anyway: it’s far from a sure thing he’ll be directing “The Haunted Mansion” though he’s definitely producing and cowriting. Also, del Toro is now openly hoping that Peter Jackson will wind up as helming “The Hobbit” after all.

  

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Weekend box office: “The Expendables” hold their ground, otherwise things pretty much “Suck”

Sylvester Stallone in I guess all Americans should all be grateful to the very patriotic Sylvester Stallone and company for “The Expendables” for being #1 at the U.S. box office, even with a not-terribly leggy performance of $16.5 million in week 2, a 53% drop. That’s because him and his studly posse turned out to be only standing between us and the spectacle of “Vampires Suck” being the #1 movie in the U.S. of A.

Yes, I know I never have, and probably never will, see more than a minute or two of the parody. However, a very tiny minority of films and filmmakers are so bad and so devoid of even the minimum level of dramatic/comedic acumen that a minute or two is really all you need to see and, from its titles to its sub-idiot-mentality trailer, this is one of those rare films, unless my cine-spider senses totally have failed me.

Yet, the PG-13 “Twilight Saga” spoof, so rated because, if you’re over 13, you should be too old to find anything in its trailer remotely funny, did far better than it surely deserved. It seems the Twi-hards really wanted a spoof movie to call their own, so many went and the film earned an estimated $12.2 million, just barely edging out the roughly $12 million second weekend of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Somebody really blew an opportunity a few years back to rush a quickie adaptation of the Harvard Lampoon’s legendary “Bored of the Rings.”

Overall, this  weekend should be familiar to we Democrats in that it was a real circular firing squad, with too many new movies competing for attention and, I suspect, sort of canceling each other out. Nobody really did that well though some did better than you might assume.

The so-called “urban demos” appeared to turn out for the comedy “Lottery Ticket” which netted an estimated $11.1 million. Not at all bad considering it’s thrifty $17 million budget.

Lottery Ticket

As for nerd male demos, “Piranha 3D” fell squarely into an amount I’m going to just go ahead and name the “geek zone” with an estimated $10 million despite the boost from 3D ticket prices. Despite lots of gore, I’m guessing the movie just didn’t seem scary enough for today’s trauma-loving hardcore horror fans and naked breasts are available in many venues these days. Even so, since that movie cost $24 million, extremely modest especially considering the amount of effects involved, I wouldn’t rule out an even lower budget “Piranha 4D” or something. That might have been a disappointing number, nevertheless, but it still managed to beat two films some analysts apparently expected to do significantly better, the family comedy “Nanny McPhee Returns” and the relationship comedy, “The Switch.”

I’m running short on time this week and there’s a lot more interesting stuff going on. So, I’ll simply refer you the source for my numbers this and most weeks, the mighty Box Office Mojo weekly chart. Also, on the arthouse side, there was good news for the outstanding documentary “The Tillman Story” and liked-by-everyone-but-me folk tale “Get Low,” among many other interesting tidbits. For that, as always, I refer you to Indiewire’s detailed coverage.

  

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Box office preview: “The Expendables” likely to fend of a mob led by an ugly nanny, unfunny vampires, and flesh-loving fishies

The ExpendablesIt’s very late as I start this and with five new wide releases this week, I’m not going to even attempt to try and describe all of them in any detail. In fact, I’m going to try and make this post as short as possible. Basically, the story is that the prognosticators like Ben Fritz and jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree that last weekend’s megamacho winner, The Expendables, is the most likely winner of this week’s box office derby. That’s because none of the five movies is seen as being that strong.

Personally, as a geek who adores humorous, old school exploitation horror movies but who is also a gross-out negative gorephobe in no mood to have a bloody penis (!) thrown at me or throw-up thrown in my lap, I honestly don’t know whether to be happy or sad that the apparently rather effective “Piranha 3D” is not expected to do very well for the Weinstein Company. That’s despite what should be a successful formula of blood and breasts. It’s always worked before. The movie has been kept away from most critics but — bad sign — most of the ones who have seen it actually like it.

Expected to do better is the English family comedy sequel from Working Title, “Nanny McPhee Returns,” starring and written by the wondrous Emma Thompson as the anti-Poppins. The film, already a success overseas, is seen as having the best shot at kicking the arse of the ass-kicking “Expendables” septet, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Actually, I wouldn’t bet on anything because with so many movies out, it’s really just kind of a mess and anything can happen. I wouldn’t expect an upset, however, from the Warners “‘hood comedy” “Lottery Ticket” or the PG-13 Jason BatemanJennifer Aniston rom-com involving a “baster baby,” the aptly titled “The Switch” from possibly soon-to-be-moribund Miramax.

Jason Batemen and Jennifer Aniston in

On the other hand, there is another movie that’s actually expected to do rather well and, oh god, I have no goddamn clue why that should be. I mean, if I was eight years old, I might find the title of Fox’s spoof film “Vampires Suck” promising. However, there is an emerging and near universal consensus that, whatever stereotypes might be out there about us Jewish guys being as inherently funny as, say, Canadians, they are more than disapproved by the past work of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. These are the guys who foisted “Disaster Movie,” “Meet the Spartans” and “Date Movie” upon an unsuspecting world. IMDb users are not loving it too much either, although there are nine women 45 and over I really wonder about. Hmm. Both guys have to have mothers, right? That’s two. Grandmothers? Aunts? Great grandmothers? Second cousins?

“Suck” is, I’m sure, the worst reviewed major movie of our not-so-young year. Indeed, the alleged comedy was on the precipice of achieving a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes when a lone contrary opinion saved it and got it all the way to a mighty 3%. No, it wasn’t the nefarious and attention-hogging Armond White who found something to not hate in a spoof movie seemingly dripping in the not-funny, but newcomer Michael Ordona of the L.A. Times. Or at least Rotten Tomatoes says it was him. The actual review, at least here, has no name on it. Is somebody ashamed?

The really sad part of this story is that the suck movie was actually released on Wednesday and had a surprisingly okay first day. In theory, it could win the weekend, and that would really suck.

Stay tuned — though it’s looking like my Sunday box office report will likely be delayed to Monday. Can you stand the suspense that long? I know I can.

  

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