More Boris K.

I’m not quite sure I did the great Boris Karloff justice with the clip I selected earlier this evening. Below, therefore, I’m putting some later career highlights of the great character actor who managed to play some of the nastiest monsters and villains of his era in innumerable films while also being considered one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. (Apparently that little girl he threw in the lake in “Bride of Frankenstein” couldn’t get enough of him, even in full monster make-up.)

First, some of Karloff’s very cool introductory remarks from Mario Bava’s multistory horror flick, “Black Sabbath” — which not only gave Ozzy Osbourne’s seminal heavy metal its name but also was reportedly part of the inspiration, structurally at least, for “Pulp Fiction.”

More videos after the flip!

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Tyler Perry can do well all by himself

Tyler Perry in "I Can Do Bad All By Myself"

Tyler Perry’s latest for Lionsgate, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” which once again features his crazed cross-gender alter-ego, Madea, over-performed its expectations by a few million and nabbed the weekend’s top box office spot with an estimated $24 or 25 million. The reason for the discrepancy, by the way, is that it appears that the numbers Nikki Finke nabbed late last night are differing slightly from those being offered by Variety and THR.

Finke is characteristically spinning the gross as a negative for Perry, since his last film made $41 million on its opening run. However, that was “Madea Goes to Jail.” If there’s one thing we’ve learned about film marketing in the current climate in recent years, having a title that explains your premise never hurts. Just ask “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Of course, that’s not the whole story — just ask “Snakes on a Plane.”

Considering that this film is actually getting okay reviews (58% “fresh” on the RT Meter as of this moment) from the critics who’ve sprung for a film bucks to see the movie this weekend, it seems that Perry is offering a least a modicum of story-and-music based entertainment. Low expectations may also be helping. The good news for him is that it seems to be pleasing his large, predominantly African-American and female, fan base — ensuring that his modestly budgeted films remain profitable. I wonder if Lionsgate is reevaluating its decision not to screen “I Can Do Bad” in advance; they actually might have found some decent quotes to help pull in some newbies. Tyler recently signed a deal to make a film of the 1975 poetry-based Broadway sensation by Ntozake Shange, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” Is critical respect of some sort in his future?

9With an estimated $15.2-$15.5 for Focus Features over its first five days and an on-track $10.9 million for the weekend, “9” seems to have found its audience. As I recounted last time, it’s only the eighth movie to be so numerically named, if you don’t count the original short film that launched it. (The true no. 9 will be Rob Marshall’s upcoming film of the Broadway musical “Nine.”) Now, I don’t how I missed this before, but the computer animated dystopian tale from newcomer Shane Acker was actually released on Wednesday of last week. That was not simply to get a jump on the competition, but to milk the fact that it was September 9, 2009 — i.e., 09/09/09. I guess the numerical mojo didn’t hurt.

Coming up in the #3 spot was neither of the two remaining major theatrical releases, but…drum roll…”Inglourious Basterds” once again proving wrong those who assumed that a subtitles and cinephilia heavy flick would ward-off rank-and-file filmgoers. At roughly an estimated $6.5 million in its fourth week for the Weinstein Company, Quentin Tarantino‘s latest has accumulated about $104 million so far, which I think is about double what some insiders expected from it. It seems fairly certain now that, with the benefit of at least a few Oscar nominations, it’s going to beat the $108 million take of “Pulp Fiction,” though perhaps not adjusted for inflation.  I can’t wait to see what Tarantino’s next step will be.

The critically dissed Kate Beckinsale “Whiteout” — which Fox tried to pass off as sci-fi horror in the tradition of “The Thing” but is really more of an action-thriller/whodunit — and Summit’s Heathery actual horror/slasher remake, “Sorority Row,” went down to an ignominious, youth-audience splitting, defeat. Each film made just over an estimated $5 million. The real horror film (i.e., “Row”) did slightly better than the fake one set in Alaska, but they were both unable to beat even the second week of the fourth-place “All About Steve,” and came in at the sixth and seventh spot on their opening week. Ouch.

  

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Holdovers nail Labor Day audiences

final_destination4_7

Sorry, I couldn’t not use the image above, since it graphically demonstrates what happens when the studios release a trio of unexciting-to-detested entries into a Labor Day market full of strong, and strongly violent, competition. It starts with this week’s b.o. winner. It might not be anything resembling a critical darling, but “The Final Destination” boasts the power of gimmicky horror added to the additional gimmick of 3-D, offering some pretty easy to sell ghoulish fun to audiences, who bought it to tune of an estimated $15.4 million over the long weekend.

Brad Pitt contemplates his masterpiece.And this year’s cinephile sensation is also a hit with audiences. “Inglourious Basterds” held beautifully in its third weekend and only came in a few points below its “Final” competition with an estimated $15.1 million. Word of mouth, or tweet, or whatever is obviously working in the long-awaited WWII-flick’s favor — as may be the fact that every film geek in the world is probably going to see it at least twice, if not thrice.

Variety‘s Pamela McClintock also reports that “Basterds” actually won the day on Sunday. She also mentions that with a domestic “cume” of $95.2 million, the wartime fantasia is now Tarantino’s second biggest earner after “Pulp Fiction,” which made just below $108 million back in 1994. Adjusted for inflation, that number may still be hard — though not impossible — to beat. Not adjusted for inflation is looking easier all the time to me. When you consider the near absolute certainty of at least two or three Oscar nominations (quite possibly several more at this point), I’m not sure when this thing stops earning signficant money. Also, THR reports “Basterds” topping the international charts in a slow overseas weekend.

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Eric Stoltz is, apparently, a muppet

Since every fourth item these days seems to be about the new, boldly misspelled Tarantino film, let’s look backwards and sideways with a very silly Thursday morning movie moment.

  

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Gospel According to Al Green

Al Green’s angelically seductive voice is unequaled in R&B, and perhaps all of popular music, and the hits he made with legendary producer Willie Mitchell include some of the most evocative songwriting of the early seventies. He might have reached the same heights of mass acclaim as such R&B contemporaries as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson were it not for a disturbing incident in which an obsessed girlfriend badly scalded him with boiling grits and then committed suicide. Within a few years, the singer became the Reverend Al Green, bought his own church, and for a time abandoned secular pop music entirely.

This fascinating 1984 documentary details the period in which Green became a deliberately obscure figure, allowing the singer to tell his own story in addition to performing some astonishingly good gospel and also preaching at his Memphis Full Gospel Tabernacle. He even deigns to break his own no-secular-music rule and performs a transcendent version of his love song supreme, “Let’s Stay Together” – a performance strong enough to almost make us forget “Pulp Fiction” and that bandage on the back of Ving Rhames neck. Director Robert Mugge’s film captures Green at his musical best – still only in his late thirties and absolutely at the top of his game. A must for fans of both classic soul and gospel music, “Gospel According to Al Green” reveals a conflicted, slightly eccentric, but always utterly sincere performer, while presenting an awe-inspiring reminder of the musical and emotional power of the African-American church.

Click to buy “Gospel According to Al Green”

  

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