Box Office Preview: In the Cold Winter between two Megahits, only an Ice Age can Survive

Ice Age: Continental Drift

With “The Amazing Spider-Man” eating up more than its fair share of moviegoers (for some reason) and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” coming out next Friday (oh, and new “Breaking Bad” on Sunday), we’re stuck in a bit of an awkward week. Studios didn’t want to compete with these sure to be giants, so the only movies coming out will be those with distinctly different demographics. This week, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” fits the bill, and, well, that’s all there is, there isn’t any more.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the newest Ice Age film, the fourth in the series. Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary, who have been around since the first film, will reprise their roles as Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger, respectively. Do you really want to hear about the “plot”? Alright, here it is:

Scrat’s nutty pursuit of the cursed acorn, which he’s been after since the dawn of time, has world-changing consequences – a continental cataclysm that triggers the greatest adventure of all for Manny, Diego and Sid. In the wake of these upheavals, Sid reunites with his cantankerous Granny, and the herd encounters a ragtag menagerie of seafaring pirates determined to stop them from returning home.

Currently at a 51 percent on the Tomatometer, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” is exactly what it seems to be: a movie that will get the kids to stop screaming for a few hours, without really breaking any new ground for the series, and offering what little apologies and in-jokes it can for the adults along for the ride. Oh, and if the first three movies are any indication, it’ll probably drag in over $150 million while it’s at it. The first film, which was the weakest financially in the series so far, still hauled in over $176 million at the domestic box office. The more recent releases each grossed over $195 million.

Perhaps the only interesting thing about the film is the sheer number of recognizable names on that cast list. Along with the big three there’s Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage (who I’m very disappointed in, then again, get your golden dragons Tyrion, you’ve earned it), Wanda Sykes, Aziz Ansari, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and even Sir Patrick Stewart.

Save your money for Batman, people.

  

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Weekend box office: “Iron Man 2” holds on in U.S., but “Robin Hood” makes out like a bandit abroad

Seeing as we have two action movies in contention this week, I’ll cut to the chase. Marvel and Paramount’s “Iron Man 2,” as was universally expected back before the weekend started, easily held on to its #1 spot at the box office. Ir scored a weekend estimate of $53 million that nevertheless included a somewhat higher than average drop of over 58%, indicating that the movie, as I imagined, isn’t quite wowing filmgoers the way the first movie in the franchise did.

This week’s big debut, “Robin Hood” has generally received a decidedly mixed reaction from, as far as I can tell, everyone who sees. It came in slightly below expectations at an estimate of roughly $37.1 million for Universal. (Earlier, the box office gurus were talking about figures in the range of $40-50 million.) Nevertheless, though the reaction be “meh,” not all the news for brave Sir Robin is mediocre. Indeed, THR this morning trumpeted a take of $74 million from just under 6,944 screens across the globe, making it the world’s #1 movie.

Russell Crowe is, I guess, It’s been a long, long time since my stint in an International Sales wing of a smallish film company, but it appears that, then as now, the combination of a really well-known star like Russell Crowe, action, and a strong (at least in theory) storyline remains the formula for success in non-English-speaking territories. I’m sure this news is music to the ears of the suits of recently bad luck/bad decision prone Universal.

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Can “Robin Hood” steal some of the shine off “Iron Man 2”?

Well, maybe just a little, seems to be the collective answer for this coming movie weekend. Both Daniel Frankel of the Wrap and THR‘s ever jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree that those mysterious tracking figures point to a strong, if not really earth-shattering, performance for this “secret origin” tale of the quasi-mythological hero, “Robin Hood.”

Russel Crowe is

The film reteams director Ridley Scott for the fifth time with today’s ultimate A-list macho man, Russell Crowe, but the reception will not be that of a “Gladiator.” The problem, I think, is that there’s another general consensus developing about the film amidst the very mixed reviews: it’s just not a whole lot of fun.

Our own Will Harris, in his 2.5 out of 5 star review, admits the film looks terrific but also that it feels completely unnecessary. Roger Ebert is even more pointed. After opening up his review about the slow death of innocence and joy in movies — something we’ll all forget about the next time Pixar releases something — and remembering great Robins of yore, he moves in for the rhetorical kill:

Have we grown weary of the delightful aspects of the Robin Hood legend? Is witty dialogue no longer permitted? Are Robin and Marion no longer allowed to engage in a spirited flirtation? Must their relationship seem like high-level sexual negotiations? How many people need to be covered in boiling oil for Robin Hood’s story to be told these days? How many parents will be misled by the film’s PG-13 rating? Must children go directly from animated dragons to skewering and decapitation, with no interval of cheerful storytelling?

Okay, so I think Roger is still a bit grumpy that he’s one of the few critics and filmgoers who wasn’t thoroughly charmed by “How to Train Your Dragon,” but his point is well taken. It really does seem at times like the movies have largely ceded real wit and fun to television, and his view of this “Robin Hood” really does mirror the reaction I’m hearing pretty much everywhere. Of course, it’s not like people listen to critics, but critics are, I once again remind you, people. The lack of emotional resonance could hamper the film’s chances of making a large profit over time, especially given its engorged $200 million budget. Universal is a studio badly in need of a home run. This may not be it.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow relate in In any case, at a projected $40-50 million or so, “Robin Hood” stands not much chance of beating “Iron Man 2” in it second weekend. For all the sense of mild-letdown the Marvel-Paramount superhero flick generated from the first film, it’s reviews and word-of-mouth are pretty darn solid. Even with a rather large possible 60 percent drop in attendance, given last weeks $128 million and change (a relatively steep decline from last weekend‘s estimate of $133.6 million), Tony Stark’s take is expected to be well north of brave and oh-so-gritty Sir Robin.

We two have two cannily counter-programmed PG-rated films aimed at girls and women coming out. “Letters to Juliet” features the very-much up-and-coming Amanda Seyfried, living legend Vanessa Redgrave, and some guys. Its reviews are south of “Robin Hood” — but not as much as you’d think, especially considering that there seems to be some confusion about whether or not it’s a comedy. The Box Office Mojo theater count informs us that it’s booked into 2,968 theaters and should earn between somewhere between about $14 and $18 million or so, based on what Frankel and DiOrio have guessed. This one has “female guilty pleasure” written on it to some degree, so it could do reasonably well for Summit Entertainment, given that it benefits from a reasonable $30 million budget. (Though even that figure sounds high to me for this kind of a movie.)

Just Wright” from Fox Searchlight might feature a sports backdrop and a somewhat more unconventional female romantic lead in the extremely talented Queen Latifah, working opposite rapper/actor Common and another living legend, Pam Grier. At heart, however, the film strikes in very similar territory in terms of genre, if not in terms of ethnicity and setting, to “Letters to Juliet” right down to it’s mother-daughter-day friendly PG rating.  It’s also only in 1,831 theaters as compared to over 3,500 for “Robin Hood” and nearly 4,400 for “Iron Man 2.” It’s expected to earn something approaching $10 million.

Just Wright Movie Trailer

  

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American Idol: gives back one contestant

They’ve done this before, right? On “Idol Gives Back” night, they say they are going to eliminate a contestant and then they say they can’t on a charity night, and eliminate two contestants the following week. But not last night. Last night after a heartwarming (and I’m sorry, most of the time, DRAGGING) 2.5 hour show, Ryan Seacrest announced that one of the contestants was going home…..in effect, they were “giving one contestant back,” right? At least that’s how I was looking at it.

Anyway, before we get to the results, here is a blazing fast summary of guest appearances and funny moments…

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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Easily the best of the “Ice Age” movies to date, though there is still room for improvement. The main characters of Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) are still bland as waffles, as are “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown” returning characters Ellie (Queen Latifah), Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). But the “Ice Age” gang gains one huge upgrade in the form of Buck (Simon Pegg) a daredevil weasel who also happens to be completely nuts, which of course wins Buck the instant affections of Crash and Eddie. They even worked dinosaurs into the mix without jumping the shark – they live in a secret world beneath the ground – though it did cause me to wonder how the other animals knew what they were, since they had never seen one before and presumably do not have history books. There is a hilarious tribute to ’90s action movies where Buck tries to save Manny and Diego from a meat-eating plant, and must choose between cutting the red root and the blue root. The Scrat subplot is still the best part of the movie, and is ramped up by a new love interest, the eyelash-batting Scratte. But the A-story is slowly but surely holding its own.

We cannot vouch for the 3D aspect of the movie, but considering the number of thrilling first-person chase sequences contained here, it appears they were quite generous with it. They were also quite generous with the extras, including every Scrat short film and a deluge of featurettes on drawing characters and coming up with the designs for Scratte and the dinosaurs. Why Fox decided not to screen this for us is a mystery, as the movie is quite good.

Click to buy “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”

  

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