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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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 2

The first half of the second day of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour belonged solely to the Turner networks, who had been notably MIA from the summer tour. Although there were unconfirmed reports that they were not entirely thrilled with the dates that had been set for that tour, as most of their summer programming had already premiered by the time the tour kicked off, but during the opening remarks, we were assured that “we ask for time on the critics tour schedule when we can make it worth your while.” Fair enough, then.

After an “Adventure Time”-themed breakfast from Cartoon Network, Adult Swim brought on a plethora of panelists for “Childrens Hospital” (everyone in the above photo was in attendance, plus executive producers Jonathan Stern and David Wain), TNT followed with “Franklin & Bash,” “Falling Skies,” and “Men of a Certain Age,” then HLN and CNN wrapped things up by getting real and presenting the new talk shows from Dr. Drew Pinsky and Piers Morgan, respectively. Given that I ended up pulling one-on-one interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Breckin Meyer, Garcelle Beauvais, Ray Romano (and Jon Manfrellotti), Scott Bakula, and Henry Winkler, I am hard pressed to have an unkind word to say about the Turner experience…except, that is, the fact that I diligently and politely contacted publicists for both networks and studios in an effort to nail down interviews in advance but was still ultimately left to fly by the seat of my pants and spend the morning in catch-as-catch-can mode.

Our working lunch was brought to us by the unlikely tag-team of BET (“The Game,” “Let’s Stay Together”) and Playboy TV (“Brooklyn Kinda Love,” “Swing”), and from there it was on to the Discovery family of networks: Animal Planet (“Taking on Tyson,” a look into Mike Tyson’s love of pigeons…yes, seriously), Science Channel (“An Idiot Abroad,” with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and title character Karl Pilkington), Investigation Discovery (“The Injustice Files”), and the mothership, the Discovery Channel (“Gold Rush – Alaska” and “Kidnap & Rescue”).

By then, the excitement / cynicism in the room was palpable: it was time for the OWN Network presentations. We’d been promised a welcome from Oprah, but we didn’t get one. Instead, we got an introduction from network CEO Christina Norman. She’s a very nice lady, but it wasn’t quite the same, and she admitted as much when she came onstage after a lengthy series of clips featuring Ms. Winfrey, saying, “I know: after all that Oprah, I am a massive disappointment to all of you.” Her Majesty did indeed deign to participate in a Q&A with us, but not until after we sat through panels for “Your OWN Show” (10 finalists compete to get their own series on the network), “The Gayle King Show,” and “Our America with Lisa Ling.” After Oprah held court, using what my esteemed colleague Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun referred to as the George W. Bush Technique, which involved offering incredibly lengthy answers in order to minimize the number of questions actually asked.

After the Q&A came to a close (and you can believe that it only ended when Oprah wanted it to end), we were all invited to attend the evening event which, although it was ostensibly brought to us by the OWN Network, nonetheless featured attendees from shows throughout the Discovery family of networks. This resulted in my having close encounters with Mike Tyson, author James Ellroy, and…well, I didn’t actually get to talk to Oprah, but I did stand very close to her (along with Carson Kressley and Nancy O’Dell, hosts of “Your OWN Show”) and breathe the same air as Oprah, so my understanding is that I will now never get cancer…which is nice, of course, but, damn, I really could’ve used a new car.

I know, you wish I’d gotten a new car, too. Don’t be sad, though, as I’m already sad enough for both of us. Besides, I’d much rather you read my selections for the top 10 quotes of Day 2 and leave me wallowing in my own car-less misery. No, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine…just as long as you don’t forget to come back for my coverage of Day 3.

1. “The one note we did get (for ‘Children’s Hospital’), it was from Warner Brothers…I hesitate to even tell you this, but when we turned in our first script for the web series, Warner Brothers called us up and said, ‘Um, do you think you could cut the shot where we actually see the Twin Towers burning?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, do you know what? That’s a great note.’” – Rob Corddry, “Children’s Hospital” (Adult Swim)

2. “I actually improvise all my own parts. I don’t know why they hire writers. I enjoy ad-libbing greatly, because I…basically, I can’t remember what the hell I’m doing. What’s the show called?” – Malcolm McDowell, “Franklin & Bash” (TNT)

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Greetings to the New Show: “Men of a Certain Age”

As I settled in to watch TNT’s new series, “Men of a Certain Age,” starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula, I was struck by a thought: when’s the last time TV offered us an hour-long about guys that was just about guys? The last one that leaps immediately to my mind is ABC’s “Big Shots,” which came and went within the span of a few months in the fall of 2007, but that series springboarded off the premise that all four guys were CEOs. Not bad a concept, perhaps, but by upping the income bracket of the characters, you’re significantly cutting into the number of people who can relate to it. How about a series that’s just about average guys doing average guy things? When was the last time we got one of those?

Beats me, but we’ve got one now…and it’s good.

The press release for “Men of a Certain Age” kicks off with the classic John Lennon lyric, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” and although it’s been quoted plenty of times, it’s decidedly apropos for this series, which explores the lives of three guys in their 40s – one single, one married, one separated and likely headed for divorce – as they begin to examine who they are, how they got where they are, how the future looks, and what they can do to change it. If the acknowledgment that there are indeed things in their lives that need changing sounds like a spoiler, think about your own life and consider whether or not there’s anything you might like to change about. If there isn’t, then I envy you, but I can’t say the same, and I seriously doubt if I know anyone who can. At the very least, none of these men of a certain age can’t.

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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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The Best of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist

For a show that helped change Comedy Central from something other than a clearinghouse for “Saturday Night Live” reruns, “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist” hasn’t been particularly well-remembered by its corporate parents – aside from a quickly aborted series of season sets and an absurdly expensive, 13-DVD complete collection, fans of the show have had few options for reliving its 1995-99 run, even on a network that finds room for repeat airings of virtually everything it’s ever aired. That changes – sort of – with the 110-minute “The Best of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist,” but despite offering a decent cross-section of the series’ best bits (including appearances from Dave Chappelle, Conan O’Brien, Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and Janeane Garofalo), “Best Of” still manages to fall short of its title, thanks to the producers’ decision to trim the included episodes down to the bits that center on Katz’s sessions with his celebrity clients, forsaking the storylines that focused on supporting players Ben Katz (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and receptionist Laura (Laura Silverman). For people who just sort of vaguely remember “Katz,” this won’t be any great loss – but those people probably aren’t going to spend $20 on this DVD, no matter how many celebrity names appear on the front cover. Still, these clips – divided among 18 of Katz’s best-known “clients” – offer a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours, and the show’s deadpan humor is still just as effective as it was in the ‘90s. Of course, that squiggly animation is just as distracting, too – but again, if it bothered you in the first place, you wouldn’t even be reading this. All in all, not a bad stocking stuffer for someone who doesn’t rate the $100 it’ll cost you to get the complete set.

Click to buy “The Best of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist”

  

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