Weekend box office: “Tron: Legacy” leads a slow weekend; “How Do You Know” when you’ve made an expensive bomb? Not hard this weekend.

It came in at the top spot without  breaking a sweat, but if Disney was expecting “Tron: Legacy” to turn a cult-hit 1982 science fiction concept masquerading as a movie into an instant mega-franchise, they made a problematic bet. On the other hand, while it doesn’t explain the miserable performance of the latest from James L. Brooks (“Broadcast News”), Nikki Finke points out that this is a weekend when an awful lot of people are busy traveling and shopping and movies tend to take a back-seat.

Tron: Legacy

So, that leaves it to the young fanboys to support something like “Tron.” They shelled out the money for those expensive 3D tickets and Anthony D’Alessandro says that 3D accounted for an unsurprising 82% of the tickets. This is not a movie you see for the story and characterization. The total estimated take for the Mouse House was $43.6 million according to Box Office Mojo, well short of the 50 million La Finke says they were hoping for. This includes a Friday morning 12:00 A.M. opening, by the way.

The #2 film this weekend was “Yogi Bear.” In its favor, it is a partially CGI animated family comedy. In its disfavor, it’s a cheap looking knock-off of a character that kids love and adults remember fondly — but rarely watch because, to an adult, those old Hanna-Barbara cartoons aren’t hugely funny. On the other hand, it’s always fun to say “pic-a-nic basket.” With unsurprisingly lousy reviews, the 3D film was able to get enough families in the door to earn an estimated $16.7 million for Warner Brothers.

In its second weekend, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” managed to keep its drop-off to 48.3% and earned an estimate of $12.4 million for Fox in the #3 spot. The $150 million film is benefiting from decent business overseas.

Going wide for the first time this week, “The Fighter” punched slightly above its weight and earned a very solid $12.2 million estimate. With a total so far of roughly $12.6 million, the award-contending David O. Russell crowd-pleaser has already won enough purses to get more than half its $25 million budget back. “Black Swan” which expanded much more modestly in terms of theater counts, also did extremely well with an estimated $8.3 million in the #7 spot, despite being in only about 1/3 as many theaters as most of its competition.

Jack Nicholson phones home in And then we get to “How Do You Know” — a movie I once had hopes for. Still, I knew something was up with word that it cost $120 million but, as I’ve joked before, couldn’t even afford to purchase the correct punctuation for its title. As Brooks is a more reliable Oscar nominee than a money maker and the movie is, after all, a romantic comedy and not an EFX showcase, this seemed weird. With poor reviews and no award nominations, this is a movie without a constituency other than whatever power the all-star cast led by Reese Witherspoon can muster. Jack Nicholson, in particular, is being accused of a phoned-in performance. At a salary of $12 million, that’s one expensive toll call.

  

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Saturday trailer #1: “Water for Elephants”

So, Robert Pattinson turns into Hal Holbrook, but before he does, Reese Witherspoon must choose between him and a ringmaster/animal trainer played by Christoph Waltz and, I guess, an elephant. Since, as per Brad Brevet, Waltz is a nasty paranoid schizophrenic here, I guess I’d have to recommend the elephant.

But, seriously, even though the dialogue in this trailer sounds pretty trite, this might turn out to be a pretty cool old-fashioned romantic melodrama. I don’t know anything about the novel this is based on by Sara Gruen, but scripter Richard LaGravenese has written some superb screenplays, particularly his own hugely underrated “Living Out Loud,” which he directed, and “The Fisher King” with Terry Gilliam. The director is Francis Lawrence of “I Am Legend.”

  

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It’s your of end the week movie news non-filibuster

While Bernie Sanders did his thing on the floor of the senate today, Hollywood liberals, and a few conservatives too, we’re busy doing their thing so that the guys who owned all the studios would have all the more money to save from their big, big tax break. To wit…

* Robert Rodriguez and the other makers of  the modestly budgeted “Machete” got a nasty surprise from the Texas Film Commission, which appears to be reneging on $1.7 million in tax rebates. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, It has something to do with a law against providing the incentives to films portraying Texas and/or Texans negatively. Every film portrays people negatively. This reeks of political selectivity, probably related to the film’s deliberately nonpartisan lampooning of anti-immigrant hysteria and demagogic politicians. “Machete” goes out of its way to avoid naming the evil politician played by Robert De Niro as a member of either party, in fact.

If Texas doesn’t change it’s tune, and fast, I agree for once with the L.A. Times‘ Patrick Goldstein and seriously hope nobody from outside the state shoots a single foot of film in Texas until such time as the state seeks to elect non-mouthbreathers to statewide office. They have, indeed, fucked with the wrong Mexican.

Danny Trejo is

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Trailer for a Sunday afternoon: “How Do You Know”

Even James L. Brooks’ most successful movies as a writer-director — “Terms of Endearment” comes to mind — have often had a tendency to be mawkish and a little too overtly manipulative for their own good. On the other hand, there’s absolutely no doubt that the man can write. He’s penned some of the sharpest and most memorable, witty, and just plain funny dialogue of anyone in post classic-era Hollywood.

So, why did he fail to put a question mark in the title of “How Do You Know”? I guess the logic is that periods are routinely left out of titles that are complete declarative sentences like, I don’t know, “Bring Me the Head of Alfred Garcia” or that titles which do contain question marks, like “Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?,” have often been attached to box office failures. I don’t care; I’m missing the question mark. Anyhow, take a look.


‘How Do You Know’ Theatrical Trailer @ Yahoo! Video

I don’t know about you, but I think this is an absolutely first-rate trailer  in that it held my attention beautifully and I laughed very loudly at least three times. No question about it (yuk, yuk, yuk), “How Do You Know” looks like the kind of movie that may briefly bring back what was once a relatively frequent Hollywood stand-by: the sharply written, (I hope) not too sentimental, screwball romantic comedy that appeals to people of all ages and genders, though an IQ might help.

Considering the December release date, it’s looking like Columbia is hoping for some Oscar love. It’s been sixty years since a brainy and heartfelt rom-com like “The Philadelphia Story” could be a serious Oscar player. However, we know the Academy loves Mr. Brooks so, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and maybe even Jack Nicholson have a much better chance at Oscar nominations this year than, say, the cast of “Machete.”

R/t Anne Thompson.

  

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Does Megan Fox have what it takes to go from starlet to star?

I watched “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” this weekend, and one thing really struck me as I took in the initial (and totally gratuitous) shot of Megan Fox in cutoff jean shorts half-straddling a motorcycle: Wow, she’s hot. Throughout the course of the next 150 minutes – really, did a “Transformers” sequel need to be that long? – I found myself observing Ms. Fox’s work wondering if she had what it takes to transform – pun intended – from starlet to star.

By most standards, she’s already a movie star. She has played a lead in two “Transformers” installments, had a supporting role (as a vacant actress, no less) in the Simon Peg comedy “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” and she recently starred as the title character in the horror flick “Jennifer’s Body.” Moreover, she seems to have a stranglehold on the current #1 ranking as the Hollywood Girl That Guys Want to Bang. But does this really make her a star?

Not in my book. There was no point in the latest “Transformers” installment where Fox couldn’t have been replaced by Elisha Cuthbert, Jessica Biel or some other former (or future) #1 Hollywood Girl That Guys Want to Bang. When I started to type this up, I actually blanked on her name, and had to look it up on IMDB.com. (Ah, yes, Megan Fox.) If nothing else, that makes her a starlet.

Every year or two, there’s a new crop of young’ns vying for the title of “it” girl, and Fox owns it, for now. But it’s a dicey transition from being a hot young thing to developing a long-lasting, viable career in the movie business.

So, does she have what it takes to become a star?

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