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Box Office Preview: ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Madagascar 3′

Prometheus

“Prometheus” is the story of a team of explorers who “discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth.” Which makes sense because I feel like I’ve been hearing about it since the dawn of man. This is one of my biggest problems with the Hollywood hype machine, even when a movie is (supposedly) good, I start to hate it before it even comes out simply because I’m sick to death of hearing about it. Anyway before I get too off topic, the rest of the synopsis is that the clue leads the explorers “on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”

If we read between the lines a bit, what we get is this: Ridley Scott (the man who gave us “Alien” and “Blade Runner” returns to sci-fi, which is probably a good thing. In fact, “Prometheus” was originally intended to be an “Alien” prequel. Luckily, that notion was abandoned, because prequels suck. Instead, Scott says the film shares “strands of “Alien’s” DNA” and takes place in the universe but creates and explores its own mythology.

Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof (of “Lost” fame) wrote the film, and its stars include Noomi Rapace (the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series), Michael Fassbender (the British dude who fucked up three in “Inglorious Basterds“), Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Idris Elba. “Prometheus” has been certified fresh and stands at a 74 on the Tomatometer, so check it out if your a fan of the genre or any of those involved.

Madagascar 3

It’s the second sequel to an animated children’s movie. It still stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith as a lion, zebra, giraffe, and hippopotamus, respectively. And they’re all still trying to return to blissful captivity in a New York zoo after being shipwrecked in Madagascar and a host of other misadventures. So if you’re the kind of person who a) thinks animated films are only for children or b) enjoys the unexpected at the theater, “Madagascar 3″ isn’t for you, right? Let’s ask Bullz-eye’s David Medsker:

A culture change is clearly taking place at DreamWorks Animation. After spending years making films that made lots of money but had no soul, the studio slowly but surely began making smarter films and, for the first time ever, one of their films outclassed a Pixar movie released in the same year (“Kung Fu Panda 2” vs. “Cars 2”). The first two films in the “Madagascar” franchise were definitely products of the old regime; there was lots of busyness, but little to sink one’s teeth into. When grown-ups dismiss animated films as kid’s movies, it’s movies like “Madagascar” and its sequel that they’re referring to.

Aw, rats… But wait, there’s more:

Which is what makes “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” such a pleasant surprise. For starters, the movie is batshit crazy… It is so ridiculous that it becomes sublime.

See what I did there? A little preview switcheroo for ya. Medsker seems to believe there’s a changing of the guard going on over at Dreamworks, and the rest of the movie reviewing establishment seems to agree. “Madagascar 3″ is at a 75 percent on the Tomatometer, and Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post (who gave the film three and a half out of four stars) wrote: “From time to time the improbable occurs: A sequel outdoes its original.”

I think my sheer hatred of all thinks sequel is giving me an ulcer, perhaps “Madagascar 3″ will make me (and those like me) just a little less cynical. Alright, let’s not get crazy here, probably not, but Madagascar 3 just might be one of those exceptions that proves the rule.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Thelma and Louise

Considering the controversy that surrounded its initial release, an action-packed plot line involving impulsive crime and platonic love-on-the-run, and its iconic ending, “Thelma and Louise” once seemed well on its way to the status of a genre-creating classic along the lines of “Bonnie and Clyde.” Today, it plays like a glossier, more sentimental, and politically charged variation on “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” but there’s nothing wrong with that. Written by Callie Khouri and directed by Ridley Scott, the story is as simple as any western. Tightly-wound waitress Thelma (Susan Sarandon) and too-sweet housewife Louise (Geena Davis) hit the road, ducking her ridiculously chauvinist husband (Christopher McDonald). Their plans for a relaxing fishing vacation die alongside a probable serial rapist (Timothy Carhart) who is impulsively murdered by Thelma after attacking Louise. In no time, the two women are playing cross-country cat-and-mouse with a sympathetic police detective (Harvey Keitel), surviving via some help from Thelma’s smitten boyfriend (Michael Madsen) and armed robbery.

Khouri’s Oscar-winning screenplay feels slightly glib, though its humor, emotion, and some moral complexity remain. Scott’s showy, ultra-confident direction looks great on MGM’s 20th anniversary Blu-ray and involves the usual barrels of ersatz rainwater and a shot of Thelma applying make-up at a crowded ladies’ room mirror that was copied three years later by a famed admirer of Scott in “Pulp Fiction.” Still, it’s Sarandon’s and Davis’ show. When they hold hands at the end as they make their final leap of faith, we’ve got to kind of love these two women and believe they love each other, and we do.

Click to buy “Thelma and Louise”

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Trailer time: “Operation Endgame”

Like I said, it’s been a slow day for movie news, give or take Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio perhaps someday maybe if they really feel like it getting together a movie which sounds like it might be okay. Indeed, what appears to be today’s most circulated trailer is for a straight to video film with what everyone agrees is a really terrible title.

Still, it’s not just any straight to video movie with a wonderfully weird cast that includes Rob Corddry, Ellen Barkin, Zach Galifianakis, Emilie de Ravin, Maggie Q, Beth Grant, Bob Oedenkirk, Michael Hitchcock, Ving Rhames, and Jeffrey Tambor. It’s also not just any straight to video movie that has a trailer that makes me laugh as many times as this spy-action-black comedy-thriller does.

A word of warning for those of you at work or near kiddies, this Red Band is no joke. It contains in, the wise words of Pajiba, “a fuckload of swearing.”

And, for those of you who’d prefer a f*ckload of excised curse words instead, here’s the green band trailer via HuffPo, which feels a bit more violent to me for some reason. It’s also a who lot less funny without the curse words, which may be one of the film’s commercial problems.

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Midweek movie news, and then…

After tonight, I’ll be taking a break from the daily blogging grind for just a bit. That means I’ll be out completely for a couple of days at least and then you may see a post here and there and then, suddenly, I’ll be back like I was never gone in the first place, probably towards the tail end of the month. So, this will have to hold you for a little while.

* As of tonight, corporate raider Carl Icahn appears to be a majority stockholder in Lionsgate.

* I’ve never been a fan of the seventies movie of the silly seventies film version of “Logan’s Run,” but with Carl Erik Rinsch directing, my interest in the new film perked up considerably. Now, Alex Garland — who wrote and produced the not-entirely-unrelated upcoming version of “Never Let Me Go” which I discussed yesterday — has jumped on board, making it even more interesting. Better, they’re approaching it as a new version of the book, not a remake of the film. In the 1976 film, by the way, no one in the futuristic society was permitted to live past 30. In the novel, it was 21.

* Sam Raimi has been confirmed as the director of “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” Apparently Robert Downey, Jr., who just formed a new company with his producer wife, Susan Downey, is the most likely Oz at this point.

* Be sure and check out Will Harris’s terrific interview with one of the best, Isabella Rossellini. Easily one of the most fascinating  actresses of the last thirty years or so, with quite a backstory behind her. Don’t miss it.

DATEBOOK_greenporno_horiz

*Though Ms. Rossellini seems perfectly at home in a very humorous way with her fifty-something status, that is not really always the case for actresses. This month’s conversation between Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard at the House Next Door underlines that point as the cinephile thinkers discuss two of Hollywood’s greatest show-biz based films, “Sunset Boulevard” and “All About Eve,” both released in 1950 and both dealing with actresses who struggling with this whole passage of time thing.

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Stop me before I summarize the movie news again

It’s like a disease, I tell ya’…

* THR’s Borys Kit has the shortlist of actors being considered for the new Marc Webb “Spiderman” and, not surprisingly given Webb’s good taste in actors, they’re a pretty strong bunch, with the biggest name being the one-time “Billy Elliot” and the Tintin to be, Jamie Bell.

Megan Fox* Much as I am not a fan (I’m not sure who is, exactly), it was once tempting to think that maybe Michael Bay was perhaps showing good judgment by letting Megan Fox go from the next “Transformers” flick. If Jeff Schneider at the Wrap has his facts right, however, it might just be another reason to think even less of him and also, maybe, to worry about her. And is it really possible that the earlier reports were part of a bluff, which Fox has now called? Oy. H/t The Playlist.

* More from Borys Kit. I’ve written about Carl Erik Rinsch a couple of times here. He’s a very interesting commercial director who’s a protegee of Ridley Scott and who has an arresting visual style of his own. Now, it appears possible that his first feature film could be that new version of “Logan’s Run,” which maybe someone other than me remembers was actually based on a book — way better than the lame seventies movie, if my teenage opinions can be trusted — written in 1967 by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Rinsch definitely has a feel for science-fiction, I think.

* The Frairs Club’s next roastee will be one Quentin Tarantino. Expect cursing, but perhaps better written than usual. Lots of geek and pot-smoking jokes too, no doubt.

* If  you’re a killer, but forget you’re a killer, are you still a killer? And if you remember, can you start over and drop your bad habit? Those are the questions that appear to be the topic of “Jack,” which John Cusack has just signed on to. No word on who’ll be playing his no doubt brilliant and beautiful, yet vulnerable, doctor.

* Steve Carrell playing the big-in-the-Philippines songwriter of “We Built This City”? Works for me.

* Speaking of signing on, the new editorial director of THR aka The Hollywood Reporter is the former editor-in-chief of Us Weekly. Anne Thompson wonders just how complete a shift to celebrity journalism this might mean for the venerable trade pub, which may not really be a trade for very much longer if her pessimistic/realistic guess is right.

* Ever wondered why the residents of Skull Island bothered to put a Kong-sized door in that giant wall meant to keep the big ape out? Greg Ferrera has a theory.

* I didn’t even know this was happening, but the John Williams Blogathon is under-way at Edward Copeland’s place, celebrating easily the most famous film composer of our era. Yes, his work on “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” etc. is pretty great, but there’s he’s got more musical quivers in his bow than you might think.

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Weekend box office: “Shrek Forever After” #1 with diminishing returns; “MacGruber” explodes, but in the bad way

Shrek Forever AfterThe fourth and, I’m guessing, probably final theatrical bow for the soulful green troll with the Scottish accent grossed an estimated $71.25 million this weekend for Dreamworks and Paramount, according to the mighty Box Office Mojo chart. That’s a lot more than enough to make “Shrek Forever After” the top movie in the country this week, and a substantial take for any movie. It is, however, significantly below the $121.6 that the widely unloved last entry in the series earned on its opening weekend back in 2007 — without the benefit of inflated 3-D ticket prices.

It’s even further below the  numbers that were being bandied about by writers, if not, studios, earlier on. I mentioned last time that Carl DiOrio thought the film could hit $100 million, but failed to note the breakdown at the Numbers. It said that while “analysts” (whoever they may be) were suggesting a $90-$95 million opening, the studio was pimping a more modest $80 million while trying to diminish expectations. They should have diminished them a little bit more.

The week’s other major opener, “MacGruber,” proved my hunches to be at least as wrong as DiOrio’s. While steering clear to some extent of the $15-20 million guess at the Numbers, I doubted the single-digit numbers that DiOrio mentioned. As the singer of the obscure Difford and Tilbrook tune says, let’s face it, I’m wrong again. As it turns out, even DiOrio’s lowest figures weren’t low enough. The incompetent MacGyver-like bomb diffuser only earned a fairly pathetic $4.1 million in 2,551 theaters for the #6 spot. I think it’s safe to say that the poor reputation of SNL-derived films clearly preceded this one, which actually has garnered reviews that are a bit better than most other films in this long-running franchise.

Grim faced Ryan Phillipe, Will Forte, and Kristen Wiig face the b.o. music

Still, considering that most SNL sketches, even at their best, never seem to sustain until the end of the bit, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the movies derived from them have a hard time holding attention through feature-length running times. If “MacGruber” suffered from a bit of movie guilt-by-association, it’s just too bad for anyone who was hoping for a quick A-list status for the off-kilter Will Forte — a performer who I think would fit in really nicely in a David Lynch movie. (I mean that as a compliment, I think.) On the other hand, every time I check Rotten Tomatoes, even it’s now-meh-to-bad (once kind of okay and maybe even almost good) critical numbers keep dropping, with “Top Critics” being a bit more brutal.

The #2 and #3 spots, respectively, were held by “Iron Man 2” with an estimate of $26.6 million for Marvel and Paramount, and “Robin Hood” with $18.7 million estimated for long suffering Universal. Probably helped by weak competition, both movies managed to keep their weekly drop to just under 50%. Still, I think it’s safe to call the $200 million “Robin Hood” a disappointment that won’t do much for the careers of either Russell Crowe or Ridley Scott, not that they’re in any danger of obscurity just yet.

A paucity of movies for women of any age probably also helped grow some legs for the #4 cross-generational rom-com, “Letters to Juliet,” which dropped only by 32.8% and earned a solid $9.1 million for the probably fairly modestly budgeted film. That should help young Amanda Seyfried cement her growing credibility as a box office draw, at least for young-female-skewing films and even if her most challenging film role so far has been ignored. Of course, that lack of female-friendly major draws will change next week with the arrival of “Sex and the City 2.”

Jesse Eisenberg is probably okay for the JewsOn the limited release circuit, it was actually a pretty good weekend for Jesse Eisenberg and the talented young actor’s efforts to prove he’s something other than a Jewish knock-off of Michael Cera. His high-concept drama with mixed reviews, “Holy Rollers,” performed fairly strongly in its opening weekend on three screens with a solid per screen average of $13,003 from an audience that probably discussed after the film whether the drama about a drug-running Hasid was good or bad for the Jews. Doing even better was the all-star comedy, “Solitary Man,” top-lined by Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito (let’s not talk about how long it’s been since “Romancing the Stone” and ‘The War of the Roses”),” and also featuring mid twenty-something Eisenberg. On the strength of strong reviews and the cast, it managed an estimated $22,250 on four screens. As usual, Peter Knegt at Indiewire has the details.

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Live from TCM Fest

Yes, I’m typing this from the lobby of the Beautiful Hollywood Roosevelt and rushing to make the 3:15 screening of the soon to see the rediscovered western, “Jubal.” But here are two very quick news bits.

Ryan Reynolds is * We have two new major releases this weekend, “The Back-Up Plan” (which our own David Medsker hated, particularly on behalf of those who have given birth or been associated with those who have) and “The Losers.” Neither is expected to hit the #1 mark. That will be either “Kick-Ass” or, once again, “How to Train Your Dragon.”  In limited release, we also have not another superhero-related comedy, but I take it more of a superhero related drama or dramedy, definitely a tad more sensitive than “Kick-Ass,” “Paper Man.” It’s yet another film which has Ryan Reynolds doing the long-underwear hero thing.

* Thanks to my friend, once and, I hope, future blogger and all-around good guy Zayne Reeves, I heard about the revelations regarding an “Alien” prequel that Ridley Scott told MTV News, Onion A.V. Club has the short version for hurried people like you and I. Basically, it’s about the dead “space jockey” the original crew of the Nostromo found all those years back.

No leave me alone, I’ve got movies to see!

jubal_03

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“The Gift” that keeps on giving (updated)

One of the cooler aspects of this whole ‘net thing from a film lover’s point of view is that it’s created a whole new venue — if not quite a market — for short films. While it’s still next to impossible to make any money from short subjects, Carl Erik Rinsch, a commercial director who is currently making the leap to features, has apparently used an Internet short to get one of his projects off the ground. It probably helps that he’s got the apparent backing of one of the most respected names in mainstream film-making.

“The Gift” is part of a series of connected shorts called “Parallel Lines” backed by Ridley Scott Associates. The story is as simple as it gets, but the visuals are anything but. Anyhow, according to Peter Sciretta at /Film, it all turns out to be prequel, or I imagine a possible pre-credit or opening sequence, to a new feature over which Rinsch has been able to get an apparent studio bidding war going. It’s embedded below, but I suggest you punch the full-size feature and make sure the subtitles are turned on first for reasons which I think will be fairly obvious.

[UPDATE: Crimeny! I put up the wrong video and no one said anything. Does anybody actually read this? Anyhow...at long last, the corrected one is below.]

Last year, I praised Rinsch’s strong visual sense and sensibility in a post which included embeds of some of his terrific commercial work. While I’m not sure he’s a great storyteller yet, he’s certainly on to something. If you liked the above, I’d suggest you take a look.

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Your end of week movie news dump

A ton has happened since my last of these posts and I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are just a few of the interesting things going on in the movie world as this rather loony week finally ends.

* Bryan Singer will be producing, not directing, the next “X-Men” prequel. He’ll be directing “Jack, the Giant Killer” instead. And another Mike Fleming story, an exclusive this time: “Paranormal Activity 2″ has a director. He’s Tod Williams, best known for “The Door in the Floor.” Sounds to me like Paramount is keeping things modest, wisely.

* The very ill Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today.  Amy Kaufman has video of the ceremony which included Hopper rather gently chiding the paparazzi for an incident which caused him to fall. The video itself ends with photographers yelling “Viggo!” and “Jack!”

* Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe as Robin will be opening Cannes this year. The plot description put me somewhat in mind of the angle the great director Richard Lester and writer James Goldman took on the legend in a film I’m quite partial to, “Robin and Marian,” which starred Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.

robin-hood-russell-crowe-and-his-merry-men

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The Superbowl’s most memorable movie spots

According to a poll reported on by Nikki Finke. Interestingly, all are from big name directors with pronounced visual styles, and the final one makes him the star of the movie. Chalk three up for the auteur theory.

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