A roundtable chat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer of “Take Me Home Tonight”

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Usually, I start roundtable interview pieces with a rather large amount of biographical information about whoever’s involved. In the case of Topher Grace, former star of “That 70’s Show” as well as movies like “In Good Company” and “Predators,” I’ve already covered him pretty thoroughly in my one-on-one interview with him over at Bullz-Eye.com. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as a hands-on executive producer and coauthor of the film’s story, he has a lot riding on the profitability of “Take Me Home Tonight,” a comedy about post-collegiate growing pains in the 1980s. Although I liked the film quite a bit, my review is but one, and to be honest, I appear to be something of an outlier. The good news for actor-producer Grace is that reviews mean next to nothing commercially for youth comedies, and people are laughing in screenings.

As for the striking, Australian-born Teresa Palmer, she’s still something of a newcomer to the American screen, having gotten good notices in the otherwise critically bashed, “I Am Number 4,” as well as Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Bedtime Stories.” She shows every sign of becoming a more familiar face to audiences — and her face is definitely one of the prettier ones you’re likely to see right now.

While one journo tried to use a then-upcoming holiday to pull some personal info out of Palmer and Grace — at more than one point in the past, the pair have been rumored to be dating — the business and pleasure of making a youth oriented comedy was the chief topic during this mass interview from the “Take Me Home Tonight” junket.

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Weekend box office: “No Strings Attached” receives benefits from female filmgoers

Things this weekend went pretty much exactly according to what I wrote on Thursday. Still, there was some nervousness out there.

Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, and Cary Elwes in Nikki Finke tells us the studios were skittish because of the commercial track record of leading man Ashton Kutcher; it seems I’m not the only male audience member to have a deep, lizard-brain level allergy to the Kutcher. Fortunately for Paramount, young women are the dominant (70%, possibly) audience here. The simplicity of the premise and the balancing presence of the widely beloved, sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Natalie Portman seems to have been enough to earn “No Strings Attached” — originally, presumably very tentatively, titled “Fuckbuddies” — an estimated $20.3 million for Paramount. I didn’t care for the movie, pretty obviously, but I sort of expected it to do reasonably well. It delivers what’s advertised, has some mildly funny moments, and we’ve all been trained to think of romantic comedies as light-brained affairs. That last part just makes me sad.

Scrolling down the Box Office Mojo chart, “The Green Hornet” suffered a very typical 46% drop it’s second week. It therefore managed a respectable $18.1 million estimate for Sony, putting more than it half-way to making back its $120 million production budget. Ron Howard’s first comedy in many moons, “The Dilemma,” dropped roughly the same amount and continued on track with its soft opening at an estimate of $9.7 million for luckless but now ultra-powerful Universal, thanks to the mega-merger with Comcast.

A cluster of likely Oscar contenders are holding down the next several spots, led by “The King’s Speech.” The press loves a horserace and speculation on the very real possibility of an Oscar sweep for “The Social Network” has been slowed somewhat by the Producer’s Guild awarding of its top prize to the historical tale last night.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in

With a first-rate combination of director (Tom Hooper) and star (Colin Firth) the drama is apparently getting some outstanding word of mouth. It suffered almost no drop at all from last week and it’s estimate for the Weinstein Company is bubbling under $9.2 million. It’s going to be crossing the $60 million threshold probably by mid-week, many times it’s $15 million budget.

It was kind of a funny week in limited release. Indiewire has the details, but Peter Weir’s “The Way Back” disappointed somewhat in about 600 theaters. Probably getting a significant boost from star Paul Giamatti‘s surprise Golden Globe win, “Barney’s Version” led the week in per-screen averages, earning about $10,000 each on 16 screens. Not bad for a movie about a creature thought to be as hard to find as a yeti, an occasionally rude Canadian.

  

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Box office preview: Will “The Green Hornet” sting? Will anyone want to solve “The Dilemma”?

Time is at a total premium tonight, so I’ll be keeping the bad puns and what not brief.

There’s some disagreement about whether it’ll make an amount in the $30 millions or $40 millions at my usual sources. However, I don’t think there’s any way around the likelihood that this will be the weekend in which Seth Rogen, co-writer Evan Goldberg, and director Michel Gondry’s take on “The Green Hornet” will dominate things.

Seth Green and Jay Chou lose their cool in

If only because the trollish fanboys who pre-decided to hate this movie irritate me no end, I’ve been rooting for this action comedy approach to the masked hero of old-time radio and a short-lived sixties TV program, remembered today mainly for the presence of Bruce Lee. In fact, there’s been some positive buzz on it lately and our own Jason Zingale mostly likes it. Overall, however, the overall critical reaction is disappointing, with top critics being significantly harsher. Even the usually rather gentle Roger Ebert calls it “almost unendurable” and gives it the one-star rating qualifying it for his next edition of Your Movie Sucks.

Still, I’ll probably check this one out eventually, if only to see new-Kato Jay Chou, who I really think might be a very big U.S. star in the making (he’s already huge in Asia), do his stuff. I’ll probably avoid the extra price tag for an extra dimension, however. The 3D on this is getting a negative reaction from at least some. It’ll be interesting to see whether audiences who’ve been stung by sub-par 3D before steer more towards the 2D “Hornet.”

Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder think about their odds in With Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, and Winona Ryder starring and Ron Howard directing and a easily understandable premise, you might expect big things from a comedy like “The Dilemma.” However, the box office gurus tell us that not a gigantic people will actually go to see it this weekend. The critics mostly tell us they shouldn’t.

Maybe see one of those potential Oscar nominees you’ve missed so far this weekend. Perhaps “Black Swan,” which is still expanding several weeks into it’s run and expected to continue its strong run. That’s what I’ll do if I can find the time. If you’ve seen all of those and live in New York or L.A., there’s “Barney’s Version” featuring a great lead performance by Paul Giamatti and an outstanding supporting cast and getting mostly good reviews, if only for the great acting. Of course, I didn’t think even the cast made up for the drab second half of the film. Still, you could easily do worse in this or any January.

  

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It’s 2011 and time for the return of the Friday night news dump

I haven’t done this in awhile and I know I’m missing a bunch of stories from early in the week, but you’ll read this and you’ll like it, damn it!

* Mike Fleming is claiming a “toldja” on the news that Elijah Wood will be appearing in “The Hobbit” as Frodo Baggins who is, I believe, not yet born during the events of Tolkien’s original children book. The rumor from earlier in the week has now been confirmed and nothing will ever be the same.

* Mr. Fleming also has the latest on speed-crazed Hollywood buying the rights to a book that has yet to be published and the remake rights on a documentary almost no one has seen. At least we know what the documentary’s about, and it does sound like material for a good movie — except, of course, it’s already a movie.

* Robert De Niro will be heading the jury at Cannes this year. This will be his third go-round in the gig.

* There’s been a ton of quibbling on why it’s not a sequel and maybe not even a spin-off, but the fact remains that Judd Apatow is building his next film around the terrific characters from “Knocked Up” played by Paul Rudd and Apatow’s real-life wife, Leslie Mann. I have to admit I find these kind of fine distinctions to be marketing-driven annoyances. Novelists cast supporting characters from past books in leading roles in newer books all the time and no one calls these books anything other than “novels.” Novelists like Sinclair Lewis and Kurt Vonnegut treat their worlds like the Marvel Universe, so why can’t there be an Apatow-verse?

knocked-up

* Ricky Gervais has apparently signed up to play Mole in an upcoming version of “Wind in the Willows.” Ordinarily, I’d be a little bit excited about this news, but this is a project coming from Ray Griggs, who I frankly wonder about for a number of reasons. I’ve written about him before, at least he had the good sense to hire WETA in on the project. Still, if I were a friend of Gervais’s I advise him to stay away. It has a funny smell about it.

* Oscar winning writer-director Paul Haggis is taking his complaints with the Church of Scientology public in an upcoming book-length expose to be written by Lawrence Wright. Haggis is a former member of the church. I’d tell you what I think of Scientology, but that’s a whole other blog post. I will say I think this will be big.

* Danny Strong played the greatest geek ever on “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and went on to become a respected screenwriter with his script for the Jay Roach television movie about the 2000 election, “Recount.” Now he’s back in the genre world with a gig rewriting something called “Earth Defense Force,” which Sam Raimi is producing.

* Stan the Man got his star on Hollywood Blvd. Excelsior!

* Ron Howard wants you to know that the “Arrested Development” movie is really still happening. Sure, why not?

  

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Oh f*ck, it’s a foul-pixelled end of the week movie news dump

It’s been a personally rather stressful week in a good-news/bad-news kind of a way and Hollywood ain’t doin’ nothing to relax me. And so, we begin with a deep breath…

* The first half of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” will be in a mere 2D. Two dimensions were good enough for Rick Blaine, they’re good enough for Harry. Especially if they really were facing serious technical difficulties, smart move. No studio needs another “Clash of the Titans” fiasco.

* It’s pretty rare that I know for sure I want to see a movie just from simply knowing the topic, the star, and the director, but when it’s a biopic/docudrama about the great-but-homicidal Phil Specter, it’s being directed by David Mamet, and it’s starring Al Pacino, that’s when I know. (Here’s the original NYT post that broke the story, which gives a bit more background on Specter for you youngsters.)

* Classic film lover that I am, I also feel pretty good about “My Week with Marilyn” which has Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Dougray Scott as her beleaguered husband, playwright Arthur Miller, Kenneth Branagh (who else?) as Laurence Olivier, and Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh (!) among others. And check out the pic of Ms. Williams/Monroe that’s been circulating all over the net today.

michelle-williams-marilyn-monroe

Aren’t you glad I used that pictures instead of something of Phil “Mr. Fright Wit” Specter or Al Pacino?

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