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Box Office Recap: ‘Avengers’ Still On Top, ‘Battleship’ Disappoints


The Avengers’” weekend gross took another hit of nearly 50% this weekend, but that didn’t stop it from remaining the number one movie in America (and abroad, and on Betelgeuse as well, like as not). Despite the drop, the superhero flick still raked in over $55 million in its third week, bringing its global gross to $1.18 billion. Yes, billion with a “b.” In terms of cumulative gross, the film is now the fourth biggest movie of all time worldwide and the sixth biggest domestically. Furthermore, “The Avengers” swept past “The Hunger Games” to become the highest-grossing movie of 2012, and it showed no signs of slowing down. The only film to make more in its third weekend was “Avatar.” But while “Avatar” was able to stay at the top of the charts for seven consecutive weeks, “The Avengers” might just face its first real competition in “Men in Black III” next weekend. Heavy emphasis on the “might.”

Given its tremendous success, “The Avengers” isn’t leaving a whole lot of cash for its competitors. Coming in second place with $25.3 million was Universal Studios’ “Battleship.” That figure is especially disappointing for the film’s financiers given the $209 million it cost to produce. I for one am still having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of an alien and explosion-packed action movie based on a freaking board game, and apparently I’m not alone.

In third place was Sacha Baron Cohen’sThe Dictator.” The comedy was given a Wednesday release, taking in $24.5 million over five days with $17.4 million coming during the weekend itself. The film is Baron Cohen’s first fully-scripted picture, presumably because he is now too recognizable to dupe people in the fashion of “Borat” or “Da Ali G Show.”

“Dark Shadows,” the most recent collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, continued to underperform. The film took in $12.7 million in its second weekend, bringing its ten-day total to just under $51 million, another disappointing figure given its $150 million budget.

In fifth place with $10.5 million was the weekend’s last remaining new movie, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

Perhaps most surprising was the $3.25 million made by “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” despite playing in only 354 theaters nationwide. That’s a per-theater average of $18,258, which tops even “The Avengers’” $12,958.

Here are the results for this weekend’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume
1. The Avengers, 3/4,249, Disney/Marvel Studios, $55.1 million, $457.1
2. Battleship, 1/3,690, Universal/Hasbro, $25.3 million.
3. The Dictator, 1/3,008, Paramount, $17.4 million, $24.5 million.
4. Dark Shadows, 2/3,755, Warner Bros., $12.8 million, $50.9 million.
5. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 1/3,021, $10.5 million.
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 3/354, Fox Searchlight, $3.3 million, $8.2 million.
7. The Hunger Games, 9/2,064, Lionsgate, $3 million, $391.6 million.
8. Think Like a Man, 5/1,722, Sony, $2.7 million, $85.9 million.
9. The Lucky One, 5/2,839, Warner Bros., $1.8 million, $56.9 million.
10. The Pirates! Band of Misfits, 4/1,840, Sony/Aardman, $1.5 million, $25.4 million.

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

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Box Office Preview: Board Games, Pregnancy, and something like ‘Borat’ 2


The Dictator

At this point if you don’t know what you’re getting walking into a Sacha Baron Cohen movie, you’ve probably never seen a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. That’s not to say “The Dictator” won’t be funny, but if you’re expecting 100 percent originality, you might want to look elsewhere.

“The Dictator” is the story of a North African, you guessed it, dictator, who’s called to answer for his crimes in front of the UN in New York. Believe it or not, it’s loosely based on a romance novel allegedly written by Saddam Hussein. Yeah, that Saddam Hussein, and yeah, romance. Anyway, when John C. Reilly strips him of his beard, nobody believes he’s a dictator anymore, so he has to find his way working in a food co-op with Anna Faris.

Fish out of water on the mean streets of America? Sounds an awful lot like “Borat,” but if it’s funny, who cares? I guess that raises the question, is “The Dictator” funny? The film is sitting at a 63 percent on the Tomatometer, so it’s probably more “Borat” (good) than “Bruno” bad. One thing the film has to set it apart from Baron Cohen’s previous work is that it’s not in his trademark interview-heavy mockumentary format. This probably means “The Dictator” sacrifices the more outrageous comedy that comes from duping public figures and nobodies alike for a semi-coherent plot.


Battleship

Now “Transformers” I get, theoretically anyway. There are characters, good guys and bad guys. It’s shit, but it makes sense, and more importantly it had Megan Fox. But a movie based on Battleship, the board game?

Apparently “Battleship” has a plot, but I’ll leave that explanation for Jason in his Bullz-Eye review. I imagine there are ships involved. Anyway, this movie looks like a turd. It’s at a 35 percent on the Tomatometer, and the consensus over there is that the film is “too loud, poorly written, and formulaic to justify its expense.” Jason’s viewpoint was a bit more optimistic:

But while the film does feel a little bit too much like a Michael Bay explosion-rama at times, to my surprise, it works remarkably well as a mindless piece of popcorn entertainment. It won’t wow you in any way, but “Battleship” knows that it’s big, dumb summer fun, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more.

If that’s the case, so be it. But I have a question, and I’m being completely serious here: what is the world of Hollywood writing coming to when we’re getting movies based on 70-year old board games? What’s next, the Monopoly man going on a Godzilla-like rampage through the streets of Tokyo? Terrorists knocking down buildings with a voodoo Jenga tower? Thank you Screencrush for the ideas, but sad as it may be “Battleship” is a real thing, so there’s no more time for mockery, moving on.


What to Expect When You’re Expecting

It’s a romantic comedy, so already we know what we’re getting into here, don’t we? There will be cliches, love, a second act rife with conflict, and ultimately, a happy ending. But every once in a while a movie comes along that breaks the mold, throwing all those banal stereotypes into a pot and coming out with something great. This is not that movie. Let me repeat again, because I know eyes can wander over a word or two: this is not that movie.

That fact is especially unfortunate when you look at the film’s star-studded cast, which includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Rock, Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!”), Rodrigo Santoro (like 4 episodes of “Lost”), as well as the recent success of “Think Like a Man,” which was also based on a self-help book.

If I could guess, and I can, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” tells the story of a number of couples, each with their own relationship problems centering around pregnancy and child-rearing. It really doesn’t matter, this movie is at a 23 percent on the Tomatometer. As such, you should avoid it like the plague.

If you’re looking for a recommendation this weekend, I’ll say “The Avengers,” just like last week and the week before, and yes, even if you’ve already seen it. Now, last week I also recommended “Dark Shadows” to big Johnny Depp or Tim Burton fans. The same goes here, “The Dictator” is sure to be enjoyable for fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work.

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Sacha Baron Cohen vs Ryan Seacrest at The Oscars

This is hilarious.

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“The Dictator” trailer

This looks like another classic from Sacha Baron Cohen.

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Non-Oscar movie news

As I write this the announcement of the 2010 Academy Award nominations is literally only a few hours away — and I’ll most certainly be discussing them tomorrow — but this late bird has some other worms to catch, starting with goings on up in Park City.

* Yes, Kevin Smith and the premiere of his long planned “Red State” is the talk of the geek movie blogosphere today. Sundance can be a real circus and Smith was, I gather, both ringmaster and clown as he jokingly joined the protest staged by the detestable, publicity loving, Westboro Baptist Church who apparently noticed that Smith was attacking them. That was followed by a 26 minute pre-screening talkathon — which I’ve yet to bring myself to watch, though I’ve read the highlights — in which he announced his plans to distribute the film himself.

As for the response to the movie goes, the reviews have been extremely interesting. The fact of the matter is that Smith has so gone on out of his way to attack film critics, it’s kind of hard for any of us to have an opinion of one of his films that isn’t colored by the silliness at this point. No surprise, then, that reaction has been dramatically mixed. Not everyone even agrees if it’s actually a horror film or a religious-themed thriller. Sort of a more violent and bloody, less musical, version of the 1973 “The Wicker Man.”

Avatar* Speaking of talented makers of entertaining but highly imperfect films whose need to communicate can often place them at cross-purposes with themselves, James Cameron has told Entertainment Weekly that he’s working on the screenplays for two “Avatar” sequels with the intent of releasing them over Christmas of 2014 and 2015. To his credit, I think, Cameron says he’ll donate some portion of films’ grosses to environmental charities, who can use all the help they can get, considering our planet seems to be melting right at the moment.

* And speaking of directors who at times have worked at cross-purposes with themselves, no one has ever done so in grander fashion than the late Orson Welles. It’s starting to look like his legendary unfinished 1970s project, “The Other Side of the Wind,” may finally get a release of some sort. Because Welles never edited most of it, there’s a school of thought that the film should be released only in unedited form. This is one of the more stupid schools of thought I’ve encountered. Thank goodness, DVDs can make the unedited rushes available to anyone who wants to imagine how the man might have edited the film itself, but rushes are not a movie.

As far as other “lost” Welles films, Kevin Jagernauth mentions a miraculous restoration of his badly truncated, “The Magnificent Ambersons.” I’d settle for a decent restoration/re-release of his Shakespearian opus, “Chimes at Midnight.”

welles1

* Chris Hemsworth — aka Mighty Thor, God of Thunder — has seen the Avengers script by Joss Whedon and, guess what, he thinks its “incredible.” Ordinarily, I’d be skeptical of a star’s good opinion of his own movie, but this Browncoat needs it to be incredible. It better be incredible. No pressure, though.

* Another Sundance sale. For what sounds like a small but intense love story, “Like Crazy” fetched a relatively big price.

* Sam Raimi is still chatting up the possibility of some kind “Evil Dead” reboot.

* An item left over from last week relating to another kind of evil dead: Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles’ “The Dictator” based on a novel claimed by an obscure author you might have heard named Saddam Hussein. This is one movie I really have to see.

* I really enjoyed interviewing Morgan Spurlock and he was as nice as could be, but he failed to mention anything about his latest, very clever sounding stunt-documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” which has been getting great press at Sundance. Jerkface.

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It’s your Yom Kippur Friday movie news dump

Yom Kippur is the holiday where one abstains from worldly pleasures of all kinds, including eating and drinking, and reflects on spiritual and moral values, atoning for one’s sins, and becoming a better person. In other words, just another day in Hollywood!

*  The big news right now is the bombshell, but not unexpected, admission to the New York Times by Casey Affleck that “I’m Still Here” is a fictional film. Moreover, Affleck still may not have come completely clean because he stated that David Letterman wasn’t in on the truth during the notorious interview with star/co-conspirator Joaquin Phoenix. Via Company Town, we learn that Letterman writer Bill Scheft is comparing what went on to Andy Kaufman stunts and even took credit for one of the lines.

Joaquin Phoenix in A lot of people apparently think that Affleck, perhaps more than Phoenix, has some atoning to do, including Anne Thompson. I guess I can understand her frustration at being manipulated and lied to, but ultimately, it’s only a movie and we in the show biz press have all the credibility of car salesmen. Also it is, after all, a movie. From everything I’ve heard about the film, the far greater sin would have been if it had actually been real.

* Orthodox Jewish-bred Israeli-Brit Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be well on his way to a Shana Tova (good year). He’ll be moving into the world of “serious” acting in a planned biopic about the late multitalented Queen singer/songwriter/pianist Freddie Mercury to be written by the exceedingly busy docu-drama specialist Peter Morgan. I’ve read some ethnic quibbles somewhere (sorry, lost the link) since Mercury’s family hailed from parts of Asia. It seems to me the physical resemblance tells the tale and is no more offensive than the multi-ethnic Asian-Caucasian-Native American Lou Diamond Phillips playing a Mexican-American teen in “Stand and Deliver,” despite having not a drop of Latino blood in his veins. All ethnicities are really ethnic mixes anyhow. I can’t count the number of times I assumed someone was Jewish only to find out they were actually a mix of other groups that just came out looking all Jewy or people who look Latino who are actually Eurasian, etc.

No one seems to know whether Cohen, who can sing a little, will sing his own part. Considering Mercury’s remarkable voice, I wouldn’t complain if they simply used the old recordings. If it was good enough for “The Jolson Story” it’s good enough for this.

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Midweek movie news

Regular readers might have noticed that I’ve taken a couple of days off, and with the TCM Film Festival kicking off tomorrow night, and some other things possibly brewing, I might not be following my exact usual schedule for the next several days, though I’m sure I’ll be posting stuff, but we’ll have to see.  In the meantime, there’s plenty going on and I’m sure I’ve missed something.

Chloe Moretz smashes face* We eventually did get a clear, but narrow, victor in the weekend box-office battle, but nobody’s too excited about the performance of “Kick-Ass.” The film will make money, $19.8 million is not bad for a $30-40 million dollar movie, and it should help everyone’s career, but I wouldn’t bet on a sequel unless it holds really extremely well and also cleans up in home video. Also, it should be noted that the superhero comedy had a slightly unfair advantage because of its late Thursday night opening getting included in the take — at least I think it was. Steven Zeitchik, who thought the film would break out in a major way, offers a post-not-quite-mortem.

* James Cameron‘s new interview with the L.A. Times will annoy conservative anti-environmentalists and climate deniers as well as fans of contemporary written science fiction. (It’s too complicated and self-referential to make a movie out of, Cameron states, apparently unafraid of the sweeping generalization.) However, “Avatar” fans will be delighted to know that two more movies appear to be in the offing along with that extended August 3-D/Imax re-release. Cameron’s cast and crew will be, I imagine, much less happy to learn that “Avatar 2″ will involve water, and lots of it. What is it with this guy and moisture? (H/t the Playlist.)

Titanic 1996

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Monday movie news

Just a few items on a warm and sunny SoCal Ides of March…

* David Fincher is really keeping busy. I missed the story late Friday about him putting together a new movie iteration of “Heavy Metal.”

The first attempt to transpose the appeal of the legendary European-based anthology comic magazine is pretty much unwatchable these days — I know because I tried and failed to watch it at Comicon a couple of years back — but that’s all the more reason to give it another try I suppose. Considering that the late seventies and early eighties were pretty much the lowpoint of animation and the high end nature of this project, it pretty much has to be an improvement on most levels.

And that’s not all. Having taken on Facebook with Aaron Sorkin, another upcoming project may possibly involve an equally cinematic undertaking: chess.

fromrwl3

* With John Krasinski apparently out of the running for “The First Avenger: Captain America” (a title I’m not fond of, by the way), the Marvel gang has apparently adopted a “nobody excessively interesting” rule in its prospective casting. The latest name being floated: Ryan Phillipe. Still, he played effectively off of Chris Cooper in the highly underrated “Breach,” one of my favorite films of 2007, so perhaps he can do the same with Hugo Weaving here.

* Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen are “in talks” to appear in Martin Scorsese’s ambitious, 3-D, meta-film, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”  As a Deadline commenter notes, this one appears to be DiCaprio-free, at last. Kingsley and Coehn could make an interesting buddy film.

* Tim Adler of Deadline|London thinks that the success of 3-D screenings of “Avatar” in Europe is funding the growth of digital movie theaters in Europe.

* I’ve said it before, but the career of director David Gordon Green fascinates me. He starts out like an American Vittorio De Sica by way of Terrence Malick with the neo-neo realist “George Washington,” and then transitions to stoner-frat comedies apparently spoofing eighties sword and sorcery flicks. Attention must be paid.

* If you really wanna know more about “penis trauma” and the MPAA ratings system

* Phrases like “penis trauma” aside, SXSW really does sound like the most fun of the festivals, doesn’t it?

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Harry takes $159.7 million to Gringott’s; Sacha Baron Cohen’s fans disapparate

The “box office gurus” who spoke to Nikki Finke of a $200 million five-day take for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” were, to employ a bit of British understatement, just a bit off. According to all the estimates, the David Yates-helmed picture netted a relatively earthbound but still terrific series-best $159.7 million since its release last Wednesday, with $79.5 million of it earned over the weekend. The film’s international take is said to be extremely good, but no numbers are available as of this writing.

Nikki Finke, however, has people whispering in her ear that it won’t get close to “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” take, and, realizing that the non-humanity driven franchise did break the $200 million mark on its opening five day take (albeit on a long holiday weekend), that seems reasonable enough to me. Let us do as Harry would and mutter a charming British curse under our breath. Still, it’s not a bad time for Warners, owner of DC Comics as well as Bugs and Daffy, et al, once again showing that it knows its way around a character-driven franchise. On the other hand, the semi-serial nature of the Potter films might be largely responsible here for the non-ultra-stratospheric take. Adults and others who’ve never gotten on the Potter bandwagon might be slower than ever to jump on it at this point.

Sacha Baron Cohen WAS BrunoAnd now for something completely differerent:  Based on the news of bad electronic word of mouth and the like — and knowing that the audience for comic male genitalia in a gay context might be limited, to say the least — I certainly expected a dip in the fortunes of “Brüno,” but not the humongous 81% drop that The Hollywood Reporter reports. Sacha Baron Cohen’s semi-reality comedy earned a sad estimated fifth place $2.8 million over the weekend, meaning that it likely won’t beat “Borat” and that Mr. Cohen’s future in more conventionally-made pure-fiction comedies might be somewhat assured — though it would be foolish in the extreme to count the comedian out (though some will, because some enjoy doing that).  Also, once again, my modest prognosticatory powers were proven even more more modest.

Just in case you were wondering, the #2 spot this week was taken by “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” with $17.7 million and “Transformers 2″ hanging in at #3 with $13.8 million, while I still wonder just what the attraction is. But, to paraphrase something someone brilliant once said, both in art and in movies, we are stunned by the choices of others.

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Harry Potter and the ginormous filmgoing hordes (updated)

We’ve got an early and rather light box office preview this week because only one new wide release is coming out. However, it’s already looking to be a doozy. Yes, it’s time for another highly profitable trip to Hogwarts with today’s (actually early as possible this morning’s) release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Anyhow, word of highly boffo early ticket sales outpacing the midnight opening of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” has proven out. Estimates of the Wednesday morning midnight take are roughly $20 million, says Variety and Nikki Finke. THR‘s Carl DiOrio wrote yesterday of roughly a $140 million five day gross and $100 million weekend. However, perhaps taking the fact that the $20 million figure beats both the Wednesday midnight opening of “The Dark Knight” by $2 million and “Transformers” by $4 million, the diviners reporting to Finke are telling her to expect $175-190 million, but with a $90-$100 million weekend a la DiOrio.

[UPDATE: The midnight gross turned out to be an even more whopping, more record breaking $22.2 million. Nikki Finke is now talking about the possibility of the fantasy flick breaking the $200 million mark in its first five days.]

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