What Else Ya Got? “Shorts”

For many people, “Shorts” will go down as one of the worst films of the year. I still don’t understand why someone as talented and resourceful as Robert Rodriguez wastes his time on such drivel, especially when he could be off making any movie he wanted. That won’t stop some parents from buying it for their kids, however, so let’s take a look at what else they’ll be getting in addition to the film. And no, the digital copy doesn’t count.

The Magic of Short

This making-of featurette takes a look at some of the behind-the-scenes tricks that went into creating the world of “Shorts,” from practical effects like the conjoined parent suit worn by Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer to designing a CG Booger Monster. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as long as it should be for a movie built entirely around visual effects, and it feels more like an afterthought than a genuine extra.

Shorts: Show and Tell

Running only five minutes, “Show and Tell” is a collection of interviews with the film’s child actors as shot by co-star Devon Gearhart. They all say a few words about their experience on the film, but it’s pretty dull stuff.

Ten-Minute Film School: Short Shorts

By far the best extra on all of Rodriguez’s films, the latest installment in the Ten-Minute Film School series is a bit of a letdown. This time around, he offers up advice on how to make your home movies more interesting with the addition of sound effects. Since that doesn’t really take ten minutes to do, he also shows footage of the home movie he made with his kids to pitch “Shorts” to the studios. If there’s anything to be learned from the lesson, though, it’s that just because your dad is a good director, it doesn’t mean you’ll be a good actor. Man, those kids are terrible.

Ten-Minute Cooking School: Chocolate Chip Volcano Cookies

Another DVD staple, this recipe neither creates the volcano it promises nor is very unique when compared to past offerings. It’s essentially just a chocolate chip cookie with a bunch of other stuff (like marshmallows and nuts) thrown in for the hell of it. Though his daughter Rhiannon adds some much needed comic relief, this is easily his worst Cooking School to date.

In fact, you could say the same for the Blu-ray itself. Though I didn’t expect very much from “Shorts,” I did expect more due to Rodriguez’s involvement. I guess I’ll have to lower my expectations the next time he decides to make another movie for his kids, because they’ve only gotten worse.

  

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“Basterds” bash box office projections

Either the Weinstein Company did an extremely good job of managing expectations or box office prognosticators simply underestimated the potential of a director/brand name with a strong suit for entertaining a large swath of the moviegoing public, a premise with fairly proven guy appeal (revenge + WWII), and the additional gravy of an A-lister in a juicy, semi-lead role. In any case, for the second time in as many weeks, a very well-reviewed genre film has significantly over-performed and “Inglourious Basterds” has raked in an exceedingly healthy $37.6 million, say the box office estimates promulgated by THR, Nikki Finke, Variety, Box Office Mojo, etc.

Concerns which I brought up last time that the latest from Quentin Tarantino might be too cinema-esoteric for mainstream audiences have apparently proven to be a non-issue, at least for weekend #1. It’s outstanding foreign performance totaling $27.5 million is no surprise at all, especially given the subject matter and Tarantino’s  choice — which almost certainly made his job harder — to film the movie in several different languages rather than opting for the traditional mid-Atlantic or vaguely nation-specific accents we usually see in American-shot international tales. These are both, by the way, significant financial personal bests for Tarantino. Of course, that’s not “Transformers” numbers, but people will actually still likely be watching this one twenty years from now and probably longer, which means it will be making money for the putatively on-the-edge Harvey Weinstein and Universal for that time as well.

District 9
The same is also probably true in re: Tristar and Sony for this week’s #2 performer and that other transnational “well reviewed genre film” I mentioned above, “District 9.” The South Africa-set, politically charged violent sci-fi action piece brought in $18.9 million for a drop of just under 50% from last week, as there proves to be a market for combining a certain amount of brains with violent brawn. That’s even more impressive given the stiff competition from “Basterds” for largely the same audience.

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“Basterds” at the box office

There are actually four new major releases coming out this weekend, but only one you’ll likely be hearing much about…and you’ve already been hearing about it, and hearing about it, and hearing about it, and we (mostly me) here at Premium Hollywood have been as guilty as anyone.

Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” is set to make upwards of $25 million says jolly Carl DiOrio of THR and The Wrap’s Lucas Shaw. Those of you who have been following this know that the film’s take has been given more attention than a lot of movies because many suspect it will be crucial to the fortunes of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, formerly of Miramax and now of The Weinstein Company. (They say that they’re actually doing okay.) Harvey Weinstein is such a well known character that all the makers of “Entourage” had to do was hire similarly proportioned character actor Maury Chaykin and call him “Harvey” and 1/3 of the audience probably knew who was referenced. The Weinsteins have always been something of a throwback to the movie moguls of old times with their seat of the pants judgments and risk taking, so that lends a bit drama to the matter.

As for the critical reception, it’s about as good as Tarantino and the Weinsteins could have asked for, especially given that the film’s Cannes premier was greeted with a chorus that some have described as negative but was really all over the place; some proclaimed instant love, others expressed varying degrees of disappointment, and others were baffled. Now, after some apparently very effective tinkering on Tarantino’s part, the U.S. chorus at is singing mostly in harmony with an 88% “Fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes.  Though there has been a smattering of controversy over the film’s “once upon a time in Nazi occupied France” tone/plot no-longer-surprises, it’s a far cry even from the debates over violence that raged over “Kill Bill, Volume 1.” Oh well, one less source of free publicity.

Inglourious Basterds There is an additional lure this time. For once, Tarantino isn’t reviving the career of his lead actor but is actually benefiting from the presence of an A-lister in no particular need of a comeback in Brad Pitt. The possible fly in the ointment is that we critics are different from other people: we see more films. No director on the planet so makes movies for movie fans as Tarantino and, as with his other films, there’s always the chance that viewers who aren’t fully steeped in cinema might be lost at sea. As Anne Thompson wrote a couple of weeks back after seeing what she thought was a greatly improved cut of the film:

“Inglourious Basterds” is great fun—for cinephiles. It’s not a mainstream movie. If it gets to $50 million domestic there will be cheers through the corridors of Universal and Weinstein Co. And it should easily do better than that overseas.

That second part of Thompson’s prophesy has already begun to be proven, with Variety‘s Pamela McClintock reporting Tarantino’s strongest opening yet in France, Belgium, and Francophone Switzerland. As for the reaction of regular ol’ Americans, only time will tell. Still, everybody seems to be expecting it to defeat the similarly male-leaning and violent “District 9” and at least match the $25.1 million opening weekend of “Kill Bill, Volume 2.

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