Celebrate falling back with two dipsomaniacal pre-music videos

Since tonight is “fall back” night and we all get an extra hour of sleep and/or recovery tomorrow morning, these two booze-themed films featuring musical madman Spike Jones — who gave director/performer Spike Jonze his name — somehow seem appropriate.

It’s funny how back in the 80s, everyone treated music videos like they were something new. How is this made-for-the-big-screen version of Jones’ signature mis-arrangement, “Cocktails for Two,” originally written as a serious celebration of the end of prohibition, any different from a typical Weird Al video?

H/t ex-boozer Roger Ebert, who also has a new short film by today’s Spike Jonze on offer.

An alcoholic bonus theatrical short subject with the earlier Mr. Jones is on offer after the flip.

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Weekend box office: “Jackass 3D,” a big win for creative stupidity; “RED” a smaller win for chronological maturity

Back on Thursday night, we were talking about a possible $30 million or more for the latest from the usual gang of self-declared prankster-daredevil idiots, “Jackass 3D.” Well, one quick look at the Box Office Mojo’s chart will show you that it turned out to be an estimated $50 million. Considering the film only cost $20 million, that’s a pretty great start, even with a rather large possible second week attendance crash.

No doubt a lot of “Jackass”-generated cash for Paramount — a new record for this time period, though with constant inflation of movie tickets, even in a stagnant economy, I’m never too impressed by these constantly broken records — comes directly from the 3D bump. It seems clear that the format can still make a big difference for the right movie, and this is obviously a special case. Regular readers know I was born without the gene that makes people enjoy the feeling of being grossed out, but even I get that if seeing something, or someone, squirt out of an orifice in 2D is hilarious, then watching it/him practically fly into your lap in 3D must be completely hysterical. The only fly in the stinky ointment here is that inevitable R-rating. I can only imagine how many younger, mostly male, teenagers and tweens are trying to figure out how they can scam their way into a theater (and the correct glasses) or begging older relatives and/or paying neighborhood winos to take them.

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Okay, maybe this guy actually should be making movies

In the post just below this one, I write quite skeptically about a planned upcoming movie that commercial director Carl Erik Rinsch is said to be “circling.” Aside from my other strong misgivings about the project, I was initially unimpressed that yet another big movie was being helmed by a commercial director.

Now, as Ridley Scott (one of the bosses at Rinsch’s commercial production company) proved, the demanding field of commercials can yield some fairly great directors. At the same time, commercials are great proving grounds for visual flash and style, but don’t require the kind of sustained storytelling that even dramatic short subjects require.  I think one reason old Hollywood worked better from a film consumer’s point of view was that directors started on dramatic short subjects, then moved on to low budget “B” pictures, and finally on to main features. I don’t think I need to remind anyone where Michael Bay started.

Still, things haven’t worked in the old school way in a long, long time and I thought it was only fair for me to see if I could find some of Mr. Rinsch’s commercials online. And, I have to say, I was impressed — not that they’re all perfect or indicate he’ll be the next John Ford, but he certainly has a way with an arresting image and with some very cool CGI work as well. I just wish Rinsch could find a more promising project than “47 Ronin” — or figure some brilliant way to make the thing not as wrongheaded as it sounds. We’ll see about that, but I do think these are very intriguing pieces of work. There’s a bit of a Spike Jonze/Michel Gondry vibe here, alongside something else.

Much more after the jump.

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“Where the Wild Things Are” rides atop the box office.

Where the Wild Things AreAt least this week I have some company in being a bit off the mark.  The estimated grosses for Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers’ adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” overperformed the most optimistic assessments and nailed an estimated $32.5 million. So says jolly Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter, as the significantly less jolly Nikki Finke factually reminds us that Warners chose to push the film as more of an adult picture. The decision certainly seems to have paid off.

It seems likely that the approach widened rather than narrowed the potential audience (parents with kids were likely to show up regardlesss) and added to the “cool” factor, with Cinemascore indicating that younger adults actually seem to enjoy it more than those over 25. In any case, as past somewhat deceptive campaigns I can think of attest, a certain degree of honesty in movie marketing may actually be the best policy.

Also earning more than expected is Overture’s poorly reviewed violent thriller “Law Abiding Citizen.” The macho appeal of the revenge/serial killerish premise, bolstered no doubt by the familiarity of stars Gerard Butler and  Jamie Foxx, proved fruitful with roughly $21.2-3 million estimated, depending on which sites you read.

Colm Meany, Jamie Foxx, and Gerard Butler in

In the #3 spot, “Paranormal Activity” continued to do extremely good business for Paramount with the week’s highest per-screen average ($26,530), netting an estimated $20.1-2 million on only 760 screens, still a fraction of the number of theaters showing competing flicks. As for the small discrepancies in these figures, looking at the numbers provided by Finke, DiOrio, and the Box Office Mojo chart, it sure looks like the glass-half-full DiOrio is rounding up while the glass-half-empty-and-shattered-beyond-repair Finke is rounding down.

Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell in
Though it has precisely zero appeal for yours truly and got almost uniformly bad reviews, audiences are being kind to troubled Universal Studios and Peter Billingsley, the now grown-up star of “A Christmas Story,” with his feature film debut as a director, “Couples Retreat.” The relationship comedy held well and lost a very respectable 47.7% from its opening week, earning an estimated $17.9 million in its second week. Not too surprisingly, then, the #5 spot went to the PG-13 rated horror remake, “The Stepfather,” with an estimated $12.3 million. In this climate, it might have done a bit better if it held onto the R-rating of the original. Lesson for Sony: If you’re making a horror picture, throw in a few extra f-words and maybe a c-word if you can manage it, just for safety.

On the limited release front, “An Education” had a very good weekend. The Nick Hornby-scripted period memoir adaptation from Swedish Dogme alumna Lone Sherfig, making her English-language directorial debut, earned $505,000 in 19 theaters. The Coen Brothers’ adventure in domestic Judaica,  “A Serious Man,” performed its due box office mitvot with an estimated $860,000 in 82 theaters. The #2 movie this week in terms of per-screen average after “Paranormal Activity,” however, was the critically lauded Chilean drama, “The Maid.” True, that terrific $18,000 was on only one screen, but for a satirical drama from Chile, it’s a success worth noting.

Finally, I have to demand that my brothers and sisters in L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Seattle get down to their local theaters and see the blaxsploitation parody par excelance “Black Dynamite,” post haste. The film earned what a less jolly Carl DiOrio termed a “mild” $2,014 average on seventy screens for an estimated total of $141,000 for Sony’s Apparition films.  Not horrible, but not what a powerful brother like Mr. Dynamite (absolutely no relation to Napoleon D.) so powerfully deserves! And if I read one more blog commenter saying this movie has already “been done” via the disappointing “Undercover Brother” or the pleasantly fun, but not nearly so brilliant, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” I’ll know the Man is up to his usual tricks and it’s time to take back the movie theaters!

BlackDynamiteMovieStill

  

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Wild paranormal law-abiding stepdads to rule box office, almost for sure

Where the Wild Things Are

If you’re craving variety and unpredictability in your movie weekend, then this weekend is for you. Still, most of the smart money seems to agree that the week’s likely fiscal winner is Spike Jonze’s new PG-rated adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s multi-layered picture book classic, “Where the Wild Things Are.”  The family film boasts an outstanding cast, both onscreen and as voice talent, including Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, and Forest Whitaker. It’s also got a director synonymous with high-quality and not-quite-mainstream fare and its hep cred is further bolstered by the name of bestselling author and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers on the screenplay. Best of all, commercially speaking, it’s based on a book that’s been read and loved by practically everyone. All told, it seems like a canny blending of mainstream recognition, family appeal, and more than a dash of arthouse appeal, but therein may lie the difficulty.

This is a film that really should bit a big hit with critics, and its advertising certainly sells the film’s visual beauty — always a plus with cinephile critics. However, it turns out our David Medskar’s very mild 3/5 star review is pretty typical of the critical reaction. Rating a good-but-not-great 68% Fresh on the Rotten Tomatoes scoreboard, critics are expressing sentiments similar to Dave, who found it “lacking in terms of emotional weight.” Since emotional weight — laughter and tears, etc. — not arresting filmmaking technique — is what most people are looking for at the movies, you have to wonder about whether the film will show any legs over the long term. Still, jolly Carl DiOrio’s prediction of a $25-30 million dollar weekend seems more than reasonable given the audience’s voracious appetite for strong family films with cross-generational appeal. On the other hand, Disney’s decision to extend the run of the 3-D double bill of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” could cut into the “Wild” numbers just a bit with a terrific package of tried-and-true family fair bolstered by the appeal of 3-D.

Gerard Butler and Jamey Foxx in
For some decidedly non-kid-friendly fair, Director F. Gary Gray and writer Kurt Wimmer’s “Law Abiding Citizen” boasts two more or less A-list leads as Jamie Foxx portrays as a careerist D.A. pitted against against tragedy stricken family man turned imprisoned vigilante serial killer played by Gerard Butler. I think Butler has starred in like 200 million mainstream movies this year. None of those movies has been a hit with the critics so far, and “Citizen” is no exception.

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