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The Scream Awards go down the rabbit hole (updated)

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There was a time in this world when young people were frequently slightly ashamed of being bigger than average fans of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and especially comic books. I, personally, wasn’t embarrassed …and I paid a price. Those days may be over. In any case, the capacity crowd that showed up for Spike TV’s Scream awards, largely in costume and largely dramatically over- or under-dressed for a nighttime outdoor show after a very warm day, seemed more like club kids and less like the kind of uber geeks who become entertainment bloggers and film critics and stuff like that.

The Scream Awards are, in their fun/silly way, a big deal. Big enough to attract a good number of stars and even a few superstars like Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp and his living legend “Pirates of the Caribbean” muse, Rolling Stone Keith Richard.

I, however, am not such a big deal and was reminded of that fact when, prior to the show I found myself with the less fashionable members of the not-quite paparazzi on the “red carpet” (actually a checkered walkway) with my little digital camera and even smaller digital recorder device, wondering whether I’d really get a chance to ask a question of one of the super-famed folks, knowing that the only question I could think of at the time would be something in the nature of “What’s it like be the most notorious rock and roll star in the world, having your blood changed, and snorting your late father’s ashes?” That probably would have been inappropriate, especially if I asked it of Jessica Alba.

What actually seems to happen at events like this is that, if you’re a small-timer especially, most of the big stars either go through another entrance or walk right by you at warp speed. Meanwhile, folks who are a bit more anxious to meet the press find their way to you with the help of PR types. As an example, for about half a second, I was almost able to talk with actor Karl Urban, who did such a great job homaging DeForest Kelly while putting his own hilarious stamp on “Bones” McCoy in “Star Trek.” However, within a nanosecond he remembered he was in a big hurry and politely scurried off.

After a few odd reality show people I didn’t recognize, and the pretty young actress who assays the part of “Female Addict” in “Saw VI,” our first actual notable was statuesque model turned actress Tricia Helfer. Helfer is, make no mistake, a true superstar to TV sci-fi fans and is best known as Number Six, aka “the hot blonde cylon” on “Battlestar Galactica.” The actress appeared with her significant other, the owner of a British accent and a Giaus Baltar-style beard, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence. I had a not terribly consequential discussion with her — lost because I apparently forgot to press the “on” button on my digital recorder. One would expect no less an effect from Number Six. UPDATE: Yeesh! As pointed out by my PH compatriot John Paulsen, the actress was actually Kate Vernon, who played the lady-MacBeth-like Ellen Tigh. It is true, all statueseque blonde women in shiny dresses look alike to me! My apologies to all concerned or unconcerned.

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Extremely late Friday night news dump

Hey folks, day time tasks have slowed me down, but who was it who said “the night was made for movie blogging”? Okay, no one said that, but we all know it’s true! Anyhow, here are some items from throughout the week I haven’t had a chance to touch on…

* This interview with director Mary Harron has been linked to by several different bloggers throughout the week. If memory serves, it may not actually be new news that Christian Bale partially based his genius-level breakthrough performance in 2000′s “American Psycho” on Tom Cruise, but it’s perhaps more intriguing now that we think we more about both actors’ quirks.

Christian Bale in "American Psycho"

* It might be inside critic/film blogger baseball to you but it’s big — and somewhat distressing — news to me. The thought provoking and just plain cool Karina Longworth, who has helped me out via the miracle of linking many times at her Spout blog home, will be leaving the site at the end of the month, which will also no longer be providing new content including the work of Christopher Campbell (I frequently link to his “The Day in Film Bloggery” posts.).

Somewhat oddly, her soon to be ex-boss attributed her departure not to fiscal issues but to a difference over “vision” for the blog. So, his “vision” was not to have one at all? Anyhow, the consensus is that the hardworking Longworth will be going places regardless.

* I strongly disliked the pilot for “Fringe” (and said so right here) and, unlike David Medsker, I outright hated “Transformers.” (I didn’t even make it through the whole movie…oh, the pleasures of not reviewing.) Then screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman surprised the heck out of me by crafting a perfectly terrific script for “Star Trek,” marred only a little by director J.J. Abram’s hyperactive visual proclivities. (What’s wrong with using a tripod sometimes? Still, he got terrific performances and told a dandy tale, so I’m not complaining too much.) Anyhow, the  writers’ thoughts on the sequel are worth a look.

* Jackie Chan and Andy Lau are remaking Jet Li‘s 1981 breakthrough film, which I’m ashamed to say I’ve never even heard of before (at least not that I can remember), “Shaolin Temple.” I guess I should try to see it. Considering that Li was barely 19 back then and that Chan is now 55 (Lau’s in his forties), I trust he’s not playing the same character…or it’s been seriously rewritten.

* Disney is reportedly working on a “digital cloud,” in which content will be purchased and viewable in multiple formats. I generally get the consumer appeal of this, but I still fail to see why anyone would want to watch a movie on a cell phone. In fact, I think even the larger online version of this is way too small for this kind of beauty. (There’s a very brief Spanish language intro, by far the best version of this Disney classic I found on YouTube — the segment starts at 0:23.)

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Void at the box office

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There’s a definite feeling of apathy about this week’s new box office releases, but on we go.

Topping this Labor Day weekend’s movie newbies is the Gerard Butler sci-fi action flick from the team who brought us “Crank.” “Gamer” adds a video game twist to such past violent media commentaries as “Death Race 2000” and “The Running Man.” Lionsgate isn’t screening this one for critics, so there’s no reason to assume there’s anything terribly clever or satirical about it, though a capable supporting cast led by Michael C. Hall (Showtime’s “Dexter“) as a villainous game designer as well as Ludacris and Kyra Sedgwick seem to indicate someone, at one point, hoped to do something interesting with this one. As for commercial success, it appears to all be laid at the feet of Butler. Nothing against the very capable Scottish thespian, but I just don’t see this one beating last week’s leader, the gimmick-driven 3-D horror opus, “The Final Destination.”

And that, I’m sure goes double for next of the three new major releases of the week, the Sandra Bullock headlined screwball romantic comedy, “All About Steve.” A film which the nation’s critics might well wish Fox had withheld, it has achieved the still fairly rare honor of a 00% Rotten Tomatoes “Fresh” rating (as in 100% “rotten”). Costar Bradley Cooper’s newfound recognizability via “The Hangover” probably won’t help much here, and Thomas Haden Church doubtless deserves better. Apparently the creators of this one intended Bullock’s character to be a lovable eccentric, but instead wound up with the more usual sort of eccentric — the kind who’s just weird. There’s likely a reason this one’s being dumped at the end of a long movie summer.

It’s in significantly fewer theaters than its competitors at only about 1,500, but Mike Judge’s “Extract” simply has to be better than either of them. At a 55% RT rating, the nation’s critics pretty much reflect the divided reaction of my fellow PH-er Jason Zingale, who calls it “a wildly uneven film that is deftly funny at some points, and just plain dull in others.” Still, though Jason 100% detested Judge’s earlier, barely released, “Idiocracy” that film got better reviews and the portions I’ve seen on cable certainly made me laugh — not that anyone cares what us critics think.

Jason Bateman in
As the writer-director of “Office Space” and the creator of TV’s “King of the Hill” and “Beavis and Butthead,” Judge is a knotty figure when it comes to movies. His now legendary workplace comedy was pretty much dumped at the box office only to be discovered later on vide0, and “Idiocracy” got even less promotion than the original release of “Space.” (Jason would say for good reason.) “Extract” star Jason Bateman is a skilled comedian but despite important parts in numerous hits, including “Juno,” he’s a very long way from the film stardom of his onetime TV son, Michael Cera. Still, both Judge and Bateman have a lot of pent-up goodwill. Maybe there’ll be a surprise here, but don’t bet the farm, or even the garden, on it.

That leaves two 100-theater releases. The first is a horror flick being dumped after the demise of Paramount Vantage. “Carriers” seeks to milk horror from pandemic fears. Quarantined from critics, it stars the talented Lou Taylor Pucci and the new Captain Kirk, Chris Pine. Speaking of James Tiberius, the other release isn’t new at all but another chance to catch J.J. Abrams’ hugely entertaining (if oddly filmed) “Star Trek” in Imax, which has certainly lived long and prospered at the box office.

Star Trek

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A Chat with Darryl Bell of “Househusbands of Hollywood”

It feels a little disingenuous for me to talking up a series which I can’t even watch in my area (Cox Communications in Hampton Roads, VA, has yet to pick up Fox Reality), but as someone who works at home and has a 4-year-old daughter, I respect the concept of “Househusbands of Hollywood” enough to do at least a little bit of promotion for it. I’ve already detailed the TCA panel about the show, but when the opportunity to sit down with one of the cast members – Darryl Bell, late of “A Different World” – became available, I couldn’t resist. In addition to his time spent on the “Cosby Show” spin-off, Bell has worked with Spike Lee and done time on a rather infamous sci-fi sitcom, but he’s still very much a working actor. He’s also the significant other of former “Cosby” kid Tempestt Bledsoe, a relationship which led him to this reality-show endeavor…and led me to my first question.

Bullz-Eye: First off, you two seem to be almost a ringer on the show. You’re not even husband and wife yet!

Darryl Bell: That is a good way to put it, Will. We are the ringers. That’s probably caused the most frequently asked questions, like, “You guys are the only couple who is not married, you’re the only ones without kids, so what are you doing here in a show called ‘Househusbands’?” The short answer to that has been Marilyn Wilson. Marilyn’s a good friend, produced Temp’s talk show. Marilyn and I have been out, pitched shows’ and tried to sell other things. We’ve worked together in that capacity. It was her assurances that we’re trying to do something that’s fun and not trying to ambush anyone or be mean spirited. “Come be a part of this, because we think you guys are hilarious.” Apparently, the more that I have even talked to other friends, they are, like, “Oh, we’ve been saying for years that you guys should have your own reality series, because you are just funny.” It just happened to come in this format. I don’t know that we would have agreed to have done this for anyone else. So, there you go.

BE: It makes it a little hard for me to ask, “Is it weird being a ‘Househusband’?”

DB: And I don’t know what that means for me, anyway, only from the standpoint that people ask me that because I’m on this show. But in terms of work-wise, it’s just like…even in the series, when Tempest was coming back from on location, shooting the film, I was going on location to shoot this show for TV One. That’s really the nature of our relationship. You know, it’s rare that we’ll both be doing something at the same time, but we’re always in this cyclical gig that is being a working actor in Hollywood. That’s just how our lives have operated. I was just saying in another interview, when Brad is off shooting a movie, Angelina isn’t always shooting one. She’s somewhere with the kids. Or when Angelina’s shooting and Brad is somewhere…? That’s just the way it works.

BE: So what kind of husbandly responsibilities do you have? I mean, do you chip in, doing the dishes or whatever when she’s not there?

DB: I mean, I can’t really call it husbandly duties. Our house is not a pigsty, but I can say that some of that is attributed to the housekeeper. You know what I mean? That helps out a lot. I can only say that when I think of that…when anything breaks, like most men, it’s, like, “Darryl, come fix it,” you know? I get that. But as a regular responsibility, that’s not me.

BE: Is there anything you do that would typically be considered a gender-specific thing, something that one would normally expect a wife to do?

DB: For us, no. For us, I guess that’s what has been so good: we have talked about not having an ego about anything. She likes to cook, so she has cooked for me, but I’ve cooked for her, you know? So from a relationship standpoint of view, I can’t say that…we don’t have any specifically defined roles, other than, as many men will find the case, she wanted pets and yet somehow they are my responsibility. You know how that works out.

BE: Hey, I feed our cat.

DB: Exactly, exactly. And what man asks for a cat? That’s just not the way it works. I want a Neapolitan Mastiff, but the reason I don’t have one is because she wanted a cat.

BE: Sure, that seems fair.

DB: That’s a whole different relationship kind of issue, you know what I mean? It’s not specific to the show, but that’s how it worked out.

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“Branson” and the world outside LAFF

There’s an idea out there that documentary filmmakers require more good luck to make a successful project, and though Brent Meeske took some three and half years to complete his work after another film died aborning, he clearly made some remarkable luck for himself with “Branson.” It starts out somewhat slowly, but what emerges is a compelling chronicle of the ups-and-downs of several talented but far from famous performers trying to make a life in the small city in Missouri that could best be described as Las Vegas, but with a vastly lower budget and constructed to Ned Flanders specifications.

At times, the hugely corny but enthusiastic performances may make us feel we’re in Christopher Guest/”Waiting for Guffman” territory. The post screening discussion revealed that at least one of the performers chronicled, evangelical Christian and New York transplant Geoffrey Hastings Haberer, was more than aware of the Guffmanesque aspects of Branson performances. Still, though its connection with Jack Black might worry some, this is not a film that in any way condescends to its subjects. At the same time, I’m not sure I’d be writing so favorably about it were it not for the far more troubled, yet also incredibly talented, performer who walks away with the film, Johnny Cash impersonator Jackson Cash. His Olympian personal struggles and powerhouse performances have moved even relatives of the late legend of American music to marvel at the similarity.

As he proved in a remarkable live performance following the film, Jackson Cash is really not impersonating Johnny Cash at all in any normal sense of the world. He simply performs Cash’s material with such clarity, honesty, and with such a remarkably similar voice (the result, Cash says, of damage to his larynx delivered by an angry drug dealer), that the differences between this man in black and the earlier one dissolve.

He wowed the film festival audience at a post screening concerted, which included at least one clearly enthralled well-known director, so things may be looking up for this remarkable performer, whose personal demons (drugs, possible bipolar issues, etc.)  make up a significant portion of the more dramatic material in “Branson.” I hope real success and stability are in the offing for Cash, as a brief conversation with the man indicated that he is very much as advertised: the real deal.

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A few brief items from more or less outside the world of the L.A. Film Festival:

* Den of Geek passes along a Reuters report of director Michael Bay critiquing the marketing of the “Transformers” sequel about to hit theaters. (Hint, he apparently doesn’t think it’s a sequel at all, but an “event.”)

* Nathaniel R. has sixty ways to celebrate Meryl Streep’s birthday. (Guess how old she is.)

* Box Office Mojo has the “actuals” from last weekend. No big surprises, but they report that “Star Trek” is now officially the most successful “Star Trek” film of all time, adjusted for inflation. For once, I agree with the masses. I might quarrel at times with the hyperactive visual style of the film and I wouldn’t make any particular claims to greatness for it, but nor would I for “The Wrath of Khan.” All in all, it couldn’t happen to a nicer little space opera.

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A Chat with Antonio Elias

Can you imagine being an actor who’s worked in TV for the past few years and, when you finally score your first movie gig, it’s “Star Trek”? Nice work if you can get it, as the song says, and Antonio Elias – who plays one of the officers of the Kelvin in the opening sequence of the film – will be the first to tell you that the work was very nice, indeed. We chatted with Elias about how he got into the acting game, got the story on how close he came to picking up a series-regular gig with Dylan McDermott a few years ago, found out a bit more about how “Star Trek” originally would have opened, and learned about his next film, “Spoken Word.”

Stay tuned for…

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The Ultimate Summer Movie

Courtesy of Lance and Oliver Mannion….

And, here’s an oldie but a goody — a classic, re-imagined for a new medium…

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Please, won’t you lend a television critic a hand?

The Television Critics Association has officially begun the gearing-up process for its 25th annual awards, which will honor the finest work of the 2008-09 season as selected by the association’s 200-plus member critics and journalists. One of those members is yours truly, and I figured I’d see what the readers of Premium Hollywood had to say about the nominations and who they’d like to see win the various categories. I’ll have to submit my votes by June 10th, but since the winners won’t be announced until August 1st (the ceremony takes place at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, CA, with Chelsea Handler opening the ceremony), so speak up quickly. There are a couple of things I’m on the fence about, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts before I make my final selections.

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

* “Battlestar Galactica” (SciFi Channel)
* “Lost” (ABC)
* “Mad Men” (AMC)
* “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
* “The Shield” (FX)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY

* “30 Rock” (NBC)
* “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
* “The Daily Show” (Comedy Central)
* “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS)
* “The Office” (NBC)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA

* “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
* “Friday Night Lights” (NBC/DirecTV)
* “Lost” (ABC)
* “Mad Men” (AMC)
* “The Shield” (FX)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT MOVIES, MINI-SERIES AND SPECIALS

* Summer Olympic Coverage (NBC)
* “24: Redemption” (Fox)
* “Generation Kill” (HBO)
* “Grey Gardens” (HBO)
* “Taking Chance” (HBO)

OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

“Fringe” (Fox)
“The Mentalist” (CBS)
“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (HBO)
“True Blood” (HBO)
“United States of Tara” (Showtime)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY

* Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
* Steve Carell (“The Office”)
* Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
* Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”)
* Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA

* Glenn Close (“Damages”)
* Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
* Walton Goggins (“The Shield”)
* Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
* Hugh Laurie (“House”)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING

* “Camp Rock” (The Disney Channel)
* “The Electric Company” (PBS)
* “Nick News” (Nickelodeon)
* “Sid the Science Kid” (PBS)
* “Yo Gabba Gabba” (Nickelodeon)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN NEWS & INFORMATION

* “60 Minutes” (CBS)
* “The Alzheimer’s Project” (HBO)
* “Frontline” (PBS)
* “The Rachel Maddow Show” (MSNBC)
* “We Shall Remain” (PBS)

HERITAGE AWARD

* “ER” (NBC)
* “M*A*S*H” (CBS)
* “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
* “The Shield” (FX)
* “Star Trek” (NBC)

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Buffy, We’ll Hardly Know Ye (Updated)

A veritable geek storm has erupted over an item at the Hollywood Reporter reporting a Star Trek and Twilight inspired reboot, or something, of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer franchise, only without Buffy creator Joss Whedon, sans Buffy’s erstwhile “scooby” friends (no Willow!!!! Aaaagh!!!!!!), and, if I read it right, without Buffy.

A bit of backstory: Fran Rubel Kuzui, director of the original, pleasantly mediocre, movie version of the franchise once upon a time fashioned a perfectly respectable, pleasantly lightweight autobiographical indie romantic comedy, Tokyo Pop (or that’s how I remember it…I haven’t seen it since it’s 1988 release, when I was but a highly precocious toddler). In typical Hollywood fashion, on her second (and, so far, final) feature as a director, most accounts hold that Rubel and company seriously refashioned Whedon’s original screenplay from a serio-comic actioner to an out and out teen comedy with random changes made to the screenplay from a number of sources, including, according to Whedon, co-star Donald Sutherland (who you will never see in any other Whedon project, it’s safe to say).

Since then, Rubel Kazui has held on to some of the rights, and fans of the Buffy TV show saw her name at the front of every episode…and heard nothing else from her, ever.  It’s safe to assume that she had zero input on the television show and received the credit as part of her compensation for the rights. Now, as most of you probably know, a major plot thread of the TV show was Buffy’s trouble-plagued romance with a (mostly) good guy vampire named Angel, setting the hearts of fans of Sarah Michelle Geller and David Boreanaz seriously aflutter. Hence, the Twilight connection — though lips that touched blood never touched those belonging to movie-Buffy Kristy Swanson.

So, with those Trek and Twilight grosses pointing the way, Kuzui and Vertigo Entertainment, which usually specializes in remaking Asian films for the American market, are trying to restart the franchise, apparently using a loophole from the original concept of there being a new slayer in every generation. As a fan of the show, trust me when I say this is nowhere near as clever as the loophole J.J. Abrams and company came up with to stay on (most) Trekkies’ good sides. Overall, this idea strikes me as if the Coca-Cola company had put out New Coke as a non-carbonated non-cola. Buffy without Buffy Summers, and the Whedonverse, without Whedon = box office gold?!? Nah.

Assuming it ever happens, of course. Whedon is an extremely savvy third-generation show biz writer who has already pulled off the unheard of feats of retrieving a lost screenplay concept and remaking it as his own TV show, and then turning another quickly-canceled television show into a major, if not immediately profitable, Hollywood film (Serenity). He is usually protective of his properties, to the extent that he has any control. I’m guessing that this one is almost certain to generate very interesting behind-the-scenes maneuvers.

As always, on Whedon-related matters Whedonesque is very much on top of the story.

UPDATE: Michael Ausiello has managed to elicit a four word response from Joss Whedon, whose currently working on his horror film collaboration with Drew Goddard, “The Cabin in the Woods.” Those four words are:

I hope it’s cool.

H/t Whedonesque.

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Weekend at the Multiplex (Updated)

Christian Bale contemplates his eyelineHey folks. Now, if anyone out there remembers the series of “Multiplex Mayhem” posts I was writing back in the dark days of the late, late Bush Administration, I’m returning in a different, and briefer form. For this week and next, I’ll be covering the weekend box office, and then, starting next month, there will be more from me on movies in general here, and that’s all I’m saying for the time being.

This big movie Memorial Day weekend, though no longer the official start of summer movie season, brings us too major tentpole releases from the big studios: Warner’s “Terminator Salvation” and Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.” The PG-13 Terminator reboot attempt is directed by McG, who Bullz-Eye’s Jason Zingale (who kinda sorta liked the movie) terms a “poor man’s Michael Bay.” Other critics were less charitable, and the film is getting easily the worst reviews in the entire history of the “Terminator” franchise, with the Rotten Tomatoes crowd giving it an underwhelming 35% “fresh” and generally seeming a little angry with star Christian Bale for walking into their collective eyeline. Not that any of that will matter to weekend grosses — and I do expect this to be the big winner of the long holiday weekend. However, if audiences agree that it really is inferior to prior “Terminator” flicks, it’s possible there will be a bigger drop-off later than expected. Still, at last night’s midnight’s screenings, it raked in a cool $3 million from the Red Bull drinking legions.

The sequel to 2006′s entirely unacclaimed “Night at the Museum” should also do well regardless of notices because it combines the only sure formula for box office success — a kid-friendly production that offers something, anything, to parents as well. In this case, Ben Stiller and a very strong supporting cast, even if the result had Roger Ebert squirming in boredom and remembering one of the truer critical refrains of all time:

I found myself yet once again echoing the frequent cry of Gene Siskel: Why not just give us a documentary of the same actors having lunch?

Still, the parents I know are mostly grateful for any movie that doesn’t involve CGI rodents eating their own feces, and at least this one encourages kids to go to museums.

And there is another option, that is the latest, at this point entirely unreviewed Wayans Brother’s spoof film from Paramount and MTV, “Dance Flick,” which at least has a reasonably funny trailer and Amy Sedaris (sister of writer/public radio superstar David Sedaris, frequent comedy companion of Stephen Colbert, before he was having portions of space stations named after him). Carl DiOrio says it will do well if can break out of the euphemistic “urban market”? Young folks looking for a comedy will likely go if they can’t get into something else, but something tells me that both “urban” people and their paler “suburban” friends will have other films to watch considering that, new releases aside, “Star Trek” and “Angels and Demons” are still very strong at the multiplex.

In limited release, we have Steve Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” starring thinking man’s porn star Sasha Grey in a sexy but non-porn role which makes it something of a must for cinephile horndogs the world over. And because I’m the retro-guy who occasionally likes the same movies your grandma does, I feel compelled to mention both “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story,” about the guys responsible for the vast bulk of the pre-”Little Mermaid” Disney songs, and the Noel Coward adaptation “Easy Virtue,” which looks like it would go down very well with a nice dry martini made with a good, dry English gin. But you’ll want to see Sasha, won’t you?

UPDATE: Apparently some disagree with what I thought was a conventional-wisdom friendly guess about the weekend’s winner, since “Terminator” is such a time-tested franchise. Nikki Finke says it will be neck and neck but those famed “insiders” are predicting immense numbers for “Museum.” We’ll see.

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