If you’re looking for a surprise at the box office…

…I suggest you got to the front of your local multiplex, remove your pants, sing “La Cucaracha” at the top of your voice, and see what happens. You certainly won’t get anything too unexpected from the weekend’s movie grosses based on what I wrote Thursday night.

Avatar

According to Box Office Mojo , once again the 3-D science fiction fable that just won’t quit, “Avatar” continues to “hold” fabulously for Fox and is down only 14.1% from last weekend for a very nice total of $30 million in its seventh week atop the box office. Jolly Carl DiOrio reminds us, however, that while James Cameron‘s previous “Titanic” record is about to be demolished in terms of raw cash, that mega-blockbuster stayed on top of the box office for an astonishing 15 weekends. (I’m glad I wasn’t writing these back in 1997-8; I might have gone insane from the repetition.) Of course, all it takes to end the record is one really sizable new hit movie to make into the high twenties or low thirties. We’ll see.

For now, that sizable new hit remains a mere phantom. This week’s silver medalist is the thriller “Edge of Darkness, starring Mel Gibson” The film managed an estimated $17.12 million in 3,066 theaters for Warners, making for an unexciting per screen average of $5,584. This is not a terrible performance, but given the film’s $80 million budget, it ain’t great. Some of you (you know who you are) may recall that, when the space opera “Serenity” opened with about $10 million some years back, it was deemed a fairly major disappointment with a budget of less than half that much. Ol’ Sugar Tits and company are going to have to hold on very well at the box office in subsequent weeks if he wants this to be seen as anything resembling the start of an acting comeback.

Kristen Bell in
Speaking of movies related to great-but-canceled television shows with high geek appeal, what does it mean that, just as I was starting to write this post, the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends” came on the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s Muzak? Yes, the theme to “Veronica Mars” put me in mind of the performance of the critically drubbed romantic comedy “When in Rome.” Still, the appeal of former TV teen detective Kristen Bell may have counted for enough to get the film a non-terrible estimated opening weekend of $12+ million for Disney, which might be enough, or not, depending on the budget.

There was some interesting blowback from prior weeks. Last week’s surprising situation where the killer-angel film “Legion” came in at a strong #2 with over $28 million, defeating the family appeal of Fox’s “The Tooth Fairy” was reversed this week. The PG-rated Dwayne Johnson comedy vehicle stayed in the #4 position and earned an estimated $10 million dropping a relatively very modest 28% in its second week. “Legion” from Screen Gems sank by a whopping 61.1% and came in at the #6 spot, beneath “The Book of Eli,” with only an estimated $6.8 million.

The only other news of much note is the strong performance of the slowly expanding country-music themed drama, “Crazy Heart” — featuring a multi-award-winning performance by Jeff Bridges that really seems like an Oscar lock. In 239 theaters as of this weekend, the film earned one of the weekend’s best per-screen averages ($9,414) for an estimated total of $2.25 million. That will be sweet, soulful music to the ears of the suits of Fox Searchlight.

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Why do I even bother to write new headlines for the box office previews?

When the same frickin’ movie tops the box office office charts every single week for seven damn weeks in a row, I mean, why even bother to make movies if you’re name isn’t James Cameron? Okay, that may be taking it way too far, but jolly Carl DiOrio has once again stated that “Avatar” is once again on track to top the weekend’s box office with something in the neighborhood of $25 million. Who am I to argue?

Still, in a world where old fashioned movie star status still seemed to mean something commercially — and where Mel “Sugar Tits” Gibson (see yesterday’s post), hadn’t eroded his appeal through some bad/hypocritical behavior and an acting hiatus of several years — “Edge of Darkness” would, at least, be giving the Na’vi a run for their blue money. It’s a movie version of a BBC miniseries originally directed by busy helmer Martin Campbell, who also directed this outing and the screenplay is co-written by William Monahan, who did such a brilliant job adapting the strong but somewhat thin Hong Kong hit, “Infernal Affairs,” into the outstanding “The Departed” for Martin Scorsese.

Mel It’s worth noting, however, that in that case Monahan was allowed to flesh out a stripped down shorter script into more of an epic length tale and, in this case, he and fellow scribe Andrew Bovell are pairing down a miniseries into a vastly shorter feature length film. The reviews so far are acceptable but unexciting. It’s at 59% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and the general vibe I’m getting is a slightly more positive than usual “meh.” Not exactly the huge comeback MSTG could really use if he wants to be a big time movie star again, rather than just a controversial director.

Now, if there’s anyone new out there who deserves to suddenly become a big time movie star, it’s Kristen Bell. However, there’s something about “When in Rome” that has critics sharpening their most negative adjectives despite their affection for Bell as TV’s “Veronica Mars,” among other terrific performances. Certainly our own David Medsker dislikes the film as much as he likes Bell, and that 10% Rotten Tomatoes rating indicates he’s not alone, and the film’s strong supporting cast doesn’t seem to have helped any. The director is Mark Steven Johnson who is really proving t be no directing genius. He made “Ghost Rider” and, though our own Jason Zingale had some kind words for it, the utterly lacking “Daredevil.” As Stan Lee would say, “’nuff said.”

Jolly Carl DiOrio predicts that both the K-Bell and Sugar Tits Gibson films will do something in the “low to mid-teen millions” though from very different audiences. Sure, why not?

K-Bell deserves better!

  

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While I was out…

If anyone out there has noticed my absence over the last few few days, suffice it to say I’ve been dealing with a family emergency and posting by me may remain a bit sporadic over the next several days. However, I’m hoping to keep things close to normal as, fortunately, things seem to be stabilizing somewhat.

Of course, it just so happens that I’ve been pretty seriously distracted just as Sundance was underway and there’s undoubtedly much I’ve missed. Here are just a few items that have caught my attention.

* Our very own Will Harris has been very much on top of story behind an upcoming television adaptation of work by highly regarded comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis. Now, add to that this revelation from Mike Fleming that another Bendis piece will be one of two vehicles that Zac Efron hopes will help him in his quest to perform a Johnny Depp-like -transition from Tiger Beat-style teen fave to respected A-list actor.

* There’s nothing like a bit of controversy to liven things up at a film festival, and this year Sundance is getting a shot of that from, of all things, an adaptation of a classic fifty-eight year old pulp novel. Michael Winterbottom’s reportedly very faithful version of grimness specialist Jim Thompson’s “The Killer Inside Me” was reportedly all too faithful for some. The film apparently features some very brutal beatings of the women in the life of the sociopathic title character played by Casey Affleck. It probably adds to the shock factor that the victims are played by Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson. The Auteurs and Anne Thompson summarize the issues.

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* On a much lighter note, I take a personal interest in the film “Cyrus” because — back before it even had a name — co-director Mark Duplass discussed it with me right here, when I interviewed him behind his co-starring role in the very funny “Humpday.” The film stars Jonah Hill in what is being touted as something of a breakthrough performance, alongside Marisa Tomei and John C. Reilly. Once again, Anne Thompson is on top of things and has an interview with Mark and his brother Jay, which I promise to watch when I get a moment. (Hey, I haven’t even watched the State of the Union speech yet.)

* I’ve got a solution to this whole question of whether or not we should forgive Mel Gibson. I say everyone who is offended by Mel Gibson’s past statements, etc., should see his movies if they want to, but they should refer to him only as “Sugar Tits.” Indeed, For long as I remember to do it, in these posts, from this point forward, he’ll be Mel “Sugar Tits” Gibson or MSTG, for short. Seems fair to me.

  

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