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This Weekend at the Movies: A Second Hangover, Animals Do Battle, and the Palme d’Or Winner

Memorial Day weekend used to mean the start of the summer movie season, but by now we’re already in full swing! Nevertheless, the studios have seen fit to give you two sequels to two massively popular films. And maybe some artsy stuff for the coasts.

The Hangover Part II


And yes, they’re going roman numeral style. This is some classy stuff right here. I saw this on Monday, and while there are a lot of funny moments with the same gang (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis), you will be shocked at how incredibly similar it is to the first. Way beyond the even standard “same premise, different locale” set-up you would expect. It robs it of some of the insanity the first, which I loved, had in spades. Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 32% fresh rating. Nevertheless, it opened to a whopping $10 million on midnight showings alone last night. With a five-day weekend in which to run rampant (Monday’s a holiday!), this is going to do some serious damage at the box office.

Kung-Fu Panda 2


Once known with the much sillier subtitle “The Kaboom of Doom,” this one seems to do what a good sequel should – offer the same delights as the original in a new package. It boasts a 75% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and while some critics fault it for hewing too closely to the original, many were too swept up by its charms to care. Kung Fu Panda became unexpectedly beloved upon its release, and many cite it as one of Dreamworks’ few great films. It’s hard to imagine those fans, and their kids, won’t come to see this in droves.

The Tree of Life


While the latest film from Terrence Malick certainly won’t make the same imprint at the box office as the previously-mentioned films, this is the film event for cinephiles this weekend. That is, if you live in New York or Los Angeles. I have my ticket to the midnight show tonight, and could not possibly be more excited. If you live elsewhere, don’t fret – you’ll be able to see the Palme d’Or winner within the next few weeks, as Fox Searchlight rolls it out across the country. Click here to see when your city is getting it. And although this doesn’t have the mass appeal of your kung-fu pandas or your 30-something frat boys, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of that Cannes buzz fuel it to a respectable hit for Fox Searchlight.

Beyond that, New York gets two art house release - Tuesday, After Christmas, a sparse study of infidelity that received solid reviews when it premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and United Red Army, an epic about a revolutionary group in Japan in the 1970s.

Next week, it’s all about the X-Men back on the screen again, while at least a couple of cities will get one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday trailers: Two coming of age tales for the price of one!

The single most crowded genre in the history of film, television, literature, theater, and most definitely popular songs is getting a little bit more crowded next year.

First, “Tree of Life,” the new film from talented but way-too-contemplative-for-my-taste director Terrence Malick, threatens to be dramatic enough that I might actually like it — assuming he doesn’t spend 3/4 of the film shooting sparrows nesting in nearby trees and if can keep his reliance on endless, pretentious narration under control. (I’m still scarred by the drama-free-war-melodrama-cum-nature-documentary that was “The Thin Red Line.”) Or maybe he can make another serial killer film some day, because “Badlands” was pretty great. The pictures are very beautiful, however.


Tree Of Life
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So, handsomest-man-in-the-world Brad Pitt and willowy Jessica Chastain have a baby and he grows up into Sean Penn. Boy, and I thought I didn’t fare too well in the genetic lottery. A big h/t to Film Drunk and commenter Larry:

Malick has the worst narrators since the voice in my head that tells me to burn things.

Next, we have the first starring role in a while from Topher Grace. I think Grace is a hugely underrated actor with a gift for comedy. The movie, however is called “Take Me Home Tonight” and what you are about to see is even more familiar than the title of a bad hairband song. Also, why do people want to relive the 80s? I wasn’t so crazy about them the first time.

The good news is that, at 32, Grace is getting a bit old for this kind of material. I’m also fairly sure the very hot (I mean career wise) Anna Faris could probably do a lot better than this. Dan Fogler, on the other hand, is at approximately the correct level. Actually, the scene with the cuckold guy and the glamorous but slightly strange looking redhead was the first small chuckle he’s elicited from me so far, so there’s always hope for improvement.

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It’s time for another end of week movie news dump. Yay.

Yup, with Cannes going on and the early-early summer movie season happening, things are hopping.

* Nikkie Finke broke the news this morning of the latest chapter in the never-ending tale of the battle over the rights to the character of “Superman.” It seems DC is countersuing lawyer Marc Toberoff on the grounds of conflict of interest. Sure does sound like “hardball” but that’s what happens when millions of dollars are at stake.

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* It never ends. It just never, ever ends. A new alleged victim has come forward claiming that Roman Polanski raped her during the eighties when she was sixteen. (The terms used in the article are “sexually abused” in “the worst possible way” — I have no clue how that could not be rape, at the very least, if true). The woman is being represented by, naturally, Gloria Allred.

At this time, there’s no corroborating evidence beyond the charges. If there is, I think it’s curtains for Polanski and he’ll find himself suddenly and justifiably all-but friendless in Hollywood. It’s one thing to have one extremely nasty episode in your past, it’s quite another to be a serial sexual predator.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

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* 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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A special Thursday at the movies

It’s special because I usually do my box office preview tonight, but personal circumstance are forcing a small delay in that, so instead we have some more, if extra brief, news hits right now.

* The sad and shocking death of actress Brittany Murphy has been ruled accidental and is ascribed to a combination of pneumonia and prescription drugs.

* The Playlist points us to the latest on director Michel Gondry, off the set of “The Green Hornet” with Seth Rogen and working on some kind of “secret project” with Bjork, who long ago has sworn off movie making after the infamously difficult shoot of “Dancer in the Dark.”

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* From Nikki Finke: He’s not quite the J.D. Salinger of movie directors, but the very private and selective director with a large cult following and a tendency to take things slowly — very slowly — Terrence Malick  (“Badlands,” “The New World“), is keeping busy and working with big stars.

* One of the most buzzed about documentaries at Sundance, “Catfish,” has been purchased. Sounds interesting.

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