Box office preview: Divide and conquer

That’s the studio strategy this week as three major releases with large and divergent natural constituencies hit movie theaters. All three movies are expected to do rather well by the folks whose job it is to guess these things, as evidenced by the small amount of daylight between the predictions showcased this week by the L.A. TimesBen Fritz and THR‘s ever jolly Carl DiOrio.

I don’t think there’s any reason at all to doubt that the family audience, which hasn’t had a new 3D animated comedy in a while to gawk at, will check out “Megamind.” Featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, and Jonah Hill, the film is the second of these comedies this year to focus on a putative villain after “Despicable Me.” This one takes a more superpowered spin with a pretty obvious spoof on the Superman mythos. Reviews are decent but muted, but the take is expected to be a very solid $50 million or so, which is not so muted.

Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Gallifianaki have a The reviews are substantially less positive for “Due Date,” which is to youngish men what “Megamind” is to families. I remember being unimpressed for the trailer for the new comedy from Todd Phillips starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Gallifianakis, but apparently the sheer star power and the tried and true comic premise of a mismatched twosome on a road trip seems to be enough here for the R-rated comedy to get something in the $30-35 million neighborhood. Personally, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it under-perform. Star power just isn’t what it used to be these days and this is clearly not a second coming of Phillips’ “The Hangover.”

With a cast that includes Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and the Oprah herself, “For Colored Girls” is pretty clearly for African-American women as far as studio marketers are concerned. Based on the acclaimed  poetry-based play of the 1970s by Ntozake Shange (full title: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf), the movie is not getting much acclaim from critics, who once again are none too fond of Perry’s penchant for melodrama, though many do seem to be given Perry credit for at least trying something different this time around. On the one hand, Tyler Perry’s fans are clearly unconcerned about critics, on the other, this is a very different kind of material than Perry’s usual. An amount of $20 million is being bandied about. In any case, one has to wonder what feminist author Shange makes of this excerpt from Carl DiOrio’s piece:

“In addition to Tyler’s core audience, we’re going after fans who are familiar with the play,” Lionsgate distribution topper David Spitz said. “We feel this could be the Sex and the City for African-American women.”

With Oscar season upon us, a number of notable films are coming up in limited release, including the Valerie Plame spy scandal film “Fair Game,” the fainting-inducing mountain climbing ordeal picture, “127 Hours,” and the Elliot Spitzer ordeal documentary, “Client Nine.” Notable for being both good and probably not having a chance in hell at an Oscar, however, is “Red Hill” which I’m not mentioning here not just because we were granted interviews with the director and star, though that never hurts, I admit shamefacedly.

Ryan Kwanten and Steve Bisley in

  

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A Chat with “Harper’s Island” Victims #2 and #3

If you’re particularly persnickety about the death count on “Harper’s Island” since its debut last week, then you’re probably grousing about how, although we referred to Uncle Marty – who’s half the man he used to be – as the first victim, he was really the second person to be murdered within the episode. This is completely true, of course, since I think it’s fair to say that we collectively shuddered as Cousin Ben bought the big one at more or less the same moment the boat left the mainland dock and began its voyage to the island. Similarly, there were actually three deaths in Episode #2. So why are we only citing two of the victims here?

Here’s the thing: we’re only counting the people who appear on the list that CBS and the show’s producers have helpfully provided us to use as a scorecard of sorts. If they’re not on the list (which you can find right here), then we’re not counting them in the grand total.

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page about how the victim count works, let’s prepare to chat with Victims #2 and #3, shall we?

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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What Else Ya Got? “RocknRolla”

After considerably scaling back the U.S. release of “RocknRolla” to a mere 826 screens (most wide releases get 2500+) because it was deemed to be “too British,” Warner Bros. has reasserted its indifference with the film with a single-disc Blu-ray that isn’t necessarily terrible, but could have been much better.

“Audio Commentary”
Guy Ritchie and Mark Strong aren’t exactly two of the most outspoken guys in the business, but I respect them for their individual contributions to cinema. Their discussion on the film might not be as riveting as some had hoped, but it’s still a solid commentary with nary a quiet moment. Strong is very enamored with Ritchie’s latest film, while the writer/director plays the humble card most of the way through.

RocknRolla

“Will You Put the Cigarette Out?”
A single deleted scene featuring One Two (Gerard Butler) running on a treadmill while some old guy smokes in his face and Mumbles (Idris Elba) runs his mouth. Not exactly exhilarating stuff, but we’ll take what we can get.

“Blokes, Birds and Backhands”
Some reviewers have called out this making-of featurette for leaning more towards the EPK side, but though it’s mostly promotional fluff about the characters and the story, the interviews with are still enjoyable. Plus, a few tidbits are dropped along the way, the most interesting of which is that the “sex scene” between Butler and Thandie Newton was completely improvised on the day. Originally intended to be a passionate kissing scene between the two actors, Newton begged Ritchie to change it when Butler arrived on set with a nasty cold. Oddly enough, the scene actually works better than it would have as a boring kissing scene, so kudos to bacteria.

“Guy’s Town”
A location featurette about all of the different London hotspots used during filming (including a yet-to-be-opened Wembley Stadium), this 8-minute extra also skews a little towards the promotional side, but it’s still a nice addition to the set.

All in all, this will probably be a bit of a disappointment for fans of Ritchie’s films. With only a couple of extras to choose from and a digital copy to load on to your mobile entertainment player of choice, “RocknRolla” is just begging for a much-improved double dip in the future. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are about as good as Guy Ritchie becoming the next Prime Minister, so don’t hold your breath.

  

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