What Else Ya Got? “The Book of Eli”

The Hughes brothers’ first film in nine years didn’t exactly burn up the box office, but thanks to the star power of Denzel Washington, it did manage to turn a respectable profit. Apparently, it was even enough to convince Warner Bros. to go all out with the film’s Blu-ray, because while some of the studio’s more recent releases didn’t really feature much in the way of special features, “The Book of Eli” is loaded with them.

Maximum Movie Mode

It’s nothing like the incredible presentation hosted by Zack Snyder on the “Watchmen” Blu-ray, but this picture-in-picture video track is still a pretty cool supplement to the film. Designed more like Universal’s U-Control feature – where a small box pops up in the corner of the screen at various times throughout the movie – the Maximum Movie Mode features interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage from production, as well as concept art and screen to storyboard comparisons. Additionally, you can branch off to mini-featurettes called…

Focus Points

…or you can view them on their own without having to sit through the entire movie. There are ten in all, each running about 3-4 minutes in length. Though each Focus Point covers a different aspect of the film, most of them fall under one of three categories: Production Design, like “Building Carnegie’s Town” and “Apocalyptic San Francisco”; Stunts, like “Underpass Fight,” “Shootout at George and Martha’s,” and “Solara Causes Mayhem”; and Character Profiles, including a look at “The Motorcycle Gang.”

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Wednesday movie quickies (a bit quicker than usual)

If you’re on the lookout for new and wholly original ideas from mainstream Hollywood, like almost all days, today ain’t your day.

Tom Cruise saves the day in * Mike Fleming has the news that ol’ Tom Cruise will be back for one more round of “Mission: Impossible” derring-do as earnest super-agent Ethan Hunt. On board is co-producer, J.J. Abrams, whose “MI:3” was to my mind by far the best film in the series (actually, the only good one, despite the involvement in past outings of such greats as Robert Towne and John Woo).  The franchise had been somewhat in doubt prior because of certain comments during the ruckus and bad blood raised by Mr. Cruise’s Oprah couch-hopping incident and Scientology-inspired public statements:

Gee, remember the bad old days when Cruise and Paramount parent company Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone were on the outs? Guess that old Hollywood saying is as true as ever: “I’ll never work with him again — until I need him.”

* Darren Aronofsky remains involved with the proposed “Robocop” remake/reboot.

* Fresh off the success of “The Book of Eli,” the Hughes Brothers will be directing the long-discussed live-action film version of the manga that probably made more converts for Japanese comic books than any other work during the eighties comic book boom, “Akira.” So says Vulture (via /Film). Meanwhile, Simon Dang over at The Playlist provides us with his thoughtful take on the career of the brothers Hughes (and a funny video which I may steal later).

akira2

  

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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.

1111045_CrazyHeart_scene_03

  

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Weekend box office: “Avatar” gets the double three-peat; “Legion” ascends to #2

Do I even need to tell you that “Avatar” once again topped the weekend box office? Well, I’m telling you anyway. I’m also adding that, as per the good people at Box Office Mojo, it suffered only a very modest 15.9% drop from last week and made a healthy estimated $36 million over this weekend, topping the box office for the sixth time running. Moreover, Jolly Carl DiOrio reports that, barring worldwide calamity of some sort, as of tomorrow, James Cameron‘s science fiction adventure looks to beat the record of his “Titanic” and be the number one worldwide moneymaker of all time.

Meanwhile, Nikki Finke, never anyone’s cheerleader, is quick to remind us that the film is actually only the 26th most popular film of all time when you adjust for inflated ticket prices, and I’m wondering if it’s possible to adjust for population growth over the century or so history of the movie business. Still, a buck’s a buck and there’s no taking away from James Cameron’s achievement in connecting in an intense and emotional way to the masses and getting them to part with not too small sums of money in fairly hard economic times.

We do have a bit of a surprise in the #2 spot. If you were here for the weekend preview, you’ll perhaps guess that  I am slightly surprised that the killer-angels movie, “Legion,” managed an estimated $18.2 million for Screen Gems with a very good per-screen average of $7,351 (it was on about a thousand fewer screens than most of the other top pictures). It managed this despite about zero buzz and some withering early responses. I guess young men just wanted to see a movie about buffed angels killing people and each other.

I just wonder if any religious types will take notice of it now. I simply have a hard time imaging a movie about kick-ass emissaries of God fighting each other and slaughtering people not offending someone, but that’s just me. On the other hand, Paul Bettany’s career as well as that of its first-time feature director Scott Stewart would seem to be newly blessed.

Following Warner Brothers’ “The Book of Eli,” which endured a fairly typical drop of 48.2% percent in its second week for an estimated $17 million, was the movie I pretty much expected to be in the #2 spot, “The Tooth Fairy.” The family-factor failed to come to the rescue for the PG-rated Dwayne Johnson comedy vehicle, which managed a fairly soft estimated $14.5 million. Considering it’s budget was $48 million as opposed to the $22 million for “Legion,” it has to be something of a disappointment for Fox.

Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in Still, that’s nothing compared to the drubbing the newly formed CBS Films took for the Brendan Fraser/Harrison Ford medical drama, “Extraordinary Measures.” A topical subject matter couldn’t erase the fuzziness pervading the film’s profile and came in at the #7 spot and made a matching $7 million in its first week. And here comes my obligatory medical metaphor….At this point, the prognosis for CBS’s movie foray might be a little shaky.

  

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So, guess what’s topping the box office this weekend

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in Yes, the holiday weekend is barely half-way over and tonight’s Golden Globes could alter things slightly. Nevertheless, the Box Office Mojo’s weekend estimates are out and, don’t even bother to wait for it, Fox’s “Avatar” was once again the box office leader with a solid $41.3 million estimated take and a still very low drop of only 17.9% on its fifth go-round. Domestically, “Avatar” is already the #3 all-time moneymaker with a total of $491,767,000. Worldwide it has defeated, “The Return of the King” and is now #2 at just over $1.6 billion, just a couple billion shy of another movie you might have an opinion about, “Titanic.” James Cameron might have to buy an additional Malibu estate for his self-esteem to live in.

Just to keep us from falling completely asleep, however, there were some new members of the top 3 this week. The post apocalyptic actioner with a spiritual tint, Warner Brothers’ “The Book of Eli,” performed as per the expectations I described last time and has a current weekend estimate of roughly $31.6 million. That will definitely be happy news not only for star Denzel Washington but for directors Allen and Albert Hughes, whose last film, “From Hell” was not a box office success despite the presence of another big star, Johnny Depp. (Indeed, one of that film’s producers left the film business and has gone on to become one of the most powerful and annoying members of the left hand side of blogosphere, but that’s a story for another time and place.)

Denzel Washington in

As for the #3 spot…it’s not really a weekend if I don’t make an completely wrong predictive comment — when will I learn to keep my trap shut? Anyhow, the marketing strategy turning a critically dissed piece of Oscar bait into a film aimed at female tweens and teenagers has paid off with a very decent estimated third place showing of just over $17 million for “The Lovely Bones” and Paramount/Dreamworks. The film has been out in limited release for several weeks, but went into over 2,500 theaters and apparently the timing was correct.

A brand new wide release, “The Spy Next Door,” a frankly lame looking vehicle for Jackie Chan, did fairly unimpressive business for a wide release film on its opening weekend despite . It came in the #6 spot with an estimated $9.7 million for Lionsgate, which might be enough if the film’s budget is low enough. In other “cudda been worse” news, it’s 0% on the Tomatometer on Friday has blossomed to 9% with four critics failing to dislike it.

Michael Cera in Finally, the vampire role-reversal flick a la Monty Python’s “Bicycle Repairman” sketch, “Daybreakers,” which did rather well last week, suffered a huge 67% drop in its second time out, going from a $15 million last week to about $5 million this week. And, because I’m a nice guy, I’ll keep the word on “Youth in Revolt” to myself.

  

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