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Non-Oscar movie news

As I write this the announcement of the 2010 Academy Award nominations is literally only a few hours away — and I’ll most certainly be discussing them tomorrow — but this late bird has some other worms to catch, starting with goings on up in Park City.

* Yes, Kevin Smith and the premiere of his long planned “Red State” is the talk of the geek movie blogosphere today. Sundance can be a real circus and Smith was, I gather, both ringmaster and clown as he jokingly joined the protest staged by the detestable, publicity loving, Westboro Baptist Church who apparently noticed that Smith was attacking them. That was followed by a 26 minute pre-screening talkathon — which I’ve yet to bring myself to watch, though I’ve read the highlights — in which he announced his plans to distribute the film himself.

As for the response to the movie goes, the reviews have been extremely interesting. The fact of the matter is that Smith has so gone on out of his way to attack film critics, it’s kind of hard for any of us to have an opinion of one of his films that isn’t colored by the silliness at this point. No surprise, then, that reaction has been dramatically mixed. Not everyone even agrees if it’s actually a horror film or a religious-themed thriller. Sort of a more violent and bloody, less musical, version of the 1973 “The Wicker Man.”

Avatar* Speaking of talented makers of entertaining but highly imperfect films whose need to communicate can often place them at cross-purposes with themselves, James Cameron has told Entertainment Weekly that he’s working on the screenplays for two “Avatar” sequels with the intent of releasing them over Christmas of 2014 and 2015. To his credit, I think, Cameron says he’ll donate some portion of films’ grosses to environmental charities, who can use all the help they can get, considering our planet seems to be melting right at the moment.

* And speaking of directors who at times have worked at cross-purposes with themselves, no one has ever done so in grander fashion than the late Orson Welles. It’s starting to look like his legendary unfinished 1970s project, “The Other Side of the Wind,” may finally get a release of some sort. Because Welles never edited most of it, there’s a school of thought that the film should be released only in unedited form. This is one of the more stupid schools of thought I’ve encountered. Thank goodness, DVDs can make the unedited rushes available to anyone who wants to imagine how the man might have edited the film itself, but rushes are not a movie.

As far as other “lost” Welles films, Kevin Jagernauth mentions a miraculous restoration of his badly truncated, “The Magnificent Ambersons.” I’d settle for a decent restoration/re-release of his Shakespearian opus, “Chimes at Midnight.”

welles1

* Chris Hemsworth — aka Mighty Thor, God of Thunder — has seen the Avengers script by Joss Whedon and, guess what, he thinks its “incredible.” Ordinarily, I’d be skeptical of a star’s good opinion of his own movie, but this Browncoat needs it to be incredible. It better be incredible. No pressure, though.

* Another Sundance sale. For what sounds like a small but intense love story, “Like Crazy” fetched a relatively big price.

* Sam Raimi is still chatting up the possibility of some kind “Evil Dead” reboot.

* An item left over from last week relating to another kind of evil dead: Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles’ “The Dictator” based on a novel claimed by an obscure author you might have heard named Saddam Hussein. This is one movie I really have to see.

* I really enjoyed interviewing Morgan Spurlock and he was as nice as could be, but he failed to mention anything about his latest, very clever sounding stunt-documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” which has been getting great press at Sundance. Jerkface.

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Your TCM Fest ultra-quick box office report.

It TCM Fest‘s closing day and I’m determined to see “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “The Good Earth” (with an appearance by centenarian film legend Luise Rainer), and the new, new, new “Metropolis” but today’s box office estimates are bit too interesting to ignore completely.

The short version is that, as per the mighty Box Office Mojo chart, “How to Train Your Dragon” won the weekend box office with just over $15 million. “The Back-Up Plan,” a comedy vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, opened with a rather lame $12.25 million which should please our own David Medsker, who hated, hated, hated it. Graphic-novel based action fest “The Losers” made only $9.6 million, but seeing as it’s budget was $30 million less than the J-Lo film, it’s actually doing a lot bettter despite grossing less.

Date Night” is hanging in there very nicely in its third week. Like, “Dragon” it defeated both newcomers and came in at the #2 spot, earning $10.6 million for an accumulation nearing $65 million, $10 million more than its budget. Familiar and reliable comedy faces still mean something at the box office if the movie makes people laugh. Expect to see more family films and wide-audience PG-13 comedies and a bit less ultra-violence.

And that leads us to Matthew Vaughn, a director who has a lot less luck than talent and smarts, is no doubt thanking his reasonably lucky stars for keeping the budget on “Kick-Ass” reasonable.  The controversial black-comedy action flick dropped by 52%, roughly average for genre films that aren’t setting the world on fire. Still, the total gross is actually already $4 million above the $30 million budget. Assuming  the budget number is correct and what I can only imagine will be a long and healthy life on home video, he’s actually done rather well even as a something of a disappointment. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Oh, and I guess I should see “Kick-Ass” myself before it leaves theaters. I always seem to catch Vaughn’s films after they’re declared failures and find myself really liking them. I guess I like underdogs.

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