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Weekend box office: “True Grit” tops slow weekend

There’s really not all that much to say about the box office this weekend other than that it was down a worrisome 29% over last year, so I’ll keep things brief as we peruse the Box Office Mojo weekend chart together. No huge surprises, though fans of westerns have a reason to celebrate.

Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon in

As seemed likely back on Thursday night, the Coen Brothers “True Grit” edged out the star-laden filmed deal, “Little Fockers,” earning an estimate $15 million for Paramount as opposed to $13.7 for the Universal comedy. That makes for a total of roughly $110 million in three weeks for the western as opposed to $123 for “Fockers.” However, considering that the budget for “True Grit” was more than 60% lower and with a probable buoyant life on DVD, I think it may be the likely profitability winner over the long haul. In any case, this is good news for the Coen’s fans, which includes myself, as it means that they’ll have greater latitude to do something really weird next time, if that’s what they feel like doing.

Nicolas Cage contemplates the eternal box office void in This week’s unloved new releases managed to avoid complete disaster. The lackluster and horribly reviewed action-horror flick, “Season of the Witch,” underperformed even modest expectations that it might hit $12 million. However, it managed to earn double-digits for Relativity Media, newcomers to the releasing game, and didn’t come in too shy of the lowered mark. The Nicolas Cage/Ron Perlman swash-chiller earned what may be approximately $10.7 million in third place.

Released in only 1,400 theaters or so, the musical drama for country fans, “Country Strong,” managed to earn a reasonable per-screen average of $5,126 for an estimated total of $7.3 million in 7th place. It follows “Tron: Legacy” and the sleeper-esque “Black Swan.”

Oscar contenders “The Fighter” from Paramount and “The King’s Speech” from the Weinstein Company remain strong several weeks into their release. The two films, about very different personal battles, made estimates of $7 million and $6.8 million in 7th and 8th place, respectively.

Colin Firth & Helana Bonham Carter contemplate a sticky wicket in

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Box office preview: “The Expendables” likely to fend of a mob led by an ugly nanny, unfunny vampires, and flesh-loving fishies

The ExpendablesIt’s very late as I start this and with five new wide releases this week, I’m not going to even attempt to try and describe all of them in any detail. In fact, I’m going to try and make this post as short as possible. Basically, the story is that the prognosticators like Ben Fritz and jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree that last weekend’s megamacho winner, The Expendables, is the most likely winner of this week’s box office derby. That’s because none of the five movies is seen as being that strong.

Personally, as a geek who adores humorous, old school exploitation horror movies but who is also a gross-out negative gorephobe in no mood to have a bloody penis (!) thrown at me or throw-up thrown in my lap, I honestly don’t know whether to be happy or sad that the apparently rather effective “Piranha 3D” is not expected to do very well for the Weinstein Company. That’s despite what should be a successful formula of blood and breasts. It’s always worked before. The movie has been kept away from most critics but — bad sign — most of the ones who have seen it actually like it.

Expected to do better is the English family comedy sequel from Working Title, “Nanny McPhee Returns,” starring and written by the wondrous Emma Thompson as the anti-Poppins. The film, already a success overseas, is seen as having the best shot at kicking the arse of the ass-kicking “Expendables” septet, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Actually, I wouldn’t bet on anything because with so many movies out, it’s really just kind of a mess and anything can happen. I wouldn’t expect an upset, however, from the Warners “‘hood comedy” “Lottery Ticket” or the PG-13 Jason Bateman-Jennifer Aniston rom-com involving a “baster baby,” the aptly titled “The Switch” from possibly soon-to-be-moribund Miramax.

Jason Batemen and Jennifer Aniston in

On the other hand, there is another movie that’s actually expected to do rather well and, oh god, I have no goddamn clue why that should be. I mean, if I was eight years old, I might find the title of Fox’s spoof film “Vampires Suck” promising. However, there is an emerging and near universal consensus that, whatever stereotypes might be out there about us Jewish guys being as inherently funny as, say, Canadians, they are more than disapproved by the past work of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. These are the guys who foisted “Disaster Movie,” “Meet the Spartans” and “Date Movie” upon an unsuspecting world. IMDb users are not loving it too much either, although there are nine women 45 and over I really wonder about. Hmm. Both guys have to have mothers, right? That’s two. Grandmothers? Aunts? Great grandmothers? Second cousins?

“Suck” is, I’m sure, the worst reviewed major movie of our not-so-young year. Indeed, the alleged comedy was on the precipice of achieving a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes when a lone contrary opinion saved it and got it all the way to a mighty 3%. No, it wasn’t the nefarious and attention-hogging Armond White who found something to not hate in a spoof movie seemingly dripping in the not-funny, but newcomer Michael Ordona of the L.A. Times. Or at least Rotten Tomatoes says it was him. The actual review, at least here, has no name on it. Is somebody ashamed?

The really sad part of this story is that the suck movie was actually released on Wednesday and had a surprisingly okay first day. In theory, it could win the weekend, and that would really suck.

Stay tuned — though it’s looking like my Sunday box office report will likely be delayed to Monday. Can you stand the suspense that long? I know I can.

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Maximum Miramax

If you’ve been reading the various hard-news entertainment blogs and sites over the last few days, you’ve no doubt noticed the continuing drama of the sale by Disney of Miramax, the “mini-major” studio which once bridged the gap between indie and mainstream filmmaking. The studio was pretty much the creation of mogul brothers Harvey and  Bob Weinstein, who famous named it after their parents (Mira and Max Weinstein). Now, they may well be poised to reclaim the studio they once sold to Disney and ran for them, before leaving to start The Weinstein Company in 2005.

You also may have noticed Nikki Finke’s attempts to lay claim to the latest on the story and crudely and not very convincingly bash her competitors. THR writers Elizabeth Guilder and the man I always call “Jolly Carl DiOrio” may have been guilty of jumping the gun or overstating the case a bit since the negotiations do appear to be ongoing. Also, I didn’t get the e-mail alert of which she speaks and can only see the story I linked to, which duly notes Disney’s denial of the apparent scoop. However, right now it sure looks to me like they got the story essentially right  and it’s not like La Finke has never slightly overstated things on a news story herself — though she does get some very good, detailed inside dope, there’s no doubt of that. To Finke’s credit, she has left up the offending piece and not tried to hide the evidence of her being the mean girl much of her audience, but not me, wants her to be.

Anyhow, at a time like this, it might be appropriate to consider the compelling admixture of quality, marketing, and occasional appeals to a certain kind of middle-brow film snobbery that highlighted Miramax, courtesy of Mad TV, who bring you the ultimate Miramax trailer from the day.

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Friday night movie news dump

Because I will it to be so…

* It’s getting mighty meta here. Via Anne Thompson, will show biz blogger/reporter Nikki Finke be in any position to sue HBO over their series about a presumably fictional entertainment blogger/reporter with a “no-holds-barred” attitude? asks THR, esq. She’s apparently already threatened to sue the Gawker. And here’s a quote for you:

So we were delighted when she acknowledged, fully aware that she would be quoted, that in our last off the record conversation she threatened to sue your blogger personally and Gawker corporately for “unfair business practices” related to our coverage of her. When we explained that the lawsuit threat was the reason we refused to speak off the record, she said, “How do you know I won’t? I’d love to own your house and your kids.”

Nikki Finke owning another blogger’s kids? Now there’s a Dickensian tale for you.

And that’s just the beginning of tonight’s useless blogging.

* Another superhero reboot. This time, it’s “Daredevil.” While writer David Scarpa’s resume doesn’t inspire great confidence, it shouldn’t be too hard to top the last attempt.

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* The Weinstein Company has picked up “The Tillman Story,” which is likely to be one of the year’s hotter documentaries.

* Sony has entered the bidding for the “The Terminator” franchise. Joss Whedon’s attempt at snapping up the franchise looking less likely every day. <Sigh>

* Speaking of Mr. Whedon, from time to time someone among his fans suggests some kind of fan donation and/or investment set-up to fund those ongoing “Buffy” or “Firefly” related projects they so crave. The idea is routinely shoot down as unrealistic. Kevin Smith works on a somewhat smaller canvas, but it’s interesting to see him apparently taking the idea seriously.

* James Cameron will presumably be betting against himself in Oscar pools.

* Many reasons to be slightly bummed that I decided not to take the SXSW plunge this year.

* One more Deadline|Hollywood item for the week from Mike “the sane one” Fleming. It’s about the movie moguls taking chances on less well-known directors (as if they aren’t always taking chances regardless, even if they’re trying not to), but all I can get my head around tonight is the idea of remaking “Damn Yankees” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jim Carrey. I’m not Carrey’s biggest fan, but that could actually work. As for the part of the lovable Satanic temptress, Lola, I’m sure there are many great possibilities, but there’s one actress whose proven she’s got the stuff for Fosse-esque choreography.

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Friday movie news dump: the first Salinger movie, the Sundance beat goes on, etc.

Hey folks. I’ve got a relatively limited amount of time today and, just to add to the drama, the usually excellent free wi-fi at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf slowed down today to a relative crawl for a time while I was researching this. Let’s see how much I can cover.

* Just as I was ready to wrap things up, we have a breaking story. As I sorta alluded to yesterday regarding J.D. Salinger, it’s inevitable his death will pave the way for some new films. It turns out I was, if anything, way behind the curve. Working screenwriter Shane Salerno — whose work, like the planned James Cameron-produced “Fantastic Voyage” remake, bends toward the geek — has been working on a documentary about the writer who became almost as famous for his escape from the public eye as for his actual work, and it’s apparently nearly completed. Mike Fleming has not only broken the news of the formerly under-wraps project, he’s seen most of the movie

* Of course, Sundance continues slogging away, and word of acquisitions by film distributors have been making their way round the usual spots. Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez has news on the well-regarded “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. He also gives a quick nod to such other highish profile films as “The Tilman Story” (a documentary about the late Pat Tilman), “The Kids Are Alright” (not to be confused with the old rock-doc about the Who) and “Hesher,” a not very appealing sounding film that nevertheless has Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead. The “Valentine” sale is of particular interesting as it was the troubled Weinstein Company that picked it up. Coincidentally, the company named for Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s parents, Mira and Max, has gone on the block.

miramax

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News flash from Hollywood — it’s raining!

We Southern Californian’s are easily freaked out by this occasional phenomenon where water inexplicably falls from the skies. It’s a good thing so many of us like to ski or snowboard up at Big Bear or Tahoe, or there’d be a vast wave of weather-related depression unsettling the entire area. Of course, those of us who live on hillsides have something to worry about, but since L.A.-area seasons are basically labeled as “fire” and “flood,” it’s not like this is a surprise. Still, a good chunk of the town is going off to Park City, Utah for Sundance and its sisters festivals, where you actually need boots and overcoats and stuff like that.

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And now, here’s the big movie news, assuming this half of the state doesn’t simply slide into the ocean or anything overnight.

* Jolly Carl DiOrio writes on THR’s Heat Vision blog that Warner Brothers is trying to decide whether or not to do a 3-D retrofit on Louis Leterrier’s upcoming version of “Clash of the Titans.” This 3-D madness for genre films has been spreading. Some months back, “The Cabin in the Woods,” a collaboration between TV cult king Joss Whedon and his one-time staff writer, Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield“), was delayed from February 2010 to January 2011 to three dimensionalize the meta-horror film — and perhaps help stabilize Universal’s depleted coffers by delaying the marketing costs for eleven months.

* Despite some of the setbacks the Weinstein Company has been suffering lately with a number of commercial disappointments and too few hits and some layoffs, they’re still bringing in new people for acquisitions prior to tomorrow’s Sundance kick-off, writes La Finke.

* Meanwhile, over at CinemaBlend, Josh Tyler contemplates the possible 3-D status of “Ghostbusters 3.”

Johnny Depp
* In case you haven’t heard it already, no, Johnny Depp will not be starring in Terry Gilliam’s upcoming second attempt at filming his “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”

* The Oscar’s announced their nine film short list for the foreign language film category today. It’s basically a bunch of movies you have almost no chance of having seen, or even heard all that much about, if you’re not a pretty serious film festival goer — and Michael Haneke’s Golden Globe winning dark period drama, “The White Ribbon.” Even the folks at The Playlist had only seen “Ribbon” and were only familiar with a total of three of the films.

If an outstanding foreign film you’ve seen recently is not on the list and you’re wondering why, you can likely blame the extremely byzantine and highly politicized rules in this category, which involves countries selecting official entries, which often exclude seemingly obvious choices. Romania’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” was an extraordinary work that recently made it to the top of many Best Of lists for the entire past decade. It was not nominated last year, — along with two other widely acclaimed non-English-speaking movies of 2007, “Volver” and “Persepolis.” At least the latter film was nominated in the animation category.

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(500) days of Spidey news?; all together now in the uncanny valley…and a whole lot more

Yes, we ‘ve got movie news…

Peter Parker/Spiderman
* Nikki Finke’s new best friend, Mike Fleming (or someone, it’s written in the third person), writes tonight that director Marc Webb of the very popular indie relationship comedy, “(500) Days of Summer” is right now the most likely director for the just announced “Spiderman” reboot.  Fleming, or whomever, writes that  Webb has “no superhero experience,” which is not really the issue. The issue is that, while he’s quite capable of making an okay indie comedy (I’m not the movie’s biggest fan), he has no action experience and Sam Raimi had obviously quite a bit before attempting “Spiderman.” Still, the choice of Webb wouldn’t be half so strange as another one mentioned by Fleming (or whomever) apparently in all seriousness: Wes Anderson.

I wish we lived in a universe where studio executives would be so weirdly brave. And, hey, if Anderson’s not available, they could try David Lynch. I don’t know about the masses, but I’d definitely pay to see either movie.

Fleming (or whomever), however, is absolutely correct that, if he were just a bit younger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be the guy to play the new Peter Parker. Oh, well.

* Fleming also has it that Daniel Craig is “in talks” to replace a vacating Robert Downey, Jr. on the comic book adaptation, “Cowboys and Aliens.” Interesting transition. Downey seems more alien than cowboy; Craig is definitely more cowboy than alien.

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Okay, I think we can agree that “Avatar” is a success now

If anyone out there is still hoping for a publicly humbler James Cameron, maybe it’s time to set your sites elsewhere. Despite what you might have read on geek comment threads a few months back, the box office for “Avatar” is only going to bolster the filmmaker’s not entirely unearned overconfidence. Indeed, Cameron’s boot is likely to be mighty wet for a might long time with the pug-like slobber of worshipful suits. Nikki Finke, quoted a Fox executive, thusly:

“Mr. Cameron was king of the world but now has dominion over the universe. And he will own the top two slots on the worldwide all-time box office list!

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, enhanced, in

In its third weekend, “Avatar” raised an estimated $68.3 million, with an outlandishly small 9.7% drop from its take of $75.6 million last week, as calculated by Box Office Mojo. The cumulative domestic box office take for the ecological/human rights themed action fable is now roughly $352.1 million, which I suppose might be a complete recoup of the film’s budget and at least some of the marketing expenses.

That also means it’s already the 15th top grossing domestic film of all time, with an awful lot of commercial life left in it, as the film will almost certainly linger in theaters through Oscar time and beyond. It seems that there is every chance it will overtake the $533.3 million of “The Dark Knight” and I certainly wouldn’t rule out it taking the #1 spot from Cameron’s $600.78 million grossing “Titanic.”

Remember, that mega-melodrama was released in 1997, when the most anyone paid to see a movie was, if memory serves, maybe $7 or $8. I saw “Avatar” over the weekend at Hollywood’s top-of-the-line Arclight complex, where the ticket price on Friday night was $18.50. That’s unusually expensive, but only a few bucks more than a lot of folks are paying nationwide, particularly on Imax screens. Adjusted for inflation, no movie has yet to sell more tickets than the periodically re-released “Gone With the Wind, which was shrewdly withheld from TV screens until the mid-seventies.

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Movie news for a dying decade

It’s the very last day of the aughts, the noughties, or the 2000s, whichever term you prefer, and there’s some movie news to pass along.

* It’s a funny day to have a stockholders meeting, but that’s appears to be what Marvel Entertainment did and, yes, they approved the widely heralded Disney merger. Russ Fischer at /film has the details.

* With, as far as I can see, no major wide releases or, as I far as I can tell, even large expansions to talk about and not much other information available, I’m dispensing with this week’s box office preview. However, Jolly Carl DiOrio is here to tell us that this weekend is going to look a little something like last weekend.

That’s not to say there aren’t some new movies out that you can see this week — though you’ll possibly have to live in New York or L.A. to see them. Since I dig Tennessee Williams, I’m sorry to see the bad reviews for “Loss of a Teardrop Diamond. South Korea’s “The Chaser” was a hit at home for director Na Hong-Jin and looks intriguing to me. It has also been optioned for a high profile American remake, possibly involving Leonardo DiCaprio and screenwriter William Monahan of “The Departed.”

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* Speaking of box office, I’m not sure this is exactly news, but, get this, “Avatar” is doing really well — it just passed the $800 million mark worldwide — and looks likely to continue to do extremely well for quite a long time. Even the busiest man in the world apparently couldn’t wait to see it in the White House movie theater (I wonder if it can show digital 3-D?) Also note that eight year-old Sacha and 11 year-old Malia were allowed to see it even though it has a PG-13 rating . Expect this to be discussed at length on the Sunday shows.

* I had to update yesterday’s post to correct this. Apparently, The Weinstein Company is going to leave “Nine” in the roughly 1,400 theaters it’s in, despite last week’s poor showing.

* It’s now “Sir Captain Picard” to you. Alongside Patrick Stewart, film and theater director Nicolas Hytner (“The Madness of King George”) just got an excuse to be extra snooty.

* Neil Blomkamp of “District 9” wants to make original films that aren’t based on older franchises and, so, has said he’ll stay away from large budgets. He’s not dumb.

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Mid-holiday week movie news report (updated)

Somewhat to my surprise, given how slow Monday and Tuesday was, we have some movie news to report. Sadly, the first item is a bummer.

* Our very sincere condolences to the friends, family, and avid readers of writer and horror/gore maven Chas Balun, who died of cancer on December 18th. Probably mostly because of my phobia of the kind of movies he championed, Balun’s name wasn’t immediately familiar to me before this, but clearly the author and longtime contributor to Fangoria and Gorezone was a writer whose work meant a great deal to genre fans as well as a very sincere film geek/cinephile, and for that he has my respect. The Fangoria blog has a very good obituary.

* Sony has not been including a screener DVD for Duncan Jones’ highly regarded science fiction film, “Moon,” in its pre-Oscar promotional package. The result: “Twitter storm“!

Moon

* It’s now Sir Peter Jackson to you.  Considering the positive impact his LOTR tour de force must have had on the New Zealand economy, they might have considered making him king. Okay, New Zealand doesn’t have one. Also, I gather it’s more of a British Commonwealthy kind of a thing.

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