Movies news on a Monday night

Direct from the Starbucks at Pico & Robertson…

Jon Hamm in * Rumors have been circulating for at least a week that Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” and now “The Town” is being considered to play Superman. I’m a huge fan of the guy, but count me among those who think he’s a bit old to play an eternally youthful superguy, if there’s going to be more than one movie anyhow. Kal-El is not Tony Stark. In any case, apparently someone else who it appears did turn down the role of Superman director was Guillermo del Toro. Actually, if they ever make a movie set in the Bizarro world, del Toro would be the guy. Otherwise, I don’t see it at all and, it seems, neither did del Toro.

* In terms of film biz transactions, the Toronto International Film Festival surprised everyone and did rather well with numerous indie films being purchased for release. What doe it mean? Mike Fleming sees a modified return of the indie market, though with a thriftier than ever edge.

* The first casting news has come for the J.J. Abrams’ science fiction Steven Spielberg homage/collaboration, “Super 8.” Naturally, one of the stars is a young person — Elle Fanning. The other is closer to my age and is best known for his TV work. No, it’s not Abe Vigoda, but Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights.”

* Speaking of people in my general age cohort who can’t escape their youth, Keanu Reeves is apparently getting colleauges like Alex Winter ready to do a middle-aged edition of the “Bill & Ted” epic. As actors go, Reeves may not be a Philip Seymour Hoffman-level thespian, but he really excels at certain kinds of comedy and I’m board for this. He does a pretty good Werner Herzog, besides.

* Tim Burton is going back to where he started as a director with a stop-motion version of his career-starting live-action short, “Frankenweenie.” The voice cast has just been announced and it will include Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, and SCTV alums Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.

* Did anybody out there ask for a “Timecop” reboot? Simon Brew is game.

* Re: l’affaire du Hulk back in July, Edward Norton continues to kill Marvel’s Kevin Feige with perhaps not kindness, but civility. Ouch.

* I beg to differ with Sarah Silverman, her “full frontal” nude scene will be pretty. Very pretty.

sarah_silverman

* I’ve seen movies in some mighty small “shoebox” multiplex theaters and screening rooms, but if you’re wondering how small a movie theater can be, this promotion for “Buried” answers the question.

* As I write this I’m getting ready to watch the multi-director documentary “Freakonomics” for free. You however, may pay as little as a penny and as much as a $100 to see it this Wednesday. It’s your choice. Still, we know there’ s no such thing as a truly free, or almost free, anything and, as with writers like myself, some effort is expected in return. Details here.

  

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Can “Robin Hood” steal some of the shine off “Iron Man 2”?

Well, maybe just a little, seems to be the collective answer for this coming movie weekend. Both Daniel Frankel of the Wrap and THR‘s ever jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree that those mysterious tracking figures point to a strong, if not really earth-shattering, performance for this “secret origin” tale of the quasi-mythological hero, “Robin Hood.”

Russel Crowe is

The film reteams director Ridley Scott for the fifth time with today’s ultimate A-list macho man, Russell Crowe, but the reception will not be that of a “Gladiator.” The problem, I think, is that there’s another general consensus developing about the film amidst the very mixed reviews: it’s just not a whole lot of fun.

Our own Will Harris, in his 2.5 out of 5 star review, admits the film looks terrific but also that it feels completely unnecessary. Roger Ebert is even more pointed. After opening up his review about the slow death of innocence and joy in movies — something we’ll all forget about the next time Pixar releases something — and remembering great Robins of yore, he moves in for the rhetorical kill:

Have we grown weary of the delightful aspects of the Robin Hood legend? Is witty dialogue no longer permitted? Are Robin and Marion no longer allowed to engage in a spirited flirtation? Must their relationship seem like high-level sexual negotiations? How many people need to be covered in boiling oil for Robin Hood’s story to be told these days? How many parents will be misled by the film’s PG-13 rating? Must children go directly from animated dragons to skewering and decapitation, with no interval of cheerful storytelling?

Okay, so I think Roger is still a bit grumpy that he’s one of the few critics and filmgoers who wasn’t thoroughly charmed by “How to Train Your Dragon,” but his point is well taken. It really does seem at times like the movies have largely ceded real wit and fun to television, and his view of this “Robin Hood” really does mirror the reaction I’m hearing pretty much everywhere. Of course, it’s not like people listen to critics, but critics are, I once again remind you, people. The lack of emotional resonance could hamper the film’s chances of making a large profit over time, especially given its engorged $200 million budget. Universal is a studio badly in need of a home run. This may not be it.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow relate in In any case, at a projected $40-50 million or so, “Robin Hood” stands not much chance of beating “Iron Man 2” in it second weekend. For all the sense of mild-letdown the Marvel-Paramount superhero flick generated from the first film, it’s reviews and word-of-mouth are pretty darn solid. Even with a rather large possible 60 percent drop in attendance, given last weeks $128 million and change (a relatively steep decline from last weekend‘s estimate of $133.6 million), Tony Stark’s take is expected to be well north of brave and oh-so-gritty Sir Robin.

We two have two cannily counter-programmed PG-rated films aimed at girls and women coming out. “Letters to Juliet” features the very-much up-and-coming Amanda Seyfried, living legend Vanessa Redgrave, and some guys. Its reviews are south of “Robin Hood” — but not as much as you’d think, especially considering that there seems to be some confusion about whether or not it’s a comedy. The Box Office Mojo theater count informs us that it’s booked into 2,968 theaters and should earn between somewhere between about $14 and $18 million or so, based on what Frankel and DiOrio have guessed. This one has “female guilty pleasure” written on it to some degree, so it could do reasonably well for Summit Entertainment, given that it benefits from a reasonable $30 million budget. (Though even that figure sounds high to me for this kind of a movie.)

Just Wright” from Fox Searchlight might feature a sports backdrop and a somewhat more unconventional female romantic lead in the extremely talented Queen Latifah, working opposite rapper/actor Common and another living legend, Pam Grier. At heart, however, the film strikes in very similar territory in terms of genre, if not in terms of ethnicity and setting, to “Letters to Juliet” right down to it’s mother-daughter-day friendly PG rating.  It’s also only in 1,831 theaters as compared to over 3,500 for “Robin Hood” and nearly 4,400 for “Iron Man 2.” It’s expected to earn something approaching $10 million.

Just Wright Movie Trailer

  

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An audience with the “Iron Man 2” crowd

So, a couple of weeks back, a volcano went off in Iceland. That meant that planes in Europe couldn’t fly for several days, which meant that suddenly a London press junket was canceled and rescheduled in Los Angeles, which meant that, one recent Thursday night, I wound up seeing “Iron Man 2” at the AMC Theater in Century City instead of “A Star is Born” at Grauman’s Chinese for the TCM Classic Film Festival. (The world is getting much smaller…)

Moreover, thanks to the volcano, the next morning, instead of my Crunchy Raisin Bran and 1% milk, I was instead being buttered up by with French toast and applewood-smoked bacon buffet at the Four Seasons, a free Iron Man action figure, and a theoretical chance to ask a question of the all-star cast of “Iron Man 2” — i.e., Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle,and soon to be super-villain of the year Mickey Rourke — not to mention director/co-star Jon Favreau, writer Justin Thoreaux, and producer Kevin Feige.

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Of course, considering the 150 or so people in the room, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get to ask any questions, but it was a pretty entertaining event. Robert Downey may have famously given up a number of vices, but being a perpetual class clown does not seem to be one of them, and it wasn’t like he was the only interesting person in the room.

The first question, about whether Favreau or he felt any pressure in terms of living up to the success of the first “Iron Man,” set the tone. Favreau admitted he had never been involved with a sequel before, unless you count his “under five” bit part as “Assistant” in Joel Schumacher’s notorious “Batman Forever.” It certainly is a change from small independent films like Favreau’s career-making acting and writing debut, “Swingers,” which he compared to throwing a party and hoping people would come.

“…[On ‘Iron Man 2’] we knew that people were going to show up,” Favreau said. “We just wanted to make sure that everyone who showed up had a good time and that this was going to be as fun or more fun than the last party. So it’s a different kind of pressure.”

Downey then felt the need to start listing sequels others on the panel had been involved in, real and fictional. “Scarlet Johansson was in ‘Home Alone 3.’ Don Cheadle, 11, 12 and 13.”

That led to a question that was geeky in a way that anyone whose ever been a superhero comics fan will recognize, and which wound up being answered by producer Kevin Feige. It was about the “time-line” of the film. It turns out that, if viewers pay close attention, they can figure out that “Iron Man 2” actually takes place before 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk.” (Having seen both movies, I have no freakin’ clue how you’d deduce that.)

The Incredible Hulk

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Weekend box office preview — how high will “Iron Man 2” fly?

“Pretty high” is the obvious answer. As I write this, the first midnight shows are just finishing up the trailers on the East Coast, fanboys are queuing up in the Midwest, and their West Coast brethren are enjoying their pre-film burgers and Red Bull, but as far as everyone seems to be concerned, the sequel to the surprise “four quadrant” mega-blockbuster of 2008 is already a massive hit.  “Iron Man 2” has been booked into a record number of theaters, 4,380 according to Box Office Mojo.

Robert Downey Jr. in

Moreover, Nikki Finke is reporting that the film has already earned $132 million from 53 assorted countries where it has already opened. The summer solstice is more than six weeks away, but summer-time film madness is, we are informed, very much upon us. (Just btw, Anthony D’Alessandro offers a brief historical look at the outward creep of the summer movie season over the last couple of decades.)

So, the question remains, just how many millions will the second film about billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) fetch. Will it beat the record $158.4 million opening of “The Dark Knight” and crack $160 mill? Or, will it get a mere $140 million or so and send everyone to the immensely well appointed and hugely relative poor house? That seems to be the floor being offered up by the various gurus, including Ben Fritz of the L.A. Times‘ Company Town blog and THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio, who characteristically seems to be leaning slightly towards the possibility of a huge opening for Marvel and Paramount.

Nevertheless, there is a small dark cloud here and that’s the general perception, at least among us press types — who are, I remind you again, people too — that “Iron Man 2” is, while not at all bad, also not as good as the first one. This is a rare case where I’ve actually seen the week’s big movie in advance myself and, quality wise, I’m seeing this one as a glass-half-empty. For me, the story simply fails to find a strong emotional connection between Tony Stark’s troubles and the various threats he’s facing. It all feels a bit vague and disconnected despite director Jon Favreau’s way with humor, mostly good acting, and some very decent action scenes.

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One good entrance deserves another

You might have seen it elsewhere by now, but in case you haven’t, here’s a very cool little clip from “Iron Man 2” entitled “Making an Entrance.” (H/t Darren Franch.) It definitely makes the second film look like it will be as much fun as the first.

Any how, since dramatic entrances are always fun, I’ve got a couple more that weren’t so bad, right after the jump.

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