A roundtable chat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer of “Take Me Home Tonight”

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Usually, I start roundtable interview pieces with a rather large amount of biographical information about whoever’s involved. In the case of Topher Grace, former star of “That 70’s Show” as well as movies like “In Good Company” and “Predators,” I’ve already covered him pretty thoroughly in my one-on-one interview with him over at Bullz-Eye.com. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as a hands-on executive producer and coauthor of the film’s story, he has a lot riding on the profitability of “Take Me Home Tonight,” a comedy about post-collegiate growing pains in the 1980s. Although I liked the film quite a bit, my review is but one, and to be honest, I appear to be something of an outlier. The good news for actor-producer Grace is that reviews mean next to nothing commercially for youth comedies, and people are laughing in screenings.

As for the striking, Australian-born Teresa Palmer, she’s still something of a newcomer to the American screen, having gotten good notices in the otherwise critically bashed, “I Am Number 4,” as well as Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Bedtime Stories.” She shows every sign of becoming a more familiar face to audiences — and her face is definitely one of the prettier ones you’re likely to see right now.

While one journo tried to use a then-upcoming holiday to pull some personal info out of Palmer and Grace — at more than one point in the past, the pair have been rumored to be dating — the business and pleasure of making a youth oriented comedy was the chief topic during this mass interview from the “Take Me Home Tonight” junket.

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“Shutter Island” hits big against soft competition

Leonardo DiCarprio in The latest from Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio performed even better than the experts seemed to expect this weekend. The horror-flavored thriller Dennis Lehane adaptation, “Shutter Island,” earned a very healthy estimated $40 million, about $10-15 million more than predicted. This will surprise some because the film was delayed from its original release date last year, which is usually considered not a very good sign. However, as Nikki Finke points out, it turns out to have been a very smart move by Paramount. To me, it’s pretty clear that the general artistic verdict on the film indicates that it wasn’t really Oscar material in any case, but the studio apparently saw the combination of well-known names that the audience trusts with the crime and horror genres could deliver some very nice bucks — if it debuted on a weekend with little in the way of fresh competition.

Taking a look at our handy-dandy Box Office Mojo chart, the competition really wasn’t very strong. Last week’s big winner, the critically drubbed “Valentine’s Day,” took a near nose dive and dropped by 69.5% apparently on word that it wasn’t very good and that V-day was last weekend. Still, $17.16 isn’t terrible box office for a second weekend.

Last weekend’s silver medalist, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” dropped by a more standard 51% percent, but $15.3 million was low enough to put into the fourth place spot. That’s just below, guess what, “Avatar,” still holding nicely with $16.1 million in its tenth week. Meanwhile, the cool-looking but apparently very creatively troubled “The Wolfman” dropped a pretty bad 68.7% in its second weekend to earn an unspectacular $9.8 million and change.

By far the biggest film this week in terms of per-screen average this week belonged to a thriller that is topical in more ways than one. “The Ghost Writer” deals with a writer working on a memoir by a former British Prime Minister accused of war crimes connected to torture, and it’s directed by Roman Polanski. That was controversy/notoriety enough for a solid $44,775 on its four screens. It will be adding a few more theaters next week.

theghostwriterpic6

<a href=”http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/reviews_2010/the_wolfman.htm” target=”_blank”><img class=”photo_right” src=”http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/review_images/2010/the_wolfman/the_wolfman_5.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Benecio del Toro in ” width=”218″ height=”138″ /></a>
  

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Can Marty and Leo take the weekend without women?

That’s the question being posed by The Hollywood Reporter‘s jolly Carl DiOrio as he predicts that the latest from the team of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will enjoy a $25-30 opening. The atmospheric Dennis Lehane adaptation, “Shutter Island” is apparently “tracking” best with older men — I’m definitely interested and by “older” I assume they mean “over 15” — and fairly well with younger men, but not so with female of the species.

Leo and friends in

DiOrio finds this surprising because of Leo’s tried and true girl appeal but it’s really not when you consider that the marketing suggests a sort of hard-boiled cop/horror combo with barely a female or any kind of love interest in site and what appears to be a lot of very male-style histrionics.  The trailer certainly emphasizes the male cast members with Michelle Williams and Patricia Clarkson making what amounts to cameo appearances.

As for the reviews, which for a movie like “Shutter Island” can really make a difference, they are okay but not too impressive when you consider that Scorsese is a long-time critical mega-favorite and easily one of the five or so most revered living directors still living. Our own Dave Medsker was notably disappointed in his mixed review and he’s certainly not alone, with only 61% of “top critics” digging “Shutter Island” according to Rotten Tomatoes. (He gets a somewhat better 67% with the critical hoi polloi.) Scorsese’s last attempt at a big time Hollywood thriller, the 1991 version of “Cape Fear,” is the only one of his film’s I’d personally dare call “bad” and I’m hoping I like this one at least a little better. On the other hand, that one made a relative mint for Marty Mr. Scorsese and his colleagues, so who cares if I like it or not?

What's-his-name and what's-her-name in As for this week’s possible #2 and #3, well, last week’s winner “Valentine’s Day” may be in there, but the question is will the critically dissed comedy have any legs now that it’s holiday is long past. Also, with a lack of competing family films, that “Percy Jackson” movie that I’m simply too lazy too type out a complete title for may do pretty well. And let’s not count out “Avatar” quite yet, either, if one of the other films takes a big dive.

Debuting in very limited release this week is what looks like a nifty little political thriller that’s getting solid reviews, “The Ghost Writer.” It stars Ewan MacGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and my and Max Fisher’s one-true-love, Olivia Williams. The director is Roman Polanski, so there’ll be another test of the “no such thing as bad publicity” dictum, I suppose.

  

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“Valentine’s Day” takes big V-Day/President’s Day weekend

Jennifer Garner smashes expectations in Somewhat exceeding the optimistic predictions I noted on Friday, Garry Marshall’s critically disliked all-star ensemble romantic comedy, “Valentine’s Day,” has earned an estimated $52.41 million for the weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. According to Nikki Finke, it is also earning a very nice (and very estimated) $60 million for the WB studios over the not-yet-complete four day holiday period. According to THR/Reuters, the weekend as a whole came in ahead of last year’s President Day with $193 million, compared to $188 million in 2009. Not surprisingly consider, women were the driving force in the success of the Garry Marshall comedy.

Coming in completely on target, we have a photo-finish between the two genre-films duking it out for the #2 spot. The lengthily titled adaptation of a series of young-adult fantasy novels, “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” from Fox and director Chris Columbus, came in slightly ahead with an estimated $31.1 million. Meanwhile, Universal’s trouble-plagued, R-rated stab at reviving it’s grimly furry monster/horror franchise, “The Wolfman,” earned roughly $30.6 million according to estimates.

Benecio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins realize it's a dog-eat-man world

As for the #4 spot, yes, it’s one more strong performance for Fox’s “Avatar.” The film dropped a minuscule 3.7% percent from last week to earn a very solid $22 million in its 9th week. Conversely, Sony’s sentimental wartime love story, “Dear John,” dropped like a relative stone, 49.8% to be exact, and came in with a less exciting $15.3 million to take fifth place in its second week. Still, with a budget of only $25 million and not $120 gazillion or whatever it was that “Avatar” cost, it’s not a terrible performance.

The #1 this week in terms of per-screen averages was “My Name is Khan,” a topical Bollywood drama being released by Fox Searchlight. It scored $15,500 per screen for an estimated $1.8 million. Another win for the growing U.S. popularity of Indian pop-cinema.

  

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The President of Love, Pt. 2

We continue with our Valentine’s Day/President’s Day-inspired scenes of presidential amour with a scene from “The American President.”

Below, Michael Douglas as fictional prez Andrew Shepherd has considerably better luck than “Young Mr. Lincoln,” thanks to Annette Bening’s very much alive, feisty, and ultra-smart lobbyist, Sidney Ellen Wade. First, however, he must deliver his full share of Aaron Sorkin verbiage.

  

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