Movie news and commentary…lots of it: “The Hobbit” is cast but <sigh> Mel Gibson exists and must be dealt with, somehow (updated)

Tonight’s box office preview has been moved to tomorrow because of a couple of a films news items that just can’t quite wait. The first can be dispensed with in a second. Casting has been announced on “The Hobbit,” short, snub-nosed and talented Martin Freeman will face his inevitable hobbity destiny as Bilbo Baggins, as Peter Jackson again casts a bunch of people I’ve mostly never heard of in smaller roles who’ll probably all be great.

And then there’s this news of Mel Gibson being let go from “The Hangover 2 just a day after it was announced he’d been hired to play a supporting role. Oy.


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“Shrek Forever Ever” threepeats, “Get Him to the Greek” wins silver amid box office malaise

Shrek Forever AfterThe numbers are out early this morning via Box Office Mojo and the Numbers, so I’m going to rush out the weekend box office news whilst I have time. Basically, it’s been a fairly slow couple of weekends with disappointing performances for movies like “Shrek Forever After,”  and, to a greater extent, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Sex and the City 2” — though I think most any sensible person could have told the studios these movies, suffering from overused or tired or just kind of lame concepts, never had much mega-blockbuster potential. Let’s see how things go when “Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” and, maybe, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” come out.

Anyhow, the news wasn’t all bad. The final “Shrek” production continues to capitalize on the fact that it’s been better received than the prior film in the hyper-extended series. It’s showing reasonable legs, earning an estimated $25.3 million for Dreamworks/Paramount in its third week and dropping a lower-than-average 41.6%.

Some seem to think it’s a disappointment, but “Get Him to the Greek” sure looks like a moderate success to me. It broke out from a pack of four new releases, two of which were supposed to earn more money than it, and earned a couple million more than some of the gurus were predicting on Thursday, an estimated $17.4 million. I guess the fact that some critics mentioned “The Hangover” in their reviews kind of ginned up expectations, but sleeper successes like that have their own surprising logic and always come out of left field. Universal needs a lot more than this to really break it’s losing streak, but it’s not a horrid start.

Russell Brand and Jonah Hill in

Nikki Finke, for some reason, expected “Greek” to make more than the movie it’s spun off from, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” However, the fact of the matter is that that film had more of an almost classical screwball romantic comedy premise that appeals to a wider audience of both men and women when done well, with more traditionally appealing leads — Jason Segal’s  unpretty but brilliant nude scenes notwithstanding. Even if Russell Brand and Jonah Hill were in the earlier film in scene-stealing supporting roles, the Mutt and Jeff twosome is still not all that widely known and a fairly unusual pairing for a mass audience movie in our time. Moreover, the $40 million budget is modest these days, making the very home-video friendly, Judd Apatow-produced, “Greek” a very probable nice earner over the long haul.

Moving on, things get worse. “Killers,” starring my least favorite male actor in the universe and Kathryn Heigl, came in third with an estimate of $16.1 million. With a budget of $75 million, this is obviously the opposite of a  homerun for Lionsgate. Despite being a family film, the CGI-aided talking dog movie, “Marmaduke”, had at least a certain degree of failure pretty much written all over it, coming in at sixth place with an opening weekend estimate of $11.3 million for Fox. Not quite in the basement, but with a $50 million budget and no reason to expect any kind of legs, this one looks (I cannot resist) like a bit of a dog.

Kim Cattrall in As for last week’s aforementioned debuts, it wasn’t pretty. Both Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and, more so, Fox’s widely reviled “Sex and the City 2” showed no legs this week, dropping by worse than average 54% and 59% respectively, and coming in fourth and fifth with $13.9 and $12.65 million respectively.

Though Nikki Finke and others are trumpeting the tale of how it even got a theatrical release at all, the creepy science-fiction thriller “Splice” pretty much died with $7.45 million estimated for Warners, which is keeping the project at arms length. It apparently did badly on Cinemascore, which I guess reflects my hunch that the modern blood-and-gore-thirsty, trauma-loving, horror audience was the wrong group to pitch the movie too, especially given its potentially misleading R-rating (as much for sexuality and language as “sci-fi violence”).  It should have been sold as more of an adult science fiction thriller and probably started out with more of a limited release. Instead, they promised the audience a chili-bacon cheeseburger and gave them Fettuccine Alfredo. Well, it only cost $30 million, it has its fans, and there’s always DVD/Blu-Ray.


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“Sex and the City 2” insufficiently pleasured at the box office; the troll scores

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in The long Memorial Day weekend is not quite half over but it doesn’t look like a barn-burner for anyone. Looking at the traditional three days which are used to cover the more competitive side of box office results, it’s looking like Carrie Bradshaw and the other women of “Sex and the City 2” have been stood up by a significant share of the expected audience, leaving “Shrek Forever After” the box office leader.

The $60 million guessed at for the entire “five day frame” by jolly Carl DiOrio on Thursday may still be possible” but it’s start to look like it’ll be lucky to hit even that modest number. (The first film in the series earned $57 million in its initial three-day frame.) In any case,everyone really did seem to expect the film to hit #1 and that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. The present weekend estimate for Warners’ “Sex” according to Box Office Mojo is $32.125 million while the final Shrek film took in $43.345 million.

The pleasant surprise for Dreamworks/Paramount here is that their animated comedy about the world famous fairy tale troll experienced a better than average 38% percent drop from it’s opening — which was a big let down compared to previous films at just under $71 million, but far from disastrous. This may be more evidence that telling a decent story actually counts for something.

Shrek Forever After

The consensus on this “Shrek” is that it’s nothing great (Mike Fleming termed the reviews “mediogre” <yuck, yuck>), but a relatively decent ending to the series with some considering it one of the better entries in the four picture series, so word-of-mouth may be giving it a small boost. There’s also the factor of it in being in nearly a thousand more theaters than the other films and many of those being 3-D with higher ticket prices. The public may be starting to tire of those prices, but enough of them appear to still be willing to pay the added freight to keep the troll on top.

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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.


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.



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Another touchdown for “The Blind Side”

First of all, my apologies for the pedestrian football metaphor in my headline tonight, but all the good ones have already been taken. Add to that the fact that, with my knowledge of sports, you’re likely to end up with “‘The Blind Side‘ hits a grand slam'” or “‘The Blind Side’ scores a 3-pointer.”


Be that as it may, the up-beat social issue/sports drama starring Sandra Bullock did indeed do extremely well this week. Taking a look at the Box Office Mojo chart, the $29 million film earned a very nice estimated $20.4 million for Warners and Alcon Entertainment in its second weekend and has so far earned a really terrific total amounting to roughly $129,264,00 so far.

As a comparison, my favorite movie of the year (that I’ve seen…I’m way, way behind), “Inglourious Basterds,” was considered quite the success. With a $70 million budget, after 16 weeks it has earned $120,467,000 for Harvey and Bob Weinstein. “2012” cost $200 million to make, a rather obscene sum that was unthinkable not so long ago, and in four weeks in wide release has earned a mere $148,787,000. I haven’t seen “The Blind Side,” but it just makes me happy that a modest movie about people is proving, I think, to be significantly more profitable than at least one pretty obviously bloated spectacle.

As for that other movie about teen vampires, werewolves, and waifs, B.O. Mojo’s Brandon Grey is here to tell us that “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” dropped another 63% this week. However, it’s opening week take was so stunning that meant it still took in a respectable estimated $15.7 million for Summit. It’s total domestic bankroll at this point is about $255.6 million and, as per Variety‘s Pamela McClintock, the worldwide total for “New Moon” is $570.1 so far. All that, with a budget of only about $50 million for a fantasy film. The “Twilight” films might not be seen by anyone as great cinema, but they are pretty awesome business.

Some bad guy in For you schadenfreude fanatics, Nikki Finke reminds us that both “The Blind Side” and the “Twilight” franchise were placed into turnaround by Fox and Paramount respectively. However, it’s always possible that those other studios would have found a way to mess up those pictures or their marketing, so who knows how things would have turned out with different studios?  In any case, no one wins all the time.

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