Easily the best of the “Ice Age” movies to date, though there is still room for improvement. The main characters of Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) are still bland as waffles, as are “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown” returning characters Ellie (Queen Latifah), Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). But the “Ice Age” gang gains one huge upgrade in the form of Buck (Simon Pegg) a daredevil weasel who also happens to be completely nuts, which of course wins Buck the instant affections of Crash and Eddie. They even worked dinosaurs into the mix without jumping the shark – they live in a secret world beneath the ground – though it did cause me to wonder how the other animals knew what they were, since they had never seen one before and presumably do not have history books. There is a hilarious tribute to ’90s action movies where Buck tries to save Manny and Diego from a meat-eating plant, and must choose between cutting the red root and the blue root. The Scrat subplot is still the best part of the movie, and is ramped up by a new love interest, the eyelash-batting Scratte. But the A-story is slowly but surely holding its own.
We cannot vouch for the 3D aspect of the movie, but considering the number of thrilling first-person chase sequences contained here, it appears they were quite generous with it. They were also quite generous with the extras, including every Scrat short film and a deluge of featurettes on drawing characters and coming up with the designs for Scratte and the dinosaurs. Why Fox decided not to screen this for us is a mystery, as the movie is quite good.
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The “box office gurus” who spoke to Nikki Finke of a $200 million five-day take for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” were, to employ a bit of British understatement, just a bit off. According to all the estimates, the David Yates-helmed picture netted a relatively earthbound but still terrific series-best $159.7 million since its release last Wednesday, with $79.5 million of it earned over the weekend. The film’s international take is said to be extremely good, but no numbers are available as of this writing.
Nikki Finke, however, has people whispering in her ear that it won’t get close to “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” take, and, realizing that the non-humanity driven franchise did break the $200 million mark on its opening five day take (albeit on a long holiday weekend), that seems reasonable enough to me. Let us do as Harry would and mutter a charming British curse under our breath. Still, it’s not a bad time for Warners, owner of DC Comics as well as Bugs and Daffy, et al, once again showing that it knows its way around a character-driven franchise. On the other hand, the semi-serial nature of the Potter films might be largely responsible here for the non-ultra-stratospheric take. Adults and others who’ve never gotten on the Potter bandwagon might be slower than ever to jump on it at this point.
And now for something completely differerent: Based on the news of bad electronic word of mouth and the like — and knowing that the audience for comic male genitalia in a gay context might be limited, to say the least — I certainly expected a dip in the fortunes of “Brüno,” but not the humongous 81% drop that The Hollywood Reporter reports. Sacha Baron Cohen’s semi-reality comedy earned a sad estimated fifth place $2.8 million over the weekend, meaning that it likely won’t beat “Borat” and that Mr. Cohen’s future in more conventionally-made pure-fiction comedies might be somewhat assured — though it would be foolish in the extreme to count the comedian out (though some will, because some enjoy doing that). Also, once again, my modest prognosticatory powers were proven even more more modest.
Just in case you were wondering, the #2 spot this week was taken by “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” with $17.7 million and “Transformers 2” hanging in at #3 with $13.8 million, while I still wonder just what the attraction is. But, to paraphrase something someone brilliant once said, both in art and in movies, we are stunned by the choices of others.
On Friday I wrote the following:
There’s obviously general agreement about the numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one proved the prognosticators wrong either by making a lot less or a lot more money than expected.
Well, the only person proved wrongish was me. The only surprise was that that there appear to be absolutely no surprises as Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles’s “Brüno” is projected to have made $30.4 million to top the weekend — just slightly exceeding the pre-opening estimates. The slightly bad news for Universal is that the film had a rather large drop off in its second day at the box office. Variety calculates it at 39%, Nikki Finke says 37%. (I can’t check who is right because Variety isn’t giving a complete breakdown of the daily performance, and may be working with slightly different numbers than Ms. Finke. I also suck at math.) In any case, it does show an increase over the “Borat” numbers. Also, this kind of film is a bit cheaper to make than some others, possible lawsuits notwithstanding.
No big surprises further down the rankings either, with “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” breaking the $100 million mark with $28.5 million in its second “frame.” That’s an ice-cool $120.6 million so far for the family flick. If I may copy the Variety house style, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” made an automatic $24 million for a Gigantor-sized $339 domestic total, with THR/Reuters proclaiming it “easily the biggest movie of the year.” (Well, I’m still hoping for a surprise.) and “Public Enemies” knocked over the public to the tune of $14.1 million. Nikki Finke is reporting that competing studios are talking down the star-driven gangster movie’s chances of hitting the $100 million mark.
Critics and the public were, for a change, speaking with one voice and gave a box office D-grade to the week’s second wide release, the high school comedy, “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” The adaptation of a novel by original author Larry Doyle and director Chris Columbus matched its dismal critical performance with a seventh place showing, netting a paltry $5 million despite being in 1,858 theaters.
Okay, so a lot of things have changed in this country with regards to attitudes towards gays, but just how will America deal with the envelope-pushing antics of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest creation? “Brüno” has already offended a few in the gay community, but is also certain to be utterly avoided by America’s sadly larger homophobic community. As far as I’m concerned, just how this obviously risky material will fare is anyone’s guess, since from all accounts “Brüno” is no cuddly “Will and Grace” or “The Birdcage” and really puts its confrontational money where it’s transgressive mouth is, however comically presented. It’s R-rating has been deemed by Roger Ebert and many others as “very, very hard.”
Reviews are positive, more or less, but critics are somewhat divided. Ebert liked it a lot. Owen Glieberman awarded it a fairly rare A-. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, however, was less amused and trotted out a variation of the “queerface” meme some were concerned with a few weeks back. On the other hand, as I’ve discussed at my other blog home in another context, Lane’s statements are often, to be extremely easy on him, ill-informed. Joe Morgenstern, on the other hand, makes his point simply enough: he doesn’t think it’s funny, just kind of gross.
Hollywood Reporter box office prognosticator Carl DiOrio is fairly high on the film regardless, calling about $30 million or more for the Larry Charles directed stunt comedy. Pamela McClintock, his opposite number at Variety is saying it should debut in vicinity of Baron Cohen’s prior out of the box hit, “Borat,” at somewhere near $28.5 million. Apparently, the logic here is that Cohen’s now far greater fame will be canceled out by subject matter/content that some audience members who liked the earlier film may just want to avoid this time around. There’s obviously general agreement about the numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one proved the prognosticators wrong either by making a lot less or a lot more money than expected.
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Let’s see if we can’t keep it simple. After a bit of seesawing over the weekend, it looks like we have a straight tie for domestic box office in the battle of the colon-ized sequels, at least in the domestic estimates. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” both yielded a very healthy estimated $42.5 million. ” So says both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Of course, the tie will be broken when the b.o. “actuals” will yield a winner, Franken v. Coleman style, tomorrow night, however.
“Transformers” also continued its strong performance overseas and is nearing the $300 million mark for its cumulative total. As Nikki Finke points out, however, the $215 million that “Ice Age” took sets a new international record for an animated film. So everyone’s going to have no problem getting a good table at the restaurant of their choice this week.
Returning to the domestic market, the strong numbers also continued in the #3 spot, with “Public Enemies” netting an estimated $26.2 million over the weekend and $41 million for the five days since it’s Wednesday opening. That assuages some of the fears about the film and proves that some adults will still leave the house to turn out for a movie with a bit of heft into it, even in the face of somewhat mixed reviews. Meanwhile “The Hangover” (which I really need to go see now), crossed the $200 million mark, proving that making audiences laugh will never hurt you, assuming they’re supposed to laugh.
In smaller release news, Kathryn Bigelow’s extremely well reviewed Iraq-set bomb disposal thriller, “The Hurt Locker,” really is starting to look like the possible break-out film among limited releases. It’s generating good word of mouth in my actual real life from actual real people and netting the best per-screen average of any film two weeks running. That’s in a minuscule nine theaters — about 4,223 fewer screens than “Transformers” — so we’ll see how it does when it expands to non-mega-metropolises.