I was just about to start get down to business on this week’s already quite late box office preview — which you’ll now be seeing here tomorrow morning — when I saw the bombshell, though not really surprising, press release posted over at Deadline. 26-year-old Andrew Garfield has already been mentioned several times as a possible choice for the Marc Webb Spider-Man reboot (remember when you had to wait at least a decade for those?), and I think it’s probably a good, perhaps better than good, choice, though he’s slightly grown-up if they really do intend to make him a high school kid.
As per Wikipedia, Garfield was born in my hometown of L.A., but raised mostly in Surrey, England, which I imagine is a somewhat different atmosphere. On the other hand, I guess you can take the boy out of Hollywood but you can’t entirely take Hollywood out of this boy. He has one of the two lead roles, alongside Jesse Eisenberg in David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming “The Social Network,” not to mention the science fiction drama/love story “Never Let Me Go.” He’s also appeared in “Lions for Lambs,” and “The Other Boleyn Girl.” In less mainstream fare, he’s also had in the lead role of the first film in the “Red Riding” trilogy of made-for-British-TV thrillers, a huge critical smash last year which had a limited theatrical release stateside. He’s also done more than his share of stage work and has won a BAFTA (British Oscar) for the low-budget British drama, “Boy A.” In other words, he’s doesn’t seem to be a lightweight.
As far as his box office potential goes, who knows? However, the dual-passport holding American-English-Jewish Garfield, who despite his cosmopolitan background made his success without any apparent industry or artistic connections, is just geeky enough to be relatable for boys and believable as a bit of an outcast, but, I’m guessing, also quite handsome enough to make girls swoon a bit. (He’s already been an MTV “hump day hottie,” so I guess there’s my proof.) The only aspect I’m unsure of is the whole vague “star power” thing. I’ll get back to you on that one.
Garfield has came up on my radar, however, because of his surprisingly good work in a hugely problematic role in “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnussus.” The uneven Terry Gilliam fantasy saddled him with a badly muddled character in which we were supposed to still kind of like him despite the fact that he was being persistently mean to adorable Lily Cole. Garfield wasn’t entirely successful in making his character work the way it should have in the film’s story, such as it was, but he impressed me by keeping things about as believable as I can imagine under the circumstances. Making Peter Parker come to life after that should be a comparative breeze. Let’s just see how he handles the clear potential for A-list status here.
Again, plenty to do so I’ll try to keep things efficient this evening as I go over a few stories. Some of them, I must admit, are left overs from last night. Still, just like the way cold chicken can be even better after sitting in the fridge, maybe this news will have improved slightly with time.
* If we can believe the Wall Street Journal, it appears that the Weinstein/Burkle deal to kinda-sort retake Miramax is off, writes Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical. Since the company is actually named after the parents of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, I imagine this might hurt a little.
* John Slattery of “Mad Men” was one of the more pleasant surprises of “Iron Man 2” as a middle-aged (actually long-deceased) Howard Stark. Now, we know who’ll be playing Stark as a young man in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” It’s Dominic Cooper, the male ingenue of “Mamma Mia,” whose other recent parts includes playing Uday Hussein, so he’s definitely running the gamut.
* Jesse Eisenberg, who had a rather good weekend with two films in limited release, is reteaming with his “Zombieland” director, Ruben Fleischer. The picture sounds like a pretty fun black comedy about a bizarre bank robbery. Aziz Ansari is also in the film as a middle-school teacher which, right off the bat makes me laugh.
* There’s very little reason to expect the Paul W.S. Anderson 3-D version“The Three Musketeers” is going to be anywhere near one of the better versions of the oft-filmed adventure tale, but I actually like the idea of elf-to-punching-bag actor Orlando Bloom as a bad ass villain. I’ve missed most of his non-elven performances, so I’m not yet a Bloom-hater. Anyhow, it’s good for actors to stretch a bit.
* I might have been tempted to run clips from the ongoing “Star Wars” spoofery going on at “The Family Guy” only I have this strange, yet deep, inner conviction that Seth MacFarlane should in no way be confused with someone who makes funny shows. The clip from a table read embedded on a post by Geoff Boucher only strengthens that conviction. I seriously do not understand what those people are laughing at. I’ve asked this question before and have never received a good answer: is the “joke” of his shows that all the jokes are bad?
* If the movie adventures of young Jack London get more kids to actually read Jack London, I think that’ll be great. Confession time: I’ve only read The Sea Wolf. The movie, despite having Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, and Ida Lupino in it, didn’t begin to do it justice. Steling Hayden or Robert Ryan were the only men ever born to play the half-insane, ultra-macho, pseudo-intellectual control freak Wolf Larsen. Actually, Russell Crowe could not only play Wolf Larson, I suspect he is Wolf Larsen.
The fourth and, I’m guessing, probably final theatrical bow for the soulful green troll with the Scottish accent grossed an estimated $71.25 million this weekend for Dreamworks and Paramount, according to the mighty Box Office Mojo chart. That’s a lot more than enough to make “Shrek Forever After” the top movie in the country this week, and a substantial take for any movie. It is, however, significantly below the $121.6 that the widely unloved last entry in the series earned on its opening weekend back in 2007 — without the benefit of inflated 3-D ticket prices.
It’s even further below the numbers that were being bandied about by writers, if not, studios, earlier on. I mentioned last time that Carl DiOrio thought the film could hit $100 million, but failed to note the breakdown at the Numbers. It said that while “analysts” (whoever they may be) were suggesting a $90-$95 million opening, the studio was pimping a more modest $80 million while trying to diminish expectations. They should have diminished them a little bit more.
The week’s other major opener, “MacGruber,” proved my hunches to be at least as wrong as DiOrio’s. While steering clear to some extent of the $15-20 million guess at the Numbers, I doubted the single-digit numbers that DiOrio mentioned. As the singer of the obscure Difford and Tilbrook tune says, let’s face it, I’m wrong again. As it turns out, even DiOrio’s lowest figures weren’t low enough. The incompetent MacGyver-like bomb diffuser only earned a fairly pathetic $4.1 million in 2,551 theaters for the #6 spot. I think it’s safe to say that the poor reputation of SNL-derived films clearly preceded this one, which actually has garnered reviews that are a bit better than most other films in this long-running franchise.
Still, considering that most SNL sketches, even at their best, never seem to sustain until the end of the bit, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the movies derived from them have a hard time holding attention through feature-length running times. If “MacGruber” suffered from a bit of movie guilt-by-association, it’s just too bad for anyone who was hoping for a quick A-list status for the off-kilter Will Forte — a performer who I think would fit in really nicely in a David Lynch movie. (I mean that as a compliment, I think.) On the other hand, every time I check Rotten Tomatoes, even it’s now-meh-to-bad (once kind of okay and maybe even almost good) critical numbers keep dropping, with “Top Critics” being a bit more brutal.
The #2 and #3 spots, respectively, were held by “Iron Man 2” with an estimate of $26.6 million for Marvel and Paramount, and “Robin Hood” with $18.7 million estimated for long suffering Universal. Probably helped by weak competition, both movies managed to keep their weekly drop to just under 50%. Still, I think it’s safe to call the $200 million “Robin Hood” a disappointment that won’t do much for the careers of either Russell Crowe or Ridley Scott, not that they’re in any danger of obscurity just yet.
A paucity of movies for women of any age probably also helped grow some legs for the #4 cross-generational rom-com, “Letters to Juliet,” which dropped only by 32.8% and earned a solid $9.1 million for the probably fairly modestly budgeted film. That should help young Amanda Seyfried cement her growing credibility as a box office draw, at least for young-female-skewing films and even if her most challenging film role so far has been ignored. Of course, that lack of female-friendly major draws will change next week with the arrival of “Sex and the City 2.”
On the limited release circuit, it was actually a pretty good weekend for Jesse Eisenberg and the talented young actor’s efforts to prove he’s something other than a Jewish knock-off of Michael Cera. His high-concept drama with mixed reviews, “Holy Rollers,” performed fairly strongly in its opening weekend on three screens with a solid per screen average of $13,003 from an audience that probably discussed after the film whether the drama about a drug-running Hasid was good or bad for the Jews. Doing even better was the all-star comedy, “Solitary Man,” top-lined by Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito (let’s not talk about how long it’s been since “Romancing the Stone” and ‘The War of the Roses”),” and also featuring mid twenty-something Eisenberg. On the strength of strong reviews and the cast, it managed an estimated $22,250 on four screens. As usual, Peter Knegt at Indiewire has the details.
The combined power of family films and the inflated ticket prices of 3-D films being what it is, I don’t think there’s room for much doubt that the putative final entry in the now four film-long computer animated “Shrek” franchise will take the weekend, and probably in a reasonably major way. According to jolly Carl DiOrio, $100 million may be possible. That’s a number that, while being substantially less than past openings featuring the affable troll, may be overheated, with other experts predicting significantly lower amounts. On the one hand, DiOrio theorizes that the tracking surveys don’t properly account for the strength of family films nor the 3-D box office bonus. (He notes some theaters in NYC are charging $20.00 for 3-D showings.) Still, four movies in, people may tend to write this one off as a last ditch attempt to cash in on a once immensely popular character.
Are they right? Well, our own David Medsker, not a huge fan of the series, actually thinks “Shrek Forever After” has the most heart of any entry so far and notes that it has lowered the number of fart jokes, always a welcome change in my book. It’s also probably worth noting that Dreamworks and Paramount have chosen an animation newbie in director Miguel Arteta, whose previously been best known for such character driven, off-beat low budget indie comedies as “Chuck and Buck” and “The Good Girl,” as well as the more recent and somewhat more mainstream targeted “Youth in Revolt.” The choice of Arteta has apparently worked to some degree as the film has enjoyed a modest bump upwards in esteem from the critically unloved “Shrek the Third.” Still, the marketing for the film has been hampered by title changes — previous monikers were “Shrek: The Final Chapter” and “Shrek Goes Fourth.” Still, as long as people remember the “Shrek” part, it shouldn’t be too big a problem.
There will be competition from other just a bit less family-friendly major releases rated PG-13 for varying degrees of violence, but Marvel/Paramount’s “Iron Man 2” has been dropping by over fifty percent from its terrific but not ultra-immense opening week, and therefore is likely to come at #2. Last week’s #2, “Robin Hood,” is expected to have a pretty huge drop in its second week based on its unexciting word of mouth and will come in somewhere lower in the top five. Its a good thing for beleaguered Universal Studios that the action-adventure criticized for a marked lack of fun has nevertheless generated strong international numbers. The week’s other new release has been getting a lot of ‘net coverage, and is based on a character with a lot of TV exposure. Even so, the gurus seem to agree that it won’t be a massive hit. Given that the Saturday Night Live movie brand is not exactly vibrant, though it’s always fun to read about — and was last made use of in 2000 — “MacGruber” could be seen as damaged goods from the start because it’s derived from a series of one-joke skits from the show featuring Will Forte and that PH favorite/comment generator, Kristen Wigg. No wonder that the “tracking” has not been too spectacular.
The very broad comedy, essentially an elaborate spoof of the old “MacGyver” TV series, about an incompetent would-be super-spy who isn’t nearly as good at defusing huge bombs as he thinks he is, is apparently tracking fairly poorly. On the other hand, this film is getting a entirely non-rapturous but okay critical reaction (59% “fresh” as of this writing), which indicates to me it will end up as a video guilty pleasure for many of us. The question is, will so many of the audience decide to wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray or cable version of the film that the number will really be a rather sad $8-10 million as Carl DiOrio suggests, or will enough family-film wary 17-40 year old males decide to enjoy the film’s juvenile-yet-R-rated pleasures making for the more robust $15 or even $20 million figures suggested by C. S. Stowbridge at the Numbers? I’ve been wrong before, but I’m guessing “MacGruber” will at least break double digits. I hope it does fairly well, if only so there’s a chance we’ll see Betty White reprise her SNL role as MacGruber’s (too) beloved grandma in the sequel.
There isn’t a huge amount of action this week on the limited release market, at least in terms of high-profile new movies. “Holy Rollers,” a fact-inspired tale starring Jesse Eisenberg as a young Hasidic Jew — if you don’ t know the term, just think of them as the tech-friendly, urban equivalent of the Amish — who gets caught up in trafficking Ecstasy. Apparently, its premise is more interesting than the actual movie. What a shanda.
It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud at something a person says. Witty is one thing, but genuinely funny is another beast altogether. And when I say laugh out loud, I’m talking about involuntary spasms of laughter, the kind that take a couple of minutes to subside. There is no formula for it, and I have no criteria for what form it takes. I just know it when it see it. Unfortunately, I don’t see it often enough. Sometimes they appear in otherwise unfunny movies, at which point I usually get angry, but that’s a subject for another day.
In the first of a long list of decade-oriented blog posts about the movies of the 2000s, here are the lines that made me laugh the hardest at the Googoplex. Be advised, potential SPOILERS abound here, so I don’t want to hear that I ruined such and such movie for you. What are your favorite lines? Let’s hear ’em in the comment section.
#10: Up – Somebody always loves you
This is more of a laughter-through-tears kind of thing, but it’s my list, my rules, so it counts. Pete Docter goes straight for the heart in this movie, almost mercilessly so. The “married life” sequence makes me cry like a little girl every time I watch it, and this scene, where the loyal Dug comes to comfort Carl, is quite possibly the “Awwwwwww” moment of the decade.
#9. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story – Peter La Fleur learns just how small his problems really are
Next time you think about quitting something, anything, remember this exchange between the defeated gym owner Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) and cyclist Lance Armstrong:
Lance Armstrong: Could I get a bottle of water. (Looks to his left) Hey, aren’t you Peter La Fleur? Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong! Lance Armstrong: Yeah, that’s me. But I’m a big fan of yours. Peter La Fleur: Really? Lance Armstrong: Yeah, I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late. Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit… Lance. Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals? Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like… shame. Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. But good luck to you, Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.
#8. The Simpsons Movie – Albert Brooks loses his mind
Albert Brooks is the fifth Beatle of the “Simpsons” writing staff. The writers love him, and he loves the show. No guest performer has played more characters – the RV salesman, Brad Goodman, Jaques the bowler, the megalomaniacal Hank Scorpio – but his role as the power-mad director of the EPA vaults “The Simpsons Movie” to another level. The scene where he tricks President Arnold Schwarzenegger into doing his evil bidding is the better overall scene, but as single lines go, my favorite is when he’s confronted with his thirst for power. As Fat Tony once said, it’s funny because it’s true.
EPA Officer: Sir, I’m afraid you’ve gone mad with power Russ Cargill: Well, of course I have. You ever tried going mad without power? It’s boring, no one listens to you.
#7. Zombieland – Woody Harrelson settles a debate the old fashioned way: by threatening an ass kicking
With apologies to when Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) tells Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) that he’s “like a giant cock blocking robot, like developed in a secret fucking government lab,” my favorite bit is this sly moment where Columbus tells Tallahassee that he’s heard there’s a place where there are no zombies, at which point Tallahassee assures him that such a place doesn’t exist.
Tallahassee: You know, you’re like a penguin on the North Pole hears the South Pole’s really nice this time of year. Columbus: There are no penguins on the North Pole. Tallahasee: (pause) You wanna feel how hard I can punch?
#6. Burn After Reading – Tilda Swinton forcefully illustrates that thing she…doesn’t do
She won the Oscar for “Michael Clayton” – which, in my mind, was a totally unwarranted example of the Hollywood welfare system at work – but this is bar none my favorite Tilda Swinton performance to date. As Katie Cox, Swinton is the coldest, most humorless succubus of a human being that you’ll find. (Even better, she’s a pediatrician.) Why George Clooney’s character Harry would choose her for an ongoing affair over the other women he beds during the movie is a mystery, but their relationship does produce the movie’s funniest moment, when Katie discusses destroying her husband while Harry suggests playing it cool and not hammering him while he’s down. “Is that how you see me? Hammering him?” The rest speaks for itself.
#5. Get Smart: Driving range car crash
All hail Alan Arkin. No one else could have made this line as funny as he does.
#4. 1408 – John Cusack speaks a universal truth
Mike Enslin (Cusack), a man who writes about supposedly haunted locations, wants to check into room 1408 at New York’s Dolphin Hotel. Hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to talk him out of it during a meeting in his office.
Gerald Olin: You do drink, don’t you? Mike Enslin: Of course! I just said I was a writer.
Saw this at a critics-only screening. Big, big laughter followed that exchange.
#3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters – Billy Mitchell equates himself with one of the most hotly contested issues in our nation’s history
Arguably the greatest movie villain the ‘00s had to offer – even more terrifying when you take into account that he’s real – video game wizard and restaurant magnate Billy Mitchell is awesome. Just ask him, and he’ll tell you. Hell, you don’t even have to ask him. He lays it all out on the table in this one line:
No matter what I say, it draws controversy. It’s sort of like the abortion issue.
That’s right, people, he compared himself, and his status within the video game community, to Roe vs. Wade. To be that fond of yourself, yet be completely lacking in self-awareness or tact, that is a gift. A gift wrapped in a denim shirt and a feathered mullet. Thank you, God.
#2. Finding Nemo – The seagulls
It’s one of those head-slappers of a commentary. But of course that’s what seagulls are saying when they crow. What else could it be? It’s not as if they’re picky about what they eat or anything. Even better is the line from the pelican Nigel (Geoffrey Rush), where he calls them “rats with wings.” Even the animal kingdom hates seagulls.
#1. Sex Drive – Andy and Randy hitting on the church girl
It made about a buck and change at the box office, but “Sex Drive” is without a doubt my favorite comedy of the decade. I could have made a list of nothing but quotes from this movie alone, but if I have to choose one, it’s unquestionably the scene where Lance (Clark Duke) has his shy friend Ian (Josh Zuckerman) observe the seduction technique of classmates Andy and Randy, in order to convey the message that confidence is a powerful aphrodisiac. That it doesn’t work on our little donation-soliciting friend only makes the exchange funnier. Imagine what Andy and Randy will be able to accomplish once they learn how to close.