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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It’s been a hard day and I’m going going to keep it short and sweet. And how sweet it is for the husband-and-wife team of star Milla Jovovich and director Paul W.S. Anderson. Aided by those premium ticket prices for 3D movies and — as pointed out by Nikki Finke — using footage actually shot in 3D, the film easily won the weekend as indicated earlier and sailed to a record gross for the action-horror franchise. Specifically, the estimate for the weekend was $27.7 million for Screen Gems/Sony according to Box Office Mojo. It’ll likely drop off in significantly next week, but the damage is already done.
Elsewhere, there wasn’t that much box office love going around on this traditionally weak weekend. “Takers” came in at #2 and showed some relative legs with $6.1 million, again for Screen Gems/Sony, which is having a decent month. Meanwhile, both of last week’s toppers suffered significant second week declines. “The American,” from Focus Features, really did seem to suffer from some poor word of mouth and netted only a bit under $5.9 million.
Last week’s silver medalist, “Machete,” with two sequels announced in its end credits, suffered the geek second week curse and dropped by over 63% netting only 4.2% million. On the other hand, after seeing the film myself this weekend I heard some highly informal Hollywood scuttlebutt indicating the budget was significantly lower than $20 million figure we’ve heard for the very funny, but awfully slack, straight-faced tongue-in-cheek homage. So, it’s still possible Danny Trejo as Machete may kill again, if so, I’m guessing Fox will keep him on a tight budget.
We’re in a bit of a post-summer season lull here until the more adult oriented award season films kick in, and so this week sees only one new major release. The fourth entry in the series of video game-based science-fiction-horror-action films starring Milla Jovovich, Screen Gems’ “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” is the first 3D entry in the increasingly successful and 100% critic proof series and marks the return of geek whipping boy Paul W.S. Anderson to the helm. This one isn’t being screened for critics, not that it matters either way.
My go-to prognosticators Ben Fritz of the Los Angeles Times and Jolly Carl DiOrio of THR, both expect the film to easily top the weekend with about $25 million or so, bolstered by those high 3D ticket prices. Fritz also reminds us that the post-Labor Day weekend is traditionally the weakest movie going weekend of the year. If you hate crowds, here’s your chance.
Of course, that leaves a lot of room for jockeying between last weekend’s somewhat successful new releases, the #1 “The American” and the #2 “Machete.” Both films are quite modestly budgeted at $20 million according to Box Office Mojo’s chart, so they’ll both be profitable. Both also have issues with legs — “Machete” because it’s in a heavy-duty genre film and they are noted for huge second-weekend drop-offs and “The American” because it got truly terrible ratings from the people who answered the Cinemascore survey. Jolly Carl believes the way the film, which opened two days early last week, performed indicates that the word of mouth on the film isn’t nearly as bad as that D- would indicate. If the film proves as leggy as most adult-oriented film tend to be, that will a pretty serious black-eye for the polling firm.
Otherwise, there is a major reissue this week of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” to give Twi-hards one last chance to route for their favorite monster boy-toys. Also there’s going to be a series of what amounts to sneak previews of the upcoming horny teenager mockumentary, ‘The Virginity Hit.” And, finally, the much discussed Joaquin Phoenix documentary that might not be a documentary, “I’m Still Here,” will be opening in about 19 theaters. More about that a couple of posts down.
Lots going on…
* Via Merrick at THR.
New Line has picked up a pitch from Darren Lemke, the writer behind the studio’s Bryan Singer project “Jack the Giant Killer,” that reimagines the classic tale of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” as an action-adventure movie.
I’m thinking Steven Seagall for the lead, with Jet Li as Kato, though I’m not sure how either of them are at dancing to the music of Tchaikovsky. Okay, actually, this version won’t be a ballet (obviously) and they’re going for more of a “Chronicles of Narnia” vibe.
* Brad Pitt will be producing, but not playing the lead, in an action-oriented flick about the young Vlad Dracul (his buddies call him “the Impaler”). I’d prefer if they would be honest and call this “Dracula Begins,” but the actual title is “Vlad.” The studio will be the “Twilight” driven Summit. How much you wanna bet this vampire-to-be has a tortured love-life?
* Hand drawn animation appears to be coming back to Disney in a big way. Yay. Film-maker Brendon Connolly has some interesting hints.
* And one more item from THR/Heat Vision that I can’t really ignore. Cowriter-producer Peter Jackson has announced that auditions for “The Hobbit” have begun and the only role that’s precast is Ian McKellan as Gandalf. So, actors, if you’ve got a snub nose, a pasty complexion, are never chosen first for basketball, and have hairy feet, I suggest you get into gear. They are denying rumors that James McAvoy could be in the running for Bilbo, though he does have an overall Baggins thing going on, I think. Another actor who screams “hobbit!” to me is writer Peter Morgan’s favorite star, Michael Sheen of “Frost/Nixon,” “The Queen,” and “The Damned United.” Of course, whoever it is, I guess it will have to believable that he’ll look like Ian Holm when he gets on in years.
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Yes, it’s a real mishmash this weekend at the box office and I’ve got less time than usual — but let’s just see how it goes.
Anyhow, the clear winner over the next few days will almost certainly be yet another version of Charles Dicken’s constantly remade and revisited holiday perennial, this time from Disney, “A Christmas Carol.” Jim Carrey stars as Scrooge, who won’t hurt at the box office and Robert Zemeckis, in his “Polar Express” mode, is at the helm. Personally, while I found the earlier motion-capture movie a fun visceral thrill ride in Imax 3-D, despite a story that was the very definition of treacle, I personally find this style of animation extremely ugly; it’s as if it’s always stuck in the armpit of the Uncanny Valley. Moreover critics, including our own David Medsker, complain that Zemeckis gets carried away with the effects and makes things a bit too visceral and scary for the film’s own good. Still, if it worked even for Mr. Magoo, there’s no reason to think it won’t work well enough for some fiscal redemption. THR‘s Carl DiOrio, whose nearly as jolly as an way-too-early St. Nick, is guessing it’ll grab about $40 million in premature yuletide cheer. A split decision by critics is, I suppose, neither here nor there.
After that, we have four films that will be duking it out with two extant strong releases, Michael Jackson’s ghostly final bow, “This Is It,” which may benefit from better than expected word of mouth and, of course, the horrifyingly profitable “Paranormal Activity.” Intriguingly, all these new major releases have a slightly spooky and/or “paranormal” spin and trying to guess which will do best is probably about as wise as playing with a Ouija board at a demon-infested San Diego townhome.
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