Day 3 of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour ran me ragged, moreso than any day which preceded it and, I feel rather certain, than any day to follow. Very rarely has it ever come to pass that I schedule a day full of one-on-one interviews and have every single of them go off without a hitch, and you can probably already guess that yesterday wasn’t an exception to that rule. I should probably just be happy that I got some of them, though: the way things were looking, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was going to get any of them.
The last day of the cable portion of the tour began with breakfast with the members of the Rainbow Networks: WEtv (“Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” and “Braxton Family Values”), IFC (“Onion News Network” and “Portlandia”), and AMC (“The Killing”). Shifting ballrooms, we next listened to A&E (“Breakout Kings”) and Lifetime (“Seriously Funny Kids” and “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy”), but…do you detect a trend here?…we soon moved back to the other ballroom to get the scoop on stuff from Hallmark (“Goodnight for Justice”) and Starz (“Camelot,” “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day”). Lastly, it was – oh, dear – back to the other ballroom again. This time, however, HBO kept us sitting still for the duration of the afternoon, giving us looks into “Mildred Pierce,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway,” “Cinema Verite,” “Game of Thrones,” “Too Big to Fail,” and “The Sunset Limited.”
My problem, however, was this: I had to keep bowing out of this panel and that in order to participate in various roundtables and one-on-one interviews. Worse, one of the roundtables – stand up, please, Tommy Lee Jones – was shifted from a perfect location on the schedule into a spot which utterly disrupted almost all of the interviews that followed. In the end, though, I did manage to participate in two roundtables for “Game of Thrones,” including one with author George R.R. Martin, I and two other writers sparred with Mr. Jones (surviving the encounter without having any of my questions ridiculed or dismissed outright has earned me some sort of entertainment journalism merit badge, I feel certain), and still managed to chat one-on-one with the too-sweet-for-words Eve Myles (“Torchwood: Miracle Day”) as well as John Hannah and Peter Mensah (“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”).
The evening event was brought to us by Hallmark, and it took place at the Tournament House…as in the Tournament of Roses…in Pasadena. It was a pleasantly low-key event which began with cocktails and featured a classy sit-down dinner. What I’m saying, basically, is that it was old-school in all the right ways, including familiar TV faces like Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, and Marilu Henner, who regularly found herself holding court about her superior autobiographical memory. I also had an opportunity to sit down and chat with 11-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on “Mad Men.” What a little sweetheart.
Okay, that’s it for the Day 3 wrap-up. Time for your daily dose of my favorite quotes…
1. “I knew that I was doing a lot of plastic surgery, because Melissa, one time, called me when (my grandson) Cooper was four years old and they had ‘Return of the Mummy,’ and he ran to the TV and went, ‘Grandma, Grandma.’ But I think plastic surgery come on, guys. You know. How many people have you interviewed…if you had a stitch for every if you had a dollar for every stitch in the face of someone you’ve interviewed, you wouldn’t be sitting here. You know what I mean? It’s part of our business.” – Joan Rivers, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” (WEtv)
2. “It is literally impossible to be more ridiculous than Fox News or MSNBC. It’s actually impossible. It’s happened multiple times that we’ll be kind of talking and brainstorming a joke in the writers’ room, we’ll get excited about it, and then it’s literally on the FoxNews.com website. So I think we have to kind of embrace that closeness. And the excitement for us is not being a parody of 24-hour news, but we are real news. Those are our competitors in a kind of slightly different world, and I think that believability is also part of what’s exciting about it. We’ve had online cases where, for example, last year there was a case where we published a story about Neil Armstrong now saying that the moon landing was a hoax, and all these papers in Bangladesh picked it up. There was a story about the Make-A-Wish Foundation being bankrupted by a child who wishes for unlimited wishes, which is pretty out there. It went on MySpace, which is kind of the Internet hub for morons, and we got this letter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation that was, like, ‘We’re getting hundreds of e-mails every hour, people who are concerned.’ So how ridiculous those things are, I think, really kind of opens up a lot of doors for us.” – Will Graham, “Onion News Network” (IFC)
So, Robert Pattinson turns into Hal Holbrook, but before he does, Reese Witherspoon must choose between him and a ringmaster/animal trainer played by Christoph Waltz and, I guess, an elephant. Since, as per Brad Brevet, Waltz is a nasty paranoid schizophrenic here, I guess I’d have to recommend the elephant.
But, seriously, even though the dialogue in this trailer sounds pretty trite, this might turn out to be a pretty cool old-fashioned romantic melodrama. I don’t know anything about the novel this is based on by Sara Gruen, but scripter Richard LaGravenese has written some superb screenplays, particularly his own hugely underrated “Living Out Loud,” which he directed, and “The Fisher King” with Terry Gilliam. The director is Francis Lawrence of “I Am Legend.”
There really isn’t that much to add to the news that, as reported by Box Office’s Mojo’s weekly chart, “Alice in Wonderland” suffered only a reasonably modest fall-off of 46.6% from its mega-boffo opening weekend, which meant that the latest from the Disney, Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp marketing triumvirate earned a stellar estimated $62 million this weekend. Anne Thompson and her recently added resident box office guru, Anthony D’Alesandro, report that this is a record for a non-summertime second weekend for a film. It’s certainly not that different from the expectations I discussed on Thursday.
As for the newer releases, it was something of a rout. I like D’Alessandro’s elegant description:
Four distribs attempted to counterprogram against the Disney title this weekend based on the misguided notion that Alice was strictly family fare. However, rather than nipping away at Alice’s audience, Alice sliced off theirs.
In other words, it didn’t matter what age or gender you were this weekend, most likely your first choice was “Alice.” It also performed the rare feat of scoring both the biggest gross and, with the aid of those inflated 3-D ticket prices, the best per-screen average of $16,631.
Still, people did see other movies. The marketing for “Green Zone” fooled persuaded enough viewers that it was similar to the wildly successful “Bourne” pairings of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to earn an estimate of roughly $14.5 million. That might not have been so bad if “Green Zone” hadn’t cost an exorbitant reported $100 million. Conservatives, who have roundly bashed the film as anti-American, will no doubt be claiming victory over the terrorist-loving communists of Universal.
I didn’t quite have the guts to come right out and say it, but I sort of suspected that the raunchy-but-romantic comedy, “She’s Out of My League” was being overly downplayed in some of the prognostication last week and I was right, sort of. The film failed to break into double digits, but its estimated $9.6 million take was enough to put it in the #3 spot for the weekend anyway. Considering that’s just under half the film’s budget, newcomer star Jay Baruchel may not be the year’s break-out comedy star, but he will live to be the girl-friendly geek, a funnier David Schwimmer, if you will, for another day. Indeed, the film seemed to do best with younger women.
I did come right out and wonder why anyone would want to see “Our Family Wedding,” a film which THR‘s Jolly Carl DiOrio seemed to think would do significantly better than “League” — despite being in significantly fewer theaters and, if most critics are to be listened to at all, sucking. My antennae were apparently a bit better than usual and “Wedding,” did, in fact, come in below the other new releases, and the fourth week of “Shutter Island,” to hit the #6 spot with a lackluster $7.6 million estimate for Fox Searchlight. Hopefully, the budget was nice and low. The good news is that that Rotten Tomatoes rating I linked to above has actually climbed dramatically since Thursday, from an embarrassing 4% to a merely bad 18%.
Doing a bit better, though still no doubt disappointing Summit Entertainment, was the romantic drama “Remember Me” from director Allen Coulter of “The Sopranos” and “Hollywoodland.” Just enough young girls remembered that Robert Pattinson was the “Twilight” heart-throb to make the weepy with the widely derided ending an estimated $8.3 million in the #4 spot. Considering the armies of teen-and-tween-aged girls in love with Pattinson, it’s a result that seems almost as pale as the dreamy young Brit’s vampire make-up.
Yes, there really doesn’t seem to be any reason at all to think any of the four new major releases this weekend will come anywhere remotely near the grosses for the latest tentpole flick from Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and company. That’s because last weekend saw the 3-D “Alice in Wonderland” earn an enormous $116 million, so even a gigantic drop would mean a rather huge second weekend by normal standards. And, as both Anne Thompson and Jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree, the new competition isn’t incredibly strong.
The leading contender of those, however, appears to be the new movie from director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon, “Green Zone.” The publicity is doing everything it can to remind the audience that both of them worked on the last two Jason Bourne films. However, the film itself is a political thriller — never, I’m sorry to say, the strongest genre commercially. Oh, and it’s about the Iraq war, not a favorite topic of escape-seeking audiences, it appears. Indeed, the only thing worse commercially than a political thriller about an unpopular and still ongoing war is one with mediocre reviews.
Still, the Bourne connection, Damon’s appeal, and a bit of topicality may be good for something. About $14-16 million says Carl DiOrio, which may not be enough to support the film’s hefty price tag, he warns. Anne Thompson, also has some hints about what went might have gone wrong with the film. (Hint: Except perhaps on documentaries, it’s rarely a good thing when a director has to “find” the story in the editing room. It’s nice to have it in the screenplay, but I’m old fashioned that way.)
Like “Green Zone,” the primary commercial asset of “Remember Me” is its male lead. To a certain segment of the market, Robert Pattinson certainly kicks Damon’s box office keister, even if the “Twilight” pasty-factor is out of this picture. On the other hand, if a single unaccompanied male sees the weepy romantic/emotional drama which also features Emile de Raven and Pierce Brosnan, it’ll be a shock. Pretty much detested by David Medsker, this one didn’t exactly wow the mass of critics either. There’s also the matter of its ending, which has been leaked on the web and many find a kind of insult.
Under those circumstances, you might expect the seemingly Apatow-esque (but not Apatow-associated) guy-friendly romantic comedy, “She’s Out of My League” to do rather well. Like Apatow’s break-through film, “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” it benefits from a premise, fully explained in the title, that plays to the kind of universal male insecurities that seem to make for commercial comedy gold. Still, though our own David Medsker found the film quite likable, the overall reviews are middling and the level of interest out in the world appears to be low.
So low is the interest in the comedy, in fact, that Carl DiOrio actually expects the abysmally reviewed comedy, “Our Family Wedding,” to make about $3 million more dollars than “League,” even though it’s in nearly thirteen hundred fewer theaters. Featuring actors who I’m sure deserve better, including Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera and Taye Diggs, as well as comedian Carlos Mencia (who absolutely does not deserve better), I’m not sure why people would want to see this. On the other hand, since when am I “people”?