Tag: The Informant!

“Cloudy” with a certainty of poor news for new releases

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Never bet against family entertainment, especially when it’s in 3-D and generating strong word of mouth. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” declined a very small 19% and collected an estimated $24.6 million over the weekend, which puts it at a $60 million “cume” or thereabouts according to Bruce McNary of Variety. Not bad.

I’m not one one bit surprised that the new Bruce Willis science-fiction tale, “Surrogates,” didn’t get the over-fluffed $20+ million that was expected, despite the help of costar Radha Mitchell. The movie hasn’t generated much excitement, is getting “meh” to bad reviews, and the appeal of older stars like Willis just doesn’t seem to be that powerful at the box office these days.  Does Bruce Willis even register that much with people under thirty? If it wasn’t for the success of the last “Die Hard” flick, I think this would have done significantly less than the non-terrible estimated $15 million it actually netted for the #2 slot. On the other hand, the film cost $80 million. How much of that was Willis’s salary?

Fame

The remake of Alan Parker’s “Fame” got mostly bad reviews, and the box office wasn’t too exciting either with a mere $10 million estimated. Though the film apparently attracted a youngish audience — a possible reflection of the film being perceived as not very good since it’s a well known property to we mid-lifers — apparently most of them were taken up with other films. The week’s other major new release, the Dennis Quaid sci-fi horror entry, “Pandorum,” did a predictably awful estimated $4.4 million.

In more positive news, “The Informant!” held better than expected with roughly $6.9 million in the #4 spot and a mere 33% decline according to the Box Office Mojo chart. An interesting real life story, a funny trailer, an imaginative director, and more youngish star power may still count for something.

The week’s highest per screen average was documentary superstar Michael Moore’s latest, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” earning about $60,000 each in four theaters before going wide next week. The French language biopic, “Coco Before Chanel” starring Audrey Tautou (“Amelie”), earned a stylish estimated $35,000 average on five screens.

coco_before_chanel02

“Meatballs” satisfies family film hunger over tame movie weekend; “Jennifer’s Body” is lifeless

cloudy-with-a-chance-of-meatballs

A CGI-animated family comedy in 3-D performed very well at the box office this weekend and an R-rated horror-comedy tanked. Guess what will be seeing even more of and what we’ll be seeing even less of. Never mind the fact that one film people liked a lot, and the other film they didn’t care for so much. Can’t let a small factor like that affect our views of such matters.

Anyhow, to be very specific, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” didn’t quite hit the level of financial success predicted in the comments to our pre-weekend post by David Medsker, who also reviewed the film. Not that I’m in much position to lord it over Mr. Medsker, since I opined that “I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one go well over the $30 million mark.” Well, I wasn’t wrong if by “well over” you mean by a tenth of a million. The weekend estimate being reported by our usual suspects (Variety, THR/Reuters, Nikki Finke) is $30.1 million, which basically means the film hit the high end of the insider guessstimates, with a small cherry on top for Sony with it’s biggest animated hit yet.

Next in line is a bit of a pleasant surprise in terms of its second-place rank this weekend, not so much in terms of the amount of cash it actually generated. “The Informant!” managed an estimated take of $10.5 million. That can easily be framed as some kind of demerit on the career record of both star Matt Damon and writer-director Steven Soderbergh. For what it’s worth, the film’s critical reception, as expressed in its Rotten Tomatoes “fresh” rating, has improved considerably (from 67% to 74%) since I wrote this all up very early Friday morning, but Nikki Finke has reported a C- ranking from CinemaScore, so we probably have to chalk some of that up to the fact that Soderbergh is kind of a cinephile hometown favorite. He fails frequently with critics and film lovers as well as the public, but he does so by taking big risks, which we tend to see as highly honorable. To the public, however, an unsatisfying movie is just that, unsatisfying, and this one is seems to be appealing just to a particular niche.

Matt Damon in Nevertheless, an Oscar nomination for Damon — which Nikki Finke notwithstanding is still possible — might help the modestly budgeted fact-based comedy to make a decent profit over the long haul. At this point, however, this is Damon’s second least remunerative opening weekend. (The first was “The Good Shepherd” a dark, realistic spy film that bored even me — a fan of dark, realistic spy films.) I don’t know if there’s any significance to that whatsoever, since the film is obviously playing down the star’s usual areas of mass appeal and especially considering how many star-driven movies are disappointing the studios these days. Is it possible that after nearly a century of movies audiences are finally figuring out that actors don’t make up the stories as they go along and those writer and director people have more to do with a film’s quality? Nah.

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Food to defeat flesh at the box office

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

It’s going to be a messy weekend at multiplexes this weekend. Raining food items in 3-D are likely to rule the weekend against a sex-heavy horror comedy with a literally man-eating lead, a food-industry investigation gone badly awry, and the semi-obligatory poorly reviewed rom-com and/or rom-drom.

Redefining the term “splatter” for an all-ages audience is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” The Sony-made entry looks to combine the proven appeal of family-friendly animated comedies, 3-D (and 3-D Imax), and adaptations of popular books to make what THR‘s Carl DiOrio guesses will be roughly $25-30 million. Add to that the film’s fairly stellar critical appeal, with most critics echoing the sunny assessment of our own David Medsker with an 89% Rotten Tomatoes “Fresh” rating, and you get a feature with extremely wide appeal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one go well over the $30 million mark. (I should add, however, that the “Top Critics” rating is a considerably more modest, but still good, 71% as of this writing. However, with only seven reviews included, that seems like a less a fair sampling.)

Likely to come in a distant second is the R-rated, youth oriented sexy horror comedy from Fox, “Jennifer’s Body.” Variety doesn’t hazard a guess this week, but THR/DiOrio is saying to expect a gross in the “low-teen millions” and that seems reasonable. Though for whatever sick reason audiences have been turning up their noses even at very strong horror films inflected with humor like “Drag Me to Hell,” this film benefits from the current”Transformers”-based star power of flavor of the month Megan Fox. Directed by Karyn Kusama and written by the ballyhoed Diablo Cody, this mixture of blood, sex, and quips is generating little “Juno“-based critical afterglow and some anti-Cody backlash with a mere 33% “fresh” rating. That’s not so surprising given that a lot of critics already had mixed feelings about former exotic dancer’s sometimes cutesy dialogue in last year’s sleeper hit. Given the cussedness of young audiences lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if this would be the film to overcome the horror-comedy jinx and over-perform by a few million this weekend. I think the youngsters enjoy driving critics mad.

Matt Damon in
And then we have this week’s token major release for discerning grown-ups, “The Informant!“.  A fact-based comedy about a borderline delusional executive who threw a huge monkey wrench into an FBI price-fixing investigation of food giant Archer Daniels Midland, it’s the latest from the very prolific Steven Soderbergh. In the past, the onetime “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” wunderkind has had success with fact based material with the unassuming 2000 box office hit, “Erin Brockovich.” This film is similarly star-driven, though it remains to be seen if a pudged-up Matt Damon wearing a doofy mustache will have the same appeal as Julia Roberts in a push-up bra.

With an okay 67% RT rating, the critical chorus here is marked by notes of disharmony. Sometimes that’s actually the sign of a truly interesting movie, but rarely is it the mark of an instant hit, though the hope is still for a double-digit millions opening weekend and some “legs.” Damon is getting very good reviews for his lead performance, so a Best Actor Oscar nomination is definitely not out of the question, which could help this movie get some kind of second life if it does disappoint this weekend.

Bringing up the rear is “Love Happens,” which has one of those titles that pretty much dares critics to come up with clever and, in this case, potentially scatological, insults. I didn’t see anyone actually take the bait this time, though the film did receive a not unfecal 20% RT rating. Also, there seems to be some genuine disagreement about whether or not this film is really a comedy or more of a soapy drama, which is usually not a good sign. The appeal of Aaron Eckhardt — still an underrated actor — and Jennifer Aniston, not my choice for the actress of her generation, can only do so much. Fortunately for the producers, the film had a low enough budget that even a single digit opening weekend can mean they’ll eventually recoup their money and perhaps make a profit. Maybe.

Finally, as Oscar season approaches, we’re starting to see more limited releases of interest. This one to watch this week is the new film from writer-director Jane Campion of “The Piano.” Featuring Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw, “Bright Star” is a well-reviewed romantic period drama/biopic about poet John Keats and the literal girl next door. Not that it’s a huge category, but I’m betting this will be the big date movie for English majors of 2009. All that, and no naked Harvey Keitel. Yay.

Old dogs, new tricks, and Matt!

Matt Damon in

You’re pre-weekend box-offfice preview will be up bright and early tomorrow morning, but first I have a couple of what Rachel Maddow calls “Holy Mackeral stories.” Both of them involve old movie reliables trying new stuff, and somehow Matt Damon is involved in both movies.

* Back in 1955, Clint Eastwood had uncredited bit parts in two sci-fi monster/horror flicks from director Jack Arnold, “Revenge of the Creature” (the sequel to the 3-D hit, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”) and “Tarantula.” Since then, he’s somehow managed to steer clear of anything remotely fantastical either as an actor or a director — until now. “Hereafter” is being kept under wraps but the story is said to be in the same general ballpark as “The Sixth Sense.” It’s being written by Peter Morgan, also a first-timer in tales of the supernatural, though the playwright/screenwriter of “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen” is also branching out genre wise with the 23rd James Bond movie. As suggested above, the star will be Matt Damon, who has been around the supernatural before. However, I suspect this film won’t have a whole lot in common either with Terry Gilliam’s ill-fated “The Brothers Grimm” or Kevin Smith’s “Dogma.”

All of this is not to say that director Eastwood can’t do scary. His 1971 directorial debut, the witty and suspenseful “Play Misty for Me,” was pretty thoroughly grounded in our reality but had some definite terror elements.

* Now, Michael Douglas found himself in a pretty similar predicament to Eastwood’s “Misty,” character in the 1987 hit, “Fatal Attraction,” but there’s pretty much no similarities in anything he’s done before with his next project. I don’t know how I’ve missed it, but the actor commonly associated with such super-macho characters as Gordan Gekko (soon to be reprised in the upcoming “Wall Street” sequel) and ultra-horny cop Nick Curran of “Basic Instinct” will be playing Liberace, the glitzy pop-classical concert pianist for whom the word “flamboyant” might have been coined. Directing the film will be Steven Soderbergh, returning to his nonfiction well that earned him one of his biggest commercial successes with “Erin Brokovich” and, he hopes again, with this week’s wide release of the fact-based comedy, “The Informant.”

Just to tie things up in a nice ribbon, as reported by People — who somehow found a picture of Michael Douglas looking oddly like Liberace might have looked later in life — “Informant” star Matt Damon will play Liberace’s longtime partner who ultimately sued the Las Vegas star in a palimony suit. I’m not sure it’s fair to say he “outed” Liberace. This will not, of course, be the first time that Matt Damon has played a gay character. That would be “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

And, now, a moment of vintage Liberace. Definitely not with Matt Damon.

It’s Fall Movie Preview time!

So, what did you do on your summer vacation? You already know what the Hollywood studios did — namely, repeat their annual tradition of flooding theaters with months of sequels, action flicks, and expensive film adaptations of any book, game, or toy with enough built-in name recognition to guarantee a Top 5 debut at the box office. Now that the autumn months are upon us, it’s a different story: with a few notable exceptions, popcorn pictures are out and more traditionally grown-up fare (including the yearly parade of awards contenders) is in. Which also means, as you’ve hopefully already guessed, that it’s time for Bullz-Eye’s 2009 Fall Movie Preview.

Of course, it isn’t all serious stuff. Why, one week in September alone features a CGI adaptation of a classic kid’s book (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), a bloody good time of a horror flick (“Jennifer’s Body”), and some deep space sci-fi (“Pandorum”). And that pretty much sets the tone for the season — aside from Dimension’s long-delayed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-winning “The Road,” there really aren’t any surefire Oscar contenders in this year’s fall slate. Which is not to say none of these movies have their fair share of buzz: Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” has been making jaws drop since its first trailer debuted a couple of months ago, Robert Zemeckis makes more motion-capture magic with Jim Carrey in Disney’s new take on “A Christmas Carol,” and the season also boasts new films from perennial award-winners Michael Moore (“Capitalism: A Love Story”), Steven Soderbergh (“The Informant!”), and Wes Anderson (“The Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Talking about the movies is what the Fall Movie Preview is for — so what do you say we get started? Click the image above (or follow this link) for the month-by-month skinny on the 25 movies we’re looking forward to seeing between now and Thanksgiving!

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