Friday, March 30, 2012

'Wrath of the Titans' goes up against 'The Hunger Games'

2010's Clash of the Titans became synonymous with bad 3D. The war-fantasy's sequel, Wrath of the Titans (3,545 theatres), will also release in 3D and IMAX, but this time around, "Strong 3D effects help make this worth seeing," according to FJI critic Daniel Eagan. He has generally positive things to say about the sequel, noting that "streamlined screenplay, tight editing and focused Wrath of the titans sword worthingtondirecting" help make the movie a good ride. However, even through Clash of the Titans earned half a billion dollars, Americans didn't like the movie: It has a 5/10 rating on IMDB and a 48% viewer approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, both lower than what one would expect. Everyone's expecting Wrath to be an international hit, but audiences at home may be less forgiving. A number shy of $40 million is expected for the action fantasy epic. The Hunger Games would have to drop more than 70% in order to come under $40 million, so it will likely retain its spot at the top of the box office.

One of two Snow White movies releasing this year, Mirror Mirror (3,603 theatres) is a family-friendly, PG-rated comedy. Unfortunately, the filmmakers' ideas are "so devoid of wit, fantasy and cinematic magic, [they] don’t even rise to a perfunctory sitcom level of entertainment," according Mirror mirror lily collins julia robertsto our David Noh, who detested the "sloppiness" of the direction. Former Pretty Woman Julia Roberts plays the evil, less-fair queen, but she lacks the "high style or comic technique to be truly fun." Despite these problems, family audiences could give this movie around $20 million this weekend--though its future may be more tepid.

After churning up outrage over Bully's R-rating, the Weinstein Co. will release the anti-bullying doc in five theatres as "unrated." AMC has announced it will let under-17s see the movie with a permission slip, which led the Parents Television Council to warn that this will undermine the whole rating Bully trainsystem. It's true that this decision circumvents the MPAA, but I also feel there are so few films that fall in the category of Bully, it's unlikely this type of decision will happen more than once every several years. The doc "triumphs in driving home the problem and the attendant suffering," according to FJI critic Doris Toumarkine. Given how bullying has become such a hot topic, it's a worthy watch for parents, educators, and school-age kids.

Yet another hot-topic doc, The Island President, opened on Wednesday. The film profiles Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed's attempts to influence international policy on global warming. Nasheed has since been deposed, a threat to the country's democracy.

Two indies will expand this week. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen will move into 483 theatres. Mumblecore spawn Jeff Who Lives at Home will expand into 513 theatres. Both films are expected to earn in the $1 million range.

On Monday, we'll see how The Hunger Games fared, if audiences gave the Titans sequel a second chance, and if Mirror Mirror brought in Julia Roberts-loving mothers and their children.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Check out the trailer for 'People Like Us'

The trailer for this summer's People Like Us (formerly known by the odd title Welcome to People) just hit screens, and I'm optimistic. The subject of the script came up during THR's 2010 Actress Roundtable, where Hilary Swank talked about this movie she really fought to be in. It turned out to be Welcome to the People, and Amy Adams was forced to admit that, actually, she had been offered the part, but turned it down because she thought the role was too intense to play as a new mother. A part that actresses are fighting over? The movie has to be good, right? Elizabeth Banks ended up playing this much-fought-over role, of a woman, now a single mother with a kid who's acting out. Her whole life, she was kept a secret from her father's family.

The trailer's tone reminds me of a Jerry Maguire-type film, actually. There's a blend of comedy and drama, and it's all seemingly well-acted and scripted for great character revelations.

As THR points out, if you watched the trailer with the sound off you may think it's a movie about a budding relationship. That's complicated even further by the fact that Chris Pine plays the woman's brother, who is supposed to give her money bequeathed by their father in his will. Except that he doesn't want to tell her that he's her brother--yet. Given the fact that long-lost relations sometimes feel a powerful sexual attraction when they haven't been around each other their whole lives (It's science!), I'm a little weirded out by the lack of disclosure. Is it possible that this will factor into the plot of a major Hollywood movie, even though the trailer has a line of Pine's character saying "I swear on my life I will never, ever hit on you"? Is that why the actresses were fighting over the meaty role? Realistically, though, distributor Paramount is probably letting Lifetime or an indie tackle that kind of plot twist.

The drama will also be the directing debut of Alex Kurtzman, based on a screenplay he co-wrote with Transformers and Star Trek co-writer Roberto Orci. While I can't determine if People Like Us will succeed in being a heartfelt drama, it already has one point in its favor. It's sold me on its plot contrivance--the inheritance that's bringing these long-lost siblings together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

High school dropout documentary will be created with input from social media

Historically, films have been created for an audience, but totally separate from their input. Except for people inside the business re-reading screenplays and maybe some re-shoots after a test screening, films are complete and totally unseen before they hit theatres. I don't see a way for this system to change anytime soon, but documentaries, instead of fictional features, may find a way Social-media-3around this system. Adam McKay (who often produces Will Ferrell films and co-founded will produce an untitled documentary about high school dropouts that will develop with input from social media. Jason Pollock, who directed The Youngest Candidate, will helm the project.

This isn't the first time a documentary has tried to harness the power of social media. Life in a Day was created by editing together YouTube clips viewers had uploaded from around the world--all taken on the same day. This untitled high school dropout documentary has the potential for even further reach, because it centers on a social problem. "Issue" docs strive to create dialogue and activism after viewers exit the theatre. This doc will engage them before it even reaches a 90-minute cut. Since such films are often composed of discrete clips anyway, it would make sense if the director posted a clip, then incorporated the feedback he received on the clip into the movie as responses. I think there is a lot of potential to play around and create something innovative. McKay's background in both film and viral videos should give this project an extra lift.

Pollock reportedly will focus on teachers and students. Students, especially, have fully embraced social media. I bet teenagers will be more frank over the Internet than they would be if confronted with an adult and camera in person. Social media was originally designed as a way for people to keep in touch with their friends. Many attempts to monetize or create brand tie-ins using social media feel forced. This project doesn't, and that may be the key to its success.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Wildly successful 'Hunger Games' earns $155 million

Attracting both fans of the book and the average moviegoer, The Hunger Games earned $155 million this weekend, topping even the highest predictions. There are few franchises that I can really get behind, so I'm pleased that the adaptation did so well--the third-highest opening ever (unadjusted). With so many theatres available for opening weekend, this movie should have a steep Hunger games peeta katnissdrop next week. Looking at the charts featuring the highest opening ever, it's impressive how much variation there is in the "opening weekend percent of total" column. The two Twilight movies just below Hunger Games' spots earned 48-49% of their total from their first weekend. The Dark Knight earned just 29% of its total from the first weekend. Hunger Games should fall closer to Twilight than The Dark Knight, but that still would put the movie at over $300 million domestically.

Although plenty of critics have savaged The Hunger Games, many have also come out on the positive side. In exit polls, moviegoers gave the futuristic movie an "A" rating. This would bode well for weeks to come, but pretty much everyone I know that was interested in the franchise has seen it already. Coming weeks should see repeat viewers, laggers, as well as people curious about the fuss.

Even with The Hunger Games to contend with, 21 Jump Street racked up $21.3 million in its second week. The comedy dropped 41%, in line with most of the other movies in the top ten. The exception? John Carter, just three weeks after the $250+ million film debuted, dove 63% to $5 million. Disney's epic is officially a flop.

In eighth place, October Baby rallied up $1.7 million. The anti-abortion drama may have The raid redemption machetegotten additional momentum from the Republican political arena, where women's health issues have been in the forefront. Since it released on just 390 screens, it had a healthy $4,400 per-screen average.

The ultra-violent The Raid: Redemption earned $15,700 per screen at fourteen locations. Foreign movies with lots of combat tend to do well at home, and this one had great reviews to boot.

This Friday, Snow White redo Mirror Mirror will release opposite the epic sequel Wrath of the Titans.


Friday, March 23, 2012

'The Hunger Games' bets on a $100+ million opening weekend

This weekend's box-office total for The Hunger Games will be somewhere in the low nine digits. The first film installment of the young-adult franchise already earned $25 million last night during midnight and 3 am screenings, including some on IMAX screens. Thanks to the flexibility of digital, adding screenings, showing a film on multiple screens or in bigger auditoriums is easier than ever, Hunger games effie jennifer lawrenceso exhibitors should be able to meet demand. In fact, the movie will be in 4,137 theatres but on over 10,000 screens, something that just wasn't possible before the rise of digital. With 35mm, showing a movie on more than one screen was done through interlocking prints, a labor-intensive process that also requires that all the theatres have the same showtime.

Critics have been kinder to The Hunger Games than they have to Twilight, giving it an 86% positive rating. Given that critics are often older than the typical fanboy or fangirl, this speaks to the fact that the movie is tracking well across all four quadrants. Even though The Hunger Games was a young-adult novel, many adults picked the books up, so it makes sense that these demographics would also express interest in the film version. As a fan, I can report that my expectations were met--and exceeded. This movie left me more satisfied than 90% of the literary adaptations I see. Not everyone sparked to how the adaptation handled the whole kids-fight-to-the-death in a futuristic world premise. FJI critic Daniel Eagan acknowledged that fans won't be disappointed, but found the adaptation "both digressive and hurried," without providing answers about what the Games really symbolize. I predict fans will go ga-ga and this futuristic adventure will do big business opening weekend and beyond.

No other big movies opted to release this weekend, but the small and spunky The Raid: Redemption (13 theatres) should satisfy those disappointed with The Hunger Games' PG-13 Raid redemption kickrating. "Full of dynamic physical stunts and imaginative death blows," the super-violent Indonesian actioner "balances moments of intense quiet with fresh crescendos of visceral violence," according to THR's David Rooney.

Joining the parade of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies, 4:44 Last Day on Earth (3 theatres) comes from the well-regarded director Abel Ferrara. Frank Lovece praises the work as "stunningly believable," with natural dialogue and "a fly-on-the-wall verisimilitude that is both bracingly raw and real and occasionally uncomfortable."

On Monday, we'll see just how high The Hunger Games soared, while learning what movies managed to thrive during a weekend so dominated by one offering.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

I don't get it: Supernatural adventure with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in the works

If you take all of Hollywood's current money-making impulses and twist them around, I'm pretty sure you'd end up with the project featuring Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn currently in the works. The Paramount project, Huck, comes from a spec script by Andy Burg and will be produced by the Rise of the Planet of the Apes team Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark. My first thought was, "What a terrible idea," so here I'll explain why.

Why Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are the wrong kind of iconic, pre-sold properties. I get that Hollywood is all about showing viewers familiar characters. There's an updated Sherlock Tom sawyerHolmes and every single fairy tale known to man is getting re-done, often with stellar results. On the flip side, remember Gulliver's Travels? That update of a classic bombed. This project plans on taking Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and then aging them up to adulthood. There's another trend they're capitalizing on--the adult boy. But I can't and don't want to see the charming antics of mischievous kids transferred to adults. It's not as funny when adults are acting like children.

The addition of "supernatural" elements is just following trends. Have you heard about a series called Harry Potter? Twilight? They all involve magic and horrific creatures. So why not add supernatural elements to Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer? No, no, no. I hate the idea of taking Mark Twain's beloved characters, aging them up, then making them fight ghosts or monsters. In the original books, the characters are runaways, fight thieves and murderers, and dig up trunks full of gold. What about this premise isn't fantastical enough? These were all things kids thought maybe could happen to them, but never did. Tom sawyer fenceMoving into the supernatural just adds another dimension that isn't necessary. Did I mention the production team's inspiration is Snow White and the Huntsman, an upcoming iteration of the fairy tale that turns the poison apple story into an epic battle picture?

I'm actually fine with Snow White and the Huntsman providing an update on a classic, centuries-old fairy tale. But I'm less inclined to see Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, who are specific products of their era, the 1840s, changed. The changes Huck proposes would completely alter the nature of these characters. They aren't just adults, they're adults fighting ghosts or vampires or weird curses. Twain's work was as much a commentary on its era as it was an adventure, and that would be lost. If this project ever enters production, I think Hollywood will learn a lesson that not all iconic characters can be distorted in order to fit the day's trends, and still end up a blockbuster hit. On that note, don't even get me started on what Michael Bay plans to do to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

'The Hunger Games' promises big, but it also delivers

Over 2,000 screenings of The Hunger Games have sold out on Fandango. Estimates that the movie could earn $80 million have now been upped to $130-140 million, according to THR. This week, fans lined up at a NYC Barnes & Noble fourteen hours in advance in order to meet the cast. The Regal Union Square had five or six screenings scheduled on Saturday when I checked a few weeks ago. Now it has twenty-five.

Hunger games stars premiereI'm happy to report that enthusiastic fans will not be disappointed with that adaptation of Suzanne Collins' franchise. Less excited family and friends who are dragged along to the show may also be pleasantly surprised. At the all-media screening at AMC's Lincoln Square Cinema in New York City this Monday, the crowd was incredibly responsive to the movie--plenty of collective "awwws" and chuckles. The movie itself exceeded my expectations. I had been a bit worried about the CG elements based on the trailer, but they looked much better on the big screen. The games themselves weren't shown in any of the advance material, so the second hour was pure, no-idea-what-it's-going-to-be-like enjoyment. Here are some of the things about the adaptation that I liked best--or least.

The movie trusts its audience. In the book, the heroine is a mother figure to her younger sister, Prim, while her mom suffers from severe depression. In an early scene, Prim looks to her mother for approval but it's Katniss who responds. In a gesture, the actors convey what's going on. No dialogue necessary.

CG that overwhelmed and underwhelmed. Katniss' neighbor and fellow competitor Peeta has a talent for camouflage, and the movie uses CG to great effect to make him look like he's Hunger games tucci lawrencecovered in bark, a rock, etc. On the flip side, the tracker-jackers look like regular bees, and the muttations' faces resemble killer animals, not the dead Tributes (participants in the games). However, even I was wondering how they would pull off the muttations. Instead, Katniss and Peeta hear the voices of the fallen. The auditory cues are just as unsettling, and certainly a lot easier (and cheaper) to pull off.

It's more to the spirit of the book than the letter. There are a number of small changes from the page to the screen. The mockingjay pin has a different origin. Katniss' dress during the interviews doesn't burn into a mockingjay pattern (but how would they do that, anyway?). None of the changes bothered me. I would rather the filmmakers move things along rather than contort the screenplay in order to maintain some artifact that just can't be explained properly in a movie. This was a lesson learned from the early Harry Potters, in my opinion.

The action sequences are great. What I loved about the novels is that the action isn't one of brute force, but cunning. Instead of people chasing after each other and having a fight, it's more of a cat-and-mouse game. It's very reminiscent of Drive's opening car chase scene, which involved parking the car as a means of evasion--a scene beloved by myself and many other women I've talked to. The emphasis on strategy partially explains why women in particular are drawn to the series. Strategic bombing of supplies. Letting loose a nest of insects. Hiding and waiting. These are the kind of weapons and tactics I find most engaging.

This weekend, theatres will be flooded with happy fans. I'm already thinking about the next adaptations in the trilogy. Catching Fire, the next film in the series, should easily be a success. Thinking oh-so-far ahead, the series might run into trouble during Mockingjay, as Slate writer Erik Sofje points out. Perhaps Lionsgate's plans to turn the book into two movies may end up helping, not hurting, the action-filled finale. But that will be years away, and this weekend is all about welcoming one of the most satisfying literary adaptations I've seen in a long time.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Could 'Prometheus' be this summer's biggest adult popcorn movie?

I'm not going to discount The Dark Knight Rises, but Prometheus looks like it could be this summer's best adult-oriented popcorn movie. Directed by Ridley Scott, the June 8th release is a kind of prequel to Alien, sharing some of the DNA from the series while not alluding directly to anything in Alien. As I understand it, the originality and strength of the script made those involved decide not to taint the project by giving it an Alien title, given the poor quality of some of the franchise's sequels.

In a superb bit of marketing, 20th Century Fox released a three-minute video of Guy Pearce hamming it up as overconfident businessman Peter Weyland. His character gives a TED (technology, entertainment, design) talk in 2023 (thirty years before the film itself is set). Weyland appears to rule over a Terminator-esque Skynet corporation that's creating artificial life forms. I'm a big proponent of studios using materials like this to develop awareness and knowledge without giving away more and more of the footage. After seeing The Hunger Games last night, which had no footage of the actual games in the promotional material, I can vouch for the success of this method. When you have fans who are going to obsessively pore over all the advance media released, it's nice to save them a few surprises for the actual feature.


The trailer for Prometheus itself is adrenaline-filled and looks like a nice mix of sci-fi, action, and horror. In the vein of Stargate or Jurassic Park, it pairs up old knowledge, via an archaeologist, with cutting-edge scientific advancements. Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) plays an archaeologist who discovers multiple civilizations share the same "map," which she and others use to explore another planet. There they discover alien life forms. Surprise surprise, they aren't so friendly and welcoming after all. Idris Elba of "The Wire," Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Oscar winner Charlize Theron add considerable talent to the cast.

The "ancient text leads to modern quest" backstory that underpins the whole project has been used dozens of times before. In fact, using an ancient, mystical object for futuristic, sci-fi purposes is an iteration itself of adventure serials that focused more on discovering and battling for special objects rather than putting them to use. If what I've seen so far is half as good as the actual movie, I'm betting that Prometheus will be the strongest film in the franchise since Alien and Aliens.

Monday, March 19, 2012

'21 Jump Street' lands at number one

This week's success is 21 Jump Street, a feature version of the 1980s TV series. With strong support from under-25s, which gave the movie an "A" rating, the undercover-cops-in-schools movie soared to the top with $35 million. It's second to Jackass 3D as the best opening for an 21 jump street copsR-rated comedy opening outside of summer. Male audience members were only a slight majority (53%), leading some to conclude that Channing Tatum (star of romance The Vow) attracted female viewers who wanted to see more of the attractive leading man.

Will Ferrell's Spanish-language Casa de Mi Padre performed surprisingly well, cracking the top ten with $2.2 million. 68% of the audience was Hispanic, and the comedy was attended equally by males and females. Next week the picture will expand further, so Will ferrell casa de mi padrewe'll see if its opening-weekend success was a fluke or a sign of things to come.

The Duplass Brothers' Jeff Who Lives at Home reeled in a $3,300 per-screen average for a total of $840,000. That's not bad for the low-budget indie, which stars Jason Segel and Ed Helms. I doubt the picture will reach Cyrus' $7 million total.

Friends with Kids held on to its audience with just a 26% decrease from last week. The comedy, which centers on 30/40-somethings, their relationships, and their kids, earned $1.5 million as it added additional markets. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen upped its box office by 101% as it expanded into more locations. With a $7,000 per-screen average, the Emily Blunt-Ewan McGregor picture totaled $455,000.

The latest Nicolas Cage actioner is going straight to video. Seeking Justice earned $260,000--a $1,100 per-screen average--and woefully failed to ignite.

This Friday, the much-anticipated The Hunger Games will hit theatres. No other studios were foolish enough to try to schedule a movie to go up against a series showing the same promise as Twilight.

Friday, March 16, 2012

DreamWorks Animation previews 'Madagascar 3,' 'Rise of the Guardians'

DreamWorks Animation recruited a trio of movie stars to help promote its 2012 releases at a press preview held at midtown Manhattan’s AXA Equitable Center on March 15. Ben Stiller and Chris Rock talked up Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, the third film in the escaped zoo animal series that kicked off in 2005, and Alec Baldwin showered praise on the makers of Rise of the Guardians, the artful new fantasy film based on the book by William Joyce, who just won the Oscar for the animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

The surprisingly large and plush Equitable Center theatre is one of New York City’s least-known auditoriums (I’d certainly never attended a screening there) and its hidden underground location prompted Rock to wonder if Howard Hughes used to watch porn there. But that’s as un-family-friendly as this press event got.

DreamWorks Animation chief creative officer Bill Damaschke took pride in the fact that the studio's two 2011 releases, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, both earned Oscar nominations and landed among the top ten international box-office performers of the past year. And judging by this preview, the studio has two more hits in the pipeline.

Like last year’s Cars 2, Madagascar 3 roams across Europe, as the series’ quartet of lost Central MadagascarPark Zoo animals surface off the coast of Monte Carlo and plot their return to America—but not before running afoul of a maniacal French animal-control officer (voiced by Frances McDormand) and hiding out with a traveling circus led by a hotheaded Russian tiger (Bryan Cranston).

The movie’s personable trio of directors—Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon and Tom McGrath—showed the opening 20 minutes, which includes an extremely frenzied high-speed chase through the streets of Monte Carlo, and a starkly unfinished later sequence depicting the gang’s wild, Cirque du Soleil-style circus production number. Even in very rough form, one got the sense that the completed sequence will be quite the surreal spectacle in 3D. Another sign of promise for the film is that the screenplay is by Oscar-nominated indie auteur Noah Baumbach, whose last animation credit was Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Baldwin later took a mischievous swipe at the Madagascar franchise, complaining about animated films with “an excess of talking animals.” The “30 Rock” star seemed genuinely proud of his participation in Rise of the Guardians, singling out the artistry of the production designers and the work ethic of producer Christina Steinberg and director Peter Ramsey.

The premise of Guardians has familiar childhood fantasy figures Santa Claus (Baldwin, with a thick Rise-Of-The-Guardians3Eastern European accent), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman, keeping his Aussie accent), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the silent Sandman banding together to fight the nefarious Boogeyman (Jude Law).

The first sequence previewed shows the full-grown “birth” of the Guardians’ new recruit, Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), who simultaneously discovers his ability to generate ice and snow and that he’s a disembodied spirit. The striking, evocative design of this set-piece is as artful as Baldwin promised.

The second sequence takes place in the cavernous workshop of the burly St. Nick (here called “North”), where the evil designs of Pitch (aka the Boogeyman) are first revealed on a giant globe charting children’s beliefs and fears. With a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and its distinctive visual palette, Rise of the Guardians looks to be much more than just another children’s film. Chances are there will be more Oscar nominations in DreamWorks Animation’s future.

'21 Jump Street' shoots for the top spot

This weekend is all about comedies. 21 Jump Street (3,121 theatres) is the widest release of the bunch. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in this retread of the '80s TV series about cops going undercover in a local high school. Critical reaction has been surprisingly positive given the 21 jump street brie larson jonah hillproject's could-be-awful origins. 88% of Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a fresh rating, and the comedy has a slightly more tepid 70 rating on Metacritic. FJI critic David Noh was not one of the movie's fans, dismissing it as "crassly conceived commercial offal." The opposing view seems to be that if you buy into some of the more ridiculous premises, the comedy will take you on a good ride--just don't think too hard. Tracking suggests an opening above $20 million, with a strong possibility that it will best the third week of Casa de mi padre gunThe Lorax.

Will Ferrell speaks entirely in Spanish in the subtitled Casa de Mi Padre (382 theatres). Critic Kevin Lally didn't care for the "eccentric but flat comedy," which "feels just like one of those lame, self-amused ["SNL"] sketches, mercilessly padded out to feature length." It's something of a dark horse candidate at the box office. Lionsgate partner Pantelion, which is Hispanic-focused, will certainly try to optimize the theatres in the targeted release--but will audiences bite?

The latest indie from the prolific Duplass Brothers, Jeff Who Lives at Home (254 theatres) also has an unknown factor. Along with Casa de Mi Padre, it's not expected to earn more than a couple million.  I enjoyed the quirky movie, but my guest despised it--so this isn't the safest pick for a group outing. Our critic Marsha McCreadie was warmed by the Jeff who lives at home greer helms"gentle yet spunky comedy." It also may be one of the last movies to make use of AOL instant messenger.

After earning $2 million last week, Friends with Kids expands into 640 theatres. Its slow rollout may be buoyed by audiences' positive response to the comedy centered on life stages like marriage and kids.

Those on Nicolas Cage career-spiral watch can check out Seeking Justice (230 theatres), "a goofy little thriller that jettisons logic anytime it interferes with squeezing in more paranoia," according to THR's John DeFore. Next stop: Redbox, if it can even snag a slot.

Arthouse lovers can check out The Kid with a Bike (3 theatres), the well-reviewed Seeking justice nicolas cage"gentle" drama from the Dardenne Brothers. Critic Jon Frosch praises the "beautifully wrought story of a troubled boy and the stranger who saves him."

On Monday, we'll see which comedies sparked among audiences and which fell flat, and if The Lorax continues on a pace to top $200 million.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hot novel 'Fifty Shades of Grey' may be turned into a movie

Forget Twilight. The latest female-driven literary sensation is Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic romance novel that has sold 250,000 copies to date--most of them in discreet e-book form. Now the literary agent of the property is having meetings with major Hollywood studios in preparation for a rights auction. The novel centers on the sexual relationship between a young entrepreneur Fifty_shades_of_greyand a college student who interviews him for her school paper. The novel has become particularly popular among mothers, where recommendations and discussion of the book have become a hot topic. But could Hollywood make an adaptation of a book that's so racy? Twilight, after all, had just one kiss in the first book in the series. The same can't be said for Fifty Shades of Grey.

A friend who loves to download romance novels on her Kindle reports that Fifty Shades of Grey is actually one of the tamer novels in that genre, which may explain why the New York Times describes the book as a crossover success, luring in readers who typically don't read erotica. In its favor, the novel has been something of a viral success. This isn't something that has been forced on readers, but rather something they have embraced and recommended to their friends. It's only recently been picked up by a more mainstream publisher. Shockingly, the original novel started out on a a Twilight fan fiction site. It was spotted by a small publisher, reworked, and was turned into a trilogy. Boding well for the series' success, it's already getting tons of hype with only the first novel published.

Bestselling books don't always catch on at the box office. Another "mommy" film of quite a different variety, Sarah Jessica Parker's I Just Don't Know How She Does It, fell totally flat onscreen. For many busy people, finding time to squeeze in a little reading is a lot different than finding time to see a movie. Could the romance scenes work better on the page rather than on the screen? Whatever studio picks up the property will be moving into less-charted territory. Sexually explicit movies tend to be the province of the arthouse, not the multiplex. Even then, they aren't very common. With so much of Hollywood stuck in the rut of the same-old, I applaud the studio that takes a risk and bets that Fifty Shades of Grey will be a sensation as it steps from the privacy of e-readers to the big screen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

'Downton Abbey' creator to adapt 'Gypsy'

Most Hollywood remakes and adaptations these days involve pretty familiar properties. Current Broadway hits, movies made in the 1980s--it seems like the window for remakes is getting shorter and shorter.So I'm happily surprised to report that Universal has a movie adaptation of Gypsy on the table. Based on a 1957 memoir, it first became a successful Broadway musical in 1959 and then Gypsy musicala 1962 film starring Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell. A 2008 Broadway revival starring Patti LuPone won several Tonys. The remake will team up some of Hollywood's legends and newly renowned.

Fans of "Downton Abbey" may be a little surprised that the show's creator, 62-year-old Julian Fellowes, will write the adaptation of the musical. The writer/actor generally focuses on historical British pieces,  so writing a story about an American burlesque performer and her stage mom is quite a departure.

What really sells this adaptation is casting. Barbra Streisand will play the musical's legendary stage mom of all stage moms. The character is considered the gold standard of stage mom behavior, with plenty of negative qualities usually on display only during an episode of TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras."

Universal is currently shepherding this project, though it previously had a home at Warner Bros. The adaptation was held up in the past due to the reservations of the writer of the book, Arthur Laurents. He passed away last May, so the producers will no longer have to deal with his opposition.

If Gypsy can reel in a new audience with material that's as compelling as its previous iterations, I think the movie will be a success. The backstage musical is one of the best ways to integrate music into a film, and audiences deserve better than dreck like Burlesque.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

'Hunger Games' may have a bigger weekend than 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn'

It's hard to imagine a female-driven, book-based franchise bigger than Twilight. Yet The Hunger Games should open far above the first Twilight's opening. In fact, it's on track to beat The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, the fourth film in the vampire romance series. What accounts for The Hunger Games' astounding tracking numbers?

Hunger games jennifer lawrenceOne, a wider variety of people are embracing the movie. Breaking Dawn had 36% interest among younger women, Hunger Games has 45%. Among women over 25, 29% expressed interested versus 27% for Twilight. The trend is even more pronounced among males. 28% of males under 25 are interested in Hunger Games, versus just 10% for Breaking Dawn. Only 8% of older males wanted to see Breaking Dawn, but 20% are interested in Hunger Games. The additional interest from males and younger women could push the movie to a $100 million opening. Within a week, Lionsgate could have its highest-grossing film ever.

There's also a more varied plotline. Unlike Twilight, The Hunger Games has action and romance. Its love triangle (a la Twilight) is sandwiched within between an original, futuristic action plotline. These aren't young kids having car chases. They're young kids who have been compelled to fight to the death. For people who are sensitive to realistic motivations, a demographic that may include more females and males, The Hunger Games delivers.

Finally, people are expecting to be wowed. Like the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series is filled with action sequences and fantasy elements that just beg to be created on-screen. A big reason fans wanted to see the Harry Potter series was in order to see how the movie interpreted and re-created its magical creatures and buildings. Hunger Games is inspiring the same anticipation.

The Hunger Games comes out on Friday, March 23. American viewers can relish the fact that the PG-13 film didn't require any digital removal of blood, like the U.K. rating board demanded for it to receive a "12A."



Curator Thomas Christensen champions digital restoration

FJI correspondent Marsha McCreadie reports on an eye-opening lecture at New York University on digital movie restoration.

If you didn’t know Thomas Christensen’s impeccable curatorial credentials, and setting aside that he looks as beatific as Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc when he’s talking about film restoration, one of his two favorite topics (the other being Carl Dreyer, the Danish D. W. Griffith, whose films Christensen has curated and digitally restored), there is a moment or two when you feel you might be at a high-tech convention in Vegas with a knowledgeable salesman promoting his most recent line of digital products.

Hardly. Christensen is curator at the Danish Film Institute and secretary general of the European Thomas_ChristensenAssociation of Cinémathèques, holding forth on what he feels is the solution to the (old) problem of the disappearance of film stock, negatives or even entire movies, and the newer issue of the conversion to digital cinema. He spoke last week to a group of professional film restorers and technicians, film students and professors at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in English so conversationally perfect, and a personal style so casually approachable, he could also pass for a Midwestern graduate student. He did get an M.A. in film studies from the University of Wisconsin (David Bordwell’s fiefdom) before returning to his native Denmark.

Christensen made no secret of his approach to film restoration, with his talk called “Danish Film Heritage Goes Digital.” He is a man on a mission, the project leader for the European Film Gateway, an initiative for creating “a single entry to digitized European film heritage of cinema.” (See Kevin Lally’s recent FJI post on an American response to the fact that since January 2012, there are more digital-cinema screens in the world than 35mm.) Not to bury the lead, the main objection among film purists is that digital film versions can be harsh, sometimes glaring if in color, not poetic or emotive, and without the subtleties of 35mm film, or its aesthetic gradations. No problem. Sooner or later, Christiansen said, digital will develop in ways to allow for more variations.

That’s when I bought in.

Drawing a distinction between traditional film-restoration techniques (and giving a brief overview of slide numbering, tinting recommendations, and a log book) and digital restoration, he opts for the latter, always working with the best surviving or original release version—hopefully the one intended by the film’s creator—and ultimately remastering it in “a version that plays well.” He did not take up the process of sound conversion.

Overall, he slyly observed, “It is important to not do evil things to collections.”
Those evil things are:

1) No use of substitution of image elements (though the French might do it)
2) No use of secondary grading tools
3) No image stabilization
4) No de-graining
5) No automated dust and scratch removal

Everything made sense, except for number 5. What could possibly be bad about taking out dust and scratches? Christensen answered that it was very hard to do this without potentially removing parts of a film. Still, he said, it’s possible to be too purist, laughing that Japanese restorers, for instance, like to keep everything they find, including a spot on a film. As for the snide-sounding remark about the French, he explained that whenever you add something to a film, even if it’s an educated guess as to the filmmaker’s purpose, you risk changing the meaning of the image. He went so far as to call it “cheating” because often there is no hard evidence what films originally looked like.

So much for the not-to-do list. As for the mission, he advises: “Be creative in regards to technology and access it, but be careful not to lose quality and authenticity,” reminding his audience that the “creative re-use and re-purposing of heritage objects can be powerful components in new cultural products, but their value is based on retaining an unbroken link to the past.”

Sounds great, but what about technicians who daily work at processing labs? One audience member spoke agitatedly in defense of his deadlined work methods; on the other side, a film professor complained in a long theoretical discourse about the entire digital conversion. Christensen maintained his cool, saying that people who work in commercial film labs are simply doing their job, not “bad people,” and naturally are not considering film history every minute they work. And that ideally restoration work should rest on negotiations between film archivists and film historians deciding what film or version to restore. Who knew the talk would turn so controversial?

Down to cases. The presentation packed the biggest punch in showing what happens when a print has faded, and images start to disappear. Blues and yellows go first, says Christensen, and reds remain. In an unidentified image of the Cologne Bridge, one digitally restored and one not, the Cologne Bridgeproof was all in the pudding.

This was the takeaway moment of the evening, prepared for by a nod from Christensen in the direction of those who have gone before, with a reverential mention of Eileen Bowser, the famed former film curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It reminded this writer of an interview with the quietly determined Bowser decades ago when she seemed worried that, even during an hour interview, cellulose nitrate in storage might be losing the battle against time.

Apparently as good at sound bytes as he is at scrupulously restoring film, Christensen said that, ultimately, “to preserve and restore is to show.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

'The Lorax' bests Disney behemoth 'John Carter'

With a reported $250 million production budget, John Carter needed to hit it big in order for Disney's investment to pay off. At least in the U.S., Disney won't be making back much of its money. The sci-fi epic opened to just $30.6 million, $5 million of which came from IMAX screens--the hangout of fanboys who may have been familiar with the source material, a 1912 serial John carter taylor kitsch aliensby Edgar Rice Burroughs. Overseas, John Carter came up with $70 million, still not enough to make the movie an initial success. Disney's current business strategy involves focusing on projects with franchise potential that can create value across Disney's many platforms. These type of films often cost a great deal of money, and John Carter shows what happens when such would-be franchises don't resonate with audiences.

The Lorax, which won the weekend with $39.1 million, did not come from the traditional champion of animation, Disney, but Illumination Entertainment, which releases its films through Universal. The Dr. Seuss adaptation has charmed moviegoers but not jaded critics. Its 44% drop from opening weekend should level off in coming weeks. After earning $120 million in just ten days, it won't be long before the movie reaches $200 million and probably a spot in 2012's top ten.Silent house car elizabeth olsen

A horror movie that appears to be shot in one long take, Silent House, came up with a middling $7 million. Scary pictures often open big, so it's surprising that this one didn't attract a larger audience. Young females are often the biggest demographic for horror titles, yet Elizabeth Olsen didn't appear to draw these women in.

Friends with Kids opened strongly, boding well for its expansion next week. The comedy's per-screen average of $5,800 was higher than most films in the top ten. Packed Friends with kids strollerstheatres = more laughter = positive word-of-mouth. With $2.7 million earned from its 374-theatre run, this comedy could end up being a modest success.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen did exceptionally well with older audiences, averaging $13,000 per screen in 18 locations. 70% of attendees were over the age of fifty. This demographic tends to be more discerning about the films they see, and word-of-mouth could bring this movie strong business in coming weeks.

Eddie Murphy's A Thousand Words was a flop, but it was actually one of Murphy's more successful flops. Instead of the $5 million opening typical of Murphy's recent films, this family-friendly comedy earned a whopping $6.3 million, not so bad for a movie that's been shelved for four years.

On Friday, it's all about comedy. Goofy cop movie 21 Jump Street will hit theatres, along with Will Ferrell's Spanish-language Case de Mi Padre and the indie laffer Jeff Who Lives at Home.

Friday, March 9, 2012

'John Carter' faces uphill battle against 'The Lorax'

Disney may have a flop on its hands. John Carter (3,749 theatres, including 3D and IMAX screens), is a "big-budget adaptation [that] delivers epic scale and effects" but has some major flaws, according to FJI critic Daniel Eagan. "Too reminiscent of previous films to impress older John carter alienviewers, and too lightweight to dazzle fantasy fans," the CG/live-action mix is on par to deliver $30 million this weekend, when $50 million would be more likely to help Disney recoup its reported $250 million budget. Many have faulted Disney's marketing campaign. One, the title originally was more revealing, John Carter of Mars, but was reportedly shortened after Mars Needs Moms bombed. I was confused by a giant billboard that only showed the CG alien. Was this a CG movie? The coolest part for me is that the movie centers on a Civil War soldier who's transported to Mars, yet I've seen no antiquated military garb or battles in the trailer. There's a strong possibility that The Lorax may beat John Carter this weekend. John Carter is exactly the kind of movie that does well overseas, but audiences at home may give this film a pass.

If you're interested in time travel, check out A Thousand Words (1,890 theatres). The Eddie A thousand words eddie murphyMurphy movie has been shelved for the past four years. Murphy plays a man who finds out he only has a thousand words left to speak. High concept, and most likely low on anything else. This would-be family comedy should earn somewhere slightly north of $5 million.

Indie darling Elizabeth Olsen stars in Silent House (2,124 theatres), a haunted house movie with the "gimmick" of being filmed in one continuous take. Our critic Maitland Silent house lock elizabeth olsenMcDonagh panned the "derivative thriller." In particular, the "big twist" will be evident to horror fans "long before it arrives."

Friends with Kids (374 theatres) is rather "studied and forced" compared to Bridesmaids. The two comedies share a number of cast numbers, but unfortunately the "funny lines" are accompanied by an "awful lot of unoriginal, would-be side-splitters," according to critic David Noh. Many are expecting the comedy, which centers on two friends who decide to raise a child together, to be popular among the date-night crowd.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (18 theatres) starts out as an "appealing" romantic comedy before changing "midstream."  According to critic Kevin Lally, it's a "promising replica of the golden era of screen comedy that becomes mired in increasingly unwelcome narrative muck," a Salmon fishing yemenreal "missed opportunity." Still, CBS Films hopes positive word-of-mouth will give momentum to their planned platform release.

Anyone who identifies as a "foodie" should check out Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The documentary about a famous Japanese sushi chef is the "Planet Earth" of sushi, and it will also make you feel more thoughtful about what you consume, though the chef's philosophy far predates the local, slow-food movement.

On Monday, we'll see if John Carter will be sunk by its high budget or if overseas returns keep it afloat.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who exactly will be buying tickets to 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'?

I don't have particularly high hopes for the box office of What to Expect When You're Expecting, a comedy based on the pregnancy how-to book. It looks funny-ish, but I predict it will do its biggest business on Netflix and DVD, not at the box office. Why? The people who will find the most humor in the situation are probably young parents, exactly the people with the least amount of time, What to expect when youre expectingenergy, and money to hire a babysitter to see the latest movie. They are television's favorite audience, not exhibitors' favorite audience. Look how badly the Sarah Jessica Parker movie I Don't Know How She Does It bombed. The movie was about a busy corporate mom who has no time to make something for her child's bake sale. Is that the kind of person who has time to see a movie with her fellow moms in order to laugh at their lot? No.

Lionsgate just released a new trailer for What to Expect that focuses entirely on the dads, hoping to draw in the male audience. That doesn't seem like much of a stretch, but I'm worried about the majority of moviegoers, who have only a tenuous connection to or interest in parenthood.

There are so many demographics that won't want to see this movie. Teens, I hope, unless they're unhealthily obsessed with "16 & Pregnant." Singles. Parents of older children. Empty nesters who feel alienated by the talk of competitive parenting and the most recent declarations of what modern pregnancy is supposed to be like. And for couples without children, doesn't this sound like the worst possible date night movie?

Thinking about movies about parenting young children that have done well with a broad audience, my first thought was Look Who's Talking. I actually saw that quite young, enchanted by the talking baby concept. This was a movie that made almost $300 million in 1989. It had some of the parenting young children moments, but also a romance, and, of course, the talking baby gimmick. It appealed to parents, but it wasn't a "parents" movie, which is exactly what What to Expect is trying to be. It's possible that the upcoming release's ensemble cast of diverse, popular stars will draw audiences despite the subject matter. But this is a movie commenting on a pretty stage-specific event that doesn't seem to have much to offer to people who haven't gone through this life stage or said good-bye to it a long time ago. If Lionsgate manages to pull off the marketing of this May 18th release, I will be very, very impressed.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behind the name change for 'Being Flynn'

What's in a name? When I heard the adaptation of Another Bull***t Night in Suck City was going to be released as Being Flynn, I assumed it was timidity on the part of the studio, Focus. In the blogosphere, I heard grumblings about the name change. Gawker called it the "most boring title Another bullshit nightever," a right turn from Nick Flynn's curiosity-piquing appellation.

In fact, the name change appears to be done in a quest to appease the MPAA. Variety quotes director Paul Weitz as saying he "was mildly surprised that one cannot use asterisks to replace words...You can't even imply cursing if you want to have your title on a marquee or in an ad." He also worried, correctly in my opinion, that the name change would make people think he "was watering the adaptation down."

Name change or not, critics were mixed on the movie, giving it a narrow 51% positive rating. Audiences didn't see it--the drama made just an $11,000 per-screen average its opening weekend, when it played in four theatres. As FJI critc Doris Toumarkine attests, the topic is supremely depressing. The original title at least has a sense of humor about the whole thing, while Being Flynn indicates a sad sense of finality to it all.

At the very least, the name change dramatically reduced awareness of the movie. A friend in the midst of reading the book was surprised to hear they were making a movie, and that it was coming out in a couple of weeks. Even Being flynnthough I hadn't read Another Bull***t Night, I had heard of the book. There's no doubt in my mind that the name change cost Focus money. But how much? A good movie should be able to succeed despite a name, but Being Flynn wasn't good enough to rise above its neutered re-titling. If people liked the movie enough, word would have gotten out that the name had been changed. Focus should have come up with a similarly irreverent title: Another Messed-up Night in Suck City, or Being Flynn in Suck City (I hope "suck" wasn't also on the MPAA's hit list. Maybe Another Messed-up Night in Crap City?) I'm not saying either of these are great, but they're a lot better than Being Flynn.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

'That's My Boy' trailer teams up Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg as father and son

Right below The Hollywood Reporter's posting about the trailer for the most recent Adam Sandler picture, That's My Boy, is a link to the "Teflon Actor Awards," with Sandler in the top spot as the "critic-proof comic." His movies have been rated just 29% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, yet they have grossed $1.3 billion. Based on that information, who cares what I think of the trailer ?

The R-rated comedy comes out on June 15th, and it appears to be aiming for the Bad Teacher and The Hangover crowd. After looking at both the green-band and red-band trailer, I'd say it definitely deserves its R rating. So much so, that the filmmakers appear to have hedged on their racy content by filming a number of scenes with an actress in both revealing clothing and marginally less revealing clothing. I guess when key plot points take place in a strip club, that's what you have to do.

That's My Boy appears to be a little bit like Meet the Parents in reverse. Adam Sandler plays a young dad (as in the mother was a teacher who went to prison) who raised his son (Andy Samberg) with some pretty laissez-faire methods. Just as the tax man comes calling, he discovers his son is wealthy and about to marry--a perfect time for him to drop in and reconnect. I like that the story seems to be taking place from Sandler's perspective rather than the designated uptight person's perspective (Samberg). That's one thing I found trying about Ben Stiller's performance in Meet the Parents. Sandler always plays juvenile characters, so it's a nice riff on his star persona to have him play an immature father. Samberg, who really does look incredibly like Sandler, gets to be the one calling Sandler out on all his crazy antics--and maybe lightening up a bit.

Although I laughed along with Sandler's childish humor in Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Wedding Singer, I'm still recovering from the 2010 monstrosity that was Grown Ups. That's My Boy doesn't look great even in the trailer, but it has some novelty and infusion of fresh comic talent with the addition of Samberg. If tradition holds, the more this comedy bombs with critics the better it will do with audiences. Still, I hope that That's My Boy gives some of Sandler's old fans just a little bit of that humor that we used to enjoy so much.



Monday, March 5, 2012

Respecting the grain: Digital 'Dr. Strangelove' never looked better

Like audiophiles who still collect vinyl and argue for the merits of analog sound over today’s dominant digital technology, many cineastes contend that 35mm film remains visually superior to even the most advanced digital image, that the “film” look with its inherent grain and more expressive palette provides a warmer, more “authentic” experience.

But film purists need to face the cold reality that digital is here and 35mm film is declining. The leading motion picture camera manufacturers are no longer making 35mm equipment, and film labs have transitioned to digital post-production. And, as of January 2012, there are now more digital than 35mm film screens operating worldwide.

New York City’s premier repertory house Film Forum, celebrating its 25th anniversary, has prided itself on its pursuit of new 35mm prints of the classic films its audience enthusiastically supports. Over the years, it has premiered nearly 1,000 new prints and restorations. But even this bastion of 35mm devotion is acknowledging that DCPs (Digital Cinema Packages) are the future of repertory programming.

This week, Film Forum is presenting a special program of 13 classic films in DCP format, entitled “This Is DCP.” The festival kicked off on Friday, March 2, with a tutorial from Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures’ executive VP of asset management, film restoration and digital mastering—one of the top names in the field of film restoration. Crisp demonstrated the benefits of digital restoration and presentation with a comparison of the best available 35mm print of Stanley Kubrick’s classic black-and-white satire Dr. Strangelove and Sony’s 4K DCP restoration (shown with a 2K digital Dr-strangelove-1projector). Not quite “side by side” as promoted, the two formats alternated back and forth onscreen via the low-tech method of a projectionist holding a piece of cardboard in front of one or the other lens.

The difference was immediately apparent. While the 35mm print had an overall muted gray look, the contrast of the blacks and whites in the DCP version was dramatically higher. Scratches and artifacts in the film print were non-existent in the digital copy, and background details and even the pattern of an actress’ bikini were sharper. Still, the digital version (screened in its entirety after the demo) looked like a film print, retaining the grain of Gilbert Taylor’s masterly original cinematography.

Crisp chose Dr. Strangelove for the demo partly because it had been a film in dire need of painstaking restoration. “This film suffered the worst of all fates,” he noted. “The original camera negative was destroyed in the 1960s.” For decades, the source for new negatives and prints was two master positives made from the original negative. The meticulous Kubrick personally approved those new prints, but, Crisp attested, “he could never get what he wanted.”

For the Strangelove restoration, Sony’s first such 4K project, Crisp and his team went back to the source master positives, scanned the footage and embarked on a painstaking frame-by-frame renewal process, taking care to maintain the film look of the original.

Another restoration in the works at Sony is the 50th-anniversary revival of the Oscar-winning epic Lawrence of Arabia. Crisp confided that the David Lean classic has “one of the most damaged negatives,” caused by the intense heat of its desert shooting locations: The emulsion cracked and the flaws were sealed into the negative for some key scenes.

Film Forum’s DCP festival is also giving New York audiences a chance to sample digital versions of such classics as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, West Side Story, Rear Window, The Red Shoes, Taxi Driver, The Searchers, Goldfinger, Five Easy Pieces, From Here to Eternity, and a new restoration of The Guns of Navarone.

One of the studios most active in preserving and restoring its library, Sony has “no plans to stop print distribution” of its classics, according to Crisp. The restoration expert said it will take “many years” for its DCP activity to catch up with its print revivals, since “each project takes a year and a lot of money.” Still, the studio is already going deeper into its archives, with DCPs in the works for its pre-Code Frank Capra titles. The unspoken fear among repertory cinemas, however, is that not every studio values its holdings as much as Sony, and that decent copies of lesser-known movies will be much harder to obtain in any format in the coming years.

For longtime Film Forum director of repertory programming Bruce Goldstein, the DCP festival is acknowledgement of changing times and the fact that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “The intention is to introduce this format to our audience, to demonstrate that this level of digital restoration can achieve results as beautiful as in a new 35mm print, at times even more beautiful,” he stated in the media release. “We want to make it clear that DCP will not be replacing 35mm at Film Forum, especially as only a handful of classics are now available in the new format. But in the coming years, it will be impossible to rely on only one of these formats, especially in putting together the kinds of festivals we’re known for.”

Audiences flock to 'The Lorax,' giving it a record weekend

Apparently, estimates that put The Lorax at $50 million this weekend were woefully inadequate. The CG-animated Dr. Seuss adaptation earned $70.7 million its opening weekend, the highest yet recorded in 2012. Since no big-budget animated titles have released since December, many Dr seuss the lorax tree choppingfamilies were eager to check out the picture, which comes with an environmental message. People in Hollywood seem to find a way to be number one in any way they can. In the case of The Lorax, it felled the record for "non-sequel animated title," unseating 2004's The Incredibles. The Dr. Seuss fable received an extra boost from 3D and IMAX, which contributed half of the weekend take. Although critics lambasted the movie, audiences gave it an "A" rating in exit polls. Since family movies tend to perform strongly for multiple weeks, The Lorax will likely cross the $100 million mark by next weekend and set its sights on a loftier goal--like $200 million.

The tale of a teen's party that spirals out of control, Project X performed on the high side of expectations, earning $20.7 million. Since the low-budget project cost just $12 million, Warner Project x crowds Bros. will be in the green with this picture. I give it points for innovation, since it adapted the found-footage technique to what is for adults a pretty familiar movie topic.

The recipient of the Best Picture Oscar, The Artist, ascended to tenth place post-win. Going up 34% from last week, it earned $3.9 million, its biggest weekend to date. Still, its $2,200 per-screen average indicates the critical darling didn't scale particularly well and is better suited for the arthouse crowd.

Being Flynn failed to ignite. The adaptation of Another Bull***t Night in Suck City, starring Robert De Niro, earned just $11,000 per screen Being flynn de niro danoin four locations. A figure three times that would have shown that the movie was generating strong interest.

The Oscar winner for Best Documentary, also a Weinstein Co. release, showed more traction after its win. Undefeated, an inspiring tale of football players in a poor town who are changed by their involvement in the sport, went up 337%. Moving from seven to twelve theatres, it averaged $7,000 per screen for a total of $84,000.

This Friday, sci-fi adventure John Carter will open, the indie-esque horror picture Silent House will introduce more audiences to the "third Olsen sister," and Eddie Murphy will appear in A Thousand Words.

Friday, March 2, 2012

'The Lorax' poised for a sensational weekend

After two months without a big-budget, 3D, CG-animated movie, The Lorax (3,728 theatres, including 269 IMAX screens) should be a sensation. Unlike The Adventures of Tintin, which featured a character better-known in Europe than the U.S., Dr. Seuss is a homegrown creation. The The lorax dr seussLorax is expected to easily top the $38 million debut of last year's Rango, and some are predicting the animated feature could reach $50 million. While this movie looks poised to be a box-office success, critics have been less kind. New York Magainze's David Edelstein titles his review "The Badness of 'The Lorax' Is a Shock." He points out that the movie makes fun of the Seussisms instead of taking them seriously, which rang alarm bells with me. FJI critic Daniel Eagan felt the movie was "message-heavy" but also disingenuous regarding that same environmental message. Seventy product tie-ins are promoting the very story that would consider a lot of these things "thneeds," examples of wasteful consumerism.

The found-footage format started out in horror, but Fox's superhero tale Chronicle and now Warner Bros.' party comedy Project X (3,055 theatres) have adopted the same style to tell their stories. Featuring unknown actors, Project X centers on a birthday party that becomes Project x flamesout-of-control thanks to an invite that's spread on social networks. Apparently this isn't one of those parties where the night ends with drunkenness, puking, and sexual advances. Instead, a flame thrower is involved, and the night turns into a "veritable orgy of destruction and explosions," according to critic David Noh. He saw it with a young audience that seemed to respond to the "lamely obscene lines," and fires, which puzzles him. "Who knows? Maybe this is what really does pass for an enjoyable movie experience these days," he muses. If Project X tops $20 million, it will be considered a big success.

Being Flynn, an adaptation of the book Another Bull***t Night in Suck City, will have a limited release in four theatres. Robert De Niro stars as a contestant for the most "repulsive, unrepentant train wreck of a mortal" that has ever graced the screen, according to critic Doris Being flynn de niro dinerToumarkine. De Niro plays a father, and Paul Dano his son, who seeks out his absent parent. Toumarkine feels this "bleak sonata...won’t be worth a detour for most audiences." Still, Focus may be able to market this film well enough for it to pack four theatres, especially with a big name like De Niro.

The winner of the Best Picture Oscar, The Artist, will run a victory lap this weekend as it expands from 966 to 1,756 locations. The homage to classic silent movies is estimated to bring in around $5 million with the extra screens.

On Monday, we'll return to see if families make The Lorax the immense success everyone is predicting, and if Project X enticed enough teens to give it an opening rivaling Superbad.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Emma Watson and Sofia Coppola team up for 'The Bling Ring'

Every once in a while you hear of a project pairing that makes perfect sense. That's how I feel about Sofia Coppola directing The Bling Ring. The movie will be based on the true story of a few status-conscious L.A. teenagers who stole clothes, jewelry, cash, and drugs from celebrities such as Emma-watson-sofia-coppola-bling-ringParis Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. They broke in, raided their closets, and then wore the stolen loot out to the clubs frequented by the same celebrities.

The teens were profiled in a memorable 2010 Vanity Fair article. While they came from backgrounds characterized by strife, they were also the product of fairly well-off families, many of whom had jobs in the movie industry. Adding another dimension to the whole tale, two of the teens were going to potentially be celebrities themselves. They were being followed for a reality show called "Pretty Wild." That got complicated once its stars were arrested. Lifetime got to the project first, though I imagine the TV movie will not bear more than a passing resemblance to Coppola's project.

Coppola's known for her moody, character-driven pieces. I loved her most recent work, Somewhere, which centered on a bored and depressed celebrity living at the Chateau Marmont reconnecting with his daughter. I think The Bling Ring will be a good chance for her to combine her knack for ennui with an actual plot. Coppola knocks tone out of the park, but she rarely tries to combine that with actual action and thrills.  She's said she wants to use the case to "reveal a sobering view of our modern culture" and comment on the celebrity machine. Who better to do that than Coppola?

She's already cast Harry Potter's Emma Watson in one of the lead roles. In the real-life case, there were a few major players and more on the sidelines, so I imagine the number of leads could depend on what works for the adaptation. Looking up to celebrities is nothing new, but the extremes these kids went to in order to feel like they were as cool as celebrities is extreme. At the same time, tabloids like TMZ have further removed the wall between the star and the audience. These paparazzi are like private detectives, following the stars' every move. Perhaps it's only a natural extension of this invasion of privacy that drove the teens to break into their houses and steal everything they thought would make them like the pretty faces they saw in the magazines. Given Coppola's already insidery view on celebrity, she'll be able to make this tale both real and precisely critical.