Posts Tagged ‘Battle: Los Angeles’

The Weekend Report: April 10, 2011

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

The Best That You Can Do is …

Audiences continued to Hop to it as the animated Easter eggs-travaganza topped weekend tickets sales with an eggs-timated $21.6 million. The film bounded well ahead of a quarter of new national releases that saw the remake of Arthur and the distaff thriller Hanna competing for the second slot with the former squeaking ahead by about 200k with a $12.5 million tally. The inspirational Soul Surfer bowed to $10.9 million and the tongue-in-cheek swashbuckler Your Highness swiped $9.5 million.

Among the new niche releases were the non-fiction nature study Born to Be Wild with $820,000 from 206 cages (194 in 3D) and the Mexican comedy No Eres Tu, Soy Yo that grossed $530,000 at 226 venues. Bollywood entry Thank You failed to revivify that sector with a $253,000 bow from 92 engagements.

Exclusives this weekend saw a couple of glimmers of hope including the minimalist western Meek’s Cut Off with $19,800 at two screens. Solo outings for docs Blank City on Manhattan’s early Punk scene and American: The Bill Hicks Story profiling the late comic genius respectively rang up $10,600 and $6,400 in ducats.

The frame’s overall tally generated roughly $118 million and slipped 5% behind last weekend’s biz. It was a slightly more severe 7% lag from 2010 when the second weekend of Clash of the Titans led with $26.6 million; edging out the $25.2 million gross for newcomer Date Night.

Hopes weren’t particularly high for any of the quartet of newcomers with Arthur given the best prospects that ranged from $12 million to $18 million. Your Highness was also overestimated with pundits pegging its bow somewhere between $11 million to $15 million. Conversely the mavens viewed Hanna’s topmost performance at $10 million with similar expectations for Soul Surfer that proved to be accurate.

Hanna’s strength largely came from unexpected response from males that composed slightly more than half of its audience. Soul Surfer drew a resounding 80% female crowd and was the only one of the four new films that had a majority under 25 demographic with 56%. Arthur was 64% older, Your Highness was 55% dominated by plus 25s and Hanna was at the high end with 69%.

The shift so far this year to an older set of ticket buyers has largely been cited as a reflection of weak product though one can hardly imagine what aspect of such films as Sucker Punch or Drive Angry could possibly draw a mature buyer to the multiplex. The industry mantra is that younger male avids will be back in force come May when the summer tentpole fun rides are unleashed.

What appears to have stumped the pundits is what exactly are these bulwarks of movie going doing during this apparent hiatus? No one appears to have done surveys that might indicate whether a trend exists or if there’s an absence of a conclusive shift to other activities. Regardless, no one believes this segment is staying at home and exercising their fast food options. So, clearly the new VoD initiatives are directed toward them and their involvement in the movie experience remains vital to the industry’s health and welfare.

Weekend (estimates)
April 8 – 10, 2011
Title Distributor Gross (avg) % chng Theaters Cume
Hop Uni 21.6 (5,980) -42% 3616 68.1
Arthur WB 12.5 (3,810) NEW 3276 12.5
Hanna Focus 12.3 (4,850) NEW 2535 12.3
Soul Surfer Sony 10.9 (4,910) NEW 2214 10.9
Insidious Film District 9.8 (4,060) -26% 2419 27.2
Your Highness Uni 9.5 (3,420) NEW 2769 9.5
Source Code Summit 9.0 (3,040) -39% 2971 28.6
Limitless Relativity 5.6 (2,130) -40% 2642 64.3
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules! Fox 4.9 (1,690) -52% 2881 45.5
The Lincoln Lawyer Lions Gate 4.4 (1,830) -35% 2420 46.3
Rango Par 2.3 (1,140) -49% 2007 117.5
Sucker Punch WB 2.1 (1,180) -66% 1755 33.9
Paul Uni 1.7 (1,040) -59% 1667 35.1
Battle: Los Angeles Sony 1.5 (1,090) -57% 1408 81.2
Jane Eyre Focus 1.2 (4,780) -3% 247 5.2
Win Win Fox Searchlight 1.2 (5,220) 4% 226 3.5
The Adjustment Bureau Uni .88 (1,120) -59% 783 60.1
Born to Be Wild WB .82 (3,980) NEW 206 0.82
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .55 (810) -52% 675 137.6
No Eres Tu, Soy Yo Lions Gate .53 (2340) NEW 226 0.53
Red Riding Hood WB .52 (670) -71% 777 36.7
Weekend Total
($500,000+ Films)
% Change (Last Year) -7%
% Change (Last Week) -5%
Also debuting/expanding
Thank You UTV .25 (2,750) 92 0.25
Kill the Irishman Anchor Bay 91,600 (1,760) -19% 52 0.85
Miral Weinstein Co. 55,700 (1,920) -24% 29 0.25
In a Better World Sony Classics 48,600 (4,050) 47% 12 0.1
Meek’s Cut Off Osciloscope 19,800 (9,900) 2 0.02
Blank City FilmsWeLike 10,600 (10,600) 1 0.01
Meet Monica Velour Anchor Bay 7,300 (3,650) 2 0.01
Ceremony Magnolia 6,800 (2,270) 3 0.01
Henry’s Crime Moving Pictures 6,600 (3,300) 2 0.01
American: The Bill Hicks Story Variance 6,400 (6,400) 1 0.01
To Die Like a Man Strand 2,150 (2,150) 1 0.01
Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – April 7, 2011)
Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (9) 413.6 18.20%
Sony (10) 370.9 16.30%
Universal (8) 276.1 12.10%
Warner Bros. (14) 273.6 12.00%
Buena Vista (6) 255.2 11.20%
Weinstein Co. (4) 133.4 5.90%
Fox (6) 127.6 5.60%
Relativity (4) 90.5 4.00%
Fox Searchlight (4) 82.9 3.70%
CBS (3) 56.6 2.50%
Lions Gate (6) 47.5 2.10%
summit (4) 31.8 1.40%
Focus (3) 25.1 1.10%
FilmDistrict (1) 17.4 0.80%
eOne/Seville (7) 14.5 0.60%
Sony Classics (6) 12.3 0.50%
Other * (99) 44.3 2.00%
2273.3 100.00%
* none greater than 0.4%
Top Domestic Grossers *
(Jan. 1 – April 7, 2011)
Title Distributor Gross
The King’s Speech * Weinstein Co. 119,361,676
Rango Par 115,230,893
Just Go With It Sony 101,651,979
True Grit * Par 100,131,192
The Green Hornet Sony 98,588,503
Gnomeo and Juliet BV/eOne 97,075,887
Battle: Los Angeles Sony 79,700,377
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 72,707,468
No Strings Attached Par 70,662,220
Black Swan * Fox Searchlight 65,964,914
Little Fockers * Uni 64,117,440
Unknown WB 62,821,544
The Adjustment Bureau Uni 59,231,700
Limitless Relativity 58,688,230
The Fighter * Par/Alliance 54,624,687
Tron: Legacy * BV 54,483,200
I Am Number 4 BV 53,949,381
The Dilemma Uni 48,800,147
Hop Uni 46,456,305
Hall Pass WB 44,034,990
* does not include 2010 box office

Weekend Estimates by Soul Klady

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

And this is why weekend-to-weekend looks so crappy. Last year on “this” weekend, there were $27m in openers. This weekend, $46m. But the weekend is still well behind last year because Sucker Punch was WB’s entry, not Clash of the Titans, and there was no DWA film (last year, it was a leggy Dragon) doing $25m in a third weekend while Hop, which is a success story (but a mild one), did $21m in Weekend Two. Those two holdovers and one $25m opener (Date Night) overpower nearly $20m in more opening firepower this year than last.

If you simply flipped last year’s WB entry for this year’s, “this year’s weekend” would be ahead of “last year’s weekend” by over $15 million. And if wishes were fishes… But you get the point, no? It’s about the movies, not the market. Until there is a much longer lasting set of data that involves a more muscular set of movies being off by similar amounts, I’m not taking any “slump” seriously. Of course, if you want to believe that somehow Clash of the Titans would have done half the business it did if it opened this year or that Sucker Punch would have done more than double what it’s doing opening last year, please, feel free to make the argument.

One genre that may be nearing its end in this cycle as an industry cash cow is the stoned comedy. Since the Superbad/Knocked Up back-to-back smashes, Team Apatow has racked up just one $100m movie (Step Brothers) in 8 attempts. And while Apatow had nothing to do with the two movies gently opening this weekend (Arthur/Your Highness), they are both bastard children of his camp. Like many niche genres in Hollywood, no reason that this one can’t go on. But costs have to be contained and then these are the kinds of legged-out doubles that studios can use to keep the balance sheet positive build library, an occasionally get a surprise big hit. But right now, they are a little expensive and aren’t delivering on the expectations that the studios have when greenlighting them. (Expectations from tracking come long after the horse is out of the barn.)

Hanna is a really nice opening for Focus. They picked up the film in most of the world (Sony has some territories), extending their relationship with Joe Wright, and this opening is better than any two weekends of Atonement domestic grosses combined. Given some strong word-of-mouth (and a soft market for good movies), it could even end up passing Atonement‘s $50m gross.

Bob Berney is back in business. Soul Surfer is a Sony release, but Film District marketed it for Sony, and the results are strong for what could well have been a much smaller feel-good film. And Insidious had a 26% hold, which is almost unheard of for any film in this front-loaded market, much less a horror film. This is one of this year’s real success stories already, likely heading to more than $50m domestic.

Source Code didn’t hold quite as well, but it does seem that we are in the first stretch of commercial movies this year that anyone is happy to recommend.

Box Office Hell — March 17

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Our Players|Coming Soon|Box Office Prophets|Box Office Guru|EW|Box Office . com
Battle: Los Angeles|17.0|16.1|18.0|18.0|16.0
Rango |14.6|14.3|15.0|12.0|15.0
The Lincoln Lawyer|11.5|9.2|12.0|10.0|9.5

Wilmington on Movies: Battle: Los Angeles, Mars Needs Moms, Red Riding Hood, Certified Copy, Uncle Boonmee…

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (One and a Half Stars)
U. S.: Jonathan Liebesman, 2011

This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a turkey.

Every profession has its hazards. Seeing Battle: Los Angeles — definitely not my idea of a good time — was a bit like being stuck at a mediocre video game for a couple of hours, while Marine recruiting ads come screaming out of nearby loudspeakers, idiotic conversations drone monotonously, and you’re forced to simultaneously watch, on big  TV screens covered with grit, War of the Worlds and Black Hawk Down being mashed to a pulp.

Bad beyond belief, ear-splittingly loud and mind-numbingly dumb, jam-packed with gung ho war movie clichés that suggest John Wayne on a toot, and jittery camerawork that suggests The Hurt Locker on crystal meth, stuffed with pseudo sci-fi drivel, and  even somewhat dubiously titled (this movie is set mostly not in Los Angeles but in Santa Monica, a different city), Battle: Santa Monica — excuse me, Battle: Los Angeles — never really justifies its sometimes impressive carnage-and-destruction visual effects (by Everett Burrell). It just stays a big, dumb, loud, clichéd, empty-headed, obnoxious movie all the way to the end.

The show starts out in Camp Pendleton, a Marine training ground, where we learn that the brooding Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart)  had some tragic foul-up in Iraq, and intends to retire. Fat chance, Nantz. Soon reports start blasting in about monsters from outer space — the same space hooligans responsible, we’re eventually told, for almost every UFO sighting since the earlier WW2 “Battle of Los Angeles” immortalized by Steven Spielberg, John Milius and Robert Zemeckis in their grand folly 1941 — a movie that I really wished I was watching instead of this one.

According to director Jonathan Liebesman and writer Chris  Bertolini, who have ripped off H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” and its various radio and movie versions  in the most inane ways imaginable, Earth is being attacked by horrible, icky, goo-covered reptilian monsters who first invade the oceans of the world, wreak havoc everywhere, and then encase themselves in sub-Transformer robot outfits,  and start marching around and firing on the cities of the world, driving the populace into flight and the TV newscasters into frenzies.

The reason? These damned aliens want to steal all our water, which is their primary energy source. (Why didn’t they just hire somebody like Chinatown’s Noah Cross and have him float a bond issue? Or hook up with Ned Beatty in Rango?) Anyway, they had enough H2O to fly here all the way from wherever they came from,  Alpha Centauri or whatever, and to keep reconnoitering Earth for the past half century or so, waiting to strike. How are they going to get it back? In canteens? Are they going to depopulate earth and turn it into a reservoir? What they really need is a water conservation manager.

But, I just as you must have figured, Nantz now has a chance to redeem himself, and he’s pulled back into action, with the famous Second Battalion, Fifth Marines (the “Retreat Hell!“ battalion) and teamed up with young, competitive Second Lieutenant Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez). Their rainbow platoon is sent off  to Lincoln Boulevard to rescue some kids trapped in a school, then somehow make it back to, I guess, the Santa Monica Pier area, and incidentally to show these bastards from outer space what “Semper Fi” really means.

By the time we and they get to the kids, along with a tearful dad played by Michael Pena and a knockout animal doctor played by Bridget Moynihan, we’ve seen what an awful mess these outer space invaders have made. Rubble is piled up all along what was once the 10th street area, the buildings are empty and askew, and the freeway ramps have been sliced and sheared off as if they were fireplace logs being chopped. Haze and dirt are everywhere. Meanwhile extraterrestrial monsters, those disgusting buggy-looking marauders in their sub-Tranformers robot outfits,  roam around what might have been the Third Street Promenade, somewhere near the Interactive Café maybe, blasting humans and looking for God knows what. (The water’s out by the pier, fellas.)

Cleverly, the filmmakers cut us all off from the outside world, by messing up the platoon’s radios and cellphones. (They’re too easily tracked.) So, though we learn briefly about invasions going on everywhere, from Paris to Ireland, we only see that one lone platoon, led by mysteriously disgraced but possibly soon-to-be-heroic and redeemed Sgt. Nantz, whom his men will eventually repeatedly compare to John Wayne. I could tell you what happens next, but I’ll bet you‘re already way past me, all the way to this movie’s last scene, and deep into its sequels, if any.  (How about “Battle: Pasadena?”)

“Battle” director Liebesman and cinematographer Lukas Ettlin are both veterans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and their new  movie often made me feel as if someone with a chainsaw was after me. It never lets you relax for a second, which is why you inevitably get tired of it. And although this show certainly and convincingly beats the crap out of Santa Monica, or somebody‘s idea of Santa Monica, unfortunately — one of many bad strategies here — we never see the pre-invasion city, so we never have a sense of normality being disrupted.

For all some isolationists in the Southeast might know, the town sarcastically called “The People’s Republic of Santa Monica” (for its left wing politics) was always a bombed-out mess that looked like a war zone. (That’s what happens, maybe, when you let property taxes soar.) Except for a little exposition and the setup, this movie is all chaos, all the time.

But why spend so much time decimating Santa Monica if you don’t have a good (or sometimes even coherent) story to tell? Battle: Los Angeles wastes a good cast (headed by Eckhart and also including Michelle Rodriguez as the token hard-ass babe, Air Force Tech Sgt. Elena Santos) just as it’s ludicrous story seemingly wastes much of the earth’s frantic populace, and just as the whole sorry enterprise  colossally wastes our time.

I can’t say some audiences won’t enjoy this — some people will enjoy anything, including staring into the toilet, maybe waiting for little green men to pop up and start water-skiing — but I feel duty bound to report that Battle: Los Angeles, despite its overwhelming effects, despite Eckhart, despite the Rodriguezes, depite every tear duct Pena can open up, lacks sense, point, logic, psychology, raison d’etre, good dialogue and the Third Street Promenade, where at least we could have gotten a pizza slice. It’s a video game movie, done almost in the style of a video game, which this movie may eventually become, if the sequels don’t work out.

Anyway, don’t worry about Santa Monica, a least until the tsunami hits. Don’t worry about Sergeant Nantz. He and his platoon are drawing a bead on every slimy robot alien trying to sneak or blast their way in from anywhere, from Tiajuana to Alpha Centauri. Don’t worry about John Wayne. His reputation will survive everything. (Eat your heart out, Coen Brothers.)

And don’t worry about the movies. If somebody will invest millions and kajillions of dollars into making a movie like this, then they’ll finance anything — including maybe a picture about those little green men on water-skis.

Red Riding Hood (One and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Catherine Hardwicke, 2011

They’ll even finance something like this, a fairytale picture about a blonde girl in the snow in a red hood: A big plush studio movie about Little Red Riding Hood, shaped (supposedly) as a sophisticated, erotic fairytale/romance/horror story, targeted for girls and young women, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who made the first Twilight movie.

The star is the supernaturally beautiful if recently undemanding (part-wise) Amanda Seyfreid as Valerie a.k.a. Red Riding Hood, a girl we can well believe is the daughter of Virginia Madsen, and the granddaughter of Julie Christie. Val/Red is torn here Twilight-style, between two hunky guys named Peter and Henry (Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons).

Meanwhile Red’s father (Twilight’s dad Billy Burke, looking a bit like Stephen King) drinks like mad, and a giant clunky-looking wolf prowls around and kills villagers, and Wolfbuster and Witchfinder General Gary Oldman (called Solomon but playing it more like Sheba) spreads a Crucible-like reign of terror. Snow falls throughout the film, but not fast enough to bury anything.

I like Hardwicke’s Thirteen. But, after ten minutes I didn’t think there was a chance in hell this would be a good movie. The only thing I thought could possibly save Red Riding Hood, would have been  if Paul Giamatti had shown up as a rival wolfbuster, and he turned out to be the wolf, and Julie Christie killed him, and he died in her arms, saying sadly “Grandma, what big teeth you have!” NO SPOILER ALERT NECESSARY. Or if maybe the villagers had gotten together, and somebody had shown Tex Avery‘s cartoon Red Hot Riding Hood in the town square. But Paul Giamatti can’t play everything, and neither unfortunately, can Julie Christie, or the late, great Tex Avery.

Or Neil Jordan. The crazy thing about all this is that back in 1985,  Jordan made a movie, an adult version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” which was shaped as a sophisticated, erotic fairytale/romance/horror story. It was called The Company of Wolves and it was wonderful. It was written, wonderfully, by Jordan from a story by the late, great Angela Carter. It had more ideas, more tension, more stunning imagery every five minutes or so than all of Red Riding Hood. But, though The Company of Wolves won a number of international festival prizes, it got mixed reviews (a rave from me) and I guess it’s been at least partly forgotten. It’s on Henstooth Video, and you should try to find it.

Red Riding Hood you can skip. And give that wolf a hook.

Mars Needs Moms (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Simon Wells, 2011

I’ve got limited time on this one — maybe I’ll return to it later — but I want to mention if for a few things. Mars Needs Moms which takes its title from the infamous 1968 Mars Needs Women, starring Tommy Kirk, is a pretty good feature cartoon, pointing up again how generally better, and smarter, animated features are these days. It’s about an adventurous  boy (voiced by Seth Green), who hitches a ride to Mars, when his  mom (Joan Cusack, who’s very, very good) is kidnapped by the Martians. These Marsmen run a regimented society, bossed by the tyrannical Supervisor (Mindy Sterling, of “Austin Power“ land) and they need to steal a mom every once in a while, to maternally help their divided sexes grow up.

The movie was directed and co-written (with wife Wendy Wells) by Simon Wells, great grand-son of H. G. Wells, and the diretor of the 2002 film of his great grand-dad’s The Time MachineRobert Zemeckis was one of the producers, and the movie was done in the motion capture process (refined here to something called “emotion capture”) that Zemeckis he used for The Polar Express and the Jim Carrey A Christmas Carol — which means the actors supplied some movements and expressions as well the voices for their characters.

It’s an okay movie. Cusack, as I say is gangbusters as the movie’s mom. But there’s another performance that really is incredible, fantastic: Dan Fogler as a chubby Erathling faddist, enthusiast and gimmick-guy on Mars called Gribble. Fogler has been in a handful of movies including some bad ones (where he was good) like the current Take Me Home Tonight, which I reviewed (badly) last week. He usually plays overweight sidekicks, awash in pop culture shtick, which is what he is here. “Awesome” and “totally” are two of Gribble’s favorite words.

But Gribble has more: a spontaneity, wild humor and a sweet, flakey quality that makes this role really shine, creates a star-making turn. At first, as I was watching him, I was convinced he was a much chubbier and younger cartoon version of my old L. A. Weekly pal, movie critic F. X. Feeney, maybe even voiced by F. X., and I almost called out to him. (Just kidding.) He also reminded me of an old chum of mine at the University of Wisconsin, the late Don “Sluggo” Carlson. At any rate, I was totally convinced Gribble was a real person. And that’s what acting totally is. Awesome.

It’s easy, or at any rate easier, to look great with a great, well-written part, with something like, say, The King’s Speech, The Social Network or True Grit. It’s harder to be superb in schlock or flawed movies like Fanboys, Take Me Home Tonight and even “Mars Needs Moms.“ Or when you‘re making some of it up yourself. (Some of “Mars” seems improvised.) But Fogler, whom I had ignorantly sort of dismissed as a mini-Jack Black, has the stuff, totally. Gribble is a great job. Even though Mars Needs Moms is a cartoon sci-fi fantasy, you laugh and feel for this crazy irrepressible tubbo babble-mouth shlump-a-clump.

I’m sure other people and critics are noticing this part, and that Fogler has been noticed lots of times before, for his Spelling Bee play, and others. But now I can say you heard it here. Not necessarily first. But you heard it.

Certified Copy (Four Stars)

France/Italy/Iran: Abbas Kiarostami, 2010\

Abbas Kiarostami’s first non-Iranian production is a jewel of that director‘s special brand of stylized cinema realism, and a meditation (like Orson Welles‘ F for Fake on artistry and fakery.

Shot in Italy (seedbed of neo-realism, homeland of Rossellini and De Sica), starring a French leading lady (Juliette Binoche) and an English leading man (William Shimell),  this splendidly shot (by Luca Bigazzi) European/Iranian co-production is partly one of Kiarostami’s chamber road movies — one of those Kiarostami pictures in which much of the action and dialogue transpire in a traveling car’s front seat between characters on the driver and passenger sides — and partly a pastiche of Rossellini’s great but controversial 1953 romantic travelogue drama Voyage in Italy (or Strangers), with Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders as a couple on vacation whose marriage is crumbling.

The setting, as with the arty George Clooney thriller The American, is on the roads and in the  mountain villages of provincial Italy. Shimell (an opera star) plays James Miller, an opinionated and somewhat self-absorbed best-selling author, who has just written a best-seller on the validity of artistic or painterly copying. Binoche is an unnamed single mother who takes Miller on a day date and drive in the country, and who likes to argue and provoke and meet new people. Somewhere along the way the two begin impersonating a married couple (with problems, like Bergman and Sanders), and they slide into their roles with strange, unexplained fullness.

The movie is enigmatic, and full of talk and ideas, but it also feels as natural as breathing. Japan’s Akira Kurosawa, expressing his sorrow at the death of India’s Satyajit Ray, named Iran’s Kiarostami as Ray’s obvious successor, and Certified Copy does recall some late Ray (The Home and the World), in its beauty, precision and psychology. Kiarostami though, is one of a kind. He‘s really like no one else, even when he makes a certified copy of someone like Rossellini. (In Italian, French and English with English subtitles.)

Uncle Boonmee, Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Three and a Half Stars)
Thailand; Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010

“Call me Joe,”  Apichatpong Weerasethakul told me when I met him at a dinner at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, and I couldn’t have guessed then that, within a few years, this trail-blazing, friendly young Thai filmmaker would have won the Cannes Palme d’Or — as he did this year with Uncle Boonmee… I’m happy for Thailand, and I’m happy for Joe, who’s now made the kind of international breakthrough Akira Kurosawa once made for Japanese cinema, Satyajit Ray once made for India, Zhang Yimou for China, and Tran Anh Hung for Vietnam. He’s put his country on the cinematic map.

“Uncle Boonmee” is a beautiful little film about what it means to die, or to watch a family member die. The central character, Boonmee (Yukantorn Mingmongkan) is a farmer in the Thai countryside, slowly failing from kidney disease. His family gathers around him. So do his ghosts, including the spirit of his dead wife and his son, who has become a “monkey ghost.” No one is too shocked or unsettled by the appearance of these spooks; they’re just another part of the family. And death, the film says quietly and touchingly, is just another part of life.

Much of “Uncle Boonmee…” is shot at night, in the gentle enveloping dark, or in the day, in the hazy green brightness of daylight, or in a cave where the family wanders, or the church where Boonmee gets his last farewell. Before he dies, he tries to make peace with everyone, even worrying about “all the Communists” he killed for the government. Then he’s gone. So will we all pass on, and all those we love or hate or simply know.

I don’t know that I would have given Uncle Boonmee, Who Can recell His Past Lives the Palme d‘Or.  Joe’s visual style is a little rough and hazy for me, though maybe that’s Thailand. But Joe is a devotee of the American underground (Warhol, Baillie) and he’s not trying for the visual sophistication of either American mainstream movies or of a Kurosawa, a Ray, a Zhang, or even of a Tran Anh Hung. He’s trying for something simpler, purer. He’s telling his story, a Thai family’s story, a tale of life and death and how they interpenetrate each other. And, as we watch, a world opens up. This is life, this is cinema. (In Thai and French, with English subtitles.)

The Weekend Report — March 13

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Los Angeles Doesn’t Believe in Tears … Mars Does

The fears that a depressed marketplace would take its toll on Battle: Los Angeles proved unfounded as the sci-fi extravaganza easily took weekend honors with an estimated $36.2 million. However, the frame’s other two national releases seriously underperformed. The visual flamboyant fairy tale Red Riding Hood trudged through the woods with $14 million in its basket to rank third and the family targeted Mars Needs Moms received a resounding audience “no” with $6.8 million.

Regionally a pair of pics bowed in Quebec to undistinguished results. Local production French Kiss generated $91,200 at 54 stalls while French family fave Arthur et la guerre des deux mondes provided $68,400 from 35 venues.

The action among limited/exclusive debuts was considerably more encouraging with the latest Jane Eyre earning a $45,120 average from four screens. The indie Kill the Irishman was unexpectedly potent with a $142,000 tally in five exposures and French award winner Certified Copy grossed $66,300 from a comparable quintet.

Overall the pluses and minuses canceled out and weekend revenues slipped 4% from the immediate prior session. It was a steeper 13% decline from 2010 when the second weekend of Alice in Wonderland reigned with $62.7 million followed by bows of Green Zone and She’s Out of My League with respective openers of $14.3 million and $9.8 million.

Industry anxiety ran high for Battle: Los Angeles with pundits invoking the likes of Independence Day, District 9 and Skyline on the down side as past barometers. Initial tracking pegged its opening between $25 million and $30 million with it pushing slightly higher as opening day approached.

Exit polls pegged the audience unsurprisingly at 62% male. However, it also showed that the ticket buyers were 55% over the age of 25; continuing the 2011 industry question of where the younger, previously more avid crowds have migrated (and whether is possible to park product at that location).

Audience composition for both Red Riding Hood and Mars Needs Moms were also as anticipated. The cowl clad lass was 54% distaff and 56% under the age of 25 while the folk from the red planet were 85% family with 68% buying stereoscopic ducats. But though not particularly family friendly, Rango was the audience magnet even with a 40% hit off of its opening weekend.

Though the two films hit their target, neither hit it with quite the anticipated force. Red Riding Hood was tracking between $16 million and $20 million while Mars Needs Moms was supposed to be in the range of $10 million to $14 million.

Expect some hard questions to be asked at CinemaCon in two weeks beginning with the evaporation of the under 25s. Distribution is likely to be pushing for shorter theatrical windows and theater owners will just be … freaking out.

Weekend (estimates) March 11 – 13, 2011
Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Battle: Los Angeles Sony 36.2 (10,590) NEW 3417 36.2
Rango Par 22.8 (5,820) -40% 3923 68.4
Red Riding Hood WB 14.0 (4,630) NEW 3030 14
The Adjustment Bureau Uni 11.4 (4,010) -46% 2847 38.4
Mars Needs Moms BV 6.8 (2,190) NEW 3117 6.8
Beastly CBS 5.0 (2,570) -49% 1959 16.9
Hall Pass WB 5.0 (1,970) -43% 2555 34.9
Just Go With It Sony 4.0 (1,660) -38% 2398 93.9
The King’s Speech TWC 3.6 (2,030) -42% 1768 129
Gnomeo and Juliet BV/eOne 3.5 (1,360) -52% 2585 89
Unknown WB 3.3 (1,440) -49% 2303 58.4
I Am Number 4 BV 2.2 (1,110) -61% 2005 50.3
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 1.3 (1,050) -69% 1247 70.9
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son Fox 1.2 (1,330) -62% 931 35.1
Take Me Home Tonight Relativity 1.2 (610) -65% 2003 5.8
Cedar Rapids FoxSearch .93 (2,360) 13% 394 4.6
Tangled BV .62 (1,710) -22% 363 196.6
The Fighter Par/Alliance .55 (1,210) -51% 453 92.9
Black Swan FoxSearch .44 (1,310) -56% 337 105.9
True Grit Par .43 (1,070) -56% 401 169.4
Barney’s Version eOne/SPC .34 (1,760) -13% 192 6.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $123.60
% Change (Last Year) -13%
% Change (Last Week) -4%
Also debuting/expanding
Of Gods and Men Sony Classics .25 (4,500) -2% 56 1.2
Jane Eyre Focus .18 (45,120) 4 0.18
Kill the Irishman Anchor Bay .14 (28,260) 5 0.14
French Kiss TVA 91,200 (1,690) 54 0.09
Arthur et la guerre des deux mondes Alliance 68,400 (1,950) 35 0.07
Certified Copy IFC 66,300 (13,260) 5 0.07
HappyThankYouMorePlease Anchor Bay 59,700 (3,140) 70% 19 0.09
I Will Follow Film Movement 44,100 (11,020) 4 0.04
3 Backyards Screen Media 11,400 (11,400) 1 0.01
Making th Boys First Run 6,800 (6,800) 1 0.01
Elektra Luxx IDP 5,700 (1,420) 4 0.01
Black Death Magnolia 3,700 (3,700) 1 0.01
Monogamy Oscilloscope 3,600 (3,600) 1 0.01
Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – March 10, 2011)
Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (9) 337.1 20.90%
Sony (9) 277.4 17.20%
Buena Vista (5) 215.2 13.30%
Warner Bros. (12) 179.1 11.10%
Universal (6) 163.3 10.10%
Weinstein Co. (3) 121.2 7.50%
Fox (5) 82.9 5.10%
Fox Searchlight (3) 76.3 4.70%
CBS (3) 41.3 2.60%
Relativity (3) 29.5 1.80%
Focus (2) 20.7 1.30%
eOne/Seville (7) 12.2 0.80%
Summit (3) 11.7 0.70%
Sony Classics (5) 9.6 0.60%
Other * (73) 37.6 2.30%
1615.1 100.00%
* none greater than 0.4%
Top Limited Releases (Jan. 1 – March 10, 2011)
Title Distributor Gross*
Blue Valentine * TWC 9,313,215
Barney’s Version * eOne/SPC 5,661,527
Biutiful Roadside Att 4,337,480
The Company Men TWC 4,102,660
Cedar Rapids rch 3,676,294
From Nada to Prada LGF 2,946,275
Another Year * SPC 2,854,313
The Way Back Newmarket/All 2,806,469
Hubble 3D * WB 2,321,675
The Grace Card IDP 1,842,199
The Illusionist * SPC 1,811,964
Rabbit Hole * LGF 1,810,546
Somewhere * Focus 1,502,550
Incendies * Seville/eOne 1,348,780
2011 Oscar Shorts Magnolia 1,266,790

Critics Roundup — March 10

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles|Red||||Red
Red Riding Hood|Yellow||||Red
Jane Eyre|Green||||Green
Mars Needs Moms||||Yellow|Yellow
Certified Copy|||||Green

Box Office Hell — March 10

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Our Players|Coming Soon|Box Office Prophets|Box Office Guru|EW|Box Office . com
Battle: Los Angeles|36.4|31.4|27.0|31.0|30.0
Red Riding Hood|23.0|15.7|22.0|20.0|16.5
Rango |22.0|23.4|23.0|22.0|21.0
Mars Needs Moms|14.3|10.6|17.0|11.5|13.5
The Adjustment Bureau|13.1|13.0|11.5|12.0|12.0

Battle: Los Angeles – The Healing Powers Of The Apocalypse

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Battle: LA delivers the alien Armageddon of your dreams – almost!

Anyone who lives in Los Angeles secretly craves the apocalypse. Something about the landscape here, the vast urban sprawl stretching in every direction, cries out for an alien invasion the way some outfits cry out for a jaunty hat. To sit on that endless stretch of parking lot that is the 405 at rush hour is to long to be bathed in the cleansing flame of extraterrestrial war ships. Just please, alien menace, take the douche up ahead in the Escalade before you take me!

It’s telling that an embattled Los Angeles skyline – depicted in Battle: LA posters all over town — has no power to incite a gut-wrenching tug of sentimentality and nostalgia. We natives may love our pretty views, our taco trucks, our relentless greenery, our vastly superior sunsets, our maniacally optimistic neighbors, our supersized egos, our strong drinks, our isolation, our Mike Davis-fueled dystopian laments, our downward slides into what we romantically like to suppose are noir-esque bouts of apathy and depression (and other cinematically interesting moody spells). But if that round building downtown were to burst into flames? We wouldn’t say, “Oh God, no no no!” or “Heaven have mercy on us all!” No. We would say, “Whooa, dude! Did you see that? Holy shit, that was awesome!”

We would all say that, together, on the street, or huddled around our 72-inch high-definition television sets. It would be nothing at all like 9/11. (Those numbers alone, spotted on a digital clock, still give us a lump in our throats.) Here in Los Angeles, where overturning cars after a Lakers game is considered good, harmless fun, where the hills are on fire and then they collapse and slide straight into the ocean, we equate the apocalyptic experience with something roughly equivalent to an extended trip to a day spa — except with more Tweeting.

I guess that explains why the Marine heroes of Battle: LA don’t seem particularly concerned about the television sets everywhere (that part is realistic), blaring on and on about this strange meteor shower over Tokyo, even when the meteors materialize over several other major cities worldwide. Instead, our Marine buddies toss back beers and trade witty rejoinders (“This boy don’t know his ass from a hot rock!” [See also: First to die). As everyone else on the globe is collectively losing their tiny minds or packing their exotic pets into their Subarus or considering an end-of-the-world quickie, our faithful Marines are asking each other “You think this is some kind of a drill, or what?”

That’s probably adaptive, though. Because once the Friday Night Lights jittery cameras and stuttering and jangly indie heartbreak music are over, then it’s time for the District 9 jittery cameras and stuttering and pants-wetting to begin.

The slow reveal is nice, really nice. The meteors “are not hitting the water at terminal velocity.” That’s exactly the sort of spooky detail we need at the outset, to get that soothing, day-spa, “We are fucking toast right now!” feeling we covet so much around here. We catch eerie glimpses of the enemy. We hear the requisite lizardy alien sounds. (Note to screenwriters: Let’s have some bovine aliens, feline aliens, simian aliens, even. The lizard thing has been done to death, even with the on-board circuitry and the juicy, squirting see-through organs.) There are dead bodies in the street, and crumbled buildings, and lots of rooms where wires are hanging and stuff is dripping and… Look out behind you!

Naturally, here’s the inexperienced officer straight from officer training school, the sort of fresh-faced boy who’s sure to die soon. (The question is, will his death be cowardly or valiant?) Next we have the Generation Kill buddies, snarking through the horrors — but getting each other’s backs, no matter what! Here’s tough-girl Michelle Rodriguez, looking right at home in a helmet and snarling, “I didn’t get this far off my good looks. I’m looking for payback!” And of course, there are some pretty, crying children and a hot damsel in distress (Bridget Moynahan).

But best of all, here’s Aaron Eckhart, who has apparently become the GI Joe Action Figure version of himself for this role. Sadly, while his dimpled cheeks and chin do look awfully nice when sprayed with blood and dust, he does not remove his shirt. Eckhart does, however, 1) sigh deeply over the men he left behind “over there,” 2) briefly consider mouth-kissing Moynahan, 3) hug a small boy, and then 4) give a rousing “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”-style speech to his men. Above all, Eckhart’s Staff Sargeant Nance is a hero. We know this because heroic music plays whenever he’s onscreen.

And that’s sort of too bad. Because, in order to get the full apocalyptic spa treatment that we yearn for, we need some looming, wistful sense that everyone in this limitless dystopic landscape is about to get snuffed out like a light, not saved at the last minute by a handful of dimple-chinned men. Sure, maybe there’ll still be people in Kansas, crouching around their 32-inch regular-definition screens. But screw those people, they’ve never even tasted Korean BBQ tacos before!

You know that one trailer for Battle: LA that has the mournful music, sort of like the opening credits of Battlestar Galactica? That trailer gives the impression that we’ll get to bask in some romantically noir-esque, cinematically interesting bouts of melancholy and daydreamy regret. Yes, that can be tough to pull off, what with the enormous war ships blowing gas stations and high rises and freeway on-ramps to smithereens. And at least there aren’t any Carl’s Jr. restaurants exploding just as a guy gripping a fried chicken drumstick dashes out, screaming, “You’re gonna pay for messin’ with my lunchtime, bin Laden!” or the like. This isn’t a Michael Bay film, and for that, we shall give thanks. In truth, Battle: LA lives up to our eclectic high-low expectations. The aliens are scary, and not totally stupid. The plot doesn’t fall apart halfway through. Lots of stuff goes boom, and the shrapnel sounds just right as it whizzes by our heads. This movie is going to be a hit, no doubt about it.

And there are some hearty laughs. At one point, Nance delivers a dusty-sweaty-face-to-face man-rant about the pros and cons of leaving your men behind (Good men! Good Marines!). And then, when the room is still hushed, he says, “But none of that matters right now!” This drew a big laugh at the press screening, an environment about as conducive to big laughs as a cancer ward.

But this is a war film first and a disaster movie second. So, while we certainly feast on enough burning-round-skyscraper moments to feed the sick Angeleno on-board circuitry that craves such annihilation, we don’t quite get to savor the invasion horrors – local and global — as much as we’d like. Ideally, we’d prefer a little more disturbing CNN footage. We’d enjoy a really doleful bit of music, well-timed to coincide with the realization that everyone on the entire planet has been royally screwed by a well-armed, technologically advanced, lizardy menace.

Instead, we encounter heroes. Heroes who act heroically, and talk heroically, and give man hugs, and say perverted things to children, like “I need you to be my little Marine.” As much as we want Aaron Eckhart to be our little Marine, this doesn’t quite cut the cheese.

“We make our stand here,” Nance growls, “and let those bastards know who they’re fucking with!” But director Jonathan Liebesman has us all wrong – at least those of us here in LA. Call it the learned helplessness of the Angeleno, a calm, victimized state that comes from getting stuck on that tiny stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard that converts into a farmers market every Friday afternoon, except with pissed-off people in cars where the happy produce-purchasing pedestrians should go. Rather than vengeance, what we crave is to be crushed into the ground like bugs under the gigantic boots of our hideous alien overlords.

Or maybe we’re just so saturated with predictable heroic narratives that we recognize that the aliens are the gutsy protagonists of this story. Bravely setting out across the universe in search of much-needed natural resources? If we had such courageous colonists at our disposal, blowing life off distant planets and shipping their rivers of goat cheese and tanks of superior spray-tanning chemicals back to Earth, such daring talk would surely send a patriotic shiver down our spines!

Oh well, there’s always the sequel. “Battle: Planet Herculis” anyone?

The Posters of Battle: Los Angeles

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Super Bowl Trailers: Battle LA

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Teasing Battle: Los Angeles

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Battle: Los Angeles 2011

Friday, November 12th, 2010