Posts Tagged ‘Faster’

WILMINGTON ON DVD: 127 Hours, Bambi, Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, Burlesque, Faster

Monday, March 14th, 2011


127 Hours (Four Stars)
U.S.: Danny Boyle, 2010 (2oth Century Fox)

Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is a great real-life survival story — horrific and inspirational, stunningly crafted, and loaded with suspense, even though most of us already know all or part of the film’s story, and most probably its shocking climax. It’s about climber/explorer Aron Ralston (James Franco), trapped and alone for five days in a crevasse in a little-traveled area of Utah‘s Canyonlands National Park, his cell phone unusable, his arm stuck between stretches of rock, and ultimately forced to make a terrifying choice in order to have a chance at survival.

Ralston did survive of course. He also wrote a book about the experience called “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” and most people within range of a TV — or not actually caught between rocks themselves — know what he had to do to get himself free. That doesn’t lessen the tension here. As Alfred Hitchcock often said, suspense depends not on surprise but on our strong identification with characters trapped or in crises — which is certainly what director Danny Boyle, co-writer Simon Beaufoy and a marvelous crew (including editor Jon Harris and cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak) manage to set up and execute, stunningly, here.

Wonderfully told by Boyle, it’s also searingly well played by James Franco, in the second of his two top-of-the-line 2010 lead performances. (The other was a wholly dissimilar but equally brilliantly done assignment as beat poet Allen Ginsberg in “Howl.”)

Watching Franco here, as he plunges himself into a part so taxing physically, psychologically and even spiritually, and does it so brilliantly, you tend to forgive him for that awful, howlingly embarrassing turn he gave as co-host (with the equally sabotaged Anne Hathaway) at the last Oscar Show. Not their fault. After all, Franco and Hathaway didn’t pick themselves as hosts. Or write those empty, fatuous lines. Or get hung out to dry by the whole bankrupt Looks and Youth Uber Alles philosophy of many current movie and TV execs.

Memo to future Oscar producers: Don’t keep engaging in the great American media masturbation fantasy. Think of those two guys your writers referenced on the Oscar Show to try to excuse yourselves. Think of Bob Hope. Think of Billy Crystal. Think of what they brought to the table. Think of Robin Williams, whom you guys keep mistakenly passing over as the Oscar Show host. (He’s unpredictable? He’s dangerous? He’ll be bleeped? Bleepin’ great!) For the Oscars, you need for your hosts comedians or comedy-minded actors, funny guys and gals who can think on their feet, ad lib if necessary, generate good times, swiftly respond to everything, milk sentiment when needed, and above all, keep things going and recover from catastrophes. Witty, not pretty, is what you want in your host. (That said, Jeff Bridges, with nary a laugh, had the best line deliveries of that whole awful evening. Not that Jeff is all that pretty. And he is, after all, The Big Lebowski. Dude!)

Here, Franco has a damned good script, a damned good director. And damned good fellow moviemakers who know what they’re doing. Forget the Oscars. (127 Hours, by the way, probably deserved some statuettes it didn’t get.) Here, Franco makes the most of what he’s got. So did Ralston.
Extras: Commentary by Boyle, Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson; Deleted scenes, Featurette.


Bambi Diamond Edition (Blu-ray and DVD Combo) (Two Discs) (Four Stars)
U.S.: David Hand, 1942 (Walt Disney)

Walt Disney‘s Bambi is one of those classic family movies that children never forget, that adults still love, and that tends to make children of us all as we watch it.

I don’t want to come across as too much of a softie, or as an easy mark for Disneyfied sentiment. But aw shucks, how can you help it? This lush 1942 film adaptation of the classic Felix Salten book — now released in Blu-ray, with every color shimmering, every brush stroke gleaming, every animal character (from Bambi, his regal dad and his loving and lovable mother, to that fussbudget old owl and Bambi’s charming, stalwart chums Thumper the bunny and Flower the skunk) absolutely aglow with life — plays just as well and just as beautifully, as it did nearly 70 years ago, on its first release.


It’s one of the great movie nature stories and one of the great rite-of-passage children’s tales — and like Lassie Come Home, The Yearling and The Red Pony, it’s one of a great cycle of animal movies in the ‘40. Thanks to Disney and his matchless ‘30s-‘40s animation team — headed here by director David Hand — the movie unforgettably gives us the times and seasons in the life of the princely little deer Bambi: his widely celebrated birth (as the new Prince of the Forest), his first faltering bent-legged steps, the tenderly wise tutelage by his mother (while his royal stag dad is busy King-ing it up elsewhere ), his meetings with his forest friends and future wife, the russet-colored falling leaves of autumn, the cold snows of winter, crisis and tragedy, and finally, poetically, the new spring. There we find the problems of “twitter-pation” (a Disney term for emerging sexuality), and finally, the renewal and birth of the next Prince.


Of course, Disney’s classic feature cartoon tale of animals in the forest,  the cycles of life, of mothers and fathers and their young, has a pro-ecology theme that’s gotten even more powerful and topical through the years — especially when we watch the movie’s lovely, painterly forest ravaged and burned, and Bambi’s parents and friends threatened or harmed, by the carelessness and brutality of the movie’s chief villain: that shadowy, menacing, rifle-toting, mostly unseen but always dangerous figure whom the animals shudderingly call: “MAN!”

The movie, of course, is an animal‘s-eye view of the beauties of nature and the threats to it, and of the hunt, and it‘s probably done as much over the years to make movie audiences conscious of that beauty and those threats, as any nature-loving film endeavor up to those other great popular masterpieces of the whole ecology cinema canon: the wondrous David Attenborough-Alistair Fothergill BBC documentaries Planet Earth, Life of Birds, Life of Mammals and Blue Planet. (If you haven’t seen these movies on TV or DVD, you’ve missed a cinematic revelation.)

But those British movies, splendid, educational and knowingly and enthusiastically narrated (by Attenborough) as they are, don’t have, as Bambi does, a guaranteed pipeline to our heartstrings: characters we feel we know, life experiences that become our own, a great sacred natural cartoon domain that becomes our spiritual homeland as well as Bambi‘s. They don’t have the little spotted fawn Bambi hiding behind his mother from his first (and last) crush Faline, or the bashful little self-conscious skunk Flower (Uncle Pepe Le Pew’s unlikely American nephew?), or Bambi’s great self-sacrificing mom nestling and protecting him and calling for him frantically as the hunters go on their rampage in the Great Meadow.

They don‘t have the little deer‘s groovy, chubby smart-alec little sidekick Thumper to keep thump-thump-thumping and wise-cracking away, offering pearls of forest wisdom like his defiantly non-correct version of his dad’s doggerel homily “Eatin’ greens is a special treat. It makes long ears and great big feet …But it sure is awful stuff to eat!” (“I made up that last part myself.”)

Bambi was the last of the five great animated features with which Disney impressively kicked off his and his studio’s feature cartoon filmography, and which, in many ways, Disney and the studio have never surpassed (or equaled) since. And, like the others — 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (also directed by Hand), 1940’s Pinocchio and Fantasia, and 1941’s Dumbo — it’s a still-luminous showcase for the genius and craft of all his artists, their talents meshing back then in a grand synergy that still seems amazingly personal (Walt’s personality, of course), staggeringly ambitious and amazingly accomplished.

It took barely a decade, after all, for the Disney studio to go from the “primitive” black and white line drawing style of Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy to the incredible color, detail and lushness of “Snow White” and the others. A decade!

Bambi is a movie that has never lost its own youth, even as the ages and seasons pass inevitably in the movie itself. For many years, Bambi and most of the rest of the great first five, were regularly re-released to succeeding generations of children and their parents, until we all seemed to know them, and until the relative financial failures of some of those movies on first release (notably Pinocchio and Fantasia) were finally wiped out. Like the cycle of nature, the theme reworked in the Bambi-like 1994 hit The Lion King, these movies were always renewed and renewing, always returning, forever young.

I first saw Bambi as a child (with my mother, of course) in the ’50s. I saw it again, for this column, as an older (old?) man in a brand new restored 35mm print at Chicago‘s Museum of Contemporary Art, accompanied by a Q&A session with a current Disney Studio animator and by the actor who, as a boy voiced young Bambi, the still vigorous and sharp retired U.S. Marine Donnie Dunagan.

It will probably be the last time I ever see Bambi in a 35 print in a theatre, maybe the last time I‘ll see it ever. (I always hoped I’d see it some day though, with kids of my own.)

But the movie, unlike the Prince of the Forest, hasn’t aged. Most of it never will. And what has aged in it has become sometimes even more precious. Bambi, whether in 35 mm, DVD, Blu-ray or not, whatever the format, whatever your age, whatever the season, is a picture that should be seen and re-seen — especially by us, humanity, MAN.

Extras: Both DVD and Blu-ray versions; Introduction by Diane Disney Miller; Deleted scenes; Deleted song; Inside Walt’s Story Meetings; Game; Interactive galleries; Disneypedia: Bambi’s Forest Friends.


Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (Three Stars)
U.S.: Gore Verbinski, 2003-2008 (Walt Disney)

Avast, ye lubbers! Here are three salty-dog adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp at his most playfully anti-heroic), on the high seas and in the Caribbean colonial digs, battling it out with stuffy snobs and nabobs (Jonathan Pryce, at his most playfully icky), ghostly buccaneers (led by Geoffrey Rush, at his most playfully villainous), and incidentally aiding two not exactly star-crossed lovers, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. (Actually they’re more like stardom-blessed lovers).

I didn’t much like the first of these movies, I enjoyed the second, and I would have enjoyed the third, if writing about it hadn’t been such a horrible experience, if a group of bloodthirsty pirates hadn’t attacked and boarded me old ship, maties, and made many of my old friends (and many of the best of them) walk the plank, and then sent the ship on an orgy of brutal high jinks, inane new navigation charts, sadistic abuse, inhuman and ruthless cutting and slashing, and gross dim-witted piratical revelry that made the place a living if sometimes outrageously comic Hell.

Soon the once proud old tall ship started sinking, sinking…But the word is that on spooky moonlit Caribbean nights, you can see that high-masted old vessel, its sails in tatters, its poopdeck in ruins, still drifting forlornly on cold dark waves, and you can hear, ever so faintly, wild mad laughter and the distant ghostly voices of that pirate crew, singing of fifteen execs on a dead man‘s chest, yo-ho-ho and a bottle of (very expensive) rum, of the joys of bankruptcy, of looted pension funds and of grave-dancing grave-robbers from Hell.

Avast, ye lubbers! Keelhaul the swabs! It’s too bad Errol Flynn wasn’t there to retake the ship.

Enough of horror stories. Actually, in the old days, when I lived in Los Angeles, and used to visit the original Anaheim Disneyland regularly, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” boat trip was my absolute favorite. (I suppose that stamps me as lowbrow and somewhat lower-class. So be it. Ya swabs.) The movies, which came later (which were, in fact, inspired by the Ride) are pale reflections of the wondrous ultimate 3D spectacle of that boat trip itself — a masterpiece of theme park grandeur that sends you cruising through the waves and an inky Caribbean night, with pirate automatons (smarter than the ones I knew) attacking ships, stealing treasure and then wine-wenching-and-wassailing it in their orgiastic pirate haunts. I made sure we took the ride every time we were there. The movies aren’t as good, although they do offer Depp in his best Keith Richards impersonation, as Jumping Jack Sparrow. And you can play these in your living room, without getting wet or running the risk of being lashed to the mast or slashed by a cutlass.

Speaking of Flynn, since it’s obvious that Michael Curtiz‘s classic 1935 Captain Blood lies partly behind this Pirate trilogy (and the pirate ride before it) , and since TCM/Warners recently re-released “Blood” on a Flynn box with The Sea Hawk and the dry land swashbuckler The Adventures of Robin Hood, you should know that the Flynn box is cheaper, and a better box than this — though less of a high tech wonder. But high tech isn’t everything, especially on the high seas.

Includes: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (U.S.: Gore Verbinski, 2003) (Two and a half Stars) Captain Jack starts chasing spooks and ships. With Depp, Rush, Bloom, Knightley, Pryce.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (U.S.: Gore Verbinski, 2007) Three Stars.

Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) climbs on board. With the above cast, plus Nighy and Stellan Skarsgard.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (U.S.: Gore Verbinski, 2008) Three Stars.

More sea battles: a wearing experience for some, fun for others. With the above casts, plus Chow Yun Fat, and, as Jack’s dad, the great Keith Richards. (“Good to be in the Caribbean! Good to be anywhere!”)

Extras: Featurettes; Blooper reel, game, Interactive tour.OTHER CURRENT AND RECENT DVD RELEASES


Faster (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.: George Tillman, Jr., 2010 (CBS Films)


Those three stark titles flash over the grim visages and grimmer physiognomies of the unholy trio of main characters in Faster — stamping them on our consciousness just like the iconic intros for Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. (Waaa-wa-wa!) Here, they’re the nicknames for three deadly foes in the new road-runner neo-noir thriller Faster: Three murderous players spinning around a race track of death, hatred and revenge, in a vintage 1970 black Chevy Chevelle (Driver’s), a Bakersfield police car (Cop‘s) and a Ferrari (Killer‘s). The fast. The faster. The fastest. The Good. The Bad. And The Ugly.

Cast as the threesome in this visually snazzy but whacked-out neo-noir, are three actors trapped in parts that expose them to constant danger, frequent ridicule and sometimes make no sense at all. Dwayne Johnson is Driver, the ex-con on a mission from Hell. Billy Bob Thornton is Cop, the dissolute, disheveled fuzz who’s on the case and on the skids. And Oliver Jackson-Cohen is Killer, a stylish Brit hit man who looks a bit like Jake Gyllenhaal and does yoga.

Or should we get into the terse, monosyllabic spirit of things encouraged by writers Tony and Joe Gayton (The Salton Sea) and director George Tillman, Jr., (Soul Food), recall Johnson’s superstar wrestler heyday and I.D. them as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Billy “The Bob” Thornton and Oliver “The Jackson” Cohen?
The Rock, The Bob. The Jackson. Driver will kill you, Cop will collar you. Killer will teach you the lotus position.

According to Faster — a sometimes exciting, sometimes really silly thriller that would like to be the new Point Blank, The Driver or Kill Bill, but can‘t quite make it into third gear — this deadly trio of characters are three existential pawns in a wild game of murder, revenge and redemption, waged on the bloody streets, oily oil fields and desolate deserts of Bakersfield.

The Rock’s Driver is on a mad, monomaniacal revenge spree after being sprung from a ten year prison sentence. The Bob’s Cop is Loser Number One, it seems: a slovenly, unshaven detective, with parenting problems, a skeptical partner, Cicero (played by Carla Gugino), a heroin habit, and — always a danger sign — only weeks to go until retirement.

And the Jackson’s Killer is a retired financial whiz, and self-improvement nut who takes on assassinations for a lark, has been hired to whack Driver by one of his potential victims, but has promised his supermodel-looking girlfriend, Lily (Maggie Grace), that he’ll settle down to smell the roses and all the good things in life — great sex, target practice, financial chicanery, and yoga — after this one last job (another danger sign).

Oh, I forgot the other lead characters: the cars. Or CARS. They’re pretty damned important here too, especially that constant scene-stealer, the Chevy Chevelle that Driver uses to do 180 degree skid turns, speed against the traffic flow, and outrace other muscle cars while in reverse.

Driver loves to drive, sometimes in the wrong lane. But mostly he‘s hell-bent on revenge, from the moment at the beginning when he marches down the cell block floor, sneers at the Warden’s (Tom Berenger) good wishes, races to a local junkyard, pops into the Chevy, gets a list of his enemies and stoolies and betrayers from a crooked investigator and starts wreaking havoc on all the murderous vermin who double-crossed him in a heist job. On the slime beyond slime and the scum beneath scum who killed his brother and got Driver sent off to prison where he apparently became a millionaire, selling contraband cigarettes or porn or advertising or something. (Maybe it was bootleg DVDs of Point Blank and Escape from Alcatraz.) .

Like Lee Marvin‘s Walker in Point Blank (called Parker in Richard Stark/Donald Westlake’s original novel, “The Hunter“) Driver wants to find the rats who screwed him. But, unlike Walker (who’ll settle for his money) Driver won’t stop until each one of them suffers and dies, in as photogenic a way as possible. Telemarketer. Dirty Old Man. Bathroom Thug. And all the rest, including Evangelist (Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje), screaming for mercy and supplying the author’s message. (I shouldn’t josh. That was the best scene in the movie.)

Faster, well-photographed by Michael Grady, tries for a neo-noir-gone-Leone kick. But it’s undermined by its own would-be heartfelt sleaze factor. Billy Bob is always pretty good (though I wish he’d use a French or German accent some time) and he manages to keep a straight face here (it must have been hard), despite playing a Cop who has survived even though he shoots up in johns, comes to work unshaven and in need of a fix and has trouble getting his kid to Little League games.

Johnson plays Driver with few words, the usual ripped physique, a constant glower, and lots of hammerlock charisma. Hell, it’s a better part than  Tooth Fairy.

Jackson-Cohen — whose Killer calls his therapist between hits — is sometimes upstaged by his own cell-phone, whose ring tone is, you guessed it, the Ennio Morricone title theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

One thing bewildered me, and has bewildered others. How can Driver — a six foot plus bald muscle-bound hunk of a hulk, scowling and marching around like The Terminator with an upset stomach — keep whizzing around the town, blasting victims before surveillance cameras, killing people right and left, have his mug shot plastered everywhere on TV as Suspect No. One in a crime wave, constantly engage in high speed chases and massive traffic violations everywhere, and yet never seem to get fingered by the public or a stray cop? Is everyone in Bakersfield on heroin?

Despite myself, I enjoyed part of this. I like it sometimes when the slime beyond slime gets iced on screen. And this movie, for all its sadistic folderol, has a smidgen of humanity. I liked Tillman‘s Soul Food,” a good-hearted ensemble family movie, and I appreciated the occasional humanity Tillman tried to mix in with the standard brutality and melodrama here.

But one of the reasons film noir became so classic, is that the writing and the original stories back in the ‘40s were often so damned good. Hammett. Cain. Chandler. Woolrich. Hughes. Hecht. Polonsky. Huston. Thompson. Most of the ‘70s neo-noirs were well-written too. (Hard to beat Bob Towne‘s Chinatown.) But, script-wise, it’s been a crapshoot since the ‘70s, and that’s a word I’d apply here too. Crap. Shoot.

The scripts for the post-70s neo-noirs are sometimes absurd and often have happy endings. (A lot of the classic noirs did too, but darker is always better.) I won’t tip the hue here. I don’t want spoil any (absurd) surprises. Unfortunately, Faster is nowhere more absurd than it is at the finish, when it springs three twists so preposterous, you almost wish they had opted instead for, oh I dunno, having the three guys make nice and decide to open up a yoga school together instead. Called “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly: Yoga Masters.”

Love that Chevy Chevelle though. Does it really steer that well in reverse?

Burlesque (Two Stars)
U.S.: Steve Antin, 2010 (Screen Gems)

Cher: Boy can she sing! Christina Aguilera: Boy can she sing and dance! Stanley Tucci: Boy can he act! Burlesque: What a crock of high-gloss…crud. (I‘m aware that kids sometimes cruise the Internet.)

This is one of those “Oh, My God!“ movies. (Excuse me, “Oh my Gosh!“) Even if you don’t say it out loud, you’ll be thinking it every ten minutes or so, maybe every five minutes.

Steve Antin wrote and directed. (Wrote? Directed?) Christina Aguilera is Ali, from Iowa, a girl with a dream. She makes it to L. A. (Oh, my God.) She gets robbed. She finds the Gosh-darnedest place I ever saw allegedly in Hollywood — and I used to live there. It’s a show bar called “Burlesque,“ modeled on Cabaret and Chicago, with that great “Cabaret” alum emcee Alan Cumming as a greeter. He‘ll be wasted here, and I don’t mean on booze or coke.
Up on stage, somewhere in Hollywood (or maybe in Oz), there are barely dressed sexy girl dancers, without poles, lip-synching songs. Cher is up there as owner Tess, lip-synching Cher (herself), in a pretty good tune called “Welcome to Burlesque” (the last time I had any hope for the movie). Soon we find that the club is full of sort-of striptease dancers who wear elaborate costumes, and lip-synch to, say, Marilyn Monroe’s great “Diamonds are a Girl‘s Best Friend” number and other classics, while sort of stripping. Everybody seems to have a number except Cumming, who doesn’t strip and who maybe couldn’t clear the “Cabaret” rights. (Oh, my God.)

Ali watches. She is entranced. (Oh, my God!) She wants to sing, to dance, to take it all off (or maybe put it all on) — which she did back in Iowa in the first scenes, all by herself, in a deserted bar. Tess is skeptical. (Why? Ali sings great.) But Ali, indomitable, just picks up a tray and just starts waitressing and gets hired. Meanwhile Tucci, as Sean the dresser/cohort/“Burlesque” jack-of-all-trades (especially rough), deals out snappy patter while zipping everyone up. Or down. For a brief fleeting minute or so way back when, he was a heterosexual and once even bedded Tess, who still loves him. (Oh, my Gosh!)

Ali still has no home. Never fear. To the rescue comes cutie-pie bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet, trying to Brad Pitt it up). Jack offers his digs, recently vacated by his fiancée. Ali moves in, takes the couch. They don’t sleep together. (Oh, my God!) Somebody is about to foreclose a mortgage on Burlesque, and the evil studly rich guy Marcus (Eric Dane) wants to buy the place, put up condos. He also wants to sleep with Ali and he dates her up and takes her to his swanky digs in the hills, but she’s too busy occupying the couch and not sleeping with Jack. (Oh my gosh and golly!)
One fateful night, another dancer tries to sabotage Ali‘s lip-synch act, but Ali saves the day by actually singing. She sounds just like Christina Aguilera! She becomes a smash hit! (Oh, my God!) Tess, inspired, throws together a new show , with live singing and the house band, in about a day. (Oh, my God!) It’s hit after hit, smash after smash, though there’s not much room in the club, and they chopped up Alan’s one song. But the editors put Ali on the cover of the L. A. Times Calendar section anyway, a venue so prestigious and exclusive they once nixed a cover pic of Robert Altman for a location story on The Player. (I swear.)

Despite this howling success, the mortgage is still due. Ali is still on Jack’s couch. Marcus is still hot to trot and he‘s furrowing his brow and bragging about his millions and his philanthropy. Tess’s old partner throws a drunken fit. Tess yells “I don’t want to put any more tequila on your cornflakes!“ (Savor that line; It’s the best they’ve got.) But one other fateful night, Jack puts on red jammies with little white things, does a strip for Ali, and holds a box of Famous Amos cookies over his thingie. (Oh, My God!)
Well, you get the drift. So, if you want to see this, go ahead. As Mad Magazine used to say all the time, “It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.“ (Or words to that effect.)

The music is by Christophe Beck. The songs are all pretty good (though I‘d like more Cher), but not worth suffering through the rest for. Wait for the DVD, so you can just play the songs and skip the drama, the comedy, the mortgage foreclosure, the tequila and cornflakes, Tucci’s zipper technique and Jack‘s red jammies. And Jack’s hidden thingie.(Oh my God!)  As they say in Chinatown, I’m doing you a favor — and that’s even if you love Cher, Christina, Tucci and Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. Lip-synched. (Oh, my God!)

Extras: Commentary by director-writer Steve Antin; Alternate opening; Alternate musical numbers; Blooper reel.

Weekend Box Office Report — December 19

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Da Doo Tron Tron

TRON: Legacy commanded the multiplex with an opening salvo estimated at $43.4 million. The movie stocking was stuffed with two other new releases plus a couple of platform films that went wide to significant response.

Yogi Bear filched $16.6 million to rank second in the marketplace while the star-laden romantic comedy How Do You Know struggled to position eight with $7.5 million.

The Fighter proved itself a contender with a $12.1 gross and Black Swan spread its wings with an impressive $7.9 million. Meanwhile there were two freshmen titles tossing their hat into the ring for award season. The starkly dramatic Rabbit Hole had an encouraging $51,700 from five venues while Casino Jack failed to beat bank with $32,100 at seven tables. In Quebec, local action comedy L’Appat had a soft debut of close to $170,000.

Overall weekend revenues saw a significant boost from the early December doldrums, but couldn’t quite overtake 2009 box office when Avatar arrived at the multiplex. Friday domestic box office inched past $10 billion (4 days faster than last year) and through the weekend it stands just 1% better than at this point last year.

The current session promised an even better result than transpired with new entries appealing to different demographics. Only TRON: Legacy conformed to tracking that predicted a result between $40 million and $45 million. The 28-year hiatus from the original has allowed the 1982 movie to accrue a cult status and brought out an avid young male audience. Stereoscopic engagements accounted for an unusually strong 80% plus, though their numbers accounted for 55% of its screen count. Its ultimate potency will be determined by building a wider audience.

The animated-live action Yogi Bear was expected to gross in the low $20 million but came up short several pic-a-nic baskets. It won’t expand beyond the family market and should limp through the holiday season. How Do You Know is already hobbled and while there were low expectations of $10 million to $12 million it failed to meet an already low bar.

The session generated roughly $135 million for a 47% bump from the prior weekend but dipped 4% from 2009. Last year’s Avatar bow of $77 million led the frame with The Princess and the Frog trailing behind with $12.2 million and Did You Hear About the Morgans? limping into theaters with $6.6 million.

Black Swan shows early signs of becoming the season’s adult hit. Though the film has divided critics and the public, it has generated fierce debate that’s translated into sales … an asset in short supply for the likes of such films as 127 Hours and Fair Game. The Fighter, while not a knockout, looks likely to get traction from awards season recognition in a race that seems — despite already announced critics awards and the Golden Globe announcement — a bit amorphous.


Weekend Estimates – December 17-19, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tron: Legacy BV 43.4 (12,580) NEW 3451 43.4
Yogi Bear WB 16.6 (4,710) NEW 3515 16.6
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Fox 12.5 (3,530) -48% 3555 42.9
The Fighter Par 12.1 (4,850) 2503 12.6
Tangled BV 8.7 (2,720) -39% 3201 127.9
The Tourist Sony 8.4 (3,040) -49% 2756 30.5
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 7.9 (8,260) 140% 959 15.3
How Do You Know Sony 7.5 (3,030) NEW 2483 7.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 4.8 (1,690) -43% 2860 265.5
Unstoppable Fox 1.8 (980) -51% 1874 77.4
Burlesque Sony 1.3 (880) -58% 1510 35.4
Due Date WB 1.2 (1,060) -52% 1157 97.3
Love and Other Drugs Fox 1.1 (970) -64% 1093 30.2
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. 1.1 (24,880) 81% 43 2.9
Megamind Par .69 (680) -73% 1025 141.6
127 Hours Fox Searchlight .51 (1,660) -49% 307 9.3
Faster CBS .41 (620) -76% 660 22.5
Red Summit .31 (710) -28% 439 88.4
The Social Network Sony .29 (1,270) 2% 228 91.9
Fair Game Summit .23 (860) -59% 268 8.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $129.60
% Change (Last Year) -4%
% Change (Last Week) 47%
Also debuting/expanding
L’Appat Alliance .17 (2,350) 72 0.17
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .14 (2,830) -10% 49 0.51
The Tempest Miramax/Maple 52,400 (2,490) 22% 21 0.12
Rabbit Hole Lionsgate 51,700 (10,320) 5 0.05
Casino Jack IDP 32,100 (4,440) 7 0.03
La Rafle Seville 28,200 (2,170) 13 0.03

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 16, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (29) 1837.8 18.40%
Paramount (19) 1622.6 16.20%
Fox (19) 1427.1 14.30%
Buena Vista (16) 1296.2 13.00%
Sony (25) 1221.2 12.20%
Universal (18) 798.5 8.00%
Summit (11) 521.7 5.20%
Lionsgate (15) 518.9 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (8) 96.1 1.00%
Overture (8) 87.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.70%
CBS (3) 72.1 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (9) 64.5 0.60%
Sony Classics (22) 59.4 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (315) 251.4 2.50%
10000.4 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 16, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,899,300
Toy Story 3 BV 415,071,937
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 292,485,544
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 260,701,257
Despicable Me Uni 250,322,315
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 162,171,789
Megamind Par 140,950,962
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,534,389
Tangled BV 119,142,932
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 116,857,736
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report — December 12

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Weekend Estimates – December 10-12, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Chronicles of Narnia: Dawn Treader Fox 24.3 (6,840) NEW 3555 24.3
The Tourist Sony 16.8 (6,110) NEW 2756 16.8
Tangled BV 14.4 (4,040) -33% 3565 115.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 8.6 (2,400) -50% 3577 257.8
Unstoppable Fox 3.7 (1,260) -37% 2967 74.3
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 3.4 (37,778) 134% 90 5.7
Burlesque Sony 3.2 (1,120) -48% 2876 32.6
Love and Other Drugs Fox 3.0 (1,330) -48% 2240 27.6
Due Date WB 2.5 (1,260) -39% 1990 94.9
Megamind Par 2.5 (1,020) -50% 2425 140.2
Faster CBS 1.7 (820) -56% 2106 21.3
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 1.0 (720) -60% 1426 20.3
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 1.0 (2,360) -39% 416 8.2
The Warrior’s Way Relativity .91 (560) -70% 1622 4.9
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .58 (30,530) 78% 19 1.5
Fair Game Summit .55 (1,260) -43% 436 8.2
Morning Glory Par .51 (510) -70% 1004 30.2
Red Summit .41 (730) -45% 564 87.9
The Fighter Par .33 (81,850) NEW 4 0.33
The Social Network Sony .27 (1,190) -35% 227 91.4
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $88.65
% Change (Last Year) -5%
% Change (Last Week) 9%
Also debuting/expanding
No Problem Eros .20 (2,400) 84 0.2
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .16 (4,490) 39% 35 0.31
The Tempest Miramax 44,700 (8,940) 5 0.04
Band Baaja Baaraat Yash Raj 43,700 (1,370) 32 0.04
Hemingway’s Garden of Eden Roadside 11,600 (830) 14 0.01
And Everything is Doing Fine IFC 6,400 (6,400) 1 0.01
You Won’t Miss Me Factory 25 4,200 (4,200) 1 0.01
Love, In Between CJ Entertainment 2,600 (2,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 9, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (28) 1821.5 18.40%
Paramount (18) 1617.9 16.40%
Fox (18) 1387.3 14.10%
Buena Vista (16) 1277.9 12.90%
Sony (24) 1193.7 12.10%
Universal (18) 798.1 8.10%
Summit (11) 520.3 5.30%
Lionsgate (15) 517.1 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (8) 89.3 0.90%
Overture (8) 85.9 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
CBS (3) 69.6 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (8) 63.6 0.60%
Sony Classics (22) 59.1 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (306) 249.5 2.50%
9876.4 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Weekend Box Office Report — December 5

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

The Warrior’s Weigh

The first weekend of December has the ignominious tradition of being one of the lowest moviegoing periods of the year. This year is no exception with but a single new wide release and holdover titles generally experiencing declines of more than 50%.

The newcomer arrived from the re-constituted Relativity Media with the martial arts actioner The Warrior’s Way. It barely squeaked into the top 10 with an estimated $3 million. Industry trackers hadn’t expected much for the picture but even their estimates were pegged significantly higher at roughly $5 million.

The frame leader was the animated Tangled with an estimated $21.5 million with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 taking the consolation prize with $16.9 million. The rest of the holdovers were indeed the deathly hallows.

However, there were a couple of spectacular exclusive debuts. The controversial and intense drama Black Swan bowed to $1.4 million, which translated into a jaw dropping per engagement average of $76,670. And the left-for-dead black comedy I Love You Phillip Morris hit the target with $109,000 from six locations and an $18,200 average. Also encouraging was the two-screen bow of the ironically titled All Good Things with $37,500.

The rest of the new niche crowd ranged from fair to poor including several new films on the Indian circuit, the independent Night Catches Us and the documentary Bhutto.

All added up, revenues amounted to about $86 million and a 54% drop from the weekend slice of Thanksgiving. It was also off 15% from the 2009 edition when the top new entry was third-ranked Brothers with $9.5 million. The 2009 leader with $20 million was The Blind Side.

Domestic box office should push past $10 billion next weekend and register a slight gain for the year when the dust settles in 26 days. It also unquestionably marks another year of theatrical admission declines; likely between 5% and 7%.

As to award’s contenders, it remains anyone’s game and last week’s announcement of honors from the National Board of Review provided scant indication of what’s to follow from major critical groups or the Hollywood Foreign Press. Apart from James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know, the anticipated upcoming releases have been seen and left prognosticators fumbling to identify leaders in any of the talent categories.


Weekend Estimates – December 3-5, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tangled BV 21.5 (5,970) -56% 3603 96.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 16.9 (4,090) -66% 4125 244.4
Burlesque Sony 6.1 (2,020) -49% 3037 27
Unstoppable Fox 6.1 (1,930) -47% 3152 68.9
Love and Other Drugs Fox 5.7 (2,310) -42% 2458 22.6
Megamind Par 4.9 (1,550) -61% 3173 136.6
Due Date WB 4.2 (1,720) -41% 2450 91
Faster CBS 3.8 (1,550) -55% 2470 18.1
The Warrior’s Way Relativity 3.0 (1,870) NEW 1622 3
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 2.6 (1,150) -45% 2236 18.3
Morning Glory Par 1.7 (760) -56% 2263 29.1
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 1.6 (3,790) -4% 433 6.6
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 1.4 (76,670) NEW 18 1.4
Fair Game Summit 1.0 (2,320) -27% 436 7.3
Red Summit .75 (960) -45% 779 87.2
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate .45 (930) -67% 485 37.3
Lance et compte Seville .43 (4,480) -31% 96 1.3
Skyline Uni/Alliance .42 (730) -63% 578 20.9
The Social Network Sony .41 (1,580) -42% 260 91
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .32 (53,000) -10% 6 0.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $81.25
% Change (Last Year) -15%
% Change (Last Week) -54%
Also debuting/expanding
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .11 (18,200) 6 0.11
Raktacharitra 2 Viva/Happy 94,200 (4,100) 23 0.09
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey Viva 65,300 (960) 68 0.07
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 45,700 (1,040) -31% 44 0.14
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,600 (3,600) -37% 11 0.18
All Good Things Magnolia 37,500 (18,750) 2 0.04
Dead Awake New Film 31,400 (570) 55 0.03
Mar Jawan Gur Khake Punjabi 18,800 (6,270) 3 0.02
Night Catches Us Magnolia 12,100 (3,020) 4 0.01
Bhutto First Run 7,800 (3,900) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1792.9 18.40%
Paramount (18) 1609.2 16.50%
Fox (18) 1371.7 14.00%
Buena Vista (16) 1252.3 12.80%
Sony (24) 1185.4 12.10%
Universal (18) 797.2 8.20%
Summit (11) 517.9 5.30%
Lionsgate (15) 512.4 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (7) 84.7 0.90%
Overture (7) 81.9 0.80%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
CBS (3) 64.2 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (8) 63.1 0.70%
Sony Classics (22) 58.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (301) 246.6 2.50%
9763.8 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Global Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 1,955,694,414
Toy Story 3 BV 1,065,128,004
Alice in Wonderland BV 1,024,537,295
Inception WB 840,550,911
Shrek Forever After Par 738,351,966
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 699,325,617
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 634,033,738
Iron Man 2 Par 622,718,600
Despicable Me Uni 534,415,944
How to Train Your Dragon Par 495,921,283
Clash of the Titans WB 489,778,913
Sherlock Holmes * WB 367,796,599
The Karate Kid Sony 359,429,551
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time BV 335,816,141
The Last Airbender Par 319,062,129
Robin Hood Uni 312,207,159
Shutter Island Par 301,977,955
Sex and the City 2 WB 301,158,934
Salt Sony 293,955,694
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 292,972,689
The Expendables Lionsgate 272,550,235
Grown Ups Sony 271,417,359
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 264,341,533
Knight and Day Fox 261,206,060
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 226,497,298
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Estimates — December 5

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1|16.9|-66%|244.4
Love and Other Drugs|5.7|-42%|22.6
Due Date|4.2|-41%|91
The Warrior’s Way|3.0|NEW |3.0
The Next Three Days|2.6|-45%|18.3

Friday Estimates — December 4

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1|4.8|4125|-77%|232.3
Love and Other Drugs|1.9|2458|-49%|18.9
Due Date |1.4|2450|-52%|88.1
The Warrior’s Way |1.1|1622|NEW|1.1
The Next Three Days |0.8|2564|-57%|16.5
Also Debuting
Black Swan|0.42|18||0.42
Raktacharitra 2|35,700|23||35,700
I Love You Phillip Morris|30,400|6||30,400
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey|19,900|68||19,900
All Good Things|11,100|2||11,100
Dead Awake|10,700|55||10,700
Mar Jawan Gur Khake|5,300|3||5,300
Night Catches Us|3,900|4||3,900
* in millions

Weekend Box Office Report — November 28

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Tangled Up in Blues … and Reds

A quartet of new releases for Thanksgiving failed to topple Harry Potter from the top of the charts during the gobble, gobble fest. The first part of the Potter finale — Deathly Hallows — grossed an estimated $51.2 million for the weekend portion of the holiday frame. Just a cluck behind was the animated Rapunzel of Tangled with $49.2 million ($69.1 million for the 5-days).

The other three wide release freshmen clustered in positions five to seven with indifferent results. The glitzy musical Burlesque crooned $11.4 million, rom-com Love and Other Drugs ingested $9.6 million and Faster added a tortoise-paced $8.2 million.

The big noise of the session proved to be the well positioned awards contender The King’s Speech that amassed a heady $86,000 screen average from just four venues. There was also an impressive $610,000 for local hockey comedy Lance et compte in Quebec, but a dull $212,000 for Bollywood entry Break Ke Baad. And a new seasonal Nutcracker in 3D was virtually D.O.A. with a $62,700 tally from 42 screens.

Adding it all up, Thanksgiving box office was a smidgen less than last year’s result.

Industry trackers generally predicted that Deathly Hallows would prevail at the box office but few anticipated that Tangled would be truly competitive with the Hogwart’s grad. They also generally over estimated the strengths of the remaining trio of new entries; especially Faster, which was given the edge over Love and Other Drugs.

Overall weekend numbers added up to roughly $187 million that translated into a 6% decline from the immediate prior session. It was also a slight 1% decline from Thanksgiving weekend 2009 when The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Blind Side led with respectively $42.9 million and $40.1 million. The top new entry, Old Dogs, ranked fourth with $16.9 million.

The current session also saw expansions for 127 Hours and Fair Game that were encouraging but nonetheless displayed signs of fatigue. Still with critics groups just weeks away from announcements both films could well experience second winds. The potent arrival of The King’s Speech however has put that film in the forefront and its now vying with a real royal wedding as well as a smattering of pictures yet to be seen for late year honors.


Weekend Estimates – November 26-28, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 51.2 (12,420) -59% 4125 221.2
Tangled BV 49.2 (13,660) NEW 3603 69.1
Megamind Par 12.9 (3,770) -20% 3411 130.5
Unstoppable Fox 11.7 (3,670) -10% 3183 60.6
Burlesque Sony 11.4 (3,740) NEW 3037 16.8
Love and Other Drugs Fox 9.6 (3,920) NEW 2455 13.8
Faster CBS 8.2 (3,360) NEW 2451 11.8
Due Date WB 7.2 (2,830) -19% 2555 84.9
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 4.8 (1,860) -27% 2564 14.5
Morning Glory Par 4.0 (1,630) -24% 2441 26.4
127 Hours Searchlight 1.7 (5,900) 89% 293 4.4
Fair Game Summit 1.6 (3,960) 8% 396 6
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 1.4 (2,360) -38% 605 36.6
Red Summit 1.4 (1,540) -43% 914 86.2
Skyline Uni/Alliance 1.1 (900) -70% 1189 20.1
The Social Network Sony .73 (2,510) -22% 291 90.4
Secretariat BV .66 (1.310) -32% 502 57.6
Lance et compte Seville .61 (6,930) NEW 88 0.61
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .36 (1,970) -10% 184 4.2
Despicable Me Uni .35 (1,320) 31% 266 249.7
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .34 (86,030) NEW 4 0.34
Inside Job Sony Classics .31 (2,330) -9% 132 2.6
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $179.40
% Change (Last Year) -1%
% Change (Last Week) -6%
Also debuting/expanding
Break Ke Baad Reliance .21 (2,500) 85 0.33
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 62,700 (1,490) 42 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 62.500 (5,680) 64% 11 0.12
The Legend of Pale Male Balcony 11,400 (11,400) 1 0.01
The Unjust CJ 7,200 (7,200) 1 0.01
Tere Ishq Nachaye Eros 4,200 (200) 21 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 21, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1674.1 17.80%
Paramount (18) 1578.1 16.70%
Fox (17) 1333.8 14.10%
Buena Vista (15) 1174.6 12.50%
Sony (23) 1161.6 12.30%
Universal (18) 793.9 8.40%
Summit (11) 512.7 5.40%
Lionsgate (15) 500.4 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.8 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 81.4 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.6 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.8 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (296) 242.7 2.60%
9431.9 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Limited Releases * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 21, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Hubble 3D WB 18,355,494
The Ghost Writer Summit 15,569,712
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance 11,282,938
The Young Victoria * Apparition/Alliance 11,131,232
Get Low Sony Classics 9,080,285
A Single Man * Weinstein Co. 7,935,872
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance 7,837,823
Cyrus Fox Searchlight 7,461,082
Babies Focus 7,444,272
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasus * E1/Sony Classics 7,394,171
City Island Anchor Bay 6,671,036
The Last Station Sony Classics 6,617,867
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics 6,391,436
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 6,350,058
Winter’s Bone Roadside Attraction 6,225,414
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage 6,130,466
Under the Sea 3D * WB 5,504,062
Precious Lions Gate 5,085,319
I Am Love Magnolia 5,002,411
An Education * Sony Classics 4,963,224
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Estimates — November 28

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1|51.2|-59%|221.2
Love and Other Drugs|9.6|New|13.8
Due Date|7.2|-19%|84.9
The Next Three Days|4.8|-27%|14.5
Morning Glory|4.0|-24% |26.4

Friday Estimates – November 27

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1|20.8|4125|-45%|190.8
Love and Other Drugs|3.7|2455|New|7.9
Due Date |2.8|2555|-3%|77.7
The Next Three Days |1.9|2564|-15%|11.7
Morning Glory |1.6|2441|-1%|24
Also Debuting
Lance et compte|0.25|88||0.25
The King’s Speech|0.12|4||0.12
Break Ke Baad|70,400|85||70,400
Nutcracker 3D|25,100|44||25,100
The Legend of Pale Male|3,300|1||3,300
The Unjust|1,900|1||1,900

Critics Roundup — November 26

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Break Ke Baad|||||
Faster |||||
Love and Other Drugs |||Green||
The Nutcracker in 3-D |||||

Box Office Hell — November 25

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Our Players|Coming Soon|Box Office Prophets|Box Office Guru|EW|Box Office . com
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1|76.5|80.7|50|53|55
Burlesque |20.0|7.4|19|13|12
Love and Other Drugs|13.6|11.2|12|10|11.5

Dwayne Johnson Goes Faster

Friday, October 29th, 2010

FASTER Trailer

Monday, July 19th, 2010
An ex-con sets out to avenge his brother’s death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he’s tracked by a veteran cop and an egocentric hit man.