Posts Tagged ‘Grown Ups’

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 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 Box Office Report — November 21

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Harry and the Deathly Swallows … Gulp!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 ascended to an estimated $126.2 million and corralled more than 60% of weekend ticket sales. Comparatively speaking the remaining films in the multiplex had to settle for chump change, including the bow of the thriller The Next Three Days which slotted fifth with $6.7 million.

The session also included the new Bollywood release Guzaarish, which garnered a better than respectable $423,000 at 108 venues. Among the few exclusive bows both the British import Made in Dagenham and France’s White Material were just OK with respective openings of $39,300 and $35,800, each playing on three screens.

It was the biggest opening yet for a Harry Potter film but while the juggernaut provided a big box office boost from last weekend it was insufficient to stave off a decline from 2009.

Expectations were high for the first installment of the last chapter of the Potter franchise. Advance sales and online tracking anticipated a $100 million debut and that number expanded following word of advance Thursday midnight screenings estimated at $24 million. Large format engagements were estimated at $12.4 million and if that number holds up it will be a record.

Internationally the early estimates are roughly $205 million from 54 markets. It includes all-time records in the U.K. and Russia and otherwise just sensational debuts elsewhere. The final, final Potter putter is schedule for July 2011.

On a decidedly downbeat note, The Next Three Days came in well below tracking that suggested a $10 million launch. The film also received a drubbing from critics.

Weekend revenues lurched toward $200 million, which translated into a 64% hike from seven days back. It was however 25% behind the 2009 slate led by the second installment of Twilight (New Moon), which bowed bitingly to $142.8 million with the unexpectedly $34.1 million potency of The Blind Side right behind it.

The contender’s roster failed to see any additional dynamos this weekend and the titles already in the marketplace were finding the Darwinian aspect of the exercise unrelenting. Both Fair Game and 127 Hours added a significant number of playdates with the latter continuing to maintain a hefty $8,330 engagement average. The other surprise in the mix is the continuing stamina of the non-fiction Inside Job that’s racked up $2.2 million to date.


Weekend Estimates – November 19-21, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 126.2 (30,600) NEW 4125 126.2
Megamind Par 16.2 (4,280) -45% 3779 109.5
Unstoppable Fox 13.0 (4,060) -43% 3207 41.9
Due Date WB 8.9 (2,760) -42% 3229 72.4
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 6.7 (2,590) NEW 2564 6.7
Morning Glory Par 5.2 (2,050) -43% 2544 19.8
Skyline Uni/Alliance 3.4 (1,170) -71% 2883 17.6
Summit 2.4 (1,190) -51% 2034 83.5
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 2.3 (1,920) -64% 1216 34.5
Fair Game Summit 1.4 (3,730) 41% 386 3.7
Secretariat BV 1.0 (970) -56% 1010 56.4
Paranormal Activity 2 Par .93 (840) -69% 1101 83.6
The Social Network Sony .91 (1,590) -49% 571 89.2
127 Hours Searchlight .90 (8,330) 104% 108 1.9
Saw 3D Lionsgate .82 (1,020) -71% 806 45.3
Jackass 3D Par .72 (1,050) -68% 687 116.1
Life As We Know It WB .52 (930) -50% 558 51.6
Guzaarish UTV .42 (3,910) NEW 108 0.42
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .41 (2,180) -22% 188 3.5
Inside Job Sony Classics .37 (1,770) -22% 211 2.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $191.50
% Change (Last Year) -25%
% Change (Last Week) 64%
Also debuting/expanding
Today’s Special Reliance 88,400 (1,670) 53 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,300 (13,100) 3 0.04
White Material IFC 35,800 (11,930) 3 0.04
Queen of the Lot Rainbow 16,400 (2,730) 6 0.02
Copacabana Seville 14,100 (2,010) 7 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (18) 1555.1 16.80%
Warner Bros. (26) 1538.8 16.70%
Fox (17) 1320.7 14.30%
Buena Vista (15) 1173.4 12.70%
Sony (23) 1160.3 12.60%
Universal (18) 790.4 8.60%
Summit (11) 508.5 5.50%
Lionsgate (14) 490.6 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.7 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 80.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.1 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.5 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.3 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (288) 240.7 2.60%
9236.6 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,883,415
Toy Story 3 BV 414,681,777
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 291,914,445
Despicable Me Uni 248,900,040
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 162,147,232
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,256,755
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 115,357,091
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
* does not include 2009 box office

The DVD Wrap: Antichrist, The Elia Kazan Collection, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, Grown Ups … and more

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Antichrist: The Criterion Collection

Controversies that erupt at film festivals, Cannes especially, practically define what it means to stir “a tempest in a teapot.” For two weeks, the upper crust of the international film community – and way too many crusty critics – come together for the sole purpose of promoting cinema and themselves. The awards handed out to the men and women who make the films in competition are important for a dozen different good reasons, critics relish the opportunity to watch dozens of movies from around the world, almost in one long sitting, even those that will never see the light of a projection room back home.

In the last couple of years, as well, editors have demanded of their writers that they blog and tweet instant analysis of the films they’ve just seen, plus report the gossip and attend parties. The natural inclination is to report every “boo” as if it were a chorus and every walk-out a stampede. Such was the case with Realm of the Senses, Brown Bunny, Irreversible, Marie Antoinette, Trouble Every Day and Hail Mary. Ask the distributors of these films if they still think all publicity is good publicity.

Lars von Trier’s Antichrist created just such a raucous at Cannes. When it arrived on these shores, a few months later, hardly anyone even realized it was here. Antichrist isn’t a film made for the “entertainment” of its audience. If anything, it appears to have served more as a therapeutic tool for the writer/director, who, before production began, spent two months in a hospital for depression. In the attached interview, Von Trier describes his history of anxiety attacks and their debilitating effect on his creative process.

Having watched Antichrist for the first time on the Criterion Collection edition, it’s easy to see how it might have been inspired by nightmares and bouts with personal demons. It’s a horror fantasy, complete with talking animals, implements of torture and images right out of the Devine Comedy or a Bosch triptych.

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play an anonymous couple – He and She suffice — who, in the first scene, are too distracted by passionate sex to notice their toddler is about to fall out of a suspiciously open window. She becomes hysterical with grief and self-recriminations, while He simultaneously attempts to reason with his wife and deflect his own guilt feelings. We sense things are about to get really crazy when we learn She is studying the role of women in witchcraft, misogyny and the practice of “gynocide” throughout history.

He, a psychologist, suggests they spend time together in the remote mountain lair, Eden, even though She considers nature to be “Satan’s church.” Indeed, even the animals they encounter have demonic traits. No sooner does She declare herself cured of her guilt feelings than she completely flips out, confusing sex with torture and love with hate.

What happens in these scenes has been compared to the “torture porn” popularized in such movies as Saw. There’s no question Von Trier is a skillful director, whose ambition occasionally outdistances the substance of his material. In Antichrist, the most shocking moments – and they are that – are artfully lit, delicately paced and intricately choreographed. If that doesn’t sound as if it would be your cup of tea, no amount of great acting and cinematography will make it taste any better, probably.

To those who viewers impressed by the film, however, the Criterion Collection edition offers plenty of bonus material on which to chew. It includes a newly restored high-def digital transfer; commentary by Von Trier and educator Murray Smith; video interviews with Von Trier, Dafoe and Gainsbourg; a collection of video pieces exploring into the production of Antichrist; the featurette, Chaos Reigns at the Cannes Film Festival 2009; theatrical trailers; and a booklet, with a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ian Christie.


The Elia Kazan Collection

No discussion of Elia Kazan’s career can go on very long before someone not only brings up the subject of “naming names” before the HUAC hearings, but also attempts to devalue his entire resume for doing so. Old scabs were picked when it was announced that the director would be granted an Honorary Award during the 1999 Academy Awards ceremony.

Several prominent actors, most of whom had never been forced to choose between a job and principle, refused to participate in the customary standing ovation. Long after Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, Jack L. Warner, Louis B. Mayer, John Wayne and dozens of “friendly witnesses” had been given a pass, the 90-year-old Greek immigrant and two-time Oscar winner was being asked to deliver a final, “mea culpa.” There’s a big difference between forgiving and forgetting, an act no one in Hollywood was being asked to do.

In his A Letter to Elia, which kicks The Elia Kazan Collection into high gear, Martin Scorsese acknowledges the controversy that tarnished Kazan’s reputation, without dwelling on it. His narration provides a survey of Kazan’s life and triumphs on stage and in the movies. Moreover, it explains how such classics as On the Waterfront and East of Eden literally changed the way Scorsese lived his life and anticipated a career in films.

A Letter to Elia also describes how Kazan’s movies reflected his own experiences and those of his family. The archival material, clips and interviews shape a riveting portrait of the artist. A collector’s booklet covers much of the same territory in text, photos, publicity material and assembled credits.

What follows are 15 of the master’s 19 features, including 5 titles new to DVD (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Viva Zapata!, Man on a Tightrope, Wild River and America, America). They range from early noir crime thrillers (Panic in the Streets, Boomerang!) and message films (Gentleman’s Agreement, Pinky), through the great literary and theatrical adaptations of the 1950s, and on to his most personal film, America, America. Each is wonderful in its own way.

You’d need to use a calculator to keep track of the Oscar wins and nominations accrued by the films, casts and behind-the-camera talent represented in these films. Besides the unforgettable repeat performances of Marlon Brando, James Dean, Natalie Wood, Walter Matthau, Lee Remick, Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden, it’s also fun to watch such long-ago stars as Joan Blondell, Gregory Peck, Warren Beatty, Raymond Massey, Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore, Richard Widmark, Anthony Quinn, Frederic March, Carroll Baker, Andy Griffith and Montgomery Clift. For the film buffs on your gift list, “The Elia Kazan Collection” easily qualifies as a no-brainer.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Blu-ray

The producers of the madly inventive Scott Pilgrim vs. the World must have thought they’d landed in Bizarro World when opening-weekend box-office tallies failed to match the positive buzz generated at ComicCon and in overwhelmingly glowing reviews from the mainstream media. OK, I hear what you’re saying: why should anyone under 30 trust any review written by a mainstream critic, especially about a movie adapted from a beloved comic book?

Well, how about this blurb from a review penned by Fanboy-in-Chief Harry Knowles?: “Sheer Imagination. Pure Kinetic Energy. A Genuine Visual Expression of the Essence of Rock N Roll Upon Geek Culture.” Don’t look to me for answers, though. After watching the movie for the first time on the splendid Blu-ray edition, I saw no reason why “SPVTW” couldn’t have matched the opening-weekend numbers of “Kick-Ass.”I could only come up with three possible explanation: 1) Michael Cera had exhausted all of his boyish charm, 2) members of the target audience were loathe to pull away from their video games for two hours, or 3) the more technically sophisticated residents of geekdom had already pirated “SPVTW” and shared it with all their Facebook friends.

Typically, movies heavy on CGI play extremely well in Blu-ray. The bonus features, alone, should make SPVTW a must-buy for anyone who cut their gaming teeth on Mario Bros. or remembers watching Cera grow up on Arrested Development. Finally playing someone his own age, 22, Cera’s Scott Pilgrim is a gangly Canadian rock musician who unexpectedly finds himself with a retinue of past and future girlfriends. The one to whom he’s most attracted requires more than the usual amount of wooing, though.

To win the Technicolor-haired Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Pilgrim must battle seven of her evil ex-lovers in hyper-kinetic duels straight out of The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario 64. Like Link, Pilgrim draws his strength from passing various tests and collecting superpowers. The terrific British director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) worked closely with Bryan Lee O’Malley – creator of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and video game – to ensure his movie would ring true with fans, and it shows.

The soundtrack also rocks, with music by the Sex Bob-Ombs, Beck, Crash and the Boys and composer Nigel Godrich. Also turning in nice performances are Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Kieran Culkin, as Pilgrim’s gay roommate.

Not surprisingly, the supplemental material is practically worth the price of admission, alone. In addition to four separate commentary tracks, there are 21 deleted scenes, bloopers, a 49-minute making-of documentary, footage of concert rehearsals, music videos, alternate footage and edits, pre-production material, a special-effects package, the animated short Adult Swim: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation, the director’s blog, a stills gallery, trivia track and U Control, with PIP storyboards. Fans of the movie will want to learn how Wright pulled off the amazing stunts and effects.


Grown Ups: Blu-ray

Unlike Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which critics loved and audiences mostly ignored, Grown Ups scored a direct hit at the box office, despite reviews that essentially described Adam Sandler and his cronies as lazy and self-satisfied.

There’s nothing to be gained by criticizing an audience’s willingness to support mediocre films, while dozens of really good movies can barely find a distributor, so I’ll simply say that I agree with the critics on Grown Ups and leave it at that. Producer/co-writer/director Sandler rounded up friends Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade and Rob Schneider in the service of a sentimental comedy that once again re-unites members of a champion high school basketball team after a beloved coach (or a player) dies.

To memorialize their coach, the men plan to spread his ashes outside a lakeside home they used as a refuge while kids. Along with their families, the old friends also hope to unwind from the pressures of urban life. The only other thing to know going into Grown Ups is that members of a rival team (Tim Meadows, Colin Quinn, and Steve Buscemi, among them) still live in the community and demand a rematch for their disputed loss, decades earlier. Otherwise, the men are merely older versions of their former selves, with the same personality traits, skills and hang-ups.

Grown Ups may, indeed, be a lazy production, but Sandler’s fan base has never demanded much of him artistically, or, for that matter, from his co-stars. (Rock is barely asked to work up a sweat, even in the basketball game.) The best material is reserved for the women in the cast, including such known quantities as Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph.

In short, fans of the stars of Grown Ups will cut the movie far more slack than those hoping to see one full of fresh ideas and original gags. The Blu-ray package adds a commentary track with and short profile of veteran comedy director Dennis Dugan; deleted scenes and a gag reel; The Lost Tapes of Norm MacDonald, which is as funny as anything in the movie; a look at the careers of the primary cast; a short piece, Busey and the Monkey; and BD-Live functionality.


Three and Out

Two years after it was released in England, Jonathan Gershfield’s dark comedy Three and Out (a.k.a., A Deal Is a Deal) arrives here on the straight-to-DVD express. Fans of smallish British ensemble pieces should like it, if only for the acting. Gemma Arterton, Colm Meaney and Imelda Staunton are known quantities in America, while Mackenzie Crook is familiar primarily for playing Garth Keenan in the original British version of “The Office.” (The role would inform Rainn Wilson’s portrayal of Dwight Shrute.)

Crook plays Paul Callow, a singularly unlucky train engineer who is unable to brake fast enough to avoid hitting two people in two weeks. Although neither fatal accident is his fault, Callow is shaken to his core. When one of his fellow drivers tells him that a third death would force the company to offer him early retirement and 10 years salary, Callow goes off in search of someone desperate to commit suicide. He finds it in Meaney’s Tommy Cassidy, a burglar who only wants to re-connect with his estranged wife and daughter before falling in front of the train. The more time Callow spends in Cassidy’s company, however, the less likely it becomes that the engineer can pull it off. The extras include a making-of featurette and deleted scenes.


Love Ranch

In an introduction filmed for the DVD, director Taylor Hackford describes what’s about to be seen as a “workplace” drama, with an unconventional romance – or two – at its center. His wife and the star of Love Ranch, Helen Mirren, stands alongside him, looking as if she had been awakened from an uneasy sleep. If one is able to read between the lines, Hackford is telling viewers that the version they’re about to watch isn’t the one he wanted them to see, and some of the best stuff he shot was saved from the cutting-room floor as evidence to be presented in the DVD package. And, he’s right.

Some of the deleted scenes are better than what ended up in the movie, which was shown in only a handful of theaters and given no marketing support. Not surprisingly, Mirren is very good as Grace Bontempo, who, along with her husband, Charlie (Joe Pesci), run Nevada’s first legal brothel, not far from Reno. Set in 1976, “Love Ranch” describes the rough-and-tumble atmosphere that surrounded the early days of legal prostitution in the state, when corrupt officials demanded kickbacks and cops served as bouncers and debt collectors. The prostitutes worked three weeks on and a week off, like “fireman,” often living in the same rooms in which they serviced customers.

It was the rare working girl who had a college education. Most were damaged in one way or another. All were capable of demonstrating great compassion one moment and petty jealousy the next. Grace was not only required to manage their diverse personality traits, but also cope with the temper tantrums and unfaithfulness of her unpredictable ex-con husband. One day, he announces that he’s assumed financial control of an Argentine heavyweight (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and he needs Grace to represent him as his manager. The handsome brute seals his fate by falling in love with Grace and allowing her to fall for him.

Love Ranch is based on the true-life story of Mustang Ranch owners Joe and Sally Conforte, as well as the final days of boxer Oscar Bonavena. Despite the seeming abandonment of the film by the distributor, Love Ranch is an entirely watchable entertainment, with genuinely fine performances from its leads. Also appearing in the cast are Gina Gershon, Taryn Manning, Ling Bai, Bryan Cranston, Emily Rios and Melora Walters. The set includes Hackford’s commentary, the introduction and deleted scenes.


Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives

As a rule, the movies with the best titles are found in the “cult” section of your better video stores. Indeed, the titles are usually better than movies themselves. Occasionally, though, a ringer manages to escape the dreck. Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives is no great shakes, really, but it meets the demands of the grindhouse genre and would be fun to watch at a party or midnight screening.

Israel Luna’s send-up of ‘70s exploitation flicks is essentially a tale of revenge, in which some glamorous transvestites exact revenge on a trio of thugs who didn’t expect to find a penis at the end of their rainbows … even if they picked up the ladies in a club known for its female impersonators. That’s really all one needs by way of plot description. What really sells the movie is its campy dialogue, ever-present evening gowns, far-out makeup and pedal-to-the-metal attitude.

Luna also would love for viewers to think the movie had been rescued from a closet in a long-closed drive-in movie, as it looks to be well into the process of decay. Beyond the snap, crackle, pops and scratches, entire spools appear to have been lost or tortured. If nothing else, Trannies makes you long for the days when John Waters and Devine still were considered subversive.

Speaking of which, Waters’ discovery Mink Stole is among the cast of characters in Steve Balderson’s homage to noir women-in-prison films, Stuck! In it, Daisy (Starina Johnson) is falsely convicted of killing her suicidal mother, based solely on the testimony of a nosy neighbor. Once in stir, of course, the “Mama Killer” is surrounded by predatory lesbians, demented cellmates, sadistic guards and an evil warden. Somehow, too, the women convicts are allowed to wear fishnet stockings, spike heels and lingerie they might have ordered from the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalogue.

Credit Balderson for taking the project seriously enough to put realistically terse dialogue in the women’s mouths and back up the tough talk with a slinky jazz score and evocative black-and-white cinematography. Neither does Balderson skimp on the shower-room scenes and cat fights. The only thing that looks cheap here is Karen Black’s purposefully horrifying blond wig.


I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale

At one point in his fine bio-doc, I Knew It Was You, director Richard Shepard asks passers-by if they recognize the actor standing alongside Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and James Caan in a publicity still from The Godfather. While most correctly identify the character as Fredo Corleone, none identifies the actor, John Cazale.

It would be easy to dismiss their inability to recall his name, if it weren’t for the fact that Cazale, in his too-short life, also starred alongside such similarly great actors as Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Robert De Niro, in five of the best movies of the 1970s: The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter.

Even while sharing scenes with some of the most prominent actors of his generation, Cazale’s otherwise anonymous presence was felt. He accomplished this not by stealing any of their thunder, but by subtly enhancing what their characters were doing or saying. His ability to allow audiences to appreciate the vulnerability, weakness and humanity in his characters impressed everyone around him, on stage and in the movies.

Cazale died of lung cancer in 1978, at 42, after finishing work on The Deer Hunter. Also providing testimony in I Knew It Was You are directors Francis Ford Coppola and Sidney Lumet, actors Steve Buscemi, Richard Dreyfuss, Olympia Dukakis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Carol Kane and Sam Rockwell, and playwright Israel Horowitz. The 40-minute film is accompanied by extended interviews with Pacino and Horowitz, and two short films Cazale made in the ’60s.


Wake Up

One of the great luxuries of living in a society not bridled with a state religion or party-line explanations for spiritual phenomena – the appearance of Jesus or the Virgin Mary on a tortilla, for example — is that anyone can create their own religion to deal with the mysteries of life. Unfortunately, far too many people insist on sharing their opinions and philosophies with anyone in shouting distance.

Most dream of writing a book and going on “Oprah” to win converts to their belief system and becoming overnight millionaires. One morning, we’re told in Wake Up, an average young man awakens with an ability to see and hear angels, demons, auras and ghosts. After ruling out brain disease, Jonas Elrod decides he’ll spend the next three years documenting his search for clues and answers on film.

Everyone he meets on his quest offers a slightly different spin on God, the Void and what they consider to be the only guaranteed path to spiritual enlightenment. None is practically fresh or unusual. Not being a charter member of Bill Maher’s atheism-is-cool club, Elrod is so intent on finding inner peace and spiritual guidance that he accepts everything at face value. At the end of his journey, Elrod doesn’t appear to have discovered anything terribly revelatory, but, at least, he and girlfriend seem happy. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?


Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child

Twenty-two years after the death of Jean-Michel Basquiat — at 27, of a heroin overdose – and 14 years after Julian Schnabel’s biographical portrait in film, Tamra Davis’ affectionate bio-doc Radiant Child arrives on DVD to remind us of his enduring legacy. Basquiat rose famously from the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he first gained fame as the graffiti artist SAMO, to the heights of celebrity as a Neo-Expressionist painter.

He sold his work to rock stars and movie idols, while palling around New York with Andy Warhol and other A-list personalities. Davis’ documentary includes interviews with several of the survivors of that drug-fueled era, while also asking if her friend’s popularity could have been attributed as much to the color of skin as the accessibility of his art. Although he’d been elevated to wonderkind status, Basquiat knew he was an outsider. The New York art scene sustains itself on gossip, jealousy, cliquish behavior and an overriding admiration for one’s value in the marketplace.

Generally speaking, there’s only room for one or two outsiders at a time. Some can handle the fame, while others crash and burn. Certainly, any iconoclast with a heroin habit would find it difficult to fit into this often vapid landscape for long. The centerpiece of Radiant Child is an interview with a 25-year-old Basquiat, filmed by Davis in 1985. Also included is archival material and interviews with such scenesters as Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger, Tony Shafrazi, Fab 5 Freddy, Jeffrey Deitch, Glenn O’Brien, Maripol, Kai Eric, Nicholas Taylor, Fred Hoffmann, Michael Holman, Diego Cortez, Annina Nosei, Suzanne Mallouk, and Rene Ricard. An uncut version of the interview is part of the bonus package.


Car Bomb

In 2006, Kevin Toolis produced a documentary for British television, in which failed suicide bombers candidly discuss their rationale for strapping on a vest, tricked out with explosive material and shrapnel, for the sole purpose of killing themselves and people they consider to be infidels. Helping him gain access to this select group of would-be martyrs was ex-CIA agent Robert Baer, whose life was depicted by George Clooney in Syriana.

The men have teamed up, again, for Car Bomb. Although victims of IEDs probably would dispute the claim, the filmmaker argues that M-80s on wheels have become the decisive weapon of the 21st Century. Park a truck loaded with juiced-up fertilizer in front of a mosque or embassy, and a highly motivated terrorist could start a civil war. Better, yet, perpetrators live to brag about it. Car Bomb documents the history of the weapon, as well as the implications of its use.


Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XIX: Limited Edition

The longer one reviews DVDs as an avocation, the greater the admiration one has for the folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000 assigned the task of choosing the titles deserving of such harsh and hilarious critiques. As is now apparent, the number of movies that fall of under the general heading, “So Bad, They’re Almost Good,” not only is huge, but the inventory grows larger with each passing week.

Possibly taking the lead from Criterion Collection laserdiscs, which began offering special-edition packages in 1984, the crew of the Satellite of Love effectively introduced the audio-commentary-track concept to the masses, albeit on Comedy Central. The Volume 19 DVD package includes the immortal titles, Robot Monster (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955), Devil Doll (1964) and Devil Fish (1984).

It matters little what transpires in each movie, although it’s worth noting that Bride of the Monster represented Bela Lugosi’s second of three collaborations with Edward D. Wood Jr., and Devil Doll is about a ventriloquist’s dummy that’s trained to kill. Needless to say, Joel the Janitor and his robotic friends, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, have no trouble lampooning these all-but-forgotten gems.

The new package adds an introduction by J. Elvis Weinstein; Larry Blamire’s reflections on Robot Monster; featurettes on Bride of the Monster and Devil Doll; an interview with George “The Animal” Steele; and MST3K: Origins and Beyond: CONvergence 2009 Panel. The pièce de résistance, though, is the limited-edition Gypsy figurine included in the “Limited Edition” package.


The Dry Land: Blu-ray

It is the fate of too many veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, upon their return home, they feel as if they’ve simply trade one war zone for another. The jobs that do exist pay next to nothing and no one seems particularly interested anymore in what they were doing in those dusty shitholes to protect “American interests abroad.”

Everyone’s got more pressing problems than the preservation of corrupt democracies in Kabul and Baghdad. Hell, Americans don’t even want to watch movies about the war. Ryan Piers Williams’ home-front drama, The Dry Land, describes one such homecoming. Everyone in his dry-as-dirt Texas town is ecstatic to see James (Ryan O’Nan) return home, apparently in one piece. It isn’t long before gossips start spreading the word of his strategic loss of memory and his unconscious nocturnal attacks on his wife (America Ferrera).

If only James could remember what happened to him, he might be able to shake his constant feeling of dread and take his finger off his hair-trigger temper. James’ depression is heightened, as well, by the failing health of his mother (Melissa Leo) and a bottom-rung job at his father-in-law’s slaughterhouse. (As metaphors go, that one is a doozey.) After hitting rock bottom, James decides to connect with an old army buddy (Wilmer Valderrama), who might have some compassion for his situation and join him on a road trip to Walter Reed hospital.

Once there, a seriously wounded friend might be able to fill in the holes of James’ memory. This, of course, opens another can of worms. The Dry Land is a competently made drama that comes perilously close to stacking the deck against its own protagonist, as was the case with Brothers. Everyone in the cast does a fine job and Williams effectively puts the war in Iraq and the war inside James’ head on parallel tracks.


Damned by Dawn: Blu-ray

You just don’t see many good banshee movies these days. According to Irish legend, the banshee is a female spirit whose appearance anticipates the death of members of certain prominent families. Their arrival can be telegraphed by barely audible moans or loud shrieks.

The banshee we meet in the Aussie thriller, Damned by Dawn, is of the latter variety. As usual, everyone in the movie makes all the wrong moves while waiting for their bed-ridden grandmother to die. First of all, they ignore the old woman’s request to let the banshee go about her business undisturbed. Then, during a storm, the men in the house decide to check out what’s hiding in the encroaching ground fog. (Ground fog in a storm? Don’t ask.) They also enter caves, armed only with flashlights, and peer through windows heavy with condensation, daring the ghouls to pop up during a lightning strike and scare the crap out of them.

Clichés aside, though, Damned by Dawn does manage to raise goose bumps and deliver jolts of surprise. It does lose steam in places, but a palpable aura of dread permeates most of the story. Newcomer Renee Wilner delivers an especially satisfying performance as the most inquisitive member of the family. Dark and pretty, Wilner should be able to find work in the greener pastures of Hollywood. The Blu-ray adds commentary and a making-of short.


The Brazen Bull
Hunt to Kill

According to, Michael Madsen currently has no fewer than 30 titles in one stage of production or another. With the death of James Brown, this officially makes the 53-year-old Chicago native the hardest working man in show business. In his latest straight-to-DVD thriller, The Brazen Bull, Madsen’s character doesn’t come into play for quite a while. Instead, we watch a pair of yuppies – one of whom, played by 29-year-old Jennifer Tisdale, looks and speaks as if she’s still in her teens — prepare to renovate a building they’d purchased after it went into foreclosure.

Little do they know that the largely gutted structure is inhabited by a mysterious squatter, who calls himself Brazen Bull. Madsen’s unhinged character is pissed off about something, but what exactly isn’t made clear until the blood starts flowing and appendages are sawed off. Douglas Elford-Argent’s film is a nasty piece of business that looks very much as if it were shot on the cheap, with the primary expense being the hiring of Madsen and Rachel Hunter, as the world’s most beautiful police detective. It does manage to raise a few goose bumps, though.

If you can get your head around the idea of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin playing a Texas Border Patrol officer alongside Eric Roberts, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Hunt to Kill. Others may want to pass. In his mostly straight-to-DVD flicks, Austin tends not to look for shades of gray in the criminals he pursues. The genre demands action, the villains require justice and average citizens want to live uneventful lives.

Here, Austin and Roberts make the mistake of busting a meth lab before ensuring their own safety. Four years later, Roberts is long gone and Austin is patrolling an entirely different border. While in snowy Montana, he also has to cope with a teenage daughter heading for an appointment on the wrong side of the law. When she’s taken hostage by a group of hoodlums led by Gil Bellows, Austin is required to take that same law into his own hands. The mountain scenery is an asset.


Light Gradient

As this lethargic story unfolds, newly attached lovers Johann and Robin venture deeper into Germany’s beautiful Brandenburg Forest, shedding traces of their previous lives along the way. The handsome young men seem to enjoy each other’s company, even as the clouds of destiny grow darker above them. Desperately hungry, they are invited to stay in a farmhouse owned by a thirtysomething woman and her equally handsome and seemingly vulnerable teenage son.

There’s a palpable air of sexual tension underneath that roof, but it’s difficult to say in which direction it’s flowing. Indeed, the sex in Light Gradient is mostly implied. I can’t say that I understand the ending, but I know it has something to do with do with the sinister beauty of the forest – especially at night – and the young men’s inability to merge with it. Light Gradient is a gorgeous film to look at, even if it leaves viewers scratching the heads as the final credits roll.


Lovely, Still

It’s interesting that a triple-hyphenate filmmaker, still in his early 20s, was able to cast Oscar-winners Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, and the always interesting Adam Scott and Elizabeth Banks, in a rom-com for the seniors’ crowd. Substantial roles for these wonderful veteran actors either are few and far between or a talent agent owed Nik Fackler a huge favor.

Oh, yeah, Lovely, Still also features original music by Conor Oberst and a score by Nate Walcott and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes. (I’m guessing that this has a lot to do with the fact that the movie was shot in Omaha, home to the director, the musicians and the artist whose paintings appear in it. So, where’s Alexander Payne?)

Landau and Burstyn play a pair of old-timers who meet-cute in his unlocked home. Mary takes the bull by the horns by asking Landau’s Robert Malone for a date, leading the inexperienced gentleman to ask friends a series of questions a 16-year-old might need answered before his first real date. Lovely, Still is set at Christmastime, so there’s more than a little bit of magic in the air, along with far too much holiday schmaltz. Everything’s fine in their December-December relationship, until Fackler pulls a very dark rabbit out of his hat and the movie reveals its true identity.


Sherlock: Season One
The Boondocks: The Complete Third Season
thirtysomething: The Complete Fourth and Final Season
The Super Hero Squad Show: Quest for the Infinity Sword

I wasn’t a big fan of Guy Ritchie’s re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes as an action hero, last summer. Neither was I looking forward particularly to BBC/PBS’ contemporization, Sherlock, which is being shown currently on “Masterpiece Mystery!” The last thing I wanted to find in Holmes’ hands was a cell phone or laptop computer. Or, so I thought.

In fact, “Sherlock” is a welcome addition to the Holmes/Watson canon, thanks to performances by Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement) and Martin Freeman (The Office) in the lead roles, and Rupert Graves (The Forsyte Saga) as Inspector Lestrade. Cumberbatch’s Holmes is insular and mysterious. He refers to himself as a consulting detective. Dr. Watson is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he developed a taste for warfare.

The good news is that, while crime-solving techniques may have advanced exponentially over the last 100 years, the fundamentals remain elementary. The stories adapted for the series and collected here are A Study in Pink, in which a series of suicides may or may not be linked to murder; The Blind Banker, which involves a break-in at a bank, where nothing is stolen but an employee is later found dead; and The Great Game, which requires Holmes to play cat-and-mouse with a bomber. Sherlock was conceived and writer by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, producers of Dr. Who.

Speaking of which, Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series also arrives on DVD this week. Matt Smith takes over as the 11th doctor, while Karen Gillan plays an adult Amy Pond. The new series begins with the TARDIS time-travel spacecraft plummeting from the sky and a reunion with Amy. Before returning to the stars with his companion, the doctor is required to save Earth from an alien plot. The weird creatures just keep on coming, though.

The bonus material includes newly filmed scenes, written by Moffat and exclusive to DVD and Blu-ray, telling what happens between the episodes; “Doctor Who Confidential,” an inside look at each episode; Monster Files; In-Vision commentaries; outtakes and video diaries.

The third-season DVD of The Boondocks opens with a German film crew following the Freeman family around during Barak Obama’s campaign for the White House. It doesn’t take long, though, for things to return to what passes for normal on the Adult Swim show. The box set includes introductions by Cedric Yarbrough and Gary Anthony Williams; several commentaries; Slink on the Street; a sketch gallery; and making-of material.

The final season of thirtysomething, one of the most influential series in television history, arrives with few, if any of the bonus features that fans came to expect from previous DVD packages. Considering how much happens to the self-indulgent boomers during the show’s fourth stanza – romantically, financially and otherwise – this is a disappointment. The episodes continue to speak for themselves, though. (Watch thirtysomething alongside NBC’s Parenthood if you don’t believe me about its still being influential.)

In the second volume of Quest for the Infinity Sword, the Super Hero Squad gets its kicks protecting Super Hero City from Dr. Doom and the VillainVilles. Among the guest vocal actors are Kevin Michael Richardson (Family Guy), Greg Grunberg (Heroes), Wayne Knight (Seinfeld), Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone) and Lena Headey (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

MW on DVDs: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Chaplin at Keystone, Moulin Rouge … and more

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010


Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Three Stars)

U.S.; Edgar Wright, 2010

Oh, to be a kid again. To feel the juices and saps running madly, to get wildly excited about comic books and top ten hit-lists and about the last good new teen movie you saw (the whole canon from A Hard Day’s Night to Superbad) and maybe even a (No! Whoa!) video game or two. To fall in love every ten minutes or so, to wake up in a new bed now and then (now, now, pray God), to feel possibilities churning out of every flashy half-cynical gizmo that contempo-pop culture spews up at you, to anticipate sort of breathlessly every new load of possible super-stuff you can’t afford, blazing like neon from the record shelves or bookshelves or videoshelves, or the video/DVD rows, offering possible (non-cannabis, you Republicans) highs or potential mind-blasts waiting, it seems, around every street corner.

Weekend Box Office Report – October 24

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Back to Paranormal

Paranormal Activity 2 exceeded pundit expectation (though not necessarily fans) with an estimated $41.6 million to lead weekend movie ticket sales. The session’s only other national bow was Hereafter, which shot up to $11.9 million following last weekend’s limited opener.

Niche and regional bows included a solid $212,000 (in Hindi and Telegu versions) bow for the Indian crime saga Rakhtcharitra. Fans won’t have to wait long for its second part conclusion that’s scheduled for late November. Meanwhile up in Canada the Toronto fest curtain raiser Score: A Hockey Musical failed to live up to its name with a discordant $143,000 from 127 rinks.

Exclusives included good though unsensational debuts that included non-fiction Boxing Gym with a $6,100 TKO in its solo bout and Taqwacores — the tale of an Islamic rock band — grossing $5,500 also in a single outing.

Though there was a marginal dip from last weekend’s box office, the frame saw its first uptick from 2009 in a month with industry mavens already predicting expanded revenues through the end of the year.

Critical response to sleeper sensation Paranormal Activity 2 was at best tepid with the more negative reviews viewing it as a cynical rehash of its inspiration. Nonetheless avids were cueing up to provide Thursday midnight shows a record preview for an R-rated film. It lost traction as the weekend proceeded but the fast start was sufficient to speed past tracking that suggested an opening salvo of not much more than $30 million.

Exit polls for both Paranormal Activity 2 and Hereafter were disappointing. The latter film pretty much brought in the anticipated older crowd and filmmaker Clint Eastwood’s films have a history of hanging in for longer than typical runs and much higher multiples than is the industry norm. Still, this yarn could well stray from that trend.

Weekend revenues amassed roughly $130 million in torn ducats. It represented a slight 2% dip from seven days back but the unexpected Paranormal Activity 2 and overall strong holdovers translated into a 13% box office boost from 2009. A year ago the first Paranormal Activity (in its initial wide weekend) led with $21.1 million followed by Saw VI and Where the Wild Things Are with respective tallies of $14.1 million and $14 million.

With the exception of Waiting for “Superman” it’s been a brutal season for Oscar hopefuls trying to set an early footprint on the awards landscape. Granted, very few have received a wholehearted critical embrace, but even by niche standards the likes of Nowhere Boy, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Jack Goes Boating among others have been comparative under-performers when measured against past films that have employed this tactic.


Weekend Estimates – October 22-24, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Paranormal Activity 2 Par 41.6 (12,930) New 3216 41.6
Jackass 3D Par 21.5 (6,920) -57% 3111 87.1
Red Summit 15.1 (4,620) -31% 3273 43.6
Hereafter WB 11.9 (5,450) 2175 12.2
The Social Network Sony 7.2 (2,450) -31% 2921 72.8
Secretariat BV 6.9 (2,210) -26% 3108 37.3
Life As We Know It WB 6.1 (2,010) -32% 3019 37.5
Legend of the Guardians WB 3.1 (1,390) -26% 2236 50.1
The Town WB 2.7 (1,390) -33% 1918 84.6
Easy A Sony 1.7 (1,050) -35% 1632 54.7
Wal Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 1.2 (960) -49% 1255 50
My Soul to Take Uni/Alliance 1.0 (600) -68% 1689 13.9
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .76 (2,620) 2% 290 3.7
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate .71 (980) -14% 727 23.5
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus .66 (1,180) -46% 560 5.1
Devil Uni .63 (980) -35% 642 32.4
You Again BV .61 (680) -50% 901 24
N Secure FreeStyle .53 (1,190) -55% 445 1.9
Toy Story 3 BV .42 (1,211) -21% 350 413.4
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .40 (1,060) 46% 381 1.8
Case 39 Par Vantage .38 (530) -69% 721 12.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $123.90
% Change (Last Year) 13%
% Change (Last Week) -2%
Also debuting/expanding
Stone Overture .34 (3,030) 49% 113 0.76
Conviction Fox Searchlight .30 (5,420) 192% 55 0.34
Rakhtcharitra Viva/Happy .21 (6,230) 34 0.21
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. .21 (870) -39% 215 0.76
Score: A Hockey Musical Mongrel .14 (1,130) 127 0.14
Jhootha Hi Sahi Viva 64,700 (1,350) 48 0.06
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Fiftyfilms 10,300 (5,150) 2 0.01
Boxing Gym Zipporah 6,100 (6,100) 1 0.01
Taqwacores Rumanni 5,500 (5,500) 1 0.01
Inhale IFC 5,600 (2,800) 2 0.01

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

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (25) 1403.9 16.30%
Paramount (15) 1310.6 15.30%
Fox (16) 1287.9 15.00%
Buena Vista (15) 1144.7 13.30%
Sony (23) 1129.9 13.20%
Universal (17) 771.4 9.00%
Summit (10) 453.6 5.30%
Lionsgate (12) 411.5 4.80%
Overture (7) 79.7 0.90%
Focus (7) 73.2 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (6) 72.7 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 61.6 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 53.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (271) 226.9 2.70%
8581.7 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Oct. 21, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,726,209
Toy Story 3 BV 413,013,123
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,531,751
Inception WB 289,881,124
Despicable Me Uni 247,148,995
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 161,942,598
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 118,236,912
Salt Sony 118,229,865
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
The Expendables Lions Gate 103,068,524
* does not include 2009 box office

Frenzy on the Wall: Who’s the Biggest Star in the World (Right Now)?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

William Goldman is one of the greatest screenwriters of all-time, but he was also a fantastic essayist and one of the most insightful minds when it came to writing about films. His collection of essays, The Big Picture, has been read so many times by me that the pages are starting to break free from the binding. But one of the questions he came back to was: who is the biggest star in the world right now? Almost every year during the ’90s, he tried his best to answer that very question.

For whatever reason, Goldman’s not writing (or at least not publishing) his essays about film and I decided that I would try to answer the question as we wind down the year 2010.  Just like Goldman, I won’t use a ton of numbers or charts and graphs, but I’ll present my evidence as best as I can.

Last year, I think the answer would have been a bit easier.  James Cameron was clearly the biggest star in the world in 2009 and it wasn’t even close. The man released his first film in twelve years and just happened to make a movie that broke every box office record imaginable. It is now clear that any year in which Cameron releases a film, he will be the biggest star in that year. One could make a case that he’s the biggest star of this current year since Avatar raked in most of its dough after the calendar flipped to 2010, but by the time this year ends, I don’t think he’ll still be on anyone’s mind.

As for those in front of the camera, it would be easy to name folks like George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Up in the Air and Inglourious Basterds were hits both critically and commercially and it’s reasonable to expect every film to which one of these handsome men is attached will at least make its money back.  People will go to the movies specifically because they hear the names “Clooney” or “Pitt” and that’s becoming increasingly rarer.

If you need evidence of this, check out this weekend’s grosses for The American.  It was the number one film of the weekend, despite the fact that Clooney was the only actor anybody heard of and despite the fact that it’s a deliberately-paced film that most American audiences would usually find dull.  I doubt it’ll have strong legs next weekend, when word of mouth spreads, but the bottom line is that Clooney put butts in seats this weekend. Audiences in this country feel comfortable with Pitt and Clooney, that they will deliver the goods in projects that are worthy of their time and money.
Johnny Depp might want in on this conversation.

I personally think he’s fading as an actor I trust, but Alice in Wonderland still made a ton of money. Although, I don’t know how much if it is Depp and how much of it is Burton and how much of it is the recognizable brand.  Depp certainly didn’t help Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus get  seen by very many people, and while Public Enemies did okay, it didn’t do as well as expected in a cushy Independence Day slot.  The Tourist will be a good test for him, where he’s paired with one of the top female stars out there.

Speaking of Angelina Jolie, could she be the biggest star in the world? She’s certainly one of the most recognizable faces, gracing the covers of magazines on newsstands around the globe. She was the only major draw in Salt and that film has grossed over a hundred million dollars at the box office. Jolie and action is a formula for success, as she had already proved with Wanted. Unfortunately, put her in a serious drama – even one she’s excellent in, like Changeling – and audiences turn away.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, I must make mention of him because I think he was on William Goldman’s list every single year he made it. And the weird thing is that you could probably still put him somewhere on the list. The guy has been a commodity for about forty years already and has shown no signs of slowing, releasing a film every single year. When he actually gets in front of the camera, (a rare sight these days) people tend to show up, even if it’s something as dumb as Gran Torino.

Box office gross of the aforementioned film: nearly 150 million bucks and Eastwood was the only draw. Dude is nearly eighty and he still gets audiences to come out. His next film, Hereafter, reunites him with Invictus star Matt Damon and comes out in the fall.

Matt Damon, you say? Why yes, I did. I’d love to put him somewhere on this list, but the truth of the matter is that while he’s a recognizable face and name and he gives any film he stars in the air of respectability…he’s not quite in the running for biggest movie star status. The Bourne films were cash-cows, of course, but the truth of the matter is that he’s too much of a damned artist to be a movie star.

He’s the kind of guy who gains forty pounds to star in a Soderbergh film, the kind of guy who brings subtlety to his pitch-perfect performance in The Good Shepherd (one of my favorite performances of the last twenty years). He’s the kind of guy who will take time out of his schedule to film cameos in Soderbergh’s Che or Coppola’s Youth Without Youth. He doesn’t seem especially motivated by money or fame; instead it seems his one big desire is to work with as many great directors as possible.

The guy has worked with Scorsese, Coppola, Soderbergh, Minghella, Van Sant, Gilliam, Redford, Eastwood, and has a film coming up with the Coen Brothers. He might be one of the finest popular actors of his generation, but he’s not one of its biggest movie stars.

Damon also worked with Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan and Spielberg used to be a staple on this list. You could always put him on it because he’s easily the most famous film director in the history of motion pictures. If you ask any bozo off the street to name a film director, they’ll definitely be able to mention Steven Spielberg. Unfortunately the man hasn’t released a film since Munich (What Indiana Jones film? I keep telling you, it doesn’t exist!).

He’s got a couple of projects on the horizon, including War Horse and Tintin, but I can’t put him anywhere near the top until he finally makes that damned Abraham Lincoln movie. Or, you know, if War Horse is brilliant and makes a ton of money. But he deserves a place on this list, even as just a producer.  Hell, every Transformers movie is a gigantic hit and he’s one of the men responsible for it.

How about the star of that hit franchise? No, not Michael Bay or Optimus Prime, but Shia LaBeouf. He’s only 24 years old and he’s the lead actor in a franchise that has grossed a kajillion dollars (he was also in that Spielberg movie that doesn’t exist and grossed a lot of money). But, come on, we know people weren’t going to the theater for a chance to see LaBeouf. And while Disturbia was a decent-sized hit, Eagle Eye was a disappointment. We’ll see how he does with the Wall Street sequel, but even if it’s a huge success, it probably won’t be due to him. He might be the biggest star in the world in five to ten years, but he’s not there yet.

There’s no natural transition to this one, so I’m going to try not to snap my neck with this segue: Will Smith! What about Big Willie? He’s still getting jiggy with audiences, whether it’s in the atrocious Hancock or the even more atrocious Seven Pounds. It’s actually an amazing testament to his star power that the latter film managed to gross seventy million dollars, despite its subject matter.

I mean, that’s not an easy film to sell and basically they marketed it as “Will Smith…in a movie!” Nobody had any clue what it was about, but the promise of Will Smith drew people in. That’s pretty impressive. But he’s been absent from screens for two years now and Men in Black III isn’t coming out until 2012, so he’s taking a break from his throne.

No, Jaden Smith isn’t where I’m going next.

I don’t know who to blame or  praise for the success of Twilight, so I can’t really put any of those kids or filmmakers on here. I’ll chalk that one up to “phenomenon” and move on.   Same goes for the much better Harry Potter films.

Leonardo DiCaprio? He’s the star of one of the most talked-about movies of the year, Inception, which will end up with around 300 million bucks in the bank. Not too shabby. He’s also Scorsese’s favorite actor and DiCaprio has helped turn Scorsese into a legitimate box office favorite. Or maybe it was the other way around? Unfortunately, he couldn’t help turn Revolutionary Road or Body of Lies into hits.

In the right project, DiCaprio is gold. And Inception might have been more about Christopher Nolan than DiCaprio. I think his turn as the title character in Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover biopic will probably garner some awards buzz, but we’ll see if he can take it to the top of the box office.

Adam Sandler was the answer to this question for a while. But that was back when his movies cost nothing to make and grossed insane sums of money. Now the movies cost more, he costs more and he can’t even guarantee a hit when he’s working with Judd Apatow. Grown Ups grossed about $160 million, but it definitely cost quite a bit to make and market. He’s near the top of the list, but it seems he’s veering closer towards modern-day Eddie Murphy family-movie territory. And that’s a hit or miss world to live in.

Okay, enough beating around the bush, the answer to the biggest movie star in the world? Well, who could it be other than Sandra Bullock? She’s gracing the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week despite the fact that she’s got nothing to promote and she wasn’t even interviewed. She starred in two massive hits last year, got an Oscar and could get anything greenlit immediately. She was the star of 2009 and is the biggest movie star to grace a cinema screen right now.

But that’s not the answer. She might be the biggest actor in the world, but the biggest movie star right now (and I would argue, for the last decade) is very simple…


Name me another company, actor, director, etc. in the history of cinema that has never made a film that bombed either critically or commercially. You can’t do it. (Okay, maybe John Cazale?) Every year, Pixar releases a film that grosses a ton of money and tops critics lists. This year, they put out Toy Story 3 and it grossed over 400 million dollars. I don’t think any movie star on the planet can guarantee you half that. Well, except for Pixar.  I’m putting the over/under on the next five Pixar releases at 250 million and I’ll take the over.  I’ll win every time.

Without a doubt, the biggest movie star in the world is Pixar. And it’s not even close.

The Weekend Box Office Report — Four Day and Summer Charts

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Summer of Our Discontent

Domestic box office for the summer season dropped 3% from 2009 on an estimated gross of $4.05 billion. On an even graver note admissions sank at least 10% and possibly as high as 12%.  Following a fast start in early May, movie going appeared to lose steam mid-stream and though the final Labor Day holiday frame contributed a slight 5% weekend boost it was insufficient to close the gap.

Heading into the weekend, Paramount led in market share but were out-gunned at the final shoot out by Sony with the latter closing the season with a 16.5% slice of the big pie to the former’s 15.9%. The summer’s top grossing film was Toy Story 3 with a $408.8 million tally. Five of the top 10 top seasonal grossers were in the 3D format and two others — Inception and Iron Man 2 — had a significant number of large format engagements. The surge of premium price movies proved to be a ferocious audience magnet. Collectively the seven films contributed $1.82 billion to the box office, or 45% of all summer ticket sales.

Despite the potency of such conventionally formatted films as The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and unexpected results for the likes of Grown Ups and The Expendables, box office events are increasingly tilted toward pictures with higher entry fees.  And whereas the historic trend of successful films increasing attendance, the present situation appears to have limited the general publics frequency at the multiplex in what may be a factor of the slowly recovering American economy.  Gloom and doom aside, major gains were made in the independent sector.

The likes of Summit and Lions Gate chose to compete against the majors for a change and the former was a hair’s breath away from nudging Fox out of the top six. Niche titles ranging from the first two portions of the Millennium trilogy, festival favorites such as Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right and critical favorite I Am Love were a significant factor in summer sales.  In all 13 films of this type grossed in excess of $4 million each — a seasonal record that indicates a growing audience for alternative fare.

Though the industry has long contended that there is an insufficient market for mid-range pictures, the absence of a breakout title on the order of The Hangover may have finally sealed that verdict. Summer 2010 certainly underlines that the multiplex comes in just two sizes — big and small.

Weekend (estimates) September 3 – 6, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The American Focus 16.5 (6,060) New 2721 19.6
Machete Fox 14.1 (5,290) New 2670 14.1
Takers Sony 13.6 (6,170) -47% 2206 40.1
The Last Exorcism Lions Gate 8.7 (3,030) -64% 2874 33.5
Going the Distance WB 8.6 (2,840) New 3030 8.6
The Expendables Lions Gate 8.3 (2.440) -46% 3398 93.9
The Other Guys Sony 6.6 (2,520) -16% 2607 108
Eat Drink Pray Sony 6.1 (2,300) -29% 2663 70.2
Inception WB 5.8 (3,410) -6% 1704 278.4
Nanny McPhee Returns Uni 4.6 (1,690) -24% 2708 23.4
Despicable Me Uni 3.8 (2,400) -2% 1600 241.3
The Switch BV 3.8 (2.030) -32% 1885 22.2
Vampires Suck Fox 3.7 (1,520) -43% 2434 33
Toy Story 3 BV 2.6 (1,730) 89% 1520 408.8
Piranha 3D Weinstein Co. 2.9 (1,640) -46% 1789 23
Avatar (reissue) Fox 2.8 (3,480) -43% 811 758.1
Lottery Ticket WB 2.6 (1,990) -41% 1310 21
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Uni 1.9 (2,390) -38% 807 29.2
Salt Sony 1.6 (2,230) -34% 705 115.5
Get Low Sony Classics 1.5 (2,910) -26% 526 5.7
Dinner for Schmucks Par 1.2 (1,540) -45% 804 71.1
Step Up 3D BV .89 (2,050) -44% 434 41.2
Grown Ups Sony .65 (1,950) 88% 333 160.1
Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore WB .64 (1,410) -30% 455 42.2
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice BV .57 (1,600) 63% 357 61.7
Twilight: Eclipse Summit .54 (1,360) -18% 396 298.8
The Kids Are All Right Focus .51 (2,130) -22% 239 19.9

* percentage changes are 3-day to 3-day

Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $125.10
% Change (Last Year) 5%
% Change (Last Week) -11%

Also debuting/expanding

We Are Family UTV .32 (4,730) 67 0.32
Cairo Time IFC .22 (3,960) -11% 55 0.9
Mesrine: Killer Instinct Alliance/Music Box .16 (3,110) -38% 52 0.88
Mesrine: Public Enemy no. 1 Alliance/Music Box .15 (3,020) 143% 51 0.23
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop Sony Classics 33,800 (6,760) 5 0.03
My Dog Tulip New Yorker 14,100 (14,100) 1 0.01
Prince of Broadway Elephant 12,300 (12,300) 1 0.01
White Wedding Mitropoulos 6,700 (1,670) 4 0.01
The Winning Season Roadside At. 6,100 (2,030) 3 0.01
16 to Life Water Dog 3,500 (1,750) 2 0.01

Domestic Summer Market Share (May 7 – September 6, 2010)

Rank Distributor Gross Mkt Share % Change Rank
(in millions) 2009 2009
1 Sony 669.2 16.50% 27% 5
2 Paramount 643.6 15.90% -18% 2
3 BV 611.6 15.10% -12% 3
4 Warner Bros. 514 12.70% -49% 1
5 Universal 499.9 12.40% 54% 6
6 Fox 362.3 8.90% -24% 4
7 Summit 360.6 8.90% 1148% 9
8 Lions Gate 178.5 4.40% 1273% 12
9 Focus 47.3 1.20% 172% 11
10 Weinstein Co. 23.9 0.60% -80% 7
Miramax 22.2 0.50% 158% 13
Sony Classics 18.8 0.50% 6% 10
Other 96.3 2.40% N/A
4048.2 100.00% -3%
% Change 2010 (Other Distributors)
Fox Searchlight -83%

Grown-Ups Trailer

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Trailer: Grown Ups

Friday, November 13th, 2009