Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’

Sundance, Top Tens and Critics Groups. Oh. My.

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

2010 is a wrap, 2011 is here, but for most of us who write in this industry, until we get past February it’s all about Sundance and Oscar. The publicist letters about Sundance slates start hitting inboxes during the Winter Break (I send them straight to the “Sundance” file until after the new year, because I am getting old and grumpy and more hardcore about guarding family time these days) and don’t stop coming until about midway through the fest.

And of course, because the Academy has a twisted sense of humor, Oscar nominees are announced at the asscrack of dawn during Sundance, when everyone is running around Park City trying not to slip on the ice and break anything or freeze to death at a shuttle stop. Or both.

Weekend Estimates — December 19

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

TRON: Legacy|43.4|NEW|43.4
Yogi Bear|16.6|NEW|16.6
Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader|12.5|-48%|42.9
The Fighter|12.1|NEW |12.6
The Tourist|8.4|-49%|30.5
Black Swan|7.9|140%|15.3
How Do You Know|7.5|NEW|7.5
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1|8.6|-50%|257.8

Friday Estimates — December 11

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader|8.1|3555|NEW|8.1
The Tourist |6.1|2756|NEW|6.1
Tangled |3.3|3565|-35%|104.4
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1 |2.4|3577|-50%|251.6
Love and Other Drugs|1|2240|-49%|25.7
Black Swan|1|90|137%|3.3
Due Date |0.85|1990|-39%|93.2
Also Debuting
The Fighter |98,500|4||98,500
No Problem|56,700|84||56,700
The Tempest|15,400|5||15,400
Band Baaja Baaraat|10,600|32||10,600
Hemingway’s Garden of Eden|3,500|14||3,500
And Everything is Doing Fine|1,900|1||1,900
You Won’t Miss Me|1,500|1||1,500
* in millions

Box Office Hell — December 9

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Our Players|Coming Soon|Box Office Prophets|Box Office Guru|EW|Box Office . com
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader|41.8|43.5|36|n/a|35
The Tourist|26.4|26.8|18|n/a|25
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1|8.2|9.6|8.5|n/a|8.5
Unstoppable |3.3|4.2|n/a|n/a|3.6

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

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

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

Things to Be Thankful For

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

We’re getting an early start to the long holiday weekend around here; Seattle got nailed by an early snow storm, which gave the kids a couple snow days tacked onto the Thanksgiving weekend. So we’ve got the unexpected bonus of a six-day holiday weekend around here, and spirits are high. I hear that Angelina Jolie hates Thanksgiving and doesn’t want to perpetuate celebrating an anniversary of murder, and to that I say, well, good for her, and I guess can see her point.

But for me, Thanksgiving has always been not about the past and Pilgrims and Native Americans, but about the present and the future; it’s a time to take a pause from the hectic pace of life and reflect on the many blessings we have in our lives. Around here, we try to focus with our kids on helping them to be aware of how fortunate we are to have a nice home to live in, plenty of food to eat, warm clothes to wear, jobs that provide the money to support our family. And, of course, to be aware that others are not so blessed, and to make room in our hearts and our budgets to give to those who need a little boost to help them out.

Thanksgiving for me is also about getting mentally geared up for the upcoming Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa season, when we should be as mindful (or more) of giving as well as receiving. This is absolutely my favorite time of the year, and this year in particular my heart feels very full.

I’m very thankful this year for my own good health, and for healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids and a new marriage. I’m immensely thankful to still be employed in a tight economy, and to be able to write and edit for a living when there are many other crappy jobs I could be doing just to make ends meet. I’m thankful for amicable relationships with ex-spouses that allow us to have a crazy, loving, blended extended family where everyone gets along most of the time.

We will be having lots of family time this holiday weekend. In between marathon sledding sessions, warming up with hot cocoa and popcorn by a cozy fire, and delightfully raucous games of Munchkin and Zombie and Chthulu Dice with six kids and two game-geeky grownups, I have big plans this weekend to snuggle up under warm covers and work my way through the stack of screeners beckoning from the foot of the bed.

The screener fairy has been making daily stops by our house, so in between holiday activities and cooking and playing, I’m planning to watch Restrepo, The Kids Are All Right, Road to Nowhere, The Lottery, Somewhere, The American, The Town, Greenberg and Babies. I’m even going to take a second look at Hereafter, and we have both Inception and HP 7.1 to watch again (really loved that movie, though I will enjoy more watching it together with 7.2 after it comes out … I think the pacing will play out better that way).

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the awards-season movies What do you love? What do you hate? Who’s getting overlooked? Who’s overrated? What do you think about this new docs category at Sundance? Are you fine-tuning your own Top Ten list? Do you care about Oscars and Golden Globes and BAFTAs (oh my)?

Happiest of holidays to you and yours. I hope you enjoy your time with friends and family, as I plan to. But if you need a break from hearing Aunt Ethyl’s stories for the 89,000th time, drop on by and let’s chat about movies too. As for me, I have a few more films I need to see yet in addition to the screeners I have here before I can narrow down my own top ten and gear up for voting with my critics’ groups. True Grit, Rabbit Hole and The Fighter are the big ones I have yet to see before I can hone things down seriously. There is much movie-watching to squeeze in around holiday stuff, but this is such a wonderful time of year, I don’t even mind how hectic it gets.

Happy holidays to all, and I’ll see you after Thanksgiving!

Weekend Estimates – November 21

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1|126.2|New|126.2
Due Date|8.9|-42%|72.4
The Next Three Days|6.7|New|6.7
Morning Glory|5.2|-43%|19.8
For Colored Girls|6.6|-64%|30.8
Red|2.4|-51% |83.5
Paranormal Activity 2|2.3|-64%|34.5

Friday Estimates — November 20

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1|60.6**|4125|New|60.6
Due Date|2.9|3229|-48%|66.4
The Next Three Days|2.2|2564|New|2.2
Morning Glory|1.6|2544|-49%|16.2
Red |0.7|2034|-56%|81.8
For Colored Girls … |0.65|1216|-67%|32.8
Fair Game |0.35|386|29%|2.6
Also Debuting
Tiny Furniture|9,900|3||9,900
* in millions
** includes Thursday previews

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

SPOILER WARNING: There are minor spoilers in this review for the Harry Potter series, though not, I don’t think, for the particular film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One. Nonetheless, if you’ve never gotten around to reading the Harry Potter books or seeing the prior movies and still, for some reason, want to see this one unspoiled, you’ve been duly forewarned.

Of all the directors who have tackled bringing to life J.K. Rowling’s incredibly popular book series about a boy wizard, David Yates — who took over the series at Book Five, HP and the Order of the Phoenix, when the series takes a considerably darker turn, and has kept on directing since — is my favorite.

MW on Movies: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, The Next Three Days, and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One (Three Stars)

U.S.; David Yates, 2010

The beginning of the end for a very long, mostly gratifying, often magical and sometimes splendiferous and surprising cinematic journey on a constantly twisting fantastical/literary road, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One splits the last of the J. K. Rowling books in half, and leaves us suspended on the saga’s cliff-edge — with all the furious climax-building and loose-end-tying left for next year’s Part Two.

So, twist, twist … Faced with so much material in Rowling’s last Potter book, as well as with the end of a franchise, director David Yates, writer Steve Kloves and producers David Heyman and David Barron take a chance, jump off the cliff and slice us off in mid-Hallows, promising more later.

At the end here, somewhat abruptly, they leave the kids and the plot boiling their way to that long-awaited final confrontation between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), and his series-long buddies Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and their Satanic nemesis, evil wizard-master Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) — a being so foul, so evil, that his soul is split into seven scattered pieces (horcruxes to you) — along with Voldemort’s fiendish company (Alan Rickman’s icy Professor Severus Snape, Timothy Spall’s squirmy Wormtail, Helena Bonham Carter‘s mad Bellatroix Lestrange, all those damned Death Eaters and the rest of the Whole Sick Crew) and the explosion we know will come in next year‘s promised H.P. & the D. H., Part Two.

Then, the last Potter part (after this penultimate Potter) will wrap up everything Rowling has dreamed and that the filmmakers have filmed so faithfully and well, in what will probably be a blaze of excitement, special effects and Hogwarts auld lang syne.

Meanwhile, back at the cliff…

I didn’t enjoy Deathly Hallows 1 all that much overall (though sometimes I enjoyed it mightily). But I certainly admired it. How often in film history do we get something this rich and full, or see a group of moviemakers so determined to bring us every last jot and tittle (sometimes captivating, sometimes not), stage as much as they possibly could of a first-rate writer’s long, long, epic novel-series? What wouldn’t we give if some French film auteur had devoted similar care to Balzac‘s Comedie Humaine? Or some American had done all of Farrell‘s Studs Lonigan, or Faulkner’s complete Yoknapawtapha Saga? Or even all the Oz books?

Deathly Hallows 1 though, is the darkest of all of the Potter movies, the bleakest, the most melancholy, and the least packed and stuffed with roast turkey platters of toothsome British character acting, and sugarplums of fantasy, and after-the-feast bobsled rides of slam-bang action.

There was only one time in the whole movie I felt any delight, and that was at the little interpolated tale of The Three Brothers and their wishes: an animated bon-bon supervised by Ben Hibon, that looks a bit like one of those wonderful old Lotte Reiniger silhouette films (like “The Adventures of Prince Achmed,”) Tim Burtonized into sepia life.
I also got a kick out of the re-appearances of so many past Potterites specially Madman Mooney (Brendan Gleeson), and pink slithery elf Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones), and I enjoyed Rhys Ifans’ blowup as Xenophilias Lovegood in his wild digs. And, like everyone else, I liked the dance in the wilderness between Harry and Hermione. (With all that gray mist, shouldn’t it have been to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes?”)

But for this outing, at least, unadulterated joy is a stranger. Instead, we start off the movie with a what-took-you-so-long appearance by Bill Nighy as dour Rufus Schrimgeour (Nighy being one of the few great contemporary British character actors, who haven’t already popped up in a previous Potter), Rufus arriving at a ghastly feast hosted by that hideous noseless-corpse-looking fiend-beyond-fiendishness Voldemort, issuing more sepulchral threats to rid the world of all things Potter. (This loathsome creature, this dastardly bastard, this cold-eyed Lucifer, this creep has, I swear, a future in politics — if he gets a good make-up man.)

And that’s the jolly part.

Afterward, with Hogwarts closed to Harry and company, with his adopted family (including Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths) forced to flee, with his friends joining together to disguise themselves as a band of fake Harries to fool the Death Eaters, wanted posters with his visage marked “Undesirable Number One,“ plastered all over the town, and finally lost and wandering, with lissome Hermione and scowling Ron, through what looks like the ashy, seared ruins of a sunless land out of somebody‘s nightmare (thanks to cinematographer Eduardo Serra), Harry is thrust finally, rudely into a glum, threatening, care-laden adulthood, and forced to face, undiluted with Hogwarts antics, the problems we all face, especially if we’re magic guys (or ladies) and have the devil on our trail.

Series devotees and Constant Readers of Rowling (R.I.P., Dorothy P.), will love it all, I’m sure. (And that’s quite a huge, huge bunch.) Less fervent Potterers may be honestly confused. I sometimes wondered what the hell was going on, and who was who, and even what a horcrux was. (Remember, again: It’s one of the seven severed slices of Voldemort’s satanic sinister soul.) And I fervently wished I’d set aside time to read the whole book. (I used to read them all, in more halcyon days.) My advice to non-experts or aficionados. Get a crib-sheet, or bone up on a Harry Potter website, before you see it. Or better yet, read the book. (The show will still be around, in a few weeks.)

I mentioned the cast. Everybody does. Everybody should. From Part One on, this series must surely boast the most talented and luminous movie roll call of great British star and character film actors, ever — or at least since “Gosford Park,“ where the cast had richer parts and Robert Altman to turn them loose. Maybe they could all start their own rep company, called “Everybody Comes to Harry’s.” Anyway, they all came to this series, or a lot of them (see above), from this movie’s other cast-mates Miranda Richardson (as Rita Skeeter), Imelda Staunton (as Dolores Umbridge) and John Hurt (as Ollivander) to previous series participants Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, Richard Harris and Michael Gambon — the last two as the late, lamented master, who drives Harry batty, in this outing, with his impenetrable clues.

One almost expects to see the ghosts of Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud enter from stage left, pursued by a bear, cast as the ghosts of wizards past. And I wouldn’t bet on Sean Connery and Michael Caine remaining still absent from the feast at Deathly Hallows, Part Two. (Or will Connery, Caine, Colin Firth and other no-shows start wearing, as Nighy almost did, t-shirts emblazoned “No, I wasn’t in a Harry Potter movie.”) Whatever, whenever, it shows how attractively ambitious producers Heyman and Barron have been — and how well Rowling has been served by all present and all dePottered. (Sorry.)

It also shows also how good a screenwriter Steve Kloves is. (That’s the auteur of The Fabulous Baker Boys, who’s done all but one of the Potters — and isn’t it time he got another shot as director?) And how lucky and ready David Yates was, succeeding directors Chris Columbus (Harry Potter 1 & 2), Alfonso Cuaron (Part Three) and Mike Newell (Part Four) as the Potter helmsman, for the last four straight.

Yates, who is painstaking and versatile, if not inspired — but who seems to really love the books — was mostly a British TV director before 2007‘s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which demonstrates how excellent and keenly literary the best of British Television is. (Yates made another episodic Brit novel adaptation on TV, filming Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now.)

To digress: Yates comes from a good school. And I really love being able to watch a long, richly detailed, well-acted and faithful British TV adaptation of a great novelist like Dickens, George Eliot, Jane Austen, or Thackeray, or of a fine 20th century novelist or entertainer like Anthony Powell, John le Carre, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Graham Greene — or even of “Poldark.” (All of which you can get on videos of British TV, also once the stomping ground of ace directors Mike Leigh, Stephen Frears, Michael Apted and Alan Clarke.) And I wish that someone someday would release the complete anniversary edition they did of all Shakespeare’s plays. (Or maybe do them all over again, with the casts of the Harry Potter films.)

That stellar cast accentuates the fact that the Potter series’ central triumvirate — Radcliffe, Grint and even Watson — don’t (yet) have the acting chops, or near them, of their elders. One likes them because they’ve been with us in these roles so long. But none of these kids can nibble scenery like Helena Bonham Carter, or fondly burble like Toby Jones, or ooze hauteur like Maggie Smith, or swagger like Robbie Coltrane, or brood like Michael Gambon, or percolate like Miranda Richardson, or condescend like Imelda Staunton, or cast a pall like Ralph Fiennes. (That’s right: Who would expect them to?)

They can dance, though. And they can yearn. And they’re still young. And they’ve grown up, as everyone says, before our eyes, in the multiplexes. How lucky they’ll feel when they’re old and wiser and gray, and doing cameo roles — and they can drop whatever has replaced a DVD into whatever has replaced a DVD player, and watch themselves, forever muggles.

Well, as you can tell, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One didn’t knock me out. But because the series, as a whole, increasingly has, I’m willing to cut it some slack, be patient, wait for the end. I’ll take it on faith that they can set up something grand and marvelous for that last pop-pop-pop-Bam! fireworks finale. Magic, and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter have turned out to be wonderful subjects for the movies. (This is one movie series that, for better or worse, rarely got in a rut.) And that’s because, I guess, magic is at the heart of the movies themselves, at the core of what lets them cast their spells. Magic thrills us on the page. But it can really catch us, rapt and spellbound, in a movie — or in a big long series of movies where the moviemakers really care about doing them right. Give ’em Hell, Harry.


The Next Three Days (Two and a Half Stars)

U. S.: Paul Haggis, 2010

This movie made no sense to me — even though it was well-acted (by Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson and others) and well-written and directed (by Paul Haggis, of Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby).

Check this out: Crowe is playing a pudgy, undershaven teacher named John Brennan, whose beautiful wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks), is convicted of murder, after she’s seen driving away from a parking lot that‘s also a murder site, with the dead woman‘s blood on her coat. If I were a jury member, I wouldn’t have necessarily bought that evidence — but then, Henry Fonda’s Juror No. 8, in Twelve Angry Men, is one of my heroes.

Then, even though he’s convinced of his wife’s innocence, John gets derailed by bad luck in court and a few discouraging words from lawyer Daniel Stern, and decides to break Lara out of jail instead, inspired by the wisdom of successful jailbreak artist/author Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson). I don’t buy this either, maybe because I would never hire Daniel Stern as my lawyer (I remember too well what he did with his popcorn box in Diner), and also maybe because Hilary Swank, as Betty Anne Waters in Conviction, is one of my new heroes.

What’s next?


Only a jailbreak plot that might tax the cunning, timing and stamina of Daniel Craig’s James Bond, but that looks like duck soup for an out-of-shape, academic, seemingly emotionally distraught Russell Crowe, who also has to get his kid back from a birthday party and then make a plane, right after the jailbreak.


I don’t buy this either, maybe because I would never hire Daniel Stern as my lawyer (I remember too well what his buddy Mickey Rourke did with his popcorn box in “Diner“), and also maybe because Hilary Swank, as Betty Anne Waters in “Conviction,“ is one of my new heroes.
The Next Three Days was adapted from a French movie called “Pour Elle,” which was directed and co-written by Fred Cavaye. Now, I might buy all this in a French movie, even by a director named Fred, especially if Gerard Depardieu or Daniel Auteuil — or Pour Elle’s actual star Vincent Lindon — played John (or Jean). But that’s because the French are famous for film noir and l’amour fou. They’re good at that stuff.

This movie looks good, sounds good and plays good. (Brian Dennehy and Helen Carey are John’s parents, and what jail could possibly hold the Liam Neeson who tore Paris apart in Taken? I just couldn’t make any sense of it, maybe because my “l’amour fou“ days went out with Pierrot le Fou. The Next Three Days, incidentally, is dedicated, effusively, to Damon Pennington, who I guess is a real person, unlike John. If I ever have to break anyone out of jail, I’ll give Damon a call, because he obviously knows his stuff — and also, because I‘m probably in worse shape than Brennan.

By the way, I would like to apologize, effusively, to Daniel Stern, for making a snotty crack about that great lewd popcorn gag in “Diner.” I realize it was all Barry Levinson’s doing, and they were all just following orders, everyone in “Diner” (and Levinson) only eats gourmet popcorn with escargot snacks, washed down with French Champagne, while watching Cesar-winning French movies and classic American film noirs. Besides, Daniel Stern is one of my heroes.


Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

U. S.: Alex Gibney, 2010

Client 9 is Eliot Spitzer, the crusading Democratic New York Attorney General who took on Wall Street and later the Governor who tried to take on the Republican Party, and who ultimately had his career 86’d when he turned up on a John’s list for the pricey Manhattan Internet bordello, The Emperor’s Club.

Politicos screw hookers. Sometimes they caught. What else is new? But it’s suggested here by Client 9’s gutsy director Alex Gibney — who also made the excellent Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side and the lucid, devastating Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room — that Spitzer, though certainly guilty (albeit of a victimless crime committed by more than few prominent members of the Manhattan social/economic elite ) was harassed and tracked, and then nailed by a group of vengeful Wall Street got-rocks nabobs and political bigwigs who included the eventually crippled insurance giant AIG’s ex-CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, former New York Stock Exchange Director and Home Dept co-founder Ken Langone, former New York GOP Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and legendary Republican dirty trickster and self-styled stud-of-studs Roger Stone.

All four of these guys — and Spitzer, Emperors Club madame Cecil Suwal, call girl Ashley Dupre (A.K.A. “Kristin“) — who spilled a lot of beans on Client 9, and now writes an advice column for The New York Post — talk on camera. (Ashley is in archive footage.) So does another lady of the evening, code-named “Angelina,” who was apparently Spitzer‘s actual favorite companion — and who doesn’t appear on camera but has allowed her interview transcript to be read by actress Wrenn Schmidt. (I know, it sounds funny, but Schmidt plays the part very well.)

Was Spitzer stalked? And reamed? And was it because he was an effective A.G. going after Wall Street and Albany corruption, and maybe a future Democratic national candidate? Or because he was a nasty guy whom everybody disliked? Did the Fearsome Foursome have something, or a lot, to do with it?

Gibney convinced me. (Admittedly I’m sometimes an easy mark for stories like this.) Partly that’s because the main quartet of nemeses are so open, so type-cast and so boastfully self-satisfied on camera.

Lagone (at least here) looks and sounds like a man who goes to church but who makes offers you can’t refuse. Bruno (at least here) looks and sounds like a guy who’d beat up his bookie and his best friend and maybe his grandmother, but only if they got out of line. (Actually, Bruno may have a second career, after his 2009 corruption sentence is over, picking up some of Dennis Farina’s “heavy” roles.) Stone (at least here) looks and sounds like a proud cocksman who wears black underwear, has an autographed picture of Richard Nixon, and a cell phone with someone named HoneyBunny on his list of five faves. Greenberg (at least here) looks and sounds like a quiet old man, who’d help trigger a crash without a sliver of remorse. They all cheerfully admit they hate and despise Spitzer, except Greenberg, whose mild manner suggests that revenge is something served cold, that your secretary handles.

Spitzer seems remorseful. (One feels very sorry for his wife Silda, who never says anything.) He also seems like a smart guy with ideals, a temper, and too many sex fantasies. (Over $100,000 worth on the Emperors Club bill of fare.) His enemies sound like four guys who like to cash checks, and who think ideals are for nuns.

By the way, didn’t Louisiana’s current Republican Senator David Vitter get caught on a John’s list too? Isn’t he still in the Senate, battling corruption? Dude must have a good P. R. guy. Roger Stone, maybe.

This is an exciting documentary, well-investigated, well-crafted, compelling and absorbing. It’d make a good dramatic movie. And if anybody thinks this kind of stuff isn’t a big part of the reason Wall Street tanked, they belong in a Looney Tune, mentoring Daffy Duck.

Box Office Hell — November 19

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Our Players|Coming Soon|Box Office Prophets|Box Office Guru|EW|Box Office . com
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1|127.8|111.1|128|n/a|129
The Next Three Days |10.2|10.6|11|n/a|9.5
Due Date|8.0|8.4|n/a|n/a|8

Critics Roundup — November 19

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 1|Yellow|||Green|Green
Made in Dagenham|Green||Green|Green|Green
The Next Three Days|||||Yellow
White Material |||Green||Green
Today’s Special |||Yellow||

Trailering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

The Newest Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Trailer

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

The LEGO HP trailer …

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I: The Trailer

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Showest Serves Up Newsworthy-Lite Fare

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

LAS VEGAS — Exhibitor or journalist, one no longer attends ShoWest for its newsworthiness. Celebrity sightings are duly noted, as are the latest improvements in cookie-dough confections and sneak previews of tent-pole movies.

The absence of any real news went out with the administration of the late, ever-quotable Jack Valenti. When Valenti was ringleader of the MPAA circus, he would invite reporters to breakfast at on ungodly hour on the morning of the opening day, so they could fill their notebooks with data, statistics, dire warnings about over-spending and piracy, and praise for the ratings system he invented.

Those sessions no longer exist. All relative box-office data is released ahead of ShoWest, and the MPAA no longer reports costs related to the production and marketing of studio films. If there was one thing highly paid executives didn’t like about their former chief lobbyist in Washington, it was being admonished for their absurd budgets and lavish spending. It was especially unpleasant when Valenti borrowed from the Bible, Greek mythology and Shakespeare to make his points.

Even if all succeeding MPAA czars will be required to link world peace to the end of movie piracy, the days of rhetorical sturm und drang at ShoWest are long gone. In case anyone was keeping score at home, outgoing MPAA boss Dan Glickman announced that lots of people are making lots of money in Hollywood – thanks, in large part, to 3-D and foreigner revenues — even if 90 percent of its titles suck. And, copyright infringement continues to threaten our and every other democracy.

Amazingly, perhaps, after several years of pessimistic debate over the future of digital cinema and 3-D, there appears to be a shortage of screens capable of showing advanced 2-D and 3-D movies. The extraordinary success of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland provided merely the latest proof that 3-D is here to stay. It was only two years ago that the industry was stunned by the box-office success of Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, and some observers feared it was a fluke occurrence. Now, 3-D movies are circling multiplexes like so many airplanes awaiting clearance to land in a storm.

With Avatar and Alice still selling Hefty bags full of popcorn for exhibitors – and 3-D hardware at a premium – the arrival of several major titles is reason for some concern. The imminent release of DreamWorks/Paramount’s How to Train Your Dragon and Warner Bros.’ re-formatted Clash of the Titans has prompted several studios to pressure exhibitors to clear – or retain – 3-D space for their titles. The penalty would be the withholding of 2-D versions of the same movies.With the release of such sure-fire titles as Toy Story 3, Shrek Forever After and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts I and II right around the corner, distributors are busy marking their territory.

While screen manufacturers, such as Harkness, pledged to ramp up production of 3-D-friendly screens, studios promised to continue making blockbuster movies. Nineteen 3-D movies are scheduled for release in 2010, alone. No one at ShoWest wanted to consider the downside, however. If, for example, the quality of such entertainment declined to the point where it ceased to be a lucrative diversion, the boom might quickly go bust.

Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners, voiced his concern that overexposure to 3-D format “might wear your audience out,” while the potential oversaturation of specialized screens in a market could cut into profits for competing exhibitors. Their ability to charge consumers extra for the privilege of watching movies in 3-D and large format could also be impacted.

Indeed, the biggest bummer all week came after Disney/Pixar announced it wouldn’t be able to preview Toy Story in 3-D. Anticipation had caused block-long lines to form outside the Paris and Bally’s Hotel theaters. It turned out, however, that the dispersal of 3-D glasses ahead of the screening was to facilitate the animated short, Night and Day. Undeniably fun to watch, Toy Story 3 lacked a certain je ne sais quoi in 2-D.

Ironically, the ShoWest schedule — apart from a sneak of Harry Potter and Technicolor’s product demonstration — was mostly devoid of 3-D presentations. In previous years, attendees had enjoyed full screenings and snippets of Up, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Battle for Terra, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens. If nothing else, these films assured exhibitors of the seriousness with which the major studios were taking 3-D.

With the proof of that commitment already in the pudding, this year’s selection of previews included Toy Story 3, in which the non-human characters must deal with Andy’s coming of age; Summit’s sumptuous romance, Letters to Juliet, with Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave; the Sony crowd-pleaser, The Karate Kid, which contemporizes the 1984 hit by setting it completely in China and substituting Jackie Chan for Pat Morita; Lionsgate’s insanely frenetic, Kick Ass, a superhero epic that was as funny as it was hyper-violent; CBS Films’ second feature, the urban rom-com Back-Up Plan, in which Jennifer Lopez is unable to find the perfect mate and father to her children … until she becomes pregnant, natch; Warner Bros.’ star-studded showcase offered glimpses of Sex and the City 2, the 3-D Clash of the Titans, Todd Phillips’ Due Date,” with Robert Downey Jr. and Zack Galifianakis, and the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, an action-adventure that makes Pirates of the Caribbean look lethargic, by comparison. The Monday-night indie showcase, which last year, previewed The Hurt Locker, offered Focus’ The Kids Are Alright, an offbeat family dramedy, with Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska; Apparition’s Aussie thriller, The Square; Roadside Attractions darkly comic, The Joneses; Sony Classics’ Get Low, with Bill Murray, Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek; and Zipline’s go-karting doc, Racing Dreams.

(It’s worth remembering, perhaps, that Sandra Bullock’s commercial comeback can be traced to last year’s ShoWest preview of The Proposition, which exhibitors loved. Another future Oscar-winner, The Cove, was screened here in 2009.)

– Gary Dretzka
March 22, 2010

Teasing The Deathly Hallows

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows at Dailymotion.