Monday, April 30, 2012

The final trailer for The Dark Knight Rises finally sells me. I'm officially excited again. It feels good to be back on board.

I'm frankly a little disappointed that Warner Bros. didn't have the courage to just wait a few days and debut this thing in theaters attached to The Avengers.  This is a big-scale trailer and deserves to be seen in theaters before dissecting it on a computer-screen.  Unless they were trying to slightly chip away at The Avengers's opening weekend (re - repeat viewings from those who've attended press/preview screenings), I really don't know why they chickened out at the last minute.  But having said that, this is a pretty terrific trailer.  Yes, much of the material in the first 2/3 is merely extended glimpses of what we've seen before, but this looks like exactly what it needs to be: an emotionally-powerful, socially-relevant action-drama that happens to take place within the world of Batman.  The clip uses the slow rising towards the familiar Batman Begins theme to literally raise goose-bumps.  Bane looks more imposing in action, Hathaway's Catwoman feels surprisingly appropriate and at home in Nolan's Gotham, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to be filling the role of the 'hope' that Jim Gordon has apparently lost (his lack of screentime here makes me all-the-more concerned that he dies in the first act, which in-turn spurs Bruce out of retirement).  Kudos to Warner and Nolan for crafting three trailers that, like The Dark Knight four years ago, only reveal the barest bits of plot and story.  I don't expect this to be a game-changer like The Dark Knight, and I don't expect it to appeal to the inner-Bat geek in me as much as the last iconic Batman/Gordon vs. The Joker epic did.  But there now seems little doubt that The Dark Knight Rises should at least be a damn-good motion picture and a hell of a series finale.  This one drops July 20th.  As always, we'll see, but I'm back on the 'happy train'.

Scott Mendelson 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Box Office (04/29/12): Think Like a Man tops again as four new releases perform relatively poorly. Oh, and The Avengers assemble overseas to the tune of $178 million.

In the weekend before the official start of the summer season, four new releases, all of which were relatively smaller fare, all debuted to numbers ranging from not awful to genuinely awful (or example 4,321 on why comparing total weekend box office is stupid).  The top film this weekend was once again Think Like A Man, which dropped a surprisingly decent 46%, earning another $18 million.  The ensemble romantic comedy has now earned $60 million, putting it on track to be among the domestic bigger grossers of the first 1/3 of 2012.  If we're specifically talking 'black-films', then the Tim Story picture is a few days from outgrossing every Tyler Perry movie save Madea Goes to Jail, which grossed $90 million three years ago (the second highest-grossing Perry film is the $63 million-grossing Madea's Family Reunion). With a smaller drop and a larger second weekend off a $8 million-smaller opening weekend, it may pass that mark all the way to $100 million if it can hold onto screens as summer begins.  It will soon surpass the $65 million gross of Barbershop 2, the $67 million gross of Waiting to Exhale, and the $75 million gross of Barbershop within the next full week.  It's also out-grosssed and/or will likely out-gross any number of higher-profile 'white' romantic comedies or dramas (the $81 million-grossing Dear John, the $84 million-grossing Stupid, Crazy Love, the $54 million-grossing New Year's Eve, etc).  Usually when a $12 million-budgeted film ends up flirting with $100 million, studios respond with sequels and/or star-vehicles for certain higher-profile cast-members.  We'll see if Hollywood again writes off this 'unconventional' smash hit as a 'fluke' or whether Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, and Meagan Good (among others) get any 'bumps' off this film's unquestionable success.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Another weekend, another perfect example of the utter stupidity of weekend-to-weekend box office comparison...

Granted, I'm going by unofficial weekend estimates based on the Friday box office figures, but it appears that the entire total gross of all films in the box office top-twelve this weekend will equal around $96 million.  This same weekend last year had a total top-12 gross of $145 million, meaning this weekend will be down by about 34%.  I guess according to the standards set by the 'official' box office punditry, that would mean that moviegoing may be in a slump, right?  I mean, weekend-to-weekend totals are down by nearly $50 million compared to 2011 on this specific weekend!  Oh... wait, what's that you say?  Last weekend had the debut of Universal's Fast Five, the much-anticipated fifth installment in the recharged Fast/Furious franchise?  You remember Fast Five, right?  Great reviews, strong marketing, popular franchise... all of these things led to a massive $86 million opening weekend, the biggest in Universal history.  Yes that's right, last year had Universal rolling the dice and successfully kicking off the summer season a week earlier than usual, and it paid off in spades.  So you have a weekend where one film last year made almost as much as the entire top-twelve films' total grosses from this year.  You mean we shouldn't be too surprised if the cumulative might of The Raven, Safe, The Pirates: Band of Misfits, and The Five-Year Engagement couldn't quite measure up to a blockbuster debut like Fast Five? The four openers should gross about $36 million combined over the weekend, or about what Fast Five alone made on its opening day.  Oh right, maybe, just maybe, it IS about the individual movies performing at levels that are judged based on the respective expectations of each specific picture after all!  Four small-ish pictures debuted with relatively small-ish grosses, and their combined might plus the various holdovers weren't enough to equal the juggernaut of a presold (and well-reviewed, natch) blockbuster sequel.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Safe (2012) delivers brutally polished film noir action drama in what may be Jason Statham's best film yet.

95 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

Writer/director Boaz Yakin's Safe is the kind of B-movie action film that does the designation proud.  It is openly thoughtful and intelligent, crafting a truly engrossing bit of character drama while holding the action in reserve until it matters.  It delicately balances a real-world narrative with action sequences that are just a touch over-the-top without ever sacrificing drama for thrills or vice-versa.  It's unapologetically what it is, but Yakin and star Jason Statham have crafted a rock-solid action drama that is rooted in 1940s film-noir transfused with an authentic post-9/11 paranoia New York City milieu.  It's high time I stopped referring to movies like this (adult-skewing R-rated star-driven genre pictures) as 'the kind of films they just don't make anymore', since such films have clearly made a comeback in the last couple years.  And Safe is a sterling example of why they have a genuine value in the cinematic landscape.

Please enjoy these 12 character posters from The Expendables 2.

Lionsgate sent these straight to me, a day late per usual.  Actually, I'm not complaining because it means I don't have to track down where each poster debuted yesterday and give each site credit.  That it's the right thing to do doesn't make it less of a pain.  Anyway, enjoy these twelve character posters from The Expendables 2 after the jump.  Coming this August from Lionsgate, featuring as much R-rated violence and gore as post-production CGI can bring you.  Can you guess which of the twelve distinctly looks like he could most-certainly *not* kick your ass?  Well, no besides Chuck Norris...

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: So close yet so far, Joss Whedon's The Avengers (2012) is an often soaring but occasionally frustrating B-movie with several A+ ingredients.

The Avengers
142 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

In a film like The Avengers, which brings together strands of several prior pictures into a mostly cohesive whole, it is arguably inevitable that individual pieces will end up working better than the sum of its parts. That the film works at all is almost a miracle, and it's so purely entertaining and contains so much that works like gangbusters that it's tempting to ignore what doesn't work and merely salute the enterprise. It is a relentlessly engaging and confident motion picture, boasting a cast that in a more respected genre would make it an Oscar-bait film. But the film comes so close to out-and-out greatness that it's almost disheartening to point out the core issues at fault, both because it feels petty and because it's almost a genre masterpiece. Still, there is much to like and quite a bit to love about Joss Whedon's The Avengers. On a pure popcorn spectacle scale I can't imagine anyone feeling that they didn't get their money's worth. As a piece of art however, it's a trickier proposition.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

John Hillcoat's Lawless gets a just-plain fun trailer.

Let's not pretend that this looks like high art just because it has a terrific cast and a period-set American crime story at its center. But I also won't pretend that this doesn't look like quite a bit of fun. Shia LaBeouf's career as a genuine leading man will live or die based on his reception here, but the cast he is surrounded by (Tom Hardy, Jessica Chaistan, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, Noah Taylor) is so bloody terrific that all he has to do is keep his head above water. The narrative is pretty generic, but this is yet another one of those 'old fashioned movies' that I've been talking about. Real actors and movie stars in knotty, presumably character-driven narratives that don't cost so much that they can be profitable without blockbuster status. There are those who will hyperventilate and swear that Lawless (formally titled The Wettest Country) will be one of the best films of the year, and it very well may be. But for now, let's just take a breath and acknowledge that it looks like an awfully good movie. Lawless debuts courtesy of The Weinstein Company on August 31st. As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Pixar's Brave gets a tonally awkward and redundant trailer.

The first 90 seconds of this 2.5-minute trailer is basically a distilled version of what's either the first act or the two reel of the film.  It's all stuff we've seen before, with an emphasis on light comedy and the lead's feeling of gender-based disenfranchisement.  But at around the 90-second mark, the trailer completely shifts gears and tries to arbitrarily sell a mythic fantasy picture, despite little in the footage to sell that.  Yes, I like the Celtic music, but putting somber, moving music in a series of somewhat random images does not make a trailer feel epic.  There's obviously a lot that Pixar/Disney isn't revealing in regards to the second half of the first, and more power to them for that.  But if you want to be cryptic, just stop cutting trailers and sell the film based on what you have.  

GI Joe: Retaliation trailers kill off one of 2012's biggest stars.

Say what you will about hindsight and what-not, but I imagine that Paramount is kicking itself in the ass right now for the decision to kill off Channing Tatum in the opening act (scene?) of this second G.I. Joe film.  No, he wasn't exactly the highlight of The Rise of Cobra, but in the last three years 'that guy from Step Up' has been hacking away at would-be stardom and seems to have hit the jackpot this year.  He's now arguably the king of the romantic drama and scored huzzahs and box office with 21 Jump Street.  Between 21 Jump Street and The Vow (plus Haywire which turned him into Stephen Soderbergh's best buddy), Tatum is easily the 'break-out star of 2012' four months in.  Had Paramount had the good sense to let him stick around, they'd have a film starring Tatum and Dwayne Johnson, whose Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is the second-highest grossing American film at the global box office with $322 million thus far.  Paramount could have had two of the biggest male movie stars around in the same film shooting guns and dodging explosives together, but they (or director Jon Chu) had to listen to fanboy whining.  I wouldn't be the least-bit surprised to see an end-credit cookie showing that Duke really survived after all.

The not-so subtle negative messaging in Jessica Chastain's Iron Man 3 character description.

The big casting news from yesterday was the announcement that Jessica Chastain is being sought for a major role in Iron Man 3, joining Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, and (allegedly) Andy Lau alongside the various returning cast members (basically every surviving character from the first two films save for Sam Rockwell).  The cast listing for the other *male* actors primarily described their occupations and/or role in the story (Kingsley is the villain, Pearce is a 'sinister scientist', Lau is 'a scientist').   But the actress is being touted not just as a scientist but as "a sexy scientist every bit as smart as Tony Stark".  Because despite winning raves in seven films last year, with countless award nominations to go along with it, Ms. Chastain can't just be described as a scientist.  Oh no, she has to be a hot piece of ass who despite being (gasp!) a girl is as intelligent as Mr. Stark.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Box Office (04/22/12): Think Like a Man earns a whopping $33m, The Lucky One earns $22m, The Hunger Games stays strong and tops $350m.

It was an 'everybody wins' weekend at the box office as all three openers outperformed even the most optimistic expectations.  The number one film of the weekend was not The Hunger Games but rather Think Like A Man.  The all-star romantic comedy based off of Steve Harvey's best-selling relationship self-help book grossed a somewhat surprising $33 million on just over 2000 screens.  The Screen Gems film was notable in that the small studio made a real effort to market the African-American-centric rom-com both to black males and white audiences (Vulture has a detailed article about the marketing campaign).  Racial demographics aren't available yet, but the film played 63% female and 62% over 30.  For what it's worth, it earned an A from Cinemascore, including an A+ from audiences under 25. Even more impressive is that the film achieved a near-3x, including a token increase on Saturday (from $12 million to $13 million).  The film has a ton of 'would probably be a bigger star in a color-blind society' actors, including Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Michael Ealy, Steve Harvey, and Taraji P. Henson.  But the secret weapon may have been comedian Kevin Hart, who powered his stand-up concert film, Laugh At My Pain to $7 million last September despite playing on less than 300 screens.  Pay no attention to this large opening folks, nothing to see about an under-served audience demographic delivering near-blockbuster numbers on a $13 million budget.  Just move along and keep putting Anthony Mackie in fourth-billed supporting roles.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

5 comic adaptations that bucked the mold, and still failed.

Actor Tom Hiddleston wrote an eloquent essay yesterday for The Guardian basically praising and defending the sub-genre known as the superhero picture.  Plenty of disdain for the genre comes from the very notion that it's big-budget entertainment based on literature that was technically intended for children that gobbles up production dollars and screen space that otherwise might be allotted for more explicitly grown-up fare.  But at least some of the alleged weariness of this specific type of film (the superhero comic book adaptation) comes from a feeling that all-too many of them are basically telling the same story.  You've generally got the standard origin story which (let's be honest) basically takes Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie and pours it into a different color bottle (I say that as a big fan of Spider-Man and Captain America).  Then you have the sequels, which are quite often merely a case of escalation and/or the hero dealing with self-doubt often while in combat with a 'bigger/badder' version of himself (again, thank you Superman II) or a multiple villains who represent that which he might become if corrupted (Batman Returns).  But over the last twenty years or so, there have been a handful of high-profile comic book films that have attempted to play around with the formula but have artistically failed anyway.  As a rebuttal to the idea that 'all superhero movies are the same' as well as a reaffirmation of the idea that 'it's not what it's about, but how it's about it', let's take a look at five comic book adaptations that didn't play it safe, but didn't come out on top either.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lionsgate picks Francis Lawrence to helm Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire: When a 'safe', 'cheap' choice is also a good choice.

If you discount his last-minute attempt to salvage Jonah Hex, Francis Lawrence has made three films since 2005 and I have liked all three of them.  As such, while he is not a particularly brave/bold, or outside-the-box choice for Lionsgate to hire to helm the next Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, he is a good one.  All three of his films show an emphasis of character and substance over visual razzle-dazzle, and his sure-footed and confident eye will be a relief after sitting through Ross's shakey-cam hysterics.  While I was hoping Lionsgate would pick someone a bit off the beaten path (one of the female directors I mentioned, perhaps?), Francis is a solid choice.  In short, he makes good movies, casts good people in them, and delivers quality mainstream material that entertains without insulting their respective audiences.

Come back from where? How the 'Brave is/must be Pixar's comeback' meme plays into the horse-race mentality of pop-culture.

It's no secret that America loves a comeback narrative.  The only thing mass-media (and its audience) loves more than taking celebrities down a peg is watching them theoretically rise up from the ashes.  I'd argue that the media intentionally creates 'great falls' for allegedly important people purely for the purpose of trumpeting their would-be comeback.  We especially see this in the coverage of political elections where a non-stop horse-race mentality keeps candidates who have no plausible shot of victory making imaginary strides so that the inevitable front-runner can make a 'comeback' victory in this-or-that primary.  We see this in an entertainment journalism arena which declared Christina Aguilera's career in dire straights after a single month of crappy occurrences.  It wasn't just "she's having a bad month" but rather "she's hit rock bottom but she's going to have a grand comeback!" which tied into her joining NBC's The Voice.  Point being, a comeback, at least an artistic one, is predicated on a series of professional disappointments and/or a prolonged period of unwilling under-employment.  John Travolta's star-turn in Pulp Fiction and his several years of peak-stardom was a 'comeback'.  Senator Hillary Clinton winning the New Hampshire presidential primary in January 2008 after losing a single primary a week prior in Iowa was not a comeback.  As such, can we please stop referring to Brave as 'Pixar's comeback film' and/or implying that Pixar really needs to knock it out of the park with Brave lest their entire artistic reputation be undone?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beware the Batman, the eighth Batman cartoon since 1992, gets a teaser.

I'm not a huge fan of the CGI Green Lantern animated series, but I must confess that the writing is pretty sharp and the show plays for keeps.  So it is with cautious optimism that we glance at this 23-second teaser for Beware the Batman, a CGI Batman toon that will debut on Cartoon Network sometime in 2013.  Ironically, that means that there will be no Batman cartoon of any kind on the air throughout 2012, meaning that the 20th-anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series will be celebrated by having a year without Batman on our televisions for the first time since 1996. Batman: The Animated Series ran from 1992-1995, The New Batman Adventures (which was Batman: The Animated Series with streamlined artwork) ran from 1997-1999, Batman Beyond (basically the future-world of the Batman: TAS continuity) ran from 1999-2002. Justice League ran from 2001 until 2004 and Justice League Unlimited (same show, new format and title) ran from 2004 to 2006.  Its conclusion brought a close to the 14-year unofficial DC Animated Universe continuity (a world which also included the superb Superman: The Animated Series, the mediocre The Zeta Project and the often terrific Static Shock).  The Batman (which was mediocre for 60% of its run and rather good for 40%) aired from 2004 until 2008, while Batman: The Brave and the Bold (which began as a lighter, brighter Batman show but evolved into an occasionally hyper-violent examination of the entire Batman mythos from 1939 to 2011) aired from 2008 until 2011.

All eight G.I. Joe: Retaliation character posters...

These all went out to different online movie sites during the first part of the morning.  I generally don't do the whole 'cobble together from multiple sites and post them all trick, but I felt like doing so today.  Anyway, Paramount is pretty aggressive with this one as, absent the Marvel movies that dominated their summer last year, this is among their biggest would-be tentpoles.  They only have this film, The Dictator, and the Dreamworks animated sequel, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (which arguably sells itself until a week or so out, and which my mother-in-law is dying to see).  Anyway, enjoy the character posters after the jump.  Yo Joe and all that, this one drops June 29th.  As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

First look at Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock.

I wrote a piece last month detailing ten films I was eagerly anticipating post-Dark Knight Rises.  Had I waited just a few weeks, I damn-well would have included Fox Searchlight's Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (or Hitchcock, as its allegedly been renamed).  The film is an adaption of the Stephen Rebello book detailing um... Alfred Hitchcock's making of Psycho back in 1960.  It's a fascinating bit of old-school film history, and its lined-up one of the coolest casts in recent memory.  You've got Anthony Hopkins as the 'master of suspense' himself and Helen Mirren as his wife.  You've got Scarlett Johansson (as Janet Leigh), Jessica Biel (Vera Miles), Toni Collette (Peggy Robertson), Danny Huston (Whitfield Cook), Kurtwood Smith (Geoffrey Shurlock), and James D'Arcy (as Anthony Perkins).  And that's not including my two favorite bits of inspired casting.  Aside from the much-appreciated hiring of Michael Wincott to play infamous serial murderer Ed Gein (essay), they've also brought on Ralph Macchio as Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano (no word yet if the author of the novel Psycho, Robert Bloch, will show up). Wincott and Macchio are both highly under-appreciated actors who have struggled to get steady work over the last decade, and neither of 'obvious choices'.  The film has no release date as of yet, but it's easily one of Mendelson's Memos' most anticipated films over the next couple years.

Scott Mendelson

Rock of Ages gets a poster that advertises its insignificance.

Not much to comment on.  The film looks patently silly and may be quite terrible, but it's among the ones I most want to see this summer.  The cast is top-notch and Adam Shankman's Hairspray is my personal favorite screen musical of the post-Moulin Rouge era.  I don't presume this will be *good* (the trailers seem weirdly off, even in terms of simple lighting), but I'm presuming this will be awfully fun.  This one drops on June 15th, so as always, we'll see.  But even if it's "nothin' but a good time', that should be enough.  Anyway, the second trailer is embedded below after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Irony alert: Fans decry alleged unfaithfulness of Michael Bay's Ninja Turtles, a property immortalized by an unfaithful and (horrors!) kid-friendly cartoon.

This isn't exactly 'new news', but the irony took awhile to sink in, and it somewhat ties in with that "Titanic was real?!" piece I wrote last week.  As pretty much all of you know, the Michael Bay-run Platinum Dunes is producing Paramount's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot due next year. Jonathan Liebesman is directing, but the real source of umbrage is a comment Michael Bay made a few weeks ago concerning the possibly updated origins of everyone's favorite teenage mutant ninja turtles.  To quote, "These turtles are from an alien race, and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely lovable."  With that comment, the entire Internet exploded with petulant fanboy rage, the sort of thing that makes film lovers in general look bad, with would-be fans aghast that Mr. Bay might alter the characters and make them 'alien' instead of 'mutant'.  I won't go into the specific reactions from specific parties, but eventually director Liesebesman told everybody to chill out and correctly explained that, according to the comics, the mutagen that turned four turtles into a 'ninja fighting team' was in fact alien in origin. Not only is this a prime example of fans going absolutely insane due to filmmakers (specifically ones as loathed by the geek set as Michael Bay, arguably because he makes big-budget spectacles that cater to jocks instead of nerds) have the gall to deviate from alleged sacred source material, but it represents a kind of cultural amnesia in terms of why those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are still somewhat popular 25 years after their creation.  I'm talking about that horrifying unfaithful and kid-friendly cartoon that ran for ten seasons starting in 1987.  You probably can sing the theme by heart.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Damned if you do, damned if you don't: Universal sells Snow White and the Huntsman as female-empowerment while plotting sequel, sans Snow White.

Despite my misgivings about the current trend of tossing young actresses into the fairy-tale princess box, I must concede that the second trailer to Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman looks like a pretty solid action-adventure (Charlize Theron looks to be having a blast).  While I would be shocked if the film did well enough to justify its $175 million budget, there is little reason to presume that it won't be a solid hit in terms of reasonable expectations.  In fact, among women, the film tops a recent Fandango poll regarding which would-be summer blockbuster they are more anticipating most with 22% of the vote.  So the good news is that if the film is a hit, it will further establish a viable marketplace for female-centric action pictures, which will surely spawn a franchise featuring Kristen Stewart's Snow White doing battle with other various fantastical threats, right?  According to Universal COO Ron Meyer, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio is indeed interested in doing a sequel if the film is a big enough hit.  But said sequel would not focus on Snow White, but rather Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman. So the answer to the prior question is... Nope.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why I'd rather see What to Expect When You're Expecting than Battleship.

I'd imagine I'm one of the few 'geek bloggers' who would rather see What To Expect When You're Expecting more than a number of the 'big summer tentpoles'. Aside from perhaps my advancing age, part of this is that a number of the summer films just-plain don't look very good. Aside from the fact that most of us are film nerds and anticipate the new releases as a matter of course, are any of us all that psyched to see BattleshipMen In Black 3, or Total Recall?  Is there a reason we pretend to be excited about ever bigger would-be blockbusters that all-but flaunt their lack of substance at us like a badge of pride?  At the very least, the Lionsgate adaptation of the classic self-help book for pregnant parents promises to actually be 'about something' and have a certain emphasis on human relationships and what-not.  And, as a participatory father forever irked by a popular culture that presumes that dads don't do jack-shit to help raise their kids ("I'd love to change that diaper, but there's no changing table in the men's restroom."), I am at least somewhat pleased by the recent ad campaign.  Lionsgate knows it has female audiences in the bag already, so as noted in the poster above and the trailer after the jump, it's aggressively pitching to men.  

The Amazing Spider-Man gets two new posters, plus a terrible Japanese trailer.

I'm assuming these aren't the last posters, as they don't have any credits at the bottom.  Or are we past the point where full-blown theatrical one-sheets have to list any kind of credits anymore?  Anyway, the art for both of these look pretty solid.  Below the jump is the new Japanese trailer for the film.  In a word, it's awful.  The footage is fine, but it's has a painfully trite bit of voice-over monologuing in the middle and is cut together like a bad fan-edit.  Considering that the Japanese trailers for The Avengers and Brave were the best from their respective marketing campaign, we can only presume that Disney international is better at this than Sony International.  Anyway, I presume we'll get a second domestic trailer for this one attached to The Avengers in about three weeks, followed by screenings starting up after the opening weekend of geek-centric Prometheus (June 8th).  The film opens on July 3rd.  As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekend Box Office (04/15/12): Hunger Games fends off Three Stooges, Cabin in the Woods, and Lockout.

In the third-to-last weekend before summer, The Hunger Games fended off a trio of "B-movies" to retain the top spot this weekend for the fourth time in a row.  But the ranking is arbitrary and the real news is (as always) the numbers themselves. There were three new wide releases this weekend and none of them were expected to set the box office on fire.  None of them did, although Fox had a surprisingly solid debut for the Farrelly Bros' The Three Stooges.  Despite painful trailers and an initial batch of lousy reviews, the film played well to family audiences and reviews seemed to improve as reluctant critics took in a matinee show and came out surprised.  The picture opened with $17 million, which is good for the third-biggest debut for the Farrelly Bros, behind the $22 million debut of Shallow Hal in 2001 and the $24 million debut of Me, Myself, and Irene in 2000.  Since Shallow Hal, the comedic directing duo have not had a film gross over $45 million in the US, so this spry opening should help them pass that particular benchmark even if it collapses next weekend.  Although it scored a rare 3x weekend multiplier, so it's not hard to imagine the film having token legs until summer arrives.   The film earned a B- from Cinemascore, with a 'C' from audiences over 25 but an 'A' from audiences under 18.  This $30 million production should be quite profitable especially when you factor in the seemingly invincible 20th Century Fox foreign marketing machine (this could easily be another Fox film that earns $60 million here but $120 million overseas).  While the Farrelly Bros have probably peaked critically and commercially, as long as they can bring in comedies at $30-40 million, they can probably do what they want for the rest of their careers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

For those who care - a truckload of The Dark Knight Rises photos...

I'm shocked... SHOCKED that Time Warner's biggest summer movie has made the cover of Time Warner-owned Entertainment Weekly's annual summer movie preview issue.  I'm just happy that I don't have to keep using that same 'Batman aims his laser-gun' shot every time I write about the movie.  Anyway, I'm not going to dissect these to death, and I presume that Nolan and company aren't releasing anything that could be over-analyzed anyway.  But I will say that Bane looks not terribly intimidating in action and it's a little silly to see Batman wielding what appears to be an IPad (minor carping I know...).  Anyway, while most of the Internet was buzzing about Anne Hathaway's ass earlier this week (the promo image was an apparent unauthorized leak and has been removed), I was all about that 'Ella-Enchanted-quality' hair.  But that's no surprise if you know me well enough.The rest are after the jump.   Enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Review: Cabin in the Woods (2012) is about as wonderful as you've heard.

Cabin in the Woods
90 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The problem with discussing a film like writer/director Drew Goddard and writer Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods is that the very things that make the movie most worth discussing are the very things that should barely be hinted at.  So I will simply say that the hype and buzz are real.  The script is pulpy and intelligent, so clever is the writing and so surprisingly sympathetic are the characters that I would gladly watch a more conventional 'teens go to the woods and bad stuff happens' movie with this specific cast.  But as you learn within the first few minutes, there is a token twist to the seemingly generic proceedings.  What that is I will not say.  But I will say that what starts as something resembling a deconstruction of the last 10 years of horror films becomes a rallying cry against the sort of obsessively-anal dissection that makes up much of 'fanboy' discussion these days, often in the form of pre-release manufactured hype ("Ten clues found in the Dark Knight Rises poster... what do they MEAN?!?!").  But even if you don't feel like embracing its philosophical undertones, the picture operates in a skewed way as an endorsement of horror as a genre, both for its entertainment value and its social function as a healthy outlet for dealing with unpleasant ideas.  And oh yeah, it's also a funny and scary little gem of a movie.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trailer: Looper looks like an old-school 'movie' in the best sense of the word.

Well, this looks like pure unadulterated genre fun.  Yes it looks not all-that different from any number of action thrillers, but I'm the guy who gave a "B" to Lockout.  Kudos for apparently casting Emily Blunt as something other than the stock love-interest (Piper Perabo seems to be filling that role, despite being five-years older than Joseph Gordon-Levitt no less). Kudos for getting the exposition out of the way and not revealing all-that much after the first-act hook.  There are certainly hints of twists and turns (Jeff Daniels looks like a walking story turn) and this looks like a rock-solid B-movie blast.  Point being, this is another fine example of the most promising trend of the last few years: the return of the 'movie'.  You know what I mean.  It doesn't cost $150-$300 million.  It has real stars and real character actors playing in the genre sandbox.  It's not based on a well-known source material and it may even be wholly original.  It's not a tentpole or would-be franchise starter, it's just (hopefully) a good story well-told with good actors delivering sharp dialogue.  You know... a 'movie'.  *That's* what Looper looks like and what it represents.  Looper drops September 28th.  As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson 

Retrospective: The Avengers (no... the *other* Avengers).

No, I wasn't invited to see Marvel's The Avengers for last night's premiere, and I wasn't able to snag tickets to this Saturday's 'Facebook fan screening', so I'll probably be out of the loop until regular press screenings start up during the week prior to release.  But since I couldn't see The Avengers that everyone cares about, I'd thought I'd be ironic and check out the one everyone forgot about.  Back in 1998, The Avengers was my most-anticipated film of that summer season.  I didn't know a damn thing about the original 1960s show, but I did know that it was being sold as a big-budget action-comedy with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman as the dapper heroes and Sean Connery ironically playing a Blofeld-type super-villain.  I discussed the run-up to its release three years ago, so I won't repeat what I wrote there.  Before last night, I had not actually seen the film in the fourteen years since its opening day in theatrical release.  So, in hindsight, what's the verdict?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why those 'dumb kids who thought Titanic wasn't real' stories don't mean a damn thing other than serve as an example of our own generational snobbery.

"Oh no!", shouts America.  There are kids on Facebook and/or Twitter who didn't realize that James Cameron's Titanic was based on a true story!  Obviously this is a prime example of the dumbing-down of America and proof that educational standards in America have hit rock-bottom, and that kids today just don't have an appreciation for history.  All of those things may be true, but what I see is less an example of dumbed-down kids than an older generation once again shocked... SHOCKED that today's kids don't care about the same things we care about.  First of all, let's presume for a moment that someone didn't extensively surf Facebook or Twitter and find a dozen or so messages that had kids expressing astonishment that Titanic was a real ship that really sank in 1912.  Assuming that the examples in question are enough of a sampling to imply that a decent number of kids don't know about early 20th-century passenger vessel sinkings, so what?  I'm sure every single one of you who are up-in-arms about this can deliver a five-minute historical report about the sinking of the Lusitania way back in May of 1915.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: Lockout (2012) delivers distinctly 1990s-style B-movie action goods.

95 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

The funniest moment in Lockout, especially in hindsight, is a credit that appears which states that the film is 'based on an original idea by Luc Besson'.  Written and directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, the film is the sort of genre rip-off that is so old that it almost feels new again.  This film is as unoriginal as a movie can be without being a sequel, remake, or reboot.  That it is none of those things inspires a token amount of warm feelings, which in turn says something about the state of the industry.  Guy Pearce may be attempting to create a new Snake Plissken, but the film's template is pure unadulterated Die Hard.  More than that, Lockout feels less like a riff on Die Hard than a science-fiction and comparatively large-budget variation on the countless direct-to-VHS Die Hard rip-offs that prospered during the uber-late hours of HBO-5 or Showtime-6 just before DVD hit the mainstream.  With occasionally awful special effects, a bare minimum of decent acting, and a down-and-dirty sensibility that belies its existence as a mainstream theatrical feature, Lockout feels less like Die Hard on a space prison as No Contest on a space prison.      

Monday, April 9, 2012

Box Office Speculation: With few real competitors, why The Hunger Games will likely end 2012 as its second highest-grossing film.

I made an offhand comment in yesterday's box office write-off stating that The Hunger Games was all-but certain to end the year as among the top-three grossing films (domestically) by the time 2012 ended.  To be fair, it inspired more chit-chat on Twitter than it did here (my twitter followers really ought to comment here more often), but there were a number of 'what about THIS film?' and what-not.  So let's take a few moments to really examine the theoretical box office potential of the would-be box office giants of summer 2012 and the Thanksgiving/Christmas season.  This will be focusing on the biggest-of-the-big, so films that will merely be solid hits (Battleship, Snow White and the Huntsmen, anything and everything released between July 21st and November 9th) need not apply.  What is the plausible box office verdict on these films, and what real chance do they have against the likely $375-$400 million final domestic cume of The Hunger Games?  To put it bluntly, with one obvious exception, the odds are not in their favor.

New-ish 'column' at Mendelson's Memos: Box Office Speculation

I stopped doing overt box office guesstimates and speculation a few years back, after I realized A) I was caring more about if I was right than about what the actual numbers meant and B) I didn't want to be part of a growing trend that treated pre-release box office punditry and/or industry tracking like serious news and held the films against the sometimes unrealistic if not intentionally-hyperbolic predictions.  But I miss doing it and box office analysis is what got me started on this site in the first place.  So I'll be publishing my first such piece as soon as this one hits the site.  For the record, all such essays are in fact COMPLETELY speculation.  Yes I'm using math and hopefully using my would-be knowledge and the research available to me to discuss the opening weekends or final grosses of unreleased films with a token amount of credibility, but the films will gross what they will gross.  These pieces are for entertainment purposes only.  I don't want to hear, random example, 'The Avengers opened to $125 million but that's a flop cause Scott Mendelson said it would open to $150 million!'.  Box office speculation in the wrong hands can be a toxic force for evil in the film journalism world, but I shouldn't deny myself the opportunity to write what I enjoy (and what at least some of my readers enjoy) because other bloggers and pundits do it so poorly yet are taken as gospel.  Anyway, once again, these pieces will be clearly marked 'box office speculation' and should be taken as such at all times, regardless of how accurate or hilariously off-base I turn out to be regarding a given film.  So with that said, I hope you enjoy my unofficial return to the world of box office bingo.

Scott Mendelson  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weekend Box Office (04/08/12): Hunger Games tops $300m, American Reunion and Titanic 3D open slightly soft.

Whatever my issues with The Hunger Games in terms of its quality as a film, its continued box office might can only be a good thing.  Considering the current trend of studios basically remaking/rebooting/rehashing every remotely popular property over the last thirty years, the fact that this NEW adaptation from a NEW novel is going to be among the top three grossing films of the year by a healthy margin can only be a good lesson.  Anyway, The Hunger Games topped the box office for the third time in a row this weekend, dropping a perfectly reasonable 43% in weekend three, for a weekend haul of $33.5 million.  This gives the film a massive $302 million in seventeen days, which is the second-largest such haul for a film outside of summer in history.  That's the fifth-biggest seventeen-day total in history, and 11 days ahead of Alice In Wonderland, the closest non-summer competitor and just two days behind Avatar.  Forget Twilight comparisons, it's already passed Eclipse, which is the highest-grossing entry in the series.  And forget the majority of the Harry Potter series, as it's $14 million away from surpassing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and it's already tied with the $303 million 17-day total of  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II with significantly larger second and third weekends to boot.  At this point, it's playing like Spider-Man 2 and the last Harry Potter film, with stronger weekends but lighter weekday grosses.  The second Spidey pick ended its third weekend with $302 million and ended its domestic haul with $373 million, while Harry Potter 7.2 ended with $381 million.  Factoring a rather busy April and the coming summer onslaught, that's as good a place to predict as to where the first The Hunger Games ends up.

Friday, April 6, 2012

As Gary Ross leaves The Hunger Games franchise, nine female directors who could/should replace him on Catching Fire and/or Mockingjay.

The Playlist doesn't break news all that often, merely seeing fit to be a one-stop shop for the movie news that everyone else breaks during the day (I don't mean that as an insult, The Playlist is the site I go to if I only have time to surf one movie news site in a given day),  So it's somewhat of a big deal that The Playlist has broken a pretty major story, confirming that director Gary Ross will not be back to helm the second and/or third films in the Hunger Games franchise.  There have been rumblings all week about contract negotiations, and Ross has now politely passed.  The site chalks it up to both Ross's lack of desire to stay in the same universe for the next several years combined with a somewhat low-ball offer from Lionsgate.  Whatever the case, Ross is gone and the hunt for a new director is now on.  While editing my John Carter obituary a few weeks ago, I removed a large paragraph dealing with the trend of giving young white-male filmmakers with barely a feature credit to their name the keys to $100-300 million franchise films while seasoned pros and/or minorities remain noticeably absent from the 'wish-list' (yes, I was glad to see F. Gary Gray on the Marvel wish-list for Captain America 2).  And while I wouldn't consider The Hunger Games a 'female film', it would be a great opportunity to make a point that female directors can indeed handle the kind of big-scale filmmaking that studios are all-too willing to offer to mostly untested male directors as a matter of course.  So, perhaps arbitrarily, perhaps to prove a point about how inaccessible the 'wish list' is for female directors, here are nine directors who happen to be women who also belong on 'the wish-list' as Lionsgate hunts for a second director.  These are in alphabetical order, with the exception of the final entry, who would be my 'top choice'.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Harvey Weinstein is a hypocritical bully and a f***ing a**hole. Now that publicity has subsided, Weinstein to cut Bully down to a PG-13 after all.

When the manufactured outrage over the MPAA handing Bully an R-rating for its six F-bombs, I politely suggested that Weinstein should just do what Morgan Spurlock did with Super Size Me and cut and alternate, 'educational version' of the documentary so that it could be viewed in schools and other public places.  But over the last two months, Harvey Weinstein and his band of Karl Rove/Lee Atwater-ish bullies have ginned up the media, getting publicity-friendly movie stars and righteously indignant pundits to hem and howl at the MPAA because they had the gall not to give Weinstein's film preferential treatment.  After all, an R-rating was going to keep kids from seeing Bully in a theater!  LIE (any kid of any age can see an R-rated film with a parent/guardian over 18).  And NATO's statement to the Weinstein Company that releasing the film unrated would possibly cause theaters to treat it like an NC-17 film was EXACTLY like threatening to give the film an NC-17 as retaliation for raising a ruckus!  LIE.  If the MPAA didn't give in and give the film a PG-13, the film wouldn't reach the kids that it needed to reach!  LIE (DVDs, Blu-Ray, Video On Demand, Netflix... pick one!).  The film was so singularly awesome and important that it had the unimpeachable power to save kids' lives and that denying this film its rightful PG-13 was tantamount to murdering at-risk bullied youth.  Well, I haven't seen the film, but I'm guessing that's a LIE too.

Titanic 3D opens with $4.3 million, sails towards likely $20-$25m 5-day total.

The much-hyped 3D-release of James Cameron's Titanic debuted yesterday with a solid $4.3 million.  What's left to do now is merely play with the numbers to estimate where the five-day opening weekend for this 3D release will end come Sunday.  The wild-card for the weekend is that tomorrow is Good Friday, which means that many kids will be out of school for at least part of the day.  On the other hand, Easter Sunday means that families will be spending the day together, and even if a trip to the movies is in order, I can't imagine the entire family agreeing to a 3.5-hour emotionally-draining tragedy that most people own on DVD being the likely pick, especially as families with small children are less likely to shell out for the 3D upgrade.  Anyway, let's presume that Easter Sunday cancels out Good Friday and call it even.

Oliver Stone's star-filled, and unapologetically R-rated Savages, the official 'adult popcorn film of summer 2012', gets a down-and-dirty trailer.

It used to be a custom of sorts to have at least one somewhat adult-skewing genre picture in any given summer, something to stand out for older audiences who liked their summer thrills with a bit less fantasy and a bit more gore and/or nudity.  Be it Wolf in 1994, A Time to Kill in 1996, Swordfish in 2001, The Road to Perdition in 2002, or Collateral in 2004 (along with, arguably The Manchurian Candidate redo), this once time-honored tradition somewhat went the way of the dinosaur as seemingly adult genre fare like Mr. and Mrs. SmithThe Da Vinci CodeLive Free or Die Hard and Salt got squeezed into the PG-13 zone and R-rated comedies like The Wedding Crashers, Tropic Thunder, and The Hangover compensated for the lack of truly R-rated action fare.  Aside from the likes of The Expendables in 2010, summer has pretty much been the place where everything is aimed at everyone for the last several years.  But Universal senses an opening, not only moving this seemingly trashy bit of pulp fiction into the summer, but slotting it three days after the debut of Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man.

Press Release: Disney announces release date for Captain America 2.

The Walt Disney Studios has announced a release date for Marvel Studios’ sequel to the blockbuster Captain America: The First Avenger on April 4, 2014.  The second installment will pick-up where the highly anticipated Marvel’s The Avengers (May 4, 2012) leaves off, as Steve Rogers continues his affiliation with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D and struggles to embrace his role in the modern world.

So now it appears that the studios are attempting to begin the unofficial summer season as early as April, thanks to the huge late-March business generated by The Hunger Games, along with the last two Fast/Furious entries, which pulled in blockbuster numbers in early-April 2009 and late-April 2011 respectively.  The last sentence seems to dispel any hope that a sequel would somehow primarily take place in the 1940s/World War II-era, although I wouldn't be surprised to see a story that blended flashbacks to Rogers's war efforts with a present-day story (it might be too soon to play the 'Winter Soldier' card, but I imagine that will pop up eventually).  Anyway, nothing more to report here.  I suppose the next step is to find a director, as Joe Johnston will apparently not be returning (which is a damn shame, but I digress).  Among those 'on the list' are F. Gary Gray (yay!), The Adjustment Bureau's George Nolfi (boo!), and Community directors Anthony and Joseph Russo (Sure, why not?).

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: The Raid: Redemption (2012) plays both sides, crafting non-stop action while creating sympathy through unrelenting fear.

The Raid: Redemption
100 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

It would be easy to write off The Raid: Redemption as merely a coldly mechanical genre exercise.  Much of the film is basically one brutally violent action sequence after another, with only a bare minimum of plot and character to keep our rooting interest.  That the action sequences are generally superb may not negate the fact that the film comes close to feeling less like a feature and more like a glorified demo reel for second-unit choreography.  But writer/director Gareth Evans's film elicits a most unexpected reaction from the audience, one that allows us to take a rooting interest in those doing the killing and those being killed.  Put simply, The Raid: Redemption is a genuinely scary film.  The characters may be thin, and the majority of the plot is explained in the first ten minutes.  But the film so viciously establishes the stakes that it is often more terrifying than exciting.

Review: Mario Van Peebles's We the Party (2012) compensates for its threadbare production values with a strongly moral viewpoint.

We the Party
104 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

At its best, Mario Van Peebles's We the Party feels like the director's overt thesis statement on today's youth culture.  The picture is at heart a somewhat generic youthful coming-of-age story that follows several high schoolers as they struggle to determine their place in their portion of the world.  It arguably wants to be a defining portrait of a youth embroiled in the connectivity-era, along with a generally upper-middle class Los Angeles living under the first minority president.  But the film is actually at its best when its all-but explicitly monologuing what is clearly Van Peebles's thoughts about a whole host of social issues.  The film has more educational merit than filmmaking polish.  It is clearly an amateur work, with a respected filmmaker working on a shoe-string budget with largely novice actors.  Because of what it preaches and what it represents, I wish it were a better overall movie.  But for those inclined to sample it, We the Party has enough on its mind to justify its threadbare existence.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A masterpiece then and now: Why James Cameron's Titanic needs no defense.

This is an expanded and updated version of an essay I wrote on November 11th, 2007.  

It was right at the opening credit sequence. That haunting footage of the various passengers embarking on the ship, with a sorrowful version of the theme playing in the background (a version that inexplicably was never been included on the soundtrack CDs back in 1997/1998) As the cheering crowds gave way to the ship's watery grave and the title unfurled on screen, I leaned over to a friend and whispered "I already love this movie". It was a symbol right there of what made Titanic great and what separated it from the likes of Pearl Harbor or The Day After Tomorrow: the film openly acknowledged that every single life lost on that ship was every bit as tragic and unfair as the eventual fates of our leads. And, as the film played over the next six months, when you asked people what part they cried at, it wasn't anything to do with Jack or Rose. It was the mother reading to her children so that they might be asleep as they drowned in her arms. It was Victor Garber setting the clock just right before the water came pouring in. It was the ship's band leaving and then returning to play it out. For those primal moments, for the brilliant first-act demonstration of exactly how the ship sank so that we understood what was happening two hours later, for James Horner's achingly powerful score, and for any number of reasons that I shouldn't have to reiterate fifteen years later, Titanic is still a splendidly powerful bit of moviemaking, one of the best films of the 1990s, and one of the best pure blockbusters of our time.

Review: The Hunter (2012) is a sober, quiet thriller with no clear answers.

The Hunter
100 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The Hunter is, at its core, a probing character study of a man sent on a mission to do something most of us would consider unthinkable.  At its best, it is an eerily quiet portrait and an occasionally haunting drama.  Alas, it gets tripped up in outside complications, adding melodrama and apparent corporate conspiracy to its plot when its frankly unneeded.  But Willem Dafoe delivers a fine star turn, arguably portraying the kind of rugged man-of-action he thought we would end up playing after Clear and Present Danger was released back in 1994 (as some may recall, most of John Clark's action beats ended up on the cutting room floor, and no spin-off ever materialized from Tom Clancy's Clark-centric novels).  The needless complications are what prevents a good film from being great, while an uncommonly powerful ending stirs the soul even while leaving crucial moral questions unanswered.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Total Recall remake gets a trailer not worth remembering, wholesale or otherwise.

I've seen this movie.  Several times in fact, and it has aged surprisingly well considering the reliance on 22-year old special effects and a lead performance from an action star not known for his thespian skills.  So while Len Wiseman and company may have claimed that they were merely re-adapting the original Philip K Dick short story (titled "We Can Remember It For Your Wholesale"), this trailer reveals the fraud of that argument.  This is a bloated, ugly, and seemingly weightless remake of the original Paul Verhoeven film, plain and simple.  There is quite simply no reason to remake this particular film because it has barely aged a day.  If I want to watch Total Recall, I'll damn-well watch the 1990 version in all of its head-spinning and gore-filled R-rated glory (has there ever been a more grotesquely violent R-rated film outside of Verhoeven's own Starship Troopers released by a major studio?).  The story beats in this remake seem identical, the characters seem pretty similar (except a love-interest character who was once played by a racial minority is now lily-white), and the $200 million (!!!) future world seems like a mash-up of Minority Report and The Fifth Element.  Even the big 'single-take' shooting sequence looks *exactly* like a moment from the Dead to Rights video game series.  Why bother even spending such an obscene amount of money if you're not going to actually try to create anything new or unique?  You want to play around with the story?  Great!  You want to create an original future world using state-of-the-art special effects? Fine!  But Sony and the filmmakers seem to have merely decided to remake a popular and continuously-relevant genre film purely because of its built-in brand awareness and then spent $200 million merely ripping off the future worlds from other original pictures.  This one drops August 3rd, ironically against The Bourne Redundancy.  Maybe I'll take my daughter to Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days instead (or perhaps just read a book).  Your turn, folks.  Am I being too hard on this one, or is the lack of imagination depressing to you as well?

Scott Mendelson          

3 of a Kind: Mirror Mirror and two prior fractured fairy-tales that end on a song.

Why Relativity saw fit to release this climactic dance number from Mirror Mirror well-ahead of its theatrical release, I cannot say.  But while it's pretty disconnected from the film, it does reveal a pretty big spoiler involving the fate of a major supporting character (and also ruins one of the biggest 'wtf?' cameos in recent memory).  It may not be fair to continuously compare Mirror Mirror to the somewhat similar Ella Enchanted, but it is worth noting that they actually end in pretty much the same way, albeit with an established song as opposed to an original Bollywood-ish tune.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Weekend Box Office (04/01/12): The Hunger Games powers on, Wrath of the Titans falls into the "Tomb Raider trap", Mirror Mirror underwhelms.

As expected, The Hunger Games (review/trailer) again topped the box office this weekend, but its relatively strong hold suggests that it may be a bit mightier than a conventional Twilight/Harry Potter sequel.  With $58 million in weekend two (the ninth-biggest non-opening weekend ever, ahead of all the respective Harry Potter and Twilight Saga films), the film dropped 61% and ended day ten with a whopping $248 million.  That's the biggest ten-day total for a non-sequel ever, and the fifth-biggest ever.  It came in above the $240 million ten-day total of Spider-Man 3, and it is that film which its performance most resembles.  Spider-Man 3 opened with $151 million in May of 2007 before dropping 61% for a $58 million weekend.  Spidey took a drop on weekend two despite having no new releases to compete against because it wasn't exclaimed critically-acclaimed among the fanbase.  The Hunger Games had two big releases this weekend, plus the loss of its IMAX screens which represented about 7% of its theaters and 10% of its gross last weekend.  No other mega-opener on this level that benefited from IMAX has had to deal with the immediate loss of those premium screens, so it bares mention when comparing it to the respective second weekends of The Dark Knight ($75 million off a $158 million debut) or Alice In Wonderland ($62 million off a $116 million debut).  Spider-Man 3 ended its domestic run with $336 million, and its ten day total represented 71% of the gross.  Giving The Hunger Games a similar pattern would give this franchise-starter a final domestic cume of $349 million.  We'll see how it weathers the 3D reissue of Titanic next weekend.  Oh, and it's up to $362 million worldwide, all on a mere $90 million budget.


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