Thursday, December 31, 2009

Until time allows my crack at all of that 'best of decade' stuff...

Alas, brutal work schedules and (very minor but time-consuming) family illnesses have kept me from doing the whole 'best this and that of the decade'. At this rate, I'll be lucky to shoot off a best-of-2009 essay before 2011. While I'm intending to at least toss a few essays out there as the new decade begins, I thought I'd share the comprehensive decade-in review pieces that Kyle Leaman wrote in the twelve days leading up to Christmas. Each day, he tackled the 2000s in one category or another, ending up with a pretty thorough list that's worth a gander. Kyle runs a site called 'The Part-Time Critic', and he was pretty much the first honest-to-goodness fan of Mendelson's Memos during my first summer of full-fledged publication. In the end, it's just one man's opinion and I disagree with his choices (he shamefully omits Meet the Robinsons in the animated category) as often as I agree with them (he likes Akeelah and the Bee as much as I), but he did the hard work that I didn't, so I thought I'd share his insights.

The most overrated films of 2000s.
The most underrated films of 2000s.
The best action sequences of 2000s.
The best dramatic sequences of 2000s.
The best guilty pleasures of 2000s.
The best foreign films and documentaries of 2000s.
The best animated/family films of 2000s.
The best action films of 2000s.
The best dramas of 2000s.
The best horror films of 2000s.
The best performances of 2000s.
The best films of the 2000s.

I'll do my best to toss out my thoughts on the decade after it's over and a certain someone is back in preschool during the workday.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in review - The Runner-Ups

Before I get to my obligatory 'best films of the year' list, I'd like to take a moment to run down a list of films that are worthy of mention outside of the very best of the year. Some of these films are great pictures that missed the top-ten. Some are surprisingly good pictures that would otherwise have no business on a 'best of' list. Some are simply movies that I felt like pointing out for one reason or another. Enjoy...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The review of Nine that I would have written had time allowed...

I make a point not to pick on the attractiveness of actors or actresses, but otherwise this Nine review by N.P. Thompson at "The House Next Door" is 100% in sync with my own thoughts. An opening excerpt:

"What makes Rob Marshall’s Nine so peculiarly bad is its sheer self-congratulation. We’re incessantly told how important, how fascinating the director Guido Contini must be, and we as viewers are expected to take this on faith, but never once does Guido (Daniel Day-Lewis) do or say anything even remotely intriguing. The movie has no real subject; it’s proudly about nothing. Not the arid nothingness of a Van Sant movie, but a boring sort of Condé Nast nothingness."

Yeah, what he said. Sometimes a fellow critic expresses your own feelings so perfectly, the only thing to do is link and credit accordingly. The only thing I would add is that the razzle-dazzle sexiness feels so forced and artificial that all of the actors involved actually exhibited more sex appeal during the rehearsal montage that played over the closing credits. For the record, I have not seen Broken Embraces (the other film he reviews), so I did not read that particular critique.

Scott Mendelson

Chris Nolan's Inception gets a second trailer.

Still next to no plot, but plenty of interesting imagery, star-billing for Leonardo DiCaprio, plus cameos from Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lucas Haas, Tardy, and Cillian Murphy. I didn't notice any glimpses of Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, or 'he's the killer!' Tom Berenger (if this were a TV crime procedural, I would have just solved the mystery). This one comes out July 16th, 2010. Nice pick, since that's been Warner Bros' 'kill everything in sight' box office weekend since 2007. Worked for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Dark Knight, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. And yes, that's the same weekend that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2 comes out in 2011. So history will likely repeat itself and we should see a boffo opening, possibly one of the top openings ever for a 'completely original' property. I'm just trying to stay relatively spoiler-free for the next seven months.

Scott Mendelson

Avatar's best moment (hint - it has nothing to do with 3D special effects)

As expected, as James Cameron's Avatar continues to hammer the box office, blockbuster backlash has settled in almost before the ink on those rave reviews has dried. While blockbuster backlash is a common thing (quick... find anyone who still admits to loving Independence Day or even Return of the King), the speed in which the 'oh, it's just about effects' talk has become mainstreamed is a little surprising. The standard line is now 'oh, the story is bland and the character development is non-existent'. But, as we all know, the mega hits, the ones like Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, or Spider-Man, made their money on the strength of everything but the effects. With the arguable exception of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (a $400 million-grossing anomaly that no one particularly liked), you can't generally make it to mega-hit status without connecting to audiences on some kind of emotional level. Jurassic Park wowed audiences with the dinosaur effects, but it kept people around because it was a viscerally thrilling little horror film. Lord of the Rings promised awe-inspiring mass-battle scenes, but also delivered rich performances and an emotionally powerful narrative. Spider-Man got audiences in the door with gee-wiz webslinging adventure, but they stuck around because the film took the time to develop all of its characters, from the multifaceted Norman Osborne to the genuinely guilt-ridden Peter Parker. Did anyone even talk about the technical aspects of The Dark Knight? The movies that do more than flame out after their opening weekends are the ones that do more than show us the biggest and best in special effects technology.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar leads the charge in biggest-grossing total weekend in box office history. (12/27/09)

So many notable records were notched this weekend that I'm not sure where to begin. So, for the sake of expediency, let's just do a list for now.

The biggest three-day weekend of all-time, at $263.9 million.
Avatar ($75.5 million) - Biggest second weekend of all time. Smallest dip (-1.8%) for any movie opening over $42 million. Tenth-smallest drop for any super-wide release. Biggest Christmas weekend ever. Tenth-fastest to $200 million.
Sherlock Holmes ($62.3 million) - Biggest Christmas opening-weekend ever. Fifth-biggest December opening weekend ever. Second-largest opening weekend not to be number 01 (behind The Day After Tomorrow's $68 million Memorial Day launch).
Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakuel ($48.8 million) - Eighth-biggest December opening weekend. Fourth-biggest opening weekend not to be number 01.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Movie decade in review poll (courtesy of Hot Blog's Crow T. Robot)

Hot Blog commenter 'Crow T Robot' posted a great little poll regarding the decade in film. Since I'm filling it out in Poland's blog, I thought I'd share my answers with you as well.

Is the impossible happening again? Avatar crosses $100 million in five days, pulls in second $16 million+ weekday.

This can't possibly be happening again, can it? No, it's just the pre-holiday rush, plus those who missed out due to the weekend snowstorm... right? You don't suppose...

Sex and the City 2 gets a teaser trailer.

Oddly enough, if this sequel runs about the same length as the first film (150 minutes), then the two films combined would equal the running time of an entire 13-episode seventh season. I do wonder if Warner Bros and HBO will have the stones to eventually repackage these two films into 22-minute chunks, spread out said chunks over three or four discs, and then charge $50 for the 'seventh season of Sex and the City'? As for the movie, the teaser gives away not a drop of plot which is just as well. Like the first film, this one is opening the weekend after Memorial Day. This time, however, it will have direct demo competition, with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opening on the same date. If their respective trailers are any indication, there's a strong likelihood that Sex and the City 2 will be the superior choice for that weekend.

Scott Mendelson

Kick-Ass gets a 'Hit Girl'-centric red-band trailer.

This thing has been playing to raves to the nerd set, but that's a sign of danger as often as it's a good omen. I hope the entire appeal of the movie isn't purely based on breaking various social taboos ('oooh... it's a ten-year old girl swearing and killing people!'). On the other hand, the action does look solid, plus it's shot in fluid takes and easy to follow. This one comes out in April so I imagine we'll see lots more character-centric ads and posters from Lionsgate before then.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Knight and Day gets a trailer.

This somewhat below-the-radar Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz thriller seems to be attempting a True Lies vibe. The action looks focused and easy to follow, and both of the leads seem to be in their comfort zone and having fun. Oddly enough, this is actually somewhat of a change of pace for Cruise, as the Mission: Impossible series has been his only real foray into present-day action heroism. James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) is helming this one, so there's little reason to doubt that it won't at least be rock-solid genre entertainment. And let's be honest, whatever you may think of Cruise's personal life, he hasn't made a truly bad film since Days of Thunder back in 1990. Knight and Day opens on July 2nd, 2010.

Scott Mendelson

Chris Nolan's Inception gets a second poster.

First of all, congratulations to Tom Berenger for scoring a real role in a real movie once again. I believe this will be his first appearance in a major theatrical picture since Training Day back in 2001. This guy was one of the biggest stars of the 1980s, but the slow death of the mid-budget character drama completely crushed him as the big-event spectacles of the 1990s became paramount. From what I heard, the problem is that he refused to cut his per-picture salary even as his star dimmed. He allegedly held out for the kind of leading roles that were no longer being offered, rather than taking a pay cut to appear in independent films or appear as a supporting player in commercial ventures. Oh well, come what may, good to see him back. Of course, he's also become the kinda guy who is without a doubt 'the killer' when he guests on a crime procedural, so I hope I didn't just solve whatever mystery this film is attempting to spin. Oh, and Cillian Murphy is in this? Now I can easily drag my wife along, as that's how I tricked her to coming to my press screening of The Dark Knight (she's still pissed about Murphy's one-second cameo). If it seems that I'm babbling, it's because I have nothing new to add about this one. I'm making a point to avoid reading what this film is about, and the posters and trailers (second trailer will be attached to Sherlock Holmes) are more than happy to keep me in the dark. Come what may, I'll be there with bells on for this one in July, 2010.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 in review - Worst movies of the year.

I don't generally do worst-of lists, simply because I try to make a point to avoid movies that I probably won't enjoy. However, 2009 contained a number of surprise stinkers, as well as any number of bad films that I saw through work or in order to cover them for this site and my other outlets. So this year I saw enough genuinely unfortunate misses to make a plausible list. There are certainly allegedly terrible films that I haven't seen (The Ugly Truth, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2) and would-be losers that I probably won't see (All About Steve), so I can't promise that your least-favorite flick made the list. I chart the year's-worst not to gloat but to mourn. Here are ten misses in alphabetical order, plus the year's worst movie-going experience.

Bride Wars
This is the kind of thing that makes chick flicks look bad, an unfunny and borderline offensive farce about two professional adults and lifelong friends who basically destroy each others' lives in order to maintain their own respective wedding dates. If it were a satire of wedding-mania, it might work, but it eventually ends up endorsing and celebrating the industry. Furthermore, it cheats its way into a happy ending by turning one of the male counterparts into a villain for daring to question his fiancee's destructive behavior. Kate Hudson took most of the blame for this one in the press, while Anne Hathaway emerged unscathed. They both should have to answer for this shameful piece of propaganda.

The Final Destination 3D
An absolutely lifeless and artless nothing of a film. It contains no character development, no real plot, and no pretense of being a real movie. But even the 3D death scenes pale in comparison to the previous three films in this franchise, as the heavy reliance on cheap CGI mutes the impact of a series known for over-the-top death scenes that at least looked real. This is the rare movie that is almost less entertaining than staring at a blank screen for 80 minutes.

Friday the 13th
A film so boring and bland, so utterly uninvolved and inexplicably laugh-out-loud stupid, that it makes every prior Friday the 13th sequel look like a masterpiece in comparison. The reluctance of director Marcus Nipsel (helmer of the far-superior Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) to even try to play around with the formula or reinvent the mythology is mind-boggling. Come what may, at least Rob Zombie's Halloween franchise is trying to be good and different. This remake/reboot offers no reason for its existence and nothing except bootleg-quality cinematography to distinguish itself from its predecessors.

The Girlfriend Experience
This Steven Soderbergh experiment is shocking, edgy, and fascinating... unless you've seen even half an episode of Showtime's vastly-superior and genuinely entertaining Secret Diary of a Call Girl. This relatively incident-free 'expose' into the life of a high-priced escort offers no real insights and no real titillation. The film made headlines due to the casting of a real-life porn star in the lead role, and that's frankly the most exciting thing about the picture. Soderbergh scored later this year with The Informant, and I enjoy his experiments (like Bubble), but this was one of his very worst, most pointless films.

Madea Goes to Jail
Tyler Perry follows up his best film (The Family That Preys) with his very worst. Returning to all of his worst impulses (overdone farce, shout to the balconies acting, racial and economic stereotypes, illogical plot turns), Perry weaves a narrative that plays on the worst stereotypes in black culture (success and ambition = evil) while stocking the film full of celebrity cameos who exist merely to embarrass themselves on film. Not even Viola Davis as a no-nonsense social worker/pastor can save this misfire. Fortunately, I Can Do Bad All By Myself was a step back in the right direction.

Men Who Stare At Goats
This is as bad as Up in the Air is good and one of the worst movies in George Clooney's generally sparkling filmography. This dreadfully moronic expose on true-life military experiments with ESP and mind-altering drugs may just be a government conspiracy, as it renders the story completely uninteresting to the American public. No need to hide the truth when you can bore and annoy the audience silly with it. I actually like the story structure, which basically plays out the entire six-film Star Wars series in 90 minutes and uses it as a metaphor for the false Utopian hopes of the 1970s. And I will admit that this is not a brainless exercise. But whatever thematic pay-offs occur in the third-act don't make up for the completely dull and nearly unwatchable first hour.

Public Enemies
I'm not among those who think that Michael Mann walks on water, and he basically drowns this time around. By taking the infamous outlaw John Dillinger and completely neutering his lifestory to fit the template of Universal's slate of bullshit biopics ('he's not bad, just a product of society, and he sure loved his girlfriend'), Mann forces Johnny Depp to give life to a poorly-written block of wood. Christian Bale's pursuing federal agent is far more interesting, yet the film barely touches on his manhunt and the politics behind it. Not helping matters is digital cinematography that was probably intended to be viewed on an IPhone, and shoot-outs so poorly staged that I couldn't tell which gray-suited character was being shot at any given point (at least three people besides myself swear that Depp gets shotgunned during a forest shoot-out). All in all, you have a film that makes you yearn for the comparatively rich character work and 'you are there' intimacy of Miami Vice.

What do you get when you base a 95-minute film around a climactic plot twist, but then painfully telegraph that twist so that everyone catches on by the first 20 minutes? You get lots of tedium, over-acting, a lack of momentum, and no real reason not to fast-forward to the climax to confirm your educated guess. This is a tragic waste of a number of fine actors (Bill Pullman, Julia Ormond, Michael Ironside) and a moody opening act, but there is no story beyond setting up the climax.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
This film fails for refusing to give the audience what they want. Sure you occasionally get what you paid for; giant robots smacking the hell out of each other. You even get a first-act climax that's one of the best action scenes of the decade. But rather than offering up a lean and mean robot-smashing action picture, Michael Bay piles on crude and unfunny sexual humor, astonishing racial stereotypes, neoconservative political sentiments, and an unending plot that takes until the very end of the movie to do nothing more than reverse a narrative mistake from the first hour (absolutely nothing of interest occurs for the entire middle hour). Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the ultimate Michael Bay film in the worst sense of the term. The problem with Bay isn't that he gives the audience what they want; it's that he feels the need to pile on excess crap to such an extent that he forgets what they desired in the first place.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The only thing worse than an ambitious comic book movie that falls on its butt (Superman Returns, The Spirit) is an absolutely lazy adaptation that doesn't seem to be trying. With pointless and arbitrary action scenes, plus a narrative that is as paint-by-numbers as humanly possible, this X-Men spin-off/prequel makes X-Men: the Last Stand look like, well, X2: X-Men United. This is a shocking botch from a number of very talented people (director Gavin Hood, Hugh Jackman, Danny Huston, Liev Schreiber, etc). What's stunning is the apparent lack of effort to even try to make this film into something unique or special.

And the worst movie I saw all last year is one I won't name. It was an exceptionally early screening of a movie that will (theoretically) be released this coming year. I went in excited, as it was from a director I absolutely adore, but I walked out devastated and confused. It was easily the most shocking and heartbreaking failure of 2009. Massive reshoots have been conducted, but I can't imagine anything less than a totally reshoot can save a project that was fatally flawed on every level. I'll name the movie if/when it is released, and I'll happily eat crow if the new cut is watchable. But for now, (insert director here)'s (insert title here) is easily my pick for the worst movie I saw in all of 2009.

Scott Mendelson

James Cameron's Avatar defies skeptics and snowstorms, earns $77 million in debut weekend. Box office weekend in review (12/20/09)

If Avatar were the most expensive movie of all-time, there might be some responsibility to score the biggest opening-weekend of all time. But, at $240 million, Avatar was not the most expensive movie ever. 2012 ($260 million), Spider-Man 3 ($275 million) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ($300 million) all cost more. Heck, thanks to 2012 (remember when Roland Emmerich was known for cheap effects that looked expensive?), it was not even the most expensive non-sequel. But expectations are a dangerous thing, so how much Avatar pulled in this weekend will not matter as much as perception of said numbers. If the press jumps on the 'mere' $73 million opening sprint the way they crucified King Kong's $50 million 3-day and $66 million five-day opening, then the film may forever be considered a disappointment no matter how much it grosses in the end. On the other hand, if the number is looked at in a realistic fashion, then we can all acknowledge that this was a pretty darn-impressive opening weekend for a film with major long-term potential. Let's begin...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Iron Man 2 gets a teaser.

Rourke's Russian accent is a little goofy and that his presence is a little lacking for the core villain in the second film of a major franchise. But that gives hope that this sequel will be focused more on Stark than the antagonist(s). One of the things I did like about Spider-Man 2 was that the villain was basically there as an occasional punching bag in the midst of a very Peter Parker-centric story (however, telling that story with Doc Ock, the Spider-Man equivalent of The Joker, was a terrible mistake). But, I do like that the film seems to be addressing my biggest issues with the first film: A) Stark ended the film as the same selfish jerk that he was in the beginning, just with different motives. B) If Stark magically decided that his weapons were a bane to the world, he's got some karma to correct. The idea of a villain targeting Stark for the sins of his father seems like an ideal way to deal with both of these issues. Heck, the sequel that deals with said stuff may make the second film play better, since we know what's coming later on. We'll see.

Scott Mendelson

And the best action scene of the decade is...

For a full twenty-three minutes, George Lucas throws at us everything we could ever want in a Star Wars film. A claustrophobic and suspenseful massive spaceship dog fight. Jedi masters running, jumping, and slashing at everything in their path. A terrific and plot-driven light-saber fight smack-dab in the middle. A fiery crash-landing to freedom. All that, plus successful comic-relief from R2D2 (his fire trick brought the house down at our midnight showing), dialogue that actually sounds authentic and snappy, and a chemistry between Obi-Wan and Anakin that actually feels genuine. It's as if, knowing full-well what darkness and despair the audience was about to go through, Lucas made sure that the prologue was as much sheer Star Wars fun as he could possibly manage... one last time. I know it's heresy, but Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is actually my favorite Star Wars film of them all (relax nerds, The Empire Strikes Back is second). And that gloriously gonzo go-for-broke first reel and a half is a big part of why.

Scott Mendelson

Uh oh...

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland gets a second trailer.

This may be the first Tim Burton movie that I'm not all that interested in. While the film looks colorful and visually delicious, the plot seems to be some kind of mix of Alice in Wonderland, Return to Oz, and The Lord of the Rings. Gosh, how I wish he would try an original story before he retires. And once again, is there a reason why Disney is marketing this thing as exclusively a Johnny Depp vehicle? Considering the cast contains Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman, Christopher Lee, Crispen Glover, and Helen Bonham Carter, you'd think Disney would make that more known? Back in my day (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), Burton had to all but beg the studios to let him cast Johnny Depp in his pictures, and the marketing departments didn't exactly delight in building a star-driven campaign around this alleged box-office poison. Oh well, I'm sure the picture will look lovely in IMAX 3D, but I suppose hoping for a good movie might be too much at this point.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chris Nolan's Inception gets a poster. Look familiar?

At this point, simply saying 'a Chris Nolan film' is enough to sell me. After directing four of the best films in this decade (Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight), he's pretty much my favorite working director. Still, color me amused at how Warner's initial ad campaign seem more than a little similar to Nolan's last picture. Not that I blame them, said last picture grossed a billion dollars worldwide, but it's good for a solid laugh none the less.

Scott Mendelson

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood gets a trailer.

Remember back in the summer of 1991, when everyone complained about how Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was too dark, too gritty, too violent, and not 'fun' enough compared to the Errol Flynn version? Well, how much do you want to bet that those same critics heap praise on this 'revisionist' version of the Sherwood Forrest legend for its very darkness and grimly realistic take? It's the same way that Timothy Dalton was savaged for being the exact same kind of James Bond that Daniel Craig was lionized for seventeen years later. Aside from that, this looks dreadfully derivative of Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Considering that this project has gone from a script taking the point of view of a heroic Sheriff of Nottingham battling an evil Robin Hood to simply being another update on Robin Hood, I'm not expecting much.

Scott Mendelson

Review: Avatar: The 3D IMAX Experience (2009)

Avatar: The 3D IMAX Experience
160 minutes
Rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I don't know if Avatar is a 'game-changer'. I don't know if Avatar cost $300 million or $500 million. I don't know if it will come anywhere close to Titanic's box-office totals or Oscar glories. Frankly, I don't care about any of those things. I do know that Avatar is a wonderful big-screen entertainment. It uses astounding visual effects tools to tell a most old-fashioned story and tells it very well. It is eye-poppingly gorgeous, jaw-droppingly exciting, and sharply acted. It is a soaring adventure story that is remarkable in its construction. Most impressively, it actually lives up to the hype and delivers on everything that James Cameron has been promising us for the last few years. The first thing that crossed my mind as the film ended was simply 'Wow, the crazy son of a bitch did it!'.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Princess and the Frog doesn't croak, and The Blind Side continues the mad dash. Weekend box office in review (12/13/09).

In what was neither a blast-off nor a crash, The Princess and the Frog marked Disney's return to 2D animation with $25 million in its debut weekend in wide-release. Mid-December releases are notorious for insanely long legs. The last traditional 2D Disney cartoon to open in this slot, The Emperor's New Groove (the funniest toon of the decade and Eartha Kitt's finest hour) in 2000, made 9.1x its $9.3 million opening weekend ($89.3 million). So it's tough to ascertain long-term prospects for this one. So let's just concentrate on the opening weekend. First of all this movie is pretty terrific. It's funny, emotional, scary, and genuinely romantic; so everyone who has kids or likes animation should really make a point to check it out before the end of the year. Second of all, the cold truth is that this opening was actually pretty weak. When you consider the publicity that this film received for its 'groundbreaking' African American characters and the buzz over the return to traditional 2D cell animation, I'm pretty sure Disney was hoping for at least a bigger opening than Bolt or Meet the Robinsons. Heck, it barely beats out the October 03 $19 million opening of Brother Bear when adjusted for inflation ($23 million at 2009 prices). And it certainly sold fewer tickets than the various $20-$22 million openings of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire back when Disney was in an alleged post-Lion King 'slump'.

Having said all of that, in terms of pure dollars, it still had the biggest 2D opening since Lilo and Stitch, which opened with $35 million back in June, 2002 ($43 million adjusted for inflation). Besides, this film was very much a 'girl movie', and there has always been a certain hesitancy for boys when it comes to seeing female-centric entertainment. Girls will flock to The Lion King or Tarzan, but guys have to be dragged to Mulan. I won't go so far as to say that women (and men) should flock to movies like this in order to convince the studios to make more, as that's not my business. But I will say that Princess and the Frog is a worthwhile antidote to the discomforting gender politics in New Moon (down a reasonable 48%, new total - $267 million). And the $105 million budget is actually quite a bit less than the $175 million-ish budgets of the recent Pixar or Disney 3D works and/or the Dreamworks features. So it doesn't have to do Pixar business to make a tidy profit. And, as noted above, it's a very good movie, so I imagine there's a decent chance of real legs as it becomes the family movie of choice for the rest of the year. Yes, Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakuel will open big on Christmas Day, but it won't have the staying power of the first film as there will actually be demo competition this time. If you're a parent, which film would you rather take your kids to? And Disney seems to be playing a long game with their prized animation library. No one should have expected Disney to hit Lion King numbers ($41m/$70m adjusted) the first time out anymore than they should have expected Michael Jordon to score 55 points in his first post-retirement comeback game. The traditional 2D animated film started dying out right around the time that opening weekend numbers exploded (summer 2001), so there's only so much fair comparison to be made between this 2009 film and the films from the lower opening but leggier 1990s. Point being, I sincerely hope that this frog's legs are strong during the brutal one-two punch of Avatar and Sherlock Holmes over the holidays.

Coming in number two is The Blind Side, which dropped just 22% and crossed the $150 million mark at the end of its fourth weekend. It still has a shot at $200 million, if it can keep the screens during the holiday deluge of new releases. And any awards action will surely be of benefit. Expect it to become Sandra Bullock's highest-grossing film by next weekend at the latest. Not much new to say about it. It's a darn good movie, far better than I was expecting, and I'm happy it's doing so well. Third place went to Invictus, the Clint Eastwood drama concerning Nelson Mandela's (Morgan Freeman) attempts to reunite a post-apartheid South Africa through rugby. With $9.1 million, this film is about in the same opening weekend-boat as Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers, and The Changeling. Whether or not this will end up like Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby ($90 million and $100 million respectively) or the other two (less than $33 million and $35 million) will depend on word of mouth and awards-buzz. Still, this may do better overseas where the characters and sport are better known and admired.

A Christmas Carol dropped just 12% for a new total of $124 million. It's still a little ahead of The Polar Express, but it's likely going to get hammered next weekend when it loses its IMAX and 3D screens to Avatar. Not even the beloved Coraline could survive such a rout. It dropped 54% the weekend that Jonas Brothers: A 3D Concert Experience opened and 85% once Aliens vs. Monsters opened. So this is likely the last decent weekend for the under-appreciated cartoon. Also not in its favor is the fact that Disney will be turning most of its attention to The Princess and the Frog as it attempts the Oscar double-whammy of Up winning Best Picture (could happen) and Princess and the Frog winning Best Animated Film. One could argue that Disney hurt both major cartoons by opening them so closely together, but that's an discussion for another day. Brothers dropped a disturbing 47% and now sits at just $17 million. It will likely make back its $26 million budget and not much more. Armored dropped 46% and now sits at $11 million. It will struggle to approach its $20 million budget, and that's a shame. This lean and mean little thriller deserved better, and I sincerely hope it becomes a rental and cable cult film.

In the land of limited release, Up in the Air just barely missed the top ten, grossing $2.4 million on just 72 screens ($34,028 per screen). While still impressive, the film's fate won't be told until the Golden Globe and Oscar nominations are announced, to say nothing of the wide release on an already packed Christmas day. A Single Man debuted on nine screens for a $216,000 weekend and a somewhat meager $24,000 per screen average. Me and Orson Welles expanded to 40 theaters but mustered just $2400 per screen. Why this theoretical Zac Efron vehicle didn't just open wide to capitalize on his fanbase, I do not know. But it now appears that said fanbase will have to wait for DVD to see this one. Even more disappointing was the 3-screen limited release of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. Battered by mixed reviews and a shifting release date (it was supposed to go wide this weekend instead of January 15th), the film scored just $116,000 for a $38,667 per screen average. With the news cycle soon shifting into all things-Avatar, this $100 million film is pretty much dead in the water until its wide release. Considering the lack of competition this weekend and the lack of positive buzz for this one, it would seem that Paramount made a huge and possibly fatal mistake with their super-limited opening.

But the real news of the weekend is the jaw-dropping plunge of last weekend's champion of lame, Transylmania. Following a near-record per screen average of $262, the comedy lost 889 of its original 1001 screens. Plunging an unheard of 94% in its second weekend, the film grossed an astounding $15,400 second-weekend. That's $131 per screen over three days. That's $44 per day. Presuming four showings, that's a whopping $11 per showing, or about the cost of 1-2 tickets depending on where you live. If you were lucky enough to end up in one of the remaining 118 theaters, you likely could have done drugs, had sex, committed murder, and/or plotted a terrorist act without any witnesses to speak of. Since Full Circle Films now has nothing to lose, I'd advise them to use these impressive statistics as a promotional tool for the eventual DVD release. "See the film that absolutely no one saw in theaters! Be the first (and last) on your block, township, city, state, and region to see Transylmania!"

That's all that's fit to print for now. Next weekend gives us the Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker comedy: Did You Hear About the Morgans?. We also get the limited releases of Nine, The Young Victoria, and Crazy Heart (starring Jeff Bridges as Kris Kristofferson). As for that other wide release, just remember that the biggest December opening is I Am Legend's $77 million. And the biggest opening for a non-sequel/franchise/adaptation/star-vehicle is The Day After Tomorrow's $68 million back in May 2004. So don't starting sounding the bell of doom, ala King Kong, if Avatar only opens to $60 million. The real test will be how much it makes over its second weekend.

Scott Mendelson

Clash of the Titans gets a second trailer.

For what this movie is trying to be, this new trailer looks kinda fantastic. You get real glimpses of Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, and the action is a little spectacular. The CGI creatures look more realistic than they probably will in a crystal-clear version of the trailer and/or the movie itself. The tagline 'Damn the Gods' is pretty stupid, but it's less on the nose than 'Titans Will Clash!". The hard-rock soundtrack is obvious pandering, but it's worth it for the absurd moment at 1:22 where the giant crab strikes his claw to the beat of the music. All in all, this looks like a gazillion-dollar remake of something that actually merited being remade in the first place. Point being, this looks like loads of stupid, guilt-inducing fun.

Friday, December 11, 2009

And my favorite film of the decade is...

A full list will come later in the month. Granted, by some fluke if Avatar or Sherlock Holmes end up being my absolute favorite film of this decade, then some revisions may be in order, but let's presume that they just end up being really, really good. As I look at my list of favorites over the 2000s, I find it filled with movies that were warm and celebrated unexpected goodness, good deeds in a weary world to quote a famous chocolate maker. There was certainly a place for masterpieces of cynicism and despair (Frailty, The Prestige, The Pledge), but I found myself more impressed by those films that could wring emotion out of light rather than darkness. Be it the unwavering friendship of Sam as his friend Frodo descends into madness on their quest to dispose of a cursed ring, young Akeelah remembering all of the people in her life that helped her train for the spelling bee, or Penny Lane tricking Russell Hammond into visiting the home of the young journalist he betrayed so that he might make amends, the moments that stood out were the ones that celebrated surprising decency.

Clash of the Titans gets posters.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Being grown-up means not always being first...

As I mentioned earlier, I'll be seeing Avatar on Monday night, so expect a review either late Monday night or Tuesday morning. I figured it was worth waiting four days to see the film in IMAX at a more convenient theater. Besides, unlike IMAX, I have no real relationship with Fox, so I would have had to start jumping through hoops weeks ago. Sure, the geek in me wishes I were at tonight's screening at the Mann's Chinese, but the grown up is happy to wait a few days. Besides, I went through hell to get into the first press screening of The Dark Knight last year, only to find that I had to wait a week and a half until I could talk about it with spoiler-phobic friends (on the plus side, I compiled quite a few Warner Bros. contacts as a result). The key now is to remain spoiler-free (and expectations-free) until Monday night.

Scott Mendelson

Avatar premieres and the critics rave. Déjà vu King Kong?

The good news is that Avatar screened in America and London today, and the critics are confirming everybody's best hopes. The bad news... we were here back in December 2005. This smells like King Kong all over again. Early reviews are fantastic, as the film ends up being better than even the cynics thought. That breeds unrealistic expectations of record box-office and Oscar glory. But when the film opens just like a regular smash hit (due to running length or other reasonable variables), the press turns, calls the film a failure and we all spend the next four years forgetting how much we liked the film in the first place. I loved King Kong and still do, so hopefully history does not repeat itself.

Scott Mendelson

The two May titans, Iron Man 2 and Sex & the City 2, get posters.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review: The Lovely Bones (2009)

The Lovely Bones
130 minutes
Rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

The Lovely Bones is a film constantly afraid of its own subject matter. It is, at its core, the story of the rape and murder of a child and the effect that it has on those left behind. But the picture constantly shies away from exploring the depths of grief and sorrow at any level beyond the surface. It throws everything else it can at you, suspense scenes, comic relief, a visual realization of the afterlife, to distract you from the realization that the movie is desperately afraid of its own shadow. I don't know whether to blame the movie or the original book, but the material is so afraid of making you feel bad that it fails to make you feel much of anything. As a result, the film is surprisingly cold, and the emotional highs are few and far between.

Twilight Saga: Eclipse to be released in IMAX.

Fresh off the presses, Summit has announced that it will be releasing the third Twilight film, Eclipse, in the IMAX format. This is a first for for the series, and the first for Summit Entertainment. This is a surprise, but a smart move for several reasons. First of all, after two films with very little action and/or visual incident, this feels like an announcement that the third film will actually have big-screen imagery that would justify the large-screen format. Second of all, this is another attempt to portray the series as the heir apparent to the nearly-concluded Harry Potter franchise, a process that started when the first film jumped on the November 21st, 2008 date that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had infamously vacated. Third, this is a sure sign that Summit wants that three-day opening weekend record, and it wants it bad. It's worth noting that the $142 million opening sprint for New Moon was the biggest opening weekend not boosted by the large-screen format's higher ticket prices. Since it's still not known whether theoretical weekend-record-breaker Iron Man 2 will go IMAX this May, the advantage is currently for Team Edward to make a run for The Dark Knight's $158 million record. Now if Summit could just figure out how to market and open its non-Twilight films, it might eventually become a real studio. On the other hand, maybe Summit can release Breaking Dawn parts 1 and 2 in D-Box, so you can rock and roll to the absolutely insane narrative of Stephanie Meyer's finale. Below is the official press release.


Los Angeles, CA – December 9, 2009 – IMAX Corporation (NASDAQ: IMAX; TSX: IMX) and Summit Entertainment announced today that The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third film in the studio’s Twilight franchise, will be released to IMAX® theatres simultaneously with the film’s launch on June 30, 2010. Directed by David Slade (30 DAYS OF NIGHT, HARD CANDY) and starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will be digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images coupled with IMAX’s customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie. The film franchise is based on the book series by Stephenie Meyer.

Twilight moviegoers will have a whole new way to experience this next installment of the series, with the enhanced image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience putting them IN the movie,” said Richie Fay, Summit Entertainment’s President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution. “The IMAX release puts us on the event film calendar for 2010, and we’re very excited to work with IMAX to bring a new kind of film to the IMAX theatre network.”

“Our 2010 film slate continues to fill out with strong titles, and a film from this incredible franchise is a very welcome addition,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “This title fills a valuable spot in our 2010 summer release window, and will no doubt thrill IMAX audiences.”

“We’re very excited to work with our new partners at Summit Entertainment to transport the very loyal and enthusiastic Twilight fans into the world of the Volturi via The IMAX Experience,” added Greg Foster, Chairman and President of IMAX Filmed Entertainment. “With our growing theatre network, we’re poised to take advantage of the rapidly growing fan-base devoted to this dynamic, cutting edge series.”

In The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob — knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella is confronted with the most important decision of her life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Avatar gets a theatrical one-sheet.

James Cameron's Avatar finally screens on Thursday. Barring unforeseen variables, I'll be seeing it on Monday in IMAX 3D. But for now, here's the official theatrical poster. I'll be back tomorrow morning with a review of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blu Ray Review: The Hangover (2009)

The Hangover
108 minutes (Unrated Cut)
100 minutes (Theatrical Cut)
Available from Warner Home video on DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand and iTunes on December 12th.

This insanely popular R-rated comedy succeeds as much for what it doesn't contain (overt vulgarity, misogynist humor, gay-panic jokes, endless improv riffs) as for what it does contain (solid actors playing real characters, a genuinely compelling mystery, a truly plausible comic narrative). It's a wonderfully funny comic-thriller that works because director Todd Phillips and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore concentrated on making a good film first and a funny movie second. So instead of a bunch of gags that happen to be contained within a feature film, we get a wonderful movie that happens to be very, very funny.

The film works almost as well the second time around. If I was not laughing as hard on my second viewing, I was able to truly appreciate the intricate screenplay construction. I once again marvel at the brilliance of the film's backwards narrative, which basically allowed Phillips and company to make an R-rated comedy where all of the sexual hijinks, vulgarity, and general comedic unpleasantness occurs completely offscreen. This film ended the summer as the third-highest grossing R-rated film of all time, and the third-biggest comedy in history. It deserves both of those honors. As for the eight-minute longer 'unrated edition', I only noticed one small difference at the film's conclusion (a minor plot point concerning a car). I'm pretty sure that about five of the eight extra minutes apparently occur in the first act of the picture, since the bachelor party faded to black at the 22-minute mark in theaters and the 27-minute mark at home.

The film looks and sounds pretty terrific, but this is not and never will be demo material. There is a picture-in-picture commentary for the theatrical cut, which is basically the director and his three leads doing a normal commentary. The most interesting bit is the one scene that the studio asked the filmmakers to alter, and you'll be surprised at how insignificant it was. The actual video content comprises about forty-minutes of material. There's about 25-minutes of behind the scenes material that is annoyingly broken up into a 'map of Vegas'. Why they couldn't just combine these bits into a documentary is beyond me. There is a much-touted photo gallery, the name of which constitutes a huge spoiler. Don't look at the bonus material or even look on the box before seeing the film. There's also a music video version of a the 'Three Best Friends' song, as well as an extended version of the Dan Band doing a terrible cover of Fame. The highlight of the bonus material is a seven-minute improv reel of the invaluable Ken Jong. Mr. "Spanish Genius" is quickly making himself into a national comedy treasure, and it's great fun to have his outtakes on the disc. Oh, and there is a digital copy included as well, for those who care.

Overall, this is the rare comedy that's worth owning, as it merits at least two viewings to appreciate the genuine craftsmanship that went into this surprise mega-smash. Most of the extras are fluffy in nature, but there's enough good stuff to make it worth the work.

Scott Mendelson

Neil LaBute's Death at a Funeral gets a trailer.

I can't remember the last time I actually laughed out-loud at a trailer. This remake of a 2007 Frank Oz comedy looks like a genuinely witty little gem from Neil LaBute of all people. Of course, LaBute is the very definition of 'hit or miss'. When he scores, we get Nurse Betty or Lakeview Terrace. But when he botches it, we get The Wicker Man or Possession. Still, the cast alone will make this worth seeing. Kudos for getting James Marsden to again play to his comic side (he helped make Sex Drive watchable). Danny Glover is always fun when he's not taking himself seriously, and he appears to not be wearing his Shooter/2012 dentures this time. Everyone (Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana, Keith David, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Columbus Short, Luke Wilson, Peter Dinklage, Loretta Devine, etc) looks in top form and I now have very high hopes for this April 16th release. But in the meantime, I'll probably check out the original.

Scott Mendelson

Case 39 trailer.

This supernatural chiller has already been released everywhere else in the world. The director's follow-up, Pandorum, has already been released in the states. This was obviously filmed well before Bradley Cooper hit it big with The Hangover. And Paramount is now releasing it on January 1st, 2010. Wow, if that doesn't scream confidence (or contractually-mandated release) I don't know what does. Still, I can't imagine why Paramount didn't attach this to Paranormal Activity back in October.

Scott Mendelson

Season of the Witch trailer 02

This looks like another case of Nicolas Cage surrendering to his inner-geek. Speaking of geek, Lionsgate knows full well what demo it's chasing, as only the nerdiest amongst us know Ron Perlman well enough to care whether or not he gets billing. And, unless I missed it, I didn't see a single shot of Christopher Lee in this trailer, so maybe his appearance as Cardinal D'Amboise was supposed to be a third-act surprise. Regardless, this Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds, Swordfish, Whiteout) flick looks like a guilty-pleasure piece of religious-horror. And kudos for actually showing Mr. Cage killing a dog in the trailer. That takes guts. Season of the Witch opens March 19th, 2010.

Scott Mendelson

Brooklyn's Finest gets a trailer.

I like a star-filled cop drama as much as the next guy, and this looks to fit the bill. Unless I missed it, this trailer gives not a single shot of Vincent D'Onofrio or Ellen Barkin. Antoine Fuqua can do this kind of material in his sleep, and I always wonder how much better American Gangster would have been if he had tackled it as originally intended, as opposed to the impersonal, contrived, and bloated Ridley Scott version we ended up with. Richard Gere rarely fails when he actually plays his own age, and Ethan Hawke has become the go-to actor for working-class men who make terrible life choices out of desperation. Come what may, this one opens on March 25th, 2010.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I gets a teaser.

This behind the scenes featurette concludes with a minute-long teaser trailer. Obviously this is a ripped copy, but even in this muted form we can see the usual confidence that exudes from these teasers. You can practically hear Harry Potter telling Edward Cullen to get the hell off of his lawn. And kudos to Warner for realizing that, if you're going to have John Hurt in your movie, you'd best just let John Hurt narrate your teaser. I suspect we'll see this one in theaters by years-end, probably attached to Warner Bros' Sherlock Holmes.

Scott Mendelson

Blind Side finally reaches number 01 in otherwise putrid post-Thanksgiving weekend. Box office weekend in review (12/06/09)

For years on end, the weekend after Thanksgiving has been an unusually ghastly one for box office. And this year was no exception. We had three wide-release openers, only one of which really made a mark, while the number one film was a word of mouth sensation that basically outlasted its competition. As expected, the top film of the weekend was The Blind Side. Following two weekends of playing second-fiddle to New Moon, the Sandra Bullock heartwarmer capitalized on weak openers and a steadily crashing Twilight sequel to earn $20 million in its third weekend. While it dropped by 49% from last weekend, that's by far the lowest drop in the top ten. It's also earned in its third weekend what most people thought it would earn in its opening sprint.

The Blind Side has now amassed $129 million, becoming Sandra Bullock's second-highest domestic performer, after this year's The Proposal. Expect this new entry to eclipse that film's $164 million total in the next couple weeks at worst. This one is surely playing the long game, as it will likely hover around the top five right into the new year. And if Sandra Bullock scores a (deserved) Best Actress nomination at this year's Academy Awards, then $200 million may just be the start for this one. And don't be too surprised if this one sneaks into the expanded Best Picture race, especially as critics are currently trashing Nine and relatively divided on The Lovely Bones. And although the field is already too crowded, it would be nice if Warner waged a Best Actor campaign for Quinton Aaron. The film works because it's every bit as much his story as Bullock's.

Coming in second place is Twilight Saga: New Moon, which plunged another 63% following last weekend's epic 70% dive. For the record, the first Twilight dropped 62% in its second weekend and 50% in its third, so this sequel is proving itself to be far more frontloaded. The sequel's $15 million third-weekend gross is just above the original's $13 million third-weekend take, despite doubling the opening weekend. And really, to go from $142 million to $15 million in three weekends is kind of staggering. Still, the film has amassed $254 million domestically and $570 million worldwide. In a bittersweet note, the film has officially knocked Tim Burton's Batman off the top-50 domestic grossers list, but I promise to be strong and shed no tears (besides, in today's numbers, Batman would have grossed $452 million). At this point, it will likely be an uphill struggle to get to $300 million, but I doubt Summit is going to allow themselves to lose that particular bragging right. The series has probably peaked with this second installment, which basically means that the only ones who will show up for the next two (or three?) installments will be actual fans. No harm in that, the Harry Potter series has been in that position since the fourth picture and they can still count on a $290 million domestic take, give or take a few bucks.

Third place went to our first opening, Lionsgate's Brothers. This remake of a Danish drama opened with $9.7 million, which actually gives it (I think...) the biggest opening for any recent Iraq/Afghanistan war film (The Kingdom took place in Saudi Arabia). The post-traumatic-stress potboiler has garnered okay reviews and solid notices for Toby Maguire, so it should stick around for a few weekends. A Christmas Carol lost 400 screens and plummeted 52%. At $119 million, it's still a bit ahead of The Polar Express but its day-to-day comparisons are starting to drop. Sadly, this one really only has one more weekend left, as it loses its 3D and IMAX screens to Avatar on the 18th. Fifth place went to Old Dogs, which plunged 59% for a new total of just $33 million. Still, the production budget was just $35 million so it's pretty much gravy from here on in. But this critically-reviled comedy has failed to become the general second-choice so it will be out of theaters just in time for the next likely-to-be-terrible kids flick, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

2012 has now grossed $148 million, as it loses sight of the $187 million final gross of The Day After Tomorrow. Still, this picture has been an international monster, grossing $666 million worldwide, so a $700-800 million total is in store depending on how much of the world it has already played in. May Avatar have the same good fortune. Seventh place goes to Armored, the refreshingly old-fashioned B-heist picture. While the $6.6 million opening weekend isn't exactly a big deal, I can't imagine this one cost more than $20 million, so a quick theatrical run and a long life on DVD and cable will put this one in the black. Oh, and for the record, let me take a second to admonish the countless critics who accused this film of being a rip-off of Reservoir Dogs. I've seen the film, and it's no more a rip-off of Quentin Tarantino's nearly eighteen-year-old crime melodrama than Brothers is a rip-off of the first act of Pearl Harbor. The only things the two films share is a heist-gone-wrong and the fact that there are no women in the picture. That kind of wrongheaded libel makes me wonder if critics actually watched the film or if they just glanced at the trailer and press materials. Besides, Reservoir Dogs was itself a remake of Ringo Lam's City on Fire.

Ninja Assassin dropped 62% on account of being pretty terrible and shockingly boring for the first half of the picture. It's a bunch of ninjas trying to kill each other and James McTeigue found a way to make that unexciting and tedious. If I may quote William Hurt for a moment, "How do you f&%k that up?" Anyway, it will crawl to $40 million and commit seppuku... and I hope the blade is rusty and dull. The last major opener, Everybody's Fine, tanked with just $4 million, basically killing Robert De Niro's Oscar chances (which, to judge its ad-campaign, was the only reason this picture was made). Tragically, the biggest plunge in the top-twenty was from Precious, which collapsed due to lack of media attention and direct competition from The Blind Side. A 67% plunge and a new total of $36 million means that the film absolutely needs year-end awards and Oscar nominations to get anywhere past $40 million. Since I rather like both films, I hope everybody gets what they need from the year-end derby.

Finally, there was an amazingly successful limited release and an epically-failed wide release. First, the good news. Capitalizing on rave reviews and its Best Picture honors from the National Board of Review, Up in the Air scored $1.1 million from just fifteen theaters for an astonishing $79,000 per screen. This is the 21st-best per screen average of all time, and the third-biggest for any film playing on more than six screens. The Jason Reitman-directed George Clooney vehicle will expand over the next two weeks before going wide on Christmas day. On the other hand, Transylmania, a movie that I didn't even know about, opened in 1,007 mostly-empty theaters for a whopping total of $274,000. That's a per-screen average of $272. While that's not the worst per-screen average of all time, when the best thing you can brag about is that you made $35 more per screen than Delgo, it's time to stop bragging. Congratulations Full Circle Films, in your Christmas stocking you now have a bulletproof tax write-off.

That's all that's fit to print this weekend. Join us next weekend when The Lovely Bones opens in three theaters (expect a review Tuesday night or Wednesday morning), while A Serious Man opens in limited release, and Me and Orson Welles expands to forty theaters. In new wide-releases, Clint Eastwood's Invictus (i.e.- see Morgan Freeman play Nelson Mandela) opens on 2,100 screens and Disney's The Princess and the Frog finally goes wide with a 3,300-screen expansion.

Scott Mendelson


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