Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Edward Burns and (especially) Megan Fox need to fire their publicists. Friends With Kids gets a poster, with only six of the eight billed stars.

There are six top-billed actors in this film, and six of them appear on the poster.  The two missing actors are, of course, Megan Fox and Edward Burns.  Should we take any particular meaning to Fox's exclusion from the poster?  Burns hasn't been a 'name' since the mid-1990s, but Fox, come what may, remains a publicity machine.  I could speculate on whether or not Lionsgate is afraid that Fox's presence will scare off the older moviegoers that this film is surely targeting, but it would be just that - speculation.  Anyway, the film drops on March 9th, so we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Burying the lead - Dreamworks Animation to make CGI/traditional hybrid!

The Hollywood Reporter is um... reporting that Dreamworks has lined it the three main vocal cast members for a newly-announced upcoming animated film.  The picture, entitled Me and My Shadow, concerns the plight of a shadow (Bill Hader) who grows tired of being attached to human Stanley Grubb (Josh Gadd). To quote the piece, "When a crime in the shadow community puts both of their lives in danger, Stan is forced to take control of Stanley, thrusting both of them into an adventure featuring a shadowy villain, who intends to lead a rebellion to take over the human world."  Kate Hudson will play Grubb's would-be love interest and I'll do my best to roll my eyes at a female character once again being merely described as 'the love interest'.  It will be directed by Mark Dindal, who is best known for directing the best non-Pixar animated film of the 2000s, The Emperor's New Groove (edit - I was too focused on American toons.  Spirited Away is arguably one of the best animated films ever).  Anyway, Me and My Shadow comes out November 13th, 2013.  What is buried halfway down the article is this golden nugget, something that should make animation fans take notice of this project in a big way:

PRESS RELEASE: The Avengers to be released in IMAX (3D)

Not much to add here, but this is hardly a surprise.  Of course, now filmgoers like me who love IMAX have to hope that the converted 3D effects are actually halfway decent (Green Lantern is the high-water mark in this not terribly distinguished field).  Anyway, Marvel and Disney are clearly aiming gunning for the opening weekend record on May 4th, the same weekend where Spider-Man ($114 million) and Spider-Man 3 ($151 million) broke said record in 2002 and 2007.  What are your thoughts?  Are you a big enough fan of IMAX to justify watching yet-another live-action film that was shot in 2D but converted to 3D?  Or will your primary goal be finding the biggest 2D screen you can find?  Oh, and if I had known that the 3D poster above actually worked as 3D, I would have posted it last week (sometimes 3D embeds don't work on Blogger).  Anyway, it's a snazzy poster and I'll only add that poor Scarlett Johansson looks like that kid standing way back in the outfield hoping/praying that no one hits the baseball to her.  The full press release is after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Box Office (01/29/11): The Grey tops, while One For the Money and Man On a Ledge somewhat stumble.

In a somewhat refreshing turn of events, this weekend had three wide releases, all budgeted below $45 million and all technically geared towards adults.  And for the fourth straight weekend this month, an R-rated new release topped the box office yet again.  The top film of the weekend was Joe Carnahan's wilderness survival drama, The Grey.  The Liam Neeson vehicle, concerning plane crash survivors struggling to fend off death by various forms of nature (including wolves), opened with a solid $20 million.  Yes, that's slightly below the $21 million debut of Unknown and the $24 million debut of Taken around this time in 2011 and 2009, but those films were PG-13 while The Grey was rated R.  The picture scored a B- from Cinemascore, which is not surprising.  On one hand, it's a good movie, a thoughtful and introspective mediation on several men coming to terms with their forthcoming demise.  On the other hand, the film was sold as an action picture featuring Liam Neeson fighting wolves with his bare hands.  Without going into spoilers, that's not entirely accurate.  Still the film obviously has fans, as the picture scored a relatively rare 3x weekend multiplier.  Anyway, the film cost Open Road Films just $35 million, so this should be a solid moneymaker for the mini distributor even if the somewhat false advertising causes it to drop hard next weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Tony Kaye's Detachment (2012) paints a grim picture of public education.

100 minutes
rated R
Opens in limited release on March 16th

by Scott Mendelson

Most of the ideas in Tony Kaye's Detachment are not revolutionary, especially not to anyone who has followed the last thirty years of debate regarding the public education system in America (Jonathan Kozel's many works of nonfiction come to mind).  And while the story is told in a style that sometimes veers in art-house cliche (sepia-toned flashbacks, first-person testimonial to an unseen listener, hand-held claustrophobia, etc), the picture is in the end devastating via its almost objective presentation of the issues at hand.  Sure, Kaye is saying, we know that public schools are underfunded, understaffed, and stuck with various federal mandates and (worst of all, argues Kaye) a deluge of unmotivated students whose parents only take an interest when it comes to rebutting disciplinary measures. But told through the eyes of a substitute teacher who is far more caring than he wants to be, the picture wonders why we're so accepting a system that doesn't seem to be all that successful for any number of American youths.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding Nemo, Pixar's best film, gets a 3D trailer...

It's not my favorite Pixar film.  That honor goes, on a given day, to either Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, or The Incredibles.  But Finding Nemo may be Pixar's most objectively perfect movie.  It is a distillation of the core Pixar theme: surviving in safety vs. living in danger.  It hits every emotional note and every comedic bit just right and works on two entirely different levels for kids and adults.  Kids find it funny as hell, while adults (especially parents I'd argue) find it moving as hell.  The film is just under nine years old, which means that there is an entire generation of young kids that doesn't even realize that the film has a prologue involving mass murder (a fact hilariously noted in an episode of The Simpsons last year, when Milhouse discovered the horror of the never-seen 'chapter 01' on his DVD).  Allison discovered the movie two years ago, it was the first full-length theatrical feature she ever sat down and watched with us, as well as the first film she wanted to watch multiple times (Allison being Allison, she almost immediately asked where Nemo's mommy was).  So I suppose the question is, will you see the 3D-converted version of Finding Nemo when it debuts in theaters on September 14th, 2012?  And if you have very young children, do you start the film on the first or second chapter when the kids want to watch it?

Scott Mendelson   

Review: Kill List (2012) is an experiment in genre-switch that fails to truly engage.

Kill List
95 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

Ben Wheatly's Kill List suffers from the believe that it is far more clever and original than it actually is.  It earns points for not exactly beginning and ending in the same genre, but the journey is frankly not worth the destination.  The film is technically a dime-a-dozen crime story about a hit man trying to do a job under trying circumstances.  Where it goes in the third act I will not reveal (although don't look too closely at the poster), but the majority of the film is taken up by somewhat cliched characters and relatively unengaging drama  Only the uncommonly gruesome violence, delivered in a clinical and brutal fashion, serves to distinguish the picture.  Even the third-act turn, while somewhat organic and slightly clever, loses points for eventually ending in an almost identical fashion to another 'extreme' horror drama from last year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The lesson for this year's Oscar nominations? Don't be an R-rated film!

For a list of the complete nominations, go HERE.  As always, click on the movies with links for the original theatrical review.  I write a lot about the inexplicable trend of how the various year-end awards groups only consider 'appropriate' movies to be considered awards-material.  There is and always has been a certain disdain for populist entertainment, a trend that's only gotten worse as the independent film movement exploded in the early 1990s and the year-end Oscar bait-calender got more jam-packed over the last five weeks of the year.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II may have received almost unanimously rave reviews (96% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), but it doesn't count because it was a big-budget fantasy drama that is considered 'popular' entertainment.  Bridesmaids may have been one of the most successful R-rated comedies of recent years, a well-reviewed (90% on Rotten Tomatoes) comedy that may have been a game-changer in terms of how mass-market female-driven entertainments are viewed in terms of their commercial potential.  But no, it's not a character-driven dramedy that's one of the best films of the year, it's just that 'women shit in a sink' movie, so it's not worthy.  But a drama with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock that's gasp... about 9/11?!  That's EXACTLY the kind of film that is supposed to be among the year's best, right?  And so it is that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a film with a 48% positive ranking on Rotten Tomatoes and a 46% score on Metacritic is now considering by the Academy to be one of the nine best films of the year.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Box Office (01/22/11): Underworld: Awakenings and Red Tails score. while Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Haywire falter slightly.

 Like clockwork, the fourth entry in the ongoing Underworld franchise debuted in the third weekend of January to take the top spot at the box office with a $20 million+ debut.  While the original opened in September of 2003, the rest of the films have all used the mid-January berth every three years.  As so it is that Underworld: Awakenings (trailer) debuted with $25.4 million this weekend.  In pure numbers, that's the second biggest debut of the series, behind the $30 million opening of Underworld: Evolution back in 2006.  But in terms of inflation/tickets sold/etc, it's actually a bit under the $22 million debut ($28 million adjusted for inflation) of the original Underworld.  Considering the last entry, Rise of the Lycans, was a stripped-down prequel lacking franchise star Kate Beckinsale, it's arguably more fair to compare this fourth entry to the first two films in the series.  As such, it's slightly lacking. The budget was $70 million (way up from parts 1 and 3, which cost just #22 million and $35 million respectively, and a bit up from the second film's $50 million budget) and the film had a theoretical 3D price-bump, yet the results weren't even up to the series's peak.  Still, Sony is playing a different game this time around...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pet Peeve of the day: Attention action filmmakers - security guards are people too!

As a whole, Contraband is a pretty unremarkable would-be thriller.  There is almost no real action, and much of the middle act is a series of monotonous scenes of Kate Beckinsale being threatened and/or beaten by Giovanni Ribisi.  While Ribisi's character felt the need to continually antagonize Mark Wahlberg's family after Wahlberg has already agreed to do the crime in question is to be debated, since you'd think you wouldn't want to antagonize the professional criminal who is being entrusted with your precious cargo.  Anyway, Wahlberg is the classic 'former criminal gone straight' archetype, complete with a loving wife and kids.  If I my spoil the not-so shocking ending of the picture (...SPOILER WARNING...), Contraband ends on a mostly happy note, with Wahlberg having gotten away with the crime, protected his family (including his imperiled brother-in-law), and scored a large amount of capital for himself and his crew.  And even though Wahlberg's character is actually an accessory to a mid-film heist that ends in the wanton murder of about half-a-dozen people, he's still an okay guy.  After all, they were just security guards.

Review: Red Tails (2012) is a low-key, mostly entertaining history lesson/B-movie.

Red Tails
120 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

The strongest aspect of director Anthony Hemingway and producer George Lucas's Red Tails is that it lives in a somewhat Utopian film industry where African-American dramas aren't all that big of a deal.  The picture may have an unfair burden of proving the bankability of larger-budget ($58 million) genre fare revolving entirely around African Americans, but you don't see that sweat onscreen.  It treats itself not like a test case, or a passion project for one of the more financially successful independent filmmakers of our age, but merely a B-movie action drama that involves actors like Cuba Cooding Jr. Terrence Howard, and David Oyelowo.  Red Tails may be (unfortunately) an anomaly, but those behind and in front of the camera treat this as if it were one of many minority-led historical dramas that open each month at the local multiplex.

The Hunger Games gets a (seemingly) final theatrical one-sheet.

This looks like the final poster and official theatrical one-sheet.  The tagline operates both in relation to the story and Lionsgate's optimistic box office predictions.  This one, arguably one of the higher-profile films of the Spring, drops two months from Monday.  I hope Lionsgate has the courage not to cut another trailer, since their first teaser does a splendid job of not giving away the whole picture.  Anyway, as always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chuck Norris is not the cause, merely an alibi. The irony of a PG-13 Expendables II.

This story broke yesterday (I first read it yesterday morning at Collider), but since it was based on a translation of an interview that actor Chuck Norris gave to a Polish magazine, I thought I'd wait to make sure it wasn't a mistranslation.  But Sylvester Stallone has confirmed to Ain't It Cool News that The Expendables II will indeed be PG-13, although his explanation doesn't specifically blame Mr. Norris.  To wit, here, translated into English, is the 'offending' portion of Chuck Norris's interview:

"In Expendables 2, there was a lot of vulgar dialogue in the screenplay. For this reason, many young people wouldn’t be able to watch this. But I don’t play in movies like this,” Norris explained. “Due to that I said I won’t be a part of that if the hardcore language is not erased. Producers accepted my conditions and the movie will be classified in the category of PG-13."

And here is Sly Stallone's confirmation:

"Harry (Knowles), the film is fantastic with Van Damme turning in an inspired performance... Our final battle is one for the ages. The PG13 rumor is true, but before your readers pass judgement, trust me when I say this film is LARGE in every way and delivers on every level. This movie touches on many emotions which we want to share with the broadest audience possible, BUT, fear not, this Barbeque of Grand scale Ass Bashing will not leave anyone hungry..."

What is strange about this is not that Stallone and his band of 80s and 2000s action stars are catering to the whims of one very over-the-hill action icon, or that Norris thinks that hearing profanity is more harmful to youngsters than watching over-the-top violence (in a pre-Sopranos/24 era, Walker: Texas Ranger was once considered the most violent show on television).  No what's strange is that the first Expendables, judging on the theatrical cut, was clearly intended to be a PG-13 in the first place.  Watching the film back in August 2010, I distinctly remember thinking that this was an awfully soft R, and that up until a certain third-act action sequence involving Stallone with a knife, it appeared that there wasn't going to be all that much R-rated violence at all.  Stallone and company waffled back and forth prior to the film's release about its rating, and I am still convinced to this day that it was always intended to be a PG-13 movie.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Miss Bala (2012) is a jolting and relentless bit of nasty business.

Miss Bala
113 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

Gerardo Naranjo's bracing and relatively uncompromising Miss Bala operates on two levels.  On the surface, it is a harrowing descent into a slice of hell, seen through the eyes on a single unwitting participant.  Its genre elements kick into gear at around the fifteen-minute mark and never let up until the sobering conclusion.  As a propulsive exercise, it exists as the kind of 'you are there' experience that would put most 'found-footage' horror films to shame.  But it also exists as a brutal reminder of the absurdity of the ongoing drug war and the deplorable circumstances that exist for women in all-too many countries, as well as the lack of options for escaping said circumstances.  It does not really need the onscreen text that more-or-less spells out its message just as the credits roll.  The film itself operates as a powerful social statement, on top of being a pretty solid thriller.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blaming the victim: The problem with Beauty & the Beast isn't Belle but the Beast.

Note -For what it's worth, the 3D conversion left me unimpressed.  If you want to see it, do it because you want to see the picture on the big screen again, not because the 3D conversion adds any real value.  If you want to read a similar retrospective discussion of The Lion King, go HERE.  

I've long joked that I was able to ruin Disney's Beauty and the Beast merely by uttering two words: "Stockholm Syndrome".  Having sampled the film in 3D over the weekend, it remains one of the just-plain weirder Disney cartoons in recent times. It is still a highly entertaining and visually impressive bit of entertainment.  It's easy to see and remember (I was eleven when I saw it the weekend after Thanksgiving in 1991 as part of a double-sneak preview following Father of the Bride) how those who thought of Disney animated films as relative trifles like Robin Hood or Oliver and Company were knocked back by the sheer seriousness and scale on display.  Even more than The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast was arguably the first Disney cartoon since the initial batch (think Pinocchio and Bambi) that felt like a grand-scale MOVIE.  But watching it again, for the second time in two years (I bought the 2D Blu Ray over Hanukkah 2010), there are a few things that bear mentioning, both about the movie itself and the nature of how its critiqued.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend Box Office (01/15/11): Contraband scores surprisingly large debut, Beauty & the Beast plus Joyful Noise open well in 'everybody wins!' MLK weekend.

I've talked a lot about how the under-reported story of 2011 box office was the return to fiscal sanity in regards to production budgets and this weekend is a prime example.  We have three big openers, all of which cost under $30 million, which means all of them are well on their way to profitability merely by posting a solid if-not-spectacular opening.   Shocking all of Mendelson's Memos box office analysts (IE - me), Mark Wahlberg powered the low-budget ($25 million) and R-rated Contraband to a $24 million Fri-Sun/$28 million Fri-Mon debut all by himself to win the weekend.  Wahlberg has had his share of big weekends (Planet of the Apes, The Perfect Storm, The Happening, etc), but they all arguably had larger factors at play other than just Walhberg's relatively limited star-power.  The closest comparison is the 2005 debut of Four Brothers, but I'd argue that at least some of the credit for that $21 million debut goes to director John Singleton, along with the fact that it was hard-R action picture in a PG-13 time.  Comparability, Shooter debuted in early 2007 with $15 million, albeit against the $24 million opening weekend of TMNT and the $19 million third-weekend of 300.  Chalk it up to lack of demo competition, a growing appetite for R-rated genre fare, a token boost from Kate Beckinsale's token fanbase, or something in the marketing that I frankly didn't see, but Walhberg just scored his biggest 'all by myself!' debut of his career.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Note to all of my readers...

I am going to be taking a sabbatical of sorts over the next several days.  I may get a chance to write, but I can't promise and didn't want to leave anyone wondering where the heck I went.  Anyway, for those who crave new content on this site (HA!), feel free to check out the archives.  The blog's true beginnings go back to around late-April 2008, so that's a good place to start.  Anyway take care, have fun, and I'll see you when I see you.

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office (01/08/11): Devil Inside kicks off 2012 with $34m debut.

More often than not, especially when dealing with big numbers, opening weekends are about marketing, not the quality of the film.  So don't be too shocked when you hear that Paramount's The Devil Inside opened with $34.5 million this weekend.  Yes, the film is allegedly terrible.  Yes, audiences nationwide have allegedly been booing at the (allegedly atrocious) finale.  But sometimes it's about a popular genre, a solid trailer, and the good luck of following up a recent smash hit.  Exorcism and religious-themed movies have always been popular.  The simple reason is that, along with the usual horror junkies, they attract more religious/spiritual moviegoers that otherwise disdain horror pictures.  We've over/under $20 million openings from the likes of Stigmata (whose $18 million opening in September 1999 would equal about $28 million today), Exorcist: The Beginning ($18 million in August 2004), The Unborn ($19 million in January 2009), The Last Exorcism ($20 million in August 2010), and The Rite ($18 million last January).  The anamoly that The Devil Inside most resembles is the somewhat surprising $30 million debut of The Exorcism of Emily Rose back in late 2005.  But that film had both a PG-13 (like The Rite and The Last Exorcism) and a prestigious adult cast (Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, etc).  Heck, throw in the $22-24 million debuts of various supernatural horror films (White Noise, The Haunting In Connecticut, The Amityville Horror, etc) and you can see that, when adjusted for inflation and a few other factors, a $34.5 million debut for The Devil Inside is quite impressive (it is indeed the biggest debut for a religious horror picture) but not a complete surprise.

Friday, January 6, 2012

On the inherent darkness and pessimism of Steven Spielberg's body of work, and why he is more than just ET: The Extra Terrestrial.

This essay has been slightly updated since the 2011 Oscar nominations were announced.

In the aftermath of the Oscar nominations (analysis HERE), there has been much hand-wringing over the notion that the Academy has embraced 'feel-good' entertainment over darker and more introspective work.  The prime example of this false argument (which insists that you ignore the relatively downbeat finales of The Help and Moneyball, among others) is the Best Picture nomination for Steven Spielberg's War Horse (review).  Many of the reviews, especially the negative ones, for Steven Spielberg's War Horse have emphasized the melodramatic 'boy and his horse' narrative, accusing the film of wallowing in sentimentality.  Moreover, they basically accuse the picture of being 'conventional Spielberg', again citing the classic meme that Steven Spielberg isn't capable of truly playing in on the dark side.  Both arguments are hogwash.  For as long as I can remember (early-80s, natch), Steven Spielberg has had a reputation as the "Mr. Mass Audience", the guy who, film-making chops aside, was looked down upon because of his reputation as a purveyor of mainstream feel-good sentiment.  He was the guy who made general audiences tear-up on cue, but still walk out feeling good.  But looking over his filmography, not only are his 'dark and adult' pictures more frequent than you might realize, his entire reputation as a softy basically stems from one single incredibly popular (and critically-acclaimed) film that he made in 1982.  On a film-by-film basis, Spielberg is far more likely to scare you or deeply disturb you than leave you with a nasty case of the warm-and-fuzzies.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The 2011 movie year in box office trends part III: The box office and attendance was down, but the films were cheaper and leggier too.

I generally dislike trend pieces. I'm a strong proponent of the idea that how well a film does is specific to the movie itself.  That having been said, there were a handful of interesting patterns that did rear their ugly or not-so ugly heads this year.  These pieces will be more about box office trends and what they may mean for the future.  Without further ado, here we go...

Box Office was down, but so were the Budgets!
This was yet another year with pundits and armchair critics whining about 'SLUMPS!' and/or complaining about how 'This weekend's total box office didn't equal the total box office of this weekend last year!', as if no one realized that different films make different amounts of money.  Because this needs to be said again, we can't whine about a steady diet of franchise pictures, animated films, and reboots but then complain when smaller pictures don't gross as much on opening weekend.  But putting that aside, total box office was down around 3.8% compared to 2010.  That's a difference of $494 million, or two or three massive unexpected smash hits (a Passion of the Christ) or a handful of major tentpole films not making quite as much as they might have been expected to make.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Follow the bouncing bat! A simple way to deal with that pesky "What the hell did Bane just say?" Dark Knight Rises issue...

There have been rumblings in the blogosphere today that Warner Bros. may or may not have stealthily replaced the Dark Knight Rises IMAX prologue audio tracks with a new mix of said sequence, one with allegedly cleaned-up audio.  This follows two weeks of breathless debate among the geek-squad about whether Chris Nolan should or shouldn't alter the vocal performance of Tom Hardy's Bane (presumably with Hardy's ADR-assistance) in order to appease fans who were unable to hear the primary villain's astute monologuing.  Nolan's position is that the muscle-bound cult leader/terrorist/Mary Sue was always intended to be slightly difficult to understand, so paying audiences can  suck it.

The 2011 movie year in box office trends part II: 3D matters, except when it doesn't.

I generally dislike trend pieces. I'm a strong proponent of the idea that how well a film does is specific to the movie itself.  That having been said, there were a handful of interesting patterns that did rear their ugly or not-so ugly heads this year.  These pieces will be more about box office trends and what they may mean for the future.  Without further ado, here we go...

3D matters, except when it doesn't!
I wrote about this back when summer ended, but the last four months of 2011 reiterated the same message: It's the movie!  3D cannot make a would-be flop into a hit.  But where it can (and did) help this year is in getting predestined blockbusters to greater heights of would-be box office glory.  Without 3D, it stands to reason that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides would have barely made it past $200 million, that Green Lantern would have struggled to top $100 million, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon would have ended up closer to the first film's $319 million gross.  Thor and Captain America ended up with $175-180 million at least partially due to the 3D ticket-price bump, without which they would have ended up closer to the $130-155 million grosses of Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, and/or The Incredible Hulk.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II broke the opening weekend box office record partially because of the 3D-bump, as even just 43% of opening weekend ticket-buyers making that choice was enough to put it past The Dark Knight's $158 million debut (in just 2D, barring other variables, Harry Potter 7.2 would have debuted at just over $150 million, or good for third place on the list).

Everytime I see a link to a Men In Black 3 behind-the-scenes story, I think I'm about to see this...

"We're leaving!"

Scott Mendelson

The 2011 movie year in box office trends part I: Sequels drop domestically, but soar internationally.

I generally dislike trend pieces. I'm a strong proponent of the idea that how well a film does is specific to the movie itself.  That having been said, there were a handful of interesting patterns that did rear their ugly or not-so ugly heads this year.  These pieces will be more about box office trends and what they may mean for the future.  Without further ado, here we go...

Sequels grossed less here, but much more over there!
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, with a few exceptions, it was generally a foregone conclusion that sequels would cost more than the originals but gross a bit less.  Normal were sequels like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ($184 million versus $242 million for Raiders of the Lost Ark) or Batman Returns ($162 million vs. $251 million for Batman).  Yes, you occasionally had a break-out franchise like Lethal Weapon ($65 million for Lethal Weapon, $147 million for Lethal Weapon 2), but the franchise growth pattern was generally closer to the likes of Beverly Hills Cop or Gremlins.  But sometime around 2001, starting with The Mummy Returns ($202 million versus $155 million for The Mummy) and Rush Hour 2 ($226m/$141m), we started a ten-year trend of sequels generally out-grossing their predecessors domestically.  You could argue the first big example was Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which out-grossed its predecessor in just its opening weekend in June 1999, but the general rule quickly became that a well-marketed sequel to a popular original could be expected to out-gross its immediate predecessor in America.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 year-end wrap-up parts I-VI, all in one spot!

For those who don't want to hunt for lists, here is a handy one-stop shopping place for my six 2011 year-end wrap-up lists.  I saw over 200 films this year and ended up writing about 70 of them. I may do a piece tomorrow about the various box office trends of the year, but for those who want just the movies, be they good, bad, or ugly, this is the place to go. So without further ado, here you go...

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weekend Box Office (01/01/12): Strong holdovers close out 2011 movie year.

As is often the case, the last weekend of the year is basically a repeat of last weekend, both in general ranking and numbers, as the holiday weekend tends to keep drops low, if often absent.  Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol led the pack of major Christmas and holiday releases that actually went up from last weekend.  The Brad Bird spy thriller earned $31 million over Fri-Sun, with an eye towards a likely $40 million four-day holiday weekend.  At the end of its third weekend, the first of which was IMAX-exclusive, the crowd-pleasing Tom Cruise vehicle will have grossed $140 million by Monday, which means it has already outgrossed the $134 million-grossing Mission: Impossible III.  Overseas, the sequel is doing even bigger business, with a worldwide total of $324 million as we close out 2011.  The $215 million gross of John Woo's Mission: Impossible II is likely out of reach, but surpassing the $181 million gross from Brian DePalma's Mission: Impossible is not only possible but plausible.  Worldwide, the film is shaping up to be $600 million earner, the respective totals, speculative as they may be now, would make this film Tom Cruise's third-biggest domestic grosser and his biggest worldwide earner ever.  MI4 already ranks ninth on both lists.


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