After a contract dispute with Gary Ross, Lionsgate has turned to Francis Lawrence to helm Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. I'm not nearly as disappointed with this selection as some of my colleagues are. I'm a moderate fan of his work on Constantine and a great supporter of another one of his films, I Am Legend. He wouldn't have been my first choice but then again, Ross wouldn't have been my choice for the first installment and I think he did an outstanding job. We'll see but I think it's a bit absurd to write him off this early in the game.
The great (and often underrated) Guy Pearce has joined the cast of Iron Man 3 which will begin shooting next month. Awesome addition to RDJ's final romp in the suit.
Charlize Theron has signed on to star in Agent 13, Rupert Wyatt's follow up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. My recent viewing of Young Adult reminded me of what a great actress Theron really is and I'm excited to see what she can do with both this and Prometheus.
Weekend Box Office Results
I don’t think there’s anything more depressing, as it relates to this column, than browsing through the box office reports and finding that the top two entries for the weekend were both panned by critics. Think Like a Man found at least a modicum of positivity in some reviews but pretty much everyone with access to a computer made it clear that The Lucky Ones is awful. We’re better than this, America. In the meantime, The Hunger Games finally released its death grip on the wallets of American moviegoers, though it is still pulling in monster bucks on foreign soils. Lastly, Chimpanzee pulled in the highest opening weekend total ever for a nature documentary. Not too shabby.
2. The Lucky Ones - $22.8M
3. The Hunger Games - $14.5M ($356.9M)
4. Chimpanzee - $10.2M
5. The Three Stooges - $9.2M ($29.35M)
6. The Cabin in the Woods - $7.75M ($26.98M)
7. American Reunion - $5.2M ($48.3M)
8. Titanic 3D - $5M ($52.82M)
9. 21 Jump Street - $4.6M ($127.06M)
10. Mirror Mirror - $4.11M ($55.2M)
New to DVD
Yeesh. The bad thing about the theater schedule heating up is that the DVD release calendar slows down DRAMATICALLY. At this point in the year, we’re mostly treated to the underwhelming movies of January/February and the smaller movies from the end of the previous year that didn’t grab much attention. I hope you have a full DVR because the next few weeks don’t offer just a whole lot in the way of quality rental options.
What I’ve Seen and Didn’t Hate, I Guess
(How’s that for a resounding recommendation?)
Contraband – Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster
The problem with Contraband is that it isn’t as much fun as it should be. In fact, there are parts which are downright boring. That’s not what you want from a Mark Wahlberg joint, you know? There are some cool plot points within this movie and I’m a little bit fascinated by smuggling in general (thanks a lot, Han Solo) but still, I think Contraband would be best in a late-night HBO setting rather than spending money for a rental.
The Innkeepers – Sara Paxton, Pat Healy
Pariah – Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans
Dark Tide – Halle Berry (making, as ever, great use of her Academy Award), Olivier Martinez
11-11-11 – Timothy Gibbs, Michael Landes
Cinema Verite – Diane Lane, Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini
Return – Linda Cardellini, Michael Shannon, John Slattery
New to Blu
Camelot (1967) – Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) – Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate
Coming to a Theater Near You
Last week was quite stellar for me in the, “Predicting Critical Response” category. Think Like a Man exceeded my expectations (49% versus my 40% guess) but still came in rotten; The Lucky One was slightly worse than expected (21% v. 25%); and Chimpanzee not only pulled in a solid opening weekend total but also made me look smart by grabbing a 77% rating as opposed to my 78% prediction. I’d also like to take a moment to ask the women of America to please stop seeing the films of Nicholas Sparks. They are truly terrible and I think deep down you know it. I’m willing to speak for my gender and offer the films of Nicholas Cage in return. No more relevant Cage films in exchange for no more relevant Sparks films. Think about it and get back to me.
This week has a handful of potentially theater-worthy films to offer.
The title is pretty self-explanatory but just in case: a couple (Segel and Blunt) endures the shenanigans associated with a long term engagement. This is a reunion for Segel and Muppets screenwriter Nicholas Stoller who also collaborated on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I’ve got high hopes for Engagement and if it can avoid the second act doldrums that tend to weight down Apatow productions, it could be a big hit with both critics and audiences. Rotten Tomatoes prediction: Fresh, 75%
The Raven – John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve
Edgar Allen Poe (Cusack) is brought into the investigation of a mass murderer who uses the author’s darker works as inspiration for his killings. The early reviews haven’t been kind which is disappointing seeing as the concept, if done correctly, could be very interesting. Alas, John Cusack just cannot make a good film. I’d like to believe there’s an alternative universe in which Cusack makes brilliant career choices and is currently entering his middle-aged years with a long list of great films on his resume and maybe even an Oscar nomination or two. I think he is a talented actor and a genuinely cool guy. But man, most of his movies are rough. *Sigh* Rotten Tomatoes prediction: Rotten, 23%
The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek
A foolhardy pirate captain (Grant) takes his crew on a thrilling adventure in his quest to win the Pirate of the Year award. I’ve never really gotten into the Wallace and Gromit bit but I must say, the trailers for Pirates have done an excellent job in terms of piquing my interest. I wouldn’t have expected it but I’m totally in on this movie. Rotten Tomatoes prediction: Fresh, 86%
Safe – Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon
An ex-cop/cage fighter (Statham) is the only hope of a young girl (Chan) who is being pursued through the streets of New York by a variety of unsavory characters. Perhaps I should have offered to trade the end of Statham movies in exchange for the end of Sparks movies. But no, I don’t think I could it because though his films are often miserable, Statham has an uncanny knack for making truly horrible films enjoyable in a sheepish, “I can’t help it” kind of way. The best part about Safe is that if someone removed all mention of Statham’s name, altered his voice, and blindfolded you, you could still guess that it’s a Statham film just by the setup. If you’re going to be a niche actor, I guess this is a pretty good niche. Rotten Tomatoes prediction: Rotten, 30%
Also new: A journalist gets sucked into the cult he is investigating in Sound of My Voice…a strange mortician (Jack Black) befriends an old bat (Shirley MacLaine) in Bernie…and a single mom (Eva Mendes) struggles to connect with her quirky daughter in Girl in Progress.