Posts Tagged ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Weekend Box Office Report — December 19

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Da Doo Tron Tron

TRON: Legacy commanded the multiplex with an opening salvo estimated at $43.4 million. The movie stocking was stuffed with two other new releases plus a couple of platform films that went wide to significant response.

Yogi Bear filched $16.6 million to rank second in the marketplace while the star-laden romantic comedy How Do You Know struggled to position eight with $7.5 million.

The Fighter proved itself a contender with a $12.1 gross and Black Swan spread its wings with an impressive $7.9 million. Meanwhile there were two freshmen titles tossing their hat into the ring for award season. The starkly dramatic Rabbit Hole had an encouraging $51,700 from five venues while Casino Jack failed to beat bank with $32,100 at seven tables. In Quebec, local action comedy L’Appat had a soft debut of close to $170,000.

Overall weekend revenues saw a significant boost from the early December doldrums, but couldn’t quite overtake 2009 box office when Avatar arrived at the multiplex. Friday domestic box office inched past $10 billion (4 days faster than last year) and through the weekend it stands just 1% better than at this point last year.

The current session promised an even better result than transpired with new entries appealing to different demographics. Only TRON: Legacy conformed to tracking that predicted a result between $40 million and $45 million. The 28-year hiatus from the original has allowed the 1982 movie to accrue a cult status and brought out an avid young male audience. Stereoscopic engagements accounted for an unusually strong 80% plus, though their numbers accounted for 55% of its screen count. Its ultimate potency will be determined by building a wider audience.

The animated-live action Yogi Bear was expected to gross in the low $20 million but came up short several pic-a-nic baskets. It won’t expand beyond the family market and should limp through the holiday season. How Do You Know is already hobbled and while there were low expectations of $10 million to $12 million it failed to meet an already low bar.

The session generated roughly $135 million for a 47% bump from the prior weekend but dipped 4% from 2009. Last year’s Avatar bow of $77 million led the frame with The Princess and the Frog trailing behind with $12.2 million and Did You Hear About the Morgans? limping into theaters with $6.6 million.

Black Swan shows early signs of becoming the season’s adult hit. Though the film has divided critics and the public, it has generated fierce debate that’s translated into sales … an asset in short supply for the likes of such films as 127 Hours and Fair Game. The Fighter, while not a knockout, looks likely to get traction from awards season recognition in a race that seems — despite already announced critics awards and the Golden Globe announcement — a bit amorphous.

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Weekend Estimates – December 17-19, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tron: Legacy BV 43.4 (12,580) NEW 3451 43.4
Yogi Bear WB 16.6 (4,710) NEW 3515 16.6
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Fox 12.5 (3,530) -48% 3555 42.9
The Fighter Par 12.1 (4,850) 2503 12.6
Tangled BV 8.7 (2,720) -39% 3201 127.9
The Tourist Sony 8.4 (3,040) -49% 2756 30.5
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 7.9 (8,260) 140% 959 15.3
How Do You Know Sony 7.5 (3,030) NEW 2483 7.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 4.8 (1,690) -43% 2860 265.5
Unstoppable Fox 1.8 (980) -51% 1874 77.4
Burlesque Sony 1.3 (880) -58% 1510 35.4
Due Date WB 1.2 (1,060) -52% 1157 97.3
Love and Other Drugs Fox 1.1 (970) -64% 1093 30.2
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. 1.1 (24,880) 81% 43 2.9
Megamind Par .69 (680) -73% 1025 141.6
127 Hours Fox Searchlight .51 (1,660) -49% 307 9.3
Faster CBS .41 (620) -76% 660 22.5
Red Summit .31 (710) -28% 439 88.4
The Social Network Sony .29 (1,270) 2% 228 91.9
Fair Game Summit .23 (860) -59% 268 8.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $129.60
% Change (Last Year) -4%
% Change (Last Week) 47%
Also debuting/expanding
L’Appat Alliance .17 (2,350) 72 0.17
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .14 (2,830) -10% 49 0.51
The Tempest Miramax/Maple 52,400 (2,490) 22% 21 0.12
Rabbit Hole Lionsgate 51,700 (10,320) 5 0.05
Casino Jack IDP 32,100 (4,440) 7 0.03
La Rafle Seville 28,200 (2,170) 13 0.03

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 16, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (29) 1837.8 18.40%
Paramount (19) 1622.6 16.20%
Fox (19) 1427.1 14.30%
Buena Vista (16) 1296.2 13.00%
Sony (25) 1221.2 12.20%
Universal (18) 798.5 8.00%
Summit (11) 521.7 5.20%
Lionsgate (15) 518.9 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (8) 96.1 1.00%
Overture (8) 87.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.70%
CBS (3) 72.1 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (9) 64.5 0.60%
Sony Classics (22) 59.4 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (315) 251.4 2.50%
10000.4 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 16, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,899,300
Toy Story 3 BV 415,071,937
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 292,485,544
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 260,701,257
Despicable Me Uni 250,322,315
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 162,171,789
Megamind Par 140,950,962
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,534,389
Tangled BV 119,142,932
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 116,857,736
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report — December 5

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

The Warrior’s Weigh

The first weekend of December has the ignominious tradition of being one of the lowest moviegoing periods of the year. This year is no exception with but a single new wide release and holdover titles generally experiencing declines of more than 50%.

The newcomer arrived from the re-constituted Relativity Media with the martial arts actioner The Warrior’s Way. It barely squeaked into the top 10 with an estimated $3 million. Industry trackers hadn’t expected much for the picture but even their estimates were pegged significantly higher at roughly $5 million.

The frame leader was the animated Tangled with an estimated $21.5 million with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 taking the consolation prize with $16.9 million. The rest of the holdovers were indeed the deathly hallows.

However, there were a couple of spectacular exclusive debuts. The controversial and intense drama Black Swan bowed to $1.4 million, which translated into a jaw dropping per engagement average of $76,670. And the left-for-dead black comedy I Love You Phillip Morris hit the target with $109,000 from six locations and an $18,200 average. Also encouraging was the two-screen bow of the ironically titled All Good Things with $37,500.

The rest of the new niche crowd ranged from fair to poor including several new films on the Indian circuit, the independent Night Catches Us and the documentary Bhutto.

All added up, revenues amounted to about $86 million and a 54% drop from the weekend slice of Thanksgiving. It was also off 15% from the 2009 edition when the top new entry was third-ranked Brothers with $9.5 million. The 2009 leader with $20 million was The Blind Side.

Domestic box office should push past $10 billion next weekend and register a slight gain for the year when the dust settles in 26 days. It also unquestionably marks another year of theatrical admission declines; likely between 5% and 7%.

As to award’s contenders, it remains anyone’s game and last week’s announcement of honors from the National Board of Review provided scant indication of what’s to follow from major critical groups or the Hollywood Foreign Press. Apart from James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know, the anticipated upcoming releases have been seen and left prognosticators fumbling to identify leaders in any of the talent categories.

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Weekend Estimates – December 3-5, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Tangled BV 21.5 (5,970) -56% 3603 96.5
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 16.9 (4,090) -66% 4125 244.4
Burlesque Sony 6.1 (2,020) -49% 3037 27
Unstoppable Fox 6.1 (1,930) -47% 3152 68.9
Love and Other Drugs Fox 5.7 (2,310) -42% 2458 22.6
Megamind Par 4.9 (1,550) -61% 3173 136.6
Due Date WB 4.2 (1,720) -41% 2450 91
Faster CBS 3.8 (1,550) -55% 2470 18.1
The Warrior’s Way Relativity 3.0 (1,870) NEW 1622 3
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 2.6 (1,150) -45% 2236 18.3
Morning Glory Par 1.7 (760) -56% 2263 29.1
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 1.6 (3,790) -4% 433 6.6
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 1.4 (76,670) NEW 18 1.4
Fair Game Summit 1.0 (2,320) -27% 436 7.3
Red Summit .75 (960) -45% 779 87.2
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate .45 (930) -67% 485 37.3
Lance et compte Seville .43 (4,480) -31% 96 1.3
Skyline Uni/Alliance .42 (730) -63% 578 20.9
The Social Network Sony .41 (1,580) -42% 260 91
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .32 (53,000) -10% 6 0.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $81.25
% Change (Last Year) -15%
% Change (Last Week) -54%
Also debuting/expanding
I Love You Phillip Morris Roadside .11 (18,200) 6 0.11
Raktacharitra 2 Viva/Happy 94,200 (4,100) 23 0.09
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey Viva 65,300 (960) 68 0.07
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 45,700 (1,040) -31% 44 0.14
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,600 (3,600) -37% 11 0.18
All Good Things Magnolia 37,500 (18,750) 2 0.04
Dead Awake New Film 31,400 (570) 55 0.03
Mar Jawan Gur Khake Punjabi 18,800 (6,270) 3 0.02
Night Catches Us Magnolia 12,100 (3,020) 4 0.01
Bhutto First Run 7,800 (3,900) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1792.9 18.40%
Paramount (18) 1609.2 16.50%
Fox (18) 1371.7 14.00%
Buena Vista (16) 1252.3 12.80%
Sony (24) 1185.4 12.10%
Universal (18) 797.2 8.20%
Summit (11) 517.9 5.30%
Lionsgate (15) 512.4 5.20%
Fox Searchlight (7) 84.7 0.90%
Overture (7) 81.9 0.80%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
CBS (3) 64.2 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (8) 63.1 0.70%
Sony Classics (22) 58.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (301) 246.6 2.50%
9763.8 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Global Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 2, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 1,955,694,414
Toy Story 3 BV 1,065,128,004
Alice in Wonderland BV 1,024,537,295
Inception WB 840,550,911
Shrek Forever After Par 738,351,966
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 699,325,617
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 WB 634,033,738
Iron Man 2 Par 622,718,600
Despicable Me Uni 534,415,944
How to Train Your Dragon Par 495,921,283
Clash of the Titans WB 489,778,913
Sherlock Holmes * WB 367,796,599
The Karate Kid Sony 359,429,551
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time BV 335,816,141
The Last Airbender Par 319,062,129
Robin Hood Uni 312,207,159
Shutter Island Par 301,977,955
Sex and the City 2 WB 301,158,934
Salt Sony 293,955,694
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 292,972,689
The Expendables Lionsgate 272,550,235
Grown Ups Sony 271,417,359
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 264,341,533
Knight and Day Fox 261,206,060
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 226,497,298
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report — November 21

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Harry and the Deathly Swallows … Gulp!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 ascended to an estimated $126.2 million and corralled more than 60% of weekend ticket sales. Comparatively speaking the remaining films in the multiplex had to settle for chump change, including the bow of the thriller The Next Three Days which slotted fifth with $6.7 million.

The session also included the new Bollywood release Guzaarish, which garnered a better than respectable $423,000 at 108 venues. Among the few exclusive bows both the British import Made in Dagenham and France’s White Material were just OK with respective openings of $39,300 and $35,800, each playing on three screens.

It was the biggest opening yet for a Harry Potter film but while the juggernaut provided a big box office boost from last weekend it was insufficient to stave off a decline from 2009.

Expectations were high for the first installment of the last chapter of the Potter franchise. Advance sales and online tracking anticipated a $100 million debut and that number expanded following word of advance Thursday midnight screenings estimated at $24 million. Large format engagements were estimated at $12.4 million and if that number holds up it will be a record.

Internationally the early estimates are roughly $205 million from 54 markets. It includes all-time records in the U.K. and Russia and otherwise just sensational debuts elsewhere. The final, final Potter putter is schedule for July 2011.

On a decidedly downbeat note, The Next Three Days came in well below tracking that suggested a $10 million launch. The film also received a drubbing from critics.

Weekend revenues lurched toward $200 million, which translated into a 64% hike from seven days back. It was however 25% behind the 2009 slate led by the second installment of Twilight (New Moon), which bowed bitingly to $142.8 million with the unexpectedly $34.1 million potency of The Blind Side right behind it.

The contender’s roster failed to see any additional dynamos this weekend and the titles already in the marketplace were finding the Darwinian aspect of the exercise unrelenting. Both Fair Game and 127 Hours added a significant number of playdates with the latter continuing to maintain a hefty $8,330 engagement average. The other surprise in the mix is the continuing stamina of the non-fiction Inside Job that’s racked up $2.2 million to date.

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Weekend Estimates – November 19-21, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 126.2 (30,600) NEW 4125 126.2
Megamind Par 16.2 (4,280) -45% 3779 109.5
Unstoppable Fox 13.0 (4,060) -43% 3207 41.9
Due Date WB 8.9 (2,760) -42% 3229 72.4
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 6.7 (2,590) NEW 2564 6.7
Morning Glory Par 5.2 (2,050) -43% 2544 19.8
Skyline Uni/Alliance 3.4 (1,170) -71% 2883 17.6
Summit 2.4 (1,190) -51% 2034 83.5
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 2.3 (1,920) -64% 1216 34.5
Fair Game Summit 1.4 (3,730) 41% 386 3.7
Secretariat BV 1.0 (970) -56% 1010 56.4
Paranormal Activity 2 Par .93 (840) -69% 1101 83.6
The Social Network Sony .91 (1,590) -49% 571 89.2
127 Hours Searchlight .90 (8,330) 104% 108 1.9
Saw 3D Lionsgate .82 (1,020) -71% 806 45.3
Jackass 3D Par .72 (1,050) -68% 687 116.1
Life As We Know It WB .52 (930) -50% 558 51.6
Guzaarish UTV .42 (3,910) NEW 108 0.42
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .41 (2,180) -22% 188 3.5
Inside Job Sony Classics .37 (1,770) -22% 211 2.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $191.50
% Change (Last Year) -25%
% Change (Last Week) 64%
Also debuting/expanding
Today’s Special Reliance 88,400 (1,670) 53 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,300 (13,100) 3 0.04
White Material IFC 35,800 (11,930) 3 0.04
Queen of the Lot Rainbow 16,400 (2,730) 6 0.02
Copacabana Seville 14,100 (2,010) 7 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (18) 1555.1 16.80%
Warner Bros. (26) 1538.8 16.70%
Fox (17) 1320.7 14.30%
Buena Vista (15) 1173.4 12.70%
Sony (23) 1160.3 12.60%
Universal (18) 790.4 8.60%
Summit (11) 508.5 5.50%
Lionsgate (14) 490.6 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.7 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 80.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.1 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.5 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.3 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (288) 240.7 2.60%
9236.6 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,883,415
Toy Story 3 BV 414,681,777
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 291,914,445
Despicable Me Uni 248,900,040
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 162,147,232
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,256,755
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 115,357,091
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report – October 24

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Back to Paranormal

Paranormal Activity 2 exceeded pundit expectation (though not necessarily fans) with an estimated $41.6 million to lead weekend movie ticket sales. The session’s only other national bow was Hereafter, which shot up to $11.9 million following last weekend’s limited opener.

Niche and regional bows included a solid $212,000 (in Hindi and Telegu versions) bow for the Indian crime saga Rakhtcharitra. Fans won’t have to wait long for its second part conclusion that’s scheduled for late November. Meanwhile up in Canada the Toronto fest curtain raiser Score: A Hockey Musical failed to live up to its name with a discordant $143,000 from 127 rinks.

Exclusives included good though unsensational debuts that included non-fiction Boxing Gym with a $6,100 TKO in its solo bout and Taqwacores — the tale of an Islamic rock band — grossing $5,500 also in a single outing.

Though there was a marginal dip from last weekend’s box office, the frame saw its first uptick from 2009 in a month with industry mavens already predicting expanded revenues through the end of the year.

Critical response to sleeper sensation Paranormal Activity 2 was at best tepid with the more negative reviews viewing it as a cynical rehash of its inspiration. Nonetheless avids were cueing up to provide Thursday midnight shows a record preview for an R-rated film. It lost traction as the weekend proceeded but the fast start was sufficient to speed past tracking that suggested an opening salvo of not much more than $30 million.

Exit polls for both Paranormal Activity 2 and Hereafter were disappointing. The latter film pretty much brought in the anticipated older crowd and filmmaker Clint Eastwood’s films have a history of hanging in for longer than typical runs and much higher multiples than is the industry norm. Still, this yarn could well stray from that trend.

Weekend revenues amassed roughly $130 million in torn ducats. It represented a slight 2% dip from seven days back but the unexpected Paranormal Activity 2 and overall strong holdovers translated into a 13% box office boost from 2009. A year ago the first Paranormal Activity (in its initial wide weekend) led with $21.1 million followed by Saw VI and Where the Wild Things Are with respective tallies of $14.1 million and $14 million.

With the exception of Waiting for “Superman” it’s been a brutal season for Oscar hopefuls trying to set an early footprint on the awards landscape. Granted, very few have received a wholehearted critical embrace, but even by niche standards the likes of Nowhere Boy, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Jack Goes Boating among others have been comparative under-performers when measured against past films that have employed this tactic.

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Weekend Estimates – October 22-24, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Paranormal Activity 2 Par 41.6 (12,930) New 3216 41.6
Jackass 3D Par 21.5 (6,920) -57% 3111 87.1
Red Summit 15.1 (4,620) -31% 3273 43.6
Hereafter WB 11.9 (5,450) 2175 12.2
The Social Network Sony 7.2 (2,450) -31% 2921 72.8
Secretariat BV 6.9 (2,210) -26% 3108 37.3
Life As We Know It WB 6.1 (2,010) -32% 3019 37.5
Legend of the Guardians WB 3.1 (1,390) -26% 2236 50.1
The Town WB 2.7 (1,390) -33% 1918 84.6
Easy A Sony 1.7 (1,050) -35% 1632 54.7
Wal Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 1.2 (960) -49% 1255 50
My Soul to Take Uni/Alliance 1.0 (600) -68% 1689 13.9
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .76 (2,620) 2% 290 3.7
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate .71 (980) -14% 727 23.5
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus .66 (1,180) -46% 560 5.1
Devil Uni .63 (980) -35% 642 32.4
You Again BV .61 (680) -50% 901 24
N Secure FreeStyle .53 (1,190) -55% 445 1.9
Toy Story 3 BV .42 (1,211) -21% 350 413.4
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .40 (1,060) 46% 381 1.8
Case 39 Par Vantage .38 (530) -69% 721 12.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $123.90
% Change (Last Year) 13%
% Change (Last Week) -2%
Also debuting/expanding
Stone Overture .34 (3,030) 49% 113 0.76
Conviction Fox Searchlight .30 (5,420) 192% 55 0.34
Rakhtcharitra Viva/Happy .21 (6,230) 34 0.21
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. .21 (870) -39% 215 0.76
Score: A Hockey Musical Mongrel .14 (1,130) 127 0.14
Jhootha Hi Sahi Viva 64,700 (1,350) 48 0.06
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Fiftyfilms 10,300 (5,150) 2 0.01
Boxing Gym Zipporah 6,100 (6,100) 1 0.01
Taqwacores Rumanni 5,500 (5,500) 1 0.01
Inhale IFC 5,600 (2,800) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Oct. 21, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (25) 1403.9 16.30%
Paramount (15) 1310.6 15.30%
Fox (16) 1287.9 15.00%
Buena Vista (15) 1144.7 13.30%
Sony (23) 1129.9 13.20%
Universal (17) 771.4 9.00%
Summit (10) 453.6 5.30%
Lionsgate (12) 411.5 4.80%
Overture (7) 79.7 0.90%
Focus (7) 73.2 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (6) 72.7 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 61.6 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 53.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (271) 226.9 2.70%
8581.7 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Oct. 21, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,726,209
Toy Story 3 BV 413,013,123
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,531,751
Inception WB 289,881,124
Despicable Me Uni 247,148,995
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 161,942,598
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 118,236,912
Salt Sony 118,229,865
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
The Expendables Lions Gate 103,068,524
* does not include 2009 box office

Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more …

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW & BLU-RAY

How to Train Your Dragon” (Also Two Disc Blu-Ray DVD Combo) (Three Stars)

U.S.; Dean De Blois/Chris Sanders, 2010 (Dreamworks)

The visual flash and dash that the new Dreamworks animated saga How to Train Your Dragon pours into its panoramic 3D scenes of ferocious Medieval battle and Viking sea quests — and especially this movie’s Avatar-like flying sequences, with dorky hero Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) grabbing the reins and soaring cloudward astride a friendly dragon named Toothless — is so truly, technically amazing, so full of such giddy, sky-drunk rapture, that you can forgive this movie almost anything. Almost.

There are some things though that you kind of have to forgive in this generally impressive adaptation of Cressida Cowell‘s young people’s book series — despite its exciting tale of a Viking land, besieged by hordes of dragons and by a mysterious queen bee-like monster-in-the-mountain, of the Viking society threatened by them, and of a boy, Hiccup, the more soulful, less warlike son of Viking lord Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), forced unwillingly into soldiering. Hiccup is the lad who discovers the truth behind it all.

To name one flaw, I thought the beginning, which takes us to Hiccup’s homeland, the dragon-besieged isle of Berk, and immediately subjects us to a horrific dragon assault, shown in a series of hectic, action-packed mobile “tracking shots,” was too instantly and incessantly hyper-active and ultra-violent, especially for a film with a basically pacifist theme — a movie that wants us to root for the non-violent non-warrior who tries to bring peace to a land of constant carnage and danger.

The opening, for me at least, would have been better with something quieter before the storm — however virtuosic that dragon-storm, however riveting that warfare. The movie could have used a lot more initial contrast between the dreamy predispositions of Hiccup, and those bloody dragon assaults that come blasting at us right from the start. Not that Hic should have been more of a fool. But Baruchel’s voice is a little too monotonously dorky and nerdy, even annoyingly so, for the first twenty minutes or so.

And I thought that this movie, or maybe its source material in Cowell’s books, could have used a counter-paternal character: a Merlin-Yoda sort of peaceful mentor to teach or suggest to Hiccup the other side of life (maybe also a gentler, more nurturing female character) — instead of implying that the kid has no real elders and picks it all up by himself, on pure instinct. This lack of emotional modulation and contrast extends to the rest of the kid characters who join Hiccup at the dragon-killing school, an academy run by gruff Gobber: Jonah Hill as Snotlout, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs, T. J. Miller and Kristen Wiig as Tuffnut and Ruffnut, and even America Ferrera, wonderful as the toughie-gal, dragon-slaying Astrid. Couldn’t there have been more would-be peaceniks among them right from the start? (Admittedly that predisposition also could have come straight from the book, which I haven’t read.)

Finally, speaking as a descendant of proud Swedes, I have to register a big objection to the thick Scottish accents which the filmmakers have endowed on alleged Vikings Stoick the Vast and Gobber the dragon master (Craig Ferguson), both of whom seem to be trying to out-burr Sean Connery. For verisimilitude, they should be close to Max Von Sydow‘s knight or Gunnar Bjornstrand’s squire in that other medieval movie saga The Seventh Seal. (Instead, they’re closer to Mike Myers as Fat Bastard in The Spy Who Shagged Me.)

Vikings were Scandinavians, dammit, and we deserve as much credit for them as we do for Ingmar Bergman, Bjorn Bjorg, Greta Garbo, or ABBA. The Scots have Connery, Bill Forsyth, Braveheart, kilts, bagpipes and a lot of stingy Scot jokes. And, incidentally, Craig Ferguson. Isn’t that enough?

Dragon shows its gentler side however, in a marvelous sequence that finally ratchets down the opening violence: the scene where Hiccup stumbles on Toothless, a purplish Night Fury dragon (Cowell‘s world is full of dragon-breeds and the movie delineates them all in loving detail) and heals the wound that the strangely puppy-like creature received (from Hiccup) in the battle just previous.

Then, the movie becomes a variation on George Bernard Shaw‘s Androcles and the Lion, where that gentle Shavian Christian-among-the-Romans Androcles (played by Alan Young in the movie) won the lion‘s heart by pulling a thorn from his paw, or on Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon, or many another Why-can’t-we-all-get-along fable. And the magic kicks in for most of the rest of the movie. Hiccup charms Astrid, uses his dragon-soothing powers to seem to become a star warrior-student, disappoints his dad when Stoick discovers and misinterprets the dragon-bond, is ostracized, and then….Well, you’ll see. It isn’t original, but it is satisfying.

By the way, when will the movies make use of Jack Vance’s fantastic The Dragon Masters? The time seems ripe for it. The time and the technology were certainly ripe for director-writers Dean de Blois and Chris Sanders on this movie. Earlier, in 2002, they made Lilo and Stitch, a feature cartoon which has all the childlike joy and gentle lyricism that this movie somewhat lacks and could use. So maybe it’s a matter of the original material or creative choices.

I don’t think Dragon is dragged down much from its soaring heights, flaws or not. But I also don’t agree with some of Dragon’s admirers that it’s somehow much better than either Avatar or Alice in Wonderland — two gargantuan hit fantasy movies that shouldn’t be penalized simply because so many people like them. A lot of people like Dragon too. Comparisons aren’t necessary, not even to Androcles and the Lion. But How to Train Your Dragon could still use more sweetness. And, as far as I’m concerned, more Swedes. Skoal!

Extras: Featurettes; Deleted scenes; Interview with original author Crowell; Storyboards.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars)

U.S.; John Huston, 1948 (Warner Bros. Video)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, based on the 20th century classic novel by B. Traven, is a 20th century classic movie as well, and, along with The Maltese Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle and The Man Who Would be King, the best argument against critics who low-rate writer-director (and here for the first time, actor) John Huston.

It’s a superb movie, an inarguable classic, one of the great westerns, one of the best-ever literary adaptations, and one of the great Humphrey Bogart pictures: a lacerating, mesmerizing, eye-opening, pin-you-to-seat portrayal of greed and its consequences, hard as nails and warm as flesh.

Bogart plays one of his all-time best roles: Fred C. Dobbs, a down and out American in 1925 Tampico, who hooks up with two other Yanks, the tough but decent Bob Curtin (played by Tim Holt) and the grizzled prospecting expert Howard (John’s father Walter Huston, in his all-time best role and Oscar-winner), to form a trio of treasure hunters in the Sierra Madre mountains (hilly, stony, sun-drenched peaks beautifully shot on location by Huston and cinematographer Ted McCord.) The three strike gold, but they also hit a vein of darkness: the paranoia, discord and violence that sudden riches often bring. Walter is wise and savvy, but he can’t warn his younger comrades.

Curtin is a good guy but he’s powerless to stop fate. “Dobbsy” is an okay guy too, but gold and greed turn him into a monster. There’s another, far more unabashed monster here too: Alfonso Bedoya as the bandit leader Gold Hat, who snarls at Dobbs those memorable lines “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don‘t have to show you any stinking badges!” He’s a classic killer, and so is the movie.

Don Siegel once said that he wanted to make The Treasure of the Sierra Madre more than any property he ever read, but that he couldn’t possibly have made as good a film as Huston’s, because he would have let the producers talk him into shooting it in a studio, and Huston wouldn’t. That’s why John Huston is a great filmmaker. He read well, chose wisely and never betrayed his material. He knew where the gold was in Treasure of Sierra Madre. and he got it. He also knew how to lay back and get the best in his dad and in his pal Bogie and all the others. He got that too.

I saw Sierra Madre last year in a brand-new 35 mm print at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in the AMC Classic Film Festival, with Anjelica and Danny Huston representing their dad on stage — and I was stunned at how great it was, how ageless, how superb the actors all were (including Bruce Bennett as the smart interloper and Barton MacLane as the exploitive thug of a boss, and especially Bogie and Walter), at how the movie just jumped off the screen at you and hooked you good, and left you with eyes open and brain sharp and heart chilled and racing. It’s a cliché of sorts, but it’s true: They just don’t make movies like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre any more. Or guys like Bogie and John and Walter Huston. Or maybe they do, and we just don’t treasure them enough.

Extras: Commentary by Eric Lax; Documentaries on John Huston and the film; radio version of Treasure with the original stars; and a Warner Night at the Movies package, with Leonard Maltin intro, vintage newsreel, comedy short, classic Looney Tunes, and Warners trailers.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: BLU-RAY

The Darjeeling Limited (Two discs) (Also Blu-ray) (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Wes Anderson, 2007 (Criterion)

Three rich-kid misfit brothers — played by Owen Wilson (swathed in bandages), Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman — make a pilgrimage to their spiritually sequestered mother (Anjelica Huston) on a charmingly old-fangled train, where the conductor serves high tea and becomes angry if snakes are smuggled aboard.

This is Anderson’s best film since Bottle Rocket and a complete recovery from the arch attempted humor of his tediously oddball The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. You have to be in the mood for it, but I was.

Extras: The short pre-Darjeeling Anderson-Schwartzman-Natalie Portman film Hotel Chevalier; Commentary by Anderson, Schwartzmann and co-writer Roman Coppola; Documentary; Conversation between Anderson and James Ivory; Deleted and alternate scenes; On-set footage by Coppola; Booklet with essay by Richard Brody.

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PICK OF THE WEEK: BOX SET

The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov (Five Discs) (Four Stars)

Russia/U.S.S.R.; Nikita Mikhalkov, 1976-1994 (Kino)

Film comes easily to Nikita Mikhalkov: the master Russian moviemaker — maker of Dark Eyes, 12, Close to Eden and Burnt by the Sun, and the subject of this superb and sometimes surprising box set from Kino.

Mikhalkov is a phenomenon, a first-rank, much-praised, much-prized, and highly versatile artist of the screen, as craftsmanlike and affecting a screenwriter as he is strong and innovative a producer, as excellent a director of actors as he is brilliant and dynamic a visual stylist. He’s an inspiring filmmaker whose work is always entertaining and deeply engaging, and who constantly enhances and ignites the talents and best instincts of his coworkers — including his ingenious production designer and sometimes co-writer and actor, Alexander Adabashyan, his lyrical composer Eduard Artemyev and his virtuosic cinematographer Pavel Lebeshev.

To top it off, Mikhalkov is also one of the best movie actors in Russia. Mikhalkov’s older brother, the equally talented and much-awarded moviemaker Andrei Konchalovsky (director of Siberiade and The Odyssey, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s co-writer on Andrei Roublev and Ivan’s Childhood) has said that his sibling is “the Russian Jack Nicholson.”

And despite an understandable familial bias on Andrei‘s part, it’s not really an exaggeration. As an actor, Mikhalkov has all of Nicholson‘s (and Gene Hackman‘s ) earthy magnetism and charisma, if maybe not all of Jack‘s hair-trigger pugnacity. (Nikita and Andrei are the children of an amazing artistic couple; Andrei took the last name of their mother, a famous painter, and Nikita took the surname of their father, a renowned poet, and the lyricist who wrote the words to the old Soviet national anthem.)

Kino’s five-film set, packed with extras, gathers together two of Mikhalkov’s most internationally famous films, two brilliant, lush period pieces that display all his manifold gifts, the Oscar-winning 1994 “Burnt by the Sun” (in which Mikhalkov also, unforgettably, plays the lead role) and the great movie that made his name as a director, 1976‘s “A Slave of Love” (in which the co-scenarist was brother Andrei), together with a less well-known (in the West) and less-screened, but no less accomplished masterpiece of literary adaptation, 1980’s Oblomov, based on the classic 19th century novel by Ivan Goncharov.

Also in the package are two more neglected (in the West) works, 1979’s Five Evenings and 1983‘s Without Witness: both more contemporary, more economically shot, done with much more limited means, but very ingeniously planned and designed within those limits. These two movies, based on plays by two major Russian playwrights, Alexander Volodin and Sofia Prokofyeva, both still very popular in Russia but little-screened here (I‘d never encountered either before), are true actors’ showcases. Like the three films above, they brilliantly display the gifts of some of Russia’s best stage and film actors.

Mikhalkov’s recurrent theme is the plight of volatile or sensitive people trapped in constraining or changing, even chaotic social conditions — whether the rigid aristocracy of 19th century Russia (Oblomov), the world of make-believe and moviemaking in the throes of the Russian Revolution (A Slave of Love), the vise of Stalinism closing in on an erstwhile Revolutionary military hero (Burnt by the Sun) or the banal conformity, over-crowded communal apartments and paranoid repression of the Khruschev-era U.S.S.R. (Five Evenings).

Mikhalkov has directed relatively little since his world-wide critical hit Burnt by the Sun in 1994. Reportedly, he was angry that he got beaten for the Palme d’Or that year at Cannes by Quentin Tarantino and Pulp Fiction (Mikhalkov did win Cannes’ runner-up award, the Jury Prize, for Sun), as well as depressed by the current ongoing turmoil, breakup and social collapse in Russia.

But last year, Mikhalkov released 12, an adaptation and rephrasing of the 1957 American classic Twelve Angry Men, originally made by one of his favorite directors, Sidney Lumet, and he is now at work on Burnt by the Sun 2, one sequel I look forward to. This marvelous five-film set reminds us what a great film artist he is, how rich and beautiful and exciting his best movies are, what fascinating cinematic worlds he opens up on the screen, and, most of all, how much Nikita Mikhalkov loves people and the actors who play them. (All films are Russian film productions, in Russian and other languages, with English subtitles.)

Includes: A Slave of Love (U.S.S.R.: Nikita Mikhalkov, 1976) Four Stars. Set during the turbulence of the Revolution, kept temporarily at bay at a lush film shoot location, this is one of the best portrayals ever of the silent film era: energetic, romantic, poetic, funny, bursting with life and beauty. With Yelena Solovey as Olga, a silent film goddess inspired by the legendary real life, tragic movie actress Vera Kholodnaya. Also with Rodion Nakhapetov and Alexander Kalyagin, and co-written, in one of their rare collaborations, by the brothers Konchalovsky, plus Fridrikh Gorenshtein. This is my favorite Mikhalkov.

Five Evenings (Mikhalkov, 1979). Three and a Half Stars. Tamara and Alexander (Lyudmila Gurchenko and Stanislav Lyubshin), a couple long separated after their World War II affair, meet again 17 years later in the cold war Khruschev era, rekindling sparks and resentments, unearthing old secrets and lies. Based on Alexander Volodin’s play, designed and co-scripted by Alexander Adabashyan, who also plays the hero’s (or maybe anti-hero’s) reserved, reluctant, mustached friend. A gem, and also a real feat of filmmaking virtuosity. Mikhalkov, the actors and his Oblomov crew, shot it in 25 days, during a brief break in the shooting of that complex period production.

Oblomov (Mikhalkov, 1980). Four Stars. A wonderful adaptation of the great Ivan Goncharov novel, about an unambitious, somnolent mama’s boy of an aristocrat named Oblomov (Oleg Tabakov, in a near-perfect performance) who, after retiring from civil service at 30, likes to sleep all the time, tended by his shabby drunken valet. Oblomov, a recluse in a world whirling out of his control, inherits his family’s lands in the country, and falls in love, sleepily and ineptly, with a beauty in the nearby mansion (Yelena Solovey), a girl who is also attracted to Oblomov’s best friend. Beautiful, funny, heartbreaking; like Chekhov on a more epic scale, with more obvious comedy.

Without Witness (Mikhalkov, 1983). Three and a half Stars. A quiet woman and her sadistic ex-husband, still embroiled in a turbulent relationship, spend a night of fury, anguish and remembrance together in her apartment, which becomes a battleground. An explosive chamber drama, in the fiery style and inwardly melancholy mood of Edward Albee‘s Who‘s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The couple are played by Irina Kupchenko and Mikhail Ulyanov, and they’re both tremendous.

Burnt by the Sun (Mikhalkov, 1994). Four Stars. Colonel Sergei Kotov, a war hero of the Soviet Revolution (Mikhalkov, in his most famous role), goes to his lovely, halcyon country retreat for a brief summer vacation, joining his family and some surprise guests — including agents of Stalin’s secret police, who are no respecters of laws, heroes or humanity. Costarring Oleg Menchikov and Nadya Mikhalkov, Mikhalkov’s daughter, who here plays his screen daughter. Winner of the best foreign language film Oscar, and the 1994 Cannes Grand Jury Prize (see above), Burnt by the Sun is usually considered Mikhalkov’s masterpiece. It probably is.

Extras: Interviews with Mikhalkov, Adabashyan, Artemyev and Kupchenko; Documentary Vera on Vera Kholodnaya; filmographies; photo albums. Note: You can see Vera Kholodnaya silent movies — she died young, at 25, in 1919 — on the Milestone set devoted to early Russian silents, and on Milestone’s Mad Love: The Films of Evgeni Bauer.

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OTHER CURRENT OR RECENT DVD RELEASES

The Hangover (Three Stars)

U. S.; Todd Phillips, 2009

Recipe for a “hangover“: Four male buddies — or actually, three buddies and a hanger-on who desperately wants to be one of the bunch — take off for Las Vegas and one last bachelor bash, driving a 1969 Mercedes borrowed from the bride‘s dad (Jeffrey Tambor). Reading right to left, they’re Phil, the studly but married English teacher (Brad Cooper), Stu the nerdy dentist (Ed Helms of The Office), Alan the slobby and somewhat whacked out brother-in-law-to-be (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug, the very tolerant, very likable groom (Justin Bertha).

Shake and mix well. Once in Vegas, our fun-loving quartet check into a deluxe hotel villa suite and begin their night of revelry with a toast up on the roof, with knockout libations that have been, unfortunately, secretly spiked with what one of them thinks is Ecstasy, but is actually the date-rape drug. (See The Human Centipede. No, check that, don’t see The Human Centipede!)

The next morning , three of them wake up in the suite, hung over and unable to remember a single thing that happened after they imbibed the drink and drug. Here’s what they see: the apartment wrecked, booze on the furniture, a baby in a bassinet, one of dentist Stu’s front teeth missing, the Mercedes gone, pizza on the sofa, a mattress speared on the pole outside, a live tiger in their bathroom. And, oh yeah, the groom mysteriously missing, with barely hours for the guys to find and deliver him to the wedding and his beaming bride. Pretty soon they’ll see Doug‘s mattress speared on a roof pole and they’ll run into the cops whose squad car they stole, the gay Chinese gangster whose blackjack loot they accidentally glommed, the friendly stripper/hooker named Jade (Heather Graham) whom Stu married last night at The Best Little Chapel, Black Doug, and Mike Tyson, who happens to own the tiger.

What happened? Where is Doug? What about the impending nuptials with Tracy (Sasha Barrese)? And who the hell is Black Doug? (Since he’s played by Mike Epps, we at least know he’ll get some laughs too.) Despite myself, I‘ve got to admit this is a terrific premise, at least for exactly the kind of raunchy, male-bonding comedy that usually plays to knuckleheads, but occasionally delivers the goods. (The last one I remember that worked this well was Wedding Crashers, with Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Rachel McAdams, and a dirty-minded cameo by Will Ferrell. (The memory of that last will help you forgive him for Land of the Lost.)

The Hangover is an example of a movie genre I often hate: the Daffy, Goofy Sex-Crazed Guys comedy (an 80s mainstay) — a picture in which we’re privy to the horny, boozy, pants-dropping antics of a gang of guys out for a smashed-but-keep-going, party-till-you-drop high time: a lewd-minded crew that often includes the stud, the nerd, the slob/weirdo and the nice guy/author surrogate (or variations thereof).

There have been hundreds of movies like this, and most of them stink. This one works.

Why? Director Todd Phillips, who has made at least one funny male-bonding comedy, Road Trip — as well as some others (Old School, Starsky and Hutch) that I’d rather forget — has a real flair for this wild and crazy guy bunch kind of situation. There’s a knowing edge to his handling of this very familiar stuff, the progressive revelations of their crazy misbehavior — and it humanizes the story. Writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who were guilty of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases (Take them back, guys) have dreamed up lots of funny bits, most of which work. But they’ve also given the whole thing a neat structure that makes the story far more interesting and engaging.

Instead of showing us the wild night as it happens, one blitzed catastrophe after another, they turn the whole show into a film-noir-in-reverse detective story, where the three guys left behind have to piece everything together, and suffer while they recall what irresponsible clowns they were.

This device makes the story more entertaining, funnier and also less offensive (than usual), since the guys are paying for their misdeeds after indulging in them, and since we don’t see the orgies that got them in Dutch until a rapid-fire lewd end-credits sequence of the photos that recorded their blacked-out blowout. The movie suggests that there is such a thing as a morning after, and that they are consequences to every orgy. Besides, it is always funnier to recall this kind of stuff afterwards, sober. Did I ever tell you about the night one of my friends walked out in the middle of W. Gilman street, stark naked and chugging a bottle of Aqua Velva, and two police cars pulled up around him? Or the time somebody‘s girlfriend started a water fight inside our apartment house that lasted for an hour and ended up waterlogging the kitchen? Then there was that drunken night time trip to the zoo…. (The joke is: You think I‘m kidding, but I’m not.)

Finally, the element that really makes The Hangover is the cast. The three leads are perfect clown adventurers. Bradley Cooper’s Phil recalls every ultra-glib ladies man and take charge guy you’ve ever met. Ed Helms, as the defanged dentist Stu, is a dream of an angst-ridden straight man and guilty hen-pecked nerd, with a classic worried shockeroo look that suggests Harold Lloyd crossed with Charles Grodin. Galifianakis (Dave the Bear in the lousy What Happens in Vegas) makes such a funny oddball out, like early fat-demonic Jim Belushi crossed with a delusional touch of Don Knotts, that he even manages to survive one too many peeks at his butt. And Bertha is a terrific likable guy — and a good sport too, since he has to miss most of the action.

The rest of the cast is good too, especially Rachael Harris as the girlfriend from hell, Graham as the hooker form heaven, Epps as B. D., and Ted Cheong as the kind of gay Chinese gangster you don’t want to encounter in a Turkish bath. Even Mike Tyson makes you laugh.

I’ve knocked off a half star here for the cop car and blackjack scenes, and the sometimes mushy ending, none of which makes the wicked comic sense of the rest of the movie. But, audiences for this type of show will get everything they want, while audiences who normally wouldn’t go near a picture like this will get more than they bargained for. I‘m usually not fond of movies partly inspired by TV commercials. But this is one case where we’re lucky that what happened in Vegas didn’t stay there. Party hearty, dudes. The morning after is a killer.

Extras: Commentary by Phillips and Hangover stars; Featurettes; CD song sampler, Wedding photo album.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (One Star)

U.S.-German: Tom Six, 2009 (IFC Films)

The Human Centipede is “Nausea Horror” (a new genre, maybe?) at its sickest. (This whole movie deserves a Spoiler Alert.) Director-writer Thomas Six’s unabashedly sleazy, stomach-turning plot starts with two sexy, lively American girls (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie), on holiday, having a car break-down at night in the woods. The first motorist who finds them starts spouting obscenities and jerking off in his car seat.

Then, after the girls run away, they find an isolated house, where a wild-eyed, taciturn German mad scientist (Dieter Laser, trying for the Klaus Kinski glaring lunatic award), feeds them the date rape drug in glasses of water and then ties them to operating tables in his lab. There he plans to use them and a third prisoner, a screaming Japanese businessman (Akihiro Kitamura), for his grand experiment: grafting three human beings together, head to anus, intestine to intestine, so they form one continuous “human centipede.”

I mean: What the hell? Why does Doctor Dieter want to do this? (Why does Six want him to?) Surely the Doc doesn’t intend to write it all up in a medical journal. Nor, it seems, does he want to start a freak carnival, or produce TV’s most disgusting reality show. Is it out of sheer professional pride? (The movie boasts that its story is “100 % medically accurate,“ which gives you pause).

But graft them all together the bad doctor does, head to ass, creating his very own centipede, or as he coos, “My sweet centipede!” Meanwhile, two truculent German cops prowl around his house and pool. But don’t worry about too much bad taste here. In some odd fit of modesty, the mad scientist grafts his victims all together in their underpants, or maybe in their swaddling clothes. The movie, as you might expect, comes to no good end, and neither do the three parts of the centipede.

It’s not well-written. It’s not well-acted (except, in a weird way, by Laser). It’s not well-photographed or well-directed. It’s not funny. It’s not compelling. It didn’t strike me as scary. It’s a mediocre treatment of a creepy idea, like “Troll 2” trying to be “Salo” — and watching it struck me as the cinematic equivalent of eating live centipedes, on a bet. Now, if you actually want to look at this pathetic excuse for a movie, go ahead. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

Extras: Commentary by Six; Interview with Six; Deleted scene; Featurette; Trailer.

Three Kings (Three Stars)

U.S.; David O. Russell, 1999 (

Satiric war comedy, set in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, from writer-director David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey), about four cynical U. S. soldiers (George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze) on a gold heist. Somehow, for me at least, this doesn’t always work as well as it should, but it’s funny and exciting, and it‘s a classic Clooney role. Classic Cube too.

Deep Blue Sea (Two Stars)

U.S. Renny Harlin, 1999

The Life Aquatic gone haywire: An underwater scientific base springs a leak and start sinking (so does the movie), while intelligent sharks start chasing and devouring dubiously intelligent humans. Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport and LL Cool J all try to stay afloat in this, but the sharks have all the good lines.

Extras: Commentary by Harlin; Featurette; Deleted scenes.

Harlow (Two Stars)

U.S.; Gordon Douglas, 1965 (Olive)

Jean Harlow was the first archetypal Blonde Bombshell of the movie’s Sound Era, and though time has shown she wasn‘t in Marilyn Monroe’s category, she was a sexy, funny, fun-loving dish, and her best movies are still fun to watch, especially Red Dust, Dinner at Eight, Libeled Lady, and, of course, Bombshell.

This movie however, with Carroll Baker in full platinum blonde/low-cut gown regalia and war paint, isn’t much fun, even though it was written by Hitchcock’s sometimes very witty screenwriter John Michael Hayes (To Catch a Thief, The Trouble With Harry). “Harlow” also seems dubious as both drama and film history, even though it’s based on the best-selling biography by Irving Shulman and Arthur Landau, with Landau, Harlow’s agent and manager — who is portrayed in the movie by Red Buttons — acting as official “advisor.“ Among the things Landau has advised the moviemakers is that Landau was a saint.

Harlow meanwhile, is shown as a rather serious, ultimately tragic gal, not too interested in sex (until she falls apart at the end), but capable of arousing wild lust in most of the men around her (that part, at least, is true), except for tragic hubby Paul Bern (whimsically played by Peter Lawford) and, of course, the saintly Landau. Also milling around are Harlow’s exploited mom (Angela Lansbury in a role you might have pegged for Betty Field), Raf Vallone as her exploitive Italian dad (in a role perhaps better suited to Vittorio Gassmann), Martin Balsam as an exploitive studio boss, Mike Connors as an exploitive co-star, and Leslie Nielsen (in his mean, non-comic mode) as an exploitative director. (Mysteriously, Harlow’s mom keeps referring to her daughter as “Jean,” though the star’s birth name was Harlean Carpenter.)

The whole movie is glossy and dull and has about as much period feel or zip as the 1968 Valley of the Dolls. Gordon Douglas directs, without mucho gusto; tragically (and not comically), he doesn’t exploit the material enough.

Gurus o’ Gold – A Pre-Toronto Look At The 2010/11 Field

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Welcome to the first Gurus gathering of this upcoming season.

It always seems a little silly to offer strong opinions before the Toronto International Film Festival has even begun. So we don’t. Consider these a gentle guide to what the buzz is, very early in the season.

We asked The Gurus to offer their 15 favorites to end up nominated for Best Picture come January. No ranking, No “sure things.” Just instinct and as much insight as is possible at this moment.

Last year, we did the same and the result was that The Gurus hit seven of the final ten in their Top Ten from this long distance. Two more were picked in the Top Sixteen. And the only film to get nominated that was nowhere to be found on this early list? The Blind Side. (Perhaps that explains the shock from the media when it got nominated… even after becoming a well-reviewed massive box office hit.) So maybe this early poll isn’t really all that silly .

Is there a stone unturned this year? Well, not Stone, which got a vote from Pete Howell. And not Tree of Life, which got 4 votes last year at this time… and just 3 votes this time around (2 of them from the same Gurus as last year).

This is not the look for the future of Gurus moving forward. But our team is designing a databased system that will launch when Gurus goes full-out in November. So, until then…

UPDATE, 9/7/10 – The last three Gurus have now chimed in.

The Participating Gurus
Anthony Breznican – USA Today
Greg Ellwood – Hitfix
Pete Hammond – Deadline Hollywood
Eugene Hernandez – indieWIRE
Pete Howell – Toronto Star
Dave Karger – Entertainment Weekly
Mark Olsen – LA Times
David Poland – Movie City News
Steve Pond – The Wrap
Sean Smith – Entertainment Weekly
Sasha Stone – Awards Daily
Kris Tapley – In Contention
Anne Thompson -indieWIRE
Susan Wloszczyna – USA Today

DreamWorks Animation Breathes Fire Into Oscar Race

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

DreamWorks Animation Breathes Fire Into Oscar Race With Pre-Labor Day Dragon Promo

Wilmington on Movies: How to Train Your Dragon, Hot Tub Time Machine, Chloe, and The Eclipse

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (Three Stars)
U.S.; Dean De Blois/Chris Sanders, 2010

The visual flash and dash that the new Dreamworks animated saga How to Train Your Dragon pours into its panoramic 3D scenes of ferocious Medieval battle and Viking sea quests — and especially this movie’s Avatar-like flying sequences, with (more…)

Showest Serves Up Newsworthy-Lite Fare

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Gary Dretzka
March 22, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon: Lesson 6

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Lesson 5

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon: Lesson 4

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Lesson 3

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Lesson 2

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Lession 1

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

2010 Paramount Preview

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Shutter Island –  Feb 19
Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Max von Sydow

U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.

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She’s Out of My League – March 12
Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence, Krysten Ritter, Geoff Stults and Lindsay Sloane

Kirk,  an average Joe, can’t believe his luck.  Though he’s stuck in a seemingly dead-end job as an airport security agent, against all odds, Molly, a successful and outrageously gorgeous babe, falls for him.  Kirk is stunned. So are his friends, his family and even his ex-girlfriend. Now he has to figure out how to make the relationship work, even though he’d be the first to admit she’s totally out of his league.  

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How to Train Your Dragon – March 26
Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, TJ Miller

Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, the action comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers.  Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges he and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

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Iron Man 2 – May 7
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell

 The continuing adventures of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark and his alter-ego, Iron Man.

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Shrek Forever After – May 21
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas

After challenging an evil dragon, rescuing a beautiful princess and saving your in-laws’ kingdom, what’s an ogre to do?  Well, if you’re Shrek, you suddenly wind up a domesticated family man.  Instead of scaring villagers away like he used to, a reluctant Shrek now agrees to autograph pitch forks.  What’s happened to this ogre’s roar?  Longing for the days when he felt like a “real ogre,” Shrek is duped into signing a pact with the smooth-talking dealmaker, Rumpelstiltskin.  Shrek suddenly finds himself in a twisted, alternate version of Far Far Away, where ogres are hunted, Rumpelstiltskin is king and Shrek and Fiona have never met.  Now, it’s up to Shrek to undo all he’s done in the hopes of saving his friends, restoring his world and reclaiming his one True Love.

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The Last Airbender – July 2
Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone, Nicola Peltz, Cliff Curtis, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi and Noah Ringer

Air, Water, Earth, Fire. Four nations tied by destiny when the Fire Nation launches a brutal war against the others. A century has passed with no hope in sight to change the path of this destruction. Caught between combat and courage, Aang discovers he is the lone Avatar with the power to manipulate all four elements. Aang teams with Katara, a Waterbender, and her brother, Sokka, to restore balance to their war-torn world.

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Morning Glory – Fall 2010
Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum

When hard-working TV producer Becky Fuller is fired from a local news program, her career begins to look as bleak as her hapless love life. Stumbling into a job at “Daybreak” (the last-place national morning news show), Becky decides to revitalize the show by bringing on legendary TV anchor Mike Pomeroy. Unfortunately, Pomeroy refuses to cover morning show staples like celebrity gossip, weather, fashion and crafts – let alone work with his new co-host, Colleen Peck, a former beauty queen and longtime morning show personality who is more than happy covering morning “news.” As Mike and Colleen clash, first behind the scenes and then on the air, Becky’s blossoming love affair with fellow producer, Adam Bennett begins to unravel – and soon Becky is struggling to save her relationship, her reputation, her job and ultimately, the show itself.

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Megamind – Nov 5
Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill

“Megamind” is the most brilliant supervillain the world has ever known. And the least successful. Over the years, he has tried to conquer Metro City in every imaginable way. Each attempt, a colossal failure thanks to the caped superhero known as “Metro Man,” an invincible hero until the day Megamind actually kills him in the throes of one of his botched evil plans. Suddenly, Megamind has no purpose. A supervillain without a superhero. He realizes that achieving his life’s ambition is the worst thing that ever happened to him.  Megamind decides that the only way out of his rut is to create a new hero opponent called “Titan”, who promises to be bigger, better and stronger than Metro Man ever was. Pretty quickly Titan starts to think it’s much more fun to be a villain than a good guy . Except Titan doesn’t just want to rule the world, he wants to destroy it.  Now, Megamind must decide: can he defeat his own diabolical creation? Can the world’s smartest man make the smart decision for once?  Can the evil genius become the unlikely hero of his own story?

Promo Trailer: How to Train Your Dragon

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Hiccup lives on the island of Berk where fighting dragons is a way of life. The teen’s smarts and offbeat sense of humor don’t sit too well with his tribe or its chief… who just happens to be Hiccup’s father. When Hiccup is included in Dragon Training with the other Viking teens, he sees his chance to prove he has what it takes to be a fighter. But when he encounters (and ultimately befriends) an injured dragon, his world is flipped upside down, and what started out as Hiccup’s one shot to prove himself turns into an opportunity to set a new course for the future of the entire tribe. Awwww …

Trailer: How to Train Your Dragon

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Teaser: How to Train Your Dragon

Monday, September 14th, 2009