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February 16, 2007

By a Nose

Harvey Weinstein famously wrangled with Terry Gilliam over the director's desire to have Matt Damon wear a large false nose in "The Brothers Grimm.'' Harvey prevailed. Now Damon tells Australia's Morning Herald in a candid and wide-ranging interview that he will finally get to sport an oversized schnozz in "Ocean's Thirteen,'' due out later this year. (Via Cinematical ).

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Oscar Update

With Oscar ballots due next Tuesday, the Best Picture race remains incredibly murky. There's absolutely no consensus. Here's my latest set of predictions in all categories at Movie City News, alongside the prognostications from all of the other Gurus of Gold. I'll have final set in The Post next week, just in time for the Oscar pool.

MCN proprietor David Poland, meanwhile, was inspired by my little squib the other day about the Volkswagen won by "Hounddog'' director Deborah Kampmeier at Sundance to do a little digging on just how the helmer of the "Dakota Fanning rape movie'' landed that award.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Back Where She Belongs

For those of us who still can't forget the first time they saw Sigourney Weaver wandering around a spaceship in her panties in "Alien,'' James Cameron (who directed her in the sequel, "Aliens'') has some terrific news. As Variety reports today, the still-gorgeous Weaver -- Hollywood first bona fide female action hero -- will play a "veteran interplanetary explorer'' in Cameron's new 3-D film, "Avatar,'' which is due out on 2009.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

Stop the Presses!

As noted here previously, Sony didn't show "Ghost Rider'' to most major critics until last night, in what was a fairly blatant effort to keep reviews out of the Friday papers. This apparently succeeded almost everywhere, but due to a Herculean effort by my colleague Kyle Smith, an army of editors, and the staff at our printing plant in the Bronx, The Post's review of this opus appears in today's print edition (or at least most of the copies circulated in the five boroughs). If you live in East Hampton, Bergenfield, Loch Sheldrake or anywhere else that gets the early editions, click here.

At no little expense and effort, the Pulse cover was torn up for the third edition, my review of "Breach'' was moved to Page 43, and the presses ground to a halt -- just like in one of those old movies -- while they put in Kyle's quickly-but-expertly written one-star verdict on "Ghost Rider.'' While they also added the West Coast scores and the latest on Anna Nicole Smith while they were at it, I still think this qualifies for some sort of public-service award, don't you?

"Even for a comic book movie, 'Ghost Rider' is pretty comical,'' Kyle opines. "It heaves forth $120 million, which leaves about $5 million for visual effects other than Nicolas Cage's hairpieces.''

Over at Rotten Tomatoes, 11 of the 13 Internet reviewers quoted find the movie rotten. The contrarians are Andrea Chase of Killer Movie reviews, who calls it "the first guilty pleasure of 2007'' and Rebecca Murray of About, who proclaims it "much more of a campy good time than you'd expect.'' Not exactly money notices.

Kyle is the only reviewer quoted at the more selective Metacritic, which, like RT, somehow missed the 2.5 star review by Bob Strauss of the L.A. Daily News. Unlike the tonier reviewers at the L.A. Times, Strauss apparently was invited to last week's junket screening (or maybe he just pretended to be Earl Dittman). Strauss' review began popping up on various newspaper websites around the country early yesterday evening, though it's unclear how many papers actually ran it in their Friday print editions.

The bad reviews, which will no doubt continue flaming the pic on the Internet throughout the day, probably come as no surprise to Sony. And probably not to many moviegoers, either: they know a studio that avoids opening-day reviews is expecting the worst, and so should they.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 07:04 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2007

More Fun Than Tracking Santa

Thom White of KQUAD-TV in Moline, Ill. weighs in on G.R.: "Not much more than a major disappointment. I mean, come on. Even the studio pulled it from mid-summer, blockbuster season, in favor of the movie dumping ground of mid-winter.''

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 07:17 PM | Comments (0)

G.R. Update: L.A. Chimes In, Via Providence

Just as the "Ghost Rider'' screening gets under way in Gotham City (Kyle is there), the Providence Journal has posted what's apparently the first U.S. newspaper review of the $120 million flick on its website. It's from Bob Strauss of the L.A. Daily News, who reports it's "just different enough from other superhero fare to be worth a look, but not a particularly stirring genre entry.''

Update: With the NYC "Ghost Rider'' screening letting out and Kyle racing with a police escort to his keyboard at 9:30, Strauss is the still the only print critic out there in the ether. His review finally turned up on his own paper's website, which lists the rating as 2.5 stars, as well as those of the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

The Verdict From Down Under

"Ghost Rider'' is "extremely proficient and visually dazzling,'' claims the first major review I can find -- from The Age in Australia, where it's not only Friday already but at least one mainstream reviewer has apparently gotten an early look. But before you rush out, read the review all the way to the end, where the critic hints at a wee bit of chauvanism.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

'Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?'

That famous line delivered by a deadpan Peter Graves in "Airplane!'' comes to mind when reading Todd McCarthy's entertaining review in Variety of "300,'' Zack Snyder's new film about the Battle of Thermopylae (via a Frank Miller graphic novel), which Todd describes as a "steroid-fueled fever dream.''

"Possibly nowhere outside of gay porn have so many broad shoulders, bulging biceps and ripped torsos been seen onscreen as in '300,' a fact that will generate a certain bonus audience of its own; it's not even certain Steve Reeves, the original 'Hercules,' would have made the grade here,'' McCarthy writes of "300,'' which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival three weeks ahead of its U.S. bow.

A somewhat more dispassionate second opinion is delivered by the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

Frankie Laine

Here's a shout-out and a link to my old friend Leonard Maltin, who pays a fitting tribute to the recently-deceased singer Frankie Laine (whose sonorous voice looms large under the credits of many '50s westerns, not to mention "Rawhide'') and raises some excellent questions about the cultural amnesia afflicting much of the entertainment media.

Laine, incidentally, was the top-billed star of Blake Edwards' directorial debut "Bring Your Smile Along.'' I've never seen it; I certainly hope it's included in the large package of obscure Columbia musical programmers that TCM has recently started showing.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

Critic Proof?

According to early predictions, "Ghost Rider'' has a shot at the best-ever opening for a movie without opening-day reviews in major newspapers. Currently, that title is apparently held by "Alien vs. Predator,'' which took in $38.2 million when it opened sans significant reviews on August 13, 2004. According to Box Office Mojo, that places it in the No. 111 spot among three-day openings. The next-most-successful cold opening, No. 119, is another horror mash-up, "Freddy vs. Jason,'' which grossed $36.4 million on the same weekend a year earlier.

"Ghost Rider,'' which has only been shown to the junket and fanboy "press'' in the U.S. before its premiere in New York tonight, isn't, of course, a sequel like the two-for-one "AVP'' and "FVJ.'' But unlike them, "Ghost Rider'' has the benefit of a four-day holiday weekend since Monday is President's Day, a school holiday in much of the country. The dyspeptic Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere, who has gotten his mitts on some intriguing tracking data, ballparks it at around $40 million over four days and Gitesh Pandya at Box Office Guru predicts "Ghost Rider'' will do $35 million at 3,619 locations.

Gitesh thinks the place position will go to the holdover "Norbit'' ($24 million), followed by "The Bridge to Terabithia'' showing with $18 million at 2,800 houses, then around $16 million apiece for both "Daddy's Little Girl'' at 2,111 and "Music and Lyrics'' at 2,929, with the criminally under-promoted "Breach'' at 1,487 dueling for sixth place and a probable take of $7 million with the holdover "Hannibal Rising.''

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

Jiggle and Flow

"Ghost Rider'' isn't the only movie debuting this week that's been shielded from critics. "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls'' opened cold yesterday, which is somewhat unusual for a Wednesday opening, since the reviews will run Thursday or Friday instead of being buried on Saturday. Perry is on the record as depising critics, who have never shown much love for his highly successful stage and screen soap melodramas, and his last film wasn't screened for critics either.

"Did Tyler Perry lend his fat suit to Eddie Murphy?'' asks my acerbic colleague Kyle in his review today. "Madea gets benched in 'Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls,' the writer-director-mogul's third big-screen soap, and America gets a break from foam-rubber jiggle.

Meanwhile, don't be surprised if the ads quote the notice in Variety that calls Perry "the black man's Frank Capra.'' Which in the context of the review doesn't seem entirely intended as a compliment.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

V-Day Special

If the new Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore rom-com "Music and Lyrics'' (my review is here) doesn't fill your cinematic romantic needs today, you might want to consider a pair of romantic dramas recently released on DVD by Warner Home Video.

Both focus on GIs on leave in Manhattan during World War II who fall in love with female office workers. "The Clock" (1945) stars Judy Garland and Robert Walker, whose dewy innocence here is all the more poignant when you realize both performers died young because of their struggles with drink and drugs. Co-written by the later-blacklisted Paul Jarrico, it's a fine little film with a troubled history. Garland didn't respond to the original director, the hard-edged Fred Zinneman. So he was replaced by Vincent Minnelli, who became Garland's husband and the father of Liza.

"The Clock'' was filmed, typically for the era, entirely on the MGM lot, complete with a breaktaking mockup of the old Pennsylvania Station (as well as some crudely executed back-projection shots of Fifth Avenue).

Filmed 11 years later, "Miracle in the Rain'' is a four-handkerchief weepie best known to buffs like director Todd Haynes, who put the title on the marquee of the Connecticut theater where Dennis Quaid goes looking for a male pickup in "Far From Heaven.''

The lovers this time are Jane Wyman, very good as an aging spinister with an invalid mother, and Van Johnson, never more appealing as a GI from Tennesee who, at one point, marches into the New York Times and sells them a freelance feature story about an old man he meets in Central Park sailing a model yacht.

Directed with a sure hand by former cinematographer Rudolph Mate, "Miracle in the Rain'' is based on a 1943 novel by the legendary Ben Hecht. Hecht had hoped to direct the movie version in the '40s, but a number of deals involving prospective stars, including Audrey Hepburn, fell through.

Continue reading "V-Day Special"

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 07:07 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2007

Ghost Whiners

Well, my invitation to Thursday night's premiere of "Ghost Rider'' at the E-Walk has finally arrived...and I think I'll wait until after it opens. My intrepid colleague Kyle Smith, though, will be on hand for the first screening open to reviewers for major newspapers like The Post, which of course comes too late for opening day reviews (except from the junket "press'') to appear in print.

Just how bad a critical thrashing can Sony be expecting? Well, Scott Weinberg at Rotten Tomatoes compiled a handy list of films that were shielded from opening-day critical scrutiny (no screening or very late screenings) last year and last month, along with the percentage of favorable reviews recorded for each one at RT. Except for "Snakes on a Plane'' and "Crank,'' the studios were correct in expecting the worst.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

Hounddog Followup

Talk about hiding your light under a bushel. Consider yesterday's press release about Deborah Kampmeier -- whose widely-derided Sundance shocker "Hounddog'' is still without a distributor -- winning a free Volkswagen. As this was widely reported last month, most editors would have stopped reading well before the sentence midway through the release that indicates the Manhattan-based director has lined up financing for her next film, "Split.'' From the company that sent out the press release.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

To Do: Visit Dubuque

"Do you really think people think Larry King is a movie critic?" he asks. "Come on! I'm the guy on CNN who liked the movie. I mean, after Roger Ebert, how many film critics could I even name? Joe Morgenstern. The guy with you. [The New York Post's] Lou Lumenick. [The New York Times'] A.O. Scott. I mean, how many people in Dubuque, Iowa, know any of those guys?" -- Larry King, quoted in today's Los Angeles Today about his mysteriously high profile in movie ads.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

Oscar Bounce

As this dismal season for ticket sales shows, studios can no longer count on using Golden Globe wins and Oscar nominations to sell their movies. The biggest and happiest exception to this has been "Pan's Labyrinth,'' which became the highest-grossing Spanish-language film released in the U.S. a couple of weeks ago.

This weekend, the take surged to $26.6 million as the movie grossed $3.6 million. That was more than "Dreamgirls,'' which despite eight Oscar nominations isn't expected to bring in anywhere near the grosses of "Chicago,'' which cost far less and had a cast with much less star wattage.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

'Borat' Meets 'Fahrenheit 9/11'

There's been much speculation about Sacha Baron Cohen's followup to "Borat.'' But now it appears that film's director, Larry Charles, isn't through with courting controversy. Footage from an untitled, Charles-directed film "narrated and presented by comedian Bill Maher, which takes potshots at major religions from Judaism and Islam to Christianity,'' was presented to "salivating'' buyers at the Berlin Film Market, The Hollywood Reporter says.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

Strange Bedfellows

Well, it turns out that far-fetched report I linked to the other day about Tom Cruise co-starring with Ben Stiller in the action comedy "The Hardy Men'' is true. Though, like most announced films, that doesn't necessarily mean the flick is actually going to happen. (Just ask Stiller whatever happened to "Used Guys,'' which was scrapped by Fox just before production started last year.)

Variety reports today that the duo has a greenlight to play middle-aged versions of teenage detectives the Hardy Boys in the long-gestating film "which Fox hopes to put into production by 2008.''

The director is Shawn Levy of "Night at the Museum'' (ouch) and it "will be executed in the spirit of 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith.''' (double ouch), the trade paper reports.

But the real eyebrow-raiser in the Variety story is word that Stiller is talking about directing Cruise -- the two have been friends for years -- in something called "Tropic Thunder'' for DreamWorks, where Stiller has a production deal.

DreamWorks, of course, is owned by Paramount, which distributes its films. The same Paramount where Cruise had a long-term deal -- which Sumner Redstone, chairman of Paramount's parent company Viacom, publicly announced last year wasn't being renewed because of the star's public antics.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2007

Family Ties

Pity the late Anna Nicole Smith's poor little daughter Danielynn even more if it turns out that Prince Frederick von Anhalt's paternity claim turns out to be true. Not only would the prince's near-comatose 89-year-old wife Zsa Zsa Gabor (recipient of a 1958 special Golden Globe award for "Most Glamorous Actress'') be the motherless child's new stepmom, but Danielynn would end up being related to ... Paris Hilton.

That's right, because hotel chain founder Conrad Hilton, Paris' great-grandfather, was Zsa Zsa's second of eight husbands from 1942 to 1947. One child was born during the marriage -- the sole offspring from the 20 marriages that Zsa Zsa and her equally glamorous sisters, Eva and Magda, entered into. Conrad claimed during the divorce that the child was actually fathered by the actor George Sanders -- best known as the drama critic Addison De Witt in "All About Eve'' -- who became Zsa Zsa's third husband. And later, if you're keeping score, Magda's fifth.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

Harvey and Bob's Big Bet

One of the spring's more anticipated films is "Grindhouse,'' a loving double-feature simulation of '70s exploition movies from, who else, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodgriguez. Variety reports the Weinstein's most ambitious project since leaving Miramax "costs a rumored $100 million,'' opens April 6 on 2,500 screens and will run 2 1/2 hours.

The trade paper's article -- which strangely has a single attributed quote, from Rodriguez -- takes an odd swipe at a New York Times piece on the film from a couple of weeks ago, which Variety claims "made the film's central concept hard to fathom.'' The Times piece implied the running time is actually closer to three hours. Small wonder that Harvey didn't suggest cutting in half, a la "Kill Bill.''

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

Murphy's Slide

For all the talk (here and everywhere else) about Eddie Murphy's chances for an Oscar being hurt by "Norbit'' and his SAG and Golden Globe acceptance speeches, it's worth noting that many Oscar prognosticators since think he's in safely in the lead at this point (the Oscar polls close Feb. 20).

The latest to weigh in on Murphy's side is the ailing Roger Ebert. But even Mr. Thumbs Up can't resist getting in a little dig at the star's propensity for paycheck jobs: "Eddie Murphy wins the category, deserves to, and will be back in starring roles unless he continues to choose unfunny comedies done just for the money.''

Murphy is also the pick of 9 of the 14 Gurus O'Gold at Movie City News (most of the dissenters, including myself, are going with Alan Arkin of "Little Miss Sunshine''). Over at the Buzzmeter of The Envelope, the six prognosticators are evenly split between Murphy and Arkin.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

Taking Him for Granted

The funniest speech I've ever heard at a movie event was at a press conference for the first Tribeca Film Festival in 2002. It was given by Hugh Grant, whose best film to date, "About a Boy,'' was the very first film to screen at Robert DeNiro's baby (and, in my opinion, there's only been one better film there ever, last year's "United 93.''

Critics who once compared Hugh to Cary Grant (circa "Notting Hill'') have long since changed their tune, particularly as the actor's self-deprecation has begun curdling into self-loathing. It probably didn't help that in last year's bizarre "American Dreamz,'' Grant played a version of Simon Cowell that was even nastier than the real thing.

In his new movie with Drew Barrymore opening Wednesday, "Music and Lyrics,'' Grant plays a character clearly modeled on Andrew Ridgeley, the member of the '80s pop group Wham! who didn't loiter in men's rooms and go onto solo stardom. You'll have to wait for Wednesday for my verdict, but my seatmate Sara Stewart today surveys Grant's neuroses.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 08:21 AM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2007

Lost In Space

What's up with that AP story about a supposed deal for a TV-movie about the diaper-wearing former astronaut Lisa Nowak -- based on a New York Times article -- that was sent and later killed yesterday? David Poland of Movie City News reprints the withdrawn story on The Hot Blog and does some wondering out loud.

And if they ever getting around to making a theatrical feature about Nowak, my candidate to play her is Charlize Theron. Besides starring in "The Astronaut's Wife'' in 1999, Theron demonstrated she's a bit of a space cadet in real life in an interview this week.

Movies about astronauts are fairly rare; I can't think of one since Brian De Palma's "Mission to Mars,'' which was released six years ago. But purely by coincidence, Warners had long ago scheduled a movie about a wacky astronaut to open on Feb. 23. "The Astronaut Farmer,'' from the quirky Polish Brothers, stars Billy Bob Thornton as a former spaceman who clashes with NASA when he builds his own personal rocket on his farm.

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

Eddie Money

"Eddie Murphy delivered the biggest opening day of any film this year with the estimated $10.7 million gross for the comedy 'Norbit' on Friday, its first day of release,'' Gitesh Pandya reports at Box Office Guru. "The Paramount title exceeded the $8.4 million opening day of last January's cross-dressing comedy 'Big Momma's House 2' and slightly edged the $10.5 million first-day take of 'Madea's Family Reunion' which debuted this month a year ago in 942 fewer theaters. For the weekend, Norbit could be on its way to $29-33 million.

"The frame's other new release, the cannibal thriller 'Hannibal Rising,' debuted on Friday with an estimated $4.8M in its first day in theaters. Released by MGM and The Weinstein Co., the violent revenge pic looks to bite into $13-15M for the Friday-to-Sunday span.''

Posted by Lou Lumenick on 11:57 AM | Comments (0)


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