SUNDAY AM: Cutting edge comedy Blades of Glory glided to No. 1 this weekend with a big $32 million opener on 3,372 theaters. Will Ferrell’s hot streak at the box office didn’t turn to ice, not with John Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) perched on his shoulders — literally. I do think CBS is broadcasting its epic Final Four NCAA basketball tourney on Saturday hurt the DreamWorks/Paramount laugher’s box office. In 2nd place, Disney’s CG-created Meet The Robinsons got a big Saturday kiddie matinee bounce to finish Friday-Saturday-Sunday with $24.6 mil on 3,413 venues. The toon from Disney’s own animation studio, not Pixar’s, had some 600 of its screens equipped with Disney’s brand new 3-D technology that’s a far cry from the old gimmicky red and green lenses. In 3rd place, Warner Bros.’s blockbuster battle epic 300 still made major moolah starting its 4th week out: it had a $11 mil weekend on 3,004 screens for a giant new cume of $179.5 mil. Another Warner Bros. holdover, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, grabbed the 4th spot this Friday-Saturday-Sunday with $9 mil (63% drop from last weekend) for a new cume of of $38.3 mil. Read More »
UPDATED: Helicopters dumping water along the ridgeline saved Hollywood! Only hot spots are burning now thanks to the seven choppers. But, for 1 1/2-hours today, an out of control 150-acre brush fire was ablaze near Universal Theme Park in Universal City, California. Uni people told me there were no evacuations though there were a few minor disruptions, like power going down on a light grid only to be quickly replaced. (However, I’m told a producer shooting on the Paramount lot nearby called up Uni management blaming them for the blaze and screaming how the fire had messed up his shot — and how he had to put on a blue filter. Jeez, film folk are sure sickos.) But the flames were also moving towards the famed Hollywood sign, where the blaze ran along the top of a steep ridge just dangerously above the landmark. The good news was that winds were low which helped firefighters. There was no damage to nearby structures. No injuries. But the fire burned dangerously close to the Oakwood Apartments where a lot of TV pilot season wannabe actors/actresses/families make their home this time of year. (Here’s LA Weekly video.) Two teens were taken into custody this afternoon in connection with starting the fire first reported at 12:51 p.m. The flames were burning in Dark Canyon in the 3600 block of Barham Boulevard and expanding … Read More »
This weekend’s box office matchup of same-sex figure skaters vs 3-D toon looks like it could be easy to predict: Dreamworks/Paramount’s Blades Of Glory #1 since it’s got reliable funnyman Will Ferrell and cult favorite John Heder (Napoleon Dynamite). And Disney’s 3-D toon Meet The Robinsons is likely a close #2. But that ain’t necessarily so. Maybe they’ll be neck-and-neck. For one thing, CBS is broadcasting those epic NCAA basketball match-ups on Saturday (UCLA vs Florida, Ohio State vs Georgetown). So box office gurus say that could hurt Blades. But every guy young and old I know wants to see this pic, and Will Ferrell in a high concept parody like this almost always guarantees a $30+ mil debut especially in 3,317 theaters. (His spoof Talledega Nights opened to $47 mil thanks to the NASCAR fans.) So the feeling is the new pic could pass $40 mil. But a safe bet is mid-to-high 30s, as in millions. As for Meet The Robinsons, its 3-D extra value adds a new wrinkle. “They’ve never had this many 3-D theaters. They don’t know what that’s going to mean in terms of top spin,” an insider tells me. Some 600 of the 3,413 screens where the toon will be playing have been equipped with Disney’s brand new 3-D technology. “It’s no longer gimmicky red and green lenses,” the source adds. “It could push them into … Read More »
Here’s more from that hush-hush Portland, Oregon, test screening of the hush-hush The Simpsons movie which is still a work-in-progress with only partial animation and in need of tweaks like Hans Zimmer’s score. Naturally, the attendees were forced to sign a multi-page nondisclosure agreement. Given all the secrecy, what does Fox think they have buried there: gold? Why, yes, box office gold! Who’s not gonna see this pic. And what summer blockbuster would be without a big sickening summer promotion. Right now, 7-11 and Fox are working on a deal to transform 11 of 4,700 stores across the U.S. to resemble the front of the Kwik-E-Marts selling some of Homer Simpson’s favorite snacks. Inside every 7-11 will be a bonanza of Simpsons characters hawking the food. And all 7-11 customers will be able to buy products inspired by the show, including KrustyO’s cereal, Buzz Cola, and iced Squishees (the cup will say Squishee, but the contents will be Slurpee). But back to the test screening. My immense thanks to Shawn Levy of The Oregonian, whose source adds nice detail to the already posted brief write-up by a contributor to Ain’t It Cool News:
“A reliable informant sends the following: ‘I, too, attended the first public test screening last Tuesday night at the Lloyd. Matt Groening sat four seats away from us, James L. Brooks and a plethora of writers sat behind us in two rows. It was good but very rough. Lots of animatics, both pencil drawings, and CG match moves and storyboards. Pretty enjoyable all around though and a pretty amazing screening experience, perhaps one of the best of my life thus far. It’s in the top five at least. Here are a few more details:
The film was about 90 minutes + some more.
It was very rough in places with CG animatics and match move models of characters and then pencil sketches. Some were just story boards.
The plot of the film is like a big episode, but kept pretty straightforward and linear. Not a ton of wacky digressions, but the focus is on the family first and foremost.
The first 45-50 minutes are pretty tightly written and cut, with a lot of well structured ‘A’ jokes followed up very quickly by the smaller ‘B’ joke.
At this point, the film is pretty well mapped out and plotted, but still very very malleable.
I would say the most work needs to be done near the last third of the film. It just feels a bit fast in how it wraps up, otherwise, it’s a solid piece of entertainment.
There were more than a few points where I had to remind myself that I was watching a movie, not just an episode and they even make a few jokes about this too.
The film is in Scope/2.35:1 and makes a joke about this in the first 3-4 minutes.’”
Ain’t It Cool News contributor Biker-Boy wrote earlier about the test screening:
The film in its current form is massively unfinished; with, I would guess, around 30% of the film in the final hi-def, super sharp animation. The rest was divided between hand drawn storyboards, and low res, choppy colour animation.
The voice soundtrack was complete, but the musical score wasn’t.
All this probably means that, even if unchanged, the final print will maintain its pacing, excitement and charm a little better than the version we saw, as 2 or 3 hand-drawn storyboards don’t quite manage to convey all of the things which makes The Simpsons so special.
We did get a pretty good idea of what to expect though, and where the film makers are going with this big screen version. So what did I, a Simpsons appreciator of long standing, think of the movie? It’s excellent. Is it mind blowingly awesome? No, not quite. Almost, but not quite. At least not in it’s current form.
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So Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle at the 11th hour are battling to buy Tribune Co. They’ve upped their offer to $34 a share, or one dollar more than real estate tycoon Sam Zell’s, for the Big Media corporation. According to various news sources, the duo sent a letter to the board of Tribune Co. this evening with the bettered bid. It’s almost identical to Zell‘s, including an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to fund much of the deal. Tribune had said it wanted to end all this haggling by the end of the first quarter, which is Saturday. But this is a new wrinkle in the negotiations. Just to refresh your memory, it’s a world away from Broad/Burkle’s first bid for Tribune Co. in January: then, you needed an MBA from Harvard just to understand it. But the offer from “Da Boys”, as their advisers call the pairing, was rejected by Tribune Co. The duo are joined in a common goal to bring the Los Angeles Times back under local ownership; now the paper is an even bigger mess. Also included among the Tribune Co.’s assets are a nice chunk of TV stations, the Chicago Cubs, and newspapers including Newsday, the Baltimore Sun, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the Chicago Tribune.
It’s ridiculous to think an indie film depicting one of the darkest and most controversial events in Mormon history could ruin the campaign of Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate a Mormon. Even more ridiculous to think Hollywood is releasing this pic depicting graphic scenes of violence and fanaticism by 19th century Mormons on purpose to upset his campaign. “Director Christopher Cain said that the timing is purely coincidental and that he had never heard of Romney when he began working on the movie 2 1/2 years ago,” reported The Politico. “Things have changed dramatically for all of us in the last 150 years, and this is no reflection on Mitt Romney.” Then again, right-wingers look for any reason to blame showbiz. The pic, September Dawn, to be released May 4th, depicts the slaughter of 120 innocent pioneers by zealous Utah Mormons in 1857. It’s historical fiction based on a real event: the Mountain Meadows massacre, when Mormons from southern Utah, and southern Paiute Indians, murdered pioneers from an Arkansas wagon train en route to California. In the movie, Jon Voight’s character and his fellow congregants claim that God delivered the pioneers into their hands.
That Hollywood-turned-Internet mogul Barry Diller disses user-generated content and thinks only professionals turn out the really good stuff able to attract big audiences. As usual, the arrogant SOB is very wordy, so I’ll clean up his quotes in a Financial Times Q-and-A. “Both have value. I’ve been banged around a lot because I have kept saying that, as it relates to making things that will resonate with very large audiences, I don’t think very much of UGC. Except for the occasional spike, where you get something that comes out of the North Star and captures people’s imagination, the truth is there isn’t that much talent to go around. Watching cats fry grandmother’s dog, or whatever, is nice and will attract some people. And there’ll be a very occasional piece of genius. I’m not damning content by ordinary folk. I’m just saying, if you want to reach large audiences, then rely on professionals, meaning people who are in the industry and are trained for it, rather than just idiot savants. If you have your little photos of your really darling tiny children, they’re interesting to you and your family and a few others, but not that interesting to that many people. Things that resonate widely – that make successful television shows, successful movies and like that — will be done by people who are really good at it.”
This time, it’s no practical joke. Ashton Kutcher finally appears finished fooling famous people. Of course, MTV said Punk’d would end three years ago, but now it’s looking like this 8th season beginning April 10th will be the last. Among the targets this time out are Hilary Swank, Magic Johnson, Lost star Evangeline Lilly and Hayden Panettiere of Heroes. Gee, is it the brightest idea for Kutcher to quit all his day jobs? After all, he’s not much of a movie star anymore after walking away from That ’70s Show. His try at becoming an action hero in The Guardian opposite Kevin Costner kinda flopped. But Kutcher still has Beauty and the Geek to fall back on. He’ll host a “Punk’d Awards” tribute to the best in celebrity meltdowns in June.
“Hopefully, I’m not the Judd Nelson of the Splat Pack. Preferably, I’ll be the Rob Lowe.” So quips Hostel Part I and II writer/director Eli Roth, the gore icon whom Quentin Tarantino calls “the future of horror” and let do that fake trailer in Grindhouse. ”Quentin and Robert and the Weinstein Company love the trailer so much they’re already asking me, ‘Where’s the script for Thanksgiving?” Roth notes.) But it’s what Roth says next in an MTV.com video interview during a car ride to New York’s Comic-Con that is the reason filmmakers like him make me nauseous. ”When I go see an R-rated horror movie, I want lots of violence. I want nudity. I want sex and violence mixed together, Roth says. “What’s wrong with that? Am I the only one? I don’t think so.” How comforting for me to know such disturbed human beings as Roth are innovating today’s horror flicks. Is it any wonder, then, that the gore and violent sex quotient is out of control in this movie genre? “Hopefully we’ll get to a point,” adds Roth, “where there are absolutely no restrictions on any kind of violence in movies. I’d love to see us get to a point where you can go to theaters and see movies unrated and that people know its not real violence.” So is there anything that can offend Roth? “I do feel like terms like ‘torture porn’ are offensive.” Roth rails that his sequel, Hostel: Part II, opens against George Clloney’s, Brad Pitt’s and Matt Damon’s caper pic sequel this June. ”It’s going to be the Splat Pack vs. the Rat Pack.” If you can fight back total revulsion, read the full Q-and-A.
Q: You’re often lumped in with other young horror directors like James Wan (Saw) and Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes). Do you enjoy being associated with that group?
Roth: We’ve been referred to as the Splat Pack, which I think is a cool title. Hopefully I’m not the Judd Nelson of the Splat Pack. Preferably I’ll be the Rob Lowe. We’re all just trying to bring back really bloody, violent, disgusting, sick horror movies.
Q: It’s a noble pursuit.
Roth: Yeah! I feel like in the ’90s, horror just lost its way and everything became so safe and watered-down. When I go see an R-rated horror movie, I want lots of violence. I want nudity. I want sex and violence mixed together. What’s wrong with that? Am I the only one? I don’t think so.
Q: What kind of trajectory would you like to see horror take in the future?
Roth: We’re in a really violent wave and I hope it never ends. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where there are absolutely no restrictions on any kind of violence in movies. I’d love to see us get to a point where you can go to theaters and see movies unrated and that people know its not real violence. It’s all pretend. It’s all fake. It’s just acting. It’s just magic tricks. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where people realize movies don’t cause violence. It just reflects the violence going on in the culture. I’d love to see us get to a point where you can make a movie and not worry about the limits of the violence. Then I think they’d get so violent that people would get bored of it. Read More »
The whole ICM-Endeavor feud over unlikeable book agent Richard Abate kinda bores me – except for all the juicy insults now directed that agent’s way. (…And the continuing perception that upstart Endeavor has the Big Mo.) The two agencies went legal on each other after ICM requested a temporary restraining order to prevent Abate from jumping to Endeavor because he wasn’t supposed to work for a competitor until 2008. Even the judge said at trial: “Frankly, I feel like most of this is wasting my time”. Today’s ruling by the NYC-based federal court refuses to grant ICM injunctive relief because, for one thing, Abate wasn’t deemed a “unique, irreplaceable employee of ICM”. Isn’t that kind of a diss on the agent? So now Abate is free to set up shop over at Endeavor, while an arbitration decides what commissions he owes ICM. (Yeah, my eyes glaze over.) True, it was mildly interesting that Abate emailed a file containing his Microsoft Outlook contacts and an associated phone log either to his wife’s email address or to his own personal email address. And so was Abate’s testimony (reported by Galleycat) that in January, with more than 11 months remaining on his 3-year/$260,000 a year contract, ICM wanted to renegotiate upwards to $500,000, with increases through early 2010. Abate said he appreciated the offer, but not the time one Friday when none of ICM’s New York employees got their checks … Read More »
My latest column, Dangerous Liaisions, describes how there’s been more massaging of connections in the Los Angeles Times‘ opinion section than a whorehouse after Grazergate, Rumsfeldgate and even Gatesgate. It calls Publisher/CEO David Hiller a moron and a dirtbag and the archetype of a bad newspaper publisher since he bears responsibility for the “Current” mess. “And Hiller’s most recent lame moves are to deep-six the quarterly guest-editor program and then send the paper’s so-called ‘readers’ representative’ on a hypersensitive probe into whether personal or professional connections improperly influenced previous content in the editorial pages. Duh, of course everyone there massaged every connection, because the section was being run like the journalistic equivalent of a whorehouse… I say throw the bum out.” Crissakes but I’m sick and tired of covering and writing about the LA Times. Who’s coming, who’s going, who’s buying, who’s crying — enough already! If I’m this desperate, then you readers must be doubly so. I wish I could promise this column will be my last on that subject for a while, but Spring Street and the Chicago bosses keep making news. Meanwhile, my pal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes a very funny piece entitled: “No Exit: One man’s desperate attempt to quit the LA Times” which starts out … Read More »
UPDATE: Eli Broad and Ron Burkle look to be back in this endless bidding. Tribune Co. has responded to a request for additional financial information from the two Los Angeles billionaires.
There’ve been lots of reports that multimedia corporation Tribune Co. is close to accepting real estate tycoon Sam Zell’s $8 billion takeover offer that will load up the company with debt. Owner of a TV stations group, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Cubs among many infotainment holdings, Trib will probably seal the deal by the end of the week, according to Bloomberg News. This jibes with Trib’s self-imposed deadline of March 31. Zell’s offer of $33 a share is 6.8% above yesterday’s stock price, which has been sinking while the sale drags on, and on. Zell’s offer was competing with the company’s own plan to reorganize, and seems to have beaten offers from the Chandler family and from Los Angeles billionaires Ron Burkle and Eli Broad. But that duo is charging that Trib didn’t treat them fairly during the auction process. They claim that Zell was given info they weren’t. Zell, a Chicago native, said this month he plans to keep the company’s television stations and newspapers intact, along with other holdings. Zell proposed creating an employee stock ownership plan to help finance billions of dollars of debt for the acquisition. The structure would shield the company from a large tax bill. Zell altered the mix of … Read More »
News coming in that Jack Valenti is hospitalized after a stroke. The former Hollywood lobbyist, 85, fell ill last week and remains at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore. in a statement, longtime pal Barry Meyer, the Warner Bros. chairman/CEO, said, “his family tells me that the doctors are encouraged by his progress to date. Mary Margaret and his children have asked me to express their deep appreciation of the outpouring of love, support and prayers. Out of respect for Jack and the family’s privacy, we are not going to release any additional information at this time.” Valenti is the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, where under his supervision the movie industry developed a feeble ratings system for films, Congress failed to crack down on the film studios for flagrant abuses, and taxpayers’ money has been spent on entertainment issues like piracy. He also was LBJ’s White House adviser. Valenti’s memoir, This Time, This Place: My Life in War, the White House, and Hollywood comes out in June.
Comedy Central says Hillary Clinton is coming to South Park in this week’s episode, “The Snuke”. It sounds an awful lot like a parody episode of 24. Mixing it up with those foul-mouthed brats this Wednesday, Hillary is in town for a big campaign rally. But Cartman suspects the new Muslim student is behind a terrorist threat. The clock is ticking as the citizens of South Park prepare for the Clinton rally. Every minute counts as Cartman uses his own methods to interrogate the suspect. But could the plan to target Clinton be just the tip of the iceberg? Comedy Central’s website message board had this to say about upcoming episode: ”Is there nowhere she won’t campaign?”
UPDATE: Here’s what the Edwards campaign has told me tonight on the record: “Senator Clinton called Senator Edwards on Friday, but they didn’t connect. That evening, someone asked him if he had spoken to her, and he said they hadn’t talked yet since they hadn’t, but he certainly did not suggest that she hadn’t reached out. They spoke today and had a very nice conversation, and Sen. and Mrs. Edwards both appreciated her call.”
EXCLUSIVE: At a Hollywood fundraiser Friday night, John Edwards told donors that he and wife Elizabeth heard personally from every candidate and their spouse after their press conference — except the Clintons. “He said Hillary and Bill didn’t call but all the others did with messages of support. He repeated the story to each table,” an attendee told me. I’m told that a member of Hillary Clinton’s team sent an email afterwards to at least one politico ”claiming her staff had been repeatedly trying to make calls to the Edwards but hadn’t gotten through.” So the politico emailed back the Edwards’ home phone number. “Can you imagine making that excuse?” a Hollywood Democrat told me today. The fundraiser was held at the palatial Santa Monica home of entertainment super-lawyer Skip Brittenham and his wife, The Fall Guy TV actress Heather Thomas. It was one of the first big events attended by Edwards and his wife Elizabeth just a day after their public announcement that her cancer had come back. About 100 Hollywood bigwigs who … Read More »
UPDATED: I reported back on January 16th that indicted and imprisoned Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano and ex-wife Kat Pellicano, who divorced in 2002 after an 18-year marriage, were going to re-marry. Well, they tied the knot on Friday. A source tells me that several journalists were at the magistrate’s court, including People magazine’s Frank Swertlow and the Los Angeles Times‘ Chuck Philips. “Phillips [who] is the guy Pellicano calls every time he sneezes was not only there but the ONLY journalist there not taking notes. Finally, Pellicano said hello only to two journalists there, Frank Swertlow and Chuck Philips. In fact, Philips and Pellicano saluted and smiled to each other.” Fox 411 online columnist Roger Friedman says the AP’s Linda Deutsch and The New York Times‘ Pellicano probe team of David Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner also were there, noting: ”Of the reporters who were present, only Deutsch immediately filed a story after the ceremony. The other outlets have yet to make a peep.” There’s continued speculation that the remarriage means Kat Pellicano, who’s been looking for a book deal, now won’t testify against her ex when his trial begins August 22nd. Other guests included the couple’s four daughters and Pellicano attorney Steven Gruel.
“In response to inquiries about the status of the overall Los Angeles Times Guest Editor program, we are issuing the following from The Times Publisher, David D. Hiller: ’Although the Guest Editor program for the Current section was an innovative concept to bring more voices and diversity to Times’ readers, we have concluded we will not be moving forward with the program. Look for a new Sunday section that combines Opinion (formerly Current) with Book Review to debut on April 15th.’” This follows my story from yesterday: EXCLUSIVE: LA Times Publisher’s Friend And Tribune Co Ex-Director Don Rumsfeld Was Asked To Guest-Edit After Grazer
UPDATE: Today, LAT Publisher/CEO David Hiller killed the guest editor program.
EXCLUSIVE: It’s no longer Grazergate; it’s now Rumsfeldgate at the Los Angeles Times. I’m told that Donald Rumsfeld was asked to guest-edit the newspaper’s “Current” opinion section which appears on Sundays. The ex-Defense Secretary is a long-time personal and professional friend of LA Times publisher David Hiller, who supervises the paper’s editorial, Op-Ed and opinion pages. Rumsfeld also has strong ties to the LA Times‘ parent company since he was a member of Tribune Co.’s board of directors for years. Sources tell me that Rumsfeld’s selection was suggested and approved by Hiller. The former Pentagon chief was expected to follow Hollywood producer Brian Grazer as a Current guest editor under the paper’s new quarterly program. Grazer’s special section was supposed to appear today but was killed by Hiller (photo below) on Thursday “to avoid even the appearance of conflict” after a newsroom uproar over editorial pages editor Andres Martinez dating a Hollywood publicist whose firm represents Grazer. Martinez resigned in protest. “I think it’s fair to say that we got ourselves into a predicament and we should not have let it happen,” Hiller said about Grazergate. “The trust our readers place in us, built over 125 years, is of the highest importance and we try never to do anything that would call that … Read More »
Just when Harry, Ron and Hermione agreed to finish out their school term at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the steam train that takes them there, the Hogwarts Express, was wrecked by vandals. The train was attacked at a depot in Carnforth, northwest England, and had more than 230 of its windows smashed with hammers. This is the second attack on the tourist train loaned to Warner Bros. for the Harry Potter films; in 2003, graffiti was sprayed on a carriage. But Warner Bros. giddily announced Friday that the teen trio who started the Harry Potter films as tykes — Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson – have officially signed deals to reprise their roles beyond this summer’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (release date July 13th). The additional films based on J.K. Rowlings’ blockbuster books are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Producer David Heyman will remain on board. The British tabloid press had been claiming that Watson didn’t want to complete the series. Nice to see these kids know a good thing when they act in it.