SOMETHING FOR EVERY TASTE AT THE BOX OFFICE
Moviegoers will have a wide-ranging choice at the box office this weekend -- ranging from a broad menu of family movies to R-rated comedy fare. The general consensus is that the family movies, which include the holdovers G-Force, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, have already had their day and that Judd Apatow's R-Rated Funny People will emerge at the top of the box office. But several analysts are hedging their bets. The Hollywood Reporter has suggested that another family-focused fantasy film, Aliens in the Attic, may surprise in its debut. "So far this summer, parents have shown boundless enthusiasm for rounding up the tots for a couple hours of air-conditioned diversion," it commented. But no movie is expected to rake in big bucks. Several forecasters predict that the top of the box office will be dominated by a mixture of movies earning in the neighborhood of $15-25 million. They also suggest that the latest Harry Potter sequel could become a significant challenger again as it moves into the IMAX theaters being vacated by Transformers. Some moviegoers, they note, may have been waiting to see the film on the giant screen, while other Potter fans, who have already seen it on conventional screens may return to see it in the IMAX format. The movie is also expected to dominate the foreign box office for a third straight week. It has already taken in $443.3 million overseas.
MOVIE REVIEWS: FUNNY PEOPLE
Judd Apatow's third R-rated comedy, Funny People, is not your usual Judd Apatow R-rated comedy, many critics are pointing out. It concerns a stand-up comedian played by Adam Sandler who learns that he he has contracted a fatal blood disease. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times praises Sandler's "perceptive, sympathetic performance." He's not merely playing his usual "passive-aggressive simpleton," Ebert notes. "This other Sandler plays above and below that guy, and more deeply." Kyle Smith in the New York Post calls the movie "a rethink of All that Jazz with comedy instead of Broadway" and says that it "turns out to be one of the most absorbing films of the year." Sandler's performance, he adds, "is close to perfect." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun praises Sandler for delivering "a career-high performance." But Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, however, argues that the film is basically too nice. "Nice can be murder on comedy and drama alike," she remarks, "adding parenthetically, "Comedy is a man in trouble, not a man at peace with himself." Sandler's character, she notes, "is effortlessly charmless, and in his performance you see the risky movie this might have been if Mr. Apatow had pushed harder." Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune takes a middle ground. "Funny People," he writes, "is 50 percent good and 50 percent close." Roger Moore sums up in the Orlando Sentinel: "Funny People isn't a bad movie, it's an indifferent one. No funny person wants to hear that." And Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News concludes that it is very much a bad movie. The headline on his review reads, "Judd Apatow's funny People Bombs Like a Bad Stand-up Routine."
DISNEY PROFITS PLUNGE 26 PERCENT
Add the Walt Disney Co. to the list of media conglomerates reporting big second-quarter losses. Its profit fell 26 percent in the quarter, but analysts noted that it was expected to report an even sharper decline and that in fact the tumble was less severe than it had been over the previous year or so. In a conference call with reporters and analysts, Disney chief Robert Iger said that the company has begun to "see signs of economic stability" but that a cloud of uncertainty hangs over them. For example, attendance was up slightly at its theme parks, which nevertheless reported a 19-percent decline. While that was below the 50-percent plunge in the previous quarter, it was attributed to a number of special promotions and discount pricing as well as the fact that the Easter holiday fell within the quarter. More troublesome, the company's movie unit experienced an operating loss for the first time in four years despite the huge success of Up from its Pixar unit. Underscoring the soundness of the Pixar acquisition, analysts noted that the rest of Disney's releases in the quarter had mostly failed to generate big ticket sales. Disney ABC broadcast network and ESPN cable network also took a hit as well as its owned stations. "The local ad market remains soft," CFO Tom Staggs remarked during the conference call. In reporting the results, the New York Times commented, "If the Walt Disney Company, with its vast theme park operations and television advertising business, is a bellwether for swaths of the economy, third-quarter earnings do not bode well for a recovery."
U.S. FILMS TO TAKE PROMINENT POSITION AT VENICE
U.S.-produced films, which got short shrift from the Berlin Film Festival in February Cannes Film Festival in May, have been given a prominent place at the Venice Film Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 2-12. Six U.S. films have been chosen to compete for the prestigious Golden Lion award -- among them the latest documentary from Michael Moore, Capitalism: A Love Story, which takes a look at the current economic crisis. Also premiering in Venice is John Hillcoat's The Road, starring Charlize Theron and Viggo Mortensen. A Single Man which stars Colin Firth and Juliana Moore is also likely to attract much attention, since it marks the entry into film of fashion designer Tom Ford as director and co-writer.