UP FLIES AT BOX OFFICE
Any doubt about whether an animated movie featuring a 78-year-old man as the principal character could become successful at the box office faded into the clouds over the weekend as Disney/Pixar's Up opened with $68.2 million. It was the Pixar team's 10th consecutive hit. The take surpassed the $63.1 million debut of WALL-E last year but was slightly behind the $70-million starts for Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Up pushed last week's winner, Fox's Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian to second place with $25.5 million. Universal's Drag Me to Hell, the only other film to open wide, placed third with an unexceptional $16.6 million. Meanwhile, Star Trek passed the $200-million mark with a take of $12.8 million. Its current gross -- $209.5 million -- makes it the year's top-grossing movie.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:
1. Up, $68.2 million; 2. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, $25.5 million; 3. Drag Me to Hell, $16.6 million; 4. Terminator Salvation, $16.1 million; 5. Star Trek, $12.8 million; 6. Angels & Demons, $11.2 million; 7. Dance Flick, $4.9 million; 8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, $3.9 million; 9. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, $1.9 million; 10. Obsessed, $665,000.
MOVIE REVIEWS: "DRAG ME TO HELL"
Critics rarely bestow much praise on horror movies, and indeed, many studios are loath even to have advance press screenings for them. But when the horror movie is directed by the highly regarded Sam Raimi, a one-time horror-meister who went on to make blockbuster hits with the three Spider-Man films, a whole different approach comes into play. Most of the reviews of Raimi's Drag Me to Hell are marked by polite applause, grudgingly given. Typical is Janet Catsoulis's in the New York Times, who writes that "the movie has a crackpot vitality that breaches our defenses." She concludes that Raimi's "talent is greater than this, but for now this will do." Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News observes, "It's not flawless, but its vulnerabilities don't linger, because director Sam Raimi truly believes in what he's doing." Peter Howell in the Toronto Star agrees that the movie is "fun," but he asks, couldn't it "have been just a little bit more imaginative? Apart from the evocative title, which is a great nod to '50s drive-in fare, the film is as predictable as a meal beneath the golden arches." Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe says that the movie "splits the difference between blockbuster and schlock: a horror movie that eventually finds that contagious comic high of Raimi's no-budget youth, but with grown-up money now." Many critics, however, are giving Raimi unqualified praise. Dan Kois in the Washington Post writes that Raimi's "return to horror filmmaking is a satisfyingly, terrifyingly old-fashioned thriller and chiller, all right." And Joe Morgenstern rejoices: "O, joy, a horror flick that's smart and funny, as well as cringeworthy for all the right reasons."
TWILIGHT TAKES BIG BITE OUT OF MTV MOVIE AWARDS
It was sort of the twilight of the ohmygods Sunday as teen fave Twilight took five trophies at the MTV Movie awards, including best movie, best breakthrough male performance (Robert Pattinson), best breakthrough female performance (Kristen Stewart), best kiss, and best fight. And while the two stars of the movie elicited screams from the audience and viewers coast-to-coast, it was Sacha Baron Cohen who upstaged them all when, as his alter-ego Bruno and wearing white wings and a costume that left his derriere exposed, he flew in on a wire and landed in the lap of Eminem, who appeared offended and left the auditorium with his entourage. Reporting on the incident, the Associated Press asked, "Had the rapper's self-styled homophobic character been punked by Baron Cohen and MTV, or was he in on the elaborate stunt?
DVD SALES UP AT TIME WARNER
Sales of Warner Bros. and New Line movies on DVD and Blu-ray have improved significantly since the first quarter, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes said Friday. Speaking at a Sanford Bernstein investors conference in New York, Bewkes acknowledged that growth in the DVD market has not been increasing at the rate it did prior to the recession -- suggesting that the slowdown had less to do with the economy than with the fact that the market for DVDs faces a maturity issue. (Many consumers now already own extensive DVD libraries and are not disposed to adding to them.) As reported by Home Media Retail magazine, Bewkes told the conference: "Overall, we are not seeing a huge amount of unpredictable or declining trends. ... We are seeing a relative advantage for us and some stabilizing in the market going on." Meanwhile Time Warner's board on Friday approved plans to separate AOL from the main company, probably through a spin-off. Bewkes said, "We believe that a separation will be the best outcome for both Time Warner and AOL. The separation will be another critical step in the reshaping of Time Warner that we started at the beginning of last year, enabling us to focus to an even greater degree on our core content businesses."