MOVIEGOERS LIKELY TO TAKE HOLIDAY FROM THEATERS
As usual the Labor Day holiday, which marks the end of the studios' summer-release schedule, offers little to draw big crowds to the multiplex. The top attraction, Lionsgate's Gamer, a sci-fi thriller, wasn't screened for critics. Another new entry, the comedy All About Steve, probably shouldn't have been either, given the drubbing critics have handed it. A third, the Mike Judge comedy Extract, starring Ben Affleck and Jason Bateman, is butting heads against competitors in just 1,611 theaters. Prospects for all three newcomers are so dismal, box office analysts suggest, that there's a good chance that last week's winner, The Final Destination, which is still playing in premium-priced 3D venues, could top them all -- something rare for a horror flick. They could even take a bashing from Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. One thing on which all the forecasters seem to agree: no film is likely to earn even as much as $15 million this weekend.
MOVIE REVIEWS: ALL ABOUT STEVE
All About Steve, starring Sandra Bullock as a crossword-puzzle constructor for a local paper,is generating some of the most caustic comments of the year -- many of them ideally suited for crossword puzzles. "Toothless and tasteless" is the way Claudia Puig describes it in USA Today. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times uses the word "inert" to describe the filmmaking on display here. Kyle Smith in the New York Times warns: "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy review," then describes the movie as "grotesquely unfunny," "brain-stranglingly witless," "a deeply unpleasant, bottomless well of cringe induction," and then the kicker: "It may be the worst Bullock movie I've seen, and I've seen Speed 2: Cruise Control." Peter Howell in the Toronto Star comments that the film should "have gone straight to DVD -- or even better, to landfill." But Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune produces perhaps the best put-down of them all: "There's nothing wrong with All About Steve that a rewrite couldn't fix," he writes, "as long as the rewrite involved a different writer, a different character and a different story."
MOVIE REVIEWS: EXTRACT
The studios will no doubt be able to extract a few positive comments for their ads from the reviews of Mike Judge's Extract, but those reviews are largely negative. The best they'll be able to do with Roger Ebert's review in the Chicago Sun-Times is to extract the phrase "sort of entertaining." Likewise, Joanne Kaufman in the Wall Street Journal writes that the jokes "are never more than sort of funny." Manohla Dargis in the New York Times calls the movie, "fitfully funny with a low joke-to-minute ratio." And Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News comments that while the movie "isn't exactly a laugh riot ... it it does have enough hints of hilarity to stand out in a season when so many comedies feel as if they fell off a production line." On the other hand, Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer concludes: "It's smarter than most of the comedies out there right now, but that doesn't necessarily make it funnier."
FILMMAKERS PROTEST ISRAELI SIDEBAR AT TORONTO FILM FEST
The Toronto Film Festival's addition of a "City to City" sidebar has set off a political storm in advance of the festival's opening next week. The controversy centers on the festival's selection of Tel Aviv as the first city to be showcased. On Monday, Indiewire.com, which focuses on independent filmmakers, reported that Canadian filmmaker John Greyson had withdrawn his documentary, Covered, from the festival, claiming that the Tel Aviv sidebar was little more than an effort to promote Israeli propaganda. Then on Thursday, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that Greyson's decision had been endorsed by more than 50 prominent filmmakers, artists, and writers, including Ken Loach, Jane Fonda, Alice Walker, Danny Glover, Eve Ensler, and David Byrne. Surprisingly, the protesters include a number of Israeli filmmakers as well as Palestinian-Israeli director, Elia Suleiman, who has a film competing in this year's festival, The Time that Remains. Their letter says in part: "We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However ... we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of ... an apartheid regime." In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, TIFF director Piers Handling said, "If there are issues that have been raised by these [Israeli] films, that's exactly what the festival should be about -- to show work that's challenging, work that raises questions, work that's contemporary, work that deals with today's issues." The City to City sidebar is scheduled to open, ironically enough, on September 11.
OVERSEAS BOX OFFICE SETS RECORD
If the summer season managed to squeeze by 2007's to set a box-office record domestically, it shot ahead of every previous year overseas. Daily Variety reported today (Friday) that, according to early estimates, ticket sales overseas totaled $5.8 billion -- 7 percent ahead of 2007, the previous record year. The trade publication observed that the result was particularly notable given the rising value of the dollar during the past year, which cut the monetary value of most foreign currency. Most surprising, Variety suggested, was that by far the biggest hit at the international box office this year was 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which finished with an international total of $640 million, thanks in large part to premium pricing at 3D venues. It quoted Fox international distribution co-president Paul Hanneman as saying, "I think we can safely say that 3D is here to stay. ... No one anticipated that we would get to these levels." Overseas market share was divided as follows: Fox, $1.09 billion; Warner Bros., $907 million; Paramount, $767.3 million; Sony, $689.1 million; Disney, $471 million; Universal, $384 million.
FILMMAKER KILLED -- BY GANG HE WAS FILMING?
French filmmaker Christian Poveda was shot and killed in El Salvador Wednesday, where he was shooting a film about street gangs. The film was a sequel to his 2008 film La Vida Loca, which followed members of a gang called Mara 18.