This week marked the end of an era at the movies, with the Star Wars saga coming full circle on Thursday, but there was a bunch of non-Star Wars related news to delve through, as well as new box office figures, official websites for upcoming flicks and new trailers. So, lets kick this shindig off with this week's Notables.

NOTABLES

"Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan and Woody Harrelson set for A Prairie Home Companion" - Monday, May 16

Before this year, there hadn't been a movie shot in my home state of Minnesota since the disasterous flick Joe Somebody lensed here in 2001. Now we have two flicks filmed here in one year, with the Untitled Niki Caro Project shot in the northern Iron Range part of the state a few months ago and this movie to go before the cameras in July in the Twin Cities. And both flicks don't feature former Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura, so that's always good news. Anyway, this flick is based off the immensely popular radio program of the same name, and the fictionalized story about the show's cancellation sounds right on point. It looks like a smashing cast will be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes in July for this flick as well, with the show's creator Garrison Keilor handling the script and starring and indie director Robert Altman at the helm. All the elements seem to be in place for a lot of quirky fun here. Maybe Minnesota can go for the hat trick this year, and get a movie to be shot here about how the Minnesota Timberwolves crapped the bed this season... Still, this project is a Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Sophia Bush and Brittany Snow in talks for John Tucker Must Die" - Monday, May 16

I talked about this project a few weeks ago, when Jesse Metcalfe took the lead of this flick. The story sounds pretty cool, with a bunch of girls who all have been heartbroken by the same dude plotting revenge against him by trying to get him to get with the new girl in town. If Bush and Snow do sign on, it will be a rather odd move, I think. Metcalfe is on the hit TV show Desperate Housewives, but he doesn't play too important a character and doesn't have much else on his resume either. Since Metcalfe doesn't have much star power, I would've figured they'd get more high-profile actresses for the trio of girls, but Snow and Bush aren't exactly in that league as of yet. I would've thought maybe Elisha Cuthbert, Eliza Dushku and Kate Bosworth, perhaps even indie favorite Jena Malone, if I was casting. Who knows, though. Maybe they were all busy and this was all they could get. I just don't think Bush and Snow are big enough to topline a flick like this. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Universal picks up Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia" - Monday, May 16

Universal exec Marc Shmuger described the flick as "vintage De Palma" and went on to rave about it more. I hope it is, for De Palma's sake, since he hasn't had a hit since 1996's Mission: Impossible. Unlike some of his recent duds, though, De Palma is working with a solid story, adapted from a James Ellroy novel, and is surrounded by a very nice cast with Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank. De Palma has some wonderful films under his belt, and hopefully this flick can bring him back to prominence, and it sounds like he has everything he needs in this flick to do so. Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Mike Epps to play Richard Pryor" - Tuesday, May 17

Well, Pryor himself said he didn't want a "big star" to play him on the silver screen, and that's exactly what he'll get in Mike Epps. I can see Epps picturing what Ray did for Jamie Foxx and thinking this will do the same for him. Perhaps. The thing about Foxx is even before his Oscar-winning turn in Ray, he was a very good actor, which is more than I can say for Epps. He's shown flashes of decent comedy in some of his roles, but he really isn't that consistently funny, and it seems like he tries to stretch the material too much at times. And he isn't AT ALL proven as a dramatic actor either, so, if Pryor doesn't want a star to play him, more power to him. You got exactly what you asked for, but I'll bet you regret it. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Johnny Depp set to star in The Rum Diary" - Wednesday, May 18

This is some marvelous news, folks! This is legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson's only novel (all of his other works being non-fiction) and it is a beauty, even if it was inspired by his own experiences as a young reporter in Puerto Rico. The story is vintage Thompson, filled with booze and rage and it just sears into your head. Bruce Robinson sounds like a great choice to write and direct here, and long-time Thompson friend and magnificent actor Johnny Depp can't be a better choice, especially since his smashing portrayal of Thompson in 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Oh, and if you're a Thompson fan, you should go search the internet for that now-infamous memo that Thompson wrote to the Shooting Gallery. I remembered reading it a few years ago, and it's priceless. Best News of the Week Nominee by far!

"Kelsey Grammer is 'Beast', Vinnie Jones is 'Juggernaut' in X-Men 3" - Wednesday, May 18

Now, I'm not a comic book guy at all, so when I first read this headline, I had to wonder what the hell they were thinking. Kelsey Grammar? Beast? But, after reading through the article and conferring with some comic guru friends of mine, this sounds like a pretty solid choice. Given the physical nature of Beast, I'm not sure if Grammar will be in a bulky suit, or if he'll be providing the voice and body movements via CGI, but it still sounds solid. If Beast is the most intellectual of the mutants, then Grammar is a perfect choice just because of his voice alone. His voice just oozes intelligence, and it will be cool as well to see Grammar in such a role he's never even come close to having before. Sounds like a home run to me. Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Jim Uhls picks up How to Be Bad" - Friday, May 20

Uhls came out of virtually nowhere to write the adaptation of Fight Club in 1999. He hadn't done much after Fight Club, but he has a number of projects on his plate now, and this appears to be the latest. The story, based off an upcoming novel, sounds really interesting, with a dude propositioned by an ex to kill one of three names she gives him. He has his own prodco now, so it's unclear if Uhls will just be producing or writing this flick, or both, but it sounds like a winner to me. Best News of the Week Nominee.

BOX OFFICE CORNER

Well, it's a few weeks too late, but I'd like to officially welcome all moviegoers to the summer movie season! After the first two weekends of the summer season were filled with vastly underperforming flicks, George Lucas and his Jedi finally were able to bring people back to the theater, breaking a few records along the way, although not the record I thought it would break. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith was the overwhelming winner this weekend, taking the top spot at the box office with a massive $108.5 estimated take in its opening weekend. Combined with its midnight showings and the rest of its Thursday take, Sith took home a whopping $158.5 million over the 4 days. It broke Matrix Reloaded's record for 4-day gross and also broke records for single-day gross with just over $50 million on Thursday and they share the record for fastest to $100 million (3 days) with Matrix Reloaded and Spider-Man. But Spider-Man's opening weekend record of $114.8 million is still safe, as Sith barely squeezed by Shrek 2 for 2nd place in this category, but still fell about $6 million short of Spidey's record. Sith still placed a mammoth per-screen average of $29,636 per screen, showing in 3,661 theaters. Movie execs have to be sighing a collective breath of relief that Sith brought moviegoers back after the first two weekends of May proved extrememly dissappointing.

Even as Sith dominated this weekend, two of last weekend's underperforming flicks didn't do too bad, actually, considering the competition. Monster-in-Law, last weekend's winner took the second spot this weekend, with an estimated $14.3 million in its second weekend. A distant second place, indeed, but the Jane Fonda/J-Lo flick only dropped 37.9% from last weekend, and secured a profit from its $43 million budget with an overall take of $44.1 million. Kicking and Screaming survived its second weekend in decent form as well, taking the third spot with an estimated $10.5 million. The Will Ferrell comedy only dropped 47.8% from last weekend, and now stands at just over $34 million, and in decent shape to turn a profit from its $45 million budget. The big loser of the week was Unleashed which only made $3.8 million in its second weekend, dropping a huge 64.8% from its debut weekend. If it has a huge drop like this one next weekend, it might be unleashed on DVD sooner than imagined.

BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS

All right. I'm starting to get the hang of this predicting thing. It was my best weekend yet...yeah, all 4 of them so far, so I'm getting better at this gig. Will I keep it going, or drop off like Unleashed did at the box office this weekend? In 7 days, we will find out...

Predictions for 5/27-5/29

1) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith - $67.4 million

2) The Longest Yard - $38 million

3) Madagascar - $32 million

4) Monster-in-Law - $6.8 million

5) Kicking and Screaming - $5.3 million

Prediction Results for 5/19-5/22

1) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith - $122 million - ACTUAL Rank - 1; Gross - $108.5 million

2) Monster-in-Law - $9.7 million - ACTUAL Rank - 2; Gross - $14.3 million

3) Kicking and Screaming -$9.1 million - ACTUAL Rank - 3; Gross - $10.5 million

4) Unleashed - $6.4 million - ACTUAL Rank - 5; Gross - $3.8 million

5) Kingdom of Heaven - $4.2 million - ACTUAL Rank - 6; Gross - $3.3 million

GOING LIVE

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist: (dominiontheexorcist.warnerbros.com)

The history of this project and everything that it went through could be made into a movie itself, but this other Exorcist prequel certainly does have critic Roger Ebert's stamp of approval, as in the glowing testimonial that is on the front of this site. The website, however, doesn't really have my stamp of approval, though. You click on Ebert's quote to get into the site, but there's not much to do inside. We get the poster, the trailer, a photo gallery and some production notes. The notes are the best part of the site, because in About the Production in here, they give you the troubled journey this flick took on its way to the theaters. I wish they would've gone into more details here, because most of it I knew already, but if you're not familiar with the story, it's an interesting read. Overall, not a whole lot to do here, but a nice history lesson if you're not familiar with the project. Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist opens May 20 in limited release.

Junebug: (www.sonyclassics.com/junebug)

Ugh, another stupid Sony site, pardon the alliteration. ALl we get here is a press kit and some pictures. Of course, the official site is "coming soon" but there's no real reason to check this out now, unless you have a few seconds to kill. Junebug opens on August 5 in limited release.

The Da Vinci Code: (www.thedavincicode-movie.com)

Oh these Sony teaser sites just kill me! You can view the teaser trailer, see the international release dates and register for updates. I was a little surprirsed to see the link Enter the Site, but then when it said "Coming Soon" I was surprised no more. Just another teaser site, folks. Move along, nothing to see here... The Da Vinci Code opens on May 19 of next year.

A History of Violence: (www.historyofviolence.com)

There isn't a whole lot here too, but there is some creepy background music, so you'll have that. Anyway, there are only two links here; About the Film and Watch the Clip. Under About the Film you get a brief synopsis, in Cast you get bios of the main cast members and in Filmmakers you get similar bios on members of the crew. The film clip is pretty interesting though, but there just isn't anything else here. A History of Violence opens on September 30.

Ghost Rider: (www.sonypictures.com/movies/ghostrider)

These Sony sites are really getting under my skin... All there is here is a redering, apparently from the comic book this flick is based off of, of the title character and his flaming bike. Of course, there is a link to sign up for updates, but I just wish they'd put these sites live when they actually HAVE content to post. Damn you, Sony! Ghost Rider opens on August 4 of next year.

TRAILER PARK

The Da Vinci Code:

Just like the site, this is definitely a teaser. Like most teaser trailers, there is no footage, and just some graphics flying around and that one dude with the really deep voice that's always on trailers (does anyone know that guy's real name, by the way? Email me if you do) doing narration. I remember the Spider-Man teaser, that ulimately got yanked after 9/11 actually had footage of something, even though it wasn't a part of the flick. I just don't get these teasers at all, mainly because there is no footage and a man's gruff voice isn't exactly my ideal of "teasing." The Da Vinci Code opens on May 19, 2006.

Cry Wolf:

This is a really good trailer, folks. This flick is a technology-driven re-telling of the Boy Who Cried Wolf story, and AOl Instant Messaging is at the crux of the whole thing. The trailer is pretty creepy, with the only dialogue on an AIM chat box, with a mysterious dude telling a guy that he killed his friend, and says where other bodies will be found, and that the guy is being saved for last. What's even cooler is they're using the real AIM to let the moviegoers in on the hunt, if you text message your AIM screenname via your cell phone. The whole thing is pretty slick, really, and the movie should be rather interesting. Cry Wolf opens on September 23.

Milwaukee, Minnesota:

Yeah, I'm as confused about the title as you are, and the trailer doesn't really clear that up. The movie does look rather interesting, though, with Troy Garity, best known as the white barber in the Barbershop series, trades in his bling for a blaze orange ice fishing/hunting suit. He's an apparently slow-witted chap who has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in fishing contests, and it seems that everyone is trying to scam him out of it. It does appear to be a bit of a Coen Brothers rip-off, with the Midwest noir angle, but this oddly-titled flick could be a winner. Milwaukee, Minnesota opens on June 3 in limited release.

My Date With Drew:

Documentaries certainly are in vogue these days, but this one is as odd a documentary I've ever heard of...and it just might work. This dude has a jones for Drew Barrymore, and he goes on this bizarre journey in 30 days to try to woo her into a date. Why 30 days? Because he bought the camera he used to film this on credit from Circuit City, and they have a 30-day return policy. Armed with an $1,100 budget that he won on a game show, he sets out for advice and searches for people who know Ms. Barrymore, one in the trailer being screenwriter John August. This looks really cool and I want to see this just because it is set up so perfectly, and you want to know if he actually gets to at least talk to her at the end. This is a documentary, so a fictional "Hollywood" ending probably won't be happening here, so you want to see how it turns out, at least I do. Apparently a lot of other people do too, as it has won a bunch of awards on the festival circuit. This could be the indie documentary darling of the summer. My Date With Drew opens on August 5.

BEST NEWS OF THE WEEK

There were some great choices this week, but, for those who know me, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise at all. I'm going with Johnny Depp playing Hunter S. Thompson once again for my Best News of the Week. The phrase "development hell" comes to mind when many think of this project, and much of that was due to the apparent incompetence of the prodco Shooting Gallery. Now they're staring from scratch with Bruce Thompson and the incomparable Mr. Depp. The character from the book that Depp will play is named Paul Kemp, and is obviously a fictionalized version of Thompson back in the 50s in Puerto Rico. The character is a little different than the Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but Depp can do damn near anything under the sun, and I still think his performance as Thompson is his best ever. I can't wait for the supporting cast to come into place, because they should be rather interesting, but they have the core of a great movie with Thompson's book, Robinson's writing and direction and Depp's masterful acting.

WORST NEWS OF THE WEEK

I'm going with the mostly unfunny Mike Epps playing a comic genius for my Worst News of the Week. I guess I can understand the Pryors' not wanting a big-name star to play Richard Pryor, because they want someone raw. Well, Epps is just too dopey to pull this off. Apparently Pryor decided on Epps after seeing his stand-up routine, which is supposedly more edgy, but I'm just going on his work in movies, and it's really not that impressive. If you don't want a big star, but a good actor, how about Derek Luke? What about Terrence Dashon Howard? If this is his life story, it'll probably be more of a drama than a comedy anyway, and Epps has no dramatic roles to his credit. It just doesn't make sense to me, folks.

That's all for this week. Surf on by next week for more box office goodies, new official websites for upcoming flicks, new trailers, and, or course, the best and worst news of the week. Take care, folks, and always remember: if it looks like a good time, sounds like a good time and feels like a good time... it probably isn't free.

Cinemark Movie Club