Howdy folks. After some technical difficulties and the frantic nature of the holiday, I wasn't able to post a column last week. But I'm back, so lets get this shindig cookin' with this week's Notables.

NOTABLES

"Peter Jackson Not Directing The Hobbit for New Line" - Monday, November 20:

Well, this certainly is odd. We get a big letter from Jackson and Fran Walsh explaining this lawsuit thing and how they won't be directing The Hobbit flick and supposedly another prequel. While their candor and willingness to explain to their fans this whole weird situation, the fact remains that this kind of sucks. The whole Lord of the Rings universe belongs to Peter Jackson and all his cohorts at Wingnut Films, as far as I'm concerned, so New Line's insistance to find new filmmakers for these prequels is rather absurd. It's even more absurd when you take into consideration the fact that Jackson and his films alone practically saved New Line Cinema when it barely had a leg to stand on. So much for gratitude. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Quentin Tarantino to Appear in a 12th Century Japanese Movie" - Monday, November 20:

Rrrrrrightttttt. Casting Tarantino in a 12th Century Japanese epic makes about as much sense as casting Ken Wantanabe in Fargo 2. I'm just really at a loss for words here. Naturally, we don't get any clue as to what role he'll be playing. But just picture it. 12th Century Japan with all those neato robes and kabuki theaters and right in the middle of it, goofy Quentin Tarantino. I love the guy's films, religiously actually, but him acting in a movie like this just defies logic. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Anne Hathaway Joins Steve Carell In Get Smart" - Monday, November 20:

This sounds like a good move for both Hathaway and the flick. After starting her career off as a princess-like characters, she's finally starting to take on some roles grounded in reality. This one should hone her comedic chops a bit more alongside Steve Carell, and it sounds like a nifty little piece of casting. Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Nicolas Cage Becomes A Crazy Dog" - Wednesday, November 22:

This sounds like a rather run-of-the-mill type of movie. Nicolas Cage will play a cop who accidentally causes the death of his friend because of a cowardly decision. He becomes stricken with grief and goes on a self-destructive tirade only to seek redemption, of course. While it doesn't sound god-awful, it certainly doesn't sound like anything that will rattle the rafters of any moviehouse. It sounds like a very plain flick, and the presence of Nicolas Cage will likely be the only reason some people will see this flick. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Paramount May Develop Their Own 'Jack Ryan' Films?" - Wednesday, November 22:

I'm not paying too much mind to this little news item. For one, it's completely unconfirmed. This is all based on what filmmaker Phillip Noyce "heard about" so it might be true, and it might not. While his involvement in the first few Jack Ryan flicks might give his words a little more credibility, the fact that he hasnt been involved with them SINCE those first few flicks might say a little more as well. If this is true, I think it's terrible news. They tried to go a different direction with the last Jack Ryan flick with The Sum Of All Fears, and that didn't work out too well, although I'd place a good portion of the blame on the way-too-revealing trailer. Still, to try and retool the franchise again so soon doesn't sound like a wonderful idea. I actually don't know why they're focusing on Ryan, when they should be concentrating on John Clark's character from the Rainbow Six series. He's a tougher, grittier character, who Liev Schrieber portrayed quite nicely in Sum of All Fears, and with the success of the new , 400-grit James Bond in Daniel Craig, a move to a John Clark franchise doesn't seem that unfounded. Still, Paramount appears to be in the beating-a-dead-horse business, so I guess we should just let them be. I just hope they aren't surprised to find out that no one will give a crap. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

BOX OFFICE CORNER

Four newcomers couldn't stop the one-two punch of dancing penguins and a gritty Brit this holiday weekend. Happy Feet and Casino Royale finished in first and second in back-to-back weekends and while both put up some impressive numbers, the animated penguins' were just that more impressive. Happy Feet took the top spot this weekend with just over $37 million for the three-day weekend and $50.6 over the 5-day holiday span. The flick only dropped an astonishing 10.8% from last weekend, keeping the same robust theater count of 3,804. A 10 percent decrease from a flick screening in 3,800 theaters in just vastly impressive, not even mentioning the crowded weekend of new releases. It took in a very healthy $9,736 per-screen average and brought its overall 10-day total to $99.2 million, just about $800,000 away from breaking even. That's some damn good work, people, but the penguins closest competitor was no slouch either this weekend. Casino Royale took in an impressive $30.7 million, dropping only 24.6% from last weekend's 2nd place take. It's currently up to $94 million and some change, but it has a bit more ground to make up, profit-wise, with its $150 million budget. However, if it keeps dropping only 24 percent every weekend, they should be just fine.

The top newcomer this weekend was Deja Vu, which took third place with $20.5 million. The Denzel Washington flick had a fairly decent rollout with 3,108 theaters and posted a solid $6,619 per-screen average. It should be in decent shape to make a profit, making over a fourth of its $75 million budget in three days, so this Denzel/Tony Scott flick should be in decent shape heading into the new year. Somewhat on Deja Vu's tail was Deck the Halls, which came in a distant 4th place with just over $12 million. It only scored a $3,744 per-screen average from 3,205 theaters, so this flick's profitability remains in question, especially considering the flick got a whopping 9% "Fresh" rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. That's not a good sign...

There were two more new flicks that got fairly limited rollouts and ended up fighting for the 10-spot. The Fountain prevailed in that battle, taking 10th place with a meager $3.7 million, but Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny was close behind in 11th place with $3.2 million. Both flicks were split evenly with critics, both getting 50% "Fresh" from the RT critics, but apparently couldn't break through from their weak theater counts, with Fountain bowing in 1,472 theaters and The Pick of Destiny opening in 1,919 theaters.

There's one very odd little incident left to mention from this weekend, and that involves 6th place finisher The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. The flick dropped from 4th place to 6th this weekend, taking in $9.9 million. Fairly normal. The flick, in its fourth weekend, was also purged from 316 theaters. Also, normal. The abnormal thing is that its $9.9 million this weekend was an INCREASE of 19.6%. Now, that's just weird. Maybe the Thanksgiving holiday engendered some Christmas spirit to the tune of almost 20% more than last weekend, but damn. A 20% increase for no apparent reason, after four weeks nonetheless is pretty damn weird, folks.

GOING LIVE

Children of Men: (ChildrenofMen.net)

This is a decent little site, although it's set up rather oddly. There is a navigate button on the bottom right part of the site and when you hit it, a regular menu pops up along with a bunch of different menus scattered about. These strewn menus feature a clip and a different feature that can be found in the regular menu. The clips are a nice touch, but I don't know why they just didn't add in a Clips section instead of fooling with all this. Anyway, the content isn't too bad here. The Story menu gives us a synopsis under the Story sub-menu and a nice array of Production Notes under that sub-menu. The Media menu gives us the Trailer, Film Clips and TV Spots, the Cast and Crew menu gives us some nice background on the major players, Stills gives us nice snapshots from the flick and Downloads gives us a bunch of desktops and AIM Icons to snag. The could use some work on the structure of the site, and more content would be nice, but it's not too bad a site after all. Children of Men opens on December 29.

Black Christmas: (BlackChristmas.com)

The site has nothing on it but the trailer, so I'll talk about that for a spell. It looks like we've got ourselves an 80s horror throwback here. From Glen Morgan, one of the dudes behind the Final Destination series, comes a weird little tale that's half When a Stranger Calls and half of one of those sorority house slasher flicks. It doesn't look all that scary, but I'd probably see it just for the nostalgia-ish quality alone... and the hot sorority girls like Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert and Katie Cassidy, who, oddly, plays the hot blonde friend of Camilla Belle in the new When a Stranger Calls. Crazy, eh? Black Christmas opens Christmas Day, naturally.

TRAILER PARK

The Host

We get this started with a red-band trailer, which means that the kiddies aren't supposed to watch. But after watching it, while it does look like a pretty cool trailer, I really have no idea why it's a red-band. They don't really include imagery that is more shocking than anything you'd see in a green-band trailer, so who knows. Anyway, the flick looks pretty sweet, actually. This Japanese flick was supposedly the "toast of Cannes" this year, and if the flick is done as slickly as the trailer, I can see why. It's basically about this monster that comes out of the sea and just starts feeding off of Japanese people, and they try to fight back. This actually looks like a throwback as well, and it'll be interesting to see how this pans out. The Host opens on January 26, in limited release.

Mr. Bean's Holiday

Well, I started out the day not wanting to shoot myself, but then... Argh! This looks utterly ridiculous. I'm sure they think that since they made double their $22 million budget back for the first Bean flick in 1997, that must mean that we're clammoring to see this British idiot again. I just don't get the humor in any of his whole routine, and I hope no one else does so I won't have to hear more about this Bean nonsense. Keep him in England where he's wanted. Mr. Bean's Holiday opens on September 28.

BEST NEWS OF THE WEEK

Not a whole lot of positivity to spread around this week, so I'm going with Anne Hathaway joining forces with Steve Carell for my Best News of the Week. Well, you can't play a princess forever, and this 24-year-old hottie seems to be catching that drift, taking on more mature roles. While teaming up with Steve "Chest Waxing" Carell on an adaptation of Get Smart might not be deemed as very mature, it is because she's trying to get the hang of new genres, i.e. comedy. While her experience in comedy might certainly be limited, who better to nudge her along then Mr. It Comedy Guy Steve Carell. It'll be intriguing to see if Hathaway can add some laughs to her growing arsenal of talent.

WORST NEWS OF THE WEEK

A LOT of negativity this week, but it's an easy choice for me, going with Paramount trying to make more Jack Ryan flicks for my Worst News of the Week. The good news is this is an easy fix. Drop the Jack Ryan books and the whole damn character, and start a new niche with the rugged John Clark and his Rainbow Six series of books. Jack Ryan is totally old frickin news. If they do end up doing this, and getting someone new to fill in Ryan's classy shoes, whoever it is will be the fourth guy to be Ryan, following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Affleck's flick bombed anyway, so I don't know why they think people still want to see these flicks in the first place. So, that's why they should go with the John Clark character. He's special forces, a tough SOB, ruggedly handome, so both the dudes and the ladies will love him, for different reasons. Bam. There you have yourself a franchise. Get Liev Schrieber back, or someone else bigger or hotter, and dump this whole Jack Ryan business. You'll regret it in the long run if you do. But, I'm sure you won't listen to a lowly internet columnist like me, so I'll just save my "I told you so" for a later date...

That's all I have for this week. Surf on back next week for more box office goodies, new official sites for upcoming flicks, new trailers and, of 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.