This Week In Movies – ‘Inception,’ ‘The Kids Are All Right’

By Pete Hammond When I talked to director Christopher Nolan this week during a panel the night after the Hollywood premiere of his “Inception” that included many of his key crew members I started by suggesting that with the double-barreled success of “Batman Begins” and the box office juggernaut, “The Dark Knight” he probably could have walked into Warner Bros pitching a shot by shot remake of “Gigli” and gotten a green light to make it. Now with the spectacular $60 million dollar opening estimate this weekend of the brainy and challenging summer thriller (the most anticipated flick of the season) and the prospect of another “Batman” on the horizon and a new “Superman” that he is going to produce for the studio it is clear he’s officially Hollywood’s fair-haired boy. The inexhaustible Nolan, who is heading to Tokyo for the Japanese premiere, was self-effacing in claiming that with a completely original premise, no pre-sold story elements and a $170 million dollar budget, “Inception” was not a slam dunk and he had to do some convincing to get Warners and Legendary Pictures to back him. The film earned an “A” Cinemascore from moviegoers under 25 and a very good overall B+. It is true Hollywood’s conventional wisdom is you can’t generate a blockbuster opening without being a “name brand” such as sequel, remake, comic book or Pixar but for two weekends in a row the number one film has been an unknown property, first Universal and Chris Meladandri’s (“Ice Age”) animated “Despicable Me” and now “Inception”. The streak is likely to continue next weekend with Sony’shotly anticipated original action thriller, “Salt” which I loved, particularly its spectacular turn from Angelina Jolie in the title role. Who says audiences aren’t hungry for something fresh and new? …….

Well, maybe Disney and mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer who bombed big time with the family oriented “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” reuniting “National Treasure” director Jon Turtletaub with star Nicolas Cage in a CGI’d live-action re-invention on the 1940 Disney cartoon segment from “Fantasia”that starred Mickey Mouse. It simply flatlined with an estimate of around $17 million for the weekend coming in a distant third after getting a head start with its Wednesday opening ( a dreary $24 million total for 5 days). After Bruck’s hoped-for-franchise starter “Prince Of Persia” starring Jake Gyllenhaal disappointed in its late May launch you have to know that “Pirates Of The Carribean 4” and “National Treasure 3” cannot come soon enough for the prolific producer who isn’t used to failure. From his point of view “fresh and new” are likely way overrated…….

Another clear success this week and a good indicator that the independent movie business is bouncing back from recent troubled times is Focus Features’ second week expansion of the Annette Bening / Julianne Moore comedy, “The Kids Are All Right” which moved on to 38 screens (up from 7 last weekend) and earned over $1 million and a $27,000 average. Look for this terrific and unconventional family to be a breakout hit, further confusing Hollywood know-it-alls who shy away from anything out of the “norm”…..

Finally something anyone in their right mind should have shied away from was the abysmal teen musical, “Standing Ovation”, a clone of “High School Musical” about a talent competition between a couple of cloying girl groups with so little talent they make Miley Cyrus look like Edith Piaf by comparison. Blink and this thing will be gone but the really astonishing fact is that tiny self-starter Rocky Mountain Pictures managed to book it nationally into 623 screens in the height of summer where it earned a paltry $361,000, far less than half of “The Kids Are All Right” which played on 585 fewer screens. These “kids” who are clearly NOT all right will get no standing ovations. But the interesting thing is actor James Brolin who also happens to be Barbra Streisand’s hubby is the Executive Producer and his company helped make this mess. ‘Funny’ girls these young wannabes are not!

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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