This Week In Movies – ‘Salt,’ ‘Inception’

By Pete Hammond The biggest news in movies this week was made down in San Diego where Comic Con just completed another whirlwind fanboy convention and only one person got stabbed in the eye. Lots of big star power there including a much publicized appearance by fanboy fave Angelina Jolie who came by to plug her big weekend opener , “Salt” for the faithful.

Many boxoffice prognosticators including this one thought Jolie and her take-no-prisoners action flick, “Salt” would rule at numero uno when the final B.O. estimates came in on Sunday but it was no contest as last week’s champ, the complex Christopher Nolan mind-teaser “Inception” erased all doubts about its prowess with the mass moviegoing audience registering in the top spot for the second week in a row with an estimated $43.5 to “Salt’s” $36.5, not even close. Quite frankly much as I loved “Inception” I was one of the doubters, thinking it would have narrower appeal due to its brainy subject matter and complicated plotline but audiences (led by the younger quadrant) went against conventional industry wisdom to prove they want something challenging along with their popcorn and are turning this thoroughbred original into a true summer phenomenon. “Inception” dropped an almost unheard of 31% week to week, indicating customers are already going back for a second or third time (to figure out what they missed?) and taking its domestic total to an estimated $144 million in just 10 days. By the way “Inception” had its official Academy screening Saturday night at the Samuel Goldwyn theatre where it drew a huge crowd and lots of head scratching afterwards in the lobby according to one of my spies.

Don’t cry too many tears for Angie though. Although “Salt” came in second and couldn’t quite reach a “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes CriticMeter where it stalled at 57% positive reviews, its runner up showing is also great and with a B plus Cinemascore rating should insure a healthy run domestically and a bountiful take overseas. After this movie I predict Angie will be regarded as the number one action star in the world – male OR female. When I talked to director Philip Noyce after Monday’s big Hollywood premiere at the Chinese he indicated he was ready to dive into the inevitable sequel set up by the movie’s rather abrupt ending. Noyce did the red carpet and snuck out of his own premiere to head across town to the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art where an enthusiastic packed crowd saw the film and stayed for a Q&A with the director. The museum’s embattled film curator Ian Birnie who is used to showcasing classic and artier fare told me it was probably the first movie they have ever shown in the Bing Theatre that was also being advertised on the side of every bus in town!

After the Q&A Noyce headed back to Hollywood and the post-premiere party at the Grand Ballroom in the Hollywood and Highland complex (the Governors Ball following the Academy Awards is held there too) where Angie and Brad Pitt were surrounded by well wishers. I caught Noyce chatting with the town’s newest certified mogul, Ryan Kavanaugh whose Relativity Media was one of “Salt’s” key backers and who swooped in this week to save Overture Films from meeting the fate of most other indie companies by taking over marketing and distribution of their upcoming slate of films. Clearly hoping to gain some interest , Noyce was enthusiastically talking up what he hoped will be his next project, “Dirt Music” in which Russell Crowe will play a country singer (look what you started Jeff Bridges!). Turns out Kavanaugh was already familiar with it. The producer who also was involved with Crowe’s summer film, “Robin Hood” told Noyce that Russell actually cornered him in a car and sang most of the tunes for him already. Despite the sell job Relativity hasn’t yet jumped into the “Dirt Music” business. Stay tuned.

Finally congratulations to Hollywood’s oldest “Titanic” survivor, Gloria Stuart who was feted July 22nd by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on her centennial (she turned 100 on July 4) in a wonderful program of clips and memories hosted by film critic Leonard Maltin and featuring an onstage Q&A with the star herself. With clips ranging from early 30’s classics like “The Invisible Man” and “The Old Dark House” all the way to her Oscar nominated turn in the 1997 James Cameron behemoth, Stuart has had quite a career and she’s lived to tell the tale. No doubt she’ll still be around to celebrate the re-premiere of “Titanic” which Cameron is retrofitting into 3D for the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking on April 12th 2012. She’s unsinkable.

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Images by PR Photos

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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