This Week In Movies – ‘Dinner For Schmucks,’ ‘Get Low’

By Pete Hammond Although boxoffice was up compared to this week a year ago and Christopher Nolan’s remarkable “Inception” remains the number one movie for the third week in a row with an estimated $27 million and only a 36% drop week to week, it does seem like the dog days of August are upon us already even though the last month of the summer moviegoing season just officially started on Sunday. “Dinner For Schmucks”, a so-so remake of a so-so French comedy fortunately stars likeable Steve Carell and likeable Paul Rudd so it was able to almost reach $24 million this weekend becoming the only good news among wide openers. People are starved for comedy so it performed better than it had any right to. Zac Efron who was described by some panting middle-aged female reviewers on Friday anywhere from “dreamy” to “swoony” managed to open his new drama, “Charlie St. Cloud” that day to an estimated $5.6 million thanks to what the industry is referring to “frontloading” from his young fans who then proceeded to abandon it in droves on Saturday when it dropped a horrendous 30+ % . OUCH. With just about $12 mil for the 3-day period this weakly reviewed spiritual opus is already hurting , although not as much as Warner Bros. “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore,” the nine–years-in-gestation sequel to “Cats And Dogs” which drew an abysmal 15% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and also about $12 million for the weekend despite being on 1000 more screens than Zac. Its Cinemascore of only B- does not bode well for good word of mouth either for this bow wow of a bow.

Perhaps the most impressive performer of the weekend was Robert Duvall’s best-reviewed lead performance since “The Apostle” in the quirky comedy/drama “Get Low” which Sony Pictures Classics opened on a limited basis in LA and NY to a very strong estimate of nearly $23,000 per on 4 screens. Duvall and co-star Sissy Spacek who each have an Oscar and six nominations appeared on Wednesday for a Screen Actors Guild screening at the Landmark in Los Angeles which was so packed people had to line the aisles just to get a spot in the theatre. Duvall admitted he never thought the movie (which was in development for eight years) would ever really get made but is now delighted to have it finally hit theatres after playing the festival circuit for a solid year. At first he said he had never acted with his Virginia neighbor Spacek before until she reminded him they did appear as ex-spouses in the rotten 2008 holiday comedy, “Four Christmases” but never shared a scene. Duvall said the reason he doesn’t recall the pairing is because he never even bothered to see the finished movie. Co-star Bill Murray was originally scheduled to participate in the SAG screening but a publicist cautioned that with Bill (who has been dutifully promoting the film elsewhere) you never know if he’s going to show. He didn’t but the heartfelt enthusiastic Standing O’s for Duvall and Spacek more than made up for his absence.

Another limited entry this week is The Weinstein Company pickup, “The Concert,” playing in one theatre each in New York and L.A. This delightful French comedy was nominated for several Cesar awards last year (the French Oscar) and looks to be a real crowd pleaser. One of the company’s awards consultants has heard such positive early feedback from Academy members who have seen it that they are passing other AMPAS members into the theatre Monday thru Thursday in order to build a Best Picture buzz. It’s the kind of thing that worked for Harvey Weinstein when he had the sentimental “Il Postino” (1994) in Best Picture contention, Harvey may have officially lost his bid to reclaim his original company, Miramax from Disney this week but he hasn’t lost his touch for smelling out feel-good Oscar contenders even if the Academy Awards are 7 months away.

In an effort to overcome the aforementioned “dog days” of August we checked out the incredible Kim Novak tribute offered by the American Cinematheque over the weekend. On Friday at Grauman’s Egyptian theatre in Hollywood between a double bill of restored prints of “Bell Book And Candle” and the Frank Sinatra musical, “Pal Joey,” the 77-year-old legend herself appeared for a revealing and rare foray back in Hollywood just down the street from where she made those films. Then on Saturday we came back for seconds with gorgeous new prints of 1955’s “Picnic” and the little-seen New York-centric “Middle Of The Night” (1959) in which Kim starred opposite Fredric March and maintains is her all-time favorite movie. All four of these films plus “Jeanne Eagles” are featured in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Tuesday box set release, “The Kim Novak Collection” and we are psyched for this. She’s the real movie star deal although it’s a wonder she ever survived considering the horror stories she told including being sat down in Columbia studio chief Harry Cohn’s office while he relentlessly read her bad reviews of her performances just so she would stay in line. OUCH. OUCH.

Finally, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who annually hand out the Golden Globes once again showed their philanthropic side on Wednesday when they dispensed with $1.5 million in contributions to various non-profits including Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation which restores classic movies to their original pristine glory. With Nicole Kidman (who is excited this week about her drama, “The Rabbit Hole” grabbing a prestigious Toronto Film Festival Gala premiere spot) accepting the HFPA announced their contribution will restore 1933’s “King Kong,” 1950’s “The Breaking Point” and the shamefully neglected 1963 Elia Kazan masterpiece, “America America,” which was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture. I saw the latter recently at the Egyptian in a not-so-great print loaned from Scorcese’s personal collection. It’s nice to know there will be a brand new one coming soon thanks to the generosity of the HFPA which proved this week there is more to their business than just giving out gold statuettes.

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Photos 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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