This Week In Movies by Pete Hammond

By Pete Hammond In typical Hollywood fashion studios are using the months of March and April to unleash a slew of adult-oriented thrillers, movies that aren’t sequels, prequels, comic books or other staples of the industry’s favored summertime fare. That’s why now we are getting Unknown, The Adjustment Bureau, The Lincoln Lawyer , Limitless and the upcoming Source Code all bunched together within a few weeks and all aimed at the same audience. Late winter/Spring is prime time for this sort of film but since the slow-to-show-up older audience (who might be more intrigued by this kind of thing than your typical fanboy) takes their time in getting out to the movies, I thought it was unusual that this week we had two of these similar appeal films , Limitless and Lincoln Lawyer going head to head. Their stars , Lawyer’s Matthew McConaughey and Limitless’ Bradley Cooper are also somewhat interchangeable although Cooper , thanks to The Hangover, has more heat right now. Still both these movies might do better if they had the week to themselves. And both managed to get fairly high marks from critics with Lawyer scoring an outstanding 81`% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes and Limitless not far behind with 64%. Nevertheless Limitless, about a super pill that makes you smart, managed to slay the competition taking in an estimated $19 million for a clear number one and a nice audience satisfaction rating of B+ from Cinemascore. Perhaps the presence of co-star Robert DeNiro also helped goose that better-than-expected number even IF he wasn’t prominent on the ads.

Lincoln Lawyer looks like it squeaked out the number four spot with an estimated $13.4 million just over another newbie, Paul’s $13.2 million. Lawyer also benefitted from an innovative ticket discounting scheme its distributor Lions Gate entered into with Groupon, an organization that offers all sorts of amazing offers but only if enough people sign up for them. In this case they sold 190,000 tickets for $6 that in some cases were further discounted to $1 and can be used at any point in the life of the run. Lions Gate is reimbursed for the difference by Groupon but does not count the unused (to date) tickets in their reporting. Any unused tickets (and there will probably be plenty) become pure profit for Groupon, no dummies there.

At any rate The Lincoln Lawyer , a courtroom thriller from the best selling book by Michael Connelly reps a throwback to an old fashioned style of movie that once was a Hollywood staple but isn’t seen as much these days. Connelly , a former LA Times crime reporter who has written 23 similar “beach reads” like this one, told me he was hopeful this film version would click at the boxoffice so that more of his novels might make it to the big screen. Previously only one of his books, Blood Work, was translated from page to film when director/star Clint Eastwood took it on in 2002. It failed. Connelly said his deal with Eastwood was simply a sale and Eastwood made it clear at the time he would use the book as he saw fit. There were wholesale changes to Connelly’s story which the author felt really hurt the film version but he knew what he was getting into. In the case of Lincoln Lawyer he was shown early drafts of the script and gave some strong opinions. After that he heard nothing for years until McConaughey got attached to star and then saw a new draft that actually retained most of the plot and character developments of his book and that is what ended up in the final version. He’s very pleased with this experience and hopes to repeat it. He has a new novel based on the further adventures of Mickey Haller , the character played by McConaughey (who got the best reviews of his career for this film) on the docket for later this year.

As previously mentioned , the week’s other new wide release, the alien spoof Paul (Universal) landed in 5th with a moderate $13. 2 million. Considering the film from British cult favorites Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has already made over $25 million internationally (mostly from their home turf) this is a good number and the film is in great shape. It also happens to be hilarious, a really funny comedy about a wiseacre alien trying to get back home after being stranded on earth for 60 years in a government experiment to learn what life is like on his planet. Pegg and Frost play two English fanboys on a dream trip to America to visit Comic Con and the fabled Area 51, supposedly the scene of many UFO encounters. This is where Paul hijacks their van and the trio takes off on a riotous road trip.

In limited release garnering $30,000 per on five screens , here are a few words of praise for Fox Searchlight’s Win Win , the latest from writer/director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) starring Paul Giamatti as a down-on-his-luck lawyer and sometimes high school wrestling coach who makes a dubious business decision that has great ramifications on his life and family. Set in the junior wrestling world, McCarthy walks the line between comedy and drama effortlessly and got a terrific performance not only from Giamatti but also from newcomer Alex Shaffer , a champion high school wrestler he discovered in open auditions. To borrow a phrase from Charlie Sheen, Win Win is WINNING.

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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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