This Week in Movies By Pete Hammond “Cars 2” By Pete Hammond
Clearly Pixar can do no wrong. 12 movies. 12 boxoffice winners in a row. Cars 2 was probably the least well-reviewed Pixar title since at least, well, the LAST Cars film in 2006. Nevertheless audiences seemed to like what they saw and gave it an A- Cinemascore rating and the film zoomed to $68 million estimated for the three day weekend and $110 overall worldwide total, well above what most observers were expecting. Disney/Pixar’s strategy of giving the new movie a strong international setting by putting the lead car (voiced by Owen Wilson) Lightning McQueen on the world racing circuit and getting lovable Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) mixed up in a big espionage plot certainly paid off. Pixar may be the only solid movie brand out there these days that is invincible. It’s the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal Of Approval for film.

Between the solid performance for Cars 2 and Woody Allen’s sleeper success Midnight In Paris (which is now the most popular Allen film in at least 25 years) in which he stars, Owen Wilson is having a hell of a summer so far. Another piece of canny casting for the Pixar ‘toon was bringing in veteran Michael Caine as a master spy, recalling the Oscar winning star’s long history of spy work in films like The Ipcress File, Funeral In Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain. Caine told me he never was really asked to do animation work before (although he also has a small role in this year’s Gnomeo And Juliet) and jumped at the chance since it was something his grandkids could actually see. He also loved the design of the car , Finn McMissile , that he plays and all the cool gadgets ala James Bond’s Aston Martin . Caine was surprised that this kind of acting gig took so long and said he performed it on and off over the course of the last two years. The irony for Caine is that he is known for not spending much time behind the wheel and always had a driver when he lived in California. Right now he is back at home in England reprising his role in the Batman sequel, The Dark Knight Rises for director Christopher Nolan who considers Caine a bit of a lucky charm having cast him in all three Batman movies, The Prestige and last summer’s Inception. Caine also had high praise for his Cars 2 director John Lasseter who also happens to be head of Disney/Pixar’s animation operations. One of the stars of the original Cars, Paul Newman died before the sequel got underway but there is a nice tribute to his character near the beginning of the movie.

Counterprogramming the hit ‘toon , Columbia decided to go all out with their Cameron Diaz raunch comedy, Bad Teacher, a sort of “Bad Santa” for the school-set. After the success of Bridesmaids which continues to make money for Universal, apparently the time was right for another female-centric gross out comedy. The film did an estimated $31 million but may not hold since critics pretty much HATED it and audiences gave it very un-generous C+ grade. That’s not failing but as any GOOD teacher knows it’s basically just ‘getting by’. Teamed with her real life ex, Justin Timberlake Diaz is the best thing the film has going for it . Since it was made on the cheap for a reported $20 million expect Bad Teacher to be profitable but its stars shouldn’t wear it too proudly on their resumes. Nevertheless the one-two punch of Bridesmaids and now ‘Teacher’ means women apparently are in the mood to set the cause of feminism back a few years all in the name of a few down and dirty laughs.

— Pete Hammond

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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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