This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond – The Lion King

By Pete Hammond I am not sure what it says about the film business that a 17 year old animated Disney movie in its 2nd weekend again comes out on top and defeats a much-awaited new film starring Brad Pitt and a brand new heart tugging 3D family movie in more theatres than anything else. But again The Lion King showed who is king of the movie jungle by squeaking out another first place win with $22 million on its way to the blu ray DVD shelves. Disney had only announced this as a two week run to begin with but I can’t imagine that it won’t be extended now that it’s showing such remarkable ‘legs’ as they say in the trade. The ever-growing trend of releasing older movies back into theatres seems to be spreading now with Sony’s announcement they plan to bring Ghostbusters back next month and of course the early 2012 re-release in 3D of the Oscar winning Titanic (a tie-in with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking).

Getting back to new films ( you remember those, right?), it was an impressive opening for the baseball-themed Moneyball at just over $20 million for the weekend. Considering the film had a tortured history getting to the screen Sony should be relieved to get that number and so should Brad Pitt whose star credentials are further enhanced by the box office performance and sterling reviews (97% fresh among top critics at Rotten Tomatoes). The movie also seemed to please audiences who gave it a solid ‘A’ Cinemascore rating. Co-Producer Rachel Horovitz who first had the idea of turning the book into a film only to meet resistance at every step of the way has told me she’s thrilled that it got to the screen with its integrity intact. At one time Steven Soderbergh was going to direct but lost the gig in a creative dispute with Sony just three days before production was to commence. Capote’s Bennett Miller rode to the rescue and did a great job, eliciting career-best performances from Pitt and co-star Jonah Hill . With baseball’ playoff season ramping up this one should continue to play well throughout the fall.

It was nearly overtaken by the number three film, Dolphin Tale showing in both 3D and 2D formats. This inspirational tale of a dolphin who loses its tail only to have it replaced with a prosthetic version is the kind of warm, live action family movie they rarely make anymore but production company Alcon is expert at it having done one of the very best in the genre, My Dog Skip, not to mention another little family friendly flick called The Blind Side. This one doesn’t have Sandra Bullock but does star the real-life Dolphin it was inspired by, Winter who does her own stunts and still lives the good life at a water park in Florida where the film was made in part. Human actors Harry Connick Jr. , Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman can’t hold a candle to the dolphin star but they also acquit themselves nicely here although I didn’t really see any reason it needed to be in 3D. If it weren’t for the surprising resilience of The Lion King this film would easily have been number one for the weekend, a rare feat for any live action family film these days. As it was it scored a rare A+ Cinemascore rating and that certainly bodes well for its future.The fact that there were three movies that did over $20 million dollars even as the new TV season was taking hold and schools were back in full session is really a good sign that Fall 2011 could turn out to be a very good one for the movies.
We can only hope.

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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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