This holiday season, what do you give the shy, socially awkward single man who has everything but a girlfriend? One publisher is betting he'll crave seduction techniques by 9-year-old Alec Greven, the author of the slim new volume How to Talk to Girls. And beyond that, 20th Century Fox will see Greven's book deal and raise it a movie option. Commence sobbing, all you script-hoarding baristas!
Down Under Over the Moon: Variety's panic piece yesterday about Australia's underachievement at home drew a typically polite letter of dissent from an Aussie exhibitor. "I just wanted to say that as a regional independent with three prints of Australia between our two locations, we're over the moon with the results on the film," wrote It's comfortably the largest opening week numbers we've seen in several years outside of school holiday periods, and word of mouth is stellar," said cinema proprietor Peter Howard. OK, great! Can we pleeeeease have our sad ending now, Fox? [Variety]
Not much has changed in the last week since industry observers filed a missing persons report on Australia; Baz Luhrmann's $130 million historical romance is still officially unfinished with only nine days to go before its homeland premiere and 16 days before it opens worldwide. Again, Baz, don't hurry on our behalves, but! We learned a lot more over the weekend about those "mechanics of stotrytelling" so troubling the director in his quest to put his Nicole Kidman/Hugh Jackman epic to bed. And massive spoiler aside, it should make for a roiling eternity of second-guessing, DVD revisionism and studio-hating from Luhrmann loyalists.The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that "disastrous reviews from test screenings" rejected Australia's original ending, in which Jackman's character dies:
This just in from Defamer's Wall Street bureau: Pharmaceutical stocks are down and airlines are up this morning on news that Australian water is the world's most fashionable new fertility drug. Or at least that's the word straight from Nicole Kidman, who attributes her recent pregnancy to the pregnancy-friendly falls of Kununurra — the tiny town where the actress filmed her upcoming epic Australia. And while our skeptical medical experts beg to differ, the numbers from the mouth of the water's unofficial, Oscar-winning spokeswoman do not lie:
The Watchmen copyright squabbles plaguing Fox and Warner Bros. will go in front of a judge next year on Jan. 6, exactly two months before the graphic novel adaptation is scheduled to open in the US. The good news for Warners and the fanboy community mouthbreathing in anticipation: Fox's quest to block the film's release is unlikely to come through that close to opening day — which in turn relegates that Wolverine boycott/piracy revenge threat to the Dustbin of Unnecessary Ideas once and for all. Alas, a trial date means someone's probably getting busted — which is where the bad news comes in.Fox remains confident in its charge that producer Larry Gordon did not fully pay to reclaim the studio's Watchmen rights before shopping them to Universal, Paramount and, finally, Warner Bros., which greenlit the project with Zack Snyder after the success of the director's 300. And while we are no lawyers, having been disbarred months ago for our special brand of vigilante justice, shouldn't this be an open-and-shut case? If the terms are in writing and Warners' only apparent defense is that Fox sat by and waited until the film was finished shooting before raising objections, we sense the judge will have even more specific ideas of how restitution might be achieved. And it will feature numbers with many zeroes left of the decimal point. That Harry Potter bump looks more purposeful every day.
Red-Headed Step-Fox: The cycle of abusive box-office analysis is renewed today at the Los Angeles Times, where John Horn broke out his calculator and a hot wire hanger in assessing this summer's winners (Paramount, Warner Bros.) and losers (Sony, Disney). And, as per recent LAT tradition, 20th Century Fox was carted in for the grand finale, an epic pinata smackdown invoking everything from Meet Dave to Fox films' Rotten Tomatoes ratings while once again completely ignoring the total! phenomenon! that was The Happening; at last glance, Manoj's Mint broke $150 million worldwide, which isn't exactly a flop under the circumstances. Anyway, there's always next year, Horn writes, "when it will have sequels to X-Men and Ice Age and a film version of The A-Team." And don't forget Watchmen! Seriously, John — is this even your regular beat? [LAT]
After the stirring creative success of his English-language debut Gothika — still hovering around a 15% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes — no one could really fault French filmmaker-actor Mathieu Kassovitz for expecting miles of auteurist latitude on his new film, the sci-fi Vin Diesel thriller Babylon A.D. Least of all Kassovitz himself, it appears, whose journey to the farthest-flung frontiers of studio hackery (or Eastern Europe, whichever came first) nevertheless found him face-to-face with micromanagers from 20th Century Fox — "lawyers who were only looking at all the commas and the dots," he recently told inquiring minds at AMC. Things quickly deteriorated from there, alas, but Kassovitz's loss is our gain today as he disowns Babylon A.D. in the most spectacular, career-immolating fashion imaginable:
It's probably asking a lot for a Monday, but pretend for just a second that you're Focus Features, Universal's mini-major offshoot and the folks who last January made the single biggest buy in the history of the Sundance Film Festival: Hamlet 2, which sneaked into Park City at the last minute and left 10 days later with lukewarm (at best) reviews and a check for $11 million. So imagine your signature was on that check, and imagine how much weight you'll lose this week as your appetite plunges with Hamlet 2's box-office prospects: $435,000 on 103 screens, averaging $4,223 per for one of the most profound festival flops of the decade — not to mention the film that bumps Steve Coogan back to ensemble/supporting-class in American movies. To be fair, the film goes wider later this week, and Focus always has the UK release this fall and whatever slight cult audience accrues for video. So it could be worse — now imagine you're Rainn Wilson.As we anticipated last Friday, TV viewers' Wilson goodwill isn't exactly multiplex-ready. The Rocker's marketing misfires, non-existent word-of-mouth and release-date follies yielded a $2.8 million, 12th-place opening. We're not in the short-sighted camp that thinks Fox is having the Summer From Hell — not with The Happening and What Happens in Vegas finding very respectable profits overseas — but there really is no positive way to spin this one, at least not for his toplining future. Until further notice, Wilson is Dwight Schrute and the clever bit-parter who has a way with pregnancy-test pitches and other Oscar-winning patois — maybe not in that order, but at least in that zone. Maybe a few scenes in Inglorious Bastards? Our Mondays are too fragile as it is to go through this again.