lego

Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News for Movie Lovers

While George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman are a multi-pack of formidable film stars, “The Lego Movie” and its cast look like a more solid bet to connect with all ages and demographics, as Warner’s animated adventure boasts even more star power than “The Monuments Men” can muster. Hey, you just can’t compete with Batman, Superman, Abraham Lincoln and William Shakespeare! Yes, the bard is back!

Legos  have been stirring people’s imagination since 1949, and while the toy company already has their own theme park, thriving video game and home video lines, it took them 65 years to finally assemble a feature-length theatrical release, one that will surely lay the foundation for a blockbuster franchise.

With a bargain-basement assembly price of just $60M, “The Lego Movie” could actually exceed that total this weekend, as Fandango is reporting that presales are currently outselling “Frozen,” “Monsters University,” and even “Despicable Me 2.”

That’s some good company to click with, considering all of those toons debuted north of $65+M. And while animated films aren’t common in February–2011’s “Gnomeo & Juliet” is  #1 with a debut of $25M–that will change this weekend, as “The Lego Movie” goes for god-like grosses, hoping to rank among the likes of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which still holds the top spot, opening with $83M a decade ago.

From brick-layer to bonafide blockbuster, expect “The Lego Movie” to construct a mighty fortress of moola this weekend, approaching anywhere from $50M-70M, depending on how much of the advance word is hype and much is sustainable buzz.

Forget what’s going on with the “Batman V. Superman” film, the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel both show up in “The Lego Movie,” and who knows, the first Justice League flick to actually hit screens may eventually be of the Lego variety.  For arguments sake, this might already be a JLA lead-in, as Green Lantern and Wonder Woman also make cameos.

And while Clooney, the former “Batman & Robin” Batman, may wonder why he wasn’t cast as Lego Batman (likely had something to do with codpiece negotiations breaking down), he and his wartime cronies will easily cozy up to #2 as “The Monuments Men” looks to roll out with upwards of $20M in over 3000+ venues.

The PG-13 film has been getting poor reviews across the board, partly because of the odd, uneven tone associated with it, which oscillates between hokey-funny and utterly serious, never locking down a path that is consistently followed.  The score doesn’t help, while entertaining in its own right, it often times plays up the  “Hogan’s Heroes” aspects when something more subdued would have been appropriate.

Still, with that cast it’s hard not to be entertained just by watching Clooney’s clan mug at the camera, which is about all the depth one gets here. “The Monuments Men” will certainly never be mistaken for high art, which is one of the reasons Sony pulled it from Oscar consideration and pushed it to February, then again, at least philistines can appreciate it.

Sucking is certainly something Weinstein’s “Vampire Academy” is flirting with, as it wasn’t screened for critics and isn’t expected to drain any main box office veins.  Not only is this the most derivative copycat hoping to latch onto the “Twilight” crowd, it also has almost zero marketing might behind it.

In fact, just weeks ago it jumped release dates, moving up a week from Valentine’s weekend. That’s never a good sign, and with all the box office bloodletting set to occur between “The Lego Movie” and “The Monuments Men,” this will be lucky to suck down $7M.

I still have a little faith, as this comes from director Mark Waters of “Mean Girls” and “The Spiderwick Chronicles”–two films that show he has a lot of talent behind the camera.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. THE LEGO MOVIE – $62M
2. THE MONUMENTS MEN – $19M
3. RIDE ALONG – $7.5M
4. VAMPIRE ACADEMY – $7M
5. FROZEN – $5.5M

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SPLICE OF LIFE: BLURBS, BLIPS, CUTS & CLIPS

A GAGGLE OF GIRLS KICKING ASS?

Sylvester Stallone extended the life of high-octane 80’s action flicks by assembling a crew of (mostly) washed up stars for “The Expendables,” which between it and the sequel have blasted up over a half-billion dollars worldwide with the threequel set to launch this summer. But apparently, that’s just the beginning. Millennium Films, the production company behind the over-the-hill action epics now have their sights set on another operation entirely, The ExpendaBelles.

As in girls, chicks, gals with guns, hotties with holsters…you get the idea. That didn’t really work out for Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills,” which featured a bad-ass group of killer women–Michelle Rodriguez, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara and Lady Gaga. And it didn’t work for Zack Snyder either, as his steam-punky schoolgirl fantasy, “Sucker Punch,” was absolutely bitch-slapped at the box office, whipping up just $89M globally.

Well, at least producers are doing something right, going after Cameron Diaz and Milla Jovovich who has drummed up close to a billion worldwide with five “Resident Evil” flicks. Now if they could only somehow persuade the ultimate ass-kicking babe, Angelina Jolie. Could happen, maybe by making the mission revolve around saving orphaned kids or ending world hunger. Honestly, if they got Jolie, this would be a kick in the nuts…in the best possible sense.

No doubt they’ll try and snag Cynthia Rothrock as the cagey veteran, hopefully Pamela Anderson as Miss Missiles and Lori Petty as, what else, Tank Girl.  The official early reports also have them going after Meryl Streep, which is pretty ridiculous. Maybe Judi Dench or Helen Mirren, but certainly Streep would pass on this one, right? I mean otherwise, “The ExpendaBelles” would be up for an Oscar.  And will they have any money left to run an Oscar campaign after this tanks?

With all the box office busters featuring female heroines–“Aeon Flux,” “Ultra Violet,” “BloodRayne,” “Elektra,” “Supergirl,” and “Catwoman,” to name a few–can this actually succeed? Really does depend on the casting with this one. But I’ll offer up an even better idea: ExpendaBots.

Imagine Robocop leading Short Circuit’s Johnny 5, Star War’s IG-88, Lost in Space’s Robby the Robot, Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T., Terminator, Data, Hal and Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger on a sci-fi adventure to take down oppressive aliens hell-bent on wiping out the entire human race. Now that’s a combo that computes box office-wise.

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JESSE EISENBERG CAST AS LEX LUTHOR IN NEW BATMAN/SUPERMAN FILM

Sure, might as well go young for Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder’s “Batman V. Superman Film,” but I always thought of Eisenberg (“The Social Network,” “Zombieland”) as more of an Aquaman.

Well, at least that leaves the door open for Adrian Grenier, who famously portrayed the underwater superhero in the fictionalized version of “James Cameron’s Aquaman” on HBO’s “Entourage.”

There is one bit of casting I agree with though: Jeremy Irons as Alfred the butler. Perfect.

Also, there are rumors that Dwayne Johnson could be the next Green Lantern. Much better choice than Ryan Reynolds, but was hoping they’d go the African-American route, one that has seen the fictional John Stewart become one of DC’s first black superheroes.

Would be a great role for Chiwetel Ejiofor to bring some much-needed acting credibility that Marvel has achieved with their films, and that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy had.

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ACTOR PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, DEAD AT 46

There really are no words for this. A brilliant, bright shining star taken down by drug addiction. Man, he was one of the all-time greats, no doubt.

Hoffman’s protruding belly was the first thing that really  made me notice him, as he donned that tight t-shirt as Scotty J. in P.T. Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.” He absolutely blew me away with that performance and I, like many others, had been following him fondly ever since.

I mean, who was this guy that dared to “let-it-all-hang-out” and even ridicule himself? That’s how he approached acting: he knew no limits and always added something truly engaging and unique to every single performance. A true actor’s actor.  He will be missed…for quite some time.

And those wondering about his role in “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 & 2,” well, word has it that he finished most of his scenes, so that and a couple other films–“God’s Pocket,” “A Most Wanted Man”–will be released posthumously.

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Paramount’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (Jun 29)

Dinobots and no Shia LaBeouf. That’s about all you need to know about this summer’s only flick that is almost guaranteed a billion worldwide.

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“The Lego Movie” Poster Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster Design by Art Machine