To the surprise of no one, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 earned a crapload of money this weekend. I’m sure you could put a finer point on it by comparing the numbers to the other entries in the series or to other blockbusters in recent years, but a crapload is a crapload and that’s what these things are made for. Mission accomplished!

Among the limited releases, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours‘ huge November 5 limited opening ($66,213 per screen on 4 screens) seems to be fading as Fox Searchlight slowly expands it. It averaged $19,934 per screen (22 screens) last weekend and only $8,472 (108 screens) this weekend. The Kids Are All Right on the other hand trended like this: $70,282 per screen (7 screens), $28,009 (38), $12,909 (201). It expanded quicker, held stronger and averaged better week to week on its way to nearly $21 million. I don’t know what the release trajectory of 127 Hours will be going forward, but at this point it doesn’t look like it’s going to match Kids which only cost $4 million compared to 127 Hours‘ $18 million. Despite the solid reviews all around (82 Metacritic), is it possible 127 Hours just isn’t going to break out of the internet bubble where it received nearly orgasmic praise?

Interestingly, Boyle’s last film, Slumdog Millionaire opened to a lower average ($36,002 per screen), but held strongly as it slowly expanded. It finally bounced over 500 screens in the 6th week of release and rode the Oscar buzz to over 3000 screens and $141 million in total box office. Not only does it seem clear 127 Hours will fall far short of that, I wonder if it will start dropping off the lists of Oscar prognosticators. Slumdog caught a wave and became nearly universally beloved on its way to a pile of Oscars but 127 Hours hasn’t seemed to have recaptured that magic. Maybe it still can. If not, that’s too bad because it’s a terrific little film.

On the movie viewing front, I rewatched Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan in preparation for an upcoming review. It holds up really well and is probably my favorite among the Oscar buzzed movies. The thing about it that became more obvious to me the second time through is that it only becomes great in the final 20 minutes or so. It’s good up to that point, but it really clicks in the end. The ending is a killer. Also, what was clear both viewings is that Natalie Portman is amazing the whole way through.

I also caught up with Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere which has received tepid reviews so far despite its win at the Venice Film Festival. I’m still sorting through my thoughts on it, but for now suffice it to say I think I liked it more than I loved it. It was beautiful to look at and had kind of a nice, low key melancholy mood, but it might’ve been a little too low key. Coppola was going for some sort of minimalism and she certainly achieved it, but as a result the movie never really seems to assert itself.

On DVD I rewatched How to Train Your Dragon, which remains hands down one of my favorite movies of the year. The first 10 minutes or so are still a little rocky – I was actually worried my original enthusiasm was going to fade – but it kicks in right at the time he finds the dragon for the first time and it never lets up. Also, the flying scenes which were so great on the big screen in 3D still play really well in 2D on television. Pixar’s secret is that they make movies for adults disguised as movies for kids. That’s great, but one thing I like about Dragon is that it’s genuinely a kids’ movie that is good enough that adults can also appreciate it. There’s an innocence to it that is very appealing and that in part is what leads me to rate it higher than Toy Story 3.

That’s all from me. Your turn.

16 Responses to “Watercooler: Is ‘127 Hours’ fading? Also: giving ‘Black Swan’ another go, checking in with ‘Somewhere’ and ‘Dragon’ still rules”

  1. Definitely surprising about 127 Hours (at least because there’s been a lot of marketing on TV), though I’m still hoping it will expand further so I don’t have to drive as far to check it out.

    The same goes for Black Swan, but I’m also way more excited about that; hopefully it catches on big. Glad to hear you still had enthusiasm about it a second time around.

    I caught Potter at the theater yesterday, and I’m going to end up seeing it again. Partly, it’s because I did think the movie was genuinely very well-done, with some sterling acting from the young trio, and was visually striking in a way none of the other films have been. Partly, it’s because I saw the movie at the first Phoenix-area movie theater with in-movie dining, a la Alamo Drafthouse. Suffice it to say, I felt like a guinea pig as the staff were still working out a load of kinks, and the first 30 minutes of the film, I was in and out.

  2. No time for going to the movies with an infant. But we have caught up on some terrific classic British television – the Jewel in the Crown and Our Friends From the North. Both are highly recommended. Currently happily working our way through Lost Empires which features a very young Colin Firth. Television shows are easier to watch on DVD at this stage because it’s not as jolting when forced to pause or abandon them for a time to attend to our daughter’s needs.

  3. I had rehearsals all weekend so no movies for me. Maybe next weekend.

  4. If 127 Hours fails to take off and build strength, it will come as no surprise to me. It’s a little thing called subject matter. Many people are turned off to the idea of the climactic amputation scene and can’t justify the anxiety of waiting for it to arrive. Whether or not it’s a good film isn’t part of the equation for those who harbor such an aversion.

    sartre — I hope you don’t screen Raising Arizona with your infant in the room — it might prove too traumatic or confusing at her tender age — I’d give it another month or two, enough time for her to more fully develop an appreciation of cinematic irony. Perhaps O Brother Where Art Thou would be a more appropriate means to introduce her to the Coen brothers oeuvre. The Big Lebowski might be suitable while she’s toilet training.

    I’ve been catching up on The Wire backlog and sneaking a peek at Mad Men season one reruns.

  5. I could be overstating 127 Hours’ slide, but it just seemed like no one is talking about it. Weird that it was so popular on the internet and now no one can be bothered.

    We’ll see how Black Swan does when it opens. I can never tell about these things.

    Let me just say here and now I’m 4-square against the whole idea of watching a movie in a room where people are being served dinner. Would you eat dinner in church? No. So why would you need to fritter around with food service in the presence of movie awesomeness? I know all the nerds love the Alamo Drafthouse, but I’m not buying it.

    Josh, how would you stack up Potter to the others?

  6. Lucille and I had a rather busy week on the cultural front, beginning on Thursday night with a fairly good off-Broadway staging of Stephen Jeffreys’ The Libertine, which tells the story of John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester (1647-80) whose flamboyant escapades earned him the nickname, “the profane Earl” and caused his banishment from Charles II’s court at least once a year. His offenses ranged from kidnaping an heiress whom he later married, smashing of the king’s favorite sundial, drunkenness and lechery. In an age of sinfulness he gained the reputation of being one of its greatest sinners. Twelve actors comprise the pared down cast, but the most striking component is Douglas A. Huszti’s set design which uses two ugly but highly utiliarian drapes to transport us from scene to scene. A scene in which some half dozen characters engaged in various sexual acts are silhouetted against one of the paperbag-colored drapes is the evening’s most theatrically effective highlight. Stephen Hollis’ direction is visually imaginative and makes excellent use of minimal props at the tiny Theatre Row Theatre on West 42nd Street. The production works, even with a few tedious passages and an unfavorable overall comparison with the underrated film version from a few years ago that starred Johnny Depp.

    On the movie scene:

    White Material ***** (Sunday afternoon) Lincoln Plaza Cinemas
    Made in Dagenham **** (Sunday morning) Lincoln Plaza Cinemas
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ** 1/2 (Friday) Secaucus multiplex
    From Here to Eternity **** (Saturday evening) Jersey City Loews

    On Saturday evening, the entire brood attended the Oscar winning From Here to Eternity as part of a “Frank Sinatra” weekend at the Jersey City Loews movie palace at Journal Square. The gigantic screen and gorgeous print yielded the best presentation of this film in many a moon, as was attested by the before and after guest speakers. From Here to Eternity is no masterpiece, but it’s a time capsule classic with some of the best performances from its time period. Burnett Guffey’s magnificent black and white photography remains a noteworthy achievement.

    On Friday afternoon, on pain of death, Lucille and I escorted the entire family to the Secaucus multiplex to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. For me it was the same old, same old, and this tired old story line has pretty much spent it magic. The kids seemed to be mixed on their own responses. Techically impressive, but lackluster in narrative creativity.

    The British social drama Made in Dagenham sheds light on union reform in the midst of injustice in 1968 Britain, where women fight to earn the same wages as men in a movement that ends up with worldwide repercussions. The period is well-realized in spirit, music, clothes and domestic life, and the cast is excellent. Sally Hawkins is a power keg in the central role, and Bob Hoskins is his old feisty self. I would have hoped for more depth and insights that underlined the movement’s advent, but all in all a compelling effort from Nigel Cole.

    And then there’s French arthouse director extraordinaire Claire Denis, who is arguably the world’s most celebrated and accomplished female. White Material uses setting in intoxicating paint strokes in telling this tense and disorienting story of colonial unrest among some of the most bizarre characters in her filmic arsenal. Typically, Denis leaves the specifics of her setting ambiguous, refusing to name the African country where the story plays out, (apparently to stay clear of political significance) but nonetheless inhabiting her narrative with colonial tensions that segue into class issues. It’s a visceral film with explosive violence and the symbolic use of the land to inform it’s larger themes. The film clearly contends for the designation of bets film of 2010, and it’s one of this towering artists’s finest and most engaging works.

  7. No movies for me this weekend. After a long, busy, stressful week all I did was sleep. Occasionally I woke up and ate something or checked my e-mail, but mostly it was sleeping. I think I needed the break, plus over the Thanksgiving holidays I’ll be at a lakehouse watching many DVDs and possibly making a drive to Dallas for some theatrical experiences I can’t get in Fort Smith.

    Speaking of which, I’ve never been to the Alamo Drafthouse or anything like it, but Fort Smith is supposedly getting a dinner cinema next year. Is there a new trend for such establishments?

    I did just re-watch the last act or so of Harry Potter 6. Still really like it, my favorite of the franchise. I’m not sure whether I’ll see this latest one in theaters or just catch it before the grand finale in July. The first part of the book was rather infuriating, as I recall, but the ending kicked into high gear.

    Can’t wait for 127 Hours and especially Black Swan. Even the Black Swan posters give me chills.

  8. I’m not against the idea of eating dinner (or something like it, as I ordered a deluxe nacho plate, not an actual dinner) in a theater, but what I was most curious about was how disruptive the process would be if I ordered during the movie. The answer was very, mostly because there was only one person taking orders, and she clearly had not been trained on things like not using her loud voice everywhere she went.

    Jennybee, I’m guessing there may be some kind of trend, though this theater was in Scottsdale, which is known for being the upscale city in the Phoenix metro area, so maybe it’s only a trend in areas where people are assumed to afford it.

    I’m tempted to say this is the best of the series so far, Craig. At the least, I think it’s Yates’ strongest effort of the three he’s directed. Granted, I’ve never felt that he was hamstrung by being too faithful, a la Chris Columbus, but the visual choices he made in the film were impressive.

    Jennybee, I can’t guarantee you would love Part 1 by itself (SPOILER, I guess: Hogwarts isn’t even seen in this one), but I thought it did a great job of bringing the book to life without being too damaging to the source material. If there’s any flaws–and there are, mind you–they’re mostly flaws that are because of the book.

  9. AMC (a large movie chain) is opening a bunch of dinner theaters in different markets around the country and I know some independent theaters have started doing it. There’s one in Portland and one here in Pasadena. If there was a way to do it so the service was invisible, I’d be interested, but what Josh says gives me pause. Even if they could somehow deliver quietly, there’s still knives and forks on plates etc. and if I’m going to a movie, I’m going to a movie. I don’t need to multitask.

    As for Potter, as I said elsewhere for me the first half of book 7 was the worst part so I can’t imagine enjoying a 2 1/2 hour movie based on same. What say you?

    Sam, As you may have noticed if you read the weekend forecast, I wasn’t as crazy about White Material as I was 35 Shots of Rum. Not 5 stars crazy anyway. I’ll give it 3.5.

  10. Fair enough Craig. While I love both exceedingly, and consider WHITE MATERIAL one of the year’s very best films, I know it did not excite everyone to that level. Even the friend who say it with me today were less than enthused. Still, the reviews were mostly excellent.

  11. Yeah I’m not trying to convince you to feel any other way than you do. I just found the surface theme of colonialism in Africa to be less identifiable than the more intimately human themes in 35 Shots. Huppert was terrific and it was definitely interesting. Just more complex than I can digest on one viewing which is maybe why I’m slacking off the review.

    I liked it, it just wasn’t one of those movies where I leave feeling like I’ve experienced perfection. That hasn’t happened for me this year. Close many times, but no cigar.

  12. It might have just been luck, but since the theater was pretty empty (for a common stadium-seating theater on the opening weekend of a Harry Potter movie, there were, at most, 40 people there), the issue wasn’t loud eaters or just noisiness due to the food being served. The issue was solely that the people bringing the food had not been trained–or their training was incredibly faulty. I’d still want to try it in a smaller venue; it would have been impossible to get orders from everyone had the theater been sold out.

    I would agree that the most intense action happens in the second half of the book (and certainly many memorable sequences will be left to the second part of the movie), but there are a lot of exciting setpieces in Part 1 (the Ministry sequence is a higlight), and I thought the trio’s acting coupled with Yates’ directorial style made for compelling entertainment.

  13. Haha, Sam: And then there’s French arthouse director extraordinaire Claire Denis, who is arguably the world’s most celebrated and accomplished female. I am guessing you meant “female director,” right? Because I can think of a couple females who might rate higher in those two general categories over Denis otherwise.

    I won’t argue on the director part, although one might think Kathryn Bigelow and Catherine Breillat would have a bone to pick with you.

    ANYWAY, I managed to catch 127 Hours and Welcome to the Rileys in a theater this weekend. 127 Hours is very effective and well-made, probably the most accomplished film Danny Boyle has yet directed, and the climax left me physically ill to boot. Good times.

    Welcome to the Rileys is a quite bit more pedestrian but I liked it for what it was, however I’m not suggesting everyone run out and see it. Melissa Leo was excellent in it though.

    I also caught Paths of Glory on Blu-ray. It was magnificent.

  14. Dinner theater: Portland has one of these set-ups, with another larger, glossier indie-run theater over in Vancouver (just across the Columbia). The one downtown actually doesn’t have in-theater wait staff; you buy your food/drink in the lobby and bring it in yourself, which I don’t mind. The one in Vancouver cuts off service at the beginning of the film, but people are still clearing their plates and settling their tabs well into the first 15 minutes of the film and I hate that.

    If people want to eat in a theater, great, but it’s not for me.

  15. Joel: I would say Breillat especially, but I’d take Jane Campion over Bigelow for the elite group, though Bigelow and Holefcener are charging from the rear. Most cineastes would argue for Agnes Varda, but her work never did it for me. Sophia Coppola too has her fans.

    Aye, I did mean ‘female director” and agree with you on that point. Ha! Agreed on 127 HOURS and that PATHS OF GLORY blu-ray!

  16. Josh I’d have to agree that Potter 7.1 is one of the better, though in my book that’s still not saying too much. It was awfully long and there are some deeply frustrating, typically Rowlingian story beats, but I liked the dark tone and I was surprisingly moved (as I was in the book) by the demise of a character who will remain nameless for those who haven’t seen/read it, but whom I’ve always hated up until the end.

    I guess I understand the concept of a dinner/movie theater if you’re talking about a date night type thing where you don’t much care about the movie, but if I’m at all interested in what’s on the screen, I want it dark and I want it quiet. Surrounded by assholes, it’s hard enough just to get that even in a theater without dinner service.

    Joel, as I’ve said elsewhere, 127 Hours was as intense at times as a very good horror movie. I really liked it, and while it didn’t make me squeamish (I did look away a couple of times), I haven’t been eager to sit and watch it again. That’s not a knock against the film, it’s almost to its credit that I’ve hesitated.

    It should be pointed out though that none of the suspense or squirmy gore is gratuitous and it all helps the film build to a pretty cathartic and relieving finale.

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