The animated 3-D film "Puss in Boots" easily climbed to the top of the weekend box office, grossing $34 million. Though that was far more than any other new film collected at the multiplex, the opening was still relatively soft for a movie from DreamWorks Animation. In recent years, the studio's popular family films have typically debuted with at least $40 million in ticket sales.
Meanwhile, it wasn't a great weekend for either Justin Timberlake or Johnny Depp. Singer-turned-actor Timberlake's sci-fi action flick "In Time" collected only a moderate $12 million, prompting questions about his clout as a leading man. And Depp's passion project, "The Rum Diary," flopped. Even the actor's star power couldn't attract moviegoers to the picture, which is based on a novel by Depp's longtime friend, the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
For more on the weekend's hits and misses, check out the latest box-office video report.
Many things could be said of Justin Timberlake's nascent acting career, but one thing he can't be accused of is playing it safe.
Since Timberlake made the decision to put sexy back, or at least on hold, and pursue acting, the former bubblegum pop star has gotten far away from his music roots. He's played a swaggery Silicon Valley salesman ("The Social Network'), a fast-talking but sensitive paramour in an offbeat romantic comedy ("Friends With Benefits"), a passive substitute teacher ("Bad Teacher") and, this weekend, an impoverished hustler-hero (Andrew Niccol's "In Time").
What he hasn't been especially good at is turning his movies into hits. The two live-action films that performed well, "Social Network" and "Bad Teacher," did so largely on someone else's back. The two movies that relied more on his presence to sell tickets, on the other hand, performed modestly. "Friends With Benefits" was part of the have-not section of the class of R-rated comedies this summer (though it did OK internationally). And, this weekend, "In Time" looked to be out of same with a middling $12 million in box office.
The most obvious conclusion is that Timberlake isn't a leading man. He could carve out a nice character-actor career, but the clock is ticking down fast on him enjoying any Will Smith-like crossover success.
A look at Timberlake's resume doesn't entirely negate the point; as some critics have pointed out, he's an appealing presence, but rarely a sophisticated or overpowering one.
But it's also far too soon to write the obituary on his non-melodic efforts. As he hits his 30s, Timberlake is trying to move out of his comfort zone a lot faster and more often than many of his pop-music contemporaries (Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, who star largely in tune-driven flicks), which will naturally up the flop quotient. In fact, even when Timberlake is starring in a music-themed movie, as he will in the recently announced biopic of record producer Neil Bogart, "Spinning Gold," he's doing it with a hint of the unexpected. (He did that in "Get Him to the Greek" too, where he also played the industry man instead of the performer.)
As "In Time" hit the shoals, it was hard to avoid a comparison to another actor who crashed this weekend. In the 1990s, "The Rum Diary" star Johnny Depp was also a teenage heartthrob seeking a film career. Like Timberlake's "Benefits" turn, he looked to break out with an offbeat romantic comedy (or three), and, weirdly, even made a commercial misstep in a chase-thriller with a ticking-clock conceit ("Nick of Time").
While "Puss in Boots" will win the box-office crown this weekend, two other new releases will provide some of the most compelling storylines. "In Time" will serve as the latest notch on the acting resume of Justin Timberlake, who continues his career reinvention from singer to actor. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp will try to prove that he can still work his quirky magic in a smaller, more independent film when he opens "The Rum Diary."
The Times' Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik break down the careers of two of the more magnetic, and complicated, entertainment personalities working today.
The horror movie reached a notable evolutionary point in 1996: That was the year "Scream" came out, and, as even casual fans of the iconic Ghostface Killah will remember, it cheekily built a horror movie out of parts of other horror movies.
The operative word, of course, was cheekily -- not only did Kevin Williamson's script borrow liberally from many horror movies that came before, but it also poked fun at all the things it was borrowing. Spoof movies, of course, were nothing new, but Williamson added a twist, constructing a new entry in a genre at the same time he was tearing that genre down.
"Scream" came to mind when watching "Friends with Benefits," and not just during Justin Timberlake's rapping scenes. Among the film's many one-liners are jokes about the romantic comedy itself. Timberlake and on-screen partner Mila Kunis watch a sappy movie-within-a-movie about a young couple in love (played to rip-your-eyes-out perfection by Jason Segel and Rashida Jones). They joke about the way romantic comedies artificially use end-credit music to give a sense of closure. They even poke fun at the hoariness of the moment-of-truth-climactic scene -- while they're in the middle of one.
Unlike "(500) Days of Summer," a mutation that attempted to take the genre in a more authentic direction, Will Gluck's "Friends" recombines the romcom DNA in a different and more self-critical way. "Friends with Benefits" is a romantic comedy that's about had it with romantic comedies.
Reviewers (and even cast members such as Richard Jenkins, with whom we had an interesting post-screening conversation last week) have compared Kunis and Timberlake to Hepburn and Tracy, thanks to the ease and speed of their banter. But whatever its throwback qualities, "Friends with Benefits" really owes more to the 21st century trend toward self-reference.
"Friends" is not as obviously hammy as "Scream." On one level, Timberlake and Kunis want to be taken seriously as a movie couple, and indeed have all the trappings of movie coupledom: There's a grand romantic gesture at a major landmark, a fraught visit to the significant other's family and the obligatory mopey period to the strains of a sad song after a blown-out-of-proportion misunderstanding. But all the while, they're also getting in jibes at these romcom staples. It's a have-it-both-ways move, and one that raises a thorny question: Does professing knowledge of the cliches give you a pass to participate in them?
It remains to be seen whether audiences will think the "Scream" lite approach works for romantic comedies; "Friends" opened in third place to $18.5 million last weekend. ("Scream," incidentally, did less than $7 million on its opening weekend, but went on to gross more than $100 million in the U.S. alone.)
Williamson's movie slew horror sacred-cows like the endlessly resurrected villain and the never-ending franchise. Then it wound up taking some of those indulgences itself, coming out with its fourth installment earlier this year. Fans yawned, and the movie tallied less than half of what each of its three predecessors did. Apparently you can only go so far in pointing out the traps before you get swallowed up by them.
Much of the accolades bestowed on the romantic R-rated comedy "Friends With Benefits" highlighted the chemistry between stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. But sparks were flying in other directions during the filming of the bi-coastal flick that earned $18.6 million this past weekend: those between Timberlake and his writer-director, Will Gluck.
It seems the two really hit it off and, according to Timberlake, "We will make plenty of movies together." He says the duo's shared sense of humor fueled some of the on-screen laughs including a raunchy moment where Timberlake's character is trying to urinate during the middle of some sexual calisthenics with Kunis.
"You feel great being in a movie like this when your director wants you to succeed in every way," says Timberlake. "He wants to see the guys relate to you and the girls fall in love with you."
Timberlake and Kunis workshopped the script for more than a month before the movie went into production. It was the kind of opportunity few actors experience. Gluck would meet with the duo with 20 pages of script in front of him and the three would beat it up, changing lines, defending each character's perspective. "We never get to do that," says Timberlake.
Perhaps endearing himself to his actors ahead of production allowed Gluck to ask for a lot of work from them during the filming. Gluck likes 20-minute takes, joking, "If the crew isn't sleeping by the time I call cut, I've cut too soon," says Gluck.
According to Timberlake, that approach worked. "He doesn't cut, he just resets. It carbonates the scene in a way. It keeps the energy level up. It was the perfect additive for all the workshopping we did" in pre-production.
Timberlake is very complimentary of Gluck's tone, one he describes as reminiscent of 1980s icon John Hughes. "Will might be embarrassed that I'm comparing him to his idol but 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' and 'The Breakfast Club' both speak from a point of view of a specific generation. That's what we wanted this film to do."
Screen Gems has released a trailer for "No Strings" -- er, "Friends with Benefits" -- the second movie about said topic in the space of six months. Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, in turns somewhat less awards-y than their two prominent fall films, star in Will Gluck's July comedy.
The central F.W.B. relationship here seems less convincing than Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher's in “No Strings Attached," which is saying something. And Justin Timberlake trying broad comedy looks like an awkward fit, though the trailer makes sure to get in more than a few winking references to his singing career by incorporating shots of him doing some freestyle karaoke.
The material appears to be at its strongest when it's tossing out asides: Woody Harrelson as some kind of gay, free-love sidekick, or disses to current romcom queen Katherine Heigl. Or maybe it's just that we'd rather see anything other than movie characters wondering if they can have condition-free sex.
He’s been a boy band phenom, has established his comedy bona fides as a “Saturday Night Live” skit-meister and was even considered, once upon a time in the mid-'00s, as heir apparent to Michael Jackson.
JT is coming off an acclaimed performance in “The Social Network" and has major parts in two upcoming movies: the R-rated romantic comedy “Friends with Benefits,” opposite Mila Kunis, and the sci-fi thriller “Now,” directed by Andrew Niccol.
Reached last month on a day off from shooting the Fox film “Now,” Timberlake explained that roles as a singer selling out arenas and an actor starring in movies aren’t as dissimilar as you might think.
If a woman has sex with a man, she wants to be in a relationship with him.
At least that's the message that comes through loud and clear in new trailers for two of Hollywood's latest romantic comedies, "No Strings Attached" and "Friends With Benefits" — despite titles and an implicit promise suggesting the contrary. (Incidentally, "No Strings Attached" was also previously titled "Friends With Benefits.")
In "No Strings Attached," two friends (played by Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman) end up sleeping with each another after a years-long friendship. In keeping with the unwritten rules of romantic comedies, Portman's character is a workaholic doctor who doesn't have time for a relationship.
"I'm a doctor. I work 80 hours a week. I need someone who's gonna be in my bed at 2 a.m. who I don't have to eat breakfast with," she tells him. Later she suggests that some "ground rules" be established so that things don't get too serious: "No lying, no jealousy, don't list me as your emergency contact. I won't come."
But lo and behold, when Kutcher wants to get serious, she seems, at least judging by the trailer, to change her tune.
Meanwhile, in "Friends With Benefits," two friends (played by Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, who, incidentally, stars opposite Portman in the upcoming "Black Swan") also decide to have sex after a years-long platonic relationship.
"It's just sex," Timberlake's character explains to a friend, played by Woody Harrelson. "That never works," Harrelson's character advises. Kunis too winds up embracing a relationship.
Real-life relationships are complicated, but in these movies, it seems, one rule applies: If a man wants to get serious, the woman is suddenly ready to get serious too.
We're seeing these types of stories more lately: A similar dynamic emerges between Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal's characters in Ed Zwick's November release, "Love and Other Drugs." But is Hollywood picking up a real relationship dynamic or just harping on the same old stereotype?
Check out the new trailers and let us know what you think.
EXCLUSIVE: Fans of Olivia Wilde, she of "House" fame, are about to get a hospital-size helping of the actress on the big screen.
Wilde dons the rubber and latex and struts her techno-chic in December's futurist adventure "Tron: Legacy," in which she plays female lead Quorra. Wilde will also be seen this fall as the female lead in the murder-thriller "The Next Three Days" opposite Russell Crowe.
Now sources familiar with the production say she's been cast in Andrew Niccol's new untitled thriller at New Regency/Fox, where she'll play opposite Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.
The "Gattaca" writer-director tells a story set in a society where aging stops at 25. (People live beyond that; they just treat time as currency -- i.e., the rich have too much of it, and the poor are forced to scrounge or steal it). Wilde will actually play the mother of Timberlake's character. In reality, the 26-year-old Wilde is three years younger than Timberlake, but such is the magic of science-fiction premises.
Wilde -- a member of the Cockburn family of journalists, so kind of one of our own -- will then keep the screen time going with another lead performance as a tough frontierswoman in next year's "Cowboys and Aliens," as well as parts in quirky dramedy "Butter" and the lead in Ryan Reynolds body switch comedy "The Change-Up." With this new turn in the Niccol picture, we can only imagine what character she'll play after that. Maybe Nick Lachey's great-aunt.
Sometimes all it takes for a movie to be a hit is a cute cartoon animal interacting with a live-action star (see under: "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel;" worldwide gross $440 million).
Judging by that example, a modern CGI/live-action take on the popular cartoon "Yogi Bear" would seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, the trailer for the November release suggests something other than good.
Yogi is one of America's beloved animated characters, a status he attained primarily via his 1960s television show, during which he spent much of his time nabbing picnic -- or "pick-a-nic" -- baskets from campers hanging out in Jellystone Park.
In the modern version, we find Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) and his sidekick Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) wandering merrily around their stomping grounds at Jellystone, until the two animals find out that the place they call home is being shut down. The two animals decide to partner with Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) to stop the sale of the park's land.
The trailer begins with the introduction from a jolly Aykroyd, excitedly inviting viewers to check out "this exclusive look at 'Yogi Bear!' " and goes downhill from there.
We're obviously not kindergartners, but we have a feeling even they'd be baffled by some of the bits in the trailer. Yogi falls down after trying to steal Ranger Smith's lunch. Yogi and Boo Boo "kick it" to some jams on the stereo. A pie is thrown in Yogi's face.
Yogi, that goofball!
The film, which is directed by "Journey to the Center of the Earth" filmmaker Eric Brevig, seems to be missing the original cartoon's silliness.
The modern Yogi doesn't appear to embody the carefree nature or
obliviousness that made the first one so lovable. (The
hokey-looking animation doesn't help either.)
While Timberlake seems to pull off Boo Boo's iconic tone, we're not as enthused about Anna Faris, who plays a nature documentarian breathlessly
searching for Yogi. As usual, she's ditzy and wide-eyed, but the act seems more suited to "The House Bunny" than a kids' movie.
Then again, maybe we're just not the target audience for this kind of thing.