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Super Bowl weekend should be another win for 'Avatar'

Ben Fritz
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Avatar

Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso
Rated: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2009
US date: 2009-12-18 (General release)
UK date: 2010-12-17 (General release)
Website
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After holding the top spot for seven consecutive weeks, it looks like "Avatar" will reign one final time over Super Bowl weekend.

Despite rising interest among its core audience of teenage and twenty-something females, romantic tearjerker "Dear John" appears on track to open just shy of director James Cameron's blockbuster, which could be No. 1 at the box office for the eighth consecutive weekend.

According to people who have seen pre-release polling of moviegoers, "Dear John" could sell a little more than $20 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada. That's a solid start given that financier Relativity Media paid about $25 million to produce the film, which Sony Pictures is releasing in exchange for a distribution fee.

Still, the backers of "Dear John" will be looking for more than a solid opening and to a very long run in theaters akin to that of 2004's "The Notebook," also based on a Nicholas Sparks romance novel, which debuted with $13.5 million and ended up with $81 million in ticket sales.

"Avatar" is on track to gross between $26 million and $28 million from Friday through Sunday if it continues the minimal 10 percent to 15 percent drop that it has experienced for each of the last several weekends. The 3-D science fiction epic could get a boost from its nine Oscar nominations, including for best picture, this week and see an even smaller decline.

"Dear John" was originally set to be the only new movie opening this weekend. However, when Paramount Pictures delayed the Leonardo DiCaprio thriller "Shutter Island" from last October to Feb. 19, Lionsgate decided to avoid the competition and pushed back its John Travolta-Jonathan Rhys Myers action movie "From Paris With Love" to this Friday.

Studios usually don't debut movies aimed at men on Super Bowl weekend because the target audience is otherwise occupied on Sunday. But Lionsgate, which bought distribution rights to "From Paris" from financier Europa Corp., is hoping to duplicate the success of "Taken," which opened on Super Bowl weekend last year to a healthy $24.7 million. Both films were directed by Pierre Morel.

However, people who have seen pre-release surveys say "From Paris With Love" is tracking for a more modest opening of about $15 million.

Much of the action on the box office charts this weekend may be focused on several small movies that received multiple Oscar nominations on Tuesday from which they are hoping to receive significant boosts.

Lionsgate will expand best picture nominee "Precious" to 669 theaters from 222. The low-budget Sundance acquisition has already sold a healthy $46 million of tickets to predominantly African-American crowds.

Sony Pictures Classics and Fox Searchlight are using this weekend to springboard their movies, "An Education" and "Crazy Heart," respectively, beyond the limited runs they have had so far. The British coming-of-age drama "An Education," which got a best picture nod and has generated $8.8 million so far, will go to 763 theaters from 75. Country music drama "Crazy Heart," for which Jeff Bridges got a best actor nomination, is jumping to 819 theaters from 239. It currently has collected $7.3 million.

"An Education" and "Crazy Heart" will be looking to gross about $3 million this weekend, while "Precious" will likely take in another $1.5 million or so, having already done a substantial chunk of business.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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