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'Expendables' just won't quit

John Horn
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — When it comes to people of a certain age, Hollywood has a certain reputation. Older screenwriters say they can't get jobs, leading parts for actresses start vanishing once they turn 35 and the studios have all but abandoned adult dramas. Which makes the continued success of "The Expendables" all the more remarkable.

For the second weekend in a row, the action movie starring, directed and co-written by the 64-year-old Sylvester Stallone was the nation's No. 1 film, grossing $16.5 million, according to Sunday's studio estimates.

The ensemble movie featuring veteran actors more likely to be cast in Cialis ads (the cast includes the 52-year-old Dolph Lundgren, the 54-year-old Eric Roberts and the 57-year-old Mickey Rourke) continued to draw a surprising number of female ticket buyers — some 38 percent of the audience, distributor Lionsgate says — which helped it top the surprisingly strong debut of the 20th Century Fox/Regency Enterprises parody "Vampires Suck."

"It's holding as well with women as it is with men," Michael Burns, the vice chairman of Lionsgate, said of "The Expendables'" performance. "It delivers, and the exit polls are great." Lionsgate opened the film in the United Kingdom last weekend, where it grossed about $5.7 million to finish first. "The Expendables," financed by Avi Lerner's Millennium and Nu Image Films, now has grossed $64.9 million in its domestic release and has done well overseas.

"Vampires Suck" performed much better than had been forecast, and the urban comedy "Lottery Ticket" premiered well, but the returns for the three other new movies in wide release were unimpressive. "Piranha 3D" finished in sixth despite the ticket surcharge at stereoscopic theaters, seventh-place "Nanny McPhee Returns" grossed barely half as much in its first weekend as its predecessor film did four years ago and Jennifer Aniston's "The Switch" barely cracked the Top 10, finishing eighth.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co.'s critically acclaimed documentary "The Tillman Story" premiered to good returns, grossing $50,000 in four locations. The year's cumulative grosses of $7.4 billion are up more than 4 percent from the same point in 2009, but admission remains down more than 1 percent, and Labor Day heralds the arrival over the next several weeks of a number of movies with limited commercial potential.

"Vampires Suck," a lightly regarded spoof of the movies based on novelist Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster "Twilight" series, grossed $12.2 million for second place, well ahead of projections. The send-up from Peter Safran, the producer behind the spoofs "Meet the Spartans" and "Disaster Movie," drew a large number of young boys (about 45 percent of the audience) who would have never dared to be seen inside one of the "Twilight" films, Fox said.

Counting sales from its Wednesday premiere, "Vampires Suck" has grossed $18.6 million. "When you gross in the first five days what it costs to make the picture, it's a great success," Senior Vice President Bert Livingston said.

Julia Roberts' "Eat Pray Love" finished third with $12 million, but the film slid a worrisome 48 percent from its second-place premiere last weekend. Sony Pictures was hoping its adaptation of the best-selling memoir from Elizabeth Gilbert would spark strong audience recommendations and might have the same staying power as last year's "Julie & Julia." But Sony's Julia Child biography fell less than 40 percent in its second weekend.

"Lottery Ticket," the Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. comedy about the perils of winning a huge jackpot starring rapper Bow Wow, came in fourth with $11.1 million. "The Other Guys," Sony's police comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, was fifth in its third weekend of release, grossing $10.1 million.

Despite numerous supportive reviews, the Weinstein Co.'s long-delayed "Piranha 3D" could do no better than sixth, grossing $10.04 million. It was a marginally better opening than the cash-strapped studio's last release, January's "Youth in Revolt," which grossed $6.9 million in its initial weekend.

"Nanny McPhee Returns," a relatively well-reviewed family film about an eccentric English babysitter (Emma Thompson) from Universal Pictures and Working Title Films, was seventh with a meager $8.3 million, far short of projections. The first film in the series, released in 2006, grossed $14.5 million in its first weekend.

"The Switch," a romantic comedy about artificial insemination (once with the far more interesting title "The Baster") from the just-sold Miramax Films, grossed $8.1 million for eighth, narrowly below projections but well below some of the premieres of other Aniston films.

Rounding out the top 10 were "Inception" with $7.7 million in ninth, and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," which slipped 53 percent from its poor premiere a week ago, grossing $5 million.

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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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

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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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

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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9

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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7

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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