Hugh Jackman’s ‘Wolverine’ claws his way to the top of the blockbuster series


Hugh Jackman has done it all - almost.

He's hosted the Oscars, danced on Broadway, flashed his winning grin and flexed his acting muscles, but Friday is the first time the Australian actor will claw his way into movie theaters as the main attraction.

In "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," there's no Halle Berry or Nicole Kidman by his side to buoy the box office. This time it's just Jackman, his claws and a heap of Hollywood expectations to the tune of $150 million.

That's what it cost to make the film, which tracks the origins of Jackman's Marvel comics character, a hairy, muscled hunk with adamantium claws that sprout from between his knuckles. Wolverine can recover from injuries more quickly than Clark Kent can take off his glasses. Hopefully, Jackman won't need that power.


Summer attraction: Hollywood’s $1 billion movie marketing blitz

You know times are getting tough in the movie business when an entourage of studio executives, instead of flying by private jet to Sacramento to attend a screening, is forced to ride-share to Chatsworth. 

Universal Pictures, clamping down on costs, moved a test screening of its recent sequel "Fast & Furious" to the Los Angeles suburb to save money on ferrying the executives and filmmakers out of town. Along with hosting fewer lavish premiere parties, curtailing newspaper advertisements and restricting the number of agencies that produce trailers, Hollywood studios are struggling to get a grip on the movie industry's equivalent of the earmark: marketing budgets. 


MOVIE OPENINGS – April 24, 2009


Director: Steve Shill 
Stars: Beyoncé Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter 
Studio: Screen Gems

The Plot: A successful business man (Elba) with a beautiful wife (Knowles) becomes the target of a female stalker (Larter).


Director: Alastair Fothergill Mark Linfield 
Stars: Patrick Stewart 
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Plot: A documentary that follows the migration paths of four animal families.


Director: Dito Montiel 
Stars: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Luis Guzmán 
Studio: Rogue Pictures

The Plot: In New York City, a young counterfeiter (Tatum) is introduced to the world of underground street fighting by a seasoned scam artist (Howard), who becomes his manager on the bare-knuckling brawling circuit.


Director: Joe Wright 
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener
Studio: DreamWorks SKG

The Plot: In Los Angeles, reporter Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) befriends Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx), a brilliant but troubled musician and one-time Julliard student who currently lives on Skid Row. In a series of revealing articles, Lopez draws attention to Ayers's remarkable story, while Ayers still dreams of a grand performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall.


Director: James Toback 
Stars: Mike Tyson 
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

The Plot: A mixture of original interviews, archival footage, and photographs sheds light on the life experiences of Mike Tyson.


Director: Simon Hunter 
Stars: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki 
Studio: Magnet Releasing

The Plot: In the year 2707, a soldier (Jane) leads a campaign to save the Earth -- which has been rendered unrecognizable from a war between the four corporations who control the planet -- from the mutant menace which has been unleashed from its prison by an explosion.


Director: Gregor Jordan 
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke 
Studio: Senator Distribution

The Plot: A multi-strand narrative set in early 1980's Los Angeles, centered on an array of characters who represent both the top of the heap (a Hollywood dream merchant, a dissolute rock star, an aging newscaster) and the bottom (a voyeuristic doorman, an amoral ex-con). Connecting the intertwining strands are a group of beautiful, blonde young men and women who sleep all day and party all night, doing drugs -- and one another -- with abandon, never realizing that they are dancing on the edge of a volcano.

Summer 2009 movie season is about the prequels

The new "Star Trek" movie, opening next month, boldly goes where no "Trek" film has gone before: back to the beginning. It's set in the decades before the start of the TV series, returning to the young adulthoods of space adventurers James T. Kirk and Spock and their first voyage on the Starship Enterprise.

Some of Hollywood's biggest franchises, including "X-Men" and "Terminator," are taking a similar back-to-the-future approach this summer. To refresh familiar film sagas and grab new audiences, studios are increasingly offering up stories that trace the early years of popular characters and tell epics from their beginnings.


Harry Potter Deathly Hallows – How they’re splitting the final film

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is edging ever-closer to release, but we're already thinking ahead to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and so when we sat down recently to talk to Daniel Radcliffe and franchise producer David Heyman, we asked them about the split between the planned two parts of Deathly Hallows.


Nature movies score at box-office

Pop quiz: Which film has grossed more money? The hit Paul Rudd comedy "I Love You, Man" or the 47-minute-long documentary "Space Station 3D"?

Julia Roberts' star vehicle "Duplicity" or the Humboldt squid's big turn in "Deep Sea 3D"?

While movie studios struggle to create, produce and launch expensive movie franchises, humble nature and science films have emerged as profitable genres. ("Space Station" stands at $78.5 million in domestic theaters, compared with "I Love You, Man's" $65.3 million; "Deep Sea 3D" has grossed $41 million, with "Duplicity" at $39.3 million.) 


The making of ‘The Soloist’ starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr

France Tries to Lure Hollywood


Quentin Tarantino and the French have basked in mutual admiration since “Pulp Fiction”’ won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994. But like many relationships, this one sometimes gets strained over money.

Tarantino’s latest film, “Inglorious Basterds,” which the director has described as a “spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography,” is set in German-occupied France. It is widely expected to have its premiere at Cannes next month. But the crew spent only a few days in France, shooting the bulk of the film in and around Berlin.

The reason, according to The Weinstein Company, which produced the film, is simple: It costs too much. Germany, like several other European countries, provides financial incentives to foreign moviemakers, helping them attract a growing number of Hollywood productions — including some that, like “Inglorious Basterds,” appear to take place in France.


Warner Bros. launches HD DVD trade-in program

So you made the wrong bet but you've figured out how to live with it. But hey, here's some good news if you were one of the millions who thought incorrectly that HD DVD was going to be the high-definition platform of choice: Now Warner Bros. is giving you the chance to trade in all those old HD DVD discs you bought for new Blu-ray versions of the same movies.


Help choose Tom Cruise’s next film

Tom Cruise is either the biggest movie star out there right now or his publicist has cut an amazing deal with Variety as the trade mag has yet again posted an article dedicated to the films Cruise may star in, keeping his name in the news cycle and in a way that does not involve his marriage to Katie Holmes or Scientology. I am a Cruise fan so I think it’s nice to see, but it just seems a bit odd to keep on batting around the same films, although this time around a couple have been declared out of the running.


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