Christmas Box-Office, Spike Lee Judges 'Django Unchained' and 'Star Wars' Turns to 'Star Trek' for Direction

J.J. Abrams1.) Making news out of a non-story is the word out of Empire magazine today in which J.J. Abrams confirms he turned down any involvement in Star Wars: Episode VII:

There were the very early conversations and I quickly said that because of my loyalty to Star Trek, and also just being a fan, I wouldn't even want to be involved in the next version of those things. I declined any involvement very early on. I'd rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.

Abrams directed the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, which hits theaters in May and I have to ask, does anyone else find it mildly concerning that the level of imagination taken in approaching this new Star Wars trilogy already has the producers looking at a director with his own similar sci-fi franchise already in theaters? Wouldn't you want to distance and differentiate your franchise and isn't it interesting Star Wars is now literally turning to Star Trek for direction?

2.) I have no idea what we should expect from Wes Anderson's next film The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is described as a European set comedy set 85 years ago in which the main character, who's a bit crazy, has a personal medium [mind reader] whose assistant is a teenager. That main character was originally supposed to be played by Johnny Depp, but he had to drop out and was replaced by Ralph Fiennes. Either previously rumored, or now confirmed, Fiennes will be joined in the film by Jude Law, Bill Murray, Angela Lansbury, Owen Wilson, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Mathieu Amalric and F. Murray Abraham. I don't know about you, but it's hard not to look forward to a film with that cast intact. [THR]

3.) Over the past couple of days the acting world lost both Jack Klugman ("The Odd Couple") who died on December 24 at the age of 90 and Charles Durning (The Sting) who passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 89.

Django Unchained4.) Whether because he enjoys being irrational and judging things he hasn't seen or because he simply has no tolerance for Quentin Tarantino (Lee has taken issue with Tarantino's use of the n-word for years), Spike Lee has spoken out against Tarantino's Django Unchained telling Vibe TV, "I cant speak on it 'cause I'm not gonna see it... All I'm going to say is that it's disrespectful to my ancestors. That's just me... I'm not speaking on behalf of anybody else." His efforts to not speak out on it then continued on Twitter where he wrote, "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.It Was A Holocaust.My Ancestors Are Slaves.Stolen From Africa.I Will Honor Them."

I respect anyone's informed opinion, but to judge something before you've seen it is part of the problem we've already seen with the critics of Zero Dark Thirty.

5.) Speaking of Django, Tarantino's film brought in $15 million on Christmas Day, coming in second behind the $18.2 million earned by Les Miserables while The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is holding its own with a strong $11.3 million.

The Christmas Day opening record is still held by Sherlock Holmes at $24.6 million, but Les Mis and Django are now numbers two and three respectively, ahead of Marley and Me at #4 with $14.3 million.

  • Winchester

    Star Wars was bought by Disney..........why is the word 'imagination' being employed in relation to their approach to these new films (too cynical for Christmas? Ah, bah humbug!)?

    But it isn't totally surprising they looked at Abrams. He gave a franchise that was written off another shot and there's apparently an element of that being what Star Wars now needs. Aside from the merchandising which is probably still doing OK and so they may have wanted to look at someone who managed to turn one franchise around (though only in the medium, the longterm outlook for even Star Trek has a few question marks around it still).

    I don't think Paramount would want to let him go anyway.

  • Winchester

    Oh, that is pretty strong starts for Les Mis and Django. Based on those beginnings and though it is early that should easily get played into both films breaking a hundred million in total over the season.

  • AS

    "his efforts to not speak out on it then continued on Twitter" - lol, brilliant.

    Very happy to see Django performing so well. QT and co. deserve it.


    2.5 more times Brad takes a dig at ZDT's critics.

    • Brad Brevet

      To make sure we're being accurate, only those that judged Zero Dark Thirty without seeing it.

      • AS

        Sure, but you said "THE" critics of ZDT, not "SOME" critics of ZDT. Just to be clear.

        • DavidG

          I think it was pretty clear which critics Brad was talking about when he said the ZDT critics for those active on the site though. But I will agree with AS, the "his efforts to not speak out on it then continued on Twitter" line was pretty fantastic.

        • Brad Brevet

          Very well AS, but I think the fact I linked the phrase to an article addressing the matter makes it more than clear.

          • AS

            I'm with you 100%, I'm just saying; the way you phrased it above sounded like you were referring to all of its critics (but I know you weren't). That's all.

  • adu

    Nice to see good starts for both Django and Les Mis, I'll be checking both out this weekend.

    It's also heartning for me to see The Hobbit showing strong legs. It will not surpass LOTR, but I look forward to the next two installments and wish Peter Jackson and his great team success.

  • Ian

    It is funny that Star Wars is now turning to Star Trek for ideas...things eventually come full circle, and Star Trek did come first. Winchester nails it though...this is a Disney operation, there won't be any sense or originality or daring in the whole thing.

    There's not a whole lot you can glean from one day's worth of box office, but those are very strong starts for both Les Mis and Django. Looking back at the last time Christmas fell on a Tuesday, Les Mis should end up with at least $40 million (and conceivably up to $50 million) for the three day weekend. Django should paradoxically be more frontloaded to Christmas Day (opening day), but should make less Wednesday and Thursday relative to Les Mis. So I'd say it should be good for at least $30 million for the three day, and also could climb a bit higher. But Les Mis is absolutely going to win the weekend. The Hobbit should fall around 20% to $28 million or so.

  • The Jackal

    Disney, like Paramount before it, can look at the past Star Wars films to see where Lucas went wrong (despite those nice Box Office numbers) and hopefully avoid those mistakes. However, when Star Trek rebooted in 2009 the last film in the franchise, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), had failed abysmally at the box office and put the whole enterprise (pun intended) in jeopardy; whereas, Disney is looking to continue a successful series (though not critically so). Still, I see no reason for Disney to fail with Star Wars. Did they fail with The Avengers? Did they fail with Pirates? The fact that they turned to Abrams means they were savvy enough to pick a director who knows his way around spectacle, sci-fi, and big-budget reboots. I'm confident a qualified director will be found to take us, yet again, to a galaxy far, far, away.

    Thems the facts

  • may

    I agree with Spike Lee. There are some issues that cannot be treated as comedy. Ive listened to Tarantinos interview for a radio station days ago. His laugh is obscene, desperate... So childish and unbearable!

    • The Moth

      "There are some issues that cannot be treated as comedy."

      What about World War II and "The Great Dictator" or "To Be or Not To Be"?
      Just asking...

    • Yaz

      There's no doubt that QT's a kid who's having fun. As an artist he has the right to do whatever he wants to do - honestly. Just as an audience viewer has the right to their opinion.

      Sorry internet, not EVERYONE liked Django Unchained. Obviously, we didn't 'get it' like you did.

  • rogerio Silvestre

    I got so bored watching Les Miz.....what a beautiful film, but the songs suck ....expect, I dreamed a dream.....

    I was amazed by Django Unchainded.....I am not into bloody, and violent films, but this is the most entertaining movie that I saw this year!. AMAZINGLY done from start to finish!!! The original songs are them!!!

  • AJ

    Well, Abrams clearly turned to Star Wars for inspiration in revamping Star Trek (to the point of including dogfights, sword fights, weapons that blow up a main character's home planet, and a wise old man mentoring the hero from farming country, among many other touches), and had been very vocal during the making of his first Star Trek film that he was a huge fan of Star Wars and had never really gotten into Star Trek before, so it's not exactly surprising that Disney would go to him. So really, the idea that the two franchises should have vastly different feels kind of sailed already, unless Star Wars now becomes the more intellectual franchise with the heady sci-fi metaphors instead of space opera theatrics.

  • Badge

    For the last 25 years, every time I've heard Spike Lee say something about another film, it's been negative.

  • Dale

    R.I.P. Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, two very classy actors. Both served in World War II (Durning participated in the Normandy invasion of France on D-Day). We thank them for their outstanding work on TV and in the movies, and for helping defend their country all those years ago.

  • Morrissey’s Love Child

    Spike Lee has been angry and bitter with Tarantino since Jackie Brown. He might not like it but the public vote with their $. Django has taken $14,700,000 more in its first day than Spike's last film (Red Hook Summer) did in its very limited run.

  • Yaz

    Spike Lee would have likely hated Django regardless, but I do see some value in what he's saying. I agree that it's a bit silly for him to be giving an opinion on something he didn't see, but the fact that audiences were laughing at a film about slavery felt kind of, well, insensitive to me. I get that it's supposed to be entertainment and it's QT's take on everything and a hybrid of genres and yada yada... Doesn't change the fact that he basically made a comedy film about slavery. There was more comedy than drama. Even the violence in it's over-the-top form was comedic. I found nothing authentic in Django.

    Entertaining? Sure - no doubt. But I can totally see some people finding the content insensitive.