‘Solace’ to stay on top in Europe

'Changeling' takes first steps

LONDON — Impressive holdover performer “Quantum of Solace” should continue to dominate biz at the European box office this weekend where Italo laffer “La Fidanzata di Papa” (Father’s Girlfriend) is the most noteworthy home turf opener.

The frame also sees Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” take its first steps at Euro wickets, with openings in Italy and France.

In the U.K., “Max Payne” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” enter the marketplace, which is again set to be dominated by boffo Bondpic “Solace.” The Daniel Craig starrer is a huge hit on home turf so far and is showing good traction.

Neither vidgame adaptation “Max Payne” nor “Porno” have gotten much love from the Brit crix.

Mark Wahlberg starrer “Payne,” out on 372 via Fox, has come in for a particular battering. “The film combines ferocious self-importance with lashings of really nasty, unreflective violence,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. However, pic should go reasonably well at multiplexes with opening weekend fanboy crowd.

“Porno,” which has had a hefty promo push from Entertainment, also goes looking for multiplex auds. The provocative title and poster (which shows Rogan and co-star Elizabeth Banks ogling a leggy babe) and the growing appeal of slacker thesp Seth Rogan to Brit auds should help pic to a decent opening. “‘Zach and Miri’ feels uncomfortably like a gruesome game of filth-talk one-upmanship, and it’s hard to care who comes out on top,” sniped Tom Huddleston in Time Out. “This is the most soppy and unsexy 18-certificate skin-flick ever made,” wrote James Christopher in the Times.

The other key release is German 1970s period pic “The Baader Mienhof Complex” (Momentum Pictures). Pic has been criticized for being plodding and overlong by Brit crix but should appeal to upmarket auds bored by prospect of Bond and “Max Payne.”

In Germany, “Solace” has a wide-open field to continue its domination of the box office. For a handful of distribs, however, a window of opportunity has opened for counterprogramming arthouse drama, romantic comedy and old-fashioned chivalry against the breakneck antics of 007.

Alamode releases Philippe Claudel’s award-winning Berlinale screener “I’ve Loved You So Long,” starring Kristin Scott Thomas, which looks likely to benefit from strong reviews. “Claudel undertakes in his film nothing less that a poetic anatomy of the pain of the soul,” observed the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, while Tagesspiegel said: “Quiet, sensitive, terrific. It’s like Kristin Scott Thomas in this film.”

Constantin rolls out Caroline Link’s “A Year Ago in Winter,” which premiered in Toronto this year. Pic, about a grieving family and the emotional bond that develops between a reclusive painter and his young subject, is likely to benefit from strong buzz, but reviews have been mixed. While young star Karoline Herfurth (“Perfume”) has won praise for her performance, Leipziger Volkszeitung described the pic as a preachy melodrama, adding that it was “a puzzle” why Link would bother with such a “belly button show.”

Disney is likely to attract female auds with “The Accidental Husband,” while Zorro is going after kids of all ages with Pieter Verhoeff’s Dutch-German adventure “The Letter for the King,” a critically acclaimed adaptation of Tonke Dragt’s classic novel about a young squire who sets out on a dangerous mission.

Also hitting screens is Malgorzata Szumowska’s German-Polish drama “33 Szenen aus dem Leben,” starring young German thesp Julia Jentsch (“Sophie Scholl: The Final Days”). The story of a young woman dealing with the death of her parents, which won the special jury prize in Locarno, goes out via RealFiction.

In Italy, the weekend’s big release is low-brow, local laffer “Father’s Girlfriend,” which Medusa is sending out on 630 screens. “An avalanche of vulgarity,” sniffed La Repubblica newspaper. But the presence of household names such as Massimo Boldi and Simona Ventura should drum up business.

Unlike “Father’s Girlfriend,” Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich, has been well received by Italo scribes.

“A solid, well-conceived and well-executed film,” said La Stampa of the Kafka-esque drama, based on a true-life story. Universal is sending it out on 300 copies.

“The Orphanage,” a thriller by Spanish helmer Juan Antonio Bayona, is out on 210 screens via Lucky Red.

The strongest bow in Spain this weekend is horror franchiser “Saw V,” which BVI opens on 300.

The gorefest has been predictably poorly reviewed, but “‘Saw’ has always been profitable; you can expect between $2-2.5 million,” forecast a local booker. “Saw IV” hacked away $5.8 million in 2007 and “Saw III” did $6.6 million in 2006.

Also debuting are a pair of comedies: Wide Pictures’ “Swing Vote,” which goes out on 200, and Sony’s “My Best Friend’s Girl,” bowing on 180. Reviewers were tepid about both.

Crix unanimously praised Alta’s ultra-realistic Italian mob pic “Gomorrah.” However, it opens on a moderate 77. Bookers expect a high screen average.

“This is a pure war dispatch: it simply makes your blood run cold,” said monthly Fotogramas. El Pais picks out the movie as the best of the week, and the La Vanguardia critic raved: “A great movie, an exceptional piece of reportage.”

“Gomorrah” recently opened the Seville European Film Festival and has also been backed by an effective launch, with incendiary declarations from writer Roberto Saviano, who has gone on record saying Basque terrorist org ETA are small fry compared with Mafia organized crime.

Two Spanish pics take the plunge, bracing stormy waters for local cinema.

Universal’s “Que parezca un accidente,” opens on 125 and “La Buena nueva,” released by Golem, swims closer to shore on 78. Crix gave better reception to “Buena.”

In France, it was a weakish Wednesday for new releases. The latest offerings from some of Hollywood’s heavy hitters seemed to have been met with a group shrug from most auds, who still flocked to see the likes of “Solace” and “Body of Lies.”

“Max Payne” muscled its way to top the box office for Fox, bowing at an okay $373,000 on 377. Some crix found it in their hearts to be quite charitable.

“The majestic set designs, the hard-hitting action sequences and the originality of the characters makes up for the weak storyline” felt Le Parisien.

Eastwood — a cultural demigod in Gaul for decades — could only manage a bow of $345,700 on 417 with “Changeling” for Universal, in spite of mainly stellar reviews.

Local revenge fantasy/black laffer “Vilaine” managed a middling $204,000 on 225 for SND.

Costume romp “The Duchess” looks a rare dud for Pathe. The Keira Knightley/Ralph Fiennes chemistry worked for most scribes. “A breathtaking adaptation by the young director Saul Dibb,” said La Croix. Knightley was “a vulnerable heroine — full of life and formidably modern” in the view of Paris Match. The first-day take, alas, stood at a dire $82,600 on 127.

Additional reporting by David Hayhurst (France), Emilio Mayorga (Spain), Ed Meza (Germany) and Michael Day (Italy).

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