‘Rambow,’ ‘Amore’ to shine in Europe

Hollywood takes a breather

LONDON — Another weekend offering no new Hollywood juggernaut presents local openers like “Son of Rambow” in Blighty and “Amore, bugie, e calcetto” (Love, Lies and Foosball) in Italy with the opportunity of scoring top spots at the Euro box office this weekend.

In the U.K., Garth Jennings’ nostalgic Brit comedy “Son of Rambow” goes out on some 300 locations via Optimum Releasing.

Bookers credit Optimum will a strong campaign, praise the trailer and speak of the possibility of it becoming a sleeper hit. A “Rambow” opening frame over $2 million is projected by exhibs, which should deliver a top two finish.

“Rambow” is boosted by the warm reception it has received from local crix. “ ‘Son of Rambow’ is a schoolboy yarn with a bracing emotional honesty that packs a real kick,” said London listings bible TimeOut. “There has not been a U.K. film that captures the sights and sounds of British childhood this accurately since ‘The Go-Between’,” suggested the Daily Mail.

Austrian helmer Michael Haneke’s remake of his own psychological thriller “Funny Games” goes out on 63 via Tartan Films/Halcyon Pictures. The chiller has divided the critics.

“Probably one of the most calculating and manipulative movies yet made, it combines a brilliantly chilling blend of the banal and the matter-of-fact with appalling stone-cold cruelty, all the time nudging the audience to remind them that, first, they are watching a film and, secondly, they are doing it voluntarily,” said the Times.

“Haneke is determined to boobytrap the whole movie, making it unapproachable as an entertainment and insufferable as a moral homily,” sniped the Independent.

Daniele Luchetti’s Italo drama “My Brother Is an Only Child,” out at 25 via Revolver Entertainment, should appeal to U.K. arthouse auds.

“As lively, witty, funny and intelligent a meditation on Italy’s Fascist inheritance as we’re likely to get,” praised TimeOut.

Other biggish U.K. releases are the pugilism-and-perspiration epic “Never Back Down” (out on 326 from Momentum Pictures) and thriller “Awake” (out on 281 via Icon), starring Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba and Terence Howard, and “One Missed Call,” a U.S. remake of a 2003 J-horror pic.

In Italy, local titles continue to play prominently, with Luca Lucini’s romancer “Love, Lies and Foosball” the biggest opener in a crowded frame, which also sees “Juno” make its Italo bow amid high expectations.

Helmed by young mainstream specialist Lucini, “Foosball” recounts fornication in the Italo provinces in a tame TV-like style geared for cross-generational appeal. Warner Bros. is opening wide on 325. But top tube talent Claudio Bisio and Claudia Pandolfi may not be enough to dispel doubts fueled by tepid notices, with La Repubblica saying “Foosball” lacks “bite.”

Italy’s second-biggest opener is Lee Tamahori sci-fier “Next,” launching on 290 via Medusa, with exhibbers skeptical that this enth Philip K. Dick adaptation will stumble, despite the lure of stars Nicolas Cage and Julianne Moore. “Action and adrenalin aren’t enough to make ‘Next’ fly,” suggested website cinespettacolo.it.

“Juno” is no doubt the big buzz opener in Italy. Oscar-winner Diablo Cody-penned youth pregnancy comedy is all over Italo press and websites partly propelled by pro-lifers, including the Vatican, who are singing its praises.

Meanwhile, the other camp, including Italy’s leftist press, has been quick to scream out that there is no pro-life message in “Juno,” saying it is simply pro-choice.

“Juno,” which goes out via Fox on 235, could well win the Italo weekend.

Fresh Italo comedy “Non Pensarci” (Don’t Think About It) is bowing on 225 via 01 Distribuzione, boosted by glowing notices for this tale of a thirtysomething post-punk guitarist who returns to his family fold and tries to salvage his dad’s factory. Helmed by Gianni Zanasi, pic toplines local A-list thesp Valerio Mastandrea, with Caterina Murino (“Casino Royale”) also in the cast.

Jessica Alba horror pic “The Eye” goes out on 183 via Mediafilm with only decent prospects amid so much competition.

The Italo arthouse arena sees Mexican newcomer Rodrigo Pla’s “La Zona,” winner of the Venice Lion of the Future, out on 27 via Nanni Moretti’s Sacher Distribuzione, and Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” bowing on 15 via Buena Vista International.

In Spain, a spate of thrillers debuting on middling or limited copy spreads battle for auds with similar-skewed holdovers such as UPI’s “We Own the Night” and Aurum’s “Awake.”

Biggest new bow is Gillian Armstrong’s “Death Defying Acts,” on 248 via DeAPlaneta. The Catherine Zeta-Jones/Guy Pearce romantic drama has aroused critical derision — “a second-rate movie, that fails in its aspirations,” said a well-known blogger — and exhibber enthusiasm: “It’ll place first,” predicted one booker.

The industry was also upbeat about Oscar-nominated dramedy “The Savages,” helmed by Tamara Jenkins and opening on a modest 67 via Fox. “Pic is a potential sleeper. It’s the kind of film Fox pampers well,” said a distribber.

The Filmax-distribbed Bruce Beresford-helmed “The Contract,” out on 121, has split crix. Other films curried better notices. Gregory Hoblit’s “Untraceable,” released on 201 by UPI, was at least deemed interesting because of its subject-matter. “No one can dispute the world’s fascination with violence,” commented newspaper El Pais. And Greg Mclean’s creature feature “Rogue,” out on 121 via Notro, received plaudits: “It looks like one of those fanciful movies we dreamt about as tykes,” said El Pais.

In Germany, Kinowelt’s sci-fi actioner “Jumper,” local hit “The Wave” and Disney’s “Game Plan” look likely to remain at the top of the charts in view of this week’s lack of major titles, although a slew of new openers may slice up the box office pie in many small pieces.

Warner’s Simon Pegg starrer “Run, Fat Boy, Run” — a runaway hit on home turf in Blighty — takes on Michel Gondry’s Berlinale screener “Be Kind Rewind,” which goes out via Senator. Christian Zubert’s local buddy comedy “Hardcover,” distributed by Universum/Disney, about a pulp writer who gets entangled with the mob, looks likely to attract strong interest. Pic stars Lukas Gregorowicz and Wotan Wilke Mohring and marks Zubert’s return to comedy following his 2001 hit pot-dealer comedy “Lammbock.”

Also hitting theaters are Farbfilm/Barnsteiner’s “Vineta,” Franziska Stunkel’s drama about a workaholic architect hired to work on a mysterious island, and “Universal’s thriller “Untraceable.” Martin Scorsese’s Berlinale opening Rolling Stones documentary “Shine a Light” opens Friday via Kinowelt, a day later than the rest but sure to draw crowds to specialty venues, while Rapid Eye Movies is looking to attract some of Germany’s growing number of Bollywood fans with Indian box office hit “Jodhaa Akbar.”

Additional reporting by Ed Meza (Germany), Nick Vivarelli (Italy) and Emilio Mayorga (Spain).

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