This week:

Avatar makes it four in a row; Willem Dafoe heads to Mars next week; Maggie Grace and Billy Bob Thornton move Faster with Dwayne Johnson; The Sitter makes it to the big screen; Polanski’s The Ghost Writer gets a release date and James Franco finds that there isn’t a mountain high enough to stop him working with Danny Boyle in 127 Hours.

Box Office

James Cameron’s Avatar was number one for the fourth weekend in a row with a mighty take of $48.5 million. With a huge $429 million in the bank domestically, the film is now the highest grossing film of 2009 and is already on its way to being the second biggest of all time (domestic) after Cameron’s own Titanic. On a worldwide level the film has now banked $1.3 billion and it looks like it might just beat Titanic’s final gross of $1.8 billion.

Meanwhile, Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes was second with another $16.6 million. The 21st Century update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective has now grossed a huge $165 million.

Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeaquel banked a smidgen less than Holmes for a $178 million total. $200 million is on the cards.

Ethan Hawk’s vampire thriller Daybreakers was fourth with an opening gross of $15 million. Not a bad start, but I doubt it’ll have legs.

It’s Complicated rung up another $11 million giving it a $76 million total. It looks like $100 million is still on the cards.

Comedy Leap Year had a middling debut with $9 million, while The Blind Side grossed just under $8 million for a terrific $219 million cumulative gross.

George Clooney’s Up In The Air brought in another $7 million for a $54 million total gross  –  if the expected Oscar nods come then the sky really is the limit.

Youth in Revolt also banked $7 million in its opening while Princess And The Frog brought in $4.5 million for a $92 million total. Disney is pushing the ‘toon flick so it hits the century mark.

Movie News

1. Whilst out promoting his latest flick Daybreakers, Willem Dafoe said that his next film John Cater of Mars would start shooting next week in London – with “official” production set to start on the 18th.

Dafoe said:

“I saw [ director Andrew Stanton] recently because we start in London, for studio stuff. I start next week. I think officially production starts the 18th”, “[Stanton] showed me the different variations of how they will shoot it, the kind of equipment I’ll have to wear, the different times I won’t have to wear certain kinds of equipment and all that”.

Get ready to see some behind-the-scenes snaps soon!

Source: /Film

2. Taken actress Maggie Grace has joined the cast of Dwayne Johnson’s action film Faster.

“The Story centers on an ex-con looking to avenge his brother’s murder, who is trailed by a veteran policeman.”

Salma Hayek is also in negotiations to join the film that also stars Billy Bob Thornton. At least the artist fomerly known as The Rock is straying away from kid films.

Source: Variety

3. The kid-lit craze strikes again!

Furst Films has big up the rights to R.L. Stine’s The Sitter.

According to Variety:

“The Sitter is focused on a young woman who takes a summer job as a nanny to a 4-year-old who hasn’t spoken for months and is seemingly haunted by something too horrible for words.”

I can only imagine that there are franchise opportunities here. Why make one kids film when you can have a series!

Source: Variety

4. Roman Polanski’s thriller The Ghost Writer will open in the US on February 19th with a limited run.

The Pierce Brosnan/ Ewan McGregor starrer will then expand on March 5 and again on March 19th.

I’m guessing that Polanski’s hoping not to be present for the US pemiere!

Source: Variety

5. James Franco will star as Aron Ralston in director Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.

“The True-life story centers on Ralston, who spent five days with his right forearm pinned under a boulder during a climb in May 2003. He used a dull knife to amputate the limb, then scaled a 65-foot sheer wall and hiked out before flagging a family that gave him water and food. He was finally rescued by helicopter.”

The film starts shooting in Utah in March with the hope that the film is ready for release during awards season later this year.

Apparently Franco was quoted as saying that he’d give his right arm to work with Oscar winner Boyle. Just a bit of ‘armless fun! Sorry.

Source: Variety

That’s it for now. See you at the movies.