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Box office preview: 'RoboCop' and the love stories are no match for 'The Lego Movie'

It’s a 1980s showdown at the box office this icy Presidents Day weekend. Remakes of RoboCop, About Last Night, and Endless Love all open wide (even Winter’s Tale is based on a 1983 book!), but The Lego Movie will undoubtedly reign supreme in its second weekend in theaters.

Here’s how things might play out: READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'The Lego Movie' builds a $17.1 million Friday, 'Monuments Men' surprises with $7 million

The toys of everyone’s youth are on track to strike box office gold. Warner Bros.’ The Lego Movie (Cinema Score: A) pulled in an astonishing $17.1 million Friday, far exceeding studio expectations and putting the movie on track for at least a $56 – $60 million weekend.

The $60 million film from writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller effectively iced Frozen’s 11-week reign (which, at $1.41 million, didn’t even make Friday’s top five). The joint Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow pic played in 3,775 theaters, and a sequel is reportedly already in development with screenwriters Jared Stern and Michelle Morgan. But as far as February records are concerned, Lego still has a long way to go to surpass Passion of the Christ’s $83.8 million 2004 debut.

Meanwhile, George Clooney’s star-packed The Monuments Men (CinemaScore: B+) had a $7 million Friday which could put the World War II pic on track for a $20 million opening weekend. The poor critical response to the film (still holding at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes) is clearly not affecting people’s decisions to enjoy the undeniably charming cast of Clooney, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, The Artists’s Jean Dujardin, and Moonrise Kingdom’s Bob Balaban. Argo, another recent adult-targeted film, had a similar $19.5 million debut.

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Box office preview: 'The Lego Movie' could be 2014's first big 'block'buster

George Clooney and gorgeous teenage vampires have a formidable box office foe this weekend: Legos. And it looks like both will crumble in the face of the tiny plastic figurines.

The idea of a Lego movie seems absurd on paper. A cynical, nostalgia-based cash grab akin to Battleship exploits, right? Well, Warner Bros. and its co-financier Village Roadshow seem not only to have avoided those trappings, but created a film that transcends the medium thanks to wry writing and directing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who charmed with both Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. EW’s Owen Gleiberman wrote in his “A” review: “It may be a helter-skelter kiddie adventure built out of plastic toy components, but it’s fast and original, it’s conceptually audacious, it’s visually astonishing, and it’s 10 times more clever and smart and funny than it needed to be.”

In a box office market where Frozen has dominated the family slate for over 11 weeks (with an honorable mention for The Nut Job), The Lego Movie looks primed to walk away with 2014′s biggest opening to date.

Here’s how things might play out this weekend:

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George Clooney pushes 'The Monuments Men' to 2014

Another 2013 movie is on hold.

George Clooney told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday that his World War II drama The Monuments Men would not meet its scheduled Dec. 18 opening and will instead hit theaters in early 2014.  A representative from Sony Pictures, who is distributing the film, confirmed the news to EW and stated that the film would be released sometime in the first quarter of 2014, but no release date has been set.

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George Clooney talks 'The Monuments Men'

At first glance, George Clooney’s credits as a writer-director — Good Night, and Good Luck., The Ides of March — and a producer —- Syriana, The American, Argo, etc. — don’t seem to have much in common, except a political edge and a sheen of old-Hollywood class. But in 2011, when Clooney was trying to find his next project with his writing and producing partner Grant Heslov, he picked out a subtle trend in his own work that he was eager to buck.

“I said, ‘You know, we tend to do a lot of cynical projects, and it would really be nice to do one where there wasn’t any cynicism in it,’” Clooney tells EW. “And we really didn’t have anything on the books that wasn’t that way also. [Laughs] That’s what we like.”

Luckily, Heslov had just picked up an airport copy of The Monuments Men, a 2009 nonfiction account of the allied soldiers and French citizens who rescued art that had been pillaged by the Nazis. The mix of true-life intrigue, daring adventures, and everybody-against-Hitler camaraderie struck Clooney as a perfect opportunity to make a thoroughly un-cynical WWII movie in the vein of The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Great Escape.

Two years later (a mere blink of an eye in Hollywood development time), Clooney is ready to storm theaters  with The Monuments Men (in theaters Dec. 18), a WWII adventure with a stellar cast that includes Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, and more. “It’s got stars in it. It’s got a big score by Alexandre Desplat. It’s got a lot of epic shots,” he says. “So it’ll remind you of all the war films from the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s that we liked so much.”

Read on for an excerpt of EW’s interview with Clooney about The Monuments Men.
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Casting Net: Matt Damon keen on joining George Clooney's 'Monuments Men.' Plus: Seth MacFarlane, Jason Clarke, Marcia Gay Harden

• Together again! Matt Damon is in talks to sign up with The Monuments MenGeorge Clooney‘s next directorial effort, based on the true story of a crew of art historians and museum curators who infiltrate into Nazi Germany during the end of World War II in the hopes of recovering priceless works of art before the Nazis obliterate them. Clooney, who penned the script with writing partner Grant Heslov, will also star in the film, alongside a pack of unknowns like Daniel CraigCate BlanchettBill MurrayJean DujardinJohn GoodmanHugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom). [Deadline]

• Seth McFarlane is aiming to direct and star in A Million Ways to Die in the West, a period comedy Western he penned with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild (Ted). No word on whether it features an anthropomorphized talking cow. [THR]

Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Oscar Isaac (Drive) will star in Mojave, an indie psychological thriller about two men who meet in the desert and decent into a world of crime. William Monahan (London Boulevard, screenwriter for The Departed and Body of Lies) will direct from his screenplay. [Variety]

• Marcia Gay Harden has joined the cast of in Elsa & Fred, about two new neighbors (Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine) who form an unlikely romance. Chris NothJames BrolinGeorge SegalWendell Pierce (The Wire), and Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom) costar. Michael Radford (Flawless, The Merchant of Venice) is directing from a script he wrote with writing partner Anna Pavignano (Il Postino), based on the 2005 Spanish-Argentine film of the same name. [Variety]

• Homeland‘s David Harewood is negotiating to play legendary actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (Show BoatOthello) in the indie biopic Robeson. Producer Richard Akel wrote the script with Terry Bisson. No director is yet attached. [Variety]

Read more:
Casting Net: George Clooney teaming with Paul Greengrass. Plus: Daniel Bruhl, Guy Pearce, Rosamund Pike
Casting Net: Lenny Kravitz to play Marvin Gaye. Plus: Amy Smart, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz
Casting Net: Laura Linney, James McAvoy circling Benedict Cumberbatch/WikiLeaks movie. Plus: Marisa Tomei, James Corden

Casting Net: George Clooney lands Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, John Goodman for 'Monuments Men.' Plus: 'Captain America' 2 finds its Crossbones

George Clooney: “Hi, Hollywood. It’s George. Want to be in my next movie?” Hollywood: “Sure!” That’s not really an exaggeration. Daniel CraigBill MurrayJohn Goodman, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), and Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom) are all in talks to star in The Monuments Men, for which Clooney will serve as star, co-writer, and director. (Cate Blanchett and The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin entered negotiations to join the film earlier this month.) Based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, the story follows a troop of American and British art experts who step behind enemy lines to recover the artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Clooney adapted the script with regular collaborator Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck, The Ides of March). [Deadline]

• Frank Grillo (The Grey, End of Watch) will play the Marvel villain Crossbones in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the comics, the character was a henchman for Red Skull, and his presence in the film seems to suggest the sequel could delve into (warning: the link is a SPOILER) one of the most momentous arcs in the Captain America canon. Grillo joins Chris EvansSebastian StanScarlett JohanssonAnthony MackieSamuel L. Jackson, and Cobie Smulders. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (NBC’s Community) are helming from script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who penned Marvel’s first Captain America film. [Variety]

• Jaime King (The CW’s Hart of Dixie) and Jamie Chung (Premium Rush, Sucker Punch) have signed onto Sin City 2, the sequel to Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller‘s adaptation of Miller’s noir graphic novel. King will play Wendy, the twin sister of the character she played in 2005′s Sin City, Goldie. And Chung takes over the role of the assassin Miho from Devon Aoki, who played it in the first film. Rodriguez and Miller are once again co-writing and co-directing the film, which has Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, and Jessica Alba reprising their characters. [THR]

• Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) is attached to star, write, and produce an “anti-romantic comedy” entitled Leftovers, for Paramount Pictures. No other details were released. [Variety]

Read more:
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Casting Net: Angelina Jolie’s kids Pax and Zahara join her in ‘Maleficent.’ Plus: Al Pacino, Jeremy Renner, Julianne Moore

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