DreamWorks Animation’s first movie was Antz, released two months before A Bug’s Life, and thus this studio was born into incessant comparison to Pixar’s output, molded by it, becoming the snarky and sarcastic foil to its competitor’s earnestness.
DreamWorks Animation would forge most of its identity and formula on the back of one giant, smelly, green ogre: Shrek, which has generated sequels, tie-ins, theme park rides, and billions of dollars, while ensuring Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” never leaving the pop culture’s ironic curriculum.
The studio’s other franchises include Kung Fu Panda, which introduced a whole new world of visual flair and surprising emotional depth to the DreamWorks movie canon, and Madagascar, which pulled off the mega-rare feat of each movie being higher-rated on the Tomatometer than the last. At least the mainline movies. (Penguins of Madagascar 73% is lower than the 79% Madagascar 3 has, but that’s a spin-off.)
Their latest releases were Spirit Untamed and Boss Baby: Family Business, with The Bad Guys and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish on the horizon. Now, we’re ranking all DreamWorks Animation movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: It's nowhere near as inventive as its off-the-wall premise might suggest, but Turbo boasts just enough colorful visual thrills and sharp voice acting to recommend as undemanding family-friendly fare.
Synopsis: Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) is a speed-obsessed snail with an unusual dream: to become the world's greatest racer. This odd snail... [More]
Critics Consensus: It regurgitates plot points from earlier animated efforts, and isn't quite as funny as it should be, but a top-shelf voice cast and strong visuals help make Megamind a pleasant, if unspectacular, diversion.
Synopsis: Though he is the most-brilliant supervillain the world has known, Megamind (Will Ferrell) is the least-successful. Thwarted time and again... [More]
Critics Consensus: With a tidy plot, clean animation, and humor that fits its source material snugly, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is entertainment that won't drive a wedge between family members.
Synopsis: George Beard and Harold Hutchins are two overly imaginative pranksters who spend hours in a treehouse creating comic books. When... [More]
Critics Consensus:Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts the requisite visual splendor, but like its rotund protagonist, this sequel's narrative is also surprisingly nimble, adding up to animated fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he's going to... [More]
Critics Consensus: While simultaneously embracing and subverting fairy tales, the irreverent Shrek also manages to tweak Disney's nose, provide a moral message to children, and offer viewers a funny, fast-paced ride.
Synopsis: Once upon a time, in a far away swamp, there lived an ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers) whose precious solitude... [More]
Critics Consensus:Chicken Run has all the charm of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit, and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular.
Synopsis: This engaging stop-motion, claymation adventure tells the story of an American rooster who falls in love with a gorgeous hen... [More]
(Photo by Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
All Will Smith Movies Ranked
It’s now 20 years into the Willennium, and how has our reigning Fresh Prince fared since the 1990s? On the Oscars front, Will Smith notched two Best Actor nominations for 2001’s Ali, and then for The Pursuit of Happyness in 2006. He’s adapted two genre literary classics into blockbusters (I Am Legend and I, Robot), and he was there during the 2008’s summer of superheroes with Hancock, which released one month after Iron Man and one before The Dark Knight and Hellboy II.
Of course, that’s not to say Smith was slacking in the ’90s (though if he was, certainly no one would have noticed), which saw a diversified pop culture portfolio that includes a beloved TV show at the beginning of the decade, and a slew of hip-hop crossover hits at the end. Sandwiched in between were films like Independence Day, which at the time felt like the biggest movie event ever, and Men in Black, which got its first Smith-less sequel in 2019.
But on the subject of sequels that didn’t disappoint, and even surprised: Bad Boys For Life, which reunited Smith with Martin Lawrence for some Certified Fresh throwback buddy action. Next, you can see him in the inspirational family drama King Richard. Now, we’re ranking the best Will Smith movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus:Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren't enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.
Synopsis: Figuring they're all expendable, a U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret... [More]
Critics Consensus:Bad Boys stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have enjoyable chemistry; unfortunately, director Michael Bay too often drowns it out with set pieces and explosions in place of an actual story.
Synopsis: Miami-Dade detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) blow a fuse when $100 million worth of heroin... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite the talent involved in The Legend of Bagger Vance, performances are hindered by an inadequate screenplay full of flat characters and bad dialogue. Also, not much happens, and some critics are offended by how the film glosses over issues of racism.
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, Georgia socialite Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) announces a publicity-garnering high-stakes match at her struggling family golf... [More]
Critics Consensus:Concussion lands a solid, well-acted hit on its impressively timely subject matter, even if its traditional sports drama structure is a little too safe to deserve a full-on dance in the end zone.
Synopsis: While conducting an autopsy on former NFL football player Mike Webster (David Morse), forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith)... [More]
Robert De Niro began his seven-decade career in movies with a starring role in the Vietnam War-era comedy/drama Greetings. The 1968 film would be his opening joint effort with Brian De Palma (they followed up with The Wedding Party, dark satire Hi, Mom!, and gangland epic The Untouchables), and would be the first of many fruitful actor/director partnerships that would come to define De Niro’s image.
Martin Scorsese is the most obvious director he’s worked with in this way: Their legendary collaborative run began with 1973’s Mean Streets, continuing into Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino, and The Irishman. De Niro’s performances in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull especially changed the acting game, executing a method-style of performance wherein the actor not only mentally inhabits their character, but transforms their physical shape entirely. De Niro won the Best Actor Oscar for becoming boxer Jake ‘The Raging Bull’ LaMotta in 1981, topping his Best Supporting Actor win in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II as young Vito Corleone, and nominations in ’77 and ’79 for Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter, respectively.
Just as he did in the ’70s, De Niro appeared in some of the best movies of the decades that subsequently followed. In the ’80s, he worked with Terry Gilliam for Brazil and Sergio Leone for Once Upon a Time in America, and delivered enduring action-comedy Midnight Run. Inside the ’90s, aside from the aforementioned Scorsese collaborations, De Niro starred in Michael Mann’s Heat and Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Wag the Dog might belong on someone’s best-of-’90s list if you asked around a bit, but Barry Levinson is another director De Niro has frequently worked with; outside of Dog, they also put together What Just Happened?, Sleepers, and The Wizard of Lies.
Towards the end of the ’90s, De Niro began to satirize his on-screen tough-guy persona, returning to the comedy mode of his early career with films like 1999’s Analyze This, 2000’s Meet the Parents, and 2007’s Stardust. He would be nominated again for an Oscar for his role in 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, kicking off another director partnership with David O. Russell. They would continue with the decidedly Scorsese-like American Hustle, Joy, and an upcoming historical drama. Another recent Scorsese-esque movie, Joker, echoed the bleak media dystopia presented in The King of Comedy and grossed $1 billion worldwide. But why settle: After starring in and being nominated for Best Picture as a producer on The Irishman, he’s back with Scorsese for the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon.
Now, we’re ranking all Robert De Niro movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Robert De Niro and especially Dakota Fanning have earned some praise for their work in Hide and Seek, but critics have called the rest of the film derivative, illogical and somewhat silly.
Synopsis: Following the suicide of his wife (Amy Irving), psychologist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) decides to take his daughter, Emily... [More]
Critics Consensus: Tony Scott's visceral flash proves to be an ill fit for The Fan, a queasy tale of obsession that succeeds at making audiences uncomfortable, but strikes out when it comes to delivering the thrills.
Synopsis: A troubled salesman who peddles knives, Gil Renard (Robert De Niro) has a volatile personality, which has resulted in divorce... [More]
Critics Consensus: Stone boasts a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, and Milla Jovovich, and it features strong dialogue, but it's ultimately undone by its heavy-handed symbolism and overabundant plot twists.
Synopsis: Parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro) is just days from retirement and busy wrapping up the last few cases,... [More]
Critics Consensus:Joy is anchored by a strong performance from Jennifer Lawrence, although director David O. Russell's uncertain approach to its fascinating fact-based tale only sporadically sparks bursts of the titular emotion.
Synopsis: A story of a family across four generations, centered on the girl who becomes the woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who founds... [More]
Critics Consensus: Martin Scorsese's technical virtuosity and Liza Minelli's magnetic presence are on full display in New York, New York, although this ambitious musical's blend of swooning style and hard-bitten realism makes for a queasy mixture.
Synopsis: Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro), an aspiring saxophone player, meets established USO band singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) during V-J... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Mission is a well-meaning epic given delicate heft by its sumptuous visuals and a standout score by Ennio Morricone, but its staid presentation never stirs an emotional investment in its characters.
Synopsis: Jesuit priest Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) enters the Guarani lands in South America with the purpose of converting the natives... [More]
Critics Consensus:Cop Land matches its star-studded cast with richly imagined characters while throttling the audience with carefully ratcheted suspense, although it lacks the moral complexity of classic crime thrillers.
Synopsis: When hotheaded Superboy (Michael Rapaport) accidentally gets involved in an ugly racially-motivated incident, his uncle Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel), a... [More]
Critics Consensus: A harrowing, moving drama about a young boy, his single mother, and his abusive stepfather, This Boy's Life benefits from its terrific cast, and features a breakout performance from a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
Synopsis: In the 1950s, Toby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his mom, Caroline (Ellen Barkin), move to the state of Washington. There they... [More]
Critics Consensus: A faithful interpretation that captures the spirit of whimsy, action, and off-kilter humor of Neil Gaiman, Stardust juggles multiple genres and tones to create a fantastical experience.
Synopsis: To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm... [More]
Critics Consensus: Impressive ambition and bravura performances from an outstanding cast help Casino pay off in spite of a familiar narrative that may strike some viewers as a safe bet for director Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: In early-1970s Las Vegas, low-level mobster Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) gets tapped by his bosses to head the... [More]
Critics Consensus: Slick on the surface but loaded with artful touches, Brian DePalma's classical gangster thriller is a sharp look at period Chicago crime, featuring excellent performances from a top-notch cast.
Synopsis: After building an empire with bootleg alcohol, legendary crime boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro) rules Chicago with an iron... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite sometimes sitcom-like execution, Meet the Parents is a hilarious look at familial relationships that works mostly because the chemistry between its two leads is so effective.
Synopsis: Everything that can possibly go wrong for groom-to-be Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) does. The problems begin with Greg's disastrous first... [More]
Critics Consensus: Sergio Leone's epic crime drama is visually stunning, stylistically bold, and emotionally haunting, and filled with great performances from the likes of Robert De Niro and James Woods.
Synopsis: In 1968, the elderly David "Noodles" Aaronson (Robert De Niro) returns to New York, where he had a career in... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though Al Pacino and Robert De Niro share but a handful of screen minutes together, Heat is an engrossing crime drama that draws compelling performances from its stars -- and confirms Michael Mann's mastery of the genre.
Synopsis: Master criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is trying to control the rogue actions of one of his men, while... [More]
Critics Consensus: Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film's weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino's sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.
Synopsis: In 1968, Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage), lifelong friends from a working-class Pennsylvania steel... [More]
Critics Consensus:Mean Streets is a powerful tale of urban sin and guilt that marks Scorsese's arrival as an important cinematic voice and features electrifying performances from Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro.
Synopsis: A slice of street life in Little Italy among lower echelon Mafiosos, unbalanced punks, and petty criminals. A small-time hood... [More]
Critics Consensus: Drawing on strong performances by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola's continuation of Mario Puzo's Mafia saga set new standards for sequels that have yet to be matched or broken.
Synopsis: The compelling sequel to "The Godfather," contrasting the life of Corleone father and son. Traces the problems of Michael Corleone... [More]
Best Shark Movies (And Worst) Ranked by Tomatometer
You’re gonna need a bigger screen. But that’s only if you want to take in the full awesome glory of earth’s bitiest avenger: the shark! It’s the only apex predator we humans have cleared time from our busy schedule to pay humble tribute to (we’ve certainly never heard of Sperm Whale Week), Rotten Tomatoes likewise took the time to put together our list of the best shark movies (and the worst) ever — all ranked by Tomatometer.
Our love/hate cinematic relationship with sharks began with directing legend Samuel Fuller and his aptly titled Shark! in 1969, a movie which effectively killed his career for a decade, until 1980’s The Big Red One. Here was a lesson most people would take wisdom from (sharks, even the ones you make up, are not to be trifled with), but it takes a certain cavalier breed to make it as a director, forging ahead where others spectacularly failed.
Enter Steven Spielberg. His 1975 masterpiece Jaws, infamous in almost destroying the young auteur mentally and professionally, would become the first-ever blockbuster. It buoyed the summer season out of the doldrums and turned it into a big-budget movie destination, while instilling a real fear of deep water for a whole generation.
It’s been open season for shark movies in Hollywood ever since, and in the ensuing decades we’ve gotten camp classics (Sharknado!), modern hits (The Shallows!), the lovable (Deep Blue Sea!), and the very much not-so (Ghost Shark!). Now that we’re all chums caught up on some fishy history, continue on to see every shark movie ever that chomped up a Tomatometer!
Thumbnail image: Syfy; Dimension Films; Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
All Angelina Jolie Movies Ranked by Tomatometer
After drawing some mainstream attention for her role in the preposterous, very ’90s guilty pleasure Hackers, critical acclaim came for Angelina Jolie with 1998’s Gia. That biopic of the tragic ’70s supermodel was an HBO movie, limiting its reach, but Jolie would only have to wait one more year to cross the megastardom threshold. 1999 not only saw her first box office smash (The Bone Collector, co-starring Denzel Washington), but also her first (and only) Oscar win, as Supporting Actress in Girl, Interrupted.
After that, it was pedal to the metal for Jolie’s career. Literally, her next role was the grand-theft-auto blockbuster Gone in 60 Seconds. She would quickly go on to star as Lara Croft in two Tomb Raider movies, attempt to revive the swords-and-sandals epic with Alexander, and release the action crowd-pleaser Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Jolie had her best run with the critics at the end of the 2000s with Wanted, Kung Fu Panda, Beowulf, and A Mighty Heart all released next to each other, all Certified Fresh. In A Mighty Heart, Jolie stars as Mariane Pearl, wife of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Pakistan in 2002. The film appeared to mark a new humanitarian drive to part of her work; the specter of war hangs heavy over three movies Jolie has directed since: In the Land of Blood and Honey, Unbroken, and First They Killed My Father.
Jolie was nominated for an Oscar thanks to Changeling, and Salt was a credible action effort, but The Tourist with Johnny Depp in 2010 was a high-profile misfire. Ditto By the Sea, which she directed with then-husband Brad Pitt. But no worries! She’s been accepted with welcoming arms into the Disney family after kickstarting the Disney live-action remake trend through 2014’s Maleficent, as well as its sequel Mistress of Evil. She joins the MCU later this year with Chloé Zhao’s The Eternals, but before that releases, we’re celebrating her birthday by looking back on all Angelina Jolie movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Even though Oscar-bearers Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, and Robert Duval came aboard for this project, the quality of Gone in 60 Seconds is disappointingly low. The plot line is nonsensical, and even the promised car-chase scenes are boring.
Synopsis: Randall "Memphis" Raines long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after an ominous visit from an old friend, he... [More]
Critics Consensus: Although this action-romance suffers from weak writing and one too many explosions, the chemistry generated by onscreen couple Pitt and Jolie is palpable enough to make this a thoroughly enjoyable summer action flick.
Synopsis: John (Brad Pitt) and Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie), a couple in a stagnating marriage, live a deceptively mundane existence. However,... [More]
Critics Consensus:Wanted is stylish, energetic popcorn fare with witty performances from Angelina Jolie (playing an expert assassin), James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman that help to distract from its absurdly over-the-top plot.
Synopsis: Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is an office worker whose life is going nowhere. After his estranged father is murdered, he... [More]
Critics Consensus:Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts the requisite visual splendor, but like its rotund protagonist, this sequel's narrative is also surprisingly nimble, adding up to animated fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he's going to... [More]
Ever since 1998 and into this Friday’s release of Kung Fu Panda 3, DreamWorks Animation has emerged as one of the dominant forces in animated storytelling worldwide, whose blend of state-of-the-art tech and raucous contemporary humor has carved their own identity in our current cartoon renaissance. Kung Fu Panda 3 inspires this week’s 24 Frames gallery, in which we explore the nearly two-decade history of DreamWorks Animation.
A wave of new product hits the marketplace at a time when exciting films are desperately needed to end the current box office funk. The science fiction thriller I Am Legend leads the way but will be joined by the family comedy Alvin and the Chipmunks and the romantic comedy The Perfect Holiday. For only the second time all year, just two films managed grosses of more than $5M last weekend. Hollywood critically needs this weekend to turn things around if it wants to end the year on a happy note.
Gunning for his seventh consecutive number one opening, Will Smith headlines the sci-fi thriller I Am Legend, the latest Hollywood film based on the classic 1954 novel of the same name. The PG-13 entry finds the superstar playing the last man alive on Earth after a virus wipes out the entire human population in the not-so-distant future. Legend could prove to be Smith’s greatest box office challenge to date since there are no famous co-stars, no big director, and the novel it is based on is not exactly a hot item in today’s era. This film is Will’s to make or break.
But for millions of movie fans, the former Fresh Prince plus action equals a definite trip to the local multiplex. The actor is right at the top of the current A list and is arguably the most bankable star alive consistently drawing in audiences that cut across all race, gender, and age barriers. Will Smith can bring out paying audiences for sci-fi (I, Robot), comedy (Hitch), drama (The Pursuit of Happyness), action (Bad Boys II), and animation (Shark Tale). With Legend he now flirts with the boundaries of horror as battling killer zombies that attack at night is a far cry from being a date doctor.
Warner Bros. has good timing for I Am Legend. The marketplace has been about as dead as the world depicted in the film and audiences are hungry for an event film to get them back into the habit of moviegoing. Competition will not be much of a factor and business will be coming in from many directions with teens and young adults leading the way and fans of sci-fi and action delivering a big bang too. The studio’s massive marketing push will do the trick and adding more bite will be the simultaneous Imax release where higher ticket prices ($16 in New York City) will give the grosses a boost. Plus the strategic move of playing the new prologue for next summer’s much-anticipated Batman flick The Dark Knight with the Imax release of I Am Legend just fuels more excitement and guarantees more asses in the seats.
Will Smith is looking to score one of the biggest December openings ever for a non-Peter Jackson flick. A big drop next weekend is likely, but for now consumers are keeping all eyes on I Am Legend which attacks 3,606 theaters on Friday. An opening weekend gross of about $50M could result.
Will Smith and friend in I Am Legend
Some younger moviegoers may not be in the mood for flesh-eating mutants. Luckily, Fox had the bright idea of getting jiggy with its new kidpic Alvin and the Chipmunks which will give parents and smaller children some harmless fun for the holidays. The PG-rated film is the latest big-screen treatment of a popular kids property from yesterday that gets a makeover for today’s sensibilities. When done right, ticket sales pour in from multiple generations. But when done wrong, you get disasters like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Competition should not be too bad since Enchanted which is going into its fourth session is the only family film generating any decent dough right now. Instead, holiday shopping may be the real threat as many parents will wait until a little later before heading to the cinemas for this one. The property is not popular enough to create any true sense of urgency. But this is common in mid December. Last year, Charlotte’s Web got off to a slow start with a $11.5M bow but went on to make seven times that amount with a final tally of $82.6M. Fox’s marketing push has been aggressively targeting young kids and the studio knows that little success lies with teens and young adults. Going very wide with 3,476 playdates on Friday, Alvin and the Chipmunks could gross about $15M this weekend but hold on well over the holidays.
Alvin, Simon and Theodore
Christmas fun hits the multiplexes in another package with The Perfect Holiday from Yari Film Group. Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union star as single folks whose love lives cross while Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard play naughty and nice spirits along for the ride. The PG-rated film will play primarily to an African American audience which will make it a tricky sell at this moment in time. Though a very different film, Legend will steal away many in the target demographic and others who just saw This Christmas may not be looking for another story from the same category so soon. Poor reviews will also cause some box office headaches. Opening Wednesday in 1,306 locations, The Perfect Holiday could bow to about $7M over three days and $9M over five days.
The Perfect Holiday
Adding to the end-of-year frenzy that arthouse films find themselves in during awards season, Paramount Vantage’s The Kite Runner opens in 35 theaters in selected cities on Friday hoping to appeal to fans of the best-selling novel. The R-rated film in English and Dari tells of two young boys in Afghanistan whose lives take two very different paths after a violent incident right before the Soviet invasion of the country. Kite Runner has been included on some recent ten-best lists and scored two Golden Globe nominations. Reviews have been generally positive.
The Kite Runner
Following its not-so-explosive debut, The Golden Compass will have tough work cut out for it during the sophomore frame. The New Line adventure will see the sci-fi audience abandon ship and line up for Will Smith while parents looking for some fun for their kids will have some talking chipmunks to consider. A 50% drop could be in order for Compass which would give it about $13M for the weekend and a ten-day tally of $45M.
Disney’s Enchanted, which earned a pair of Golden Globe nominations, is slowly but surely making its way towards the $100M mark. Another moderate 35% decline would give the fairy tale pic around $7M which would push the sum up to $93M. Sony’s This Christmas will face direct competition from The Perfect Holiday so a 40% dip may result giving the pic $3M and $47M to date.
LAST YEAR: The man in black beat out some tough competition to conquer the box office. Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness led a wave of new releases with its top spot debut grossing $26.5M for Sony. The feel-good smash played well over the holiday season surging to $162.6M domestically and $294M worldwide – an impressive sum for a Smith vehicle not driven by guns or special effects. Fox’s fantasy actioner Eragon bowed close behind in second with $23.2M on its way to $75M from North America representing only 30% of the global take. Overseas the numbers were much stronger with $175M in ticket sales for a powerful $250M tally worldwide. Third place also featured a new release. Paramount’s family film Charlotte’s Web debuted to the tune of $11.5M but reached a solid $82.6M by the end of the run. Rounding out the top five were the penguin toon Happy Feet with $8.4M and the romantic comedy The Holiday with $8M.
Following a sluggish fall season, November kicks off with a bang this weekend with two high profile films both reaching for the number one spot while appealing to vastly different audiences. Paramount and DreamWorks target kids with the animated comedy Bee Movie from Jerry Seinfeld while Universal goes after adult audiences with its crime drama American Gangster which pits Denzel Washington against Russell Crowe. With little overlap in business, the overall North American box office should surge and finally beat out year-ago levels leading to a solid kickoff for the holiday movie season.
A decade after conquering the television world, Jerry Seinfeld aims to take over the land of film with Bee Movie. The PG-rated toon tells the story of a bee that must try to save his world from those nasty humans that take their honey. Also lending vocal talents are Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Oprah Winfrey, and Chris Rock who snagged the coveted ‘and’ credit for what amounts to about 60 seconds of dialogue. Timing for the Paramount/DreamWorks release is as good as it gets. Not only is early November a hot time for kids movies to score at the box office but the marketplace has suffered a virtual drought when it comes to family-friendly entertainment this fall with The Game Plan being the only major contender. Parents are dying to take their kids to something else, anything else.
Bee Movie falls into the lucrative category of digitally animated comedies about talking creatures featuring the voice of a popular comedian. Last November’s Happy Feet with Robin Williams opened to $41.5M, the previous year’s Chicken Little bowed to $40M, and 2004’s Shark Tale debuted with $47.6M. Bee has the slick animation and funny situations that kids like but also features humor that adults will enjoy too so it will play to a broad audience. And the millions of Seinfeld fans that have had nothing but DVD box sets every Thanksgiving will finally have some new material they can check out from their favorite comic. Critics have not been very kind but that should not affect the grosses that much. The studio’s marketing blitz will be enough to make children demand a trip to the local megaplex. With a highly commercial product, no competition for the family audience, and an ultrawide launch in over 3,500 theaters, Bee Movie could win the box office battle this weekend and gross about $42M.
Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie
Boasting a much higher bodycount this weekend is Ridley Scott‘s American Gangster starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe which will shoot up some solid numbers from adult audiences. The R-rated drama tells the true story of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas who built up a mammoth empire selling heroin. Crowe plays the detective out to shut him down. Starpower from the three names, all of whom have won or been nominated for Oscars multiple times, will be the driving force at the turnstiles. Universal’s $90M+ production also has garnered strong reviews which will help the cause and has been backed by an effective marketing push. The running time of nearly two hours and forty minutes will cut back on the amount of times each auditorium can play the film. Even multiplexes that double-screen the picture will probably run out of seats on Friday and Saturday nights.
Gangster should play out like a Denzel movie more than anything else since his box office track record is the strongest and has more consistency than those of Scott and Crowe. Having scored ten career number one openings to date, Washington has seen his top bow come from last year’s Inside Man which debuted to $29M and a $10,275 average. Last fall’s organized crime hit The Departed opened to $26.9M and a $8,912 average and makes for a good comparison given its genre, starpower, acclaim, rating, and length. Gangster will attract a larger African American audience than Scorsese‘s award winner did so an opening north of $30M seems likely. Appeal to men and women will be equally strong. Many adult dramas have struggled at the box office this fall but American Gangster has the firepower to go out there and pull in paying audiences. Plus the weekend’s other major offerings will not eat into its customer base by too much. Heading into 3,054 theaters, American Gangster might debut with around $34M this weekend.
Washington and Crowe in American Gangster
After starring in the year’s second highest grossing horror film 1408, John Cusack hits the big screen again in the family drama Martian Child. The PG-rated film finds the actor playing a writer whose adopted son claims to be from Mars. Parents looking for a movie that they can see with their kids this weekend will be lining up for Jerry and his insect pals so Child will face an uphill battle. New Line hopes that there will be room in the marketplace for a live-action pic for kids but even The Game Plan in its sixth session will be a force to be reckoned with. Invading over 2,000 theaters, Martian Child might take in roughly $6M.
John Cusack in The Martian Child
Following its strong top spot launch, the horror flick Saw IV is sure to fall hard on the second weekend. Sophomore drops amounted to 47% for Saw II and 56% for Saw III and the decline should get even larger for the fourth installment. A 60% plunge would give Lionsgate about $13M for the frame and a ten-day cume of $51M.
Look for a better hold from Steve Carell‘s dramedy Dan in Real Life. The Buena Vista title enjoyed a solid average and has generated good word-of-mouth. The weekend’s new releases may not provide too much competition so a decline of 35% could result. That would put Dan at around $7.5M for a total of $22M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: Crashing into multiplexes on a tidal wave of buzz was the raunchy comedy Borat which only debuted in 837 theaters but scored a potent top spot bow of $26.5M for a sizzling average of $31,607. The Fox blockbuster was the only film in 2006 to hit number one while playing in less than 2,000 venues. Final grosses reached $128.5M domestically and over $260M worldwide. Two new kidpics split the family audience and followed in second and third. Disney’s Tim Allen sequel The Santa Clause 3 bowed to $19.5M on its way to $84.5M while Paramount’s animated comedy Flushed Away debuted close behind with $18.8M before finishing with $64.5M. Falling to fourth was Saw III with $14.8M for Lionsgate while the Warner Bros. crime thriller The Departed rounded out the top five with $7.7M.
Seems that, according to MSNBC, Mr. Smith is in a class completely by himself. (They say his movies make more than Adam Sandler‘s and Will Ferrell‘s combined … and that’s pretty damn amazing.) Crossing demographics is what Will Smith seems to do best: "He’s the black Jimmy Stewart," says an industry insider. "He invites the white community in, yet he’s credible with the black community."
Unlike many of his high-profile and mega-bankable colleagues, Smith crosses genres as easily as he demolishes the box office. Comedies, action flicks, sci-fi adventures, dramatic films… The guy gets his finger in a lot of different pies. And he’s consistent, too. (He hasn’t had a real bomb since "Wild Wild West" — and even that flick managed to gross over $220 million worldwide.
For the record, here are the worldwide numbers for Will Smith’s last several movies:
The holiday season is nearly upon us, which means another poorly-reviewed seasonal comedy is hitting theaters. In "Deck the Halls," Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito star as next-door neighbors competing to hang the shiniest star upon the highest bough — or at least out-decorate each other. Practical jokes and one-upmanship ensue. The critics have made a list of the film’s problems and checked it twice, and they say it’s too juvenile to pull off the combination of slapstick and family togetherness it’s attempting. At 13 percent on the Tomatometer, "Deck the Halls" has coal in its stocking.
"Ok, the first one to cause rolling blackouts wins."
Denzel Washington rejoins director Tony Scott in "Déjà Vu" as an ATF agent who goes back in time to stop the murder of a woman he subsequently falls in love with. And while the movie’s high-concept angle is riling some critics, others are falling in love with Tony Scott’s unique visual twist on time travel. So either it’s an original take on a familiar concept or it’s about as believable as Keira Knightley the bounty hunter… At 59 percent, the pundits seem to favor the latter.
"So how do you say ‘deja vu’ in Aramaic?"
Beautiful and transcendent or muddled and pretentious? Darren Aronofsky‘s "The Fountain" is dividing the critics right down the middle. This philosophical, time-jumping sci-fi tale stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as a couple in Conquistador-era Spain, the present, and in a space-age future who are obsessed with death and rebirth. "The Fountain" overflows with ideas and images, and while some critics praise the film’s striking visual flair and Aronofsky’s audacity, others say it’s ultimately too incoherent to pull off the "2001"-esque meditation it strives for. "The Fountain" currently stands at 39 percent on the Tomatometer.
Mosh pits have not evolved much in 500 years.
Jack Black and Kyle Gass set out to unleash the Greatest Movie in the World when "Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny" hits theaters this week, but the critics have had a tough time figuring out if they’ve actually done it. The facts are smudged in this would-be biopic telling the story of the formation of The D and their quest to find a magical guitar pick that’ll transform them into rock gods. When the reviews are good The D look set to rock the world, but when they’re bad the word ‘cerebral’ pops up only in reference to what this movie is not. "Pick" currently stands at 48 percent on the Tomatometer.
"Eins, zwei, drei, Hasselhoff!"
"Bobby" and "For Your Consideration" opened in limited release last week, and now both are going wide. Emilio Estevez‘s "Bobby," an Altman-esque tale of the night of Robert Kennedy’s assassination starring half the population of California, is at 51 percent on the Tomatometer, and the Hollywood-skewering "For Your Consideration," Christopher Guest‘s latest ensemble comedy, is at 52 percent. Also opening this week in limited release are "Opal Dream," a coming-of-age tale about a little girl with imaginary friends in the outback, is at 80 percent, and "The History Boys," a tale of hypercompetitive English schoolboys adapted from Alan Bennett, is at 61 percent.
"The History Boys": the UK’s least intimidating street gang.
Finally, while it may be a bit early to call dreday as consistent a hitmaker as is Dr. Dre himself, it is worth noting that he came the closest to guessing the Tomatometer for "Let’s Go to Prison" (8 percent), making it his second consecutive Guess victory in a row. Watch out for player haters, dreday.
Thanks to Joe Utichi for his help on this article.
Martin Scorsese scored the best opening of his career, and his first number one film in fifteen years, with the star-studded gangster thriller "The Departed," which led the North American box office over the Columbus Day holiday weekend.
Moviegoers also showed interest in the horror prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which debuted in second place, as well as the new comedy Employee of the Month which bowed in fourth with respectable results. The new releases helped to boost attendance at multiplexes as the top ten set a new record for the holiday frame selling just a bit less than $100M worth of tickets.
Starpower ruled the box office this weekend as the ultraviolent pic The Departed starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson opened convincingly at number one grossing an estimated $27M in its first outing. The Warner Bros. release averaged a vicious $8,954 from 3,017 theaters and set a new opening weekend record for acclaimed director Scorsese beating the $10.3M bow of his 1991 Robert De Niro thriller Cape Fear, which also happened to be the filmmaker’s last top spot opener. The 63-year-old director usually sees more narrow releases for his films. His last picture The Aviator took off in limited release before expanding nationally over Christmas weekend in 2004 with 1,796 theaters while his previous pic Gangs of New York bowed in 1,504 locations. Both were set in the past, starred DiCaprio, and released by Miramax. The Departed marked Scorsese’s first film ever to debut in more than 2,000 theaters.
A remake of 2002’s award-winning Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs, The Departed finds Nicholson as a crime boss who sends a mole (Damon) into the Boston police force. DiCaprio plays an undercover cop infiltrating the crime syndicate. Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg co-star in the R-rated feast. Critics drenched the pic with praise giving it some of the best reviews of the year. Starpower combined with strong reviews and a solid marketing push from Warner Bros. contributed to a powerful turnout from movie fans. Departed brought badly-needed good news to the distributor which is struggling through a year full of costly misfires. It ranks dead last among Hollywood’s big six studios in 2006 market share and has only generated two other number one debuts this year – V for Vendetta and Superman Returns.
Produced for a hefty $90M, The Departed does seem to have a promising road ahead of it. Not only have critics been giving it high marks, but so have ticket buyers. The gangster film has earned an encouraging A- grade from over 2,000 users on Yahoo Movies. Plus it has given DiCaprio only the third number one opener of his career and his first since Titanic set sail on its record-shattering voyage in 1997. Damon has enjoyed several top spots debuts in recent years most notably with his Bourne and Ocean’s flicks. Meanwhile, Nicholson proved once again why he remains the biggest box office draw of his generation.
Opening with strength in second place was another violent R-rated film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which bowed to an estimated $19.2M. Scaring audiences in 2,820 theaters, the New Line franchise pic averaged a strong $6,791 per venue. The opening was below the $28.1M debut of the 2003 remake of Chainsaw Massacre which went on to gross a terrific $80.1M. However, Beginning was never expected to reach the same neighborhood and with its relatively low $16M production cost, it should easily be yet another profitable horror film.
The new film benefited from a lack of scary movies in the current marketplace, but the road ahead should be tough with a pair of horror sequels set to attack the box office in the coming weeks. The Grudge 2 launches this Friday the 13th while Saw III will be unleashed on the weekend before Halloween. The new Leatherface frightfest performed just like another of New Line’s horror franchise pics from this year, Final Destination 3, which debuted to $19.2M in February on its way to a $54.1M final. The two scary movies have delivered the best openings for its distributor over the past year.
Sony’s hit toon Open Season fell from first to third place but managed to show good legs easing only 32% to an estimated $16M in its second hunt. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten, the PG-rated pic has upped its ten-day cume to a solid $44.1M and could continue to post impressive holds in the weeks ahead as there is little competition for its family audience until November. Look for Open Season to reach $80-85M from North America. Though impressive, Sony Pictures Animation’s debut venture still does not seem like it will reach the heights of other non-sequel non-summer digital toons like Ice Age ($176.4M), Shark Tale ($160.8M), Robots ($128.2M), or even 1998’s Antz ($90.7M).
The new Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month opened in fourth place with an estimated $11.8M from 2,579 theaters. Averaging a respectable $4,575 per venue, the PG-13 film stars Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, and Dax Shephard and tells of a love triangle among workers at a superstore. Reviews, not surprisingly, were mostly negative.
Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner dropped three spots with their Coast Guard actioner The Guardian which collected an estimated $9.6M in its second mission. Down 46%, the Buena Vista release has collected $32.4M in ten days and should find its way to $50-55M domestically.
The fall season’s top-grossing hit Jackass: Number Two dropped 56% in its third weekend to an estimated $6.4M pushing its stellar total to $62.7M in 17 days. Later this week, the Paramount sequel will fly past the $64.3M of its 2002 predecessor. The MGM comedy School for Scoundrels tumbled 60% to an estimated $3.4M in its sophomore frame. With $14M in ten days, the Billy Bob Thornton–Jon Heder pic should wind up with around $20M.
The Rock‘s football flick Gridiron Gang followed with an estimated $2.3M, down 50%, for a $36.6M total to date for Sony. Jet Li was close behind in ninth place with Fearless which fell 56% to an estimated $2.2M putting its sum at $21.7M for Focus. Rounding out the top ten was the durable period mystery The Illusionist which slipped only 33% and took in an estimated $1.8M. Yari Film Group has taken in a respectable $34.1M after its eighth weekend, the last six of which were spent in the top ten.
In limited release, ThinkFilm launched its unrated sex romp Shortbus in only six arthouses but grossed an estimated $121,000 for a potent $20,108 average. Playing in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver, the John Cameron Mitchell-directed film will expand to ten more markets next weekend.
New Line premiered its Kate Winslet–Jennifer Connelly pic Little Children in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles and grossed an estimated $108,400. The suburban drama averaged a sturdy $21,680 and will expand over the weeks ahead.
Among holdovers expanding in limited release, Miramax’s The Queen reigned supreme taking in an estimated $401,000 from eleven theaters for a stunning $36,455 second weekend average. The acclaimed Helen Mirren drama widened from its three-theater debut in New York and has grossed $634,000 to date with a promising road ahead.
Fox Searchlight’s Idi Amin tale The Last King of Scotland expanded from four theaters in two markets to 30 sites in 14 markets and grossed an estimated $300,000. With a solid $10,000 average this weekend, the Forest Whitaker pic will invade 20 new markets on Friday expanding its dictatorship into more of North America. Cume to date is $541,000 after 12 days.
The Michel Gondry flick The Science of Sleep held steady in 221 theaters but dropped 39% to an estimated $680,000 in its third dream. Warner Independent averaged a mild $3,077 and pushed the cume to just $2.7M.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Fox Searchlight’s word-of-mouth hit Little Miss Sunshine grossed an estimated $1.3M in its eleventh weekend, down 36%, and pushed its total to a stellar $55M. Acquired at the Sundance Film Festival in January for a hefty $10.5M, the dysfunctional family comedy has become the second biggest grosser ever for the distributor and looks to end its run close to the $60M mark. That would also make it the second highest grossing R-rated film of the summer after the $63.4M of Miami Vice which cost tons more to produce and market.
MGM’s World War I adventure Flyboys crashed 56% in its third flight and took in an estimated $1M. With only $11.8M in 17 days, the James Franco flop should finish up with under $14M. The Black Dahlia, another of this fall’s historical dramas to be rejected by moviegoers, has collected just over $22M to date. Budgeted at $60M, the Universal release should close its case with a mere $24M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $99.7M which was up 23% from last year when Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit debuted at number one with $16M; and up 5% from 2004 when Shark Tale remained in the top spot for a second time with $31.3M.
Ashton Kutcher ambushed the top two spots at the North American box office this weekend playing an animated mule and a Coast Guard rookie in Open Season and The Guardian, respectively. Both films enjoyed strong openings pumping in a combined $40M and helped the marketplace beat last year’s levels for the first time in four weeks. The weekend’s other new wide release, the comedy School for Scoundrels, saw more modest results with a fourth place bow.
Sony claimed its usual position atop the charts with the animated comedy Open Season which brought in an estimated $23M in ticket sales over the weekend. Hunting moviegoers in an ultrawide 3,833 theaters, the PG-rated film about funny forest animals fighting off hunters averaged a strong $6,001 per site. Open Season marked the first venture from the studio’s new in-house animation division which will compete in the years ahead with dominant players in CG toons like Pixar and DreamWorks. Martin Lawrence and Kutcher led the voice cast.
Sony research showed that 77% of the crowd consisted of parents with children under the age of 12, while girls were a bigger force making up 56% of the audience. A high 89% marked the film "excellent" or "very good". With strong exit polls and the Columbus Day school holiday coming up next week, the $85M film hopes to last throughout the month of October. For the studio, it was Sony’s record eleventh number one opening of the year. Of the company’s twenty film releases in the first nine months of 2006, half have debuted north of $20M.
Kutcher’s face and body showed up in the weekend’s number two film, the Coast Guard action drama The Guardian, which opened with an estimated $17.7M. Also starring Kevin Costner, the Buena Vista release averaged a solid $5,451 per theater from 3,241 sites. The starpower helped bring in moviegoers who in turn liked the film. The Guardian earned an impressive CinemaScore grade of A-. Studio research showed that 50% of the crowd was in the 26-49 age bracket while males outnumbered the ladies with 53% of the audience. For Costner, who has not been a major box office force in over a decade, it was actually his best opening since Waterworld‘s $21.2M debut in 1995. Kutcher has seen many films debut in the same ballpark like The Butterfly Effect with $17.1M, Just Married with $17.5M, and Guess Who with $20.7M.
Falling an understandable 52% from its top spot debut, Jackass: Number Two finished the weekend in third place with an estimated $14M. With $51.5M in ten days, the $12M production should deliver $70-75M for Paramount plus healthy DVD revenue down the road. The first Jackass film grossed $42.1M in its first ten days on its way to a $64.3M cume in 2002.
Earning passing grades in fourth place was the Billy Bob Thornton–Jon Heder comedy School for Scoundrels which opened to an estimated $9.1M. Playing in 3,004 theaters, the PG-13 film about a young loser who seeks advice from an older pro on how to get women averaged a mild $3,032 per site. Reviews were not too encouraging for the MGM release.
Jet Li‘s Fearless dropped a steep 56% in its second weekend and placed fifth with an estimated $4.7M. The action star’s "final" martial arts epic has grossed $17.8M in ten days and looks headed for about $26M. Each of Li’s last five films also fell by more than half on its sophomore frame.
Sony’s football drama Gridiron Gang fell 52% to an estimated $4.5M pushing its cume to $33.2M. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten for the fourth consecutive weekend was the sleeper hit The Illusionist with $2.8M, off only 15%, for a total of $31.5M for Yari Film Group. MGM’s fighter pilot adventure Flyboys tumbled 61% in its second weekend to an estimated $2.3M. With only $9.9M in ten days, a final take of around $14M seems likely.
A pair of critically-acclaimed dramas about world leaders opened to fantastic results in limited release. Miramax launched its Helen Mirren starrer The Queen on Saturday and grossed an estimated $123,000 from just three New York theaters for a potent two-day average of $41,000. The story of Queen Elizabeth II after the death of Princess Diana was double-screened at a pair of the arthouse venues and opened a day later than usual since on Friday it screened as the opening night film of the New York Film Festival. Mirren won the Best Actress prize at the Venice International Film Festival and is considered a major contender for an Oscar nod.
Also a likely Academy Award nominee, but for the Best Actor trophy, was Forest Whitaker whose new film The Last King of Scotland debuted powerfully with an estimated $143,000 over three days from only four venues in New York and Los Angeles. The Fox Searchlight release finds Whitaker playing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the early 1970s. Since its Wednesday launch, Scotland has grossed $172,000 in five days and will expand into the top ten markets on Friday before spreading nationally on October 20.
Posting a respectable debut in moderate national release was the football drama Facing the Giants which collected an estimated $1.4M from 441 theaters for a mild $3,150 average. The PG-rated pic about a coach who finds inspiration from God was released by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Warner Independent Pictures expanded its Michel Gondry pic The Science of Sleep from 14 to 221 theaters nationwide and grossed an estimated $1.2M. Averaging a solid $5,475 per location, the R-rated drama lifted its sum to $1.7M. Lionsgate widened its doc The U.S. vs. John Lennon grossing an estimated $210,000 from 57 sites for a moderate $3,684 average. Cume stands at $361,000.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s big fall flop All the King’s Men crumbled 56% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.6M giving the political drama a puny $6.3M in ten days. Rejected by audiences, the Sean Penn flick should finish its run quickly with a horrendous $9M. The studio’s supernatural teen thriller The Covenant fell 59% to an estimated $1.3M and upped its total to $22.2M. A $25M final should result for the $20M production. Fox’s baseball toon Everyone’s Hero got crushed by the arrival of Open Season and sank 79% to an estimated $1M. With a modest $13.2M thus far, the animated film could end up with only $15M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.2M which was up 15% from last year when Flightplan remained at number one with $14.8M; but down 17% from 2004 when Shark Tale opened in the top spot with a fierce $47.6M.
You might have caught the teaser trailer that’s been floating around for the past few months, but Warner Independent has finally unleashed a full-bore trailer for Richard Linklater‘s "A Scanner Darkly," which is a wonderfully strange-looking project inspired by a story by sci-fi immortal Philip K. Dick. Click here for the new trailer.
"Set in a future world where America has lost the war on drugs, an undercover cop, Fred, is one of many agents hooked on the popular drug Substance D, which causes its users to develop split personalities. Fred, for instance, is also Bob, a notorious drug dealer. Along with his superior officers, Fred sets up an elaborate scheme to catch Bob and tear down his operation."
Is Wallace and Gromit the funniest duo in animation history? The critics say their feature film debut, "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," is powerful evidence for that claim. The quirky, cheese-loving inventor and his remarkably sentient and competent canine companion became popular in their Oscar-winning shorts, but critics say this film is something else altogether: funny, wild, eccentric, but also touching. At 95 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Curse" is a blessing. Or, more to the point, it’s the best-reviewed wide release of the year so far. Director Nick Park is batting a thousand; his first feature, "Chicken Run," was another runaway critical success, scoring 97 percent on the Tomatometer.
Sometimes you look at siblings and wonder how they could possibly be related. "In Her Shoes" tells the story of two sisters who are polar opposites except for their shoe size; it also describes Curtis Hanson‘s involvement in the film, as his last was "8 Mile." But the critics say it’s a good fit. The performances by Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and (especially) Shirley MacLaine help elevate what could seem clichéd into a warm and involving drama. At 69 percent on the Tomatometer, "In Her Shoes" is a good fit.
Gross-out comedy is tricky business. If you cross the line, a movie can just end up being disgusting. The critics say that’s just one of the problems with "Waiting…," a film that covers similar ground as "Office Space" and "Clerks," but with a greater focus on gags than people. Ryan Reynolds stars as a deeply jaded chain restaurant employee dedicated to high jinks, not customer service. Many of the pranks can’t be described in family newspapers, and the scribes say that’s the problem, they’re too over-the-top to be funny. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, critics say you’ll be "Waiting" for laughs.
Al Pacino stars as the head of a sports betting agency, with Matthew McConaughey as a once-promising quarterback with an almost preternatural ability to pick winners in "Two for the Money." While the scribes say Pacino is his usual high-strung, compelling self, the rest of the movie is something of a fumble. Like a prima donna wide receiver who never makes the big play, this one’s a bit more flash than substance. At 15 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics say "Two for the Money" is a losing bet. But Pacino should be fine; his combined Tomatometer is at 71 percent.
This week at the movies brings four studies in aviation. What happens when you’re trapped on a plane with a creepy seatmate? (See "Red Eye.") Is it ever too late for Cupid’s arrows to take flight? (Check out "The 40 Year-Old Virgin.") Were the unsung heroes of the Allies in WWII… pigeons? ("Valiant," this one’s for you.) Isn’t it cool when those Supercross dudes, like, totally go up in the air, and like, for a few seconds, y’know, it looks like they’re, like, flying? (Ahem…."Supercross: The Movie.") And most important of all: which of these flicks will fly with the critics?
Alfred Hitchcock once famously declared, "I like to play the audience like a piano." Wes Craven is no Hitchcock (who is?), but in his finest moments, his work embodies the spirit of that sentiment. And critics say "Red Eye" is one of Craven’s finest moments. Much like many of Hitch’s films, the plot strains credibility, but who cares; brisk, paranoid, and tense, this is excellent popcorn fare, with stars in the making Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy getting their share of props. "Red Eye" soars, scoring 84 percent on the Tomatometer. And it’s Craven’s best reviewed film since "Scream" (87 percent) in 1996.
Speaking of overdue props, Steve Carell has been stealing scenes from movies for a while (and he was in those weirdly funny FedEx commercials — am I the only one who remembers that?). So now that he’s getting his shot in the spotlight, he’s unsurprisingly making the most of it. Critics are showing a lot of love for "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," a film that continues the recent trend of mixing tasteless humor with aching sincerity. At 85 percent, "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" may be worth a date. And it’s getting better reviews than even the surprise comedy megahit of the summer, "Wedding Crashers" (currently at 74 percent).
So CGI is the wave of the future? Maybe. But technology can only go so far; a movie still has to tell a compelling story. Critics say even the technology isn’t that good in "Valiant," a tale of carrier pigeons’ heroism in WWII. And though it features voice work from some of our favorites from across the pond (Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, John Cleese, Hugh Laurie), the writers say it’s plucky but impersonal, and too odd in its plot to make much sense to younger viewers, the assumed target demographic. At 24 percent on the Tomatometer, this bird’s having trouble achieving takeoff. And it’s the worst-reviewed CGI film ever, sinking lower than last year’s "Shark Tale" (35 percent).
Since there is apparently little appeal in "Segway: The Movie" or, perhaps "Jet-Ski: The Movie," X-treme fans will have to make do with "Supercross: The Movie." But according to critics, there couldn’t be much less appeal to this teen romance in between totally radical and tubular stunts. The reason old-school exclamations make sense in this context is that the plot of this movie is pretty dated; heck, "Don’t Worry Baby," the classic Beach Boys song about romance and drag racing, pretty much told the same story in three minutes. But "Supercross" does soar above the competition in one respect: at three percent on the Tomatometer, it’s among the worst reviewed movies of the year.