(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough, © Warner Bros. Studios, © Walt Disney Pictures, © A24)

It’s a huge summer for movies. And, yes, that could be said of every summer, but there’s something about 2018. Don’t believe us? Check out the box office receipts. Or check out our summer movie calendar: It’s stuffed full of superheroes and dinosaurs and super spies and master thieves and even the occasional person falling head over heels in love. And it’s stuffed full of big stars — and stars who are about to make it big. This year, we decided to look at the slate of summer movies coming our way and, based on what we’ve already seen (yes, they still let RT into the occasional preview!), and what we’re reading in the movie-season tealeaves (including early Tomatometer scores and reviews), predict which actors are going to own the summer. Some are the headliners of some of the year’s biggest films — while others are headlining a bunch of the year’s biggest films (we’re looking at you, Josh Brolin). Still others are delivering performances in genre flicks that are already drawing awards buzz, and others are about to parlay TV success into a big-screen breakthrough (Constance Wu, step right up). We think you’ll be talking about all of them by the time the season’s over.


Josh Brolin

(Photo by © 20th Century Fox)

Winter, spring, Brolin, or fall, all you got to do is call. Thought the season was called “summer”? Maybe once upon a time it was. But we’ve decided to totally rebrand the sweaty months of this year after Josh Brolin, who has starring roles in some of the season’s biggest films. He’s racked up Certified Fresh scores playing Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Cable in Deadpool 2, and returns in June for Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Think you’re safe at home? Think again. This summer, you can also see him in Netflix’s The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter, the latest comedy from Danny McBride and Jody Hill. Brolin will be back next summer as the rubber-chinned Mad Titan — you know, if you’re craving more of that ashtray-filling bastard. That’s a bunch of tough fellas, so if you’re looking for a softer side to Brolin, you will have to wait for George and Tammy, in pre-production, where he plays George Jones to Jessica Chastain’s Tammy Wynette.


Sandra Bullock

(Photo by Barry Wetcher / © Warner Bros.)

It’s been a while. Sandra Bullock’s last live-action movie, 2015’s Our Brand Is Crisis, might have been a let-down — just 34% on the Tomatometer — but that has not dampened our excitement to have her back on the big screen in Ocean’s 8, the all-female newest installment in the Ocean’s heist series. Bullock chooses her roles sparingly, but when she does show up on screen, it’s usually always an event (hello, Gravity). The Oscar winner leads the Ocean’s 8 ensemble cast, which includes Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, and more, but it’s Bullock who we think the crowds are going to go wild for. Bonus: She may just rule the winter, too. Bullock stars with Rosa Salazar and Sarah Paulson this December in the sci-fi thriller, Bird Box.


Donald Glover

(Photo by Jonathan Olley /© Lucasfilm/ © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian dominated social chatter around Solo: A Star Wars Story long before the film’s release. Glover-loving Twitter folks have been asking, “Why wasn’t it Lando who got an origin story?” ever since Disney dropped its first Solo trailer earlier in the year and the world got its first eyeful of that coat. Rotten Tomatoes has seen the upcoming movie, which is currently sitting at 71% on the Tomatometer, and can confirm: Glover is as good as you imagined he’d be as the slick Lando Calrissian. And, yes, the coat is on point. As are the cloaks. Glover is also the Emmy-winning creator and star of Atlanta, which was No. 2 on our Winter TV Scorecard with a 99% Tomatometer score, and which many of us will be rewatching when it’s too damn hot outside. And this month he broke the internet — the kids are still saying that, right? — with his music video for “This Is America.” Next year he will literally rule the summer, starring as Simba in Jon Favreau’s live-action The Lion King, scheduled for July.


Toni Collette

(Photo by James Atoa/Everett Collection)

You know how some actresses just keep plugging away doing such excellent work you kind of take them for granted? Australian actress Toni Collette is that actress. Since breaking out in Aussie classic Muriel’s Wedding — which we just named one of the most essential movies of the ’90s — Collette has been slaying it in movies like Little Miss SunshineIn Her Shoes, and About A Boy and on TV shows like United States of Tara, for which she won an Emmy. She’s also been building a résumé as quite the scream queen, having starred in The Sixth SenseFright NightKrampus, and now, in this June’s Hereditary, the fiendishly scary new family-in-peril flick being released by A24. The movie is sitting at 100% on the Tomatometer with 29 reviews, and critics are singling out Collette for a “staggering performance.” Could this be the second year in a row that an acting Oscar nominee came from a horror movie?


Benedict Cumberbatch

(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)

Few people agree on who stole the show in Avengers: Infinity War, but few would argue with the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange totally held his own with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in the humans-lost-in-space plotline. He had charisma, wit, and felt even more relaxed in the role than he did in 2016’s Doctor Strange. And he probably holds the key to restoring the… OK, we won’t go there with the spoilers. On the small-screen, the British actor landed a one-two punch with April PBS film The Child in Time (80% with 15 reviews) and his now–Certified Fresh miniseries Patrick Melrose on Showtime, a passion project based on the novels of Edward St. Aubyn, about the damaged son of an extremely privileged British family. The prolific actor returns later in the year as the voice of Shere Khan in the Andy Serkis–directed Mowgli, and as the title character of Illumination’s animated take on a Christmas classic, The Grinch. And there’s always hope for a new season of Sherlock, starring Cumberbatch in the role our readers love the most.


Mister Rogers

(Photo by © Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection)

Yes, Fred Rogers: Summer blockbuster season’s biggest star. The documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which takes an intimate look at the beloved children’s entertainer, may not make that MCU-level cash, but it’s already connecting big-time. Critics have so far given the film a 96% on the Tomatometer, and the internet exploded on the day the first trailer dropped, with fans across the country drying their eyes as they shared stories of how much they loved Rogers. The Rogers love-fest will continue next year, when Tom Hanks plays Rogers in the film, You Are My Friend. We’re investing in red cardigans, stat.


Constance Wu

(Photo by Sanja Bucko / © Warner Bros.)

For four years, Constance Wu has been quietly stealing Wednesday nights on ABC as the hilarious matriarch of the Huang family, Jessica, on Fresh Off the Boat — just renewed for season 5. This summer, she headlines one of the most anticipated romantic comedies of the last few years, starring as one half of the couple at the center of Crazy Rich Asians, based on the hugely popular novel by Kevin Kwan. In the film, Wu’s Rachel Chu travels to Singapore for a wedding and to meet her boyfriend’s parents, and hilarity — and fireworks-punctuated romance — ensues. No word yet on whether the film does the novel justice, but we’re excited to see Wu in her first big-screen leading role and equally excited that we get to see her take this big step in the first American film with an all-Asian lead cast in 25 years.


Denzel Washington

(Photo by Glen Wilson; ©2017 CTMG, Inc.)

Denzel Washington has never done a sequel. Ever. So we sat up and paid attention when it was announced he would return for Equalizer 2, from his frequent collaborator, director Antoine Fuqua. The first flick is just Fresh at 60%, but for fans of the actor, it will always be Certified Fresh in their hearts (no surprises that it has an Audience Score of 76%). The movie also made a healthy $102 million at the box office, so you can expect decent returns. Denzel in controlled and terrifying revenge mode might be our favorite Denzel. On a sidenote, Denzel’s son, John David Washington, is likely to be a breakout star this summer with a starring role in Spike Lee’s BlackKlansman, which just bowed in Cannes to raves and sits at 97% on the Tomatometer.


Tessa Thompson

(Photo by Annapurna Pictures)

Disappointed that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie did not show up in Infinity War? Dry your eyes: The actress can be seen virtually everywhere else. She’s back on HBO in Westworld and does a cameo in season 2 of Netflix series Dear White People (a nod to her leading role in the original 2014 film) — both Certified Fresh. And you can see her online in the “emotion film” accompaniment to Janelle Monáe’s latest album, Dirty Computer. And, if you wanna go there, you can see her on the excellent Twitter handle @tessaasgoats. Thompson will also be back in theaters this July in the big-screen mindf—k that is Sorry to Bother You (currently 92% on the Tomatometer), about a telemarketer who discovers a unique key to doing well at the job. Thompson plays Detroit, a whirlwind of an activist with pink hair and huge laser-cut earrings whose style we expect to be widely imitated when the film opens, and is being singled out by critics for her performance in the movie opposite Atlanta‘s LaKeith Stanfield. Later in the year she will land another 2018 K.O., returning in Creed 2.


Chris Pratt

(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)

Whether or not you agree that Star-Lord is responsible for the death of half the universe — or restoring perfect balance, depending on your POV — you have to admit it was a blast watching him doing it. Chris Pratt, as Peter Quill, was one of the highlights in Infinity War, particularly when facing off (and voicing off) with the God of Thunder. The actor is back in June as another quip-happy hero in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, seeking out his lovable raptor buddy Blue (not so lovable any more) and running away from exploding volcanoes and such. For sheer being-at-the-center-of-really-really-big-franchises, it’s hard not to give Pratt a laurel for his summer-ownership skills. And speaking of mega franchises, he will reprise his role as blocky everyman Emmet Brickowski in The Lego Movie Sequel next February.

(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, co-writers of Deadpool and Zombieland, seem to be inseparable, having met in high school in Paradise Valley, AZ and reconnected in Los Angeles. But after writing a film that brought in $783,112,979 worldwide and became the top R-rated release of all time, who can blame them? Heck, we couldn’t even separate them to ask them about their Five Favorite Films ahead of the release of their latest joint effort, Life. With that in mind, we have a two-for-one today, starting with Reese’s list and followed by Wernick’s. Would it surprise you to find not one superhero flick? See the full lists below:


Rhett Reese’s Five Favorite Films


Vertigo (1958) 94%

Number five, Vertigo. I had to go with one old movie. It’s a movie about obsession. I think it probably captures obsession better than any other movie before or since that I’ve seen. It’s got incredible rewatchability. I think — of all the movie’s I’ve ever watched — it’s the movie that gives me goosebumps most frequently from start to finish. If you could describe a movie as being funny or scary, funny is supposed to provoke laughter and scary is supposed to provoke your heart to race. That movie is just the right amount of goosebumps. It is the movie that produces goosebumps and that’s the reason I love it and I’ve watched it many, many times. It’s gorgeous, too — in San Francisco — and there are other reasons, but it’s just so wonderfully creepy and cool.

The score of Vertigo, too, is so phenomenal — Bernard Herrman. It’s very, very memorable, and it gets to the point where, even after I’ve seen the movie, I’m humming the score. Anyway, that’s my number five.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) 92%

Shakespeare in Love is my next one. It holds up so great. I’ve seen it about 15 times. All these movies are movies that I watch a bunch, and that’s my ultimate test is can I watch them over and over. Shakespeare in Love totally holds up. It is a phenomenal metaphor for Hollywood. That’s what I love about it. It’s probably the best movie about Hollywood ever made, even though it’s not about Hollywood because it’s about writing and financiers and actors, and it just rings so true. And it’s also a movie that I don’t think… I can’t speak for you [to Wernick], but I could never have written it because it very much feels of its time, and I think that’s a particular voice. Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard did it, and it’s just a particular voice that would be incredibly hard to ape, I think.

It has probably my favorite shot of all time about love, where it’s just a push in on Joseph Fiennes as he’s looking at Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a push in on both of them, and just the look on his face and her as the object of his love; it gets me every time.

Then, of course, it’s got all that Shakespeare weaved in — Romeo and Juliet, actual lines from the play. There’s a segment right in the middle of the movie where they just do Romeo and Juliet for a montage for about five minutes straight, and it’s showing all these different things, but the words are all Shakespeare, and I love it. I just love it.

Once (2006) 97%

Okay. I’m going to Once, which is a little Irish musical made by John Carney. It’s got the best music ever. So many movies look at extraordinary circumstances and it just looks at the most ordinary circumstances. There are no bad guys. There are no dramatic turns. There are no big twists. Nobody dies. Nobody gets sick. It’s just simple. It’s about two people who meet and really start to fall for each other, but it can’t work at that moment, and they pass like ships in the night. It makes me cry.

20 minutes in, it makes you cry.

The father, who you would think would be wagging his finger at his son, saying, “Don’t do this creative pursuit,” is instead really supportive. Everyone is good in it, and it’s so heartwarming, and then the final shot. The music, it is the best. “Falling Slowly” is my favorite song, essentially. [Wernick points out it was played at Reese’s wedding.]

Yeah, and then the final shot, to me, I think it’s maybe my favorite final shot in cinema, with maybe one exception which we’re going to get to in a movie or two, but in any case, the final shot is so wonderfully heartbreaking. It will stand the test of time. It is a great movie.

Yeah, it really is. I remember my friend told me, “Come see this with me. I’m not telling you what it is.”

That’s awesome, not knowing anything. That was basically me, too. I saw these great reviews. I went in the middle of the day. I came out to the parking garage and I was crying in the parking garage after having seen it. I remember calling my parents. I said, “I don’t care what you do. In the next day or so, get to see it.”

Manhattan (1979) 94%

Number two for me is Manhattan, Woody Allen. It’s so real-life. Again, not about any extraordinary things. It’s really true to life and true to psychology. It’s funny. It takes me to Manhattan, which I love New York City. Woody had to be on the list and, for me, he comes in at number two. Also one of the great endings in history. The score, George Gershwin … It’s amazing.

Field of Dreams (1989) 87%

Okay, we’ve gotten to number one for me. I know you’re not going in order. Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner — my favorite movie. I’ve watched it, again, about 15 or 20 times. The final shot, also perfect, maybe even better than Once. The helicopter up in the sky with them throwing the baseball. To me, it’s perfect. It is a perfect movie, and it also contains the single best moment of love on screen of all time — I’m getting emotional talking about it — which is when he says, “Am I crazy to build a baseball field in the backyard? Do you think I’m crazy?” And his wife says, “Yeah, but I also think that if you really, really think that you should do it, then you should do it.” It’s like if you really, really want to do it, you should do it. But then ultimately, the end is the best father-son — “Dad, do you want to have a catch?” I hardly can talk about it. Kind of the reason I became a screenwriter. I love it that much.

 


Paul Wernick’s Five Favorite Films


Blazing Saddles (1974) 88%

I’m in no particular order, but I will go Blazing Saddles, which was the first R-Rated movie that I ever saw. We had it on VHS. It was our first VHS new. Me and my brothers — my two brothers — we watched it probably a hundred times and loved it. Mel Brooks is a hero of ours, and Rhett actually ran into him at the grocery store. Like, went up to him.

He was buying his own groceries?

Yeah. Just recently, too.

Again, we could recite and did recite every line of that movie from start to finish. If you got me and my brothers in this room right now, we could probably act out the whole movie. Poorly we would act it out, but we’d know every line.

That’s a movie that — guaranteed — never gets made today. Never in a million years does someone green light that movie.

Jerry Maguire (1996) 84%

Jerry Maguire is number two for me. Again, not in any particular order. I just recently showed it to my two kids, and it was such a treat to experience it through them for the first time. I love Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is my all time favorite actor. We’re desperate to work with him. Cuba is so good, and it’s so emotional. I found myself crying in front of my children while we watched the movie again. It’s such an emotional love story. It’s a love story between Tom and Cuba, and obviously between Renee and Tom. Arizona Cardinals are our home, so again, great, great movie. It feels real. It feels like it’s a snapshot into their lives. Again, that’s why I’m so emotional watching it. Oh, I love it so much.

 

Reservoir Dogs (1992) 92%

Okay. Reservoir Dogs. Just straight structure alone is brilliant. Just so good, and violent, and character, and loved it.

About a Boy (2002) 93%

About a Boy. It’s so good and so touching and, again, heartbreaking and relatable, and awesome.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 91%

I would say Shawshank, of course. Again, a classic. The best.

It’s so perfect. It’s like, come on guys. How does this even happen? Great source material, but the movie —

Oh, it’s so good.

It rarely works that well.


Life opens on Friday, Mar. 24, 2017 in wide release.

Tradition holds that the only thing we’re supposed to watch on New Year’s Eve is an assortment of minor celebrities doing their best to entertain us before the ball drops in Times Square – but as any self-respecting film buff knows, there are any number of movies whose plots revolve in some way around the changing of the calendar year, and quite a few of them are a lot more entertaining than any New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. With that in mind, we’ve taken a cross-section sampling of New Year’s flicks from various genres, touching on some classics and a few surprises along the way. Break out the bubbly, because 2017 is almost here, and we’re celebrating Total Recall style!


200 Cigarettes (1999) 30%

200-cigarettes

At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, it isn’t one of this list’s biggest critical winners, but there’s no denying the New Year’s Eve-ness of 200 Cigarettes — the entire film takes place on December 31, 1981, and follows the multitudinous narrative arcs of a group of partygoers as they prepare to assemble at a NYE bash being thrown by a neurotic New Yorker (Martha Plimpton). Despite appearances from a gaggle of familiar faces (including Christina Ricci, Janeane Garafalo, Ben and Casey Affleck, and Courtney Love), Cigarettes failed to make much of an impression during its February theatrical run, but it did enjoy the support of critics like Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star, who called it “An underrated, entertaining lark of a Tarantinoesque film.”

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About a Boy (2002) 93%

about-a-boy

While it could be argued that this 2002 Hugh Grant dramedy hit isn’t exactly a “New Year’s movie,” it’s certainly true that the holiday represents a significant turning point for the main character, Will Freeman (Grant), whose journey from shallow layabout to feeling adult human begins when he meets the luminous Rachel (Rachel Weisz) at a New Year’s Eve party. Toss in the warm-hearted Christmas finale, and About a Boy is a film with enough holiday spirit to make the cut. As Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for the L.A. Weekly, “There’s not much more to this adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel than charm — effortless, pleasurable, featherweight charm.”

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The Apartment (1960) 93%

the-apartment

How do you follow up a masterpiece like Some Like It Hot? For Billy Wilder, the answer was simple: Reunite with Jack Lemmon for one of the most honest (and surprisingly dark) comedies of the ’60s. Lemmon leads The Apartment as C.C. Baxter, a low-level cog in the gears of a major New York City insurance company who is manipulated by his managers into letting them use his apartment for their frequent extramarital activities. Too weak-willed to challenge his superiors, Baxter trades his silence for promotions until he realizes his firm’s personnel director (Fred MacMurray) has been carrying on with the elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) for whom he’s silently been carrying a torch. This sets in motion a chain of events that culminates — on New Year’s Eve, natch — with the charmingly cynical Wilder equivalent of a happy ending. Daring for its time, The Apartment is noteworthy not only for its rock-solid script and collectively strong performances from its cast, but for the quiet truths it communicates underneath the laughs. As Roger Ebert wrote, “There is a melancholy gulf over the holidays between those who have someplace to go, and those who do not. The Apartment is so affecting partly because of that buried reason.”

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Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) 60%

assault-on-precinct-13

Jean-François Richet’s remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 thriller retains the same basic gist of the original — a straight-arrow cop (Ethan Hawke) joins forces with a crook (Laurence Fishburne) to defend his shuttered precinct against a gang of criminals — while moving the action to New Year’s Eve. Not exactly the most festive way to spend the last night of the year, but the updated Assault on Precinct 13 proved entertaining for critics like Daniel Etherington of Film4, who called it “A dark, exciting and enjoyable action-thriller for adolescent boys of all ages.”

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Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) 81%

better-luck-tomorrow

Think you’ve been to some pretty terrible New Year’s Eve parties in your day? Just be glad you weren’t invited to the bloody beatdown that transpires during the climax of Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow. A desperately grim look at the lives of overachieving suburban teens, Luck drops its protagonists into a downward spiral of drugs, crime, violence, and jealousy… and when that midnight kiss finally comes, it’s less a celebration of the new year than a doomed attempt to cling to some sense of normalcy. “It’s not a perfect work,” admitted Tom Long of the Detroit News, “but it is so filled with energy, angst, talent, authenticity and passion that it stands heads above most supposed youth-culture releases.”

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Boogie Nights (1997) 93%

boogie-nights

The next time you’re stuck at a dud of a New Year’s Eve party, sitting around eating bad pizza and waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square, just remember: It could always be worse. You could, for instance, have been a guest at the shindig thrown by Little Bill (William H. Macy), the Boogie Nights character who rings in 1980 by killing his wife and her boyfriend — and then turns the gun on himself. For the rest of the movie’s characters, this ugly incident is only the beginning of a long descent into the seamy side of the early ’80s; for Nights itself, however, it’s one of a handful of harrowing sequences in a film that established writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson as a star while delivering an unexpectedly sweet message. As Jeffrey M. Anderson of Combustible Celluloid wrote, “If it weren’t for the porn, drugs, and violence, this would be an ideal movie to take the kids to. It’s all about belonging, and sticking with your family.”

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End of Days (1999) 11%

end-of-days

The last few months of 1999 were a strange time, what with all the Y2K hysteria and general end-of-the-century hoopla the human race seems to fall prey to every hundred years. But for sheer loud, loopy weirdness, none of it held a candle to End of Days, the Peter Hyams action thriller that gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jericho Cane, the retired cop who ends up battling Satan (played, in a bit of perfect casting, by Gabriel Byrne) for control of the womb of Christine York (Robin Tunney), the woman prophesied to conceive the devil’s child on New Year’s Eve, 1999. One of two movies founded on eschatological fantasy that year (the other, Stigmata, also starred Byrne), End of Days benefited from a new Guns N’ Roses song on the soundtrack, as well as a scene in which Schwarzenegger’s character launches a grenade at Satan. Sadly, critics were unmoved; as James Sanford of the Kalamazoo Gazette described it, watching Days is “sort of like listening to that old Toto album tucked away somewhere in your music collection. You remember thinking you used to like this kind of stuff, but you can’t quite recall why.”

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The Godfather, Part II (1974) 96%

godfather-ii

One of the most critically and commercially successful sequels of all time, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II traces the bloody decline of the Corleone clan through a series of double crosses, power plays, and the inexorable corruption of power. At its crux is the infamous “kiss of death” scene that unfolds at a New Year’s Eve party hosted by doomed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista: while other partygoers are enjoying the festivities, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) confronts his treacherous brother Fredo (John Cazale) — who tried to have him assassinated at the beginning of the film — with the bone-chilling kiss and the words “I know it was you, Fredo; you broke my heart.” The shattering of the brothers’ bond represents a point of no return for Michael, and watching it unfold against the backdrop of a celebration of hope and renewal makes it even more heartwrenching — one more reason Godfather Part II is, in the words of Dan Jardine of the Apollo Guide, “The mother of all sequels.”

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The Gold Rush (1925) 100%

gold-rush

Like most holidays, New Year’s Eve is meant to be spent with friends and family — and in the movies, any character who spends the evening alone is more than likely feeling pretty melancholy. Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 classic The Gold Rush provides a particularly poignant example with its classic New Year’s Eve sequence, in which Chaplin is duped into believing the object of his affection will be stopping by his poverty-stricken cabin to celebrate, only to be stood up — and eventually fall asleep at his table, dreaming he’s the life of the party after all. Calling it “the outstanding gem of all Chaplin’s pictures,” Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times wrote, “Here is a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness.”

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Holiday Inn (1942) 100%

Holiday-Inn2

Odds are, you’ve had a little more to drink than you should on New Year’s Eve. You’ve probably danced, too — and you may have even fallen in love. But you probably haven’t done it with as much style as Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), the jilted song-and-dance man who spies Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) across a dance floor and spends the holiday providing a drunken kickoff to one of the more entertaining love triangles in cinematic history. Over the course of a year’s worth of holidays — including a pair of New Year’s celebrations — Ted tussles for Linda’s affections with his on-again, off-again partner, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby). Holiday Inn generally isn’t considered Crosby or Astaire’s best film, but its 100 percent Tomatometer rating should tell you everything you need to know about just how solid both stars’ filmographies really are. “Call it old-fashioned or old Hollywood fluff,” wrote Christopher Varney of Film Threat, “Holiday Inn is a sweet, pleasant slice of another time in pop entertainment.”

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Summer is just about over, and the arrival of this weekend’s The Light Between Oceans — a period romance starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz — offers elegant proof. In honor of this year’s exodus from our annual buttery blockbuster season, we decided to dedicate this column to a fond look back at some of the brightest critical highlights from the Oscar-winning Ms. Weisz’s estimable filmography. It’s time for Total Recall!


Definitely, Maybe (2008) 70%

A sort of How I Met Your Mother for the big screen, Definitely, Maybe stars Ryan Reynolds as an about-to-be-divorced dad whose daughter (Abigail Breslin) demands to hear how her parents met — and who responds by concocting a romantic mystery of sorts, leading her (and the audience) on a rom-com odyssey starring Reynolds alongside the kid’s potential moms: Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz. Setting aside the absurd beauty of that putative gene pool, this bubbly hit has loads of charm, and easily wooed the majority of critics despite a rather ordinary list of narrative ingredients. “Is this movie the best romantic comedy of the year? Maybe not,” admitted the Miami Herald’s Connie Ogle. “Do you walk out with a smile on your face? Definitely.”

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Runaway Jury (2003) 73%

John Grisham will never be regarded as a quote-unquote Serious Author, but his legal thrillers can make for great paperback fun — and a few of them have been turned into pretty good movies, too. For example, here’s 2003’s Runaway Jury, a boilerplate legal thriller enlivened by a crackerjack cast that included John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and (surprise!) Rachel Weisz. All that star wattage didn’t add up to a major box office hit, but between the talent on display and director Gary Fleder’s deft hand with all the assorted courtroom shenanigans, most critics were duly impressed; as Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote for Entertainment Weekly, “Although the twists are pulpy and the legal foundations feel wildly porous, Fleder, a practiced hand at TV-cop stuff and movie thrills, makes the film a faster, more agile bundle of entertainment than the book.”

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Sunshine (1999) 74%

This list should offer ample proof that Rachel Weisz is about more than sweeping, romantic period epics. But if that’s the genre that comes to mind when you think of her, there are more than a few excellent reasons why — and Sunshine, a sweeping, romantic period epic from director/co-writer István Szabó, is among them. Here, Weisz helps anchor an ensemble cast for a story following three generations of life in a Hungarian Jewish family (each of which features Ralph Fiennes in a different role), unfolding from the turn of the 20th century into the aftermath of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The movie’s three-hour length and Szabó’s fondness for melodrama annoyed a handful of critics who couldn’t get into it, but for others, the end result was well worth the investment. “This is a movie of substance and thrilling historical sweep,” wrote Roger Ebert, “and its three hours allow Szabó to show the family’s destiny forming and shifting under pressure.”

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Youth (2015) 71%

A great cast isn’t always enough to make a movie worth viewing, but it gives a director a pretty good head start — and when that cast includes Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, and Rachel Weisz, you’ve just about sealed the deal even if your film includes a handful of head-scratching interludes that include floating monks, dozens of cowbells, and a guy dressed up as Adolf Hitler. Oddball ingredients aside, writer-director Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth offers some fine actors an opportunity to play well-rounded characters grappling with getting older and contemplating the loss of opportunity and the consequences of their choices. Calling it “Quixotic, idiosyncratic, effortlessly moving,” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “It’s as much a cinematic essay as anything else, a meditation on the wonders and complications of life, an examination of what lasts, of what matters to people no matter their age.”

Watch Trailer


The Whistleblower (2010) 75%

Director/co-writer Larysa Kondracki searched for nearly a decade before securing funding for The Whistleblower, a fact-based drama about an ex-cop (Weisz) who took a job with defense contractors training police in Bosnia and Herzegovina, only to discover the company was running a sex trafficking ring — and the UN wasn’t doing anything about it. Fired after pursuing her investigation, she took her findings to the media, prompting promises of a full-scale UN inquiry… which, based on the real-life public record, may or may not have made much of a difference in the end. Not the kind of movie that necessarily makes a person feel good about the human race, in other words, but definitely the type of role that can bring out the best in a performer — and according to critics, Weisz delivered. As Bob Mondello wrote for NPR, “It’s a thriller sobering enough in its graphic portrayal of forced violence against women that it would be tough to watch if not for the controlled fury Weisz brings to her performance as a down-to-earth avenging angel.”

Watch Trailer


The Deep Blue Sea (2011) 80%

Director Terence Davies drew from distinguished source material when he decided to adapt Terence Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea — and he honored it by rounding up an outstanding cast, led by Rachel Weisz as a woman drifting through a comfortable yet passionless marriage and Tom Hiddleston as an ex-Royal Air Force pilot whose thrill-seeking streak awakens her to a life of passion. The moral of the story might seem somewhat retrograde to modern viewers, but it remains heartbreakingly well-written and performed; the end result, as Jeannette Catsoulis wrote for NPR, is “A shimmering exploration of romantic obsession and the tension between fitting in and flying free.”

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The Constant Gardener (2005) 84%

There’s no political thriller quite like a John le Carré political thriller, and The Constant Gardener presents Oscar-winning proof. Weisz took home a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work in the role of Tessa Abbott-Quayle, a woman whose marriage to a British diplomat stationed in Kenya (Ralph Fiennes) comes to a sudden and tragic end — sparking an investigation that reveals startling truths about the nature of their relationship and who she really was. “This is not a movie that will shock you or thrill you or rock your world,” wrote Tom Long for the Detroit News. “Instead, it will move you, it will stick with you, it will give you pause and affect you in ways not easily described — which is something the best films always do.”

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The Lobster (2015) 87%

We’ve all seen countless couples fall in love onscreen, and at this point, it takes a truly special movie to raise the stakes for a relationship in any memorably meaningful way. Enter Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, which imagines a weirdly dystopian world in which lonely hearts congregate at a hotel for 45 days to find a match — and if they don’t find one, they’re magically turned into the animal of their choice. Our protagonist (Colin Farrell) chooses a lobster, and for a time, it looks like he might just end up gaining a pair of claws and spending the rest of his life in the sea; fortunately, his journey takes an unexpected turn involving a near-sighted woman (Weisz) who… well, we don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say you may never look at courtship rituals the same way. “The Lobster is a droll piece of work lashed with grim humor,” wrote Stephanie Zacharek for TIME. “For every moment that makes you laugh, there may be another that leaves you with your mouth hanging open.”

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Page Eight (2011) 93%

With this BBC-produced political thriller, Weisz found herself in some pretty stellar company: in addition to her own formidable gifts, the cast included Judy Davis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Tom Hughes, and Bill Nighy — and it was written and directed by the playwright Sir David Hare, stepping behind the cameras for the first time since 1989’s Strapless. The plot revolves around an MI5 agent (Nighy) whose involvement with a Syrian-born activist (Weisz) dovetails with his efforts to undermine a Prime Minister (Fiennes) who’s been in collusion with another agent (Davis) — vintage British espionage fare, in other words, especially when you factor in a subplot involving classified information surrounding Weisz’s brother’s death. “I’d happily watch this cast read the phone book,” wrote Maureen Ryan for the Huffington Post. “But fortunately the script by David Hare (who also directed) is intelligent, engaging and generally makes good use of this singular cast’s talents.”

Watch Trailer


About a Boy (2002) 93%

What could be better than whiling away your hours in unearned leisure, cashing royalty checks for a song you didn’t even have to write, and idly pursuing a life of serial monogamy? On the evidence of About a Boy, we’d have to answer “dating Rachel Weisz,” because that’s what ultimately cures independently wealthy layabout Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) of his terminal lack of ambition — but only, of course, after he’s lured out of his complacent solitude by an unexpected friendship with a 12-year-old boy (Nicholas Hoult) and his mom (Toni Collette). “Mainstream comedies,” argued David Edelstein for Slate, “should all be this funny and tender and deftly performed.”

Watch Trailer

When it comes to big summer movies, the opinions of critics and audiences are always out of sync. Right? Not so fast. Using our weighted formula, we at Rotten Tomatoes decided to spotlight the best-reviewed wide releases from each summer since 1975 — the year Jaws kicked off the blockbuster era — and it turns out that many of the big winners with the pundits have become perennial favorites with regular moviegoers as well.


1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

#1975

Jaws (1975)
98%

#1975
Adjusted Score: 106303%
Critics Consensus: Compelling, well-crafted storytelling and a judicious sense of terror ensure Steven Spielberg's Jaws has remained a benchmark in the art of delivering modern blockbuster thrills.
Synopsis: When a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island,... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#1976
#1976
Adjusted Score: 93711%
Critics Consensus: Recreating the essence of his iconic Man With No Name in a post-Civil War Western, director Clint Eastwood delivered the first of his great revisionist works of the genre.
Synopsis: Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) watches helplessly as his wife and child are murdered, by Union men led by Capt. Terrill... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#1977
Adjusted Score: 105728%
Critics Consensus: A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same.
Synopsis: The Imperial Forces -- under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) -- hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#1978
Adjusted Score: 95016%
Critics Consensus: The talents of director John Landis and Saturday Night Live's irrepressible John Belushi conspired to create a rambunctious, subversive college comedy that continues to resonate.
Synopsis: When they arrive at college, socially inept freshmen Larry (Thomas Hulce) and Kent (Stephen Furst) attempt to pledge the snooty... [More]
Directed By: John Landis

#1979

Alien (1979)
98%

#1979
Adjusted Score: 108927%
Critics Consensus: A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.
Synopsis: In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

This week brings a wealth of new choices from Netflix and Fandor, including a recent award-winning indie, a few Oscar winners, some acclaimed classics from legendary directors, and a Netflix holiday special starring Bill Murray. Read on for details:


New on Netflix:

 

Two Step (2014) 100%

This noirish thriller follows a down-on-his-luck man who gets ensnared by a con artist who preys on seniors.

Available now on: Netflix


Tangerine (2015) 96%

This Certified Fresh indie darling focuses on one wild day in the lives of two transgender sex workers, one of whom has just finished a short stint in jail, only to find out her pimp boyfriend has been cheating on her.

Available now on: Netflix


About a Boy (2002) 93%

Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult star in Paul and Chris Weitz’s Certified Fresh comedy about an underachieving womanizer who meets his match in the form of his latest conquest’s precocious 12-year-old son.

Available now on: Netflix


Stations of the Cross (2014) 93%

This bold film from Germany chronicles a teenage girl’s preparation for her Catholic confirmation, hoping her increasingly severe sacrifices will help cure her autistic brother.

Available now on: Netflix


American Beauty (1999) 87%

Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening headline an ensemble cast in Sam Mendes’ Certified Fresh Best Picture winner about a pair of families whose seemingly perfect suburban lives mask deep unrest in different ways.

Available now on: Netflix


Darkman (1990) 83%

Liam Neeson stars in Sam Raimi’s Certified Fresh hero tale about a scientist who receives superhuman powers in a criminal explosion and sets about getting his revenge.

Available now on: Netflix


Ray (2004) 79%

Jamie Foxx earned a Best Actor Oscar for his work as Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s Certified Fresh biopic, which chronicles 30 years in the legendary artist’s life.

Available now on: Netflix


Private Parts (1997) 75%

Howard Stern stars as himself in this Certified Fresh biographical comedy, based on his own book about himself. It sounds ridiculous, we know, but the film is actually well crafted and endearing, not to mention hilarious.

Available now on: Netflix


A League of Their Own (1992) 80%

Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, and Tom Hanks star in this fictionalized account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Available now on: Netflix


Eyes Wide Shut (1999) 76%

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star in Stanley Kubrick’s psychological thriller about a married man who embarks on a dreamlike sexual odyssey one night after learning his wife once contemplated having an affair.

Available now on: Netflix


A Very Murray Christmas (2015) 68%

Bill Murray stars in Netflix’s original holiday special, directed by Sofia Coppola, in which the amiable comedian signs on to do a Christmas TV special but needs to think fast when a snowstorm prevents any of the scheduled stars from appearing. The parade of cameos includes George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Miley Cyrus, Chris Rock, and more.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Fandor

 

The Golden Coach (1953) 100%

Jean Renoir’s period drama centers on the star of an Italian theatre troupe touring in Peru who catches the eye of the local viceroy.

Available now on: Fandor


Fanny and Alexander (1982) 100%

Ingmar Bergman’s semi-autobiographical film follows 10-year-old Alexander, whose life is upended when his father suddenly dies and his mother remarries, this time to a strict clergyman.

Available now on: Fandor


Almost There (2014) 82%

This documentary tells the story of Peter Anton, an 82-year-old man who has spent several decades chronicling his own life in autobiographical artwork.

Available now on: Fandor


Fifi Az Khoshhali Zooze Mikeshad (2013) 100%

Another recent documentary that profiles an artist, this film focuses on Bahman Mohassess, whose paintings and sculptures from pre-revolutionary Iran earned him the nickname “Persian Picasso.”

Available now on: Fandor


The Seventh Seal (1957) 94%

Ingmar Bergman’s oft-referenced meditative fantasy masterpiece stars Max von Sydow as a medieval knight in Sweden who returns from war and engages Death in a game of chess.

Available now on: Fandor


My Dinner With Andre (1981) 92%

Louis Malle’s unconventional film revolves around a single dinner conversation between actor/playwright Wallace Shawn and theater director Andre Gregory.

Available now on: Fandor


The Last Metro (1980) 86%

François Truffaut’s drama set in Paris during the Nazi occupation stars Catherine Deneuve as a theater actress compelled to keep the show going, even as her Jewish husband hides out in the theater.

Available now on: Fandor


Mesrine: Part 1 - Death Instinct (2008) 82%

Vincent Cassel stars in the first of two films about Jacques Mesrine, a former soldier in 1960s Paris who embraces the criminal lifestyle and quickly moves up the ladder.

Available now on: Fandor


Mesrine: Part II - Public Enemy 1 (2008) 81%

Vincent Cassel returns as the titular gangster, now in police custody and facing prison, who escapes and reinvents himself as public anti-hero with celebrity status.

Available now on: Fandor


Available for Purchase

 

Meet the Patels (2014) 87%

Ravi Patel’s Certified Fresh documentary hilariously chronicles his family’s persistent attempts to find him a spouse.

Available 12/4 on: AmazoniTunes, Vudu


The Visit (2015) 68%

M. Night Shyamalan’s return to suspense cinema revolves around a brother and sister who are sent to spend some time with their increasingly odd — and increasingly frightening — grandparents.

Available now on: iTunes, Vudu


Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) 8%

Rupert Friend stars in this action thriller as a deadly, genetically engineered assassin who sets out to stop an evil corporation from using the same technology to create an army of its own.

Available Dec. 11 on: Amazon, Google PlayiTunes

An EducationThere’s a general impression of the British film industry that if we’re not producing cockney gangster flicks or sweeping romantic period pieces then we’re working on a yet another quirky rom-com. In the affluent suburb of Acton in London, RT has come to the set of An Education, a film that dares to be different. While the script bursts with humour, this is a film that’s decidedly deeper than the usual Richard Curtis fare, daring to explore topics as controversial today as they’ve ever been and to challenge preconceptions about the journey out of adolescence.

It’s no surprise to learn that it comes from the pen of one of Britain’s most celebrated contemporary novelists, Nick Hornby. Like High Fidelity, About a Boy and Fever Pitch, An Education sings with a certain tone unique to Hornby’s material and is populated with interesting, real and engaging characters. It’s no wonder Variety had it on their list of the best unproduced British screenplays in 2007.

Set in the early 60s, the film tells the tale of Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a sharp 16-year-old with sights set on entry to Oxford at the encouragement of her father Jack (Alfred Molina). She meets a handsome older man named David (Peter Sarsgaard), whose position on the social ladder and passion for high-class enjoyment enraptures both her and her parents and is the catalyst for a budding romance.

The story is based on a piece of memoir written by Observer journalist Lynn Barber about her experiences growing up. “I was fascinated to read the story initially just because Lynn Barber usually writes about other people, not autobiographically,” Hornby explains. “I finished it and said to Amanda, ‘I think there’s a film in this.'”

An Education
Jenny (Carey Mulligan) enjoys a post-coital cigarette with David (Peter Sarsgaard) in An Education.

Producer Amanda Posey, Hornby’s wife, brought the story to Finola Dwyer, and the pair started to seek writers for the project. Ultimately they came back to Hornby, who signed on to write his first screenplay not adapted from his own work. With Danish director Lone Scherfig at the helm, and with Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Dominic Cooper and Emma Thompson rounding off the cast list, An Education began production in mid-March.

For the film’s Jenny, 22 year-old Carey Mulligan, whose previous experience includes roles as Kitty Bennet in Joe Wright‘s 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice, and Ada Clare in the BBC’s adaptation of Dickens’ Bleak House, An Education is an opportunity to showcase her talent and clear propensity for strong material. “The script is brilliant and so funny,” she tells RT, “I hadn’t realised how funny until the read-through, because there are bits that come out in the reading of it. Nick writes such wonderful female characters. Jenny is so well written and so specifically 16 in the 60s and it’s so much fun to play.”

Today, as the production films a variety of shots outside a period school building that’ll be slotted throughout the film, the crew are battling against the British weather, as film crews are wont to do in this country. But rather than waiting for gaps in the rain, they’re waiting for clouds to move over the sun and have watered down everything in shot. Just when you want rain, and dull, grey skies, Britain decides to let the sun shine.

An Education
Behind the scenes, screenwriter Nick Hornby and director Lone Scherfig watch the action on the set of An Education.

It’s a far cry from the Dogme ’95 roots of director Scherfig who’s used to strict rules against artificiality in filmmaking, but she’s clearly enjoying herself and seems to have set a standard on set for calm that’s making our visit a much more pleasurable one than we’re used to from the usual bustle of a film set. Faith in the material seems to have inspired everyone here to relax and enjoy their work.

“It’s much easier to shoot a good script than a not-so-good script,” says Scherfig when she takes a break to speak to RT. “It makes my work a lot easier, that Nick has been so thorough and detailed and psychologically sensitive. It has much depth and much detail and humour and it’s quite moving. I feel comfortable in this kind of genre, even if I’m not English and it’s a very English world the film takes place in.”

Sarsgaard, who’s tackling an impressive and specifically dated British accent for the film and sticks with it as he sits down with RT, was won over by the secrets David keeps. “It’s the oldest cheat in the world,” he laughs, “especially if the audience learns that I have a secret. It makes me seem rather deep even if I’m rather shallow! It at least gives me two dimensions! Being an American playing a British person who is pretending to be another person, I mean, I’m already doing it. I’m doing it the moment I start speaking. It’s such an easy role, in the greatest sense of that word. Sometimes I go home and I wonder if I’m doing a good job because it doesn’t feel difficult.”

Like the rest of the script, the period setting strives to set itself apart from most depictions of life in 60s Britain. This is not the primary-coloured pop-art age of partying as parodied in the likes of Austin Powers. “It’s a clash of two eras,” explains Scherfig, “It’s more the very early elements that we sneak in here and there of a period that is going to explode the way Jenny’s adult life will develop.”

An Education
Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan on the set of An Education.

David, and his two friends Danny (Cooper) and Helen (Pike), represent what’s to come. “They represent the fun and freedom Jenny will experience. It’s pre-Beatles first album and pre-psychedelia, but there’s a little touch of those things here and there. In the music as well – as you know Nick Hornby is very music-conscious and there are a lot of musical cues in the script.”

“Come 1964, 1965,” adds Sarsgaard, “I think they’ll find they’ll fit right in! You can picture them on the Isle of Wight listening to Jimi Hendrix a few years after the film is set.”

From schoolgirl to woman, the time Jenny spends with David, Danny and Helen shapes her path into adulthood and towards that environment. Of course, on set they’ve been shooting out of order. “In the last two weeks we’ve been shooting everything with Rosamund Pike and Dominic Cooper, all the stuff in which Jenny goes through her transformation,” says Mulligan. “And now we’re back shooting the school days stuff. I’m back in school uniform and weirdly the crew have started talking to me differently! I’m 22, but I feel 16!”

An Education
Alfred Molina plays Jack, Jenny’s father, in An Education.

As passionate as everyone is about the material – even if they are treating Mulligan like a teenager in the process – for Hornby, simply getting as far as assembling of a crew of people to make the film is a pleasure. “Everything’s a long shot when you’re writing a screenplay,” he says. “At this stage of my career, if I write a novel to the best of my ability I would say there’s a 100% chance of it being published. But if I write a screenplay to the best of my ability I would say there’s a 10% chance of the film being made. That’s an enormous difference in terms of your own psychology and your ability to get yourself up for each draft!”

Still, Hornby’s novels usually arrive mostly fully-formed after the first draft, he says, and the extra time to refine the screenplay has proved invaluable. Mulligan has followed the changes. “I read the first draft in November 2006 and it has changed so much since then,” she says. “And I got the part in September last year and it’s changed even from then. It’s been such a long time coming that it feels surreal we’re doing it!”

An Education is released next year and we’ll have more on the film, including full interviews with Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Nick Hornby and more closer to the time. You can find more exclusive images from the set of An Education right here.

New Line hopes to breathe some life into the North American box office with the launch of its pricey adventure film The Golden Compass which stands as the frame’s only new wide release. Directed by Chris Weitz (About a Boy), the PG-13 film aims to capture a large crowd including the family audience and fans of sci-fi and fantasy. Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, who proved in the summer flop The Invasion that their names only carry so much commercial weight, reunite to star in the effects-heavy film.

Working in its favor is the fact that all other studios have avoided programming their major offerings onto this weekend’s schedule. In fact it is quite rare to see two consecutive frames with only one national opener each. Media attention is concentrated on it this week and with multiplexes dumping their aging November flops, Compass will secure extra screens. The studio’s marketing push has been powerful and awareness is high which makes sense as New Line is hoping for a new fantasy franchise that can keep the cash rolling in for years to come. Teens and young adults who frequent the multiplexes the most should come out in solid numbers since they’ve seen every other worthy film already. Older adults will be a little harder to reach since holiday shopping is a major distraction on weekends right now plus reviews for Compass have not exactly been stellar.

Although the property will target many of the same folks who have dropped billions on fantasy smashes like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia, the source material is not as popular plus there is already backlash from some in the religious community for the anti-Christian material in the Philip Pullman books. Reaching the $65.6M opening of Narnia from this very weekend two years ago will be impossible. Instead, a debut closer to the $27.5M of Beowulf last month could be in order since there may be much overlap. Compass has more appeal for younger kids and females so a bigger bow should result. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, The Golden Compass might premiere to the tune of $33M this weekend.


Nicole Kidman in The Golden Compass

With most of the big boys taking the weekend off from releasing films wide, indie distribs will once again seize the opportunity to platform their end-of-year pics and begin limited runs for possible kudos contenders. By law, you can’t have an awards season without at least one costume drama so Focus Features joins forces with Keira Knightley with Atonement which bows on Friday in 26 sites. The R-rated period piece also stars James McAvoy and Vanessa Redgrave and has already grossed $31M overseas with over two-thirds of that total coming from the U.K. since its launch there in early September.


James McAvoy and Keira Knightley in Atonement

Fox Searchlight counters in seven theaters with its teen pregnancy comedy Juno starring Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, and Ellen Page in the title role. The PG-13 coming-of-age pic opened on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles and is director Jason Reitman‘s follow-up to Thank You For Smoking which grossed $24.8M for Fox Searchlight in the spring of 2006. Reviews have been strong across the board for both Juno and Atonement.


Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby in Juno

After back to back stints of wearing the box office crown, the princess comedy Enchanted is now preparing to take a step back this weekend thanks to the arrival of Queen Kidman. The Disney hit will see some formidable competition for kids, but the overall drop should not be too large. A 35% slide to around $10.5M could result. That would give Enchanted a charming $83M after 19 days of play.

With girls lining up for Giselle and company, their brothers have been taking a historical adventure with the computer-animated action pic Beowulf which has been holding its own since its debut. Golden Compass will also be a threat since there is much audience overlap. But Beowulf‘s good legs suggest that a drop of 35% could be in order here as well. That would leave the Paramount project with about $5M pushing the cume up to $76M.

Sony’s holiday reunion film This Christmas and Fox’s assassin thriller Hitman both witnessed larger sophomore declines so a fall of 40% each should occur this weekend. Christmas would take in just under $5M for a $42M total while Hitman should bank $3.5M for a $36M sum.

LAST YEAR: Mel Gibson scored his second straight number one opening for a historical foreign language film he directed with Apocalypto which debuted on top with $15M. The Buena Vista release went on to capture a solid $50.9M. Three-time champ Happy Feet was bumped down to second with $12.9M in its fourth frame. Sony’s romantic comedy The Holiday bowed in third with $12.8M for Sony. The Cameron DiazKate Winslet pic went on to gross $63.2M domestically and a stunning $200M worldwide. Studio stablemate Casino Royale slipped to fourth with $8.9M. Warner Bros. launched its action thriller Blood Diamond in fifth with a mediocre $8.6M on its way to $57.4M from North America and $171M globally. Opening in seventh was the studio’s other new wide release of the frame, the family comedy Unaccompanied Minors, with only $5.8M leading to a weak $16.6M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Remember when everyone was wondering why Rachel Weisz declined to be in the third "Mummy" movie? Here’s why.

Peter Jackson‘s been planning to turn Alice Sebold’s "The Lovely Bones" into a movie for quite some time now, and it looks like he’s going to start shooting in October. Variety reports that Oscar winner Rachel Weisz has signed on to star in the DreamWorks / Paramount production.

Ms. Weisz is best known for her work in "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns," but she did win that Oscar for "The Constant Gardener." She can also be seen in "Enemy at the Gates," "About a Boy," "Constantine," and "The Fountain."

Source: Variety

Fans of Philip Pullman’s "His Dark Materials" series have reason to rejoice this morning: New Line Cinema has given an official greenlight and production date to "The Golden Compass," which will be brought to the big screen by Oscar-nom Chris Weitz.

Thanks to ComingSoon.net for the New Line press release:

"New Line Cinema has officially greenlit production on "The Golden Compass," the highly anticipated adaptation of the first of author Philip Pullman’s bestselling "His Dark Materials" trilogy, it was announced today by New Line’s Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne. Production on the $150 million-budgeted film is scheduled to begin September 4 in the UK, with Oscar-nominated writer/director Chris Weitz ("About a Boy," "Antz") at the helm.

"’The Golden Compass’ is the most ambitious film that New Line has undertaken since ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy, and we have assembled a remarkable creative team, headed by Chris Weitz, to bring it to fruition," commented New Line’s Shaye and Lynne.

Newcomer Dakota Blue Richards has been cast in the lead role of Lyra Belacqua. Richards landed the role after filmmakers conducted an extensive casting search throughout England, during which they saw more than 10,000 young girls. Open calls were held in Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter, and Kendal, before Richards was chosen from the Cambridge call for an audition and subsequent screen test.

"Dakota made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy," says writer/director Weitz. "We wanted a completely new face for Lyra, but I was surprised that any young girl, especially one without training, could light up the screen as Dakota does."

Pullman adds, "I’m delighted with the casting of Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra. As soon as I saw Dakota’s screen test, I realized that the search was over. Dakota has just the combination of qualities that make up the complicated character of this girl, and I very much look forward to seeing the film take shape, with Dakota’s Lyra at the heart of it."

Helping to bring "The Golden Compass" to the big screen will be an all-star production team that includes Oscar-winning production designer Dennis Gassner ("Road to Perdition," "Big Fish"), Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth Myers ("L.A. Confidential," "Emma"), and Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Mike Fink ("X-Men," "X2: X-Men United," "Road to Perdition").

"The Golden Compass" is being produced by Deborah Forte of Scholastic Entertainment and Weitz’s Depth of Field production company. Paul Weitz (an Oscar nominee for "About a Boy") and Andrew Miano will serve as executive producers on the film. Bill Carraro will also serve as a producer on the film.

Based on the bestselling and award-winning Pullman novels, the "His Dark Materials" trilogy is comprised of "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass." It revolves around a young girl who travels to the far north to save her best friend. Along the way, she encounters shape-shifting creatures, witches, and a variety of otherworldly characters in parallel universes."

In addition to the facts laid down in the press release, we also have a potentially juicy piece of casting news from the guys at IGN FilmForce: "According to England’s Daily Mail, (Nicole) Kidman has been offered the key part of Mrs. Coulter — scientist, socialite, and conspirator. With the actress’s good looks, charm, and intensity, she could be just right for the part; apparently Pullman himself has endorsed her for the role. As of yet, however, there’s no word — official or otherwise — that Kidman has accepted the part."

Hmmm, guess I better take a visit to the library….

Chris Weitz is back behind the helm of "His Dark Materials" (chapter 1) after seeing the project turned over to "Shopgirl" director Anand Tucker … who has also been removed from the project.

Fansite BridgeToTheStars.net shares the following press release: "Writer/Director Chris Weitz has returned to the director’s chair to helm New Line Cinema’s ‘The Golden Compass’, the feature film adaptation of the first installment of author Philip Pullman’s popular ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, it was announced today by Toby Emmerich, New Line Cinema’s President of Production.

Weitz, who penned the film’s screenplay, was originally attached to direct the project in 2005 before stepping down and being replaced by Anand Tucker. Tucker has exited the film due to differences in creative direction with New Line.

"Chris absolutely over-delivered on the script. He wrote a very strong adaptation of The Golden Compass, and we are eager to see him bring those pages to life on the screen," says Emmerich.

Weitz adds, "I’ve never lost my love of Philip Pullman’s work, and staying on as screenwriter gave me a better understanding of how a great film version can be accomplished. Though I’m disappointed that New Line and Anand didn’t end up seeing eye to eye, when I was told the job of directing ‘The Golden Compass’ was open, there was just no way that I could pass it up. I feel very confident in the creativity and expertise of the technical crew that is assembling to take on this challenge."

"I trusted Scholastic and New Line to look after my story, and when Chris Weitz came along I knew at once that he had as clear and strong a grasp of the story as anyone I’ve ever met," says Pullman. "His personal knowledge of English school and university life gave him an insight into Lyra’s background that was invaluable."

Producer Deborah Forte adds, "Chris has demonstrated both passion and a unique understanding of how to take Philip’s magnificent story and translate it into a stunning, epic film for families. I have enjoyed working with him and have tremendous confidence in his ability to make this film succeed on every level."

‘The Golden Compass’ is being produced by Scholastic Entertainment and Weitz’s Depth of Field production company. Paul Weitz and Andrew Miano will serve as executive producers on the film.

A filmmaker with an extensive literary background, Chris Weitz holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English Literature from Cambridge University. Along with his brother Paul, he has written such films as ‘Antz‘ and ‘About A Boy,’ the latter of which he also directed.

Based on the bestselling and award-winning Pullman novels, the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy is comprised of ‘The Golden Compass,’ ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass’. It revolves around a young girl who travels to the far north to save her best friend. Along the way she encounters shape-shifting creatures, witches, and a variety of otherworldly characters in parallel universes. The Golden Compass is being produced by Deborah Forte of Scholastic, the U.K. publisher of the His Dark Materials books."

This week at the movies we’ve got a Secret Service agent on a mission ("The Sentinel"), an "American Idol"- skewering political satire ("American Dreamz") and a very creepy town ("Silent Hill"). What do the critics have to say?

A Secret Service agent is determined to save the president from an assassination attempt. It’s a setup that has worked successfully before ("In the Line of Fire"), but critics say "The Sentinel" isn’t sharp enough to make good on its premise. Michael Douglas stars as the agent who falls into a web of intrigue, and Kiefer Sutherland, who’s getting pretty good at foiling conspiracies, plays his protege. Critics say the film is slick, but a bit too convoluted to really work. At 26 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Sentinel" is not very well-fortified.

What is "American Dreamz?" Is it a comedy? A satire? An ambitious attempt to capture the zeitgeist of our politically divided, entertainment-craving times? More to the point, is Paul Weitz‘s latest any good? In parts, the critics say, but not as a whole. "American Dreamz" tells the story of a recently re-elected, now intellectually curious president (Dennis Quaid) who makes a guest appearance on a popular TV singing competition where would-be songbirds and would-be terrorists convene. The critics say "American Dreamz" is a bit too ambitious for its own good, and lacks the sharp bite to really work as satire. At 38 percent on the Tomatometer, this one may not be the stuff that "Dreamz" are made of.

We’re guessing that the people behind "Silent Hill" would consider the little girl on the poster to be the perfect movie critic for one reason: she’s got no mouth. And there isn’t anything for the critics to say, because, like a bunch of other movies this year (all of which have turned out to be critical duds), "Silent Hill" was not screened for the scribes. Kids, you know what that means: Guess the Tomatometer! And while you’re at it, get a glimpse of the film in the Rotten Tomatoes’ "Silent Hill" photo gallery.

Recent Michael Douglas Movies:
————————————–
37% — The In-Laws (2003)
29% — It Runs in the Family (2003)
23% — Don’t Say a Word (2001)
32% — One Night at McCool’s (2001)
83% — Wonder Boys (2000)

Recent Paul Weitz Movies:
——————————–
82% — In Good Company (2004)
94% — About a Boy (2002)
17% — Down to Earth (2001)
60% — American Pie (1999)

Carla Gugino, Matthew Goode, and Isla Fisher have signed on to co-star with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Scott Frank‘s "The Lookout," which looks to be a crime thriller of some sort. (But with Mr. Frank at the helm, the project’s starting off on the right foot.)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino and Matthew Goode have joined the cast of "The Lookout," a crime thriller that Scott Frank is directing for Miramax. Written by Frank, the story follows a physically challenged janitor, played Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who becomes part of a heist at a bank that employs him. Fisher will play a scandalous vixen. Gugino portrays a therapist, and Goode plays a criminal. Shooting begins in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at month’s end."

Scott Frank wrote (or co-wrote) "Dead Again" (1991), "Little Man Tate" (1991), "Malice" (1993), "Get Shorty" (1995), "Heaven’s Prisoners" (1996), "Out of Sight" (1998), "Minority Report" (2002), "Flight of the Phoenix" (2004), and "The Interpreter" (2005). "The Lookout" marks his directorial debut.

Comedy director Chris Weitz has signed on to helm "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists" for Columbia Pictures, a project based on a popular New York Times article from 2004. Said article was also stretched into a book, both of which will be used for the flick’s source material.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Chris Weitz has signed on to adapt and produce Neil Strauss’ best-selling seduction tome "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists" for Columbia Pictures. Strauss’ first-person story, which originally ran as a Sunday Style article in the New York Times in 2004, chronicled Strauss’ transformation from lovelorn loser to lothario. Sony topper Amy Pascal read the comedic article and quickly optioned it as well as the subsequent book, published by ReganBooks in September."

Along with his brother Paul, Chris Weitz is the co-director of "American Pie," "Down to Earth," and "About a Boy."

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