Actress Brittany Murphy, best known for her performances in Clueless, 8 Mile, and Riding in Cars with Boys, died Dec. 20 after going into cardiac arrest, according to law enforcement officials. She was 32.

Murphy, whose work alternated between light comedy and darker, more dramatic roles, also starred in such hits as Sin City, Girl, Interrupted, and Don’t Say a Word. In a review of the comedy Little Black Book, Roger Ebert praised Murphy’s onscreen persona: “She has the quality of seeming immediately there on the screen, open to possibility, unrehearsed, unstudied, natural, appealing. She hasn’t had the roles yet to prove it, but she is a born movie star.”

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Murphy was born in Atlanta and raised in New Jersey. After starring roles in regional theater productions and television commercials, she got her first big break at 14 as one of the stars of the Fox sitcom Drexell’s Class. However, her movie career took off when she co-starred as one of Alicia Silverstone’s best friends in the hit 1995 comedy Clueless. She also had a number of prominent voice roles, most notable as Luanne in the Fox animated series King of the Hill, for which she won an Annie Award for Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production in 2005. As a singer, she had a dance hit with “Faster Kill Pussycat,” a collaboration with DJ Paul Oakenfold.

Her most recent major roles were in 2006, when she starred in The Dead Girl (which was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards), and as a voice actress in the hit animated film Happy Feet, which won the Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 2007 Academy Awards.

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Various news outlets reported that Murphy was discovered unconscious by her mother Sharon at the home of Murphy’s husband, screenwriter Simon Monjack, in Los Angeles in the early hours of Dec. 20. She was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Murphy is survived by her parents and her husband Monjack, whom she married in 2007.

For Murphy’s complete filmography, click here.

Fox scored its first number one hit in five months with "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" which grossed an estimated $57.4M on its opening weekend, tripling its nearest competitor’s sales.

Carrying a milder PG rating into 3,959 theaters, the super hero sequel averaged a sturdy $14,499 and just barely edged out the $56.1M bow of the first "Fantastic Four" pic from July 2005. A sequel has now topped the box office for seven consecutive weekends.

Reviews were mixed, but were better than for its predecessor which was critically panned. The sequel brought back director Tim Story along with the four main cast members Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis. However, the iconic Marvel Comics character Silver Surfer was prominently added to the film, and even to its title, to help bring back comic fans who may have had a bad taste after the first "Fantastic" pic. Laurence Fishburne provided the voice for the computer-generated space traveler.

The latest summer sequel kicked off the weekend on Friday with $22M, dipped an understandable 11% to $19.6M on Saturday, and is projected to drop by another 19% on Sunday to $15.8M. Fox also reported that "Rise of the Silver Surfer" opened in 32 overseas markets with a combined $25.4M this weekend although most were minor territories. Russia, Italy, and the United Kingdom were among the only major international markets that launched this frame with more to come in the weeks ahead.

"Ocean’s Thirteen" enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend dropping only 47% to an estimated $19.1M in its sophomore frame. Warner Bros. has now made off with $69.8M in ten days. Threequels often drop by 55% or more and "Ocean’s Twelve" even fell by 54% in its second try. That caper sequel grossed $18.1M in its second weekend and bagged a similar $68.5M worth of loot in its first ten days. "Thirteen," which will not benefit from holidays like Christmas and New Year’s prolonging its run, could be on track to finish with $105-110M domestically which would still be the lowest in the "Ocean’s" series.

Universal’s sleeper hit "Knocked Up" continued to capitalize on strong word-of-mouth and held onto third place with an estimated $14.5M, off only 26%, for a $90.5M cume. The R-rated smash will join the century club next weekend making it the studio’s first $100M hit since its last June romantic comedy offering "The Break-Up."

Disney’s "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" followed dropping 43% to an estimated $12M in its fourth adventure. Cume stands at $273.8M which is up 31% from 2003’s "Curse of the Black Pearl" after its fourth weekend, but down 24% from last summer’s "Dead Man’s Chest" at the same point. "At World’s End" did manage to rise to number 32 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list sailing past the $267.7M of 2001’s "Shrek."

A trio of kidpics followed. The animated penguin movie "Surf’s Up" sank 47% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.3M giving Sony a not-so-cool $34.7M after ten days. A final gross of about $60M could result. "Shrek the Third" landed in sixth place with an estimated $9M, off 41%, for a $297.2M total. Knocking on the triple-century mark, the Paramount release now stands at number 24 on the all-time list just behind the first "Pirates" film which banked $305.4M four years ago.

Moviegoers passed on solving a mystery with "Nancy Drew" which opened poorly in seventh with only $7.1M, accoridng to estimates. Averaging a weak $2,732 from 2,612 theaters, the PG-rated film starring Emma Roberts failed to make a dent in the summer box office this weekend. "Nancy" opened in the same neighborhood as other films aimed at tween girls like "Ice Princess," "Little Black Book," and "Aquamarine" which all bowed to roughly $7M a piece.

Lionsgate saw its horror sequel "Hostel Part II" tumble 64% after its weak opening to an estimated $3M this weekend. With only $14.2M taken in thus far, the torture pic should finish with just under $20M, or less than half of the $47.3M of the first "Hostel" flick from last year. MGM’s "Mr. Brooks" grossed an estimated $2.8M, off 43%, pushing the cume to only $23.4M for the Kevin Costner thriller.

"Spider-Man 3" rounded out the top ten with an estimated $2.5M falling 42% from last weekend. With $330M after its seventh frame, the Sony sequel climbed to number 15 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind "Finding Nemo" which took in $339.7M in 2003.

Opening dead on arrival was the new actioner "D.O.A.: Dead or Alive" which bowed to an estimated $232,000 from 505 theaters for a pathetic $460 average. The Weinstein Co. title was released with little fanfare and should see most of its business on DVD.

A pair of hits fell from the top ten over the weekend. Fox Searchlight’s indie darling "Waitress" grossed an estimated $1.3M, down only 21%, for a $14.1M cume to date. A final tally of $17-20M from a limited national release is likely. Paramount’s Shia LaBeouf thriller "Disturbia" collected an estimated $250,000 in its tenth frame pushing the stellar cume to $78.3M. Look for a $79M final which will serve as an appetizer to the studio’s next Shia offering — "Transformers" opening July 3.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $136.8M which was down 2% from last year when "Cars" remained at number one with $33.7M; but up 8% from 2005 when "Batman Begins" debuted in the top spot with $48.7M over three days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Danny Lerner, a top producer at NU Image films, has announced that Walter Hill in final negotiations to direct the fourth Rambo film. After first seeking out Ridley Scott and Richard Donner for the job (they both declined) producers decided to go with…

…a pair up of Jeb Stuart (Switchback) and Stuart Baird (US Marshals) to serve as co-directors.

Eventually, though, Stallone stepped in and took the job — unless a first class action director would happen to get involved. With the addition of Hill it is unknown if Stuart Baird … will remain on board with the film or if Hill will get his own men to serve as editor and assistant director.

As part of the contract, Hill will get an executive producer title and also gain a screenwriters credit since he is currently making small changes to the script. The film is expected to start this June buy may now be pushed back to late summer to the hiring of Hill.

(Walter Hill has directed such films as The Warriors, 48 HRS., Red Heat, Johnny Handsome, and Trespass.)

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