With this weekend’s Sicario: Day of the SoldadoBenicio Del Toro returns to the role of CIA spook Alejandro Gillick for another round of grim and gritty action south of the border — and adds another entry to a filmography that’s gone in any number of exciting directions since he notched his first big-screen credit as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy in Big Top Pee-wee 30 years ago. There’s clearly no time like the present to take a fond look back at some of his Oscar-winning thespian’s brightest critical highlights, and you know what that means: it’s time for Total Recall!


1. Sicario (2015) 92%

(Photo by Richard Foreman Jr./Lionsgate)

Some pretty powerful films have been made about the international drug trade — look no further than Traffic, right next door to this entry, for proof — and at this point, if you’re going to throw your cinematic hat in the ring, you’d better be prepared to add a singular statement to the genre. Director Denis Villeneuve managed to pull it off with 2015’s Sicario, starring Emily Blunt as an FBI agent who teams up with a pair of CIA operatives (Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro) to bring down a Mexican cartel. In terms of plot outline, it’s boilerplate stuff — but in Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s hands, and through the stellar efforts of the well-chosen cast, the end results are elevated considerably. “Far from being just another crime story,” wrote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Calvin Wilson, “Sicario is cinema at its most ambitious.”


2. Traffic (2000) 92%

(Photo by USA Films courtesy Everett Collection)

One of the more darkly ambitious films to make its way through the studio system over the 20 years, Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic looks at the human cost of the drug trade by following seemingly unconnected stories that slowly converge. In Mexico, a police officer (Benicio Del Toro, who won an Oscar for his work) becomes the unwitting employee of a drug lord; in San Diego, a major dealer (Miguel Ferrer) is targeted by a pair of DEA agents (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman); and in the Midwest, a crusading judge (Michael Douglas) finds his black-and-white views on drugs challenged when his teenage daughter (Erika Christensen) develops a cocaine addiction. In condensing the six-part BBC series Traffik, Soderbergh had to trim some of the original’s heft, but Traffic was still a four-time Academy Award winner (including Best Director) as well as one of the best-reviewed films of the year, thanks to critics like Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer, who proclaimed, “The promise of Sex, Lies, and Videotape has been fulfilled.”


3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) 91%

(Photo by Jonathan Olley/Walt Disney Studios)

Decades after Randall from Clerks argued that the Star Wars Empire couldn’t have solidified its rule without the work of countless grunts, wage slaves, and dispassionate bureaucrats who were only trying to make a living, the saga got around to echoing that point explicitly — and doing so with an assist from DJ (Benicio Del Toro), the determinedly morally ambiguous hacker who fills in Finn and Rose on the existence of a galactic arms trade fueling both sides of the war between the First Order and the Resistance. Proving he doesn’t see much of a difference between either ideology, DJ ends up stabbing his new friends in the back for a quick buck, paving the way for an epic set piece while adding another layer to a story once told as a simple battle between good and evil. “Nothing in The Last Jedi is allowed to be mundane,” wrote NPR’s Bob Mondello. “Including the places the filmmakers take the story.”


4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) 92%

(Photo by Marvel Studios)

Over the course of his career, Benicio del Toro has yoinked the spotlight from numerous above-the-title stars in all sorts of ways, from the flashy to the subtle — and although his tenure as the Collector in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t allowed him to (ahem) collect much screentime with appearances in Thor: The Dark WorldAvengers: Infinity War, and, most prominently, Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s definitely one of his more memorably outlandish roles. As his name suggests, he’s known for gathering stuff, including a number of priceless and powerful artifacts — including an Infinity Stone, which puts him in the path of the homicidal Thanos on the Mad Titan’s quest to restore order to the universe by wiping out half of all life. His brief (and apparently illusory) appearance in 2018’s Infinity War might have briefly convinced audiences he was done for, but if it seems unlikely we’ll see the Collector again, Del Toro can at least point to his pivotal role in GotG as a high note. “If you’re old enough to remember when sci-fi and comic books were fun,” wrote Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Guardians of the Galaxy will be your new favorite movie. If you’re not, it will set a standard for everything you see.”


5. The Usual Suspects (1995) 88%

(Photo by Gramercy courtesy Everett Collection)

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist, but the greatest one Kevin Spacey might have pulled was scoring the role of Roger “Verbal” Kint, the palsied small-time hood whose post-heist interrogation frames the twisty goings-on of Bryan Singer’s neo-noir ‘90s classic The Usual Suspects. It turned into an Academy Award-winning breakout vehicle for the actor, but he certainly didn’t do it alone: Suspects is a quintessentially ’90s ensemble piece, spinning a number of narrative plates with the aid of an outstanding cast that included Pete Postlethwaite, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, and — as the virtually incomprehensible crook Fred Fenster — Benicio Del Toro, who stole every scene he was in even though no one ever had any idea what he was saying. A master class in character actor chemistry, Suspects provided audiences with 106 minutes of water-cooler entertainment in the bargain — and earned some of the best reviews of the year. “For many true movie fiends, noir is the key American movie type, and the most fun when it’s done right,” observed Newsweek’s Jack Kroll. “The Usual Suspects is done right.”


6. Fearless (1993) 85%

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

Cheating death sounds like an incredible gift — but what do you do after you’ve accepted you’re about to die and walked away from the experience? As Peter Weir’s Fearless powerfully argues, that second lease on life can sometimes be harder to come to grips with than we might imagine — especially if you’re like protagonist Max Klein (Jeff Bridges), who survives a plane crash that ends up killing almost everyone on board and embarks on a quest that includes reaching out to a fellow passenger (Rosie Perez) who’s coping with survivor’s guilt without assistance from her boyfriend (Benicio Del Toro). The type of thought-provoking adult drama that seems all but extinct in the modern studio system, Fearless didn’t make much of a dent at the box office after its 1993 release, but many critics rightly applauded it as a refreshing change of pace. Calling it “the rare commercial movie that raises more questions than it answers,” Newsweek’s David Ansen wrote, “You leave it in an altered state yourself — moved, not quite satisfied, but certain you’ve seen something out of the ordinary.”


7. 21 Grams (2003) 80%

(Photo by Focus Features courtesy Everett Collection)

The second installment in writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Trilogy of Death,” 21 Grams wrings some outstanding performances (not to mention plenty of tears) out of an outstanding cast in service of a gripping — albeit harrowing — tale. Using a handful of seemingly disparate plot threads, Iñárritu plunged viewers into the darkness pooling out of a tragedy unintentionally wrought by an ex-con (Benicio Del Toro) whose irrevocable mistake has a profound impact on a dying math professor (Sean Penn) and a woman with a complicated past (Naomi Watts) — all of whom are drawn irrevocably together by the final act. Watts and Del Toro both earned Oscar nominations for their work, and neither could be accused of holding anything back; as Moira MacDonald wrote for the Seattle Times, “Watching it is a wrenching experience; the usual layers of distance between actors and audience are stripped away, and we not only watch their anguish, but become part of it.”


8. Swimming With Sharks (1994) 78%

(Photo by Lionsgate)

One of two critically acclaimed releases that saw Benicio Del Toro sharing screentime with Kevin Spacey in 1995, Swimming with Sharks revolves around Spacey’s Buddy Ackerman, a bottomlessly selfish studio executive haranguing the naive film-school graduate (Frank Whaley) who unwittingly agrees to enter a waking nightmare when he signs on to become Ackerman’s new assistant. Del Toro, playing Whalley’s predecessor, isn’t seen for long — Sharks is dominated by Spacey’s volcanic performance — but he was already well on his way to “that guy” status, and this is another early example of why. Little-seen during its initial release, writer-director George Huang’s black comedy was a hit with critics like MaryAnn Johanson of Flick Filosopher, who deemed it “As fine a ‘revenge on the boss from hell’ movie as the wickedly vindictive 9 to 5 (and as outrageous a satire on Hollywood as The Player).”


9. The Funeral (1996) 79%

(Photo by October Films courtesy Everett Collection)

With Abel Ferrara behind the camera, an ensemble cast led by Christopher Walken and Chris Penn, and a storyline revolving around occasionally grisly gang violence, The Funeral should rank among the quintessential indie dramas of the ’90s. It’s mostly escaped the spotlight since its release, but even in the context of Ferrara’s typically hard-hitting work, it’s dark stuff — the story of a pair of gangsters who set out to avenge their brother’s (Vincent Gallo) murder by retaliating against the competing mobster (Benicio Del Toro) they suspect of the crime. Naturally, not all is as it seems; the brothers’ quest takes some unexpected turns, and what might have been a simple shoot-’em-up has more on its mind. While audiences didn’t turn out, critics were suitably impressed; as Desson Thomson wrote for the Washington Post, “You’re engaged on a moral level rarely found in movies about violence.”


10. The Pledge (2001) 78%

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

Few who watched Sean Penn’s timeless turn as the affably bewildered stoner Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High could have guessed he’d grow up to favor dark dramas — or that when he eventually started directing features of his own, they’d include the sort of harrowing descent into the darkest depths of human nature plumbed by 2001’s The Pledge. The story begins with an alcoholic police detective (Jack Nicholson) whose retirement party is interrupted by the news of a young girl’s murder; pledged to solve the case by the victim’s mother, he doggedly persists in hunting down the killer even after it’s officially closed by the confession — and subsequent suicide — of a local man with a learning disability. Del Toro’s relatively brief (and somewhat controversial) appearance as the suspect is just one of several disquieting things about the film, which was destined for the commercial margins even as it drew applause from critics like Sean Burns of the Philadelphia Weekly, who wrote, “Steeped in an almost unbearable sadness, dense with moral ambiguity, it stubbornly withholds comfort at every startling turn.”

Naomi Watts‘ appearance in this weekend’s Demolition expands an eclectic filmography that’s seen her going from indie dramas to big-budget blockbusters and back again. In honor of this latest venture to the big screen, we decided to take a look back at some of her best-reviewed films and gather up a list of definitive Naomi Watts performances. It’s time for Total Recall!


Mother and Child (2009) 78%

Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia Barcha followed his Sixth Sense-ish thriller Passengers with this quiet character study, which traces the impact of adoption through the stories of three women (played by Watts, Annette Bening, and Kerry Washington) and their families. Add in an ensemble supporting cast that included Jimmy Smits, Amy Brenneman, and Samuel L. Jackson and you’ve got a tremendously talented group of stars whose subtle work helped critics look past Mother and Child’s occasionally bumpy script. “The film reminds us that character, not plot, is what binds us to a story,” observed Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Cutting between scenes of each in her unique environment, the movie tantalizes us.”

Watch Trailer


Fair Game (2010) 79%

Frequent co-stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn reunited for their third production with 2010’s Fair Game, a dramatization of the so-called “Plamegate” affair — a 2003 incident that saw CIA agent Valerie Plame resigning from the agency after her identity was outed by a journalist writing for the Washington Post. Feeling Plame’s exposure was politically motivated retribution for comments made by her husband Joseph C. Wilson, an ambassador who’d been openly critical of the current administration, the two cooperated with a special investigator’s grand jury investigation — and then pursued civil action against those they held responsible. A tough story to tell without seeming like you have an axe to grind, but according to most critics, director Doug Liman and his stars did a bang-up job. “The blind-siding of Valerie Plame wasn’t fair and wasn’t a game,” wrote Joe Williams for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but this cinematic outcome is a touchdown for true patriots.”

Watch Trailer


21 Grams (2003) 80%

One of several collaborations between Watts and Alejandro González Iñárritu, 21 Grams certainly isn’t the happiest film on this list, but it wrings some outstanding performances (not to mention plenty of tears) out of an outstanding cast. Using a handful of seemingly disparate plot threads, Iñárritu plunged viewers into the darkness pooling out of a tragedy unintentionally wrought by an ex-con (Benicio del Toro) whose irrevocable mistake has a profound impact on a dying math professor (Sean Penn) and a woman with a complicated past (Naomi Watts) — all of which are drawn irrevocably together by the final act. Watts and del Toro both earned Oscar nominations for their work, and neither could be accused of holding anything back; as Moira MacDonald wrote for the Seattle Times, “Watching it is a wrenching experience; the usual layers of distance between actors and audience are stripped away, and we not only watch their anguish, but become part of it.”

Watch Trailer


The Impossible (2012) 81%

Set out to make a movie about one of the more horrific tragedies in recent memory, and you’ve got your work cut out for you — like any good dramatist, you have to make real-life events cinema-worthy without dishonoring the people who actually experienced them, but with the added pressure of large-scale death and destruction hanging over your film. By most accounts, Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible did a noble enough job of representing the Indian Ocean tsunami that wreaked havoc on Boxing Day of 2004, and while some critics resented the way it focused on one white family of tourists (led by Watts and Ewan McGregor) at the expense of the people who actually lived in the region, and others dismissed the whole thing as manipulative Oscar bait, most writers found it (ahem) impossible not to be moved. Calling it “An intense and compelling family melodrama,” Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir argued that it “sets a new standard for disaster cinema.”

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Mulholland Dr. (2001) 84%

It resists synopsis and analysis in characteristically Lynchian fashion, but whatever it may or may not actually be about, Mulholland Drive opens a dark window into the twilight fringes of Hollywood inhabited by an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts) who arrives in Los Angeles and discovers an amnesiac woman (Laura Harring) living in her aunt’s apartment. As for the film itself, well, critics have been puzzling over its surreal imagery, nonlinear plot, and jumbled narrative since Mulholland arrived in theaters — but whether or not you can figure out what it all means, argued the New York Observer’s Andrew Sarris, it’s “One of the very few movies in which the pieces not only add up to much more than the whole, but also supersede it with a series of (for the most part) fascinating fragments.”

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King Kong (2005) 84%

It takes a lot of guts to step into a role that’s already been made famous by another actor, so even if her work in Peter Jackson’s King Kong had been downright awful, Watts would have deserved major points simply for agreeing to try and assume the part of the simian-bewitching Ann Darrow from the legendary Fay Wray. Happily for all concerned, the 21st century Kong — while perhaps unnecessary — managed to graft modern effects onto a timeless tale without putting too big of a dent in the iconic original’s charm. “Monstrous. Monumental. Magnificent,” wrote Tom Long for the Detroit News. “Use any term you want, there’s no denying the power, genius and spectacle of King Kong, which is certainly the biggest movie of the year and possibly the biggest movie ever made.”

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While We're Young (2014) 84%

It would be hard to argue that there’s a shortage of indie dramedies about ennui-riddled upper middle-class New York Caucasians, but that doesn’t mean their stories can’t be effectively told by the right director with the right script. Case in point: While We’re Young, in which Watts and Ben Stiller co-star as spouses whose repressed misgivings about their lives are stirred up when they make the acquaintance of a younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) who seem to have the spark they fear they’ve lost along the way. “If you’ve been wishing you could see a good Woody Allen comedy again, you should check out Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young,” wrote the Globe and Mail’s Liam Lacey, saying it “sees the 45-year-old director moving in on Allen’s territory — the Manhattan comedy of manners.”

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Eastern Promises (2007) 89%

Two years after mixing equal parts “bloody” and “thought-provoking” to create A History of Violence, David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen reunited for Eastern Promises, an equally hard-hitting drama about a driver for the Russian mafia. Promises‘ plot is set in motion after a midwife (Watts) delivers a baby whose teenage mother dies in childbirth; after a clue in the girl’s belongings leads to a Russian mob boss, things quickly start to get pretty gnarly for all concerned, including an infamous fight scene taking place in a steam room. “If you don’t mind bloodshed and are drawn to taut thrillers with fascinating characters portrayed skillfully,” wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today, “Eastern Promises is just the ticket.”

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) 91%

Michael Keaton received most of the attention for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman, and deservedly so — aside from the impressive level of visual craft that went into preserving the illusion that the movie took place in a single shot, its primary asset is its star, particularly for viewers who missed Keaton during his long absence from leading roles. That said, Iñárritu assembled a stellar cast all the way around for the project, including Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, and Naomi Watts. Whether you’re a Birdman fan or you agree with the backlash, this look at the emotional travails of a washed-up actor trying to prove his dramatic mettle with a stage play is eminently well acted by a top-to-bottom talented ensemble. “Birdman, more than most, seems a film that deserves a second viewing,” wrote Jocelyn Novecek for the Associated Press. “Not only to admire the work of Keaton and his co-stars, but to delve into its many layers.”

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Flirting (1990) 96%

Writer-director John Duigan may have felt like he landed a casting coup when he signed Nicole Kidman for Flirting, but the rising Australian star — then enjoying a growing international profile thanks to her work in Dead Calm and Days of Thunder — was only part of a stellar ensemble cast packed with future household names, including Watts and Thandie Newton. Although its storyline follows the same rough contours as many other coming-of-age dramas, those performances — and the skill with which Duigan told his characters’ stories — left many critics reeling. “Flirting is one of those rare movies with characters I cared about intensely,” enthused Roger Ebert. “I didn’t simply observe them on the screen, I got involved in their decisions and hoped they made the right ones.”

Watch Trailer

The Oscar-winning blonde will anchor the directorial debut of one of the hottest screenwriters around: Guillermo Arriaga.

Mr. Arriaga has been highly praised for his films "Amores Perros," "21 Grams," "Babel," and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," but he’ll take his first seat in the director’s chair on "The Burning Plain."

Backed by Mark Cuban‘s 2929 Productions, Arriaga will have Charlize Theron as Sylvia, a woman coming to terms with a decidedly difficult family childhood. Needless to say, Arriaga will provide the screenplay as well.

According to the filmmaker (via Variety), "There are very intense love stories here that take place in different places and times, with characters trying to find the healing powers of love, forgiveness and redemption…"

Word is that this one will feature Arriaga’s now-patented multi-overlapping story technique. Sounds like surefire Oscar bait to me.

Source: Variety

Blood will flow and screams will be deafening at North American multiplexes this weekend when the horror sequel "Saw III" buzzes its way into theaters. While there will be no fight for the number one spot, the rest of the top ten will see new films and holdovers scrambling for high positions.

The political thriller "Catch a Fire" opens on Friday in moderate national release and the comedy "Running with Scissors" expands into major markets after an impressive debut in limited release last weekend. Meanwhile, star-driven pics "The Prestige" and "The Departed" will try to remain popular choices with adult moviegoers.

If it’s Halloween, it must be "Saw." That’s the tagline that Lionsgate hopes will keep horror fans coming back for a third helping of pain for the newest chapter in its highly profitable fright franchise, "Saw III." The R-rated film finds Jigsaw returning to terrorize another set of young people. Once again, the formula of no stars plus extreme brutality unleashing its fury on the weekend before the pumpkin holiday remains intact. Now a major player in the horror genre, Lionsgate opened its first "Saw" in 2004 to the tune of $18.3M and grew its audience over the following year, especially with DVD, to propel the sequel to a $31.7M bow. Over the last 15 months, no other R-rated film has opened better. Now, a marketplace without many exciting choices for the 17-30 age group will embrace a film, though familiar, that appeals to young adults.


Another unfortunate dude opens "Saw III."

This month has already seen a pair of horror franchise pics open weaker than their predecessors which bowed in mid-October of recent years. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" debuted to $18.5M, down 34% from the $28.1M of 2003’s "Massacre," and "The Grudge 2" launched with $20.8M, a steep 47% less than the Gellar original. But "Saw III" is in a different situation. "Beginning" was a prequel three years later with not much new to offer while "Grudge 2" was no longer a star vehicle. "Saw III" promises more of what its fans want – brutality, gore, and torture – so it stands on almost equal footing when compared to the last installment. The fan base has probably not grown much in the last twelve months and some might even drop out thinking it’s just the same offering yet again. But with competing fright flicks fading fast, "Saw III" will basically be the only horror film in town for those getting ready for Halloween. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, "Saw III" might cut up around $30M.

Tim Robbins plays an elite South African leader and Derek Luke stars as an oppressed everyman in the apartheid drama "Catch a Fire." Directed by Phillip Noyce ("Patriot Games, "Clear and Present Danger"), the PG-13 political thriller tells the true story of a man captured and tortured by his government, only to become a radical freedom fighter for his people. Focus is likely to attract an audience similar to the one it saw last fall with another African-set political pic, "The Constant Gardener." The Ralph FiennesRachel Weisz film boasted a similar level of starpower and screens when it bowed to $8.7M over three days from 1,346 locations for a solid $6,444 average.


Derek Luke in the inspirational "Catch a Fire."

Reviews for "Fire" have been generally positive, but it will not be an easy sell at the box office. Robbins is the top star here and his track record selling tickets is spotty when it comes to films where he is the solo anchor. Plus the marketplace is filled with pictures targeting mature adults like "The Departed," "The Prestige," and "Flags of Our Fathers" so a crowded field will make it tough for "Fire." Using the ‘based on a true story’ angle in the marketing is always a helpful thing and Focus will soon see how much mileage it can get from it. Attacking 1,305 locations, "Catch a Fire" might capture about $6M over the Friday-to-Sunday session.

Annette Bening‘s dysfunctional family pic "Running with Scissors" enjoyed a strong platform debut last weekend with a scorching $28,263 average from only six sites. This Friday, Sony hopes to build on its bow by expanding the R-rated film into 586 theaters across North America. Critics agree that "Scissors" is not the next "Little Miss Sunshine." Reviews have been unflattering which will limit the commercial potential of a film that will mostly play to upscale adult audiences. A weekend take of around $3M could result diluting the per-theater average down to the neighborhood of $5,000.


Annette Bening and Brian Cox in "Running With Scissors."

Arthouses continue to get more crowded with fall films hoping for critical buzz and possible awards attention. Paramount Vantage packs the most starpower with its Brad PittCate Blanchett drama "Babel" which took home Best Director honors at Cannes this year for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams"). The R-rated tale trots across the globe from Morocco to Mexico to Japan with four interweaving stories about people from around the world who have no idea how connected their lives are. "Babel" opens in just six locations in New York and Los Angeles, most of them major multiplexes, and expands nationally in November. Reviews have been solid.


Brad Pitt, in the oscar-buzz grabber "Babel."

With Election Day around the corner, President George W. Bush stars in two documentaries that will try to stir up some controversy in order to get audiences running to their local theater. Newmarket Films releases "Death of a President," a docudrama about the fictional assassination of Bush in October 2007 and its aftermath. The R-rated whodunit was one of the hottest films at the Toronto Film Festival last month and hopes to capitalize on its buzz when it invades over 100 theaters this Friday. Also trying to wage a Red State vs. Blue State rivalry is "Shut Up & Sing" which examines the hardships that The Dixie Chicks faced recording their new album after their public outcry against the current Commander-in-Chief. The Weinstein Company opens the film in New York and Los Angeles on Friday before expanding to much of the country on November 10.


"D.O.A.P"

Among holdovers, the period thriller "The Prestige" and the mob drama "The Departed" should remain popular contenders in the top five. "Saw III" should not detract from either pic too much and the frame’s other new films will not play wide enough to offer significant competition in the rankings. "Prestige" swiped the top spot last weekend and is well-liked by moviegoers. A 40% drop would give Buena Vista about $9M and a ten-day total of $28M. "The Departed" has been holding up superbly so another 30% dip would leave Warner Bros. with around $9.5M which could be good enough for a third consecutive weekend at number two. The cume would rise to $90M.

LAST YEAR: Doing what its predecessor couldn’t do, "Saw II" opened triumphantly at number one and grossed a sturdy $31.7M for Lionsgate on its way to $87M continuing its most popular horror franchise. Sony countered with its family friendly adventure sequel "The Legend of Zorro" which debuted in second place with a decent $16.3M. The pricey Antonio BanderasCatherine Zeta-Jones pic went on to reach just $45.4M domestically. Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman quietly bowed in third with the comedy "Prime" which opened to $6.2M from less than 2,000 theaters. Universal found its way to a $22.8M final. The horse flick "Dreamer" held up well in its second jump taking in $6.1M while fellow kidpic "Wallace & Gromit" rounded out the top five with $4.3M in its fourth weekend. The fourth new wide release of the frame, Nicolas Cage‘s "The Weather Man," got rained out collecting a mere $4.2M leading to a wimpy $12.5M finish.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Rumor has it that the long-standing and successful partnership between Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga may be coming to an ugly end, just as their forthcoming festival fave "Babel" is set to hit theaters.

According to the LA Times, a rift between the two had opened in recent years after Arriaga publicly attributed the success of the pair’s Oscar-nominated "21 Grams" to his own writing; this year, Innaritu returned the slight by banning Arriaga from the Cannes premiere of "Babel," where the film won Innaritu the Best Director award. The two first worked together on 2000’s Spanish-language "Amores Perros," which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign film and helped to jumpstart Mexico’s recent cinematic revival.


Brad Pitt stars in Innaritu and Arriaga’s "Babel," already on the Oscar trail

While Innaritu has never directed a feature-length film without Arriaga as his screenwriter, Arriaga wrote "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" for director Tommy Lee Jones, for which he won the 2005 Cannes award for Best Screenplay.

The writer has commented in the past about the growing recognition of writers in film. Doing press for "21 Grams" back in 2004, the sometime novelist indicated to the Guardian that good writers are increasingly becoming more important than directors:

"It’s happening already. I think people are waiting for the new Charlie Kaufman movie rather than worrying about who is directing it. I think most people go to David Mamet‘s films because of Mamet the writer, not Mamet the director. People go to films for the stories. They remember the films for the stories. And there’s a huge crisis in stories and storytellers."

Meanwhile, the multi-lingual, linearly fractured drama "Babel" currently sits on an 89% Tomatometer and is garnering more and more awards-season attention its October 27 release approaches.

There’s a new ultra-cool, adult-oriented animated flick on the horizon…check out pics and the UK trailer for "Renaissance," a fantastic-looking, black-and-white, French sci-fi thriller set in the year 2054.

"Renaissance" is set in a near-future Paris, and begins with the kidnapping of a beautiful scientist. Intrigue unfolds involving a gang, a multi-national corporation, and a maverick cop assigned to the case. Take a look at the sleek, visually striking U.K. trailer for more!

First-time feature director Christian Volckman is at the helm of "Renaissance," which was released in France earlier this year and will sweep through the U.K. this month, with an all-star lineup of U.K. voice actors dubbed in. Heading the cast will be James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, along with venerable thesps like Jonathan Pryce, Ian Holm, Romola Garai, and Catherine McCormack.

"Renaissance" is set to hit theaters stateside September 22, courtesy of Miramax Films. Click here to browse the photo gallery.

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