It’s December, and the weather is (presumably) colder, shopping malls are crowded, and everyone is inviting you to their holiday parties. In other words, we know sometimes you just need to stay home, kick up your feet, and stream some quality TV. With that in mind, here are some choice selections on Netflix that should keep you entertained on your night in.
Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio star in Stanley Kubrick’s Certified Fresh Vietnam War movie, which takes viewers through a grueling boot camp before dropping them directly into the field of battle.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
James Toback offers up this documentary portrait of the former boxing champ that utilizes intimate interviews to delve into his colorful past.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Sandra Bullock stars in this romantic comedy about a lonely toll booth operator who falls in love with one of her customers and is mistaken for his fiancee when she intervenes in a tragic accident that leaves him comatose.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Emily blunt and Rupert Friend star in Jean-Marc Vallée’s historical biopic about the relationship between England’s Princess Victoria at age 18 and Prince Albert.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Rap superstar Eminem stars in Curtis Hanson’s musical drama about a troubled kid from Detroit trying to survive his environment and make a name for himself in the underground hip hop scene.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving star in this dystopian thriller about a lone freedom fighter plotting a series of revolutionary bombings against a tyrannical government who recruits a young woman to join his cause.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Phil Rosenthal’s documentary chronicles his own misadventures that ensued when he, as producer and writer of hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, traveled to Russia to help create a version of the show for Russian audiences.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby, and Ben Kingsley star in Jonathan Levine’s drama about a high schooler who spends his last summer before college dealing drugs and trying to woo his shrink’s stepdaughter.
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Will Smith stars as a legendary “date doctor” who’s playing matchmaker for a schlub (Kevin James) and his celebrity crush (Amber Valletta) while wooing a gossip columnist (Eva Mendes).
Available 12/1 on: Netflix
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and the rest of the crew return for the second installment of this wildly popular Marvel space adventure, which finds the Guardians struggling to keep their family united in the face of a grave galactic threat and secrets from their pasts.
Available 12/5 on: Netflix
This Netflix original series charts Queen Elizabeth II’s life from her 1947 wedding to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh to the present day.
Available 12/8 on: Netflix
This SyFy fantasy series centers on two friends who take wildly divergent paths to learn magic — critics found the second season a great improvement on the first.
Available 12/11 on: Netflix
Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, and Kerry Bishé star in AMC’s drama about the wild and wooly early days of the personal computer revolution. The entire series will be available to stream.
Available 12/14 on: Netflix
Cillian Murphy stars in this BBC period drama (available as a Netflix original) about the rise of the Peaky Blinders gang in post-WWI England.
Available 12/21 on: Netflix
Will Smith and Joel Edgerton star in David Ayer’s Netflix original sci-fi crime drama about a pair of cops — one human and one orc — who find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous plot involving a mysterious elf and an ancient relic of untold power.
Available 12/22 on: Netflix
In this sequel to the 2014 indie horror film, Mark Duplass reprises his role as the titular sinister weirdo, who this time allows a video artist to chronicle his life… and discover he’s not exactly what he seems to be.
Available 12/23 on: Netflix
David Attenborough returns to narrate this second installment of the groundbreaking nature series, ten years in the making, which depicts rarely seen animals and animal behaviors in far-flung locations across the world.
Available 12/25 on: Netflix
This anthology series explores the tricky relationship between society and technology, often depicting a heightened reality set in contemporary times or the ominous possibilities of the future.
Available 12/25 on: Netflix
In this Netflix original series, the one-time “Science Guy” explores various topics related to science along with a panel of experts and celebrities.
Available 12/25 on: Netflix
N.W.A.’s landmark 1988 debut album Straight Outta Compton launched the gangsta rap genre, served as a springboard for the group members’ assorted solo careers, and infuriated authority figures and conservative cultural pundits along the way. This week, these hip-hop legends get the biopic treatment with Straight Outta Compton the movie, and to celebrate, we decided to dedicate this week’s feature to a look at some of Hollywood’s best efforts to interpret, analyze, and honor a culture that’s all too often misappropriated and misunderstood. Get ready to rock it to the bang bang boogie, because it’s time for Total Recall!
There’s no shortage of movies about best pals who wake up to their love connection long after the audience has realized they’re perfect for each other, but director Rick Famuyiwa’s 2002 romantic dramedy Brown Sugar adds a fresh twist by making the protagonists (played by Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan) grown-up hip-hop kids who met during the genre’s formative era and have found successful careers in the music industry. Sugar further cements its hip-hop bona fides with supporting performances from real-life rappers Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and Queen Latifah, as well as an appearance from influential MC Kool G. Rap — all of whom contribute to the ample charms that help the movie transcend the rom-com conventions of its plot. “A romantic comedy, yes,” admitted Roger Ebert, “but one with characters who think and talk about their goals, and are working on hard decisions.”
Near the peak of Chappelle’s Show mania, Dave Chappelle used some of his newfound Hollywood clout to throw the greatest block party in history — and have director Michel Gondry film the whole thing, turning it into a cinematic love letter to live music and hip-hop’s deep New York roots. Interspersed with new stand-up material from its star, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party treats viewers to one incredible concert, featuring sets from Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, the Roots, Cody ChesnuTT, and Big Daddy Kane — plus the reunited Fugees — all filmed with a fan’s loving eye. Calling it “a concert film for people who don’t like concert films,” FilmFocus’ Joe Utichi said the result “does such a good job of putting you in the middle of the action that only the end credits can remind you that you’re sitting in a movie theatre.”
With 2002’s 8 Mile, Eminem joined the relatively short list of celebrities who have starred in their own biopic — and unlike most of his predecessors, he managed to come out of the experience with a critical and commercial hit. Of course, it definitely helped that the multi-platinum MC had led a fairly cinematic life, rising from humble beginnings as a bullied and impoverished Detroit youth before rocketing to fame with a rapid-fire rhyming style and deeply confessional, confrontational lyrics — and 8 Mile’s big-screen success also wasn’t hurt by the fact that it played fast and loose with his story, changing the “character” names and adding various narrative nips and tucks to make the whole thing hit harder on the big screen. “Since his ascension to pop-culture royalty, Eminem has transformed the messy emotions of his life into musical black comedy,” wrote Nathan Rabin for the AV Club. “In 8 Mile, that life becomes an equally riveting drama.”
In terms of storyline and structure, House Party may be little more than an updated version of the cheapo ‘50s rock flicks that tried to use the music as a Pavlovian bell to send screaming teens rushing to the cineplex, but whatever it might lack in sophistication, this cheerfully amiable 1990 hit more than compensates with its sheer exuberance, a killer soundtrack, and a pair of immensely charming stars. Led by hip-hop duo Kid ‘N Play, House Party tosses up the bare remnants of a plot (which is basically summed up in the title) and then colorfully decorates the joint with standout performances — including appearances from Robin Harris, Martin Lawrence, and Tisha Campbell — held together by Reginald Hudlin’s assured direction. The result, noted Desson Thomson for the Washington Post, is “fast-moving, never dull, extremely funny, and manages to touch, with lighthearted (and R-rated) profundity on almost every youthful issue you can imagine, including police harassment, teenage sex, the all-too-easy road to jail and alcohol drinking.”
Plenty of rappers have boasted on wax about growing up on the streets and rising out of a life of crime. In Craig Brewer’s Oscar-winning Hustle & Flow, those dire straits are depicted as something to escape rather than romanticize: Terrence Howard plays a small-time crook named Djay who, tired of pimping and dealing, decides it’s time to make a play for hip-hop stardom — only to discover that leaving your old life behind isn’t always as easy as putting together a dope demo. “Hustle & Flow suspends you in its spell of mood, of feeling, of climate,” wrote Stephanie Zacharek for Salon. “It’s a pop picture that finds its richness in peeling down to the essentials of good storytelling.”
While rock fans have been spoiled over the years by a growing list of documentaries devoted to the genre’s classic albums, hip-hop’s greatest hits have been given relatively short shrift. Time Is Illmatic, a 2014 documentary assembled in honor of the 20th anniversary of Nas’ classic debut LP Illmatic, offers an absorbing example of the many fascinating tales waiting to be told by directors willing to look to rap’s past for inspiration. Helmed by first-time filmmaker One9, Time Is Illmatic offers an overview of Nas’ upbringing and early life, leading to him signing his first record deal at the tender age of 20 and releasing his watershed album just a year later, then surveys Illmatic’s impact and legacy over the ensuing decades. As Kyle Anderson argued for Entertainment Weekly, “As both an origin story about a great artist and a distillation of ’80s urban blight, it’s as breathless and real as any street-corner rhyme.”
For many people, breakdancing was little more than a short-lived fad that died out in the early ‘80s, but director Benson Lee proved the opposite with his critically lauded 2007 documentary Planet B-Boy. In fact, as Lee shows here, the dance not only persisted beyond its time in the ‘80s zeitgeist, it’s flourished throughout the world; to prove it, Planet follows young breakdancers from Germany, Japan, South Korea, France, and the United States as they train to compete for top honors in the Battle of the Year. Those of us who remember how much fun it was to watch popping and locking in the schoolyard and on MTV will not be surprised by the words of the Houston Chronicle’s Amy Biancolli, who wrote, “If I could, I would spin on my head to express how much I enjoyed Planet B-Boy.”
It’s the MC we tend to hear loudest (and whose talents tend to receive the widest recognition), but there’s nothing quite as incredible as a talented turntablist, and some of hip-hop’s most brilliant DJs finally got their cinematic due in Hype! director Doug Pray’s 2002 documentary Scratch, which takes an incisive and insightful look at the elevation of the art form from early pioneers like Afrika Bambaata on up through latter-day leaders like DJ Shadow and DJ Qbert. As with any great documentary, Scratch transcends its subject; in the words of the Capital Times’ Rob Thomas, “Those moviegoers who would automatically bypass a hip-hop documentary should give Scratch a second look.”
For the rap novice looking for a primer course in the development of the art form, Something for Nothing is essential viewing — but even for those who’ve loved hip-hop for years, the movie offers an engrossing look at some of the key artists who helped shape the genre during its formative era, with co-director Ice-T arranging an assortment of legendary MCs and younger rising stars (including Afrika Bambaataa, Big Daddy Kane, Eminem, and Kanye West) to tell their stories while opening a window into their craft. “The interviews are often revealing and funny,” noted an approving Michael Phillips for the Chicago Tribune. “And much of the music is tremendous.”
Hip-hop would go on to inspire plenty of films with bigger budgets, wider releases, and more ambitious stories, but they all owe a partial debt to Wild Style. Produced, written, and directed by multi-hyphenate artist Charlie Ahearn, Style takes a docudrama approach to hip-hop in early ‘80s New York, featuring many of the era’s top acts (including Fab 5 Freddy, who helped work on the script, as well as Grandmaster Flash and the Rock Steady Crew) playing themselves as part of a story about a graffiti artist named Zoro (Lee Quiñones) and his relationship with a journalist (Patti Astor). Like quite a few of the entries on this list, Wild Style boasts a killer soundtrack, but it’s also one of the more critically respected examples of hip-hop cinema, capturing a crucial moment in time with its loosely scripted approach and low-budget aesthetic. “Hip-hop rolls on tractor treads now, unafraid to colonize those who hesitate,” noted Sasha Frere-Jones for the Village Voice, “but in 1982 it was small, self-selecting, and as specific to New York as the World Trade Center.”
Finally, here’s ’80s hip-hop hitmakers the Fat Boys covering the Beatles’ “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” from the soundtrack to their 1987 comedy Disorderlies:
Will the friendly neighborhood webslinger reclaim the holy grail of the movie biz – the opening weekend box office record?
After attacking most major markets around the world throughout this week, Sony’s global assault hits North America on Friday with "Spider-Man 3," the much-anticipated super hero sequel which ushers in a new summer movie season with a bang. And it could indeed be a record bang.
Director Sam Raimi returns with his illustrious cast including Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the new mega-budgeted tentpole film following up on a pair of Spidey films that together grossed an eye-popping $1.6 billion worldwide earlier this decade. In the new PG-13 adventure, Peter Parker tries to take his relationship with his galpal Mary Jane to the next level just as three new villains enter the scene looking for some love and affection of their own from Spider-Man. James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, and everyone’s favorite lady in the water Bryce Dallas Howard co-star. The new saga features the super foes Sandman, Venom, and the New Goblin.
With an official production cost of $258M (and some speculate that it is actually higher), Spider-Man 3 stands as the most expensive movie yet to hit theaters. But despite the enormous pricetag, and not to mention the extravagant marketing tab, the super sequel stands a chance of approaching $1 billion in global box office this summer with tons more cash coming from video, television, and merchandising. So the eye-popping budget almost seems justified.
Sony staked its claim to the first weekend of May over a year ago and competing studios took the warning by making sure they did not program anything worthy against it, or even on the weeks before and after its opening. That puts "Spider-Man 3" in the enviable position of having the entire marketplace all to itself for a full two weeks before the next summer sensation, "Shrek the Third," hits the marketplace. Spidey should easily have over $250M in the bank before the ogre pic opens giving the super hero a mammoth headstart in the annual race for the summer crown.
The lack of competition will be key this weekend in "Spider-Man 3"’s attempt to break the all-time opening weekend record set last summer by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" which exploded to $135.6M over a regular Friday-to-Sunday period. As big as that bow was, there was still a potent $60M spent on the rest of the top five films that weekend. This frame, look for the films in the two through five slots to collect only a third of that amount. The advantage the Venom flick has over the last "Pirates" is that the current marketplace is so dead that multiplexes will be handing over every possible screen. Whereas a July film might only get three or four screens at a venue, a tentpole release in early May can spread like black alien goo to a fifth, sixth, or seventh screen at the same multiplex since there’s absolutely nothing else of value to waste auditoriums on. This increases the grossing potential significantly.
Running time will not be an issue as "Spider-Man 3" actually runs about 10 minutes shorter than "Dead Man’s Chest." Thanks to the weak marketplace (last weekend was the worst frame in seven months), Sony has booked a record 4,253 locations for its bow this weekend breaking the previous high of 4,163 theaters for the launch of 2004’s "Shrek 2." The studio is not reporting its total print count, but based on other megablockbusters of its type, it can be safely estimated that over 8,000 total screens will offer up this new super hero flick. Possibly over 9,000. By comparison, the second "Pirates" hit set sail in 4,133 theaters with over 8,500 prints while "Star Wars Episode III" took off with over 9,400 prints in North America in mid-May 2005.
The marketing campaign has been running on overdrive with numerous red carpet premieres around the world over the last two weeks. The push seems to be helping as "Spider-Man 3" has surpassed the opening day marks of its two older brothers in every market. The event film grossed a stunning $29.2M on its first day in 16 territories on Tuesday breaking the all-time opening day record in ten of them including France, Italy, Hong Kong, Egypt, Belgium, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. The tally was more than the first-day grosses in the same countries of the first two "Spidey" films combined. By Sunday the juggernaut will be playing in a stunning 107 markets across the globe. North American audiences may follow suit and push "3" ahead of the then-record $114.8M opening of the first Peter Parker pic from five years ago this very weekend. That same size audience turning out this weekend at today’s ticket prices would unload about $130M domestically.
Although the new tale has little competition on its second weekend, its spider legs may not be as strong as those of the previous webslinger films. The first two were very big crowdpleasers with many calling the second installment the better film. Expectations are sky high for the new one. Yes, the threequel is a fun thrill ride worthy of kicking off the summer popcorn season and boasts impressive action sequences and effects. But its weak script and cram-a-ton-of-stories-into-one-film feel will not make many fans think of it as the best "Spidey" yet. It becomes so much of a super hero soap opera by its midpoint that it won’t have the same word-of-mouth as the previous ones. While that will have no effect on the opening weekend gross, it could eat into repeat business down the road. Last summer’s "X-Men: The Last Stand" opened powerfully to $122.9M over the four-day Memorial Day frame but tumbled down to $16.1M by its third weekend.
When franchises hit the third installment, pressure mounts to offer something new to the table so casual fans don’t lose interest. What "Spider-Man 3" has going for it is the buzz that has circulated (naturally or artificially – you decide) about how this could be the final "Spider-Man" film for Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst together. That succeeds in giving the film a sense of urgency in that fans feel that this might be the last party for the beloved trio. Add in the magazine covers, talk show appearances, and globe-trotting premieres and Spider-Man has truly conquered pop culture this week which will make movie fans not want to be the only goofballs on Monday who didn’t see the can’t-miss blockbuster.
Advance ticketing has been running at a record pace. Movietickets.com has reported that sales are ahead of "Dead Man’s Chest" at the same point in the advance sales cycle and three times better when compared to "Spider-Man 2." Add in Thursday night midnight shows, and the higher-priced Imax venues where tickets run as much as $15 in New York City, and the grossing potential climbs even higher.
"Spider-Man 3" stands an excellent chance of setting a new industry record for the biggest opening in history. The marketing assault has been amazing, audience anticipation is sky high, competition is zero, and every screen out there is dumping its spring trash in favor of the Sandman flick. Towering over its foes, "Spider-Man 3" might swing into the friendly neighborhood of $140M over the Friday-to-Sunday span this weekend.
Who would dare go head-to-head against Spider-Man this weekend? The Hulk of course! Eric Bana joins forces with Drew Barrymore in the poker drama "Lucky You" which Warner Bros. is quietly dropping into the marketplace. Offered as a counter-programming option for adult women, the much-delayed film from director Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential," "8 Mile") tells of a hardcore card shark who juggles rocky relationships with his need to win a tournament. The PG-13 film could not have asked for a more unlucky frame. Although countering super hero films with chick flicks can be a good move ("My Best Friend’s Wedding" vs. "Batman & Robin," "The Devil Wears Prada" vs. "Superman Returns"), this time this film just doesn’t have the goods. Buzz is low, reviews are bad, and Drew just isn’t the draw she used to be. Plus "Spider-Man 3" boasts plenty of female appeal so the choice will be simple for most women. Not likely to find full houses in its 2,525 theaters, "Lucky You" looks to settle for a distant second place showing with about $7M this weekend.
Elsewhere in the land of single-digit millions, "Disturbia" will end its three-week reign atop the charts. The Paramount thriller has been enjoying good legs with second and third weekend declines of 42% and 31%, respectively. This time the fall should be harder since "Spidey" will appeal to the exact same audience. A 45% drop would give "Disturbia" about $5M for the session and a solid 24-day cume of $59M.
The supernatural thriller "The Invisible" probably burned through much of its audience on opening weekend so a 50% drop to around $4M could result. That would give Buena Vista $13M after ten days. Fellow sophomore "Next" starring Nicolas Cage should collapse as well as moviegoers showed no interest last weekend. A 50% decline should lead to a $3.5M frame and a dismal ten-day total of only $13M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Think it sounds like a good idea to head into your local multiplex and videotape the biggest movies so you can upload them onto the internet and give a bunch of strangers free flicks? Well, you’re wrong! And one guy just got the prison sentence to prove it.
From Variety: "A man convicted of sneaking camcorders into movie screenings and selling the pirated tapes in videostores was sentenced to seven years in federal prison Friday. "It is hoped the sentence will deter further unlawful conduct and protect the public," said U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson.
Johnny Ray Gasca was convicted in June 2005 of three counts of copyright infringement as well as using a fake Social Security number and of an escape charge for fleeing his attorney’s custody while awaiting trial. Gasca gained notoriety as the first person to be charged in a federal crackdown on video piracy. He represented himself during a weeklong trial, saying he didn’t intend to profit from his actions. He said evidence was embellished to make him appear to be a "prince of piracy."
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I attend several film festivals each year, but there’s always one movie-centric event that I’d really love to attend: The San Diego Comic-Con. Movie geek heaven is what I like to call it. Read on to find out why…
From the pre-con report at Dark Horizons: "With a little over a week to go, the full schedule has been announced with this year’s various panels to include appearances and Q&As with the likes of Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Jason Statham, David Wenham, Rosario Dawson, Amber Tamblyn, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Eva Mendes, Kristen Bell, Ali Larter, AnnaSophia Robb, Nick Frost, David Arquette and The Wayans Brothers.
Joining them will be directing and producing luminaries such as Sam Raimi, Alfonso Cuarón, Bryan Singer, Kevin Smith, Richard Kelly, Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo del Toro, Stephen Hopkins, Jon Favreau, Edgar Wright, David Goyer, James L. Brooks, Mark Steven Johnson, Zack Snyder, Joel Silver and Stan Winston.
Potential footage debuts from the likes of ("Spider-Man 3"), "300," "Grind House" and possibly "Transformers" will draw much talk as well. Amongst the films getting panels or being shown footage from are: "300," "The Ant Bully," "The Children of Men," "Crank," "DOA: Dead or Alive," "Fantastic Four 2," "Flyboys," "Ghost Rider," "Grind House," "Happy Feet," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Iron Man," "Open Season," "Pan’s Labyrinth," "The Reaping," "Saw III," "Skinwalkers," "Snakes on a Plane," "Southland Tales," "Spider-Man 3," "Stardust," "Surf’s Up," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," "Transformers" & "The Wicker Man."
Now that they’ve made direct-to-video sequels from allllll their classic features, the Disney gang will finally give a voice to a character who’s remained mute for over 50 years — but at least they got a solid gal for the gig: Brittany Murphy will be providing the pipes in "Tinker Bell," Disney’s new animated feature that should hit theaters in Fall of 2007.
From our good pals at ComingSoon.net: "Disney opened Licensing International 2006 in New York by revealing Brittany Murphy as the voice of the sassy and spunky fairy for the 2007 release of "Tinker Bell." In the tradition of its many animated classics, Disney will bring to life an enchanting tale of Pixie Hollow and Tink’s new fairy friends voiced by some of Hollywood’s most talented actors.
"I’ve had the good fortune of playing many interesting characters, but none as magical as Tinker Bell," said Murphy. "To give Tinker Bell a voice for the first time in history is such an honor."
"Tinker Bell" will be the first time audiences hear Tinker Bell speak, as the movie brings to life the amazing world of Disney Fairies in all-new CG-animation. The movie, to release globally in Fall 2007 by DisneyToon Studios and Walt Disney Home Entertainment, will be supported with a strong marketing campaign and a broad consumer products line at major retailers around the world."
Although best known for her live-action assets in movies like "Clueless," "Girl, Interrupted," "8 Mile," and "Sin City," Ms. Murphy is certainly no stranger to the animated world. She’s done extensive voice work in titles like "Good Boy!," TV’s "King of the Hill" and the upcoming "Happy Feet." Plus she’s really cute.
P.S. I always thought "Tinker Bell" was one word. Didn’t you?
We haven’t seen a whole lot of M&M since he appeared (as basically himself) in "8 Mile," but now comes word that the rapper will star for Paramount in an adaptation of the old western series "Have Gun, Will Travel" — only it’s being modernized and plunked into Detroit — which is weird.
Concept will be updated to contemporary times and see Eminem playing a bounty hunter. Setting could be Eminem’s hometown of Detroit, but those details have yet to be worked out.
(Eminem’s manager Paul) Rosenberg told Daily Variety that the vehicle will be revamped from the original, with some characters based loosely on ones from the series as well as nods to certain story points."
This week’s wide releases raise a number of questions. Is “Zathura” a game worth playing? Is 50 Cent‘s movie debut, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” the cinematic equivalent of a trip to the candy shop? Is “Derailed” a speedy locomotive, or is it true to its name? What do the critics have to say?
“Zathura” is the third story by Rhode Island-based children’s book author Chris Van Allsburg to make the leap from the page to the big screen (the other two were “Jumanji” and last year’s “The Polar Express“). And critics say it’s the best of the bunch. “Zathura” tells the tale of a pair of squabbling brothers who must learn to work together after they are transported into space while playing the titular board game. According to the critics, the movie is solid family entertainment, with a real sense of adventure and wonder, emphasizing characters over the (not at all shabby) special effects. At 71 percent on the Tomatometer, “Zathura”‘s got game. And it beats “The Polar Bear Express,” which scored 56 percent on the Tomatometer, and “Jumanji,” at 48 percent.
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has a life story that seems ready-made for cinematic treatment: he was a drug dealer, he survived a shooting, and he eventually became one of America’s biggest musical stars. But the critics say the semi-autobiographical “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” which features 50 in his acting debut, still feels like the stuff of many other rags-to-riches dramas. The scribes say even veteran director Jim Sheridan can’t make it fresh, despite an excellent supporting cast that includes the always-dependable Terrence Howard. At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” can’t make a dollar out of 50 Cent. And it’s the worst-reviewed film of Sheridan’s career (beating out “The Field,” at 46 percent).
As the old saying goes, what a tangled web we weave, when we make a thriller about adultery and betrayal with lots of plot twists. “Derailed” tells the story of an extramarital affair gone terribly awry, after a very bad guy threatens the two trapped philanderers. The critics say the title is all too apt; the plot twists become more tangled as the film goes along, and Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, in spite of their considerable skills, are miscast as, respectively, a schlubby family man and a fundamentally decent femme fatale. At 19 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics say “Derailed” has jumped the tracks.
Movies Starring Musicians Playing Musicians:
5% — Undiscovered (2005) – Starring Ashlee Simpson
81% — Hustle & Flow (2005) – Starring Ludacris
15% — Raise Your Voice (2004) – Starring Hilary Duff
76% — 8 Mile (2002) – Starring Eminem
7% — Glitter (2001) – Starring Mariah Carey
14% — Crossroads (2002) – Starring Britney Spears
24% — Duets (2000) – Starring Huey Lewis
32% — Black and White (1999) – Starring Raekwon
81% — Selena (1997) – Starring Jennifer Lopez
11% — Cool as Ice (1991) – Starring Vanilla Ice
70% — Purple Rain (1984) – Starring Prince
This week at the movies brings us stories of camaraderie. We have a man and his dog ("Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"), sisters ("In Her Shoes"), disgruntled restaurant employees ("Waiting…"), and men who bond over gambling ("Two for the Money"). Which of these films will get some love from the critics?
Is Wallace and Gromit the funniest duo in animation history? The critics say their feature film debut, "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," is powerful evidence for that claim. The quirky, cheese-loving inventor and his remarkably sentient and competent canine companion became popular in their Oscar-winning shorts, but critics say this film is something else altogether: funny, wild, eccentric, but also touching. At 95 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Curse" is a blessing. Or, more to the point, it’s the best-reviewed wide release of the year so far. Director Nick Park is batting a thousand; his first feature, "Chicken Run," was another runaway critical success, scoring 97 percent on the Tomatometer.
Sometimes you look at siblings and wonder how they could possibly be related. "In Her Shoes" tells the story of two sisters who are polar opposites except for their shoe size; it also describes Curtis Hanson‘s involvement in the film, as his last was "8 Mile." But the critics say it’s a good fit. The performances by Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and (especially) Shirley MacLaine help elevate what could seem clichéd into a warm and involving drama. At 69 percent on the Tomatometer, "In Her Shoes" is a good fit.
Gross-out comedy is tricky business. If you cross the line, a movie can just end up being disgusting. The critics say that’s just one of the problems with "Waiting…," a film that covers similar ground as "Office Space" and "Clerks," but with a greater focus on gags than people. Ryan Reynolds stars as a deeply jaded chain restaurant employee dedicated to high jinks, not customer service. Many of the pranks can’t be described in family newspapers, and the scribes say that’s the problem, they’re too over-the-top to be funny. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, critics say you’ll be "Waiting" for laughs.
Al Pacino stars as the head of a sports betting agency, with Matthew McConaughey as a once-promising quarterback with an almost preternatural ability to pick winners in "Two for the Money." While the scribes say Pacino is his usual high-strung, compelling self, the rest of the movie is something of a fumble. Like a prima donna wide receiver who never makes the big play, this one’s a bit more flash than substance. At 15 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics say "Two for the Money" is a losing bet. But Pacino should be fine; his combined Tomatometer is at 71 percent.
Today’s intelligence round-up brings stories of rehabilitation and heartbreak, as your favorite celeb-watchers break news of drug-addiction and divorce…beginning with rap superstar-cum-actor Eminem, who Tuesday cancelled his entire European tour citing ‘exhaustion, complicated by other medical issues’ — drawing ire from one European venue host who complained that greater musicians would have toughed it out. In a press release today, Eminem’s record label, Interscope, elaborated on the 8-Mile star’s condition — by divulging that he’d been checked into a rehab hospital Tuesday to fight an addiction to sleeping pills. All this after last week, when the ‘Purple Pills’ rapper was named in a suit by his aunt and uncle who allege that their prodigal nephew had attempted to evict them from the house he had built for them, and had reneged on a promised $100,000 per year in financial support.
In other musician-turned-thespian narcotic-dependency news, Courtney Love admitted today in court to violating her probation in three separate cases by using unnamed drugs, in an incident that had her rushed to a hospital last July. The former-Hole frontwoman, whose scattered film credits include The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Julie Johnson, and Trapped, was ordered to immediately enter a 28-day rehabilitation program by a Superior Court judge who initially considered placing Love in jail. Love, who most recently appeared on the Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson repeatedly exclaiming that she’d been sober for an entire year, has had a lion’s share of legal troubles in the past few years, including arrests for drug possession, disorderly conduct, assault, and breaking into the house of an ex-boyfriend. Her admission to violating probation breaches three previous cases: one misdemeanor assault, and two misdemeanor drug possession convictions.
Elsewhere, we hear the sad sound of divorce papers being filed as the MTV generation’s favorite sassy blonde, Jenny McCarthy, is splitting from director husband John Asher. McCarthy, best remembered as the host of dating show Singled Out and the star of her own briefly run titular sketch show, has a three year-old son with Asher, whom she met when they made the film Diamonds. Following that 1999 clunker, the couple went on to make 2001’s Thank Heaven as well as the upcoming September release, Dirty Love.
And finally, we must pop in another break-up mix-tape, this time for Austin Powers star Verne Troyer. The 2’8" actor, best known as Dr. Evil’s tiny sidekick Mini-Me, apparently didn’t see eye to eye with his 6’2" model wife, Genevieve Gallen — the couple, who were married in early 2004, have been estranged for a year and Gallen has reportedly already moved on with a biker boyfriend. Despite criticism from Troyer supporters, Gallen claims their marital troubles are not her fault — the marriage went south not because of their height difference, but because the diminutive actor gets too much attention from other women.
From Jim Sheridan, the director of "In America" and "My Left Foot," comes the big-screen tale of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson‘s bitter life on the streets. Previously known as "Locked and Loaded," the film is now titled "Get Rich or Die Tryin’," and you can see the brand-new trailer right here.
Written by TV veteran Terence Winter, "Get Rich or Die Tryin’" looks to hit the screens and earn an "8 Mile"-style welcome, and you can check it out for yourself on November 11th.