(Photo by New Line/ courtesy Everett Collection)
Directors know they’ve made an indelible mark on cinema when their last name becomes a descriptive adjective, a shorthand to jazz up any review or conversation. In Robert Altman’s case, “Altmanesque” can describe a few different kinds of moods and movies. There’s those sprawling stories with a multitude of characters tied with perhaps the loosest of narrative threads, like in The Player or Short Cuts. “Altmanesque” can point out roving, restless cameras that capture spontaneous and improvised performances, as featured in The Company and Gosford Park. The term is also used to paint deep-fried slices of Americana with a satirical sizzle, which Altman served up in McCabe & Mrs. Miller and A Prairie Home Companion. His magnum opus, 1975’s Nashville, represents a cross-section of all of these.
Though Altman’s prime period was during the 1970s, kick-starting the decade with Best Picture-nominated M*A*S*H, he typically isn’t bundled together with the other mavericks of the era (Spielberg, Scorsese, Friedkin, Coppola, and so on), having broken into the industry much earlier by working in television since the ’50s. Because of his experience, Altman was able to set up productions at a much faster pace than the young upstarts. Dig just beneath the masterpieces and you’ll immediately discover classics like The Long Goodbye, California Split, 3 Women, Thieves Like Us, and more.
The ’80s were considered a relatively dry decade for Altman, necessitating the narrative of a comeback film. That would arrive in the acerbic Hollywood insider comedy The Player, in 1993. Player would deliver Altman one of his five Best Director Oscar nominations, with the last nom in 2001 for Gosford Park. In March 2006, the Academy gave Altman the Honorary Award, eight months before his death.
Visit and celebrate the works of a true American directing icon with these 25 Fresh Robert Altman movies!
(Photo by Brigitte Lacombe / TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection.)
Meryl Streep landed her first Oscar nomination for just her second on-screen role: 1978’s The Deer Hunter, opposite John Cazale. A few more performances after that and she’d find herself standing before Hollywood’s elite, accepting the gold trophy for her complex “villain” role in 1980’s Kramer vs. Kramer. Stardom came within that decade, as she made her mark across disparate films and genres, becoming versatility personified in the acting game, as featured in a Best Picture winner (Out of Africa), rom-coms (Heartburn), political social thrillers (Silkwood), dramas (Sophie’s Choice), and period pieces (Ironweed).
This canny ability to wedge and dissolve into roles that sparked her attention has been rewarded with a record 21 Oscar nominations over decades, winning three for Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, and The Iron Lady. Yes, there were noms for so-called Oscar bait like Doubt, The Post, and the actually-Rotten Iron Lady, but Streep pulled nominations out of more unique genres, like musicals (Into the Woods), broad comedies (The Devil Wears Prada, Florence Foster Jenkins), and wherever you want to categorize Adaptation.
Streep’s most recent films have been Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation, and the mostly-ignored The Laundromat. She must’ve enjoyed the Steven Soderbergh experience on Laundromat, because she’s teaming up with him again for comedy Let Them All Talk next. Additionally, she’s got another musical (along with the Mamma Mia! movies, they’ve been a late-career boon) in the works in The Prom, from Ryan Murphy. And now, we’re celebrating with all Meryl Streep movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
Woody Harrelson has come an awfully long way since he joined the cast of Cheers in 1985, originating the role of hayseed bartender Woody Boyd and kicking off a career that has grown to encompass one of the more eclectic, unusual, and just plain interesting filmographies in modern Hollywood. Comedies? Dramas? Thrillers? Harrelson’s done ‘em all — and with his turn as the Colonel in War for the Planet of the Apes making its way to theaters this weekend, we figured now was the perfect time to take a look back at some of the critical highlights in the Harrelson oeuvre, Total Recall style!
The stars come marching out to do battle with the pirates for the number one spot this weekend.
For the sixth consecutive weekend, a threequel is poised to command the top spot at the North American box office as Warner Bros. rolls out the caper pic "Ocean’s Thirteen" reuniting Hollywood’s fun boys. Sony counters with the family offering "Surf’s Up" while Lionsgate goes after the horror crowd with "Hostel Part II." Each film should target its own audience so there should be space for all newcomers.
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and their endless list of co-stars are back again as everyone’s favorite criminals in "Ocean’s Thirteen." The PG-13 pic finds the group back in Las Vegas on a heist driven by revenge against a real estate mogul, played by Al Pacino, who is launching his latest luxury hotel/casino. The first two in the series had December openings of $38.1M for 2001’s "Ocean’s Eleven" and $39.2M for 2004’s "Ocean’s Twelve." They also had little direct competition for adults. Although they opened in the same fashion, the sequel was not as well-liked and found its way to $125.5M, or about one-third less than the $183.4M cume of the original which itself was a remake.
"Thirteen" should play to the exact same audience of mature adults. Appeal is equally strong for males and females and even some teen interest should be there. Reviews have been generally positive but that should have little impact. Moviegoers know exactly what they are getting the third time around and will decide based on if they want to take another two-hour trip seeing slick actors, with slick hair, and slick clothes, acting cool. Those soured by "Twelve" may take a pass on "Thirteen." Plus "Pirates" and "Knocked Up" will provide some solid competition. But the sheer amount of starpower should make this entry hard to resist to many looking for a fun mature film without pirates, super heroes, and endless special effects. "Ocean’s Thirteen" rolls the dice in 3,565 locations this weekend and might win about $37M over three days.
For those kids who can’t get enough of talking cartoon penguins, Sony unleashes its big summer animation entry "Surf’s Up." Delivered in a mockumentary style, the PG-rated film tells the story of penguins that compete in a surfing competition, and of course crack jokes along the way. Arriving just three weeks after "Shrek the Third," "Surf’s Up" will have to deal with competition from the ogre toon and to some extent the other aging threequels which combined should gross north of $40M this weekend. The new penguin pic does not have the buzz or the starpower of a Robin Williams that helped "Happy Feet" shoot to number one last November with a $41.5M bow on its way to a terrific $198M.
Instead, "Surf’s Up" seems to be in the same middle category with recent films like "Open Season" and "Meet the Robinsons" which opened to $23.6M and $25.1M, respectively. With children in the process of ending their school years and starting their summer vacations, parents should be in the mood to take them to the movies for some non-violent fun. "Surf’s Up" lands in over 3,000 theaters on Friday and could debut with about $24M.
Yet another horror sequel makes its way into theaters with Lionsgate’s "Hostel Part II." The first "Hostel" was a number one hit last year opening to $19.6M on its way to an impressive $47.3M off of a tiny budget. The new R-rated entry finds three American students in Rome who find themselves caught in a grisly game of torture and mayhem. Horror fans have been suffering from fright fatigue lately. The recent sequels "The Hills Have Eyes II" and "28 Weeks Later" both opened to just under $10M failing to match the bows of their predecessors. Other horror flicks like "Bug," "The Condemned," "The Reaping," and "Vacancy" all underperformed over the last several weeks and have helped to scare fans away from the genre.
But Lionsgate is among the best at selling this type of fare to older teens and young adults and the distributor is hoping to tap into a built-in audience. Just as with the first one, Quentin Tarantino whores his name out again with a ‘presents’ credit on the marketing materials. It would be interesting to know what kind of compensation, monetary or otherwise, he gets for these transactions. Locking up ticket buyers in 2,350 theaters, "Hostel Part II" may open with around $12M.
Following its two frames at number one, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" should give up the top spot this weekend, although the runnerup slot is not necessarily a guarantee. The pricey Disney adventure fell by 62% last weekend and could see its drop dip to 50% this time. That would give Johnny Depp and his buddies about $22M for the session and $254M overall.
Last weekend’s number two flick "Knocked Up" raced past "At World’s End" to claim the number one spot on Monday and Tuesday thanks to great buzz and is prepared to see a solid hold this time around. Two summers ago, the R-rated comedies "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" both dipped by only 24% in their sophomore frames thanks to stellar word-of-mouth and no major competition from new releases. "Knocked Up" has the same great satisfaction from moviegoers, but will see much of its adult audience get tempted away by Brad and company. A 30% drop would still give it a great hold with about $21M for the frame. That would push the cume to a stunning $68M in only ten days.
"Shrek the Third" will face direct competition from rival toon "Surf’s Up" this weekend. That could lead to a 40% decline to roughly $17M boosting the cume to $282M.
LAST YEAR: Disney and Pixar joined forces for the number one opening of "Cars" which cruised into the top spot with $60.1M. The animated comedy raced to $244.1M domestically becoming the summer’s biggest non-Captain Jack flick, and over $462M worldwide. Universal’s comedy "The Break-Up" fell 48% in its second date grossing $20.3M and was followed by "X-Men: The Last Stand" with $16.1M. The horror remake "The Omen" bowed to $16M over the weekend and a creepy $36.3M over six days since its Tuesday launch on 6/6/06. Fox scared up $54.6M eventually. "The Da Vinci Code" rounded out the top five with $10.4M in its fourth lap. Debuting to solid results in a moderate launch was "A Prairie Home Companion" with $4.6M from 760 locations for a $6,008 average. The Picturehouse release found its way to $20.3M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
It’s time again to celebrate the best that indie-land has to offer. The Spirit Award nominees are out, with "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Half Nelson" leading all contenders with five nods each, including best feature.
The family dysfunction on-the-road comedy "Sunshine" was also nominated for Best Director (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris), Supporting Male (Alan Arkin and Paul Dano) and Best First Screenplay (Michael Arndt). Meanwhile, "Half Nelson," a drama about a troubled inner-city teacher, received nods for Best Director (Ryan Fleck), Male Lead (Ryan Gosling), Female Lead (Shareeka Epps), and Best First Screenplay (Anna Boden and Fleck).
The other nominees for Best Feature are "American Gun," "The Dead Girl," and "Pan’s Labyrinth." In the Best Director category, the nominees also include Robert Altman for "A Prairie Home Companion," Karen Moncrieff for "The Dead Girl," and Steven Soderbergh for "Bubble."
In addition to Gosling, the Male Lead nominees are Aaron Eckhart ("Thank You For Smoking"), Edward Norton ("The Painted Veil"), Ahmad Razvi ("Man Push Cart"), and Forest Whitaker ("American Gun"). In addition to Epps, the others up for the Female Lead award are Catherine O’Hara ("For Your Consideration"), Elizabeth Reaser ("Sweet Land"), Michelle Williams ("Land of Plenty"), and Robin Wright Penn ("Sorry, Haters").
The Spirit Awards, formerly the Independent Spirit Awards, recognize films made on budgets of less than $20 million. The winners will be announced on Feb. 24, a day before the Academy Awards.
ELSEWHERE IN INDIE NEWS THIS WEEK:
"Tears" Finally Makes It To Theaters
The brightly colored, highly stylized Thai western "Tears of the Black Tiger" will open in January, six years after its premiere at Cannes. The film has been acquired by Magnolia from Miramax; "Tears" played on the festival circuit before landing in the company’s vault.
Swiss Oscar Selection Gets Distributor
The North American rights for "Vitus," Switzerland’s candidate for the Foreign Film Oscar, have been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics. The film, starring Bruno Ganz and Teo Gheorghiu, tells the tale of a child prodigy and his complex relationship with his parents.
Top Reviewed Limiteds
Opening last week in limited release: "Backstage," a dark examination of celebrity, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer with 10 reviews; "The History Boys," a tale of hypercompetitive English schoolboys adapted from Alan Bennett, is at 62 percent with 50 reviews; and "Opal Dream," a coming-of-age tale about a little girl with imaginary friends in the Australian outback, is at 57 percent with 14 reviews.
Top Performing Limiteds
In last week’s indie box office battle, Pedro Almodovar‘s "Volver" grossed an average of $17,071 on 30 screens, beating out the Bollywood drama "Dhoom 2," which averaged $15,540 on 63 screens. "The History Boys" opened on seven screens with a $14,400 average, while the Jean-Luc Godard classic "Two Or Three Things I Know About Her…" and the Slamdance-approved documentary "Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story" both opened on one screen apiece to earn $10,764 and $5,034, respectively. Last week’s top indie "Bobby" dropped to 15th place after expanding from two to 1,667 screens, dropping its per-screen average from $34,519 to $2,914.
Thanks to Nick Hershey for his contribution to this story.
During his half-century within the business, Altman directed over 30 feature films, which were only the tip of a filmography that included dozens of shorts, TV movies, documentaries, and miniseries. In 2002, after his Best Director nomination for "Gosford Park," he joined the exclusive no-Oscar club: along with Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese, no other director has been nominated for five Best Director Oscars without a single win.
Altman started his career in the 1950s and 1960s directing shorts and television shows, including eight episodes of "Bonanza" and two episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." His first feature, the obscure 1968 sci-fi epic "Countdown," starred James Caan and Robert Duvall.
In 1970, Altman jumped into the spotlight with the brilliant "M*A*S*H." Not only was it a critical darling (with 93 percent on the Tomatometer), it had given Altman his first Best Director nod and another for Best Picture), it was also his biggest box office hit.
"He was the last great American director in the tradition of John Ford," said Elliot Gould, whose role in "M*A*S*H" made him a star. "He was my friend and I’ll always be grateful to him for the experience and opportunities he gave me."
On the set, Altman was famously democratic. He allowed actors to stray from the script, improvise, and watch the dailies for their input and chance to change the direction of their movie.
"He loved the chaos of shooting and the sociability of the crew and actors — he adored actors — and he loved the editing room and he especially loved sitting in a screening room and watching the thing over and over with other people," said Garrison Keillor, who wrote Altman’s last movie, "A Prairie Home Companion." "He didn’t care for the money end of things, he didn’t mind doing publicity, but when he was working he was in heaven."
With "M*A*S*H" and 1975’s "Nashville" (an even bigger critical success with 94 percent on the Tomatometer, and again earning Altman Best Picture and Best Director nominations), the term "Altman-esque" to describe films of large ensemble casts and loose narratives was forever entrenched into the film buff vernacular.
Altman slipped into what some perceive as a dry spell after "Nashville," though his output never slowed. During the 1980s, he experimented with wildly different genres and sources, including theatrical one-man movies, ("Secret Honor"), comic strip adaptations ("Popeye"), and raunchy teen comedy ("O.C. and Stiggs").
In 1992, Altman staged a vital comeback in the form of "The Player," his first critical and commercial accomplishment in over a decade (which now sits at a 100% Tomatometer). Just one year after, Altman offered his most stunning and ambitious movie ever, "Short Cuts," a three-hour adaptation of several Raymond Carver stories. 1999’s "Magnolia" took heavy inspiration from "Short Cuts" and, in fact, "Magnolia" director P.T. Anderson was the back-up director for "Prairie Home Companion" if Altman was unable to finish it.
This past March, Altman received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar award for "a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike." During the ceremony, he revealed that he received a heart transplant ten years earlier but kept it a secret, afraid that it would prevent him from finding work.
To quote Keillor again: "He and I once talked about making a movie about a man coming back to Lake Wobegon to bury his father, and Mr. Altman said, ‘The death of an old man is not a tragedy.’ All of us who worked with him had the great privilege of seeing an 81-year-old guy doing what he loved to do. I’m sorry that our movie turned out to be his last, but I do know that he loved making it. It’s a great thing to be 81 and in love."
It’s been joked that Altman proffered the cinema of "People Standing Around Talking and Using Hand Gestures." Altman himself had a variety of ways to illustrate his natural, organic way of filming. With "Gosford Park," it was as though "throwing pearls onto a parquet floor — we would see who was going to bump into whom and how it would all fit together." And with 2003’s "The Company," the structure was "a clothesline to hang the dance and then the lives of the characters."
"No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have," Altman said while accepting the Lifetime Oscar in March. "I’m very fortunate in my career. I’ve never had to direct a film I didn’t choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."
This week at the movies brings us the profound discoveries of a great Kazak journalist ("Borat," starring Sacha Baron Cohen), a battle between Santa and Jack Frost ("The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," starring Tim Allen), and a tale of rats in the sewer ("Flushed Away," featuring the voice work of Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman). What do the critics have to say?
Jagshemash! Here in U.S and A., what do critic say about "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan?" They like! In fact, the scribes are almost universally pleased with the film, and some are going as far as calling it one of the funniest comedies ever. Part satire, part shockumentary, "Borat" follows the gleefully sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic title character (Cohen) on a cross-country trek to learn more about our strange nation; along the way he dredges up the seamy underbelly of American prejudice and ignorance. At 95 percent on the Tomatometer, "Borat" is not only Certified Fresh, it’s the best reviewed wide release of the year, topping such acclaimed movies as "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party," "The Departed," and "United 93." That’s a good thing, since Borat himself has said if the movie doesn’t do well, he will be execute.
It doesn’t sound like the most auspicious subject for a film: mice and rats are flushed down a toilet, where they find a bustling municipality in the sewer. However, in the hands of Aardman Productions, the endlessly imaginative company responsible for "Chicken Run" and "Wallace and Gromit," anything is possible. And so it is with "Flushed Away," which tells the upstairs-downstairs tale of a coddled mouse who finds action and adventure after a trip through the plumbing. Critics say that while "Flushed Away" may not achieve the dizzying heights of "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (which scored 95 percent on the Tomatometer), it’s an eccentric, inventive family film with plenty of laughs. At 76 percent on the Tomatometer, "Flushed Away" is critically sanitized for your viewing pleasure.
"The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," was barely screened for critics, much like star Tim Allen‘s last flick, "Zoom." The big difference is that "Clause" at least has a couple good reviews, whereas "Zoom" had none. The story of Santa’s duel with Jack Frost for control over Christmas, "Clause" hasn’t exactly enchanted the critics who have seen it; they say the movie is labored and mostly mirthless. It’s currently at 29 percent on the Tomatometer.
Also opening this week in limited release: "Commune," a documentary about the Black Bear Ranch in California, is at 100 percent; "Romantico," a heartbreaking documentary about a musician working illegally in the U.S., is at 100 percent; Pedro Almodovar‘s "Volver," starring Penelope Cruz in a complex tale of womanhood, is Certified Fresh at 90 percent; "Wondrous Oblivion," the story of a boy and his neighbor who bond over the game of cricket, is at 60 percent; "Death & Texas," a death penalty satire, is at 60 percent; the twisty thriller "Unknown," starring Greg Kinnear, is at 29 percent; "Shottas," a based-on-true-events Jamaican crime flick, is at 20 percent; and "Zerophilia," a gender-bending rom-com, is at 18 percent.
Finally, we’d like to bestow props upon the whimsically monikered killthemall4444, who correctly predicted that the equally whimsical "Saw III" would wind up with a Tomatometer of 28 percent. Congrats, ktm4444.
Best Reviewed Wide Releases of 2006:
95% — Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
93% — Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
93% — The Departed
90% — United 93
88% — Inside Man
84%– Akeelah and the Bee
83% — Slither
83% — The Descent
80% — A Prairie Home Companion
79% — Catch a Fire
With the sale of independent-minded ThinkFilm last week, can indie film distributors survive without big studio backing?
Author: Juliana Tringali
ThinkFilm, best known for releasing 2004’s "Born Into Brothels," was recently purchased by the Capco group for $25 million. Group head David Bergstein plans to merge ThinkFilm with Capitol Films (another formerly fledgling distribution company), creating a "formidable new force in the independent marketplace."
For five years, ThinkFilm has built a reputation for distributing daring films that many others wouldn’t touch. Its current theatrical releases include John Cameron Mitchell‘s sexually explicit "Shortbus" and "Half Nelson," the story of a drug addicted inner city teacher. Meanwhile, Capital Films has helped to sell such fare as "A Prairie Home Companion" to international markets.
Before the purchase, ThinkFilm was the one Canadian company distributing movies in the states. Their game plan was generally to acquire documentaries or daring low budget films and subsequently attempt to sell them to more mainstream audiences.
The strategy won an Oscar for "Brothels" (which scored a 96 percent on the Tomatometer), and garnered further nominations for other releases ("The Story of the Weeping Camel," "Murderball"). But despite some critical and moderate commercial successes (including "Spellbound"), none of the ThinkFilm’s offerings broke through to widespread box office popularity. Capco says the merger will allow ThinkFilm to be a bigger player in the global film market.
"Murderball": Better than "Rollerball!"
In the expensive world of film production, perhaps the acquisition of smaller companies has always been an uncomfortable but irrevocable truth. After all, when indie first went boom in 1994, its most powerful mainstays had already been snatched up.
Miramax was purchased by Walt Disney Co. in 1993 (just before releasing "Pulp Fiction," the shot that sounded out the new era in film). In 1994, Turner Broadcasting System purchased New Line Cinema, which had dared to produce movies from unknown filmmakers since 1967.
But 1994 was a time of optimism. Making films outside the studio system was not only possible, it was hot, and bright-eyed believers were standing up to be counted. Among them were Newmarket Films, then a new privately-owned production and distribution company (purchased by New Line/HBO in 2005), and the Independent Film Channel (IFC). Palm Pictures was started in 1998, and ThinkFilm began in 2001.
Studios had their finger on the pulse as well. In 1994, Fox Searchlight was introduced as the indie wing of 20th Century Fox and it went on to produce some of the most successful "independent" films of the 1990s. NBC Universal followed suit in 2002 with Focus Features. Not surprisingly, these smaller sectors of major studios have had more staying power than their more authentic counterparts.
Top Reviewed Limiteds
Opening last week in limited release: "Shut Up & Sing," a rockumentary about the Dixie Chicks, is at 93 percent with 30 reviews; "Exit: The Right to Die," a documentary about assisted suicide, is at 88 percent (8 reviews); "Absolute Wilson," a documentary about avant-gardist Robert Wilson, is at 82 percent (11 reviews); "Cocaine Cowboys," a documentary about drug smuggling in Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is at 78 percent (23 reviews); "Babel," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s globetrotting film about despair and interconnectivity, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, is at 74 percent (61 reviews); and "The Bridge," a doc about suicides on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, is at 64 percent (28 reviews).
Top Performing Limiteds
"Babel" was the biggest indie winner this week, grossing $366,000 for a big per-screen average of $52,258, despite playing in only seven theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Stephen Frears‘ "The Queen," starring Helen Mirren, continued its strong performance, grossing $1.9 million, with a $12,638 per-screen average (it’s made $6.3 million during its theatrical run). "Shut Up & Sing" made $51,000 in four theaters, for an average of $12,750. But something of a disappointment was "Death of a President" which, despite the hum of controversy, made only $167,000 with a per-screen average of $1,835.
This week at the movies, we’ve got cops and robbers in Boston ("The Departed," starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon), chainsaw massacres in Texas ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," starring Jordana Brewster), and retail employees in New Mexico ("Employee of the Month," starring Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook). What do the critics have to say?
Is Martin Scorsese America’s greatest living filmmaker? He’s certainly bolstering his case with "The Departed." The film, which is a loose remake of the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," tells the story of two moles, one of whom (DiCaprio) a cop undercover within a Boston crime family led by Jack Nicholson, and the other (Damon) a hood who has infiltrated the police department. Critics say Scorsese has created a crime drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality that infused such past triumphs as "GoodFellas," with outstanding work from an excellent cast. At 96 percent on the Tomatometer, "The Departed" may signify a new arrival for the master director; Scorsese’s best reviewed wide release since "GoodFellas." And it’s not only Certified Fresh, but it’s also the best reviewed wide release of the year.
The lives of wage slaves are often grist for the cinema’s mill, whether comic ("Clerks"), dramatic ("One Hour Photo") or both ("The Good Girl"). Now comes "Employee of the Month," starring Cook as a slacker at a Costco-like box store who whips himself into shape when attractive new hire (Simpson) comes on board. Critics say the movie has a few good laughs, but Cook and Simpson lack chemistry, and the film doesn’t do much beyond showing employee antics. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, audiences may want to hire a different "Employee."
For horror fans who are interested in the origin of Leatherface, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" provides some back story on the Lone Star State’s scariest resident. It also provides oodles of gore, and a style reminiscent of the original. Unfortunately, the critics say it doesn’t provide enough scares to make the experience worthwhile. The plot involves a group of young adults headed to Mexico for a good time before two brothers go to fight in Vietnam; naturally, Leatherface curtails their enjoyment in a hurry. The scribes say the film is a little too rote, and at 14 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Chainsaw" doesn’t cut very deep. (Read RT’s interview with director Jonathan Liebesman here.)
Also opening this week in limited release: "Blood Tea and Red String," a handmade stop-motion fairy tale 13 years in the making, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; "So Goes the Nation," a documentary about the 2004 election season in Ohio, is at 100 percent; "49 Up," the latest in Michael Apted‘s remarkable documentary series about growing and changing in England, is at 94 percent; "Black Gold," a documentary about the global effects of the coffee trade, is at 88 percent; "Little Children," a tale of suburban angst starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly, is at 79 percent; "Shortbus," John Cameron Mitchell‘s warmhearted exploration of unconventional sexuality, is at 68 percent; and "Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner," a documentary about the eponymous Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning scribe, is at 55 percent. And "The Queen," which is expanding this week, is at 98 percent, making it the third best reviewed limited release of the year.
Recent Martin Scorsese Movies:
92% — No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)
89% — The Aviator (2004)
77% — Gangs of New York (2002)
100% — My Voyage to Italy (2001)
72% — Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Texas Chainsaw Massacres:
86% — The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
50% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
23% — Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1989)
16% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
37% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Best Reviewed Wide Releases Of 2006
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
96% — The Departed
93% — Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
93% — Little Miss Sunshine
90% — United 93
88% — Inside Man
84% — Akeelah and the Bee
83% — Slither
83% — The Descent
80% — A Prairie Home Companion
78% — The Devil Wears Prada
Best Reviewed Limited Releases Of 2006
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
98% — Kekexeli: Mountain Patrol
98% — The War Tapes
98% — The Queen
96% — Army of Shadows
95% — Wordplay
93% — Fateless
93% — Little Miss Sunshine
92% — The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
92% — An Inconvenient Truth
92% — Lassie
This week’s wide releases both involve publishing. In "The Devil Wears Prada," the setting is a fashion magazine, and in "Superman Returns," it’s The Daily Planet. So maybe that’s why the critics like both these movies so much…
While there has been some debate over the quality of Lauren Weisberger’s novel "The Devil Wears Prada," there’s less divergence over the movie adaptation, particularly because of the presence of Meryl Streep in the titular role. Anne Hathaway plays an earnest small-town girl who hopes to write high-minded stuff for the New Yorker, but is little match for the Cruella De Ville-esque Miranda Priestly (Streep). The scribes say the film ultimately works because of Streep’s excellent performance, but "The Devil Wears Prada" is also an incisive examination of workplace politics. At 76 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Devil" wears a Certified Fresh badge.
You may have heard that there’s a new Superman movie out. It’s called "Superman Returns," and it stars a relative unknown as the Man of Steel (Brandon Routh), an actress who was in that Bobby Darin movie (Kate Bosworth), and the guy who played Bobby Darin himself in that same movie, this time playing Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey). (Dude, he was probably Keyzer Soze as well) The critics say "Superman Returns" is able to pull off the neat trick of sticking closely to the age-old particulars of the Superman myth, while making them fresh. "Superman Returns" is at 76 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s Certified Fresh.
This is a week of well-reviewed releases in general. Also opening, albeit in limited release: "Who Killed the Electric Car," a documentary about the short-lived EV1, is at 87 percent; "The Motel," a coming-of-age tale set in a fleabag motel, is at 82 percent; "The Blood of My Brother," a documentary about death in Iraq, is at 67 percent; and the big-screen adaptation of the cult TV hit "Strangers With Candy" is at 57 percent.
Recent Meryl Streep Movies:
80% — A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
50% — Prime (2005)
81% — The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
71% — Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
62% — Stuck On You (2003)
Despite the arrival of four new films cluttering the multiplexes, the Disney/Pixar animated film Cars remained the most popular movie in North America for a second straight weekend.
Among the freshman class, both the comedy Nacho Libre and the actioner The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift opened with impressive numbers targeting young male moviegoers. The Keanu Reeves–Sandra Bullock romance The Lake House appealed to adult women and saw a respectable showing while the kid sequel Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties opened poorly. With so much new product entering the marketplace, most holdovers suffered large declines.
Cars was once again the box office champion and grossed an estimated $31.2M in its second weekend boosting its ten-day cume to a stellar $114.5M. Though taking home another trophy, the G-rated film experienced a disturbing decline of 48% from last weekend which was much higher than the sophomore drops of previous Disney/Pixar toons. The last film from the companies, The Incredibles, dipped only 29% while 2003’s Finding Nemo eased 34%. Each bowed to about $70M and raced to over $143M in ten days. Cars opened last week about $10M weaker and is now eroding faster which means it is not likely to come close to the lofty heights reached previously. After ten days, Cars is running 20% behind the pace of Nemo and Incredibles. The talking automobile flick will still try to reach the $200M mark before running out of gas.
Opening a few notches behind in second place was the wrestling comedy Nacho Libre with an estimated $27.5M from 3,070 theaters. Averaging a muscular $8,962 per ring, the Paramount release stars Jack Black as a cook who moonlights as a flamboyant wrestler and was directed by Napoleon Dynamite’s Jared Hess. The $35M film appealed to young guys with studio data showing that 53% of the audience was male and 55% was under the age of 25. Nacho Libre began its weekend a bit early with 10pm preview shows on Thursday night which helped propel Friday’s opening day to a solid $11M. The PG-rated film dropped 14% to $9.4M on Saturday however, which could indicate a bumpy ride ahead.
Universal raced into third place with its street racing sequel The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift which opened with an estimated $24.1M. The PG-13 pic debuted in 3,027 locations and averaged a strong $7,947 average. The studio generated a strong performance considering this was the third time around for the franchise and that most of the stars of the first two Furious films were nowhere to be found. Young guys were the driving force behind the $75M Drift which like its predecessors appealed to a multicultural audience. According to studio data, 58% of the audience was male, 60% was under 25, and 71% was non-white.
Lucas Black and Bow Wow led the mostly unknown cast as fans responded more to the fast cars and racing attitudes than to starpower. The studio’s decision to include Vin Diesel‘s cameo in the television commercials also may have sparked interest from fans of the franchise. Tokyo Drift did not open as well as the first two pics in the series, but that was expected. In 2001, The Fast and the Furious opened to $40.1M on its way to $144.5M while its 2003 sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious debuted to $50.5M leading to a $127.2M tally. Tokyo Drift also opened in eight international markets this weekend grossing an estimated $7.5M from 825 theaters including number one openings in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand. Japan, where the film is set, will open in September.
A dozen years after exciting audiences in Speed, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reunited in the romantic drama The Lake House which debuted in fourth place with an estimated $13.7M. The Warner Bros. release averaged a respectable $5,166 from 2,645 theaters. The PG-rated film was a remake of the Korean drama Il Mare and told the story of a man and a woman from two different years who communicate and fall in love through letters they send to each other in a magical mailbox at a lake house. Reviews were not very good and both stars routinely see bigger openings for their films.
Universal’s The Break-Up dropped 53% in its third weekend and took fifth place with an estimated $9.5M boosting the 17-day cume to $91.9M.
Fox took up the next three spots on the chart starting with its kidpic sequel Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties which flopped in its debut grossing an estimated $7.2M. Playing in 2,945 theaters, the PG-rated comedy averaged a weak $2,445 per venue. The first Garfield opened to $21.7M in June 2004 on its way to $75.4M domestically and a stellar $198M worldwide forcing the studio to dip into the well again with a new story. Bill Murray returned to voice the fat cat in Kitties which brought the characters to England for another adventure, but most families did not show much interest.
The year’s top-grossing domestic hit, X-Men: The Last Stand, tumbled another 56% in its fourth outing and grossed an estimated $7.2M. With a stellar $215.5M in the bank, the mutant sequel became the top-grossing installment of the super hero trilogy surpassing the $214.9M of X2: X-Men United from 2003. The horror remake The Omen placed eighth with an estimated $5.4M conveniently making its decline 66.6%. The top ten’s only R-rated pic has now grossed $46.9M to date for Fox.
Sony’s The Da Vinci Code followed with an estimated $5M, off 52%, pushing the domestic cume to $198.5M. Overseas, the Ron Howard–Tom Hanks vehicle uncovered another $15.2M this weekend as the international sum surged to $480M. The world’s biggest blockbuster of the year has now taken in an incredible $678.5M globally. Rounding out the top ten was the animated pic Over the Hedge with an estimated $4M, off 60%, for a $138.8M total.
The biggest summer hits continued to keep pace with last year’s. The collective gross for the top five summer releases reached $797.3M which was down less than 1% from the $802.5M from this point a year ago.
Four films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Robert Altman‘s A Prairie Home Companion fell 43% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $2.6M giving the Picturehouse release a ten-day tally of $8.8M. Look for a finish in the vicinity of $15M. The hit family comedy RV held up well during its seven-week run in the top ten, but this weekend the Robin Williams pic crashed 74% and grossed an estimated $500,000. With $66.4M in its tank, the Sony release is not expected to collect much more.
The Tom Cruise spy sequel Mission: Impossible III tumbled 61% in its seventh mission to an estimated $1.2M putting its cume at $130M. The Paramount sequel is the highest-grossing summer kick-off film since 2003’s X2, but with a $150M budget and a deafening amount of marketing hype, it has to be considered somewhat disappointing for the studio. The first two Mission pics grossed $181M in 1996 and $215.4M in 2000. MI3 should end its campaign with around $132M. Overseas, the Ethan Hunt film has grossed more than $200M to date.
The summer season’s second big offering Poseidon continued to sink dropping 66% in its sixth weekend to an estimated $620,000. The $160M Warner Bros. disaster film has taken in only $56.5M from North America making it one of the biggest underachievers of the summer. However, like most effects-driven action films, Poseidon is doing much better internationally where it grossed another $9M from 41 countries this weekend to boost the overseas take to $70.8M. Korea and Japan continue to be the most successful markets for the ocean liner pic with grosses that far outdistance those in key European territories.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $134.7M which was up 6% from last year when Batman Begins debuted at number one with $48.7M; and up 5% from 2004 when Dodgeball opened in the top spot with $30.1M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
The Disney/Pixar animated film Cars raced past the competition to finish in first place at the North American box office. Though it did not open as strong as some of its predecessors, the toon easily outdistanced everything else in the current marketplace outselling the second place film by a three-to-one margin.
Also debuting this weekend, the horror remake The Omen scared up a solid debut since its Tuesday launch and the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion also posted healthy numbers in its opening. Overall, the box office remained stronger than last year’s thanks to an assortment of popular films offering something for everybody. Six films reached double-digit millions this weekend as the marketplace displayed great breadth in its product offering.
Crossing the finish line with an estimated $62.8M in ticket sales, Cars easily topped the charts this weekend giving Disney and Pixar their seventh number one hit together. Playing at an ultrawide 3,985 theaters, the G-rated story of a cocky race car who learns that winning isn’t everything averaged a musclar $15,759 per site. The opening did, however, put an end to the decade-long streak that Pixar enjoyed where every film debuted bigger than the previous one. The company’s last entry The Incredibles bowed to $70.5M from 3,933 theaters for a $17,917 average in November 2004 while the previous smash Finding Nemo opened to $70.3M from 3,374 venues for a $20,821 average in May 2003.
Cars did not reach the $70M mark that those two hits surpassed on opening weekend and instead performed just like Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. which launched with $62.6M in November 2001. However, the new automotive adventure enjoyed higher ticket prices and 748 more theaters yet still reached the same figure. Among all animated films, the Cars opening ranks fifth all-time behind Shrek 2 ($108M), The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Ice Age: The Meltdown which bowed to $68M this past March. Cars did generate the second largest June opening ever behind Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which exploded two years ago with $93.7M.
One reason Cars did not surge higher may have been that the marketplace has suffered through a glut of computer animated films this year. Not long ago, the arrival of a digital toon was an event as it only happened once or twice a year. Nowadays with weaker entries like Doogal and The Wild hitting theaters, and more studios jumping into the game, the novelty has worn thin. Over the Hedge and Ice Age have been satisfying families over the past two months grossing a stellar $322M combined. Also not helping matters was the film’s lengthy 116-minute running time which is considerably longer than the typical 90-minute length that most young kids are used to sitting through.
Directed by Pixar veteran John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2), Cars features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy. Disney pumped in lots of marketing to push its first major entry in the summer sweepstakes and hopes to keep audiences coming back for more with the July 7 release of its Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.
With more and more school children starting their summer vacations every day, mid-week grosses should be strong in the weeks ahead for Cars. Reviews have been good so many fans may end up catching the film in the weeks ahead. The Incredibles went on to reach a final domestic haul of $261.4M which was almost four times its opening weekend. Nemo had even stronger legs finding its way to $339.7M, or about five times its debut. Given its start out of the gate, Cars still looks set to zoom well past the $200M mark in North America.
Following its surprise top spot debut last weekend, the Vince Vaughn–Jennifer Aniston comedy The Break-Up dropped a sizable 48% in its sophomore frame and placed second with an estimated $20.5M. With an impressive $74.1M in only ten days, the Universal release looks to reach the neighborhood of $120M by the end of its domestic run. It was produced for $52M. Overseas, The Break-Up opened in Australia and New Zealand with a combined $2.2M from 230 locations, helped by local appearances by the film’s stars. It ranked number one in both countries on Thursday and Friday, but was bumped by Cars on Saturday and Sunday thanks to the Pixar flick’s strong matinee business with children. Most other major international markets will open after the World Cup.
X-Men: The Last Stand dropped a hefty 54% in its third weekend and grossed an estimated $15.6M. The super hero hit upped its cume to $201.7M after 17 days and became the top-grossing film of 2006. Fox’s franchise flick is still on course to surpass the $214.9M of its predecessor to become the highest grossing X-Men installment.
Opening right on the heels of the mutants was the studio’s remake of The Omen which took in an estimated $15.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Fox launched the R-rated thriller with a much-hyped Tuesday debut on 6/6/06 grossing a stunning $12.6M in its first day. That made it the largest Tuesday gross ever for any film. The son-of-the-devil pic settled in to more normal grosses on subsequent days and collected a hefty $20.3M over the Tuesday-to-Thursday mid-week period giving The Omen a strong six-day opening tally of $35.7M. Reviews were not too favorable.
Starring Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, and Mia Farrow, the new religious chiller played more to today’s younger horror audience than to the older fans who were spooked by the 1976 original. Studio research showed that 52% of the audience was female and a very high 63% was under the age of 25. Fox estimated that the production cost for the new Damien pic was in the mid-$20M range. The studio’s decision to open the film globally on the devilish date was central to the marketing campaign and made it an event film rather than yet another remake of a horror classic. But with sales eroding over the course of the week, The Omen could be in for some steep declines in the weeks ahead.
The animated comedy Over the Hedge experienced its largest drop yet thanks to the arrival of Cars falling 50% to an estimated $10.3M. The Paramount release has collected a solid $130.3M thus far. Tied for fifth place, Sony’s religious thriller The Da Vinci Code dropped 45% to an estimated $10.3M pushing its domestic total to $189M.
Opening in seventh place with respectable results was Robert Altman’s latest film A Prairie Home Companion with an estimated $4.7M from only 760 theaters. Averaging a solid $6,146 per location, the PG-13 film about the backstage drama behind a country music reunion show featured an all-star ensemble cast including Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Lindsay Lohan. Prairie, which earned mostly positive reviews, was released by Picturehouse and played to a mature adult audience.
Paramount’s spy sequel Mission: Impossible III grossed an estimated $3M, down 35%, giving the Tom Cruise actioner $127.5M to date. Robin Williams saw his family comedy RV dip 38% to an estimated $2M in its seventh weekend giving Sony $65M. Rounding out the top ten was Poseidon with an estimated $1.8M, down 47%, for a $54.9M cume for Warner Bros.
Although the summer season is lacking a $300M+ megahit like last year’s Star Wars Episode III, the most popular films are still pulling in the same amount of business. The collective gross of the top five summer films so far is $722.6M which is up 2.4% from this same point a year ago. However, it is still a far cry from the mammoth $907M that 2004’s five biggest summer hits grossed at this stage two years ago led by the Shrek and Harry Potter sequels.
Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount Vantage’s global warming hit An Inconvenient Truth widened from 77 to 122 theaters and grossed an estimated $1.5M in its third frame. Though no longer in the top ten, it did still post a strong per-theater average of $12,077. The Al Gore film has taken in just under $4M from its limited release and will expand to about 400 runs nationwide this Friday.
The Lionsgate horror entry See No Evil got hacked 58% to an estimated $860,000 for a cume of $14M. A $15M final seems likely. Lindsay Lohan‘s teen comedy Just My Luck tumbled by two-thirds to an estimated $295,000. The Fox title has grossed a disappointing $16.2M to date and should finish up with only a little more.
Opening this weekend in limited release was the documentary The Heart of the Game which follows a girls high school basketball team and its coach. The Miramax title grossed an estimated $12,200 from just three theaters for a decent $4,068 average.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $146.4M which was up 9% from last year when Mr. & Mrs. Smith debuted at number one with $50.3M; but off 3% from 2004 when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remained in the top spot with $34.9M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com