(Photo by Britta Campion/Newspix/Getty Images)

Former American Congressman, Senator, and Vice President Al Gore has been involved in environmental issues since the beginning of his career, working on pro-environment legislation, founding environmental advocacy groups, and even organizing benefit concerts. A little over a decade ago, his campaign to educate the public about global warming was the center of Davis Guggenheim’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature (and, incidentally, Best Original Song).

This week, Al Gore returns to theaters in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, an examination of the progress made since the first film and a profile of Gore’s continuing efforts to enact effective measures against climate change. To celebrate the release, and in an effort to get more young people invested in the planet’s future, the film partnered with Snapchat to offer two free tickets to Snapchat users under the age of 18. Having originally seen the film at Sundance this year, RT’s own Grae Drake met with Al Gore earlier this week to chat about the film, and he gave us his Five Favorite Films that are both educational and entertaining. Read on for the full list.

The Big Short (2015) 89%

The subprime mortgage issue triggered the credit crisis, which in turn caused the Great Recession. And yet, it was so complicated that I would not be surprised if quite a few storytellers had despaired of their ability to elucidate it, but The Big Short did it so brilliantly and made it accessible and understandable, and in the process, inspired demands for reform. I thought it was extremely well done.

Spotlight (2015) 97%

Next, I would pick Spotlight, because the tragedy it explained in very personal and compelling ways is one that also needs to be more widely understood. And in the process, it threw light also on the importance of high-quality investigative journalism.

Right. It almost seems like kind of an era long gone, in the majority of cases. Being an online journalist, I really admire those kinds of journalists.

Yeah, and you know the guy who ran that team subsequently has been chosen to be the editor of the Washington Post. And the Washington Post has now reinvigorated the incredibly intense competition between the Post and the New York Times that was a big factor in Watergate, and now it is needed again.

Hidden Figures (2016) 93%

Choice number three may or may not surprise you, but I absolutely loved, loved, loved Hidden Figures. If I were a young African-American woman, I would ask the question: Why did I not know about this story before now? And even as a 69-year-old white male, I want to know why I didn’t know about that story. It’s so inspiring. It’s almost like a fact-checked Frank Capra movie for the 21st century, and really, really, really got me psyched up about it.

I loved the portrayal of John Glenn in the movie as well. I’m always so excited to see people who are in positions of power having such a deep respect for the people that helped them become who they are. I liked that portrayal of him, and I choose to believe that’s how he really was.

I had the privilege of serving with John Glenn in the United States Senate, and he was really like that. His wife, Annie, overcame a stuttering disability when she was young. He was really quite, quite something.

Lincoln (2012) 89%

Next, I would cite Lincoln. And I have two connections to the movie, so that’s part of the reason I’m including it on the list. My college roommate Tommy Lee Jones did an amazing job in the movie.

So fascinated by that fact, by the way. I have tried to get him to talk about it, and he’s just cranky with me. He’s very discreet.

It’s hard for me to believe that Tommy Lee has been cranky with a journalist.

I’ve gotten nothing out of him. But he’s marvelous.

Oh, my gosh. He’s an actor’s actor. And it was a Participant movie. They were part of the producing group, and I’m pretty fond of Participant.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006) 93%

I hope that you will be understanding when I mention my fifth choice, which is An Inconvenient Truth. Davis Guggenheim justly received the Oscar for his work on that movie. He’s a great friend; I was with him last night. He’s so talented, and he did such a good job in that movie. Of course, I’m hopelessly biased in including that in the list, but I’m encouraged by how many positive comments people made about how it affected them.


Grae Drake for Rotten Tomatoes: When I saw An Inconvenient Sequel at Sundance, I was shocked at how many things from the first film have come true. When you were speaking to everyone after the show, there was, I felt, a real need for hope. Now that we’re six months past that, what’s your perspective right now? What can we do? Where are we now? Everyone who’s helping you — what’s their spirit like? Just give me some hope here.

Al Gore: There’s a law of physics that sometimes operates in politics: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction to Donald Trump has included an amazing upsurge of activism, especially among progressive forces who are now organizing in a way that I haven’t seen since the Vietnam War.

You know the Indivisible group? They’re partnering with us during the launch of this movie. We are using the movie as a major organizing event to try to get people to go to the movie, to take others to the movie, to learn about the crisis and the solutions, and then use their voices to win the conversations on climate. That’s how social revolutions begin. To use their votes and their political activism to let candidates and office holders know that it’s really important to them, and that will bring the change we need. And then to use their choices in the marketplace; for example, by sending a signal to business that they want more responsible, climate-friendly products. I hope people will go to the website, inconvenientsequel.com, and buy advance tickets. It opens this Friday.

Did you hear what Snapchat did?

RT: No, tell me.

Gore: They just announced it today that anybody 18 or under who’s on Snapchat can go to their feed and get two free tickets to the movie.

RT: That’s great, because we need to feel what it’s like to support a cause.

Gore:  Yeah. What a fun job you have.


An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power opens today, July 21, in limited release.

It’s the beginning of the month again, which means we’ve combed through all the new releases on Netflix and Amazon Prime to bring you the best of the best. Read on for the full list of Certified Fresh films made newly available.


New on Netflix

 

In the Shadow of the Moon (2006) 95%

This documentary chronicles the history of NASA’s missions to the moon between 1968 and 1972, bringing together surviving crew members and presenting archival footage to stirring effect.

Available now on: Netflix


The Little Prince (2015) 93%

Jeff Bridges and Rachel McAdams lead an ensemble voice cast in this adaptation of the classic French story, which utilizes a combination of CGI and stop motion animation to tell the story an aviator who crashes in the desert and meets a prince from another world.

Available 8/5 on: Netflix


An Inconvenient Truth (2006) 93%

Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning documentary focuses on former Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to educate the public on the dangers of global warming.

Available now on: Netflix


The Tribe (2014) 88%

This Certified Fresh drama, unique in that all of the dialogue is in sign language, is the story of a group of students at a Ukrainian school for the deaf involved in all matter of criminal activity.

Available now on: Netflix


Young at Heart (2007) 89%

This documentary profiles a chorus group comprised of senior citizens who sing covers of songs by the Ramones, the Clash, and Sonic Youth.

Available now on: Netflix


Winter in Wartime (2008) 74%

This World War II drama from the Netherlands centers on a young teen in Nazi-occupied Holland who helps hide a wounded British soldier.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime

 

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) 92%

This recent Coen brothers project stars Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan in a modest dark comedy about a struggling 1960s singer-songwriter trying desperately to sign a record deal.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


No Country for Old Men (2007) 93%

Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem star in the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning dramatic thriller about a man who discovers a briefcase full of cash, the deadly hitman ordered to retrieve it, and the grizzled local sheriff trying to make sense of it all.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


The Piano (1993) 91%

Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, and Anna Paquin star in Jane Campion’s Oscar-winning period drama about a mute piano player and her daughter living in New Zealand during the mid-19th century.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Mr. Holmes (2015) 88%

Ian McKellen and Laura Linney star in this Certified Fresh drama about an aging Sherlock Holmes in deep rumination about an unsolved case that has haunted him through the decades.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


The Matrix (1999) 88%

– Trilogy

Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne star in the Wachowskis’ groundbreaking sci-fi action series about a man who wakes from a virtual reality sleep to discover the real world has been ravaged by sentient robots, and only he holds the power to defeat them. The entire trilogy is available on Amazon Prime.

Available now on Amazon Prime: The Matrix, Reloaded, Revolutions


The Others (2001) 83%

Nicole Kidman stars in this supernatural thriller about a woman trying to protect her children from the spirits who dwell in her Victorian mansion, only to discover that things may not be what they seem.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Cloverfield (2008) 78%

Odette Yustman and Lizzy Caplan star in Matt Reeves’ found footage thriller about a group of New Yorkers attempting to survive an attack on the city by a giant monster.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


The Eclipse (2009) 75%

Ciarán Hinds stars in this thriller as a widower with two children who connects with a supernatural fiction writer with troubles of her own after he is plagued by terrifying visions.

Available now on: Amazon Prime

That giant bang you heard last week was the sound of Sean Hannity‘s head exploding.

The catalyst for the explosion? The announcement that Al Gore, in conjunction with the United Nations panel on climate change, had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on global warming education. As Variety reports, Gore’s Laurie David-produced documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was a catalyst. From the article:

In awarding the prize to both Gore and the U.N. panel on climate change, the Nobel committee alluded to “An Inconvenient Truth” when it noted that Gore’s “strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.”

“Inconvenient Truth” producer Laurie David said, “Do I think the film was a piece of this? Yes.”

“I think the award was a result of not just one film, a powerful film,” but of Gore’s “more than 30 years of hard work on this issue.”

Of course, not everyone agrees with the film’s message; its $49 million box office gross and overwhelmingly positive reviews have been a source of irritation for various right-wing pundits and industrial lobbyists, who claim Truth is based on hysterical extrapolations rather than sound scientific data. Variety‘s report recounts a recent battle over the film’s inclusion in British school curriculum:

The film has become part of the regular curriculum in countries around the world, but its content is still stirring up controversy, with critics charging that it is partisan. British High Court Judge Michael Burton, ruling recently on an effort to ban the film from U.K. schools, said “Truth” was “broadly accurate.” He said it could be shown in schools if “guidance notes” are included that draw attention to nine different errors made in “the context of alarmism and exaggeration.”

John Lesher, president of “Truth” distrib Paramount Vantage, said the movie “was created relying on the best scientific evidence available. While the judge highlighted a handful of points he took issue with, the ruling that the film can be screened in U.K. schools verified that the central message of the film is true.”

Source: Variety

Curious to know how "An Inconvenient Truth" finishes? Guess you’ll have to see the sequel.

According to IESB.net, "ACT" director Davis Guggenheim is about to meet with Paramount to talk about doing a follow-up to his award-winning global warming documentary.

"I’m meeting with Paramount next week to talk about a sequel to Inconvenient Truth. Too early to talk about details…" is what the filmmaker had to say from the "Gracie" press event. Our source makes the solid point that "An Inconvenient Truth" was produced in only five months, which means we could have a second film pretty quickly.

Source: IESB.net

Michael Moore‘s latest doc, "Sicko," has stirred up more controversy for the Michigan muckraker. Is he onto something with his evisceration of the US healthcare system? Plus, "The 11th Hour," a climate change doc featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, and "Boarding Gate," an unconvincing, sleazy thriller starring Asia Argento and Michael Madsen — all here at Cannes!

"Sicko," Michael Moore‘s latest polemic, contains many of the same problems as his previous works: it’s a manipulative oversimplification of a complex issue. And like Moore’s other films, it also contains more than a kernel of truth and not a little entertainment as well. Screening out of competition at Cannes, "Sicko" is a screed against health care insurers in the United States. Utilizing the same style as his previous docs (onscreen interviews, stock footage, a bemused voiceover), Moore contends that the health of Americans has been compromised because of the greed and insensitivity of an industry focused on profit. This argument has plenty of weight when he points out that Americans put themselves in the hands of the government for such services as schools and police; what’s wrong with health care? And Moore dredges up a number of horror stories, including poor people ejected from hospitals because they were unable to pay, to others denied lifesaving procedures while being mired in bureaucratic red tape.

Moore is on shakier ground when he travels to Canada, Great Britain, and France, each of which provides universal health care to its citizens. He posits that citizens in these nations are perfectly satisfied with their level of care. Unfortunately, some of Moore’s utopian extrapolations in this regard don’t hold water; it was reported that at a press conference after the screening, some Canadian journalists challenged Moore’s rosy assumptions, and Moore admitted that national health care in Canada, while free, is still under-funded.


Michael Moore has a point to make about healthcare in his latest, "Sicko."

"Sicko"’s biggest (and most controversial) stunt involves bringing a group of 9/11 rescue workers, who contracted various unrelenting ailments while working at Ground Zero, to Guantanamo, where the U.S. government claims detainees are receiving health care that’s equivalent to or better than the average American. After being ignored, Moore heads for Cuba, where the relief workers are able to purchase the drugs for which they’ve been paying hundreds of dollars for pennies. This segment is troubling on several levels. Regardless of one’s thoughts on the U.S. embargo on Cuba, Moore cannot seriously believe its healthcare system is ideal. On the other hand, what does it say about the U.S. that it cannot care for its heroes?

For those who have tired of Moore’s confrontational onscreen persona, he’s largely in the background in "Sicko." This may be Moore’s most quietly angry film to date. I won’t deny I was entertained while watching "Sicko," and I don’t disagree with Moore’s central premise. However, as with "Roger & Me" and "Bowling for Columbine," Moore may get the forest right, but the trees are a bit out of place.

Moore remains a darling of Cannes (he won the Palme d’Or for "Fahrenheit 9/11" in 2004), and "Sicko" received a long ovation at the screening I attended. It’s also received fresh reviews in Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and Salon.


Leonardo DiCaprio talks global warming in "11th Hour."

"The 11th Hour" is the latest in the growing sub-genre of global warming documentaries. Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film features a number of talking heads, including Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev, Andrew Weil, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Each makes a similar argument in different ways: The temperature of earth is increasing because of human behavior, and we don’t have much time to rectify the situation. But the film leavens its doomsday prophesies with optimism, advancing the notion that green-friendly business could maintain economic growth while diminishing the impact to the environment. "The 11th Hour" is reasonably well done, but it often feels like a film more suited to a science class than the big screen. It also lacks the focus and wit of "An Inconvenient Truth"; that film greatly benefited from Al Gore‘s straight-ahead argument, whereas "The 11th Hour" seems a bit disjointed by comparison. Still, even if this isn’t the most cinematically compelling take on the subject of global warming, "The 11th Hour" makes a timely and important argument that should be heeded.


There’s a lot going on here at Cannes; check out our blog here.

A necessary element of a successful thriller is the ability to empathize with characters in peril; on this, and many other levels, "Boarding Gate" fails. This exercise in sleazy globetrotting stars Asia Argento as ex-hooker Sandra and Michael Madsen as Miles, her washed-up businessman ex. The pair has a twisted relationship, which involves a lot of verbal challenges and lurid mind games. Sandra is also involved with Lester (Carl Ng), with whom she conspires to take down Miles. After completing her task, Sandra goes on the run, ending up in Hong Kong where she’s pursued by… well, somebody. Do we care about her? Not really. Argento and Madsen, who have been compelling elsewhere, are so fundamentally unlikable here that it’s hard to shake the feeling that these two deserve each other; though Sandra’s nominally the protagonist, she seems as amoral as Miles. "Boarding Gate" isn’t without visual interest, but it’s also confusing and lacks any real human element. "Boarding Gate" prompted more than a few walkouts and incredulous laughs at the press screening I attended, and it also received outright pans in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

In addition, here are some other notable films that have screened at Cannes in the past few days: "L’Avocat de la Terreur," Barbet Schroeder‘s doc about a French attorney famous for representing accused war criminals and terrorists, has received strong reviews from Variety and the Hollywood Reporter; on the other hand, "Les Chansons d’Amour," Christophe Honore‘s musical, has gotten mixed notices.


Screening tomorrow: "Death Proof!"

Tomorrow, we’ll be catching screenings of Quentin Tarantino‘s "Death Proof," "A Mighty Heart," starring Angelina Jolie, and Gus Van Sant‘s "Paranoid Park." Check back for more of RT’s coverage of the Cannes Film Festival.

There’s two ways to predict the Oscars: (1) dissect the awards buzz, attempting to get a feel for the fickle machinations of the Academy voter. Or (2) use your powers of geek math to crunch box office numbers and awards statistics for some cold, hard facts. With both methods in full swing, here’s a rundown of the Internet’s major Oscar predictions.

Best Picture
As usual, the nominees have settled into their niches: two big flicks ("The Departed" and "Babel"), one major underdog ("Little Miss Sunshine"), and two wallflowers ("The Queen" and "Letters from Iwo Jima"). FilmJerk, having combed the last 28 years of Oscar winners for meaningful statistics, posits "The Departed" has history on its side. The Envelope, L.A. Times’ one-stop hub for Hollywood buzz, agrees.

But it ain’t over yet. After polling readers from over 20 blogs, Vizu Answers reveals that 54 percent believe "Babel" will emerge victorious. And in our own unofficial Rotten Tomatoes research of the past 15 or so Oscar ceremonies, we discovered that the best-reviewed nominee never wins, along with the ones that make less than the average gross of all the nominees combined. This knocks "Babel" out of the race and pits "The Departed" against "Little Miss Sunshine."


Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio with hats in "The Departed."

Best Director
Martin Scorsese.

All signs point that this is going to be his year (more so than the other million times that statement’s been made). And what if another nominee (probably that Iñárritu guy) swoops in? People will be angry, more Hitchcock comparisons will be made, Scorsese will make a quip and then go back to work.


Martin Scorsese in a "Departed" powwow.

Best Actor and Best Actress
Statistically, Leonardo DiCaprio has a lead on the Best Actor race for "Blood Diamond," but no one is expecting him to win. Peter O’Toole, always the rascal, might pull off an upset. But based on the strong reader and industry insider buzz, it’s hard to imagined the award won’t be going to Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland."

As for Best Actress, statistics argue that Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" has an advantage. Everything else is pointing towards heavy favorite Helen Mirren for "The Queen."


Peter O’Toole is old in "Venus."

Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
The Supporting races are the the most unpredictable ones this year. The Envelope recently bumped "Dreamgirls"’ Eddie Murphy down, replacing him with "Little Miss Sunshine"’s Alan Arkin as favorite to take home the statue. But blog readers want Murphy to win and the numbers also slightly favor him.

Jennifer Hudson looks to be a shoo-in for her performance in "Dreamgirls." But the buzz has been almost too good; something’s got to backfire at some point. Abigail Breslin from "Little Miss Sunshine" seems an unlikely contender, but the Academy does like to hand out the tot votes (Haley Joel Osment’s nom for "The Sixth Sense" and Anna Paquin’s win for "The Piano" being recent examples).


Jennifer Hudson hitting high notes in "Dreamgirls."

Best Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
"Babel" and "The Queen" are contenders, though the talk of the town is that the award’ll probably go to "Little Miss Sunshine." Recently, this category’s become the designated play area for quirky indie films ("The Squid and the Whale" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" anyone?). "Lost in Translation" won Best Screenplay but lost Best Picture in 2003, so if "Little Miss Sunshine" doesn’t nab Best Picture, it’ll get this consolation prize.

And Best Adapted Screenplay? Reader and Hollywood buzz and historical statistics are in favor for "The Departed." And why not? "The Departed"’s popular with critics, audiences, and picky "Infernal Affairs" fans. And it was written by only one guy (compare with "Children of Men"’s and "Borat"’s five apiece) so we won’t have to sit through a really long acceptance speech.


Steve Carrell and Toni Collette action pose for "Little Miss Sunshine."

Best Foreign Language Film
A strong crop have been nominated this year, including "Water," "Days of Glory," and "The Lives of Others," all Certified Fresh. But the award is likely to go to the critically lauded, record breaking "Pan’s Labyrinth." Since a "Pan" win for Best Screenplay isn’t going to happen, Academy members are going to want to pay their respects and dogpile the votes here.


A charming "Labyrinth" inhabitant.

Best Animated Feature
For the first time in maybe ever, Pixar doesn’t look to be a sure-fire bet. "Cars," despite being Certified Fresh and grossing nearly $250 million, in relative Pixar terms, it wasn’t a huge success like "Toy Story 2," "Finding Nemo," or "The Incredibles." The other big nominee, "Happy Feet," however, was a surprise hit, much like that other penguin movie. Academy voters are probably still thinking fondly about "Happy Feet," while "Cars" has the Ghost of Pixar Movies Past looming over it.


Owen Wilson as an unhappy car.

Best Documentary Feature
Each of the four major nominees have big positives going for them. "Iraq in Fragments" is timely and "Deliver Us From Evil" has a perfect Tomatometer. "An Inconvenient Truth"
may win on the sheer number of people who have seen it as opposed to the other nominees. "Jesus Camp" was an underground, word-of-mouth hit and actually resulted in the closure of the titular camp. You can’t buy better buzz and publicity than that.


Solidarity in "Iraq in Fragments."

Source: FilmJerk, The Envelope, Vizu Answers

Hosted right here at the illustrious Rotten Tomatoes is the official website of the Online Film Critics Society, an international group of flick analyzers who put their heads together every December to come up with their favorite films, performances and components of the year. And as a proud member of the OFCS, I’m pretty happy with our picks this year … even if (almost) none of my choices happened to win.

BEST PICTURE: "United 93"

BEST DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese – "The Departed"

BEST ACTOR: Forest Whitaker – "The Last King of Scotland"

BEST ACTRESS: Helen Mirren – "The Queen"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jackie Earle Haley – "Little Children"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Abigail Breslin – "Little Miss Sunshine"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Guillermo del Toro – "Pan’s Labyrinth"

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby – "Children of Men"

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmanuel Lubeski – "Children of Men"

BEST EDITING: Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson and Christopher Rouse – "United 93"

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Clint Mansell – "The Fountain"

BEST DOCUMENTARY: "An Inconvenient Truth"

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: "Pan’s Labyrinth" (Mexico)

BEST ANIMATED FILM: "A Scanner Darkly"

BREAKTHROUGH FILMMAKER: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris – "Little Miss Sunshine"

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMER: Sacha Baron Cohen – "Borat"

(So what do you guys think? Good picks or lame?)

It’s no secret that Helen Mirren and "The Queen" are primed to reap big time this awards season, but are the Hollywood Foreign Press and their Oscar-influencing Golden Globes headed towards indie-land and the art house?

Maybe, maybe not. But the fact is that in recent years, the HFPA has begun to trend away from Oscar-type nominees in favor of those critical darlings — gilding Felicity Huffman Best Actress last year for "Transamerica" and agreeing with (most) critics that "Brokeback Mountain" deserved top honors. The year before, the Golden Globes for Best Comedy and Screenplay went to "Sideways," another favorite across the board among many prominent critical groups (including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics, and more).


2004’s critical fave, "Sideways"


Variety’s Steve Chagollan writes
that this trend is partly due to an evolution within the HFPA, a collection of 90-odd film journalists representing markets all over the world, whose awards voting have historically been both influential and eccentric. The HFPA’s membership has been increasingly younger, says Chagollan, and their voting responsibilities subsequently taken more seriously; whereas many Academy (Oscar) voters are film industry professionals with less time to spend watching "For Your Consideration" screeners or attending screenings, HPFA voters — journalists covering said films — see "99 percent of the films, if not 100 percent."

So will the Golden Globes start mirroring the preferences of critics? And how will such a trend affect the composition of the Oscars, which historically take at least some cues from the nominations/winners of the Globes?


Ken Watanabe in Best Pic contender "Letters From Iwo Jima"

This week a handful of critics associations weighed in with their end-of-year honors, with a few notable patterns. As expected, there were some disparities: both the LA Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review named Clint Eastwood‘s "Letters From Iwo Jima" as the year’s Best Picture, while the New York and Washington D.C. critics went regional with "United 93." Bostonian critics went the homegrown route as well, picking Martin Scorsese‘s "The Departed" for the top honor.

There was a bit more consensus choosing Best Director, as four of six lists named Scorsese (NY, DC, Boston, and the NBoR); California critics in LA and San Francisco went with Paul Greengrass for "United 93."

But when it came to naming the year’s best performances, there’s even more agreement. Five of the six groups chose Forest Whitaker as Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," a Fox Searchlight release filmed for a paltry $6 million.


Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland;" Mirren in "The Queen"

More impressively, all six groups chose awards season-dominatrix Helen Mirren as their unanimous Best Actress pick for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen," a well-performing Miramax acquisition filmed for an estimated $15 million.

Other critics picks that could translate into Golden Globes are Al Gore‘s global warming flick, "An Inconvenient Truth" (picked as Best Documentary by four of the six groups) and Guillermo del Toro‘s Spanish language fantasy "Pan’s Labyrinth," which garnered three groups’ awards for Best Foreign Film and two for Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography. Both are modestly budgeted, by Hollywood standards — with "Pan" estimated at $14.5 million and "Truth" at a cheap $1 million.

The HFPA will announce its nominations this Thursday, with the awards ceremony broadcast live on January 15, 2007.

ELSEWHERE IN INDIE NEWS THIS WEEK:

InDigEnt To Cease Production in January


Fairuza Balk in InDiGent’s "Personal Velocity" (2002)

Even tiny budgets are too high if there’s a low rate of return. InDigEnt, the company that brought you such films as "Tape" and "Pieces of April," will shut down in January. Producer-Director Gary Winick said the company, which championed edgy projects shot on digital for generally under $1 million, was still having trouble getting backing for projects. "The studios want the ‘Capotes’ and the ‘Sideways,’" he said. "They want the $8-million film to make a $100 million instead of the $1 million to make $10 (million). That’s the problem." InDigEnt, short for Independent Digital Entertainment was founded in 1999; Winick’s latest project is "Charlotte’s Web."

Kelly Says "Southland Tales" Cuts Completed


Sarah Michelle Gellar as a porn star on a date with destiny in "Southland Tales"

It looks as if "Southland Tales," Richard Kelly‘s followup to "Donnie Darko," will see the light of day after all. A 160-minute cut of the film had a disastrous premiere at Cannes, but Kelly said he’s trimmed nearly a half hour from "Southland" and kept some sense of narrative cohesion as well. "We still have some visual-effects work to do, but expect a release date and a trailer soon," Kelly wrote on his MySpace blog. "Expect some big announcements soon!" The film, a sci fi/fantasy/musical/comedy, stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, and half the population of California. It will likely hit theaters in April of next year.

Von Trier Pioneers New Cinematic Concept: Find The Mistakes


"Manderlay" is 49 percent on the Tomatometer: where was the ‘lookey’ then?

With the creation of Dogma 95, Danish auteur Lars Von Trier challenged filmmakers to make movies with more purity and no special effects. Now he’s issuing a challenge to audiences: find the mistakes. In his latest, "The Boss of It All," Von Trier says he’s created a new concept, "lookey," in which intentional mistakes have been placed into the film. But that’s not all: the first Dane to find all the mistakes wins 30,000 Danish kroner (roughly equivalent to $5,300). Von Trier is best known for "Breaking the Waves" and "Dogville"; the trailer for "The Boss of All" is online here.

Tomatometers For Last Week’s Limited Releases

Opening last week in limited release: "Bergman Island," a feature-length interview with Ingmar Bergman, arguably the world’s greatest living director, is at 83 percent with six reviews; "Days of Glory," an Algerian World War II film, is at 80 percent with 15 reviews; the Argentine import "Family Law," about the trials and tribulations of a father-son relationship, is at 76 percent with 17 reviews; "Screamers," a doc about System of a Down’s efforts to stop genocide, is at 75 percent with eight reviews; "The Empire in Africa," a doc about civil war in Sierra Leone, is at 63 percent with eight reviews; "Off the Black," starring Nick Nolte as an alcoholic baseball umpire, is at 61 percent with 23 reviews; "Ever Again," a doc about contemporary anti-Semitism, is at 54 percent with 13 reviews; and "Inland Empire," David Lynch‘s latest assault on cinematic convention starring Laura Dern, is at 53 percent with 30 reviews.


"Days of Glory"’s cast, whose five leading actors shared this year’s Cannes honors

Top Performing Limiteds

"Volver" held onto the top spot in last week’s indie box office battle. Pedro Almodovar‘s meditation on womanhood made $8,450 per screen in 44 theaters, pushing its six-week total to $2.76 million. The runner up was Jean-Luc Godard‘s nouvelle vague classic "Two or Three Things I Know About Her," which raked in $5,905 on one screen; it’s made $57,700 in its four weeks in re-release. In third was the debut "Screamers," at $5,902 per on four screens, for a total of $23,609. Rounding out the top five were "The History Boys," which made $4,036 per on 50 screens (its total is $500,432 in three weeks of release); and "Flannel Pajamas," which took in $3,994 on one screen, for a total of $49,279 in four weeks since its debut.


Carmen and Penelope, women on top (of the indie box office)

It’s that time of year again: Right before the fancy awards are doled out, all the different critics’ groups chime in with their favorite flicks of the year. Here we have the picks from the New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) for your perusal.

NY FILM CRITICS ONLINE AWARDS FOR 2006

New York Film Critics Online is composed of major reviewers in the New York area who work exclusively for online publications or for print/broadcast media with a strong online presence. The twenty-six members (NYFCO.ORG) met at O’Neal’s Restaurant, 49 W 64 Street in Manhattan on December
10th, 2006, and voted for these awards:

Picture — "The Queen"

Director — Stephen Frears – "The Queen"

Screenplay — Peter Morgan – "The Queen"

Cinematography — Dick Pope – "The Illusionist"

Actor — Forest Whitaker – "The Last King of Scotland"

Actress — Helen Mirren – "The Queen"

Supporting Actor — Michael Sheen – "The Queen"

Supporting Actress — Jennifer Hudson – "Dreamgirls" & Catherine O’Hara – "For Your Consideration" (tie)

Ensemble Cast — "Little Miss Sunshine"

Debut as Director — Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris – "Little Miss Sunshine"

Breakthrough Performer — Jennifer Hudson – "Dreamgirls"

Film Score — Philip Glass – "The Illusionist"

Documentary Feature — "An Inconvenient Truth"

Animated Feature — "Happy Feet"

Foreign Language Picture — "Pan’s Labyrinth"

Humanitarian Award — Deepa Mehta ("Water") for taking risks to create films about the difficulties of social change in India especially as it affects women.

Ten Best Pictures (Alphabetical)
"Babel"
"The Fountain"
"Inland Empire"
"Little Children"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"Pan’s Labyrinth"
"The Queen"
"Thank You For Smoking"
"Volver"
"Water"

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.


"Wait a minute… you’re telling me I ripped that ‘how do you like them apples’ line off from you?"

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."


"And these are called ‘numbers.’ I know, it’s confusing."

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.)


"The unsuspecting teenagers wail/ along the trail/ deep in the heart of Texas"

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.


"Blood Tea and Red String":"The King of Cartoons!"

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

Samuel L. Jackson‘s much-talked-about thriller Snakes on a Plane landed in first place at the North American box office this weekend, but lacked the kind of bite that was expected given all the media attention and internet buzz that surrounded the film.

The weekend’s two other new releases Accepted and Material Girls targeted teens and met with only mild-to-moderate results. However, the indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine flexed some muscle in its national expansion jumping into the top ten in its fourth weekend of release. Former number one Talladega Nights raced past the $100M mark while Pirates of the Caribbean cruised past the $400M milestone this weekend. However, the late-summer slowdown took its toll on the box office as for the first time in fourteen weeks, the top ten failed to top $100M.


A number one box office performance…does not a franchise make.

Following months of online buzz which translated into tons of national publicity, Snakes on a Plane finally arrived in theaters and collected an estimated $15.3M over the weekend including about $1.4M in Thursday night preview grosses. Taking off in an ultrawide 3,555 theaters, the R-rated film averaged a mediocre $4,290 per site. Of the 62 films in history that have opened in 3,500 or more theaters, 61 have grossed more than Snakes on opening weekend. Only last summer’s Herbie: Fully Loaded fared worse with $12.7M from 3,521 sites following a Wednesday bow. Snakes also suffered the second lowest gross for a number one opener this year after Glory Road‘s $13.6M top spot bow in January.

Since no film before it had generated the same type of grassroots hype, expectations varied greatly leading into the frame with most believing it would at least surpass the $20M mark. The New Line release finds Jackson playing an FBI agent escorting a key witness on a commercial airliner when deadly snakes are let loose. The studio did not screen the film for the media ahead of the release. Fans on the internet have been talking up the picture since last year creating a cult fan following which no one knew how to measure when it came to box office sales. Ultimately, Snakes did not appear to have had much appeal outside of its core fan base of young men. With a budget of only $30M, Snakes on a Plane should still end up being a moneymaker for New Line after worldwide DVD sales are tallied. However, hopes for a new franchise seem to have been crushed.


"Talladega Nights:" still reeling in moviegoers

After two weeks in pole position, Will Ferrell‘s hit comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby finished close behind in second place this weekend with an estimated $14.1M in its third lap. The Sony release dropped only 36% and showed good legs. On Thursday, Talladega became the eleventh film of the year to cross the $100M mark and has pushed its total to $114.7M after 17 days. Snakes led all films at the box office on Friday, but Ricky Bobby raced ahead on both Saturday and Sunday.

Oliver Stone‘s 9/11 drama World Trade Center enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend grossing an estimated $10.8M. Down a moderate 42%, the Paramount release upped its total to $45M after 12 days. The $65M film looks to reach about $70M domestically.

Universal’s new teen comedy Accepted bowed in fourth place with an estimated $10.1M from 2,914 theaters. The PG-13 film about a high school senior who forms the fictitious S.H.I.T. (South Harmon Institute of Technology) after being rejected by every other college averaged a mild $3,470 per location. Budgeted at $23M, Accepted appealed mostly to a teen and young adult audience with studio research showing that a whopping 74% of the crowd was under 25. Males slightly outnumbered females with 52% of the audience.

Last weekend’s surprise hit Step Up fell an understandable 52% in its second session taking in an estimated $9.9M for fifth place. Buena Vista’s low-budget dance drama has captured a robust $39.4M in ten days and could end its run with a terrific $60M. At the beginning of August, no one thought that Step Up would score a bigger opening than Snakes on a Plane. The animated comedy Barnyard followed with an estimated $7.5M dropping only 23%. The strong hold for the Paramount release helped boost the cume to $46M after 17 days.


"Little Miss Sunshine," no longer just an indie hit?

Boasting the best per-theater average in the top ten by far was indie sensation Little Miss Sunshine which expanded nationally and grossed an estimated $5.7M. Fox Searchlight’s dysfunctional family comedy averaged a stellar $8,213 from 691 locations after widening from 153 playdates last weekend. Cume to date stands at $12.8M with much more to come. The distributor reported that the Greg KinnearSteve Carell pic is broadening its audience beyond just the arthouse crowd and is now playing well in mainstream multiplexes in suburban markets. Sunshine will double its theater count on Friday with over 1,400 runs and will add a few hundred more the following weekend for the Labor Day holiday frame.

Disney’s unstoppable smash Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ranked eighth this weekend with an estimated $5M in its seventh voyage. Down only 31%, the Johnny Depp adventure broke the quadruple-century mark and pushed its cume to $401.1M in North America making it the seventh biggest domestic blockbuster ever trailing the $403.7M of 2002’s Spider-Man. Worldwide, the Pirates sequel cruised past the $900M mark this weekend and will break through the $1 billion barrier soon allowing it to join only Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in the ten-digit club.

Opening quietly in ninth place were sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff with their comedy Material Girls which debuted with only $4.6M, according to estimates. Playing in 1,509 theaters, the MGM release averaged just $3,062 per site. The PG-rated story about wealthy sisters who must cope with being bankrupt opened much like Hilary Duff’s recent films Raise Your Voice ($4M in October 2004) and The Perfect Man ($5.3M in June 2005).

Rounding out the top ten was the horror entry Pulse with an estimated $3.5M, off 57%, for a ten-day total of just $14.7M. The Weinstein Co. should reach a mere $20M with this one.


"The Illusionist," off to a good start in an expanding limited release

There was plenty of activity in limited release over the weekend. Yari Film Group opened its period mystery The Illusionist in 51 theaters and grossed an estimated $925,000 for a powerful $18,137 average. The Edward NortonPaul Giamatti starrer earned strong reviews and will add more theaters on Friday before expanding nationwide on September 1.

Fox Searchlight saw more modest results with its new relationship pic Trust the Man which debuted to an estimated $176,000 from 38 locations for a moderate $4,632 average. Playing in eight cities, the R-rated story stars Billy Crudup, David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Trust will widen to more than 100 theaters on Friday. Reviews have been mixed.

Four summer movies dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Lionsgate’s horror film The Descent fell 47% to an estimated $2.5M putting its total at $22.3M. The chicks-in-a-cave thriller should end with $27-29M. Sony’s Tim Allen flop Zoom declined 47% to an estimated $2.4M increasing its sum to a puny $9M. A horrendous final total of around $15M seems likely.

Universal’s $135M cop pic Miami Vice dropped 50% to an estimated $2.4M in its fifth frame and lifted its sum to $59.8M. A disappointing $65M final seems likely. The $75M animated film Monster House grossed an estimated $1.9M, down 42%, for a cume of $67.3M. Sony should end up with a respectable $72M.

Among holdovers in limited release, ThinkFilm’s critically-acclaimed drama Half Nelson added one theater and grossed an estimated $57,000 from three sites for a solid $19,067 average. The existing pair of theaters in Manhattan suffered almost no decline from last weekend and continued to sell out most of their weekend shows. Cume stands at $148,000 and the film debuts on Friday in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

The global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth became the highest-grossing film in company history for Paramount Classics this weekend. Al Gore‘s environmental pic took in an estimated $246,000 from 221 theaters and upped its total to $22.4M. The distributor’s previous top grosser was last summer’s Hustle & Flow with $22.2M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $86.5M which was down 7% from last year when The 40-Year-Old Virgin debuted at number one with $21.4M; and down 10% from 2004 when Exorcist: The Beginning opened in the top spot with a robust $18.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Despite a pair of newcomers close behind in its rearview mirror, Will Ferrell‘s hit comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby finished in first place for the second consecutive weekend to retain its North American box office trophy.

The frame’s biggest shocker came in second place with the stellar debut of the teen dance drama Step Up which flew past expectations to edge out Oliver Stone‘s high-profile 9/11 film World Trade Center which opened with solid results in third place. The new horror film Pulse launched in fifth place with mediocre results while Tim Allen‘s family film Zoom imploded with a disastrous bow in seventh place.

Talladega Nights held onto the number one spot with an estimated $23M in its second weekend of release dropping an understandable 51%. The $73M Sony hit raced to a total of $91.2M after ten days of release and could find its way to the $140M mark.

Getting high marks in the runnerup spot was Buena Vista’s Step Up which surprised the industry with a sizzling $21.1M opening weekend, according to estimates, from 2,467 theaters. The PG-13 pic about a trained ballerina who joins forces with a tough street dancer averaged a sturdy $8,539 per location and was powered primarily by teenage girls and young women. The surprise muscle of Step Up played out much like the bow of another late-summer film targeting teen girls – 2000’s Bring It On. That pic debuted at number one with $17.4M, spent two weeks at the top, and found its way to $68.4M followed by a pair of non-theatrical sequels keeping the franchise alive to this day.

Oliver Stone’s 9/11 drama World Trade Center finished in third place grossing an estimated $19M over the weekend and $26.8M since debuting on Wednesday. Averaging a solid $6,431 from 2,957 theaters over the Friday-to-Sunday portion, the Paramount release stars Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena as cops buried underneath the rubble of the collapsed Twin Towers. Reviews were mostly positive for the $65M film and word-of-mouth so far seems positive. Studio research showed that 91% of those polled called the disaster drama "excellent" or "very good".

While young moviegoers were lining up for Step Up, World Trade Center skewed mostly to a mature adult audience with 65% of the crowd being over the age of 25. Females made up 55% of the audience. With good reviews, positive buzz, and almost no interesting films for adults opening in the coming weeks, World Trade Center could hold up well in the weeks ahead.

Paramount’s animated comedy Barnyard dropped only 36% in its second weekend to an estimated $10.1M for fourth place. With $34.1M in the bank after ten days, the toon could find its way to about $60M. The PG-rated film’s budget was under $50M.

The suspense thriller Pulse debuted in fifth with an estimated $8.5M from a launch in 2,323 sites. Averaging a mild $3,640 per location for The Weinstein Co., the PG-13 film made only a small dent in the overall box office.

Disney took in an estimated $7.2M with its summer tentpole Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest lifting its incredible total to a towering $392.4M. The Johnny Depp smash fell just 35% and now sits at number seven on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just behind Spider-Man which hauled in $403.7M in 2002. Overseas, there’s still no stopping Pirates which vaulted its international total to $463M pushing the global gross to a stunning $855M.

Sony’s Tim Allen family pic Zoom crashed and burned in its debut grossing a measly $4.6M in its opening weekend. Playing in 2,501 theaters, the PG-rated film about an old super hero recruited to train a bunch of kids averaged an embarrassing $1,839 per venue.

The horror flick The Descent dropped 48% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.6M and pushed its ten-day tally to a decent $17.5M. The Lionsgate release should dig up $25-27M by the end of its run. Universal’s action remake Miami Vice suffered another steep drop falling 56% to an estimated $4.5M for a $55.1M total. The animated pic Monster House rounded out the top ten with an estimated $3.3M, off 46%, giving Sony $63.7M to date.

Four more films were tossed right out of the top ten this weekend. Fox’s high school comedy John Tucker Must Die fell 52% to an estimated $3M in its third frame. With a solid $35.7M, the low-budget teen hit should finish with around $40M. Fellow comedy You, Me and Dupree grossed an estimated $1.9M, down 48%, and has collected $70.8M to date. Universal’s $54M pic is set to reach an impressive $74M.

Not-so-impressive results came from The Ant Bully with an estimated $1.8M and The Night Listener with an estimated $1.4M. Tumbling 55%, the Warner Bros. toon has taken in just $22.4M and will stumble to about $25M. Miramax’s Robin Williams thriller has grossed a puny $6.3M for Miramax and could end up with only $8M.

With Hollywood’s summer season of blockbusters coming to an end, plenty of activity was brewing over the weekend with limited release titles. ThinkFilm opened its critically-acclaimed indie Half Nelson in just two New York theaters but grossed a stellar $55,000, according to estimates. The R-rated drama about an inner city teacher with an addiction to crack averaged a potent $27,475 and expands to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. on August 25.

Sony Classics premiered the Brazilian drama The House of Sand in five locations in New York and Los Angeles and grossed an estimated $33,000 for a moderate $6,600 average. The distributor’s teen pregnancy drama Quinceanera widened from eight to 27 theaters in its second weekend and grossed an estimated $138,000 giving the Sundance award winner a mild $5,111 average. Total to date stands at $278,000.

Indie darling Little Miss Sunshine witnessed another powerful expansion widening from 58 to 153 locations for a weekend estimate of $2.6M and a sizzling average of $16,993. Fox Searchlight reported that audiences in the new cities are responding to the stellar word-of-mouth while theaters in existing markets are holding up remarkably well. The weekend decline among holdover theaters was only 17%. With $5.6M in the bank, look for Little Miss Sunshine to pop into the top ten next weekend when it expands into 600 playdates nationwide and remain there with a wider push into 1,500 locations the following frame. So far, the dysfunctional family comedy has performed even better than the distributor’s spring indie hit Thank You for Smoking as well as its 2004 hit Garden State which was released at this same time and in similar fashion. Those films went on to gross $24.7M and $26.8M, respectively.

Paramount Vantage’s global warming film An Inconvenient Truth became the third biggest documentary of all time over the weekend. Al Gore‘s success story took in an estimated $367,000 in its 12th weekend and lifted its cume to $21.9M surpassing the $21.6M of 2002’s Oscar-winning doc Bowling for Columbine.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $105.9M which was up 6% from last year when Four Brothers debuted at number one with $21.2M; but down 12% from 2004 when Alien vs. Predator opened in the top spot with a robust $38.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Detectives Crockett and Tubbs shot their way to number one in North America with the cop thriller Miami Vice which finally managed to knock the megablockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest out of the top spot.

The new teen comedy John Tucker Must Die debuted well but the animated entry The Ant Bully got squashed in its opening weekend. Overall, the box office saw a summer slowdown as the top ten films attracted the weakest sales since early May.

Universal hit the top of the charts with its big-budget actioner Miami Vice which opened with an estimated $25.2M. Starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell as the famous South Florida cops from the hit 1980s television series, the R-rated film averaged a strong $8,340 from 3,021 theaters. The debut was in line with the opening of director Michael Mann‘s last film Collateral which was also an R-rated actioner and bowed to $24.7M in August 2004. That film, which starred Tom Cruise and Foxx, eventually squeaked past the $100M mark domestically. The studio reported that the audience for Miami Vice was older, multicultural, and evenly split between men and women. Studio research showed that a high 62% of the crowd was age 30 and older, 51% was male, and 52% was non-white. Reviews were mixed for the $135M production.

After three weeks of ruling the box office, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest dropped to second place but still posted strong results grossing an estimated $20.5M. The Disney smash dropped only 42% and propelled its cume to a staggering $358.4M after just 24 days. More records were looted by Captain Jack Sparrow. Chest became the fastest film in history to sail past the $350M mark doing so on Saturday in only 23 days. Shrek 2 held the record previously with 26 days in 2004. The Pirates sequel also stands as the top-grossing movie ever for its studio surpassing the $339.7M of 2003’s Finding Nemo.

The middle film in the swashbuckling adventure trilogy vaulted to number 11 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind the $370.3M of 2004’s The Passion of the Christ. Pirates has also put an end to the industry’s seven-year streak of the top-grossing summer film coming out of the month of May. Johnny Depp and friends have completely dominated the moviegoing world this month as no other film since has opened north of $30M. The last time the month of July saw only one $30M+ opener was ten years ago when Independence Day ruled the mid-summer box office in 1996. Dead Man’s Chest looks to smash the $400M mark in the weeks ahead.

Teenagers pushed the high school comedy John Tucker Must Die into the number three spot with an estimated opening of $14.1M. Bowing in 2,560 theaters, the PG-13 film about a group of young women who get revenge on the guy secretly dating all of them averaged a solid $5,498 per site. However, sales plunged a disturbing 24% on Saturday from a strong Friday turnout indicating there could be trouble ahead. Still, with no pricey stars, Tucker should become a nice little hit for Fox. The studio’s divide-and-conquer marketing approach seems to have worked. Television spots aimed at females focused on the revenge-on-a-cheating-boy angle while those targeting males showed off the title character’s ability to juggle three chicks.

Sony’s digital toon Monster House dropped 48% in its second weekend to an estimated $11.5M and raised its total to $43.9M after ten days. The $75M film looks to find its way to a relatively good $65-70M.

Warner Bros. stumbled with the opening of its rival kid toon The Ant Bully which finished the weekend in fifth place with an estimated $8.1M. Playing in 3,050 locations, the PG-rated adventure about a boy who enters the world of insects averaged a weak $2,670 per location. Big-time Hollywood stars Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Nicolas Cage provided the voices, but audiences were not swayed. Bully’s opening weekend couldn’t even beat the second weekend of Monster House. The kidpic market will get even more crowded on Friday when Paramount launches its own animated film Barnyard targeting the exact same family audience once again.

Sixth place was too close to call with a pair of films claiming an estimated $7M in ticket stubs this weekend. Universal’s comedy You, Me and Dupree fell 45% in its third weekend and boosted its 17-day cume to a solid $59M.

However, M. Night Shyamalan‘s bedtime story Lady in the Water followed its weak opening weekend with a steep 61% crash and gave Warner Bros. a feeble $32.1M in ten days. By comparison, ten-day totals for the filmmaker’s last films have been $85.6M for 2004’s The Village and $117.7M for 2002’s Signs. Lady, which is not even in the same ballpark, has not excited audiences and it could stumble to a final tally of about $45M making its entire total smaller than the opening weekend of his last film.

It’s been a difficult summer for Warners. First, its costly ocean liner actioner Poseidon flopped grossing $100M less than its production budget. Then Superman Returns, the most expensive movie ever, did not live up to expectations. Now the studio is suffering a double blow with Lady and Ant Bully both being ignored by moviegoers. Of course, overseas box office and worldwide home video will add more revenue, but expensive marketing campaigns will make it hard for these films to become moneymaking ventures. The studio’s other summer film The Lake House has enjoyed a respectable run though, grossing $51M.

Sony’s Wayans brothers comedy Little Man placed eighth with an estimated $5.1M, down 54%, and raised its sum to a decent $50.2M. Meryl Streep followed with the sleeper hit of the summer, The Devil Wears Prada, which grossed an estimated $4.8M. Off only 35%, the Fox hit pushed its total to $106.7M.

Crumbling 61% to an estimated $3.9M in its sophomore session, Kevin Smith‘s Clerks II rounded out the top ten and put its ten-day cume at $18.5M. The inexpensive $5M production should continue to fade fast, but looks to end with around $25M making it a nice little moneymaker for MGM and The Weinstein Company. Smith’s last summer film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back dropped a hefty 53% in its second weekend in 2001 although the Labor Day holiday frame helped to cushion the blow.

Opening in platform release to sensational results was Fox Searchlight’s indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine which bowed to an estimated $357,000 from only seven theaters for an eye-popping $50,980 average. Since its Wednesday launch in New York and Los Angeles, the R-rated comedy starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin has grossed $449,000. Sunshine was the hottest film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and the distrib is now looking to turn it into a strong word-of-mouth hit for moviegoers numbed by all the mindless popcorn films of the summer. Reviews were outstanding and the road comedy will continue to expand in the weeks ahead. The distributor plans to widen to ten cities and about 60 theaters this Friday, 175 playdates the following weekend, and a full national release in over 600 sites on August 18.

Also debuting this weekend was Woody Allen’s latest film Scoop with an estimated $3M from 538 locations for a good $5,582 average. The Focus release stars Scarlett Johannson and Hugh Jackman and earned mixed reviews from critics.

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Superman Returns fell 49% to an estimated $3.8M in its fifth mission and reached a cume of $185.8M. After 33 days of release last summer, Warner Bros. collected a similar $183.1M with its other super hero revival Batman Begins. However, the Caped Crusader posted a stronger $6M frame, ranked higher with a fifth place finish, and was enjoying smaller weekly declines on its way to $205.3M. With a reported production budget north of $240M, Superman Returns is on a course to end its domestic run with roughly $195M and will need some sort of special re-release in order to cross the double-century mark.

Fox also grabbed an estimated $3.8M with its super hero comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend which tumbled 56% in its second weekend. With a weak $16.4M in ten days, the Uma ThurmanLuke Wilson comedy should find its way to only $25M.

Disney watched Pixar’s durable toon hit Cars become the second highest-grossing film of the year this weekend. The G-rated smash fell 50% to an estimated $2.5M boosting its cume to $234.6M surpassing the third X-Men flick. Add in the recent Pirates sequel and the Mouse House can now claim the two biggest box office hits of 2006 with no other films in the near future looking to get in their way.

Al Gore‘s global warming hit An Inconvenient Truth became only the fourth documentary in box office history to cross the $20M mark this weekend. The Paramount Vantage title took in an estimated $773,000 in its tenth frame, off 23%, to lift its cume to $20.2M. The only docs to score better have been Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.2M), March of the Penguins ($77.4M), and Bowling for Columbine ($21.6M).

The top ten films grossed an estimated $107.3M which was up a scant 2% from last year when Wedding Crashers climbed to number one in its third weekend with $20M; but down 22% from 2004 when The Village opened in the top spot with $50.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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