The list of Saturday Night Live cast members who have made us laugh is long — but the number of SNL vets who have managed to make a successful go of it on the big screen, especially over the long term, is much smaller. With over a billion dollars in global box office receipts to his name — a total that will expand when he returns to theaters with Amy Poehler in The House this weekend — it’s safe to say Will Ferrell is part of that exclusive group, and in honor of his achievements, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s list to his 10 best-reviewed movies. Get off the shed, because it’s time for Total Recall!


Use the up and down arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!

This week on streaming video, we’ve got a well-received sci-fi drama, a highly acclaimed British drama, and an indie thriller available for purchase. New additions to subscription sites include the entire run of Seinfeld on Hulu, a couple of Certified Fresh picks on Netflix, and both Charlie Chaplin’s and David Lynch’s feature debuts on Fandor, among other things. Read on for the full list:

Available for purchase

 


Ex Machina
92%

Domhnall Gleeson stars as a computer wiz who’s tasked by his company’s reclusive CEO (Oscar Isaac) with testing the artificial intelligence of a remarkably lifelike robot (Alicia Vikander); in doing so, our hero begins to question the nature and limits of humanity.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


’71
96%

Jack O’Connell stars in this Certified Fresh drama about a young British soldier fending for himself on the streets of battle-scarred Belfast.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


Creep
90%

Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice (also making his directorial debut) star in this thriller about the confrontation that ensues when a man is hired to film another man’s life for a day, and the latter isn’t quite who he claims to be.

Available now on: iTunes

New on Hulu

 


Seinfeld: Complete Series

Jerry Seinfeld’s award-winning NBC sitcom — centered on a fictionalized version of himself and his eccentric circle of friends — comes to Hulu in its entirety, beginning on June 24.

Available now on: Hulu


Another Period: Season One

Two shallow celebutantes snob it up in Gilded Age Newport in this reality series satire.

Available now on: Hulu

New on Netflix

 


A Most Wanted Man
85%

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rachel McAdams star in this Certified Fresh spy thriller about an intelligence officer who methodically lays a trap for a terror suspect.

Available now on: Netflix


Point and Shoot
72%

This Certified Fresh documentary tells the tale of a Baltimore man whose five-year tour of the Middle East included a stint in the Libyan Revolution.

Available now on: Netflix


All the Wilderness
60%

Virginia Madsen, Danny DeVito, and Kodi-Smit-McPhee star in this drama about a troubled young boy who meets a mysterious new friend.

Available now on: Netflix


Lee Daniels’ The Butler
72%

Forest Whitaker stars as Cecil Gaines, who recounts his life growing up in Georgia during the 1920s and learning to be a house servant before working under several US presidents. The film follows Gaines as he and his family navigate the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights Era.

Available now on:
Netflix


Curious George
70%

The popular children’s book character gets the big screen treatment, featuring Will Ferrell as the voice of the Man in the Yellow Hat, who meets the titular chimpanzee in Africa, brings him home to the States, and finds his new friend is prone to hijinks.

Available now on:
Netflix

New on Fandor

 


The Kid
100%

Charlie Chaplin stars in his first feature-length directorial effort as the now iconic Tramp, who adopts an abandoned baby and raises it as his own.

Available now on: Fandor


There Was a Father
100%

Another masterpiece from the legendary Yasujiro Ozu, this is a quiet drama about a widowed schoolteacher whose devotion to his son only serves to separate them all the more.

Available now on: Fandor


Laurence Anyways
84%

This Certified Fresh French drama is the story of a writer who asks his fiancée to support his transition into a woman.

Available now on: Fandor


Eraserhead
90%

David Lynch’s feature-length debut is a Kafkaesque nightmare following the life of a man named Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), who seems to suffer paranoid hallucinations.

Available now on: Fandor

The list of Saturday Night Live cast members who have made us laugh is long — but the number of SNL vets who have managed to make a successful go of it on the big screen, especially over the long term, is much smaller. With over a billion dollars in global box office receipts to his name ? a total that will expand when he returns to theaters with Kevin Hart in Get Hard this weekend — it’s safe to say Will Ferrell is part of that exclusive group, and in honor of his achievements, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s list to his 10 best-reviewed movies. Get off the shed, because it’s time for Total Recall!


10. Curious George (2006) 70%


Any movie that comes with a tagline as corny as “Show Me the Monkey!” is deserving of skepticism, particularly if the film in question is an animated adaptation of an old series of children’s books — but 2006’s Curious George proved a worthy big-screen extension of H.A. and Margaret Rey’s beloved bestsellers, giving the furry little rascal a spiffy 21st-century makeover without losing any of the sweet charm that made the character an icon in the first place. As the voice of George’s longtime foil The Man in the Yellow Hat (here named Ted Shackleford), Ferrell certainly wasn’t the film’s chief draw for its target demographic, but he did add a bit of marquee value to a cast that included Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy, and Dick Van Dyke, helping George swing its way to a mildly surprising $69 million worldwide gross. The movie’s gentle spirit and extensive use of traditional animation couldn’t compete with the louder, flashier CGI fare prevalent at the box office, but they weren’t meant to; as Colin Colvert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote, “the makers of Curious George have figured out how to make an innocent cartoon that will amuse knee-nuzzlers without hitting adults like a liter of chloroform.”

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9. Blades of Glory (2007) 70%


Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Will Ferrell has a knack for finding (or writing) scripts built around concepts so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh — and 2007’s Blades of Glory, a comedy about a pair of competitive skaters who are forced to form an ice dancing team after an awards ceremony brawl leaves them barred from men’s singles, is a perfect case in point. Ferrell’s brand of fearlessly stupid comedy is perfect for any script that requires him to spend time in a unitard, and Jon Heder’s sleepy-eyed hostility made him a worthy foil for his louder, hairier co-star. Although Ferrell had already done more than one sports-themed comedy, Blades of Glory still packed enough laughs to satisfy most critics — it earned a 69 percent Tomatometer rating, thanks to reviews from writers like the Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen, who praised it as “one of those rare comedies that puts a goofy smile on your face with the premise alone, and keeps it planted there right until its wacky finale.”

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8. Dick (1999) 71%


By the late 1990s, Ferrell had emerged as the next Saturday Night Live cast member to make the jump to movies — both within the SNL family, in projects like Superstar and A Night at the Roxbury, and also in non SNL-affiliated fare, such as the first two Austin Powers movies, the independently released The Suburbans, and 1999’s Dick. Supporting Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in this 1970s-set comedy about a pair of teenage girls that exposes the nefarious deeds of Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya), Ferrell appears as a bumbling, thin-skinned version of Bob Woodward opposite Bruce McCulloch’s equally incompetent Carl Bernstein. Though the allegedly investigative duo is more interested in insulting each other than cracking a story (in one memorable exchange, Ferrell tells McCulloch that he smells “like cabbage”), they’re eventually pointed in the right direction by Dunst and Williams; similarly, although audiences seemed not to know what to make of Dick, critics applauded it for being, in the words of Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, “a gaily funny, shrewdly inventive satire.”

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7. Stranger Than Fiction (2006) 73%


For many comics, branching out from lighthearted comedies to more dramatic fare is seen as a rite of passage; Bill Murray had The Razor’s Edge, Jim Carrey started nudging away from straight comedy with The Cable Guy and The Truman Show, and even Dane Cook has popped up in serious films such as Mr. Brooks and Dan in Real Life. For Will Ferrell, the chance to flex his dramatic muscle came with Stranger than Fiction, a 2006 dramedy about an IRS auditor who slowly realizes that the events taking place in his life are the result of an unseen author who may be leading him to a rather unhappy ending. It’s the sort of heady premise that Ferrell’s detractors would say he lacks the depth or breadth to carry — but they’d be wrong, as evidenced by Fiction‘s Certified Fresh status and 72 percent Tomatometer rating. Though he was certainly surrounded with top talent — such as a supporting cast that included Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal — Ferrell’s performance was singled out by critics like Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who wrote that he “delivers a moving and surprisingly delicate — though not so surprisingly funny — turn as the lonesome bureaucrat bedeviled by a voice only he hears.”

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6. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) 71%


Part buffoonish comedy, part NASCAR fable, Talladega Nights sped past all the cries of “not another Will Ferrell sports comedy” to an impressive $162 million worldwide gross — and, more importantly, a 73 percent Tomatometer rating and Certified Fresh status. Though the none-too-bright Ricky Bobby was essentially just another variation of the same character Ferrell had been playing for years, Talladega proved that character could still be funny — starting with the trailer and TV spots, in which an underwear-and-helmet-clad Ricky engages in a panicked run around a racetrack, screaming for Tom Cruise to “use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me.” In the words of Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, Talladega Nights is “the sort of cheerfully asinine comedy that twists your arm until you submit. So, to Will Ferrell — clown, freak, bully — I scream, ‘Uncle!'”

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5. Everything Must Go (2011) 73%


If you’re going to adapt a Raymond Carver short story about an alcoholic loser who reacts to losing his job and being kicked out of his home by camping out in his front yard and selling off his possessions, you could do a lot worse than hiring Will Ferrell to play your protagonist. Case in point: 2011’s Everything Must Go, in which writer-director Dan Rush affords Ferrell plenty of room to explore the premise’s dramatic depths while lending a healthy amount of laughs to a situation that probably wouldn’t seem all that funny if it happened to any of us. Unlike a lot of forays into more thoughtful territory by actors known for their comedic chops, Everything earned a surprising number of critical accolades along the way, including Simon Gallagher’s review for What Culture, which deemed the movie “a pleasantly engaging, entertaining human portrait — a journey that doesn’t physically stray very far, but which treads a million metaphorical miles within its main character as he attempts to go from broken man to redeemed man.”

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4. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) 75%


Long after even its most ardent and/or munchies-tormented fans had given up hope of ever seeing a sequel, Ferrell and his frequent creative partner Adam McKay managed to get a follow-up to 2004’s cult classic Anchorman off the ground, reuniting the original’s brilliant cast (many of whom had been bumped up several pay grades in the interim) to show audiences what the endearing blowhard Ron Burgundy and his largely incompetent news team had been up to over the ensuing nine years. Surrounded by a gifted comedic team that included Anchorman vets such as Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and Christina Applegate as well as new additions like Kristen Wiig, Ferrell helped make Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues another dose of dada bliss ? and one of the rare sequels whose reviews manage to surpass those of its predecessor. “Maybe McKay and his cast simply captured another bolt of lightning in Ron’s empty scotch bottle; more likely, they were just as inspired this time around as they were during the first film,” wrote Cammila Collar for TV Guide. “Regardless, they’ve definitely kept it classy.”

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3. The Other Guys (2010) 79%


For much of his film career, Ferrell has scooped added helpings of laughs out of being placed alongside well-chosen comedic foils. John C. Reilly has gotten particularly good mileage out of matching him guffaw for dunderheaded guffaw, but Ferrell can also be brilliantly funny when his bozo routine has a fussy, tight-lipped straight man to bounce off, and 2010’s The Other Guys is a perfect example. By placing Ferrell’s knuckleheaded Detective Allen Gamble opposite Mark Wahlberg’s desperately straight-laced Detective Terry Hoitz, Guys pumped a few extra chuckles into the well-worn buddy cop formula ? and worked in a little savvy bailout-era social commentary in the bargain. “Just go and see it,” ordered Nigel Andrews for the Financial Times. “And send me the bill if you don’t laugh.”

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2. Elf (2003) 85%


You could put pretty much any 6’3″ actor in an elf suit and get some chuckles, but casting Will Ferrell as an orphan raised at the North Pole — by Bob “Papa Elf” Newhart, no less — was a stroke of comic genius. What tends to get lost in all the shouting and inappropriate nudity is that Ferrell excels at playing gentle, childlike men whose open-heartedness is exceeded only by their oafishness, and in Elf‘s Buddy Hobbs, he found a role that perfectly highlighted that skill. And the casting genius didn’t end there — Elf also includes inspired turns by Newhart in an elf’s cap, Ed Asner as Santa, James Caan as Ferrell’s gruff, exasperated biological father, and, for Pete’s sake, Leon Redbone as a talking snowman. Singling out holiday movies for critical beatdowns has becoming something of an annual tradition, but in this case, our top scribes were left filled with holiday cheer — such as Roger Ebert, who beamed, “this is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.”

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1. The LEGO Movie (2014) 96%


Will Ferrell’s finest films are the ones that take full advantage of both sides of his on-screen persona, allowing him to indulge his gift for playing a belligerent man-child as well as displaying some real sensitivity. It’s fitting, then, that The LEGO Movie ended up at the top of our list of Ferrell’s 10 best movies: While he’s a dangerous buffoon for most of it, lending his voice to the maniacal, order-hungry Lord Business during the animated portion of the story, he’s also on hand for some of LEGO‘s most poignant moments during the part at the end where ? well, we won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that although we tend to take a hard look at animated features on most of these lists, this is one case where top honors are deserved. “It’s one of the few movies based on a toy with no explicit story behind it,” observed Katey Rich for Vanity Fair. “And it is, so far, the only one that’s really good.”

Watch Trailer

 


Finally, here’s Ferrell in the crystal verdant waters of the Mississippi searching for catfish and the American Dream:

Following a busy holiday weekend when five new releases opened nationwide, the crowded marketplace will now face another four new films invading multiplexes everywhere.

Jim Carrey tries out the horror genre in "The Number 23," TV comedy comes to the big screen in "Reno 911!: Miami," Billy Bob Thornton longs to be in outer space in "The Astronaut Farmer," and more frights pop up in "The Abandoned." Overall ticket sales should simmer down after the record Presidents’ Day holiday weekend led by "Ghost Rider" which will fight to keep its box office crown. Meanwhile, aging Oscar contenders will compete over last-minute biz ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards which will bring some drama of its own.

After tackling comedy, drama, super hero flicks, and kids movies, Jim Carrey explores his darker side in the new psychological thriller "The Number 23." The Riddler reteams with his "Batman Forever" director Joel Schumacher in this R-rated story about a man obsessed with a book that seems to reveal mysteries about his own past. Virginia Madsen co-stars. Older teens and young adults will make up the target audience here and many in the horror camps will come out of curiosity too. The title is strong and the marketing has been solid so "23" will be able to make a serious challenge for the top spot. Jim Carrey’s starpower will be put to the test once again since this is not a "Bruce Almighty" or "Liar, Liar" situation. Actually, "23" might post one of the best openings of his career for a non-comedy. Maybe if it opens big, he’ll be cast in one of the next twenty-three "Saw" films. Opening in over 2,500 locations this weekend, the new Carrey film may end up grossing $23M – $2M – $3M.


Jim Carrey goes whacko due to "The Number 23."

After making a mint on "Borat," Fox looks to another raunchy comedy for some income. "Reno 911!: Miami" finds the cast of the popular Comedy Central series hitting the road to Florida for a national convention. The R-rated pic will play almost exclusively to fans of the show which while successful, is not really a runaway smash so the potential could be limited. Trailers and commercials actually look funny so a slightly wider crowd may come in. Though "23" could not be more different of a film, it will still offer plenty of competition for older teens and young adults. Moviegoers paying top dollar for a ticket are more likely to try out a Jim Carrey film, even if he’s testing out a new genre. By not screening for critics and releasing the film in the most theaters of any new release this weekend, Fox is basically hoping that those who have seen the show will come out and give this one a try. Steep declines in subsequent weeks are assured. But for the opening frame, a debut in 2,702 venues could lead to a weekend tally of around $14M for "Reno 911!: Miami."


Our favorite careening cops are ready to take on Miami.

Billy Bob Thornton plays an ex-astronaut who tends to his farm in the aptly-titled "The Astronaut Farmer" from Warner Bros. The PG-rated film co-stars Virginia Madsen who pulls double duty this weekend playing the wife to both a bad santa and a grinch. The former Mr. Jolie sells more tickets when he’s not the anchor of a film, so it could be a rough ride this weekend. Appeal to teens and young adults seems weak as the turnout could come from older adults who may also bring with them younger children thanks to the rating. With the violence of "Ghost Rider" and the debut of a trio of R-rated pics, there could be an opportunity with the family crowd. That is, if they already have seen "Bridge to Terabithia." The marketing push has not been too loud so don’t expect a high altitude here. "The Astronaut Farmer" opens in over 2,000 theaters on Friday and may find itself with about $8M.


Billy Bob has the right stuff in "The Astronaut Farmer."

Hitting theaters on a pitstop to what could be solid DVD revenue, the horror film "The Abandoned" enters the marketplace as the weekend’s other new scary movie. The R-rated film tells the story of an American woman who finds terror in Russia when she sets out to find her birth parents. Obviously, opening against Jim Carrey’s new spookfest will hurt the grosses for "The Abandoned." If it were a PG-13 film aimed at teenage girls, it could have been another story, but those over the age of 17 who want a fright will be thinking "23." Lionsgate is only launching "The Abandoned" in about 1,250 locations so a mild $3M gross could result.


No reviews, and no other photos for "The Abandoned."

Last weekend, Nicolas Cage enjoyed a record-breaking Presidents’ Day opening with "Ghost Rider" which grabbed $45.4M over the three-day portion of its holiday bow. The Marvel super hero flick opened much like 2003’s "Daredevil" which launched on the same frame and suffered a 55% drop on the sophomore session. "Ghost Rider" should see similar results as it also attracted much of its fan base last weekend and is facing the same level of competition that the Ben Affleck actioner saw in its second attack. Look for "Ghost Rider" to burn up another $20M which would lift its ten-day tally to $79M.

Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" should enjoy a better hold since there is little new competition for its family audience. A 30% decline would give the PG-rated fantasy around $16M for the weekend and a solid $48M after ten days. Aside from crossing his fingers for an Oscar, Eddie Murphy will see another sizable drop in sales for his comedy "Norbit." A 45% fall would give the Paramount release a $9M frame bumping the cume to $74M.

LAST YEAR: Tyler Perry‘s comedy "Madea’s Family Reunion" opened atop the charts with a powerful $30M debut for Lionsgate. The hit flick found its way to $63.3M. Holdovers rounded out the top five with Disney’s "Eight Below" dropping a spot to second with $15.9M in its sophomore frame. The Steve Martin remake "The Pink Panther" took in $11.1M and was followed by "Date Movie"’s $9.1M and the $7.2M of "Curious George." Opening to poor results were the animated film "Doogal" with $3.6M and New Line’s "Running Scared" with $3.4M. Final grosses reached only $7.6M and $6.9M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Five new films, each targeting its own audience, cram into North American multiplexes giving moviegoers plenty of entertainment options over the four-day Presidents’ Day holiday weekend.

Segregating the races on Wednesday’s Valentine’s Day holiday with competing romantic comedies, Warner Bros. bowed the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore starrer "Music and Lyrics" for white audiences while Lionsgate countered with Tyler Perry‘s "Daddy’s Little Girls" for black moviegoers. Adding to the overcrowded frame on Friday will be Sony’s comic book actioner "Ghost Rider," Disney’s tween adventure "The Bridge to Terabithia," and the FBI thriller "Breach" from Universal. Although studios jammed too many films into this particular frame, audience overlap seems minimal so the box office should easily expand to its largest size of the year finally beating 2006 levels.

Johnny Blaze leads the way over the extended weekend as Nicolas Cage steps into the role of the Marvel Comics character in the big-budget actioner "Ghost Rider." The PG-13 film is directed by Mark Steven Johnson whose "Daredevil," another effects-driven action flick based on a B-level Marvel hero, topped the box office over the Presidents’ Day frame four years ago with a powerful $45M with Ben Affleck in the lead. Much of the same audience of young males and comic fans will be back, however moviegoers have since been subjected to endless super hero flicks so don’t be surprised if some take a pass this time. Sony has been loud in its marketing campaign and awareness is sky high with the target audience. A crowded marketplace could keep the grosses in check. But with the most theaters of any new release by far, the motorcycle pic should ride off with the box office crown with ease. "Ghost Rider" opens in 3,619 theaters on Friday and could collect around $35M over the four-day span.


Nicolas Cage in "Ghost Rider"

Disney goes after the always reliable family audience with the fantasy drama "The Bridge to Terabithia," a film adaptation of the beloved book. In the PG-rated tale, a seventh grade boy befriends the new girl who moves in next door and together create a fantasy world through their imaginations as an escape from the struggles of real life. Kidpics based on books usually find themselves with a built-in audience showing up on opening weekend and with "Terabithia" launching over a school holiday session, the target audience will be very available. Last year, the studio won the weekend going after a similar crowd with "Eight Below" which opened to a solid $25M over four days. "Bridge" lacks big star names, but should still pull in families especially since that segment has few other titles in the current marketplace to be excited about. Younger teens may however get pulled away by the crude physical comedy of "Norbit" or the comic book action of "Ghost Rider." Launching in over 2,800 theaters, "The Bridge to Terabithia" may gross around $18M over the Friday-to-Monday period.


"The Bridge to Terabithia"

Following up his number one hits "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion," Tyler Perry returns to the big screen with his latest comedy, "Daddy’s Little Girls." The PG-13 film stars Gabrielle Union as an attorney who falls for a working class driver who has three daughters. Unlike his last two February chart-toppers, "Girls" finds Perry strictly behind the camera and not playing the outrageous matriarch Madea.

In recent years, nobody has proven the power of the African American audience more than Perry who exceeded industry expectations both times with the $21.9M bow of "Diary" and the stronger $30M debut of "Reunion" a year ago. Both debuted on the weekend after the Presidents’ Day frame. Lionsgate once again handles distribution duties, but various factors indicate that sales should deflate a bit. Starpower is less for "Girls," most notably because of Perry’s absence. Plus competition will be much tougher than in past years with "Norbit" in its second weekend playing to much of the same audience. However, the Tyler name sells and sell-outs are sure to occur in all parts of the country. Opening Wednesday in 2,111 theaters, "Daddy’s Little Girls" could take in about $16M over four days and $23M over six days.


Tyler Perry’s "Daddy’s Little Girls"

Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore find love in the new romantic comedy "Music and Lyrics" which also opened on Wednesday to capture the date crowd on Valentine’s Day. On paper, the PG-13 film has all the ingredients to become a box office hit thanks to the starpower and timing of its release. But a poor script and lack of chemistry could impact weekend grosses if mid-week ticket buyers spread bad word of mouth. Both actors are proven draws at the turnstiles and their first pairing will undoubtedly spark interest from women and couples. Warner Bros. has been pushing the 80’s music angle since Grant plays the washed up half of a pop music superduo from that era. Competition for white women over 25 is not too fierce among the weekend’s other contenders so a strong start is likely. Composing tunes in 2,929 locations, "Music and Lyrics" may find itself with around $16M over four days and about $22M over six days.


Hugh Grant, in a sadly realistic portrayal of an 80s popstar, in "Music and Lyrics."

Ryan Phillippe stars as a young FBI agent out to catch his boss who has been selling secrets to the Soviet Union in the new political thriller "Breach." The PG-13 pic co-stars Chris Cooper, Laura Linney, and Dennis Haysbert and is being released by Universal. Three factors will prevent big grosses for Reese’s ex-hubby. "Breach" lacks starpower, has too much competition to face, and is not being booked in too many theaters. Though the cast features some respected actors, none is a box office anchor that can draw in large paying crowds. Plus with four other new films hitting the multiplexes, and a collection of acclaimed Oscar contenders all attracting the attention of serious-minded adults, "Breach" cannot stand out. Academy pics may all be grossing small numbers individually, but moviegoers spent nearly $20M on the ones in the Top 20 last weekend and this long holiday frame will be the last full weekend to catch up on the contenders. Opening in just 1,487 theaters, "Breach" might steal about $7M over the four days.


"Breach," with Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, and some blurry guy.

Among holdovers, Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy may get driven out of the top spot by Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage. Both of their new films, of course, are for commercial gain and not critical acclaim. "Norbit" will be coming off of a solid opening, but will face competition from many of the new releases. The four-day gross could slide 30% from last weekend’s three-day opening and reach roughly $24M for the frame. That would give the Paramount release a terrific $64M in 11 days. A larger drop is in the works for "Hannibal Rising." The MGM release may fall 40% to about $8M for a cume of $23M after a similar 11 days.

LAST YEAR: The battle for Presidents’ Day weekend was won by the family adventure "Eight Below" which debuted on top with $25M over the four-day frame. Disney’s hit kids flick went on to collect $81.6M. Fox settled for second with its spoof comedy "Date Movie" which bowed to $21.8M over the Friday-to-Monday period on its way to $48.5M. "The Pink Panther" dropped from first to third with $20.9M followed by fellow kidpic "Curious George" with $15.4M. Rounding out the top five was "Final Destination 3" with $11.5M. Samuel L. Jackson flopped with his new drama "Freedomland" which debuted to just $6.7M over four days leading to a weak $12.5M final for Sony.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Moviegoers get to choose between a master comic taking on three roles or a diabolical screen villain in his early years when they walk into their local multiplex this weekend.

Eddie Murphy stars in the outrageous comedy "Norbit" which is looking to rule the frame by pulling in teens while the dark thriller "Hannibal Rising" will play to an older adult audience interested in gruesome brutality. There should be little overlap between the audiences of the two films so each will have room to breathe and reach its potential. With the Super Bowl now history, Hollywood is looking for the marketplace to bounce back and score its biggest opening yet this year.

Movie fans adore films about loveable losers and the latest to add its name to the hit list is "Norbit." The PG-13 film stars Eddie Murphy as both a shy nerdy man and his vivacious wife who is large and in charge. The comic legend also plays a Chinese man who raised the title character when he was a child. Acting jobs were actually given to others too including Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin, and Cuba Gooding Jr. The Paramount release seamlessly integrates the two Murphys on screen and the crude envelope-pushing humor will guarantee that every 15-year-old shows up on opening weekend. The marketing push has been solid too. "Night at the Museum"’s stellar box office run is proof of the hunger for big star-driven comedies and "Norbit" is finally the next biggie that will generate some major cash.

Timing for "Norbit" is pitch perfect. Murphy’s Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for "Dreamgirls" has given him plenty of heat and media exposure over the last several weeks. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, the date crowd certainly could be looking for something fun to go out and see this weekend. Plus, Black History Month adds an extra spotlight to African American stars and the former Axel Foley is among the most reliable draws of any black actor working today with immensely broad appeal. And the box office needs a big hit to kick things in gear as for three consecutive weekends, no film has managed to sell at least $20M worth of tickets.

Murphy has spent much of the last decade doing family-friendly films and hasn’t had an all-out comedy smash since 2000’s "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" which opened in July of that year to $42.5M on its way to $123.3M. Fans turned out in droves to see the funnyman put on fat suits and play multiple characters that were rude and crude and led the sequel to a gross that nearly matched the original’s $128.8M from the summer of 1996. After all these years, moviegoers will certainly want another helping. Crashing into around 3,000 theaters, "Norbit" might see itself grossing $31M this weekend.


Eddie Murphy and, uh, Eddie Murphy in "Norbit."

Now that movie buffs know the whole story of Darth Vader’s teen years, another popular screen villain gets his puberty tale told in "Hannibal Rising." The R-rated revenge flick tells the story of a young Mr. Lecter who seeks vengeance on those who killed his young sister. Along the way, we see how his love of eating flesh and human butchery came about. MGM and The Weinstein Company are hoping to lure in fans of the previous installments of the saga. Certainly 2001’s "Hannibal" and 2002’s "Red Dragon" proved that money could still be made despite the losses of director Jonathan Demme and actress Jodie Foster, both of whom won Oscars for 1991’s "Silence of the Lambs." Now, the real test for the franchise will come as Anthony Hopkins is no longer in the cast. However, part of his image is used in a clever way in the television spots that could fool some folks.

Many of the adult fans of the first films will definitely take a pass on "Hannibal Rising" since leads Gaspard Ulliel and Gong Li just don’t sell tickets. But curiosity and the brand name will attract some in the first week, especially those who crave brutality and a little cannibalism in their weekend fun. Long-term prospects look weak. The new chapter is not likely to approach the $36.5M opening of "Red Dragon" and will only see a fraction of the $58M bow of "Hannibal" which shattered the February opening weekend record six years ago when it opened on the exact same day. Bad reviews will not help much either. While its three predecessors all debuted in the top spot, this latest tale should find itself eating into the runnerup spot. "Hannibal Rising" opens in about 2,900 theaters on Friday and could gross roughly $15M for the weekend.


Gaspard Ulliel in "Hannibal Rising."

Last weekend, the spooky thriller "The Messengers" beat out the Diane Keaton comedy "Because I Said So" for the top spot, but the chick flick has been winning the weekdays ranking first on Monday and Tuesday. The Sony horror flick should see the steeper drop especially with Eddie stealing the teen vote and fall 55% to about $7M for a ten-day total of $24M. "Said So" may decline by 45% and rake in a similar $7M for a cume of $23M after ten days for Universal.

LAST YEAR: New releases flooded into the marketplace swiping the top four spots for the frame. Leading the way was the much-delayed Steve Martin comedy remake "The Pink Panther" which bowed to $20.2M on its way to $82.2M for Sony. Close behind was the horror sequel "Final Destination 3" with $19.2M leading to a $54.1M final for New Line. Bowing in third was the animated kidpic "Curious George" with $14.7M while Harrison Ford slumped into fourth with his action pic "Firewall" which opened to $13.6M. Final grosses reached $58.4M for the Universal toon and $48.8M for the techno thriller from Warner Bros. The fright flick "When a Stranger Calls" dropped 58% from first to fifth and collected $9.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Tyler Perry‘s follow-up to "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Madea’s Family Reunion" had no trouble leaping to the top of the box office in its first weekend, handily satisfying its target demographic (and without any help from the film critics, tyvm). The flick snagged an estimated (and rather impressive) $30.2 million from 2,200 theaters, while fending off a pair of underperforming newcomers and a handful of hangers-on.

Aside from the #1 spot, the top five was populated by older titles, with Disney’s "Eight Below" ($15.7m weekend, $45.1m total) coming in a distant second and spots 3 through 5 belonging to "The Pink Panther" ($11.3m weekend, $61m total), "Date Movie" ($9.2m weekend, $33.9m total), and "Curious George" ($7m weekend, $43.1m total), respectively.

A pair of new releases debuted rather inauspicously in Madea’s wake: Weinsteins’ "Doogal" managed $3.6 million from 2,300 theaters while the action thriller "Running Scared" scared up an anemic $3.1 million from 1,600 theaters.

Next weekend sees the release of three big titles: WB’s action flick "16 Blocks," Fox’s tweenie comedy "Aquamarine," and Screen Gems’ futuristic thriller "Ultraviolet." Also opening on about 800 screens is Rogue’s "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party."

For a closer look at the weekend numerals, make a stop at the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.

Disney’s family adventure flick "Eight Below" narrowly defeated the spoof comedy "Date Movie" over the 4-day holiday weekend, grossing an estimated $25 million from over 3,000 theaters. Close behind in second place, the Alyson Hannigan-led rom-com spoof tallied about $22 million from just under 3,000 theaters.

Last week’s #1 movie, "The Pink Panther," dropped to third place but snagged another $21 million, which puts its grand total at about $47 million. Fourth place went to Universal’s feature-length version of "Curious George," which added $15 million to its $33 million total, while "Final Destination 3" rounded out the top 5 by pulling in another $12 million, which gives the horror sequel a grand total of about $38 million.

Debuting not all that impressively was Sony’s "Freedomland," which arrived in 7th place with a 4-day tally of about $7 million from 2,300 theaters.

Three new wide releases hit the scene next weekend: New Line’s action flick "Running Scared," the Weinstein’s animated comedy "Doogal," and the return of Tyler Perry in Lionsgate’s "Madea’s Family Reunion."

As always, you can visit the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page for a closer look at the weekend numbers.

A pack of sled dogs brave the cold ("Eight Below"). A detective works on a case with potentially explosive ramifications ("Freedomland"). A movie parodies other movies ("Date Movie"). It’s this week’s wide releases!

Over the years, Disney has produced many adventures with animals struggling to survive in the harsh wild ("White Fang" comes to mind). And critics say "Eight Below," the story of a group of sled dogs who must brave the cold of Antarctica, carries on that proud tradition. Paul Walker stars in the based-on-a-true-story of a guide who must take a visiting researcher across a particularly perilous stretch of territory. The scribes say this is more than just a shaggy-dog story; it’s infused with a real sense of drama and some of the warmest canine thespians ever to grace the silver screen. It’s Mr. Walker’s best reviewed film since "Pleasantville" (86 percent on the Tomatometer), and his best in a leading role. At 82 percent, "Eight Below" proves that every dog has its day. And "Eight Below" is not only Certified Fresh, is also the best-reviewed wide release of the year, besting a pair of family films, "Nanny McPhee" (75 percent) and "Curious George" (72 percent).

Sometimes the noblest of intentions can make for the clumsiest of films. Case in point: "Freedomland," a drama that delves into the thorny issue of race relations after a white woman dubiously claims she has been carjacked and her child kidnapped in a largely African American housing project. Critics say the film features perhaps the weakest performances in the distinguished careers of Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore, and the script lacks the nuances that should give the film its emotional punch. (Strange, since Richard Price, the screenwriter, also penned the source novel for Spike Lee’s "Clockers," a deft mixture of police procedural and social issues. It’s at 75 percent on the Tomatometer.) At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, "Freedomland" may not be worth a visit.

Like someone on who has a stunning picture on the Internet personals but looks a lot different in person, "Date Movie" claims to be a comedy, but, since it wasn’t screened for critics, we’re guessing it may be a little short on laughs. (Here’s a hint, in love as in cinema: just be honest!) So, kids, it’s time for the funnest game since Spin the Bottle: Guess the Tomatometer! The closest guess wins a date with Critical Consensus. Or at least some props.

The Best Reviewed Wide Releases of 2006:
—————————————————–
75% — Nanny McPhee (2006)
72% — Curious George (2006)
64% — Something New (2006)
58% — Hostel (2006)
57% — Glory Road (2006)

Notable Movies About Dogs in the Wild:
——————————-
22% — Snow Dogs (2002)
67% — Lassie (1994)
75% — Homeward Bound- The Incredible Journey (1993)
82% — White Fang (1991)
86% — Benji (1974)

Recent Films Not Screened For Critics:
———————————————-
10% — When a Stranger Calls (2006)
16% — Underworold: Evolution (2006)
7% — BloodRayne (2006)
15% — Grandma’s Boy (2006)
12% — Aeon Flux (2005)

Four brand-new flicks took most of the money home over this past weekend. First and second place were remarkably close, but early estimates indicate that Steve Martin and his remake of "The Pink Panther" came in first ($21.7 million from nearly 3,500 theaters), while the horror sequel "Final Destination 3" was right on his heels with $20.1 from 2,900 theaters.

Third and fourth place also went to a pair of newcomers: Universal’s "Curious George" debuted with an unspectacular $15.3 million from 2,500 theaters, and the newest Harrison Ford thriller, "Firewall," delivered only $13.8 million from 2,800 theaters.

Rounding out the top five was last weekend’s #1 hit, "When a Stranger Calls," which dropped more than 53% in its second frame. The flick snagged an extra $10 million, which puts its grand total at nearly $39 million.

Next weekend sees three new wide arrivals: Fox’s spoof comedy "Date Movie," Disney’s family adventure "Eight Below," and Sony’s kidnapping thriller "Freedomland."

For a closer look at the weekend box office, you know where to go. (Right here.)

An incompetent French detective ("The Pink Panther"). Eight million ways to die ("Final Destination 3"). Harrison Ford looking frantic, then looking really, really mad ("Firewall"). The Man in the Yellow Hat ("Curious George"). It could only be one thing: this week’s wide releases!

Steve Martin and Shawn Levy have some pretty big shoes to fill — namely, Peter Sellers‘ and Blake Edwards‘ — with their revival of "The Pink Panther." And critics say that, to quote Inspector Clouseau, they have failed where others have succeeded. The new film is a prequel to the famed series; the French government can’t find a master detective, so Jacques Clouseau is recruited to solve a murder. Critics say the movie isn’t all that bad, but Martin, funny as he is, is not Sellers, who broke the mold for the character. At 31 percent on the Tomatometer, this is one is a "beumbe."

"Final Destination" fans, you know the drill: A group of kids didn’t get on a plane that exploded, thereby cheating death, so therefore, death, in the form of Rube Goldberg, is out to get them. It’s amazing that they’ve made three movies that began with such a premise. What’s even more amazing is the fact that, according to the scribes, they keep getting better. "Final Destination 3" is currently at 52 percent on the Tomatometer (the original: 31 percent; the sequel: 46 percent). Still, the scribes say this one doesn’t quite transcend the genre.

Is there anyone in the movies who’s better at looking frantic than Harrison Ford? And is there anyone who’s played more characters defending their families from danger? "Firewall" tells the story of a bank security expert who must rescue his wife and child from a ruthless kidnapper. Despite a high-tech update to the formula, critics say this shopworn thriller is more dour and less energetic than similar efforts. At 30 percent on the Tometometer, critics say to block this "Firewall."

There’s something we’ve been curious about_: Would animated features ever return to a simpler, gentler tone, jettisoning non-stop antics and pop culture references? The answer is yes, and it comes in the form of everyone’s favorite inquisitive simian, "Curious George." The critics say the sheer joyful modesty of this enterprise is one of its best qualities, and the crisp 2-D animation is bright and colorful. At 74 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s looking like a winner, by "George."

Recent Harrison Ford Movies:
————————————
30% — Hollywood Homicide (2003)
61% — K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
92% — Apocalypse Now: Redux (2001)
45% — What Lies Beneath (2000)
19% — Random Hearts (1999)

That it would debut in the #1 spot was a foregone conclusion, but Sony/Screen Gems’ "When a Stranger Calls" did a whole heckuva lot better than that by grossing an unexpectedly high (albeit estimated) $22m from just about 3,000 screens. Sony chose to shield the flick from the press, as if teenagers interested in PG-13 horror movies give a wet slap what film critics think.

Dropping 51% into second place was the comedy in which Martin Lawrence dresses up like a fat old lady. "Big Momma’s House 2" made about $13.3 million over the weekend, lifting its total tally to $45.4 million.

In third place was Universal’s family comedy "Nanny McPhee," which added another $9.9 million to its $26.6 million total.

Gaining an addition 400+ screens over the weekend was Oscar favorite "Brokeback Mountain," which broached the top five with a $5.6m haul. Its grand total presently stands at $59.7 million.

Rounding out the top five was the animated comedy "Hoodwinked," which tucked another $5.3 million into its $44m piggy bank.

Focus’ "Something New" semi-sputtered out of the gate, tallying about $5 million from 1,200 theaters, placing it seventh behind Sony’s "Underworld: Evolution," which added another $5.1 million to its $52.7 million kitty.

Next week sees the wide release of four big titles: The feature-length debut of "Curious George," the Harrison Ford thriller "Firewall," the long-delayed farce remake "The Pink Panther," and the horror sequel "Final Destination 3."

As always, you can visit the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page for a closer look at the weekend numbers.

Curious to see what the legendary little monkey’s first cinematic adventure will look like? Then be sure to visit Universal’s official site for "Curious George," click on ‘trailer,’ and enjoy the lovely "traditional" animation.

Starring the voice talents of Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Dick Van Dyke, and Joan Plowright, "Curious George" is based on the well-admired literary adventures written by H.A. Rey, and hits theaters in Febraury.

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