(Photo by Lions Gate/courtesy Everett Collection)
Welcome to the new millennium. The decade horror came home to America. The decade horror went global. Welcome to the 80 Best Horror Movies of the 2000s.
If horror movies reflect the fears and concerns of a people, it’s notable that America claimed torture-porn as their de rigueur subgenre. Something in Saw and its ilk’s slow-roasted dismantling of human flesh appealed to a nation consumed by post-9/11 paranoia and a bombardment of wartime images and atrocity. But while torture-porn movies made a killing at the box office, none were ever particularly well-reviewed; only Hostel arrives here. Recovering from the ’90s doldrums, the best horror movies came from overseas, as digital cameras lowered the cost to film and the rise of the internet made knowledge and dissemination of these movies as simple as a mouse click. In fact, of the top 10 movies here (which includes the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Host), only two were shot in America. Other trends seen during this decade: Asian originals and occasional remakes (The Ring, Thirst), found footage (Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield), the return of the living dead (Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later), and nostalgic throwbacks (Slither, Death Proof). The only stipulation for a movie to be considered for this list was a Fresh rating from at least 20 reviews.
Time to add some scary MIDIs to your MySpace and set AIM status to away (FOREVER), because here comes the best scary 2000s movies!
(Photo by Magnolia Pictures, New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures Classics, Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
Werewolves, mummies, and cobbled-together lab freaks have been around since the earliest decades of film, but no monster was perhaps more camera-ready than the vampire. Those counts and lords who love to mug and menace for the camera, mesmerize with their fancy capes, and whose pale skin glows in the luminous flicker of old film cameras. So no surprise that some of the best vampire movies back then are some of the best vampires now, like Dracula, Nosferatu, and Vampyr, even as they approach their centennial anniversaries. That’s the bar that’s been set for our guide to the essential and best vampire movies, and still we found plenty worthy to follow in their fang-steps.
Across legend, we know vampires for their allure and seductive properties. (Or at least, just their property — who wouldn’t be charmed by a 600-bedroom castle?) The sex appeal of the vampires has especially been played up in movies since the ’80s: As the sexy suburban neighbor (Fright Night), the upper-strata socialites (The Hunger), and a smoulderer’s row of hot guys (Interview with the Vampire) and leather jacket rebels (The Lost Boys).
Or if you just want some action, see From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Daybreakers, Underworld, and 30 Days of Night.
So, looking for something to watch on your next open-coffin-and-chill night? Then go to bat with our 30 Essential Vampire Movies!
Though Angelina Jolie is soon expecting twins, we snagged a coveted exclusive video interview with the star on the eve of her turn as a sexy assassin in Timur Bekmambetov‘s high-octane action flick, Wanted. What are you waiting for?? Watch it now.
Jolie kindly sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to discuss Wanted, the major studio debut of acclaimed Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch). In it, she plays a sultry assassin named The Fox — and although it sounds utterly ridiculous for the world’s most beautiful woman to say so, Jolie admits to us that she never watches footage of her scenes: “I can’t watch myself.”
Click below to watch and hear Angelina Jolie discuss Wanted‘s mysterious body of killers, “The Fraternity,” on working with Bekmambetov and co-star James McAvoy, and catch a glimpse of a few of Wanted‘s most audacious action scenes.
Wanted hits theaters next Friday, June 27.
RT’s nabbed the exclusive new trailer for Wanted, Universal’s high-octane assassin thriller starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy. And if you’re a fan of the Russian fantasy-horror Night Watch trilogy, you have even more reason to get excited.
If you’ve seen any of Timur Bekmanbetov‘s Night Watch movies (part three, Twilight Watch, is supposedly in production) then you should feel an instant familiarity with the new trailer for Wanted, Bekmanbetov’s English-language and Hollywood debut. Adapted from a limited-run comic book series by Mark Millar, Wanted is about a bookish young man (James McAvoy) who discovers that his late father was a super assassin and that he is next to join the ranks of a secret society of killers with superpowers led by Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie.
RT scored the exclusive new trailer for Wanted today (watch it here!), which should spark even more interest than when the first trailer and images (and those pics of Angelina Jolie’s fake tattooes) hit.
This new trailer goes way further to show us all the visual tricks and adrenaline-rush action that Bekmanbetov brings to the table. The aforementioned Night Watch and Day Watch films, box office record breakers in Russia, were awe-inspiring feats of special effects and invention similarly about a secret society of superpowered folk, some good and some evil, doing battle surreptitiously on the streets of modern-day Russia.
Curious additional parallels abound between Wanted and Night/Day Watch: deadly battles between good and evil; superhuman characters living among the regular world; a male protagonist who stumbles into it all and discovers his own potential. Further, Bekmanbetov’s cinematic flair in this second Wanted trailer — high-speed chases, onscreen action that bends the laws of physics, clever displays like Jolie hanging out of a speeding car, driving with her foot and McAvoy “bending” a bullet — should strike a note of recognition with fans of his horror-fantasy work. Bekmanbetov reportedly made both Night Watch and Day Watch for roughly $4 million each; it should be interesting to see what he can do with a Hollywood cast and a budget more than ten times that — $50 million, to be exact.
Watch the second trailer for Wanted here to see for yourself; the pic hits theaters June 27.
Writer/directors Michael Brandt and Derek Haas had to go into production on Wanted before the comic book had even picked up steam. With only two issues published, the writers came up with their own story based on the set up.
“The first two issues were pretty much act one,” said Haas. “The first two issues were a great set up, the first two issues of the comic. Then it went in a different direction than what we took the film.”
The story of a loser drafted by assassins who believe he has his father’s talents, the movie is action packed adventure, but not comic book-y. “Our take on the material was big, but not big like the comic book,” said Brandt. “The comic book took it to crazy heights with superheroes and we kept ours kind of grounded into today’s world so you could actually believe that it could take place in today’s world.”
Haas still promises hard action. “We really want to make a hard R movie,” said Haas. “To the studio’s credit, all the way through they said, ‘Do it. Keep that same tone’. And then when they cast Angelina [Jolie], Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy we thought, ‘Oh here it comes. Here comes the PG-13, got to have the broadest audience possible.’ But, no. The whole time they said keep it the same way so that’s the movie they shot.”
Wanted is due March 28, 2008 and will be the English language Hollywood debut of Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov.
Ah, Edinburgh, a city known for contrast, vibrancy, comedy, castles and, for a couple of weeks in August, a little congestion. You see, the Edinburgh International Film Festival competes with the infamous Fringe comedy festival, as well as half a dozen other festivals, and no-doubt a couple of weddings and a stag do. Hotel rooms are as scarce as A-listers from the film and comedy world are abundant and restaurants are practicing their, “I’m sorry sir, you should have booked in February,” routine.
The festival has, in the past, played home to the world premiere of Serenity and the European first-show for Clerks II. Its programme is open to the public, and provides a wide variety of home-grown, European, American and international cinema. This festival sees two of the freshest movies of the year from the US play to UK audiences for the first time – Knocked Up and Ratatouille and they’re joined by the indie likes of Hallam Foe and French warbler Les Chansons d’Amour.
In short, there’s something for everyone of every age, gender and nationality, and it’s probably one of the most relaxed and, in turn, exciting festivals on the calendar. It’s also a good place to start or join in that ever-exciting early awards buzz, and with that in mind we thought it’d be a good idea to let you know what we and the critics think of the films on display so you can add them to your wish-list.
So without further ado we present, in no particular order, our fifteen favourites of the festival. We’ve gathered quotes from the Tomatometer and our critic friends too to spotlight the cream of the cinematic crop as chosen by our international pool of critics and ourselves respectively.
THE BEST OF BRITISH
Five films that represent the best the UK has to offer at the Edinburgh Film Festival – whether produced in the UK, directed by British talent or starring British actors.
You may remember director David Mackenzie‘s previous films, Young Adam and Asylum, with respective Tomatometers favouring fresh and rotten. In the eyes of the critics we’ve spoken to, and this dashing RT-UK editor, Hallam Foe looks set to do away with any doubts and land firmly as one of the year’s freshest.
Being the tale of a rather strange teenager, the titular Hallam, who escapes a devilish stepmother for the lofty heights of Edinburgh and falls in love with a woman who’s the spitting image of his mother, the oedipal tale is at turns hilarious and heart-rending. As is Mackenzie’s wont, it’s about real people with unique lives and as a coming-of-age drama there is none finer. Its depiction of this festival’s host city, Edinburgh, isn’t troubled by big-screen sheen – this is the real Edinburgh, and it’s beautiful.
Bell and Myles are outstanding, and Claire Forlani reaches a level of wicked sadism that only Claire Forlani could accomplish and still have you falling madly in love with her. It’s quirky, but not so quirky that it becomes ridiculous, and it’s probably one of the finest films you’ll see this year.
We first experienced a sprinkle of Stardust courtesy of director Matthew Vaughn‘s invitation to the edit suite and while we loved what we saw we were curious to see if the film could maintain the pitch of the footage for its entire runtime. Having taken two trips to see the unfinished version, we’d say we’re fairly enthusiastic about the results.
Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman (to settle the argument before it starts, it began life as an illustrated novel before being published without the illustrations), Stardust follows young Tristan Thorn (newcomer Charlie Cox) as he journeys across “the wall” into a magical land in quest of a falling star to retrieve for the beautiful Victoria (Sienna Miller) in exchange for her hand in marriage. When he discovers the star is actually a young woman (Claire Danes), they begin a quest back home and, along the way, are pursued by a handsome prince (Mark Strong), a wicked witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a devilish pirate (Robert De Niro), all of whom have their own designs on the star.
And we have a Princess Bride fan in the office who’s convinced he’s found a movie to rival his classic. You can start queuing now.
“The antic spirit of The Princess Bride looms large over Stardust, creatively adapted from Neil Gaiman’s much more sober 1998 graphic novel. That’s probably a good call.”
– Joshua Rothkopf, TIME OUT NEW YORK
On paper WAZ (the A is actually a Delta symbol so it’s pronounced Was or W-Delta-Z depending on the mood you’re in) looks like every other torture porn movie cluttering cinemas at the moment. But to lump it in with Saw and Hostel would be to do it a disservice, because this debut feature from director Tom Shankland is much more inventive.
Detective Eddie Argo and his new partner, Helen Westcott, begin investigating a series of grisly murders with one thing in common; a mathematical equation has been carved into each of the victims. When they learn that the equation – the WAZ of the title is a part of it – is designed to test altruism, and that the victims are being offed in pairs, forced to kill each other to “save” themselves, the case turns even nastier, and as Westcott gets to know her new precinct she’s seeing things that don’t add up in the police department’s handling of previous cases.
Set in New York but filmed, predominantly, in Belfast, with a cast that includes a Swede, an Australian and a Brit, the accents are a touch on the unpredictable side, but stirring performances from Stellan Skarsgard, Melissa George, Ashley Walters and Selma Blair make you forget those troubles, and the film creates a visually arresting universe and ramping tension that keep you glued to the screen.
Lest you think we have a thing for Ashley Walters, it’s worth pointing out that Sugarhouse and WAZ mark genuinely impressive turns by the young actor following his stunning breakthrough in Bullet Boy. We’d make some sort of So Solid Career pun but that’d be annoying.
Sugarhouse, another debut film this time from director Gary Love, is a smarter kind of Brit gangster flick. Walters is crackhead D who is looking to sell a gun to Steven Mackintosh’s city worker. D’s motives are money, his client’s are revenge. But there’s a third in the form of Andy Serkis as this year’s most terrifying baddie, Hoodwink. The gun’s his and he’s damn sure not going to let D sell it on.
Based on a play, Sugarhouse is decidedly intimate, most of the action collected around D’s crack den, and its sense of realism – lacking in the works of Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn – is refreshing. It’s not about effing and blinding, it’s about the seedier side of life.
Anton Corbijn‘s Control captivated audiences upon its Cannes debut earlier this year, and with good reason; the biopic of Joy Division’s late lead singer, Ian Curtis, delivers a somber but beautiful glimpse into the life of the tortured musician that should enrich fans of the Manchester band and move the uninitiated in comparable measure.
Shot in gorgeously stark black and white monochrome, Control follows Curtis (Sam Riley), a sensitive working-class daydreamer in 1970s England, as he falls into the role of lead singer for a local band. That band, of course, soon becomes post-punk legend Joy Division; the lads sign a record deal, go on tour, and get big. But life gets in the way of fame for Curtis, and the demands of his budding fame – a young wife (Samantha Morton) and child, and a new girlfriend (Alexandra Maria Lara) on the side – paired with recurring epileptic seizures that render him helpless sometimes mid-concert, become too much for him to juggle.
With its pulsating score (all songs performed, and well, by the actors themselves) and a transcendent central performance by Curtis doppelganger Riley, Control paints a sensitive portrait of a tragic artist whose legacy lived on for decades after his untimely death at the age of 23.
THE BEST OF THE US
We cross the Atlantic (figuratively) to take a look at the five top films playing in Edinburgh from the US of A.
Theory: There’s nothing more exciting than listening to the former astronauts for the Apollo missions tell their tales of visiting the lunar surface. Except perhaps being one of them. Yes, David Sington‘s In the Shadow of the Moon is a little heavy on the America-the-Great, but it’s also one of the best documentaries of the year; a fascinating portrait of men so brave that most regular Joes couldn’t possible comprehend their journey.
And, to its credit, it allows them to get on with it – there’s no narrator – we’re just shown fascinating footage from the moon’s surface, from the launch pad, from the shuttle, and in between these men tell us their story.
For the real space-junkies, there’s doubtless little in here to learn, but for the rest of us the film is full of fascinating factoids and, like the best movies set in space – fictional or not – it’ll leave you feeling smaller than the smallest needle in the biggest haystack.
Films about rats, it seems, don’t tend to go down well with the squeamish movie-going public. That’s just about the only way to explain the poorer-than-expected box office returns for the gem that is Ratatouille. Of course, we’re not talking bomb here – it’s currently sitting at around $300m so they won’t be remortgaging – but it’s a surprise considering it’s one of Pixar’s finest movies in a crop of fine movies.
The project, about a gastronomic rat named Remy who finds himself the sous-sous-chef at a posh restaurant, has a troubled history; original director Jan Pinkava was replaced by Brad Bird with barely a year of the seven-year development time left on the clock. Pinkava left Pixar and has “no comment” on the whole affair, but given last year’s troubled Cars the tabloid tales have knocked a little of the sheen from Pixar.
Fortunately the film – credit to Bird and Pinkava – is astonishing and more than settles any doubts about the affair affecting the movie. As is traditional with Pixar, the actors are chosen because they’re right for their characters and the film’s visuals shame every other CG movie released this year. Bring on Wall-E.
“A film as rich as a sauce béarnaise, as refreshing as a raspberry sorbet, and a lot less predictable than the damn food metaphors and adjectives all us critics will churn out to describe it. OK, one more and then I’ll be done: it’s yummy.”
– David Ansen, NEWSWEEK
Caught up in this year’s Grindhouse scandal – Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made two back-to-back flicks to be put out as one and then no-one in America went to see them – Death Proof is the Weinstein Company’s first attempt at recouping some of the expense internationally. It’s Tarantino’s half, which means lots of talking, lots of references to classic pop-culture, and plenty of hot women with well-manicured feet.
The film follows Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) as he crosses country to do damage to a bevy of beauties in his “death proof” car – he can crash it at any speed and live to tell the tale. So we first meet Jungle Julia (Sydney Poitier) and her posse (Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd and, notsomuch, Rose McGowan) before the film shifts state and introduces us to stuntgirls Tracie Thoms and Zoe Bell (who was Uma’s stunt-double on Kill Bill and their friends Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosario Dawson.
But it’s not so much about the story or the characters as it is about the Tarantino dialogue, the homages to seventies B-movies and the fake film grain added to make it look like the print has been kicked around a bit. One segment is even in black-and-white suggesting it’s not even a complete print and the missing reel has been substituted with one from a black-and-white version of the film.
Death Proof, the standalone, replaces a title card pointing to a missing reel in the Grindhouse version with the full version, a seedy lap dance from Ferlito. And it’s steamy-hot but, of course, all the good frames have been ripped out – presumably stolen by projectionists as the print gathered dust. It’s all a very heart-warming reference to classic B cinema.
As a standalone, Death Proof is far more satisfying than it is as part of Grindhouse, though a scene with Michael Parks, while far too good to cut out, doesn’t working without the audience having seen Planet Terror. The irony is that, because Planet Terror builds to a crescendo ending and is followed by a film that takes a while to get going, Death Proof should have been the first part of Grindhouse and Planet Terror should have been the first to be released independently. Still, forgive the Weinstein mistakes and be sure you see Death Proof, even if you’re one of the lucky ones to have already seen Grindhouse.
“A beautiful piece of Americana. Stupid, and brilliant.”
– Alistair McKay, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
There’s a reason this comedy – usually a tough genre with the critics – is currently sitting in the nineties on the Tomatometer; it’s genuinely that good. From The 40-Year-Old Virgin helmer Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen stars as a man whose one-night-stand turns into a twenty-year commitment when his beau, Katherine Heigl, turns up pregnant. Oops.
Perhaps the buzziest film of the year – an R-rated trailer first circulated virally ages ago – it’s a laugh-a-minute romp through hysterically inappropriate gags with Rogen chewing the scenery at every opportunity, and fantastic supporting performances from Paul Rudd and Alan Tudyk.
Keep an eye out for Jonah Hill – you’re about to hear his name a lot when Superbad hits cinemas – and be sure to bring the girlfriend. Knocked Up‘s real success is that it appeals to every demographic, with just the right mix of cheap laughs and heartfelt drama that both sexes will fall in love with it, and it’s loveable “hero”.
Gus van Sant is fascinated with adolescence, and his fascination has thrown out some deeply meditative films in the last few years. From his Cannes triumph Elephant, through Last Days and now Paranoid Park, van Sant’s stoic trilogy is a labour of love that seems to shun convention at every turn.
While Last Days, ostensibly a biopic of the final hours of Kurt Cobain, and Elephant, about high-school serial killers, have courted controversy, Paranoid Park plays things decidedly safer, adapting Blake Nelson’s novel about a skater boy who accidentally kills a security guard while venturing out-of-bounds on Portland’s rail network.
And because it’s safer it’s also probably his most accessible of the three – Elephant and Last Days did little until their powerful endings while Paranoid Park first introduces us to Alex (played by newcomer Gave Nevins) before exploring how the accident affects his life.
The film looks beautiful and is rather unconventionally shot in the square 4:3 aspect ratio, while 8mm cutaways punctuate the film gracefully. It’s a testament to van Sant’s ability that he can say so much by doing so little; you could collect the film’s dialogue on a postage stamp.
“Bears some similarities with Elephant. A similarly photogenic teen milieu is shot with fluid, graceful camerawork; a non-linear structure slots together like a puzzle to reveal the panicked mindset of a boy under agreat deal of stress.”
– Wendy Ide, THE TIMES
THE BEST OF THE REST
Of course, Edinburgh is about more than British and American movies – here we take a look at some top titles from the rest of the world, as well as a few British and American flicks that we couldn’t quite squeeze into the first two categories.
Timur Bekmambetov‘s follow-up to his masterful Night Watch – a film which came out of left field from Russia and gave Hollywood a run for its money – is possibly even less accessible than its predecessor. Day Watch cuts straight into the universe, grabbing its audience by the lapels and forcing us to remind ourselves of the story so far.
It’s also decidedly more heartfelt than Night Watch; Khabensky’s Anton wrestling with a son who’s deserted him for the Day Watch and his responsibilities to his unit. The line Anton walks is blurrier than anything to come out of the big American studios, and it’s refreshing to see a little ambiguity.
“The filmmakers destroy Moscow with the same glee that Godzilla has in stomping Tokyo. Even though Day Watch is probably a good 20 minutes too long, it’s easy to forgive its excesses because Bekmambetov just seems to be having so much fun.”
– Beth Accomando, KPBS.ORG
When A Mighty Heart was first announced the reaction seemed to be shock – Angelina Jolie as a black woman? But it’s the story here that has the power, and her fine performance ensures nothing else matters.
Still, it’s an odd project to see Michael Winterbottom direct. Considering he’s recently crafted films as varied as Road to Guantanamo, A Cock and Bull Story and, erm, 9 Songs we should be long past the point of surprise when it comes to the projects he works on, and yet who could have foreseen him direct Angelina Jolie in a film produced by Brad Pitt?
Nevertheless, it wowed critics in Cannes and sent doubters – both from camps Jolie-isn’t-black and Winterbottom-doesn’t-do-Jolie – running. It’s a Winterbottom film through-and-through and the smart turns of the supporting cast – including Dan Futterman and Irfan Khan – make an impressive film even more impressive.
Allan Moyle‘s Weirdsville imagines a scenario that defines the term, “bad day.” When Royce and Dexter find the latter’s dead girlfriend following an overdose, it’s a simple trip to a seedy basement to bury the evidence. Only a group of satan-worshipping ne’er-do-wells happen to be doing their own ill deeds at the same time. And when the girlfriend can’t stay dead it seems like nothing is going to go their way.
What follows is nothing short of riotous as the pair of hapless losers beg, steal and borrow their way to morning. Moyle, whose last big hit was 1995’s Empire Records serves up a devilishly intriguing black comedy that keeps you on tenterhooks ’til the end. Weirdsville may well be another cult classic in the making.
Wes Bentley and Scott Speedman are brilliant as Royce and Dexter, while support from some cultists, a dead girlfriend, a bunch of drug dealers and a midget security guard keep them on their toes throughout.
It’s rather fitting that actress Julie Delpy’s feature film debut would be Two Days in Paris. You can imagine the financiers meetings as she explained that it was about a couple, a French girl and an American boy, and their brief stay in the City of Love. The dollar signs in their eyes are as clear as day.
And it’s with a brilliantly witty sense of irony that we behold the end result. If Before Sunset is one of the most romantic movies ever set in the French capital, its female lead has gone on to deliver one of the most unromantic. The culture clash is the source of much comedy between Delpy and the brilliantly on-form Adam Goldberg, but if Sunset is about how communication can reignite a relationship, Days is about how misreading it can be disastrous.
It’s not very often a journalist will imply that watching a film is like witnessing a car crash powerless to do anything and mean that as a compliment, but in this case it’s definitely fitting. Two Days in Paris marks Delpy as a director to watch and its sharp wit will leave it resonating with anyone who’s ever found even the slightest fault in their partner.
“[Delpy has] created two original, quirky characters so obsessed with their differences that Paris is almost a distraction. I don’t think I heard a single accordion in the whole film.”
– Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
Jeffrey Blitz first examined kids under the stress of hormones and intellectual competition in documentary form with Spellbound. With Rocket Science he this time spins a fictional yarn, but it nevertheless still manages to capture the real emotional minefield that is adolescence.
Hal Heffner’s stutter is incurable by any therapist-recommended treatment, but when he meets Ginny Ryerson and she introduces him to the world of high school debating, he finds a project to immerse himself in; one that, he’s sure, will rid him of his impediment. But when Ginny starts playing truant from their meetings and the stress of his parents’ divorce begins to take its toll he wanders whether getting even is preferable to getting mad. Enlisting the help of former debating champion Ben Wekselbaum, he becomes determined to beat his former tutor at her own game.
Reece Thompson’s nuanced performance as Hal betrays a talent beyond his age and Anna Kendrick’s Ginny is as beguiling as she is infuriating. It’s these two key performances that cement the emotional core of a film that succeeds through subtlety without ever having to hold back from its comedy. It’s certainly not the first quirky American indie to release, and its quirk threatens to alienate audiences who believe they’re tired of that sort of thing. Rocket Science matches its quirk with real emotional truth and that’s enough to separate it from the herd.
Call it the weekend of the actor/producer. Three new films with stars that do double duty behind the scenes (or have good agents that can snag a free credit) enter a marketplace filled with big-budget tentpole pics quickly eroding away.
Seth Rogen headlines and executive produces the new comedy "Knocked Up," Kevin Costner stars and produces the crime thriller "Mr. Brooks," and Elisabeth Shue acts in and co-produces the sports drama "Gracie." Following an explosive May at the box office, the first weekend of June should see ticket sales calm down a bit before George and Brad usher in the next big wave of sequels.
For adult moviegoers sick of pirates, ogres, and webslingers, Universal has the answer – the raunchy romantic comedy "Knocked Up." The R-rated film from Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") stars Rogen and Katherine Heigl as a stoner loser and a just-promoted entertainment newswoman, respectively, who share a one night stand which leads to an unplanned pregnancy. Older teens, young adults, and couples make up the target audience here and the studio is hoping to bring back the same folks that opened "Virgin" to $21.4M on its way to a stellar $109.3M (five times its debut) two summers ago.
With mindless popcorn sequels dominating the marquees for the past month, "Knocked Up" brings a breath of fresh air into the multiplexes. Moviegoers looking for new characters and new situations will be pleased. The marketing push has been strong but television spots are not too funny, mostly because the bulk of the humor is too racy to feature on broadcast television. But when opening weekend audiences find out how much funnier the actual film is compared to the trailer and commercials, red hot word-of-mouth will keep the pic playing week after week.
The public’s appetite for studio comedies has been healthy over the last six months with "Wild Hogs," "Night at the Museum," "Blades of Glory," and "Norbit" selling an amazing $626M worth of ticket stubs combined. "Hogs" even popped back into the top ten last weekend in its thirteenth session signaling the hunger in the marketplace right now for something good that will make people laugh. Universal enjoys going after adults on the weekend after Memorial Day. In 2005 it debuted the serious Russell Crowe–Renee Zellweger boxing pic "Cinderella Man" to $18.3M while last year the studio exceeded expectations with the $39.2M bow of the date flick "The Break-Up." "Knocked Up" should play to much of the same audience as the Jennifer Aniston film, although with less starpower and no tabloid gossip about the star’s personal lives, the grosses won’t soar as high.
Critics have been praising "Knocked Up" and its strong cross-gender appeal will make it a hit with the date crowd. A unique concept and a great title will also help sell the film. "Pirates" will only be in its second weekend and will still be pulling in a broad audience so there will be some competition. But "Knocked Up" has great buzz and will start selling itself after people begin pouring out of the Friday night shows. Opening in 2,873 theaters, the Universal release may gross about $24M this weekend and witness small declines in the weeks ahead.
Less than a year after co-starring with Ashton Kutcher in "The Guardian," Kevin Costner teams up with the "Punk’d" star’s gal pal Demi Moore in the new psychological thriller "Mr. Brooks." In the R-rated film, the former bodyguard plays a family man who moonlights as a serial killer while the ex-G.I. Jane stars as a detective hot on his trail. The MGM release should play to the oldest audience of any major release out now. That’s a good thing since direct competition will not be too fierce. But despite some moderately good reviews, Brooks is anchored by two aging actors who were bulletproof box office stars fifteen years ago, but are not all that reliable at the turnstiles nowadays.
"Knocked Up" has much more buzz around it and will take away much of the thirtysomething crowd, but the forty-plus audience might give "Mr. Brooks" a try. Older adults did little for "Georgia Rule" which bowed to just $6.8M but April’s "Fracture" had a decent $11M opening. Costner should draw an audience more like the one that came out for the Anthony Hopkins thriller. The marketing push has not been too forceful so a large turnout is not likely. Invading 2,453 theaters, "Mr. Brooks" may generate a $9M debut.
Picturehouse targets the Lady Foot Locker crowd with its new drama "Gracie" which tells the true story of a teenage girl in the late 1970s who fought to play competitive soccer when the sport did not open its doors to her gender. The PG-13 flick stars Dermot Mulroney, Elisabeth Shue, and Carly Schroeder and has been marketed squarely to its core audience of teenage girls. "Gracie" is unlikely to score any goals with other audience segments and is not being released in too many theaters so a modest opening is likely. Reviews have been mixed. Kicking its way into about 1,000 locations, "Gracie" might find itself with an opening weekend take of around $3M.
Fox Searchlight invades the arthouses once again with its Russian fantasy epic "Day Watch," the sequel to Timur Bekmambetov‘s "Night Watch" which became a mammoth blockbuster in its home country in 2004. Last year, "Night Watch" bowed in the U.S. to a sturdy $35,475 average from only three theaters and eventually collected $1.5M from 158 sites. "Day Watch" continues the battle of Light vs. Darkness in an adventure set in Moscow with digital effects that could rival any $200M-budgeted Hollywood tentpole pic. The R-rated film debuts on Friday in New York and Los Angeles with two theaters in each city plus a solo house in San Francisco. More markets across the country will be added in the weeks ahead.
None of the newbies looks like first-place material so "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" should easily retain its box office crown. However, a substantial fall is likely. As a third part of a franchise coming off of a big holiday bow, the drop would of course be large. "Dead Man’s Chest" fell by 54% in its sophomore frame. Add in the fact that fan reaction isn’t exactly stellar and the ship should sink by a large amount. Don’t expect the latest "Pirates" to suffer the 67% crash that the third "X-Men" flick saw a year ago when it came off of the Memorial Day frame. Instead, it could perform more like 2004’s "The Day After Tomorrow" which fell 60% coming off of the same holiday weekend. Luckily for Johnny Depp and pals the competition is not too fierce this weekend. A similar 60% tumble would give "At World’s End" about $46M worth of weekend loot which would boost the ten-day cume to $218M.
"Shrek the Third" will also not have much in the way of competition for its family audience, but comedy fans will certainly abandon ship and head for "Knocked Up." The ogre franchise makes a sizable portion of its money from teens and young adults and those folks are going to be moving on. Last weekend’s 56% drop was affected by the arrival of "Pirates." This weekend, it could stabilize and fall by 45%. That would give "Shrek the Third" around $29M for the weekend and $256M after 17 days.
"Spider-Man 3," the only May threequel with the actual number three in its title, has also been fading away. A 45% drop would give the Sandman saga roughly $8M boosting the cume to $319M.
LAST YEAR: Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn proved more popular than super heroes as their romantic comedy "The Break-Up" knocked "X-Men: The Last Stand" out of the number one spot in only its second weekend. The Universal comedy opened to $39.2M on its way to a better-than-expected $118.7M. The mutant sequel tumbled 67% to $34M in its sophomore frame for the runnerup position. Paramount’s toon sensation "Over the Hedge" held up well in third with $20.6M followed by "The Da Vinci Code" with $18.6M and "Mission: Impossible III" with $4.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Timur Bekmambetov, of the "Night Watch" series, will be behind the helm when "Wanted" begins production this May in Eastern Europe. The screenplay adaptation comes from screenwriters Michael Brandt ("2 Fast 2 Furious") and Derek Haas ("Catch That Kid"), with a re-write by Jolie’s "Tomb Raider 2" pal Dean Georgaris.
The story’s about a guy who follows in his hitman father’s footsteps after the old man is, you guessed it, assassinated. McAvoy will be the killer-in-training; Jolie his mentor. Apparently Ms. Jolie’s character was a guy in the source material, but guys aren’t sexy. Angelina Jolie … is sexy.
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.
Saturday’s panels began sadly, with the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be a no-show to present his indie-teen-film noir, "Brick." The trailer screened anyway — intriguing, mysterious — but was no different than the trailer we’ve already seen. Happily, one additional scene played (the opening few moments of the film) which introduces the main character, Brendan (Gordon-Levitt) as he mournfully surveys the body of his ex-girlfriend (Emilie de Ravin), then flashes back two days prior to her terrified, cryptic phone call to him in suburban Southern California.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to see more of "Brick," as this Sundance 2005 favorite will be released March 24. Click here to see the "Brick" trailer and judge for yourself.
Next, a presentation of "Night Watch," the first of Russian good vs. evil trilogy set in modern day Moscow, kicked off the day with a treat: we would get to see the entire movie! That it was almost completely in super fast-forward hardly mattered; the dark, gritty urban epic wowed the crowd with eerie visuals and a few super cool real-time action moments. "Night Watch" opens in limited release in a few days, on February 17. Check out the "Night Watch" trailer, here — or watch the entire film in fast forward, here!
Director Marcus Nispel (2003’s "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") came out to talk about his new project, "Pathfinder." Not many people know much about "Pathfinder" yet, but Nispel’s enthusiasm if not his resume comes across as a compelling reason to watch for it. Starring Karl Urban, Russell Means and Clancy Brown, "Pathfinder" tells the story of a Viking boy left behind in North America by his marauding people, who grows up among the native Indians and leads them in battle when the Vikings return to pillage again. There’s action, there’s romance, and there’s loincloths.
Nispel’s got a background in painting and graphic novels, and it shows; in the trailer as well as a set of impressive storyboards he showed at WonderCon, there is a visual richness to the composition of his scenes; whether he can pull it together from scene to scene will remain to be seen.
What was most interesting was Nispel’s discussion of the sensitive nature of his film. Set around the year 900 A.D., his fictional telling of a Viking-Native American confrontation seems to have been lent historical weight with recent scientific revelations that the Viking peoples did reach areas of the Americas at a time when they very well could have encountered native peoples. Also adding some degree of credibility to his production is Native American actor Russell Means, whom Nispel says provided a supporting role onscreen as well as offscreen; Means is not only an actor, but a well-known face of Native American activism and often acted as a consultant on the project.
And lest I forget, Nispel treated the audience to another special "clip" — a behind-the-scenes look at Nispel on set, directing, living out of a suitcase, and, yes, dropping trou to get a vitamin B shot in the backside. For this alone I will remember the name Nispel.
At long last, here’s my report on the filmmaker panels, "exclusive" clips, and the geek couture show that is WonderCon!
I’ll admit this first: I’m not geek enough to go to WonderCon for all three days; instead, I hit up the crowded Moscone Center West on Saturday, which of course is the best, most action-packed day of the entire convention. I quickly perused the swarming aisles of the exhibitor hall — comic book collectors in search of a rare issue, fans filling their sketch books with favorite artists, gawkers oohing over cos-players dressed as Blade, Wolverine, anime girls, and even the Alien from "Alien" — before beating a hasty retreat upstairs to grab a seat for the day’s line-up of movie panels.
Check back soon for installments of my day at WonderCon, which included presentations and panels for the big pics ("Superman Returns," "Mission: Impossible III"), the family flicks ("Ice Age 2: The Meltdown," "Cars"), high potential thrillers ("Night Watch," "Pathfinder") and scary chillers ("The Omen," "The Hills Have Eyes," "Silent Hill").
Lest you get antsy, here’s a selection of the fantastic costumes seen by some (but contrary to popular opinion, not all) of the attendees at WonderCon:
Storm Troopers (of course)
Storm Trooper Elvis (Unfortunately he’d left the building before I could snap a pic)
Every other character from Star Wars, ever
Wolverine (with real adamantium claws)
The Alien (from "Alien")
Resident Evil goons
Some guy in a leather dog suit
Full body furries
Cat girl (with a real freaky cat face)
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend and in the mood for, say, a Q & A with Superman Returns director Bryan Singer or exclusive footage of Mission: Impossible III from the hands of J.J. Abrams himself, you need to stop by the 20th annual WonderCon.In addition to the legions of comic book fans that converge each year to meet their favorite artists and pore over bins of comics looking for a mint condition Amazing Fantasy #15, WonderCon attendees are increasingly coming to the Moscone Center for movie sneak peeks and previews. From Q & A sessions with filmmakers to the staple preview show, Trailer Park 2006, there’s plenty of movie events here to whet your appetite for the big flicks of 2006. Check out the highlights below.
Q & A with Kevin Smith
Night Watch sneak peek
Pixar 20th anniversary and Cars preview