(Photo by Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection)
The story of Kevin Smith making his first movie starts out like the story of most indie filmmakers following a dream in the ’80s and ’90s: Maxing out credit cards, risking financial ruin all in sheer tyranny of belief that the majorly groundbreaking screenplay you wrote is your ticket into the business. Smith’s story ends differently than most: He actually made it.
‘Twas the right time, right place (unlike all those contractors on the Death Star) for Smith’s Clerks. Audiences and studios alike were hungry for outsider voices, and the guy from New Jersey holding a scuzzy black-and-white comedy was as outsidery as you can get. Released the same October week in 1994 as Pulp Fiction, Clerks set a new high for those aiming low, and thus the American independent movement of the ’90s was born.
Smith’s next movie, Mallrats, showed he was serious about giving voice to pop culture nerds, slackers, and stoners, throwing more references to movies and more reverence to comic books, to the point of roping in Stan Lee as a sage, secondary character. Smith had his most promising leap forward in writing and direction with Chasing Amy, and then took on a more aggressive front against the status quo with the iconoclastic Dogma. The organized religion send-up featured a growing cadre of stars willing to yuk it up in Smith’s unified Askewniverse (like Matt Damon, Salma Hayek, Alan Rickman, and Chris Rock), with Jason Mewes and Smith himself as Jay and Silent Bob a consistent, comedy presence. (Check out our oral history of Jay and Silent bob with Smith.)
The two characters were upgraded to lead status with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, before Smith returned to his roots in Jersey Girl and Clerks II. With the Judd Apatow style changing the comedy landscape, Smith stuck his own thumb into the pie, mixing extreme raunchiness and sweet sincerity in Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
The 2010s began with Cop Out, a failed stab at Hollywood big-budget action filmmaking, and an experience Smith now openly derides. Red State just edged by with enough critics for a Fresh rating, and would begin a 3-movie string operating in horror. Tusk has its defenders. Yoga Hosers definitely does not. For his latest, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Smith hit the streets, doing roadshow screenings with Q&As city by city. Not only did that bring together his fans in community, but also played up Smith’s strengths as a world-class raconteur, whose gift of gab has helped him create an empire of podcasts and review shows, overshadowing his directing career in recent years. His next movie is horror-comedy Killroy Was Here, scheduled for a 2020 Fall release. Before then, take a look back on all Kevin Smith movies ranked by Tomatometer!
Comedies are hard to make and comedy sequels are even harder, when audiences have wised up to your jokes and expect bigger and better. Ben Stiller’s Zoolander 2, coming 15 years after the original, hopes to buck the trend this Friday. And it’s this latest romp down the catwalk inspires this week’s 24 Frames gallery: the best and worst comedy part twos by Tomatometer!
RT spoke to Smith for his five
favorite films ever, and followed up with an interview about the process of
creating the Zack and Miri universe.
on, it’s common sense. Jaws is a fantastic film. Maybe the second film I
saw in my life — I saw The Gumball Rally prior to Jaws — but
Jaws is the first one that made a deep, deep impression. I saw it a drive-in
with my parents when I was five, which is kinda weird in retrospective. It was
PG at the time.
My kid’s nine and my wife still won’t let me show her Jaws.
I made the mistake of showing my kid Gremlins when she was six and I have
heard no end of it from my old lady. She’s all, “She’s still afraid of
Gremlins.” Gremlins is a harmless f–king movie.
Brilliant writing. Brilliant performances. Fantastic editing. That is
the most well-edited film I have ever seen in my life. I like a lot of Oliver
Stone stuff in general.
A Man For All Seasons is basically porn for people who love dialogue.
Paul Scofield’s brilliant performance. Robert Shaw’s equally brilliant performance
as Henry the VII. It’s always appealed to me. I was 13 years old the first time
I saw it. Absolutely fell in love with it because it’s wall-to-wall language
with compelling performances. And [it’s] about something to me, in terms that I
was raised Catholic. So Thomas Moore’s decision to not sign the oath of
succession appealed to me as I was growing up because this is a dude who’s
martyred for his beliefs and whatnot.
And people will always compare that movie
to The Crucible for some reason. But I never felt the same connection to The
Crucible because in that instance John Procter is just going to great
lengths to try to keep his name. Whereas Thomas Moore went to great lengths to
keep, what he felt was his soul, intact. By taking that oath it would’ve been
selling out on his soul, it would’ve been lying. He couldn’t do it and I always
found that insanely admirable and the life one wants to emulate to some degree,
without being crazy Catholic at the same time.
Spike Lee’s finest movie. One of the movies that made me want to get
into the movies as well. I knew I was never going to make Do the Right Thing, to
do what he did with cinema and tell a story comedically but also dramatically.
Very intense. That movie goes from a fun comedy — I don’t know if you can
say fun comedy, but it’s a funny comedy — to a dramatic shift in tone. It’s a
slow burn. You don’t notice it when it happens. It comes out of left field but
it’s keeping in what has come before. You realize how masterfully it’s put
That movie informed Clerks to a large degree: it takes place all in
one day, in one particular block, in one very specific city. So that was the
model I used for Clerks. So much so that the original version of Clerks Dante
gets killed because I was like, “I want to do something like that.” Then I
realized I’m not Spike Lee.
I was raised Catholic and I still consider myself a fairly spiritual
person even though I have a hard time identifying with most Christians in this
country. But I still maintain a belief in God and in Jesus, and that gets tried
on a daily basis. The older I get, the wiser I get, the tougher it is to believe
in a divine power or whatnot. So that movie appeals to me on that level alone.
To take it beyond, it’s just a fantastic Martin Scorsese picture. Great
performances in it. The first portrayal of Christ where I was, “Wow, this might
be what it was like.” He wasn’t a guy of all beatitude and perfection. He was a
man, first and foremost, who just happened to be the son of God.
Our interview with
Kevin Smith continues as we discuss the MPAA, the process of movie appeals, and
making comedies during a Judd Apatow era.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a really sweet movie.
KS: Thank you.
Jersey Girl is also a really sweet movie, but the reaction wasn’t
KS: [Laughs.] No, not nearly as good.
With Judd Apatow’s productions currently the standard bearers
of American comedy, do you think people are now more receptive to this mix of
vulgarity and sweetness?
KS: Absolutely. It felt like once 40 Year Old
Virgin did over $100 million, suddenly it made the type of movie that I
make, the kind that mixes vulgar stuff with sentimental stuff, or raunchy stuff
with sweet stuff, viable. Economically viable. For years, I felt any movie that
mixed raunch and sweetness couldn’t make more than $30 million. It was the best
we’ve ever done.
It was a niche thing.
KS: Totally. Absolute niche. Judd blows the ceiling out,
crashes through the glass ceiling, makes over $100 million with 40 Year Old
Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, and suddenly it proves that
genre viable. So, that to me was a blessing. I’m like, “Right on.” Now I can
totally make Zack and Miri Make a Porno without having it on a $200,000
budget on a 50 screen release.
Has Zack and Miri‘s MPAA process given you a new
enthusiasm to do [upcoming horror project] Red State?
KS: [Laughs.] I don’t take as much umbrage with the
MPAA fiasco, if you will, as everyone else. Like everyone else wants to scream
“censorship” the minute it happens. I don’t feel that way because they’re not
saying, “Cut it or it don’t go out.” They’re saying, “If you want your rating,
the rating you want, you’re gonna have to make some changes.” So I would
much rather deal with one governing body than deal with it on a state-by-state
basis, which is what it was before the creation of the MPAA. A movie that
played in New York might not play in Texas, because that state’s censors could
shoot it down. And I assure you, if we were going state by state, I don’t think
any of my movies would have played in Texas at this point.
So I’m glad there’s only one body you have to deal with
that governs the entire country and how we view movies, as opposed to 50.
They’re also fairly generous, and as much as it’s a pain in the ass, they do
give you the option to appeal. Like, you know, they’ll tell you what your
rating is, and they’ll tell you what you need to look at if you want to reach
the rating you want via cuts.
Or they give you this last bite at the apple, which they
really don’t have to do. Like, if I was in charge of the MPAA, I’d be like “F–k
you, the rating is the rating. Either cut or accept that rating.” But they give
you this alternative, where you can actually go and flip it. Go above their
heads to a third party altogether, and I think that’s kinda generous, man. The
fact that they do that at all.
I mean, to me, it is what it is. At the end of the day,
it’s part of the business. If you want to be in this business, you have to be
willing to play that game. And you know, the key is finding a way to play the
game where it works in your favor. And so far we’ve gotten lucky. Three times
I’ve gone to the appeals process; three times we’ve flipped it without having to
make any cuts.
Clerks for one.
KS: Clerks. Jersey Girl they gave an
R rating initially. I had to flip it to a PG-13. Clerks 2, first time we
submitted it: R. That’s why I never thought we’d have problems on Zack and
Miri because I’m like, “Nothing in this movie is nearly as outrageous as the
donkey show in Clerks 2. If they let that pass, this should be fine.” I
How does the appeals process work?
KS: There’s a bunch of people that work on the
ratings board. I don’t know if they all watch every single movie or if they
just use this many people and they rotate it or something.
First, you go before the ratings board. They watch the
movie, they give you your rating. Then you could either choose to work with the
ratings board, try to cut it to get to your rating, or you go to the appeals
process. The appeals process is made up of an audience that has no ratings
board members on it. There are MPAA members in the audience, people who work in
the studio system or whatnot, members of the Motion Picture Association, but
they’re not ratings board members. The other half of the audience is made up of
members of NATO, the National Association of Theater Owners. I’ve always felt
that those members of NATO should be what the ratings board is made up of.
Because they’re the ones who exhibit the movie.
KS: They are the last line of defense. They’re the
ones that deal with the public on a regular basis. So a guy who owns a movie
theater, an exhibitor, can tell you precisely what will get a person on their
feet, out of the theater, asking for a refund. And that’s an opinion I trust
more than some nebulous body with people who may or may not be parents of
children who are of a young age.
Anyways, the appeals screening is made up of those members
of the audience. What you do is you screen the movie for them, and then you as
the filmmaker get up and you get 15 minutes to make an argument for why you feel
the movie should be rated R as opposed to NC-17. Then Joan Graves, who is the
head of the ratings board, gets up and she does 15 minutes as to why she feels
the movie is NC-17. Then you get 10 minutes to rebut her, and she gets
10 minutes to rebut you. Then you two leave the room, and people take a secret
ballot. That’s how it all works. And you have to win by 2/3 majority. You
can’t win by one vote. So we had 14 people in our screening. If eight of them
had voted for us, we would have lost. We had to have 2/3, so we wound up
Now after getting the R rating, people are taking
issue with the posters.
KS: It’s weird. After we won the appeal, it felt
like the MPAA got a little more stringent with our marketing materials. Like,
they started kicking back our posters and potential trailers. We had done a
bunch of behind-the-scenes shorts on Clerks 2 and put them up on the
Internet and ran them for almost 6 months in advance of the movie. Never once
had to approve them through anybody. We do what we want, because it’s the
Internet, and who governs the Internet?
We were gonna do [the shorts] again [for Zack and Miri,
and] this time around, the MPAA told us that we couldn’t run without getting
them approved by the MPAA first. The MPAA’s manifest is they have approval over
all movies and of signatory members of the MPAA. A studio has to be a signatory
MPAA member [and] most studios are. All of them are, as a matter of fact. But
[the MPAA] also governs the marketing material. So in the same way that they’re
like, “We can tell you what can go in a trailer that plays on TV, we can also
tell you these can or cannot be played on the Internet.” And that’s the first
time I’ve ever encountered that.
Suddenly, after years of ignoring the Internet, they’re now
paying attention. So all those [shorts] had to get rated through them as well,
and that was kind of weird. They were insisting that we install an age gate on
the site. An age gate is ridiculous. Anybody can beat an age gate. You don’t
even have to be Einstein to beat an age gate. You’re just f–king picking a
date that makes you 18 or older. And in a world where you can jump to a porno
site and watch a 15-second mpeg of people f–king without clicking an age gate,
how are you protecting people from anything, you know? It’s like, this movie is
a comedy. It’s not true porn, you know. All the f–king is fake, and silly at
that. What about the real porn over here? But they’re like, “We’re not in
charge of that. We’re only in charge of movies.” Because no parent calls up the MPAA to say, like, “My kid saw something weird on largelabia.com.”
I’ll be honest with you, I’m shocked they’ve let it go as
long as they have. The one thing I’m really terrified about is when they start
rating the extras on a DVD. So far, people have left that alone. Jersey Girl
was a PG-13 movie. Those two commentary tracks are R, if not worse. And some of
the features we had on it were definitely not PG-13-friendly. So for years
you’ve been able to do that. I’m scared that one day those cats are gonna start
turning on home video as well and being like, “We have to rate all the extras on
the disc.” So you could conceivably have a PG movie with R-rated extras. So as
long as they leave that alone, I’m fine.
Largely, I don’t make PG-13 movies, so it doesn’t matter.
If most of my [DVD extra] content was rated R, the movies are usually rated R,
so I’m okay with it. But, you know, [a potential MPAA crackdown] will prevent
things like that Jersey Girl commentary track from happening. Which, you
know, let’s be honest, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It wouldn’t be
the collapse of the American infrastructure. But it is kinda vexing.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno opens in theaters this Friday.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival is well underway in the Scottish city, screening hundreds of brand new films and cramming A-listers into posh hotel suites. This year, Rotten Tomatoes is proud to be an official media partner of the festival, and we’ll be presenting an award to one of the films in the programme. Click here for more information.
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. Last year’s festival saw two of the freshest movies of the year play to UK audiences for the first time – Knocked Up and Ratatouille – and they were 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 think of the films on display so you can add them to your wish-list.
We’ve picked twenty interesting films from the programme so far to tell you all about. If you didn’t make it to the festival, this is your guide to the hot films to look out for in the coming months!
Set in London at the beginning of the Second World War, The Edge of Love revolves around charmingly scruffy poet Dylan Thomas (played by Matthew Rhys), famed for his intense, romantic verse, and the two loves of his life – wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) and childhood sweetheart Vera (Keira Knightley).
The material lets the talented ensemble produce career best work; Knightley, despite an initially jarring Welsh accent, is pitch perfect as the slightly naive but banterous Vera, whilst Miller impresses hugely with her portrayal of an emotionally damaged, promiscuous pleasure-seeker.
It’s all fairly depressing, and not entirely convincing, with the spiralling self-destruction on show dredging up all the ‘tortured poet and his muse’ clichï¿½s found in a million bad TV literary adaptations. The result is a well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful stab as serious, romantic drama that is not as clever or affecting as it thinks it is. Orlando Parfitt
Robert Carlyle makes a welcome return to form in Summer, an intelligent and brilliantly-acted family drama. The Scot plays Shaun, an embittered middle aged man who spends much of his time reluctantly caring for his wheelchair bound best friend Daz. The film goes onto examine what bought him to this point in his life, uncovering years of misfortune, bad decisions and an uncaring establishment. Shaun then looks back with rose-tinted glasses at his youth and yearns for the freedom’s of his salad days, before his troubles began. Fairly bleak to-to-be-sure, but intensely moving and powerful too, thanks to the emotionally resonant central performances. OP
With Donkey Punch, you get two great movies for the price of one; a brilliantly set-up, marvellously tense teen thriller, and a barmy, magnificently over-the-top slasher horror. It’s just a shame they’re shoe-horned together in the same film.
We begin with a trio of girls from Leeds, Northern England, on holiday in Mallorca and getting ready for a night on the tiles. Eventually they meet up with four good-looking men who persuade them to continue their night on a yacht they’ve ‘borrowed’ from the harbour master.
Things suddenly take a turn for the nightmarish however when one of the men delivers the donkey punch of the title (we won’t reveal what it is, but it’s kind of disgusting). She drops dead, and now the lads must try and get rid of the body and calm down the two remaining girls.
It’s a brilliant set-up, but suddenly a new film cranks into action, as the girls begin picking off the lads one-by-one in increasingly bizarre, over-the-top and hilarious ways. Those with a strong stomach should still definitely seek out Donkey Punch – a refreshing, if maddeningly schizophrenic antidote Hollywood norm. OP
Very rarely does RT get shocked, sickened or appalled at the cinema these days. This little indie horror film at Edinburgh turned out to have one of the highest concentrations of sheer wrongness we’ve ever seen – in a good way.
Mum and Dad revolves around airport cleaner and Romanian immigrant Lena who, one night, after a series of misadventures, finds herself unable to get back home. ‘Luckily’ her seemingly-happy-go-lucky colleague Birdie offers her a bed for night with her family. Thinking her troubles are over, at least in the short term, Lena accepts, but the invitation turns out to be a one way ticket to a hellishly violent, sadistic suburban hell.
Birdie’s sinister ‘family’ includes ‘Mum’ — a barmy, torture-obsessed housewife whose sadistic deeds are made all the more shocking by her maternal pretentions — and ‘Dad’, a fat, greasy sexual predator who wears a party hat. So begins a nightmarish journey for Lena as she is forced to abandon all humanity to escape this twisted family unit.
if you’re a hardcore horror fan and have a strong constitution — and have a healthy disregard for family values – then you should check this out, just don’t say we didn’t warn you! OP
A deserved winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin this summer, Elite Squad, Jose Padilha‘s testosterone-fuelled actioner revolves around Nascimento, commanding officer of BOPE, the hard-as-nails paramilitary wing of Rio’s police force entrusted with keeping order in the cities drug-cursed favelas.
Macho and ultra-violent, the director defiantly take sides in the drug war through blaming both drug dealers and their rich clients for the violence and social problems their trade creates. However Elite Squad is more even handed than some have suggested, with Padilha not shying from showing the brutality of BOPEs methods and the widespread corruption in the police force. OP
An amusing exercise in ’90s nostalgia, The Wackness is anything but wack…
It’s New York in 1994; Cobain has just shot himself, Biggie and Tupac are still friends and Giuliani has only just been elected mayor. Experiencing it all is Luke (played by former child star Josh Peck) a self-confessed loser in his last year at high school – and also a part-time pot dealer.
We meet him in the office of one of his clients – and best friend – Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), a self-medicating psychiatrist. The film then follows the pair through one long, hot, life-changing summer.
It’s the often hilarious script that stays in the mind. Kingsley generally gets the best lines (when Luke tells him he feels down, he asks “is it because of Kurt Cobain?”), and despite a wavering New York accent, shows a real flair for comedy. OP
Standard Operating Procedure is essential viewing, but often difficult to watch. Master documentary maker Errol Morris (who won an Oscar for his Robert McNamara interview The Fog of War) sits down with (almost) all of the prison guards responsible for the sickening scenes of prisoner humiliation and torture that emerged from Abu Ghraib prison in the aftermath of the Iraq war.
You may find Morris’ empathy with his subjects, almost all of whom show little remorse for their heinous acts, hard to bear, but it’s arguable that by simply letting these individuals have their say they damn themselves far more than any liberal commentator could. Documentary at its most powerful and timely. OP
Imagine the basic conceit of Groundhog Day — a man is forced to relive the same day over-and-over again – re-imagined as an atmospheric, jolly creepy Spanish horror film and you’ll be somewhere near to Timecrimes.
This superbly sinister effort follows Hector — an ordinary suburban guy who one night glimpses a naked woman through the trees. He goes outside to investigate, but finds himself attacked by a rather angry and aggressive man with a bandage head.
The movie is at its most effective in the opening scenes in the woods, with director Nacho Vigalondo proving adapt at conjuring scares and making guys with bandaged heads look very creepy indeed. Timecrimes, along with the similarly well-produced Spanish-horror-thriller [Rec], proves the Iberian peninsula a fertile breeding ground for brilliantly made frighteners with brains. OP
Thomas Turgoose (spectacular as the young skinhead in England) plays Tomo, a teenager from Nottingham who — for reasons that are never explained — arrives by train in London despite not knowing a soul and having nowhere to go. After he’s mugged and loses all his money, he befriends Marek, a Polish boy living with his builder father. They soon become close friends, and both lust after the hot French waitress who works in their local cafe.
It’s a simple, almost plotless story, but one that is made immensely powerful by the characteristically superb and naturalistic performances. The simple shooting style – the film is shot in black and white and features little camera movement – amplifies the bonhomie and natural chemistry of the two young leads as they embark on a series of hilarious scrapes. OP
A spectacularly silly, amusing and gory examination of the world’s problems with fossil fuels, Blood Car is set to become a cult favourite.
Set in the near future – with cars rendered almost non-existent by the scarcity of oil – this low budget effort centres around Archie; an ultra environmentally conscious vegan kindergarten teacher who has been trying to build a car that runs on vegetable juice.
One day, with the car engine refusing to run on the fauna-based liquid, he accidently cuts his hand, a drop of blood dripping into the contraption and immediately starting the motor. The result? Green fingered Archie has inadvertently invented a car that runs on human blood.
It’s a hilariously dark stuff that feels like it could have evolved from a Grindhouse fake trailer. A deliciously tasteless scene towards the end of the film, featuring a trigger-happy government agent and Archie’s kindergarten class, is worth the price of admission alone. OP
The Edinburgh Film Festival drew to a close at the weekend with the world premiere of Faintheart, a sweet and sentimental romantic comedy set in the world of Viking re-enactments.
Faintheart revolves around Richard (Eddie Marsan), an overgrown kid who is far happier brandishing his broad-sword in battle than he is in facing up to family responsibilities at home. When he misses his father-in-law’s funeral in favour of a Viking brawl, wife Cath (Jessica Hynes) kicks him out, leading our hero on a quest of the heart as he struggles to win her back with the help of his Norse chums.
It’s charming stuff, played for laughs by a uniformly excellent cast and the script is chock-full of comic gems, laughing along with its subjects without ever actually poking fun at them. The result is a fine family film that is sure to leave a smile on your face. Chris Tilly
Philippe Petit‘s successful 1974 attempt to cross the gap between the Twin Towers on a tightrope is documented in this kinetic film from James Marsh as a fast-paced caper about a charismatic Frenchman’s drive to do something outrageously necessary. From the moment the Man on Wire starts we’re introduced to Petit as a man with passion and belief who is convinced that these two buildings were built for him to cross.
What follows is an examination of the method behind the madness, as the sheer endurance trial that was the planning of the event is shared through Petit and his key collaborators. He spent 45 minutes on wire, but rigging it, sneaking the rigging into the building and planning the entire operation took years, stretching right back to a news article he read in a dentist’s office about the Twin Towers’ construction. The film leaves its audience in no doubt that Petit is special and that this act of rebellion – the walk was totally illegal – was his gift to the world. Absolutely gripping stuff. Joe Utichi
It’s hard to know how much to reveal about Let the Right One In. Such is the nature of the film’s delicate plotting that it’ll prove to be a different but equally fulfilling experience should you be aware of its subject matter or not before you watch it. Like Pan’s Labyrinth, the film’s fantastical elements disguise the real human drama of its characters and while it might, on the surface, appear to be a new twist on a familiar genre, at its heart it’s one of the most original coming-of-age stories in years.
As Oskar, young actor Kåre Hedebrant’s confident performance is at turns sweetly innocent and surprisingly dark. If your tolerance for foreign-language films is limited, let this film change your mind. If the idea of a coming-of-age story fills you with dread, let it convince you otherwise. In fact, if you only see one film that’s off the beaten path this year, you’d do very well to let the right one in. JU
When an old man (Brian Cox), fishing by a river, is forced to witness a group of young hoodlums shoot his dog he becomes determined to see justice prevail; pursuing the boys’ fathers (Tom Sizemore and Robert Englund) to encourage them to punish their sons and, when that fails, turning to the law. Red is a heartrending tale of a man who has lost everything trying and who is desperately to hold onto what’s right, Brian Cox is relentless in the lead role, delivering a stunning and strangely disturbing performance as he seeks retribution.
The film may go a little too far before the end, but for the most part it’s brilliantly gripping with shades of Stephen King about its thrilling structure. JU
Walter is a sad, lonely, embittered Connecticut teacher whose life has been on a downward spiral since the passing of his wife. However, all of that changes when he is sent to New York to present a paper on economics, and arrives to discover an immigrant couple living in his long-forgotten apartment. Understandably perturbed, Walter kicks them to the kerb, but compassion leads him to go after them and invite the strangers into his empty home.
The Visitor is stirring, heartbreaking stuff, told at a stately pace perfectly in keeping with the story unfolding. Director Thomas McCarthy truly gives his characters time to breathe, and as their story slowly plays out, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the gut-wrenching emotion of it all. He’s helped out by a grandstanding performance from Richard Jenkins as Walter. It’s brilliantly multi-layered and full of subtlety and nuance.
Combined with McCarthy’s economic script – which brilliantly deals with the sensitive topic of immigration without ever feeling preachy or patronising — it makes for a magical movie-going experience that will provoke thought, discussion, sadness and joy in equal measure. Truly outstanding stuff. CT
One of the most powerful documentaries in a long time, Alone in Four Walls introduces us to the inmates of a Russian prison for boys aged 11-14, interspersing their daily activities with tales of their crimes from the boys themselves and from their families and victims. It’s hard to know what to feel about these inmates as they go through the usual struggles of adolescence and the regional struggles of poverty on one hand and then we’re told, in police report detail, what found them in the institution to begin with.
Emotionally harrowing, with an incredible attention to cinematography, this, like all documentaries should be, is a window on a world we’ll never come across, but more than that it’s a frighteningly appropriate film for a world in the throes of increasing teenage violent crime. Want to keep kids out of jail? Showing them this would be a good place to start. JU
Werner Herzog returns to documentary filmmaking with Encounters at the End of the World, this time travelling to Antarctica to share stories about the people who call the frozen continent home. Starting off, and frequently returning to his base in McMurdo, a desolately grey and dreadfully functional town that most in Antarctica call home.
Herzog’s typically editorialised commentary singes the film with humour, as he shares with us his insistence to financiers that he wouldn’t be travelling all that way to make another movie about penguins, though, of course, he finds a researcher to plug with questions about the flightless birds’ sexual proclivities and mental instabilities. There are moments of extreme humour as he interrupts a woman’s tales of her travels by opining that “her story goes on forever,” and wonders how many languages have died in the time he’s been talking to a man who’s explaining, at great length, how often languages die.
But, equally, there are scenes that seem extended for no reason other than to keep the running time feature length and while Herzog finds plenty of characters, few of them seem compelling enough to warrant the journey. People who call Antarctica home are bound to be slightly weird by our standards, but are they really as crazy as Herzog seemed to hope on his journey out there, or are they just people doing their job exploring extremes so that we don’t have to? JU
Not only is WALL*E one of the freshest films of the year – some critics have even thrown around the word ‘masterpiece’ like they believe it this time – but it’s also one of the loveliest, most charming and most accomplished animated films of all time. Pixar’s tale of a little robot, WALL*E, who dreams of a new companion in the shape of a sleek and shiny probe called EVE is a testament to Pixar’s emphasis on story and emotion.
It shouldn’t work – not in an era of big, noisy and exposition-heavy event movies – and yet it really, truly does. Within a few minutes without even a hint of dialogue the film has you totally invested in this little character’s journey and you’re with him right until the end. Combine such a strong core with some of the most beautiful and creative artwork ever seen on screen and WALL*E deserves to be remembered as a proper classic. JU
The Black Balloon is a typically-bright but satisfyingly-dark Australian drama about a teenage boy, Thomas Mollison (Rhys Wakefield), whose autistic brother Charlie (Luke Ford) requires constant attention and whose acting out is starting to put a strain on the friendships Thomas is developing at a new school. When a girl comes along, in the form of a beautiful school friend, Thomas’ relationship with his brother, and parents who’ve largely ignored him to take care of Charlie, will be tested.
Toni Collette and Erik Thomson co-star, but it’s really a movie for Wakefield and Ford, with the latter particularly brilliant as the autistic Charlie. It’s a selfish side of caring that’s rarely witnessed but inevitably present; a teenager’s desire for a “normal” brother and a relationship with his parents that’s hampered by the special needs of his sibling and it’s handled delicately and emotionally without delivering and overly-sentimental piece. JU
Mancora will be compared to Y Tu Mama Tambien, being that it’s about a sexually-charged road trip involving three hot, young things in a Spanish-speaking country, but there’s something decidedly more real about the consequences of these actions. As incest makes way to tribal drug trips, the characters go on hard, real journeys and push themselves to their limits, perhaps in an attempt to find some feeling within them: as the film begins, our lead, Santiago, has lost his father to suicide and finds that he’s disillusioned with his surroundings.
But, rather disappointingly, the film quite simply isn’t as entertaining as Alfonso Cuaron‘s predecessor, and the conclusion of the journey feels false and all too convenient. Nevertheless, it’s of a high quality and should make stars of its leads if it’s given the exposure in North America that it deserves. It certainly marks Ricardo de Montreuil as a director to watch. JU
While sitting on a Comic Con panel, Frank Miller was asked about the hold-up on Sin City 2. (Numerous times, probably.) And it looks like the celebrated author / artist / filmmaker is laying the blame solely at the feet of the Weinstein brothers.
Could it be that Grindhouse threw a monkey wrench into future Weinstein production plans? Sheer speculation on my part, but I’d have thought a Sin City sequel would be a no-brainer by this point. Then again, both Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez are presently hard at work on other projects — to say nothing of the large number of busy actors who’d be needed. So there’s probably enough "blame" to go around, really.
According to Dark Horizons, Mr. Miller "confirmed that he and Robert Rodriguez have a script ready – an adaptation of A Dame to Kill and some of the book’s other short stories — but left the cryptic hint that the Weinstein’s themselves are part of the hold up — likely tying into the fledgling distributor’s lack of success so far at the box-office."
OK, so the Weinsteins didn’t exactly set the world on fire with Grindhouse, Miss Potter, Bobby, The Matador, Derailed, Pulse, Breaking and Entering, Harsh Times, DOA: Dead or Alive, The Gathering, Unknown, The Ex, Nomad, School for Scoundrels, Black Christmas, Arthur and the Invisibles, or Factory Girl — but they’re doing OK with 1408 and Sicko. Plus they’ve got some treats in store (Grace Is Gone is excellent, The Mist sounds great so far) for later this year. And maybe someday they’ll actually release Killshot, Teeth and Rogue and make a few dollars off of ’em. Still it’s tough to feel bad for the guys who put money behind Who’s Your Caddy? and Hannibal Rising. Then again, Clerks 2 was pretty darn funny.
Anyway, yeah: Sin City 2. As the highway signs sometimes say: Expect delays.
Source: Dark Horizons
After becoming well and truly smitten with Rosario Dawson on the set of Clerks 2, it seems that Kevin Smith wants the actress to play the lead in his next comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
Already I want to see this movie.
Apparently it’s about two old friends who decide to start making homemade porn as their high school reunion approaches. And while it’s not a “View Askew” movie, Smith promises that Jason Mewes will make a quick appearance. Regarding Ms. Dawson’s involvement, MTV Movies tells us that no paperwork’s been signed yet, Smith admits “I’d be kind of flabbergasted if she didn’t do it.”
Smith plans to shoot “Zack and Miri” this year, and then move on to his horror film (Red State) early next year. The MTV article also gives us some more info on this particular project, and it seems that Mr. Smith wants to keep us a little bit in the dark for now: “You hear the log line about, like, religious fundamentalism gone awry, and you’re like, ‘All right, I kind of got the movie in my head.’ That’s Act One.”
The director is staying away from the hardcore gore material, claiming that he sees the project as similar to The Shining in some ways. Either way, color me curious.
Source: MTV Movies
Some journalists are lucky to get 15 minutes with a director; RT-UK hit the jackpot of good fortune when "Clerks 2" director Kevin Smith agreed to a two-hour long kick back, foul-mouthed, rollicking good time chat, so awesome that we’re presenting it in not one, not two, but five daily installments! Click here to start reading.
Kevin Smith has long been one of the most accessible directors around — between his frequent appearances in online forums, on his own site (ViewAskew.com), and his world-traversing Q&A shows, he’s made a name for himself as a decidedly fan-friendly filmmaker (and earned his reputation for being the closest thing any fanboy could possibly come to being a director). RT-UK’s Joe Utichi caught up with Smith recently in London, where Smith was giving one of his patented answer ’em-until-the-questions-run-out Q&A sessions.
Up first: Joe and Kevin release their inner nerds with talk of the "X-Files" and the exciting potential of a second "X-Files" movie (guess which one named his pets after Scully and Mulder?)…
Joe Utichi: Speaking of the dogs, I was kind-of relieved to hear you’d called them Scully and Mulder because, rather embarrassingly, I was big into "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" back in the day and I had a dog called Kira and a cat called Dax.
Kevin Smith: [laughs] Did you really? Yeah, we’re kind-of gay like that as well. It’s so weird, the show’s been over for a few years and we’ve had the dogs for like eight, nine years. Sometimes you don’t even think about it but every once in a while you mention their names and people are like, "Did you say Scully and Mulder?" And it’s like, "Oh, yeah… That’s right…"
JU: Talking of "The X-Files," I’m excited about the potential of the second film.
KS: I just read that; I read it on f*cking Rotten Tomatoes yesterday as a matter of fact! I guess it was the Gillian Anderson somewhat semi-confirmation which complemented something Duchovny had said last week or earlier in the week.
JU: Yeah, he’d said it’s happening and we want to get it in before the strike.
KS: Right, and then she kind-of flat-out confirmed it.
I can’t wait, I mean, it’s just a no-brainer. And the fact they’re talking about doing a non-mythology entry… That just makes a lot more sense.
JU: Right, you can’t tell mythology over ninety minutes. They had trouble telling it over nine seasons.
KS: Totally, and when they did that first feature as well you’re sat there going, "Well, it’s good, but it’s not nearly as good as some of their best shows." I think just doing a one-off that doesn’t go all into it… I’m sure they’ll sprinkle a bit of mythology in there, but doing a one-off that’s not tied into, like, the Cigarette Smoking Man, aliens and sh*t like that.
KS: Yeah, Krycek… No more black oil. It’ll be kind-of stimulating to say the least.
JU: Just to be in an environment with those characters again while they’re just doing their jobs is an exciting prospect. Because that show was always at its best when they were solving those one-off cases.
KS: Totally. Some of those episodes like "Home," where they go and meet that backwards family with the mother under the bed, that has nothing to do with mythology but they’re so f*cking terrifying.
JU: I’m really excited by the prospect. I probably shouldn’t be…
KS: You know, I think that’s one where you can probably get your hopes up in a good way. Enough time has gone down between the end of the series and a lot of time has gone down between the last movie and the next movie.
JU: I hope so. Plus, Chris Carter’s used to doing TV and coming up with ideas week by week…
KS: He’s had enough time to think something great.
Next: On reading reviews (from critics and fans alike on Rotten Tomatoes), Kevin’s infamous "Revenge of the Sith" RT thread, and getting drawn into message board flame wars…
JU: So I wanted to talk to you about reviews, I know you read reviews but most filmmakers I meet tell me they never read them.
KS: That’s horse-sh*t. I don’t believe that for a second. I think everybody does and I think it’s very fashionable to say, "I don’t read the reviews." Maybe, at best, what they mean is they don’t read the negative reviews. With Rotten Tomatoes it’s very easy to skip the negative reviews; you see that little green splotch and unless you want to torture yourself you just avoid it and go to the little red tomato.
I think, best-case scenario, they’re probably just avoiding the green splotches. But, you know, it’s a communications medium where it’s manufactured for use; you’re putting something out there to get a response. What filmmaker would not want to read that response? The box-office response only tells one part of the story.
In the age of the Internet it’s not like you’re just relying on the opinion of published cineastes to get their take on it. Film criticism, as democratised as it’s been over the last five, ten years of the Internet, suddenly you’re getting the opinion of people who, if they weren’t writing for some Internet site, would be paying to see the movie anyway. You’re almost getting the opinion of the same guy who’s paying for a ticket. And then if you go beyond even the published critics, the Internet critics, you can just read what people write on a message board and kind-of get the true opinion.
Now, you know, it’s good and bad because the Internet being the Wild Wild West that it is, and the anonymity that it affords, you get people saying things that they would never in a million years say to your face. And sometimes they’re just saying sh*t to get a reaction.
KS: Yeah, totally. But I think when you read a message board you can’t believe the most insanely positive thing you read and you can’t believe the most belligerently negative thing you read. The truth lies somewhere in between.
JU: I remember something brought you to the Rotten Tomatoes message boards a couple of years ago…
KS: It was the "Revenge of the Sith" thing. I wrote a little piece that wasn’t even meant to be a review. I had seen it and so I wrote on the View Askew website about seeing the movie. It was kind-of a mini-review but not like a three-page, well-thought-out thing. It was kind-of like, "This is what I thought about the movie."
JU: Which, by the way, I read and hated you for, because that was before all the press screenings and I was desperate to see that movie.
KS: [laughs] Right and that’s, I think, why it circulated as much as it did. I remember I just put it up on the message boards and our server got crashed and it wound up getting linked from all these places. I hadn’t really thought about it but I guess it was the first review and I had no idea. For some reason I thought the press had already seen it and they were talking about it.
So when that review went up, there was one thread on the Rotten Tomatoes message boards where some people appreciated my thoughts and some people totally took me to task and some people just shredded me for it. That was in an age where anything I saw that I thought was an unfair shredding I would respond. Which is such a self-defeating practice but in those days I felt the need to do it. I’ve since kind-of gotten over it.
I’d never go after people with whom I differed in opinion; people who were just like, "My opinion is completely different from yours." I would tend to just go after people who printed untruths or misstated facts or something like that to just be more corrective than anything else. But that thread wound up going on and on and on, and there was one broad there whose insults were just getting weird and mean and I just kept going back at her with things that were even more weird and even more mean and wrote some of the most f*cking biting but f*cking cut-and-slash type of sh*t in response to her, to the point where she did the internet equivalent of crying; completely changed her tune, cried foul and that she was under attack.
It was just this weird phenomenon but parts of it were really entertaining. I felt like I did write some of my most biting and f*cking mean-spirited sh*t in one way but to this anonymous person that I’d never met.
JU: To a certain extent you’ve got to have more respect for those people who stick to their guns.
KS: I think in theory you’re supposed to but, you know, let’s be honest; it’s human nature to like people who are saying nice things to you rather than f*cking horrible things to you. I’d rather see them all just f*cking flip-flop and be nice. I don’t know anybody – unless you’re a f*cking masochist – you don’t want to read horrible things about yourself. You’re supposed to respect that commitment to their opinion and their ideals but it sucks sometimes. You’re just like, "Dude, just cave. I’m here, I’m reading."
But I’ve since kind-of calmed down about reading all that stuff. It’s an ever ongoing process and learning curve and I’ve been making films for thirteen years now but – at least for me, I don’t know how other people deal with it – it takes a long time to process that if you don’t want to read negative things you just don’t have to. And Rotten Tomatoes makes it easy by seeing that splotch. Even if you see on your message threads a subject line that’s just heinous, you simply avoid it if you don’t want to take an hour, two hours out of your day to wind up addressing it. Or if you just don’t want to feel like sh*t because there are times when you’ll read something that’s just so negative and finds all the chinks in your armour and really cuts you to the quick and addresses your own insecurities that it will effect the rest of your day in a way like, "They’re right, I suck. What am I doing?"
And it’s so easy to believe the negative over the positive. Overwhelmingly the majority of the things people write are positive but you will remember verbatim the negative things. I think that’s part of human nature as well, to focus on the bad rather than the good. And when it’s you sitting in front of a computer screen, alone in a room, that is the whole world. That is the most important thing in the whole world; suddenly everything boils down to you and this person and their horrible opinion of you. And then your kid walks in the room and you’re like, "What are you doing? I’m going to get out and hang out with my kid."
Because ultimately whether they’re right or wrong it’s just opinion. It’s subjective. There is no right and wrong; if that’s how they feel that’s how they feel and nothing you do, no film you can make, is really going to turn them around. But it’s so easy to get lost in that; to get lost in the opinion of some faceless individual on the Internet. When it’s just you alone on the Internet that person represents everybody else in the world. It’s tough to kind-of keep perspective and just be, "This is just one dude." Even if they’re a bunch it still represents a small sample.
Click here to read more, and check back tomorrow for the next installment, in which Kevin talks more about his horror movie, "Red State," the movies that inspire it, his Minnesota-set comedy script, indie cinema in 2007 and, erm, Britney Spears…
Rotten Tomatoes UK can exclusively reveal that Kevin Smith‘s next project – a horror movie – is called "Red State". Up until now Smith has revealed little about the film other than the fact it’s a horror movie and it’ll be decidedly less joke-y than his back-catalogue. But, in addition to the title, Smith was keen to give us a head’s up on the plot of the film.
If you’ve seen any of his "An Evening With…" DVDs, you’ll know how much fun it can be to sit down in an audience and listen to "Clerks II" director Kevin Smith talk. In London this past week with his family – his daughter Harley is missing Johnny Depp‘s daughter Lily-Rose while he’s in town working on "Sweeney Todd" so they arranged an international play-date – Smith took to the stage of the Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square for two of his infamous four-hour Q&As.
But even in the relatively small company of five hundred that packed into the cinema on each night, getting a question in proved difficult as Smith worked his trademark tangential style around topics as diverse as his favourite dinosaur, why he hasn’t yet seen Firefly and what happens to a Dachshund post-coitus.
So RT-UK naturally leapt at the chance to spend some time with Smith one-on-one while he was in town and he graciously allowed us a whole two hours to riff on whatever came to mind. We’ll be sharing the full conversation very soon but we did want to rush this item to your attention right away.
UK audiences recently saw documentary journalist Louis Theroux spend time with members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, a controversial church group made largely of members of the Phelps family and run by preacher Fred Phelps. Infamous in America for taking a supremely homophobic stance and for picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, the group see media interviews as a platform for airing their views and the word of their founder, Fred Phelps.
"That dude has always fascinated me and he’s really informed the horror movie that I’m working on," Smith told us, "The movie’s called ‘Red State’ and it’s very much about that subject matter, that point of view and that position taken to the absolute extreme. It’s certainly not Phelps himself but it’s very much inspired by a Phelps figure."
But while Smith is convinced that "horror" is the right definition for the film, he’s not so sure audiences will agree. "To me there’s all kinds of horror, and killing someone’s not the absolute worst thing you could do to another human being," he said, "The death in a horror movie has always been the money shot in a very exploitative manner. Stabbing somebody and splashing blood all over them is the equivalent to some dude exploding over some broad’s face.
"And to me, too, the notion of using a Phelps-like character as a villain, as horrifying and scary as that guy can be, there’s even something more insidious than him that lurks out there in as much as a public or a government that allows it and that’s the other thing that I’m trying to examine in a big, big way. It’s weird because for a few months I’ve been saying ‘horror movie’ and technically it is, but it’s also not a very traditional horror movie in the sense that people have been asking me, ‘Is it a slasher movie? Is it like the Japanese horror flicks?’ It’d be much easier to just show it to them when I’m done and be like, ‘This is what I meant.’ At which point I’m sure there’ll be people saying, ‘This ain’t a horror movie!’ But to me, it is."
Smith is planning to write the film in the next few months before shooting it later in the year. "We’re going to shoot it somewhere in the middle of the country, in a true red state." And it’s not the only feature project on the horizon, as Smith told us he’s in the middle of writing a comedy to shoot in the winter. "It takes place in the middle of winter in Minnesota so we have to wait for snow," he said.
Many, many thanks to Kevin for being so generous with his time, on Good Friday of all days, and to his wonderful assistant Gail Stanley we are enormously indebted for the late nights she’s pulled putting us in touch across time-zones.
If you’re MySpace friends with "Clerks" man Kevin Smith, you already know that the uber fanboy is a ginormous Bruce Willis fan (OMG he’s online now!)…and now, the writer-director-turned-actor has announced he’s fulfilled a lifelong dream by joining Bruno in the upcoming "Live Free or Die Hard."
Kevin Smith ("Mallrats," "Clerks") has parlayed his own admitted fandom into guest appearances in projects like "Daredevil" and "Veronica Mars," but now he’s landed a big one: playing opposite Bruce "Die Hard" Willis in the upcoming fourth series installment, "Live Free or Die Hard."
Yes, he’s a lucky guy. He knows it. And just like all you other regular schmoes on the internet, Smith has shared his elation in the best possible way: on MySpace.
From Kevin Smith’s MySpace blog:
"’Mortal Thoughts‘, ‘Billy Bathgate‘, ‘Pulp Fiction‘, ‘Nobody’s Fool‘, ‘12 Monkeys‘, ‘Armageddon‘, ‘The Fifth Element‘, ‘The Sixth Sense‘, ‘Unbreakable‘ — I’d follow Willis’ career anywhere (even to ‘Hudson Hawk‘).
Last year, I was beside myself when they released ‘The New Twilight Zone‘ on DVD, because it meant I could finally re-watch the Wes Craven directed segment entitled ‘Shatterday’ — in which Bruce Willis, as Peter Jay Novins, accidentally dials his home phone number and hears an alternate version of himself answer.
Smith in 2001’s "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"
"So last week, after I wrapped the ‘Manchild’ pilot (which went phenomenally), the very next morning, I reported to work on a flick that’d reveal a heretofore unrealized dream I’d unwittingly harbored since I first watched David Addison limbo in the Moonlighting Detective Agency offices, twenty years prior…
For five days, I acted opposite Bruce Willis in this summer’s ‘Live Free or Die Hard.’"
Click here for the full (expletive-filled, very Kevin Smith-esque) blog entry. And go ahead, request him as a friend — even people with 145,257 MySpace buddies need more!
Detectives Crockett and Tubbs shot their way to number one in North America with the cop thriller Miami Vice which finally managed to knock the megablockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest out of the top spot.
The new teen comedy John Tucker Must Die debuted well but the animated entry The Ant Bully got squashed in its opening weekend. Overall, the box office saw a summer slowdown as the top ten films attracted the weakest sales since early May.
Universal hit the top of the charts with its big-budget actioner Miami Vice which opened with an estimated $25.2M. Starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell as the famous South Florida cops from the hit 1980s television series, the R-rated film averaged a strong $8,340 from 3,021 theaters. The debut was in line with the opening of director Michael Mann‘s last film Collateral which was also an R-rated actioner and bowed to $24.7M in August 2004. That film, which starred Tom Cruise and Foxx, eventually squeaked past the $100M mark domestically. The studio reported that the audience for Miami Vice was older, multicultural, and evenly split between men and women. Studio research showed that a high 62% of the crowd was age 30 and older, 51% was male, and 52% was non-white. Reviews were mixed for the $135M production.
After three weeks of ruling the box office, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest dropped to second place but still posted strong results grossing an estimated $20.5M. The Disney smash dropped only 42% and propelled its cume to a staggering $358.4M after just 24 days. More records were looted by Captain Jack Sparrow. Chest became the fastest film in history to sail past the $350M mark doing so on Saturday in only 23 days. Shrek 2 held the record previously with 26 days in 2004. The Pirates sequel also stands as the top-grossing movie ever for its studio surpassing the $339.7M of 2003’s Finding Nemo.
The middle film in the swashbuckling adventure trilogy vaulted to number 11 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind the $370.3M of 2004’s The Passion of the Christ. Pirates has also put an end to the industry’s seven-year streak of the top-grossing summer film coming out of the month of May. Johnny Depp and friends have completely dominated the moviegoing world this month as no other film since has opened north of $30M. The last time the month of July saw only one $30M+ opener was ten years ago when Independence Day ruled the mid-summer box office in 1996. Dead Man’s Chest looks to smash the $400M mark in the weeks ahead.
Teenagers pushed the high school comedy John Tucker Must Die into the number three spot with an estimated opening of $14.1M. Bowing in 2,560 theaters, the PG-13 film about a group of young women who get revenge on the guy secretly dating all of them averaged a solid $5,498 per site. However, sales plunged a disturbing 24% on Saturday from a strong Friday turnout indicating there could be trouble ahead. Still, with no pricey stars, Tucker should become a nice little hit for Fox. The studio’s divide-and-conquer marketing approach seems to have worked. Television spots aimed at females focused on the revenge-on-a-cheating-boy angle while those targeting males showed off the title character’s ability to juggle three chicks.
Sony’s digital toon Monster House dropped 48% in its second weekend to an estimated $11.5M and raised its total to $43.9M after ten days. The $75M film looks to find its way to a relatively good $65-70M.
Warner Bros. stumbled with the opening of its rival kid toon The Ant Bully which finished the weekend in fifth place with an estimated $8.1M. Playing in 3,050 locations, the PG-rated adventure about a boy who enters the world of insects averaged a weak $2,670 per location. Big-time Hollywood stars Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Nicolas Cage provided the voices, but audiences were not swayed. Bully’s opening weekend couldn’t even beat the second weekend of Monster House. The kidpic market will get even more crowded on Friday when Paramount launches its own animated film Barnyard targeting the exact same family audience once again.
Sixth place was too close to call with a pair of films claiming an estimated $7M in ticket stubs this weekend. Universal’s comedy You, Me and Dupree fell 45% in its third weekend and boosted its 17-day cume to a solid $59M.
However, M. Night Shyamalan‘s bedtime story Lady in the Water followed its weak opening weekend with a steep 61% crash and gave Warner Bros. a feeble $32.1M in ten days. By comparison, ten-day totals for the filmmaker’s last films have been $85.6M for 2004’s The Village and $117.7M for 2002’s Signs. Lady, which is not even in the same ballpark, has not excited audiences and it could stumble to a final tally of about $45M making its entire total smaller than the opening weekend of his last film.
It’s been a difficult summer for Warners. First, its costly ocean liner actioner Poseidon flopped grossing $100M less than its production budget. Then Superman Returns, the most expensive movie ever, did not live up to expectations. Now the studio is suffering a double blow with Lady and Ant Bully both being ignored by moviegoers. Of course, overseas box office and worldwide home video will add more revenue, but expensive marketing campaigns will make it hard for these films to become moneymaking ventures. The studio’s other summer film The Lake House has enjoyed a respectable run though, grossing $51M.
Sony’s Wayans brothers comedy Little Man placed eighth with an estimated $5.1M, down 54%, and raised its sum to a decent $50.2M. Meryl Streep followed with the sleeper hit of the summer, The Devil Wears Prada, which grossed an estimated $4.8M. Off only 35%, the Fox hit pushed its total to $106.7M.
Crumbling 61% to an estimated $3.9M in its sophomore session, Kevin Smith‘s Clerks II rounded out the top ten and put its ten-day cume at $18.5M. The inexpensive $5M production should continue to fade fast, but looks to end with around $25M making it a nice little moneymaker for MGM and The Weinstein Company. Smith’s last summer film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back dropped a hefty 53% in its second weekend in 2001 although the Labor Day holiday frame helped to cushion the blow.
Opening in platform release to sensational results was Fox Searchlight’s indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine which bowed to an estimated $357,000 from only seven theaters for an eye-popping $50,980 average. Since its Wednesday launch in New York and Los Angeles, the R-rated comedy starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin has grossed $449,000. Sunshine was the hottest film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and the distrib is now looking to turn it into a strong word-of-mouth hit for moviegoers numbed by all the mindless popcorn films of the summer. Reviews were outstanding and the road comedy will continue to expand in the weeks ahead. The distributor plans to widen to ten cities and about 60 theaters this Friday, 175 playdates the following weekend, and a full national release in over 600 sites on August 18.
Also debuting this weekend was Woody Allen’s latest film Scoop with an estimated $3M from 538 locations for a good $5,582 average. The Focus release stars Scarlett Johannson and Hugh Jackman and earned mixed reviews from critics.
Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Superman Returns fell 49% to an estimated $3.8M in its fifth mission and reached a cume of $185.8M. After 33 days of release last summer, Warner Bros. collected a similar $183.1M with its other super hero revival Batman Begins. However, the Caped Crusader posted a stronger $6M frame, ranked higher with a fifth place finish, and was enjoying smaller weekly declines on its way to $205.3M. With a reported production budget north of $240M, Superman Returns is on a course to end its domestic run with roughly $195M and will need some sort of special re-release in order to cross the double-century mark.
Fox also grabbed an estimated $3.8M with its super hero comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend which tumbled 56% in its second weekend. With a weak $16.4M in ten days, the Uma Thurman–Luke Wilson comedy should find its way to only $25M.
Disney watched Pixar’s durable toon hit Cars become the second highest-grossing film of the year this weekend. The G-rated smash fell 50% to an estimated $2.5M boosting its cume to $234.6M surpassing the third X-Men flick. Add in the recent Pirates sequel and the Mouse House can now claim the two biggest box office hits of 2006 with no other films in the near future looking to get in their way.
Al Gore‘s global warming hit An Inconvenient Truth became only the fourth documentary in box office history to cross the $20M mark this weekend. The Paramount Vantage title took in an estimated $773,000 in its tenth frame, off 23%, to lift its cume to $20.2M. The only docs to score better have been Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.2M), March of the Penguins ($77.4M), and Bowling for Columbine ($21.6M).
The top ten films grossed an estimated $107.3M which was up a scant 2% from last year when Wedding Crashers climbed to number one in its third weekend with $20M; but down 22% from 2004 when The Village opened in the top spot with $50.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week in RT Ketchup: Kevin Smith answers critics in RT’s Forums; hunky Heath Ledger may play the Joker in the next "Batman Begins"; another grotesque "Saw 3" poster has been unveiled; you’d better get your "Harry Potter" DVDs fast; and some excellent clips of "The Simpsons Movie" have been released.
In other news, Jay Leno to give his thumbs up; Disney returns to traditional animation; Lindsay Lohan incurs the studio’s wrath while filming "Georgia Rule;" and The Hoff decides to fight back! Read on for details:
The Week’s Most Popular News
Kevin Smith Responds to Comments Calling "Clerks 2" a Flop
Director Kevin Smith, who is known for pulling no punches with readers on message boards, visited Rotten Tomatoes’ own forums to respond to criticism made by a poster that his latest movie "Clerks II" is a commercial flop.
Apparently, Heath Ledger IS The Joker…
Another Joker casting rumor is always good fun, but the guys over at Latino Review seem pretty confident that they’re offering the straight scoop: Heath Ledger as The Joker in the sequel to "Batman Begins." (And I really wish they’d give us the title already.)
"Saw 3" Poster Has Bite!
You know how the first "Saw 3" poster showed a gaping mouth that was missing a trio of teeth? Well, those choppers have apparently been located: You’ll find ’em on the all-new "Saw 3" poster. (This flick could do more damage to the dental industry than "Marathon Man."
Peep a Pair of "Simpsons Movie" Clips
Some of the "Simpsons" creators stopped by the San Diego Comic Con to do a presentation on a little something called "The Simpsons Movie," and they even brought some clips! And you can watch ’em too!
"Harry Potter" and the Recall Scheme
Specific DVDs go "out of print" all the time, sometimes due to poor sales and sometimes due to elaborate marketing schemes. Anyway, the point is this: If you want to own a "Harry Potter" movie on DVD, you better buy your copies before December.
In Other News:
Richard Roeper will have a few guest hosts to work with while good ol’ Roger Ebert recovers from recent surgery, and it looks like he’ll have a fun time with episode #1. Writer/director/movie-geek Kevin Smith will be stopping by to share his thoughts on some new releases. (No, not "Clerks 2.")
From Smith’s blog: "Looks like I’ll be sitting in for Roger Ebert next week, as a guest critic on "Ebert and Roeper." Kind of a cool honor, I feel. We’ll be checking out "Miami Vice," "Ant Bully," "Talladega Nights," "Barnyard" and maybe (fingers crossed) "World Trade Center." We’ll be taping next week, just prior to the Chicago WizardCon. I’ll let you know how it goes."
But there seems to have been a schedule switch, as mentioned by the man himself, at Hollywood Elsewhere:
"Yes, I was originally slated to review the flicks I’d listed, but due to a scheduling change, I’ll be reviewing "World Trade Center," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Scoop," "Accepted," and "Step Up" instead."