Bart, Lisa, and the whole gang from Springfield will charge into multiplexes across North America and much of the world this weekend in the highly anticipated animated comedy The Simpsons Movie which looks to easily conquer the box office. But competing studios do have other menu items in store for moviegoers. Catherine Zeta-Jones stars in the romantic comedy No Reservations, Lindsay Lohan headlines the grisly thriller I Know Who Killed Me, and hip hop star Big Boi tries out the world of golf comedy in Who’s Your Caddy?

Fox is aiming for hardcore followers and casual fans alike with its long-in-the-works comedy The Simpsons Movie which hits screens at midnight on Thursday night. The PG-13 film has a substantial built-in audience and should play out like a semi-sequel. To some extent it will be one of the more unpredictable openings of the summer since there is no track record of Simpsons fans leaving their TVs and paying money at the box office, however the fan base is sizable and will definitely come out upfront. Reviews have been good too so those who tuned out a decade ago and miss the Bobo years should return to try out what the feature-length entree is like.

The studio gets major points for executing what is certainly one of the best marketing campaigns of the year. From turning a dozen 7-11s into Kwik-E-Marts to the SimpsonizeMe web promotion, The Simpsons Movie has been generating substantial interest and has jumped from the entertainment pages to the front pages becoming a major pop culture event. That should lead to a powerful opening weekend, even if large drops follow. The marketplace will get crowded this weekend, however Simpsons will tower over its foes with ease. In fact its nearest competitors should only be in the teen millions so Krusty and company will get the attention of most folks. Busting into 3,922 theaters, The Simpsons Movie could open in the neighborhood of $54M.


The Simpsons Movie


The German film Mostly Martha gets transformed into a star-driven Hollywood vehicle in the comedy No Reservations featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, and Abigail Breslin. The PG-rated film features the T-Mobile lady playing a control freak chef who must care for her niece when her sister is killed. Warner Bros. offered sneak previews last weekend to help get some buzz going since the marketplace is getting so crowded now. No Reservations should skew more female making the hotter-than-expected Hairspray a formidable competitor. Starpower is not too high here which will make for another challenge at the box office. Serving up love and laughs in 2,425 locations, No Reservations could gross roughly $9M over the weekend.


No Reservations


What seemed like a good idea a year ago – Lindsay Lohan headlining a thriller – now looks to become an unfortunate casualty of the summer box office race. I Know Who Killed Me, an R-rated scarefest from Sony, hits theaters on Friday riding a wave of bad publicity surrounding its star. Is all publicity, good publicity? Will Lohan’s arrests and substance abuse problems help sell more tickets? Moviegoers will decide that, but Killed enters the marketplace without a lot of fanfare. Hollywood has run the horror genre into the ground this year with an overabundance of product and this one’s harsh rating will make it much tougher to get Lohan’s fan base in. The film looked promising a month ago when scenes of the mean girl doing a stripper routine were released online. But most of the intrigue has evaporated and the pic now stands as yet another scary movie that ticket buyers don’t need. Debuting in about 1,200 locations, I Know Who Killed Me may collect around $4M.


I Know Who Killed Me


MGM releases the golf comedy Who’s Your Caddy? which stars hip hop players Big Boi and Lil Wayne. The PG-13 pic tells of a rap mogul who invades and turns upside-down an elite country club. Opening in only 1,019 theaters with a low-volume marketing push, Caddy is not looking to lead the pack at all but comes as a small offering for teens on summer vacation too bored to see anything else. Given the high amount of competition and the low amount of starpower, the grosses should be small. Who’s Your Caddy? might take in about $2M this weekend.


Who’s Your Caddy?


As if the weekend wasn’t crowded enough, a handful of films that have posted impressive results in limited release test the waters in many more theaters. MGM widens the acclaimed military drama Rescue Dawn from 57 to more than 500 runs, Fox Searchlight expands its sci-fi thriller Sunshine from ten to over 400 locations, and Focus jumps from 36 to 115 playdates with its well-reviewed Don Cheadle starrer Talk To Me. All three should find themselves in the Top 20.


Rescue Dawn


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix took a beating last weekend when the final wizard book hit the shelves. The drop could stabilize this weekend despite the arrival of Apu and friends. A 45% decline would give the Hogwarts clan about $18M and a 19-day cume of $242M.

Adam Sandler comedies typically drop by 45-50% on the second weekend depending on how well received they are. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is not exactly a fan favorite so sales could get sliced in half and fall to about $17M. That would still give the Universal comedy about $70M after ten days.

New Line enjoyed a better than expected bow for the musical Hairspray which gave the studio its best opening in two years. However its Friday-to-Saturday drop of 15% last weekend indicates that it might be a front-loaded title. Look for a 50% fall to around $14M giving the John Travolta vehicle a ten-day tally of $59M.

LAST YEAR: Universal’s summer action entry Miami Vice opened atop the charts with $25.7M on its way to $63.5M domestically and $164M worldwide. After three weeks at number one, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest slipped to second with $20.6M. Fox’s teen comedy John Tucker Must Die enjoyed a solid opening in third with $14.3M leading to a $41M final. The animated film Monster House followed with $11.7M in its sophomore frame. Rounding out the top five was rival toon The Ant Bully with a $8.4M opening on its way to a disappointing $28.1M for Warner Bros. Introducing herself to the world in limited release was Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine which went on to become a critical and commercial hit grabbing $59.9M at the box office plus four Oscar nominations.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Time for a new "Wonder Woman" rumor, fellas! Everyone gather ’round! Fresh-faced hottie Sophia Bush is rumored to be "in the running" for the title role in Joss Whedon‘s (eventually) upcoming adaptation of the very sexy DC Comics character.

Moviehole.net reports a bit beyond what IESB.net was able to discover: That while spending some time on her press junket for "The Hitcher," Ms. Bush was asked about her involvement on "Wonder Woman," to which she basically answered "Maybe." Which isn’t a "no."

Back when Mr. Whedon landed the "WW" gig, he stated that he wanted a fresh newcomer for the career-making super-role, and it seems like Sophia Bush has those qualifications covered. Aside from next weekend’s "The Hitcher," Ms. Bush has appeared in "John Tucker Must Die," "Stay Alive," and "Supercross" — which means she’s more than due for a good movie, and soon.

In this week’s Ketchup, we snuck a peek at the "Spider-Man 3" trailer, Keira Knightley may jump ship before the "Pirates" franchise walks the plank, and MGM seems to be putting all its eggs in a few baskets.

Also, "The Simpsons Movie" trailer made it’s first official appearance, and at least two people want a "Daredevil" sequel. Read on.

This Week’s Most Popular News:

Unfinished "Spider-Man 3" Trailer — Now with Venom!

It might not survive on the internet for too long, so if you want to see what Venom is going to look like in "Spider-Man 3," and you don’t mind suffering through some obviously incomplete special effects, then you better click the goods right now — before they’re gone!

Ms. Swann Leaving the "Pirates" Nest?

With "Pirates of the Carbbean: At Worlds End" being primed for its summertime release, the actors are now sharing their thoughts on the future of the series. And as far as Keira Knightley is concerned, she seems fine with moving on when the trilogy ends.

MGM Promises More Panther, Bond, Crown, Rocky & Hobbit

It looks like the cash-strapped MGM is about to seriously scale back on its productions, but they still have five strapping franchises on which they’ll bet the ranch…

Trailer Bulletin: "The Simpsons Movie"

Just in case you missed it last night during (a rather amusing episode of) "The Simpsons," here’s the brand-new trailer for "The Simpsons Movie" — but don’t go in expecting anything in the way of spoilers or plot breakdowns.

"Daredevil" Director (and Villain) Want to Do a Sequel

Director Mark Steven Johnson recently opined that, yeah, he’d like to do a "Daredevil" sequel, provided anyone at Sony actually wanted to. And then big ol’ Michael Clarke Duncan spoke up and said "Me too! I’d do a sequel!"


Who wants some more of this?


In Other News:

  • Tim Firth will adapt Ahmet Zappa‘s kids’ book "The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless" for Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Walt Disney Pictures.
  • Rhona Mitra will star in the lead female role for writer/director Neil Marshall in Rogue Pictures’ futuristic action thriller "Doomsday," which is slated to begin production in early 2007.
  • Beach Boy Brian Wilson has made a deal with producer Mark Gordon to tell his life story in a feature film. The deal also provides access to Wilson’s vast catalogue of music for use in the film.
  • New Line Cinema has launched development of a feature based on the life of Daphne Sheldrick, a pioneer in efforts to save orphaned baby elephants.
  • Paramount Vantage has scooped up film rights to Frank Portman’s debut novel, "King Dork," for Will Ferrell and Adam McKay‘s Gary Sanchez Productions to produce.
  • National Lampoon Inc. is partnering with the Farrelly Brothers through their Conundrum Entertainment on National Lampoon’s "Bag Boy," centered on an underdog teen who discovers he’s got the talent to excel in the world of competitive grocery bagging.
  • Universal Pictures has picked up "Walk of Shame," a pitch by Jessi Klein for Stuber/Parent to produce.The film is a romantic comedy about the lives of a group of young singles living in New York.
  • Former 007 Pierce Brosnan is going back to the spy world, signing on to star in the comedy "Spy vs. Stu."
  • DreamWorks has acquired film rights to actress Gina Gershon‘s children’s book "Camp Creepy Time," which she co-wrote with her brother, Dann Gershon.
  • Warner Bros. has acquired the rights to "Funny Fat Guy," from the "Broken Lizard" comedy troupe members Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme.

Can’t leave the espionage alone.

This weekend Samuel L. Jackson looks to seize control of the muthaf*ckin’ box office with his new muthaf*ckin’ film "Snakes on a Plane" which invades theaters on a wave of internet buzz.

It should be a smooth trip to number one for the action thriller which will face competition from the teen comedies "Accepted" and "Material Girls" plus the expansion of the indie darling "Little Miss Sunshine." After two weeks in the top spot, Will Ferrell‘s hit comedy "Talladega Nights" will decelerate and lose pole position, but will have the distinction of crossing the celebrated $100M mark.

All eyes are on Sam Jackson this weekend as his much-blogged-about action vehicle "Snakes on a Plane" makes its way into theaters. The R-rated film presents an old fashioned good guy versus bad guy story with the former Mace Windu playing an FBI agent assigned to escort a key witness to a mob murder on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles. When the crime boss masterminds a plan to unleash poisonous snakes mid-flight, all hell breaks loose. New Line has no ambitions of winning Oscars here. "Snakes" is pure entertainment aimed at giving fans a thrill ride for two hours. No advance screenings are being held for the media which is usually a sign that the studio believes that the reviews will only trash the picture so why waste the time and money?

No R-rated film this year has broken the $30M mark on opening weekend. In fact, in the past two years, only a pair of R pics have opened north of that mark – last year’s duo of "Saw II" with $31.7M and "Wedding Crashers" with $33.9M. "Snakes" will be relying on an adult male audience for its ticket sales with older teens and twentysomethings being the driving force. Jackson may also be able to pull in African American audiences given his stature and the type of role he is playing. Typically, the Oscar-nominated actor does not have much box office muscle when anchoring a film solo. But the buzz and media coverage surrounding "Snakes" has almost made it into a franchise.

With so many on the internet buzzing about the movie since the beginning of the year, uploading their own trailers and "Snakes"-related videos, and pushing for more violence and profanity, the fans have gotten a sense of empowerment. They feel like they have been part of the filmmaking process and you can be sure that they will be out when the film opens to see the final product. And since everyone knows that the film will be cheesy and that there are no press screenings, expectations are not too high. Without all the hoopla, this film would only be seen as action movie number ten that Hollywood churns out for the summer season. New Line is taking the step of launching "Snakes" a day early on Thursday night with showtimes starting at 10pm.

August has been a great month for these types of action films for young males. Three years ago, the studio opened the R-rated horror flick "Freddy vs. Jason" to $36.4M while a year later, Fox found a $38.3M bow for its PG-13 sci-fi pic "Alien vs. Predator." Jackson’s film lacks a franchise following, although the hype has generated a sizable built-in audience of its own. "Snakes" will come and go quickly from theaters. A strong start should be followed by massive erosion, but with a reported budget of only $30M, it can’t lose money. Plus Jackson has done a commendable job hitting the trail and promoting his new flick. Attacking over 3,300 theaters, "Snakes on a Plane" could open with around $28M this weekend.

Universal is hoping that those too young for "Snakes," but who are still looking for some late-summer fun, will line up for its new comedy "Accepted." The PG-13 film stars Justin Long as a high school senior rejected by every college he applies to who then decides to make up his own fake university. The under-25 set is the target audience here with teens who can relate to the character’s nightmare making up the bulk of the crowd. Recent young-skewing hits like "Step Up" and "John Tucker Must Die" have proven that no-star vehicles with an interesting concept can lure in solid numbers on opening weekend. Those films debuted to $14.3M and $20.7M, respectively. Studios have done a poor job satisfying teenagers in recent weeks with their big ticket items which has only helped these low-cost pictures. "Accepted" will certainly have to face "Snakes" taking away older guys and "Step Up" in its second weekend stealing away the gals. But the concept is a good one and with so many young people getting ready to head back to campus, memories of rejection letters will come flying back. Marketing materials register some laughs too and appeal to both genders is there. Entering over 2,700 locations, "Accepted" could open with around $12M this weekend.

Hilary and Haylie Duff graduate from the world of breath mint commercials to feature films in "Material Girls" from director Martha Coolidge ("Real Genius," "The Prince and Me"). The PG-rated film finds the sisters playing heiresses to a cosmetics fortune who stumble upon bankruptcy. Anjelica Huston co-stars. The MGM release will play primarily to a female audience of teens and pre-teens. Males interested in buying tickets should number about three. "Material Girls" is not getting too big of a push and with "Step Up" doing so well with the same demographic, it will be an uphill battle attracting business. Once a potent asset, Hilary has lost much of her pull at the box office with recent clunkers like "Raise Your Voice" and "The Perfect Man" landing poor debuts of only $4M and $5.3M, respectively.. The Duffs may end up taking a lesson from the Olsen twins whose own film "New York Minute" opened a week after the bow of 2004’s surprise teen girl hit "Mean Girls" and ended up being squashed with a weak $6M debut from over 3,000 theaters. "Material Girls" will enter only 1,509 playdates and could settle for an opening of just $4M.

After three weeks of sparkling results in limited release, Fox Searchlight’s comedy sensation "Little Miss Sunshine" expands nationally into 694 locations from its current run in 153 sites. Last weekend, the R-rated dysfunctional family pic averaged a stunning $17,014 which is one of the best showings in recent years for a film playing in 100-200 locations. With strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth, "Sunshine" should jump into the top ten this weekend and could gross about $5M pushing its cume into double-digit millions.

Searchlight also debuts its next indie flick "Trust the Man" which opens in 37 theaters in selected cities on Friday. The R-rated dramedy stars Billy Crudup, David Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, and Eva Mendes and tells the story of two New York couples going through relationship troubles. Moore’s real-life husband Bart Freundlich directs. "Trust the Man" has garnered mixed reviews from critics and will expand nationwide on September 8.

Also opening in limited release, but attracting more glowing praise from critics, is the dramatic thriller "The Illusionist." Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel star in the PG-13 film which finds a turn-of-the-century magician battling wits with a Vienna cop. Two weeks after the limited bow, Yari Film Group will expand "Illusionist" wide over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

A variable that could affect moviegoing behavior this weekend could be all the current stories in the news this week that have connections to major films in release. Tapes of 911 calls from victims of the World Trade Center disaster have been released after nearly five years. New terror plots aboard commercial planes have dominated the headlines lately, and a new arrest in the Jonbenet Ramsey case has brought attention back to little girls in beauty pageants. How this news coverage will affect the grosses for films like "Snakes on a Plane," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "World Trade Center" is anyone’s guess. But at a time of year when moviegoing typically slows down anyway, some potential ticket buyers may decide to look elsewhere for their weekend entertainment.

Will Ferrell’s "Talladega Nights" looks to race past the $100M mark by the end of its second full week in theaters. The Sony hit won’t win a third box office crown, but it should remain in the top five and drop 45% to about $12M. That would give the racing comedy $113M in 17 days making it the comedian’s second biggest hit ever, in a leading role, behind "Elf" which took in $173.4M.

Last weekend’s surprise smash "Step Up" is not afraid of "Snakes on a Plane" which is likely to tap into an older and more male audience. Instead, Buena Vista’s dance drama will see its competition come from "Accepted" and "Material Girls." Word-of-mouth for "Step Up" has been encouraging with the film averaging a solid B+ from over 5,500 users of Yahoo Movies. Still, teen pics tend to fall fast so a 50% decline would give the film around $10M for the weekend and a stellar ten-day total of $40M.

Paramount’s "World Trade Center" got off to a healthy start at the box office and is also generating positive buzz from moviegoers. Competition is not too fierce this weekend for adults looking for mature fare so a 35% drop would give the Oliver Stone movie roughly $12M and a cume of $46M after 12 days.

LAST YEAR: The surprise comedy hit "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" debuted at number one with a better-than-expected weekend opening of $21.4M. Universal’s R-rated smash displayed strong legs in the weeks ahead and ended up scoring $109.3M. Settling for second place in its first flight was the DreamWorks thriller "Red Eye" with a solid $16.2M on its way to $57.9M. Rounding out the top five were holdovers "Four Brothers" with $12.5M, "Wedding Crashers" with $8M and "The Skeleton Key" with $7.7M. The frame’s two other new releases were mostly ignored by moviegoers. Disney’s animated pic "Valiant" bowed to $5.9M for eighth place while Fox’s action drama "Supercross" crashed into 15th place with a dismal $1.3M opening weekend. Final tallies reached $19.5M and $3.1M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Comedy superstar Will Ferrell scored his first-ever number one opening in a lead role with the stronger-than-expected debut of his latest hit Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby which left all competitors in the dust at the North American box office.

Solid opening weekend results came from the animated comedy Barnyard: The Original Party Animals in second place and the horror film The Descent in fifth, but the Robin Williams thriller The Night Listener failed to find much of an audience in its debut. Overall, the marketplace was healthy and showed substantial improvement over the first weekend of August from the last two summers.

Sony crossed the finish line in first place for the industry-leading eighth time this year with the turbo-charged opening of Talladega Nights which grossed an estimated $47M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Playing in a massive 3,803 theaters, the PG-13 film about a legendary NASCAR driver averaged a fantastic $12,359 per location. Will Ferrell has collected more than his share of second place trophies. The former Saturday Night Live star has opened at number two numerous times in recent years with films such as Kicking and Screaming, Bewitched, Anchorman, Elf, and Old School. Elf climbed into first place in its second weekend, and Ferrell has had supporting roles and cameos in number one openers from other stars. But Talladega Nights marks the first time he has anchored a top spot debut, and he did it decisively.

Reviews were generally positive for the racing comedy, which co-starred John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Michael Clarke Duncan, and the weekend gross was roughly three times the take of its closest competition. Sony backed the $73M film with a lavish marketing campaign which involved promotional support from numerous corporate sponsors. Even veteran talk show host Larry King turned his daily chat session on opening night into a one-hour commercial for the film by interviewing Ferrell and Reilly in character as Ricky Bobby and his racing pal Cal Naughton Jr.

Talladega reached a broad audience with young males standing out slightly, as expected. Studio research indicated that 53% of the audience was male and that 52% was under 25. Aside from being Ferrell’s biggest opening weekend ever, the film also generated the third best bow ever in the month of August. Only 2001’s Rush Hour 2 and the following year’s Signs did better with debuts of $67.4M and $60.1M, respectively. Those two pics also launched on the first frame of the month which studios still look at as a good weekend for programming a high-profile summer film on. By this point, most of the season’s tentpole films have played out, but there is still enough summer playing time ahead to have long-term success.

Finishing far back in second place, but still enjoying an impressive debut, was Paramount’s animated comedy Barnyard with an estimated $16M. The PG-rated toon bowed in 3,311 locations and averaged a solid $4,844 per theater. The opening was better than The Ant Bully‘s $8.4M from last weekend, but did not reach the $22.2M debut of Monster House from two weeks ago. Barnyard was produced by Nickelodeon Movies for just over $50M and played mostly to kids and parents. Audience research showed that 75% of the crowd was made up of families with males and females represented evenly. With two other cartoons in the top ten, and with Pirates still pulling in every age group, the opening performance of Barnyard was commendable.

The year’s biggest blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest dropped 47% to an estimated $11M boosting its domestic treasure to a stunning $379.7M. That puts the Johnny Depp adventure sequel at number eight among all-time domestic blockbusters surpassing the $377M of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Pirates also managed to bump Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ off the all-time top ten list. Overseas, Disney scored another colossal gross taking in $57M from 47 markets to rule the international box office for the fifth straight frame. That sent the offshore cume soaring to $392M and the worldwide haul to $771.7M making it the top-grossing global hit of 2006 after just one month of release. Pirates could certainly be on its way to the one billion dollar mark with another installment in the franchise on deck for a May 2007 release.

Audiences rejected Miami Vice which tumbled a horrendous 62% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.7M. With $45.7M in ten days, the Universal action thriller is on course to end with $65-70M. That would give Vice a domestic gross of about half of its $135M production budget. Good news did, however, come from the U.K. where the cop pic debuted at number one this weekend.

Opening in fifth place was the new horror entry The Descent with an estimated $8.8M from 2,095 locations. The R-rated fright flick about a six-pack of young ladies trapped in an underground cave full of flesh-eating creatures averaged a solid $4,200 per venue. Reviews were unusually positive for the genre and distributor Lionsgate pitched The Descent in its advertising as being from the studio that brought audiences Saw and Hostel. But the opening was far short of the $18.3M and $19.6M that those low-budget hits opened to. Still, with a modest pricetag of its own, the cave exploration flick looks to make a few bucks theatrically and dig up a bigger audience when released on DVD.

Fox’s teen comedy John Tucker Must Die dropped 58% in its second weekend to an estimated $6.1M. With $28.6M in ten days, the revenge flick should find its way to the neighborhood of $40M. Sony’s animated scarefest Monster House followed close behind with an estimated $6M, off 49%, for a $57M cume. Competing toon The Ant Bully fell 54% in its sophomore session to an estimated $3.9M. Warner Bros. has collected just $18.2M in ten days and should conclude with an underwhelming $25-27M.

A pair of films tied for ninth place with an estimated $3.6M each. Universal’s comedy You, Me and Dupree declined 49% and upped its sum to $66.8M. Miramax’s new Robin Williams thriller The Night Listener bowed in 1,367 locations and averaged a weak $2,634 per site.

Opening with healthy but not spectacular results in platform release was the teen drama Quinceanera which grossed an estimated $97,000 from only eight sites for a $12,125 average. The R-rated tale of a Mexican-American girl’s impending coming-of-age party won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was snapped up by Sony Classics. Quinceanera will expand beyond New York and Los Angeles in the weeks ahead.

Three comedies and a bedtime story dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Fox’s hit fashion industry pic The Devil Wears Prada held up well once again in its sixth frame with an estimated $3.1M, off 35%, lifitng the cume to a stellar $112.7M. It was the Meryl Streep film’s fourth consecutive weekend with a drop of less than 40%. Produced for just $35M, Devil should find its way to a fabulous $120-125M making it one of the more profitable hits of the summer.

On the other hand, the Warner Bros. suspense thriller Lady in the Water has been falling by more than 60% each frame and took in an estimated $2.7M in its third scare. Down a steep 62%, the M. Night Shyamalan pic has grossed only $38.7M in 17 days and looks to drown with a mere $42-44M overall. The production budget was reportedly in the $75M range.

Sony’s Little Man fell 51% to an estimated $2.5M in its fourth outing and pushed its cume to $55.1M. The Wayans brothers pic cost $64M to produce and should end its domestic run with a respectable $58-60M. Fox’s super hero comedy flop My Super Ex-Girlfriend stumbled 73% in its third flight and grossed an estimated $1.1M. With $20.2M in the bank, look for a disappointing $22M finish.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight expanded its hit indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine from seven to 58 theaters in the top dozen markets and grossed an estimated $1.5M. That resulted in a muscular $25,169 average and a $2.2M total. The distributor will add 17 more cities on Friday and widen nationally the following weekend on the heels of strong word-of-mouth momentum.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $115.7M which was up 18% from last year when The Dukes of Hazzard debuted at number one with $30.7M; and up 23% from 2004 when Collateral opened in the top spot with $24.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

With cops, drug dealers, and lots of bullets flying, the action film Miami Vice hits theaters across North America this weekend with its aim squarely on the number one spot. Young kids, meanwhile, will be offered another animated film in the form of The Ant Bully while teens get a new high school comedy in John Tucker Must Die. The overall box office should continue to be much healthier than last year as the Jack Sparrow-dominated month of July comes to a close.

Universal can smell a number-one opening in the air tonight. The studio hopes to claim bragging rights to the film that finally knocks Pirates out of the top spot with its action thriller Miami Vice. Directed by Michael Mann, the R-rated pic stars Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell in a loose update of the hit NBC cop show from the 1980s. Gong Li co-stars in this story of an undercover operation into the workings of a South American drug lord. In a summer full of Kryptonian heroes, pirates, and mutant villains, moviegoers are ready for a standard action film, set in modern times, with big stars playing the bad-ass good guys. With the tame PG-13 actioners behind us, Miami Vice ups the volume on violence and doesn’t hold back when it comes to gun battles and the offing of bad guys.

Vice has racked up some of the best reviews of any summer action film this year which should help in selling the pic to older adults. Though Mann stumbled with 2001’s Ali, the director has been pretty solid with the films he’s delivered over the past decade with Collateral, The Insider, and Heat. This new film’s leads will be the driving force at the box office. Both are hip and cool enough to appeal to teens as well as adults. The men exude plenty of sex appeal which will aid in drawing in women, plus Foxx has tremendous pull with African-American moviegoers who should be out in large numbers. Universal’s marketing has been as slick and cool as can be and makes the film seem like a necessary investment for action movie fans.

Miami Vice looks to appeal to the same audiences as a pair of action titles from the summer of 2003. Bad Boys II was another R-rated, star-driven, cop buddy picture set in Miami and bowed to $46.5M with a $14,602 average that July. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence made for a more potent commercial combo at the cash registers plus the sequel boasted plenty of comedy and already had a large built-in fan following. The next month, Farrell scored his fourth number-one opening of that year starring in another remake of an old cop show by teaming up with Samuel L. Jackson for S.W.A.T. The PG-13 film debuted on top with $37.1M and a $11,575 average.

Detectives Crockett and Tubbs will bring a breath of fresh air to a marketplace that is ready to move on from the record-breaking pirate shenanigans. Older teens and adult moviegoers are ready to see something else, and for now, this is it. Busting into 3,020 theaters, Miami Vice could debut with about $38M this weekend.

A ten-year-old boy gets miniaturized and becomes one with an insect colony in The Ant Bully, a new toon from Warner Bros. Young kids and their parents are the target audience here as the studio is aiming for the summer vacation crowd with this PG-rated adventure. An impressive voice cast that includes Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, and Meryl Streep might attract some biz and throwing in the name of producer Tom Hanks won’t hurt either. But Bully is going after the exact same audience as last week’s rival toon Monster House so the pie will get split. Neither is being treated as a must-see from a well-known franchise. Like Sony’s kidpic, Bully also will be playing in select 3D theaters as Imax is on board with a special run in their locations. The added value will certainly intrigue some families. Reviews are weak, but these films really rely on the ratio of nagging from kids to the willingness to give in by parents. Invading 3,050 sites, The Ant Bully might debut to around $15M.

High school hijinks are at the core of the new comedy John Tucker Must Die which finds Jesse Metcalfe playing the title character, a teen romeo that juggles three girlfriends who learn of the infidelity and plot their revenge. The PG-13 pic comes from director Betty Thomas (Dr. Dolittle, Private Parts) and co-stars Ashanti, Brittany Snow, and Jenny McCarthy. Teenage girls will make up the target audience but with limited starpower, Tucker’s potential should be limited as well. The Fox film will be going up against a handful of comedies currently clogging up screens in multiplexes. Young females not of age to buy a Vice ticket, or just uninterested in that shoot-em-up cop pic, will take interest in the female revenge story of Tucker. Some interest from teen guys could be there too, but the post-college crowd is not likely to donate many bills. The marketing push has been decent and a bold title will get some attention. Opening in 2,561 locations, John Tucker Must Die might take in about $9M this weekend.

Woody Allen seems to have loved working with Scarlett Johansson in London so much with the Oscar-nominated Match Point that he went for round two in his latest film Scoop which opens in moderate national release on Friday. The Focus title features the young starlet playing an American journalism student who gets the inside track on uncovering the identity of a serial killer from the spirit of a deceased reporter. Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane, and Allen himself co-star in the PG-13 flick. Critics have not been kind as reviews so far have been weak which will impact the box office significantly. Die-hard Woody fans won’t be swayed, but other upscale moviegoers will be affected. Scoop enters 537 theaters this weekend and might collect about $2M.

Fox Searchlight platformed its Sundance darling Little Miss Sunshine on Wednesday ahead of a gradual national roll-out that will continue into late August. The R-rated film about a dysfunctional family that takes a road trip to enter their young daughter in a beauty contest stars Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin. Sunshine wowed audiences in Park City and won a reported $10M distribution deal from the Fox subsidiary. Armed with glowing reviews across the board, the comedy from the husband-wife directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris should score a sizzling average from its seven theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Long-term prospects also seem bright as Sunshine should play out as the indie alternative to a summer of mindless popcorn flick.

Kings lose crowns and this weekend Johnny Depp looks to give up his title as three-time ruler of the box office. Still, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has been holding up well during the week and Miami Vice is the only new film to make a serious dent in its treasure chest. Another drop of 45% would give Disney about $19M for the session boosting the overall domestic haul to a mammoth $357M.

Sony’s animated adventure Monster House got off to a strong start last weekend with a $22.2M bow, but will face head-to-head competition from Ant Bully this weekend which will be looking to kick some sand in its face. A 40% fall would leave House with around $13M and a ten-day total of $45M.

M. Night Shyamalan‘s latest thriller Lady in the Water debuted below expectations last week and will be entering its all-important sophomore frame. If history is any indicator, the grosses should see a steep drop. Second weekend declines for the director’s last three films have been 68% for 2004’s The Village, 51% for 2002’s Signs, and 52% for 2000’s Unbreakable. Lady may not sink the way Village did as it seems to be generating both love-it and hate-it camps. Still, with such a low starting point, and Crockett and Tubbs stealing away adults, a fall of at least 50% could be in order. That would give the bedtime story roughly $9M and a cume of $34M in ten days.

LAST YEAR: After two weeks at number one and two respectively, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wedding Crashers swapped places with the Owen WilsonVince Vaughn comedy taking over at the top with $20M, slipping a mere 22%. The Johnny Depp kidpic followed with $16.4M in its third frame. Newcomers filled up the rest of the top five. Leading the way was Disney’s super hero family film Sky High with $14.6M on its way to a solid $63.9M. Close behind were Sony’s action flop Stealth with $13.3M and the Warner Bros. romantic comedy Must Love Dogs wth $12.9M. Final grosses reached $31.7M and $43.9M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, Crockett and Tubbs are back on the beat ("Miami Vice," starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx); an ant bully gets cut down to size ("The Ant Bully"); John Tucker must die ("John Tucker Must Die"); Woody Allen’s got a hot new scoop ("Scoop"); and a Sundance crowd-pleaser ("Little Miss Sunshine") hits theaters. What do the critics have to say?

"High concept" was a buzzword for Hollywood in the 1980s, and virtually nothing embodied that idea more than "Miami Vice," which creator Michael Mann has described as "MTV Cops." Crockett and Tubbs became synonymous for a certain type of glamorous, slightly campy crime fighting that was nonetheless thoroughly engaging. Twenty years later, the film version takes a much darker approach; Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are deep undercover in a gritty film that’s more like Mann’s "Heat" than "Starsky and Hutch." Maybe that’s the problem; while critics say "Miami Vice" looks terrific and features some outstanding action scenes, they also note that the film is a bit too self-serious and much too long. It currently stands at 55 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s Mann’s worst-reviewed film since 1983’s "The Keep" (Heard of it? Yeah, me neither).

"Perhaps you’d understand it better/ Standin’ in my shoes/ It’s the ultimate enticement/ It’s the smuggler’s blues."

How’s this for a dream cast? Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, and Bruce Campbell star in "The Ant Bully," the latest CGI spectacle for the kids. "The Ant Bully" tells the story of a 10-year-old boy who takes out his frustrations on anthills, but subsequently finds himself shrunk down to ant-size, where adventures ensue and he learns a thing about life. The critics say the film is visually remarkable, but lacks originality and a strong narrative. It currently stands at 48 percent on the Tomatometer.


"Run for your lives!"

Missing the mark by a long shot is the romantic vengeance comedy, "John Tucker Must Die," a teen sex laffer about a three-timing lothario ("Desperate Housewives" junk Jesse Metcalfe) and the trio of girlfriends (a cheerleader, a hippie, and a brainiac) out to get him. Critics say that a few too many sight gags and clunky jabs at pop culture savvy make "Tucker" unwatchable for anyone over the age of thirteen; even then, they say it’s one of the better teen flicks to come around of late. Take from that what you will. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, "Tucker" is far too aptly titled.


"John Tucker Must Die": A movie in dire need of conflict resolution.

News flash! Rumors of Woody Allen‘s career resurgence may have been greatly exaggerated. The scribes say his latest, "Scoop," is more than a little disappointing in the wake of last year’s Certified Fresh "Match Point." Like that one, "Scoop" is set in London, stars Scarlett Johansson, and there’s a murder at the center of the plot. But "Scoop" is a comedy, and an unsuccessful one at that; critics say it relies way too much on hackneyed schtick. At 39 percent on the Tomatometer, "Scoop" is looking like yesterday’s news. And it’s one of the worst-reviewed films of Allen’s great career.


"Little Miss Sunshine": The weakest street gang ever.

"Little Miss Sunshine" was a big hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and now that it’s hitting the theaters, the scribes are just as enthusiastic as the folks in Park City. This tale of a dysfunctional family hitting the road for a child pageant is Certified Fresh, and features sharp performances from its ensemble cast, particularly Greg Kinnear and Steve Carell. At 94 percent, this one’s a ray of "Sunshine." And it’s the third-best reviewed film of the year with 40 reviews or more. (Check out RT’s interview with co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton here.)

Also out this week in limited release: The idiosyncratic doc "I Like Killing Flies" is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; "Brothers of the Head," to our knowledge the only mockumentary about a pair of Siamese twins who are lead singers of a fictitious 1970s punk band, is at 87 percent; the French thriller "13 (Tzameti)," about a Georgian immigrant in France, is at 87 percent; "The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover," a documentary about the last days of celebrated photographer O. Winston Link, is at 80 percent; "Darshan – The Embrace," a doc about one of India’s most famous spiritual guides, is at 44 percent; "Another Gay Movie," an "American Pie"-style comedy, is at 33 percent; and the muckraking Libertarian documentary "America: Freedom to Fascism" is at zero percent.

The Best Reviewed Films Of 2006 With 40 Or More Reviews:
—————————————————————————–
1. Kekexili (98%)
2. Wordplay (95%)
3. Little Miss Sunshine (94%)
4. Fateless (94%)
5. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (93%)

Recent TV- To- Film Adaptations:
—————————————–
49% — Strangers with Candy (2006)
10% — Aeon Flux (2005)
80% — Serenity (2005)
15% — The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
25% — Bewitched (2005)

Recent CG Animated Films
———————————-
70% — Monster House (2006)
76% — Cars (2006)
75% — Over the Hedge (2006)
58% — Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
19% — The Wild (2006)

Worst Reviewed Woody Allen Films (As Star Or Director)
————————————————————————-
29% — Scenes from a Mall (1991)
32% — Casino Royale (1967)
38% — Don’t Drink the Water (1994)
38% — Celebrity (1998)
40% — King Lear (1987)

Pop-star Ashanti will join zombie-killin’ hotties Milla Jovovich and Sienna Guillory in "Resident Evil: Extinction," which the actress / singer refers to as the "trilogy finale."

From ComingSoon.net: "The official website for singer-actress Ashanti has revealed that she will appear in the "trilogy finale" Resident Evil: Extinction. The site does not reveal which role she will play in the Screen Gems film.

She’ll join returning stars Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Sienna Guillory, Mike Epps and Iain Glen in the movie, based on the popular video game franchise."

Ms. Ashanti has also appeared in "Coach Carter," "The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz," and the upcoming "John Tucker Must Die."

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