A terrorist attack is played out through multiple perspectives in the high-octane political thriller Vantage Point which leads the four-pack of new openers which also includes three small comedies. Sony will score its first number one hit since October with this star-driven actioner which boasts a cast that features Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, and William Hurt. The PG-13 pic has the biggest marketing and distribution push of any new release this weekend so a comfortable lead over its competitors should be expected. None of the actors are guaranteed box office sensations, but together they equal one big bankable A-lister.

Adults will make up the primary age group and appeal seems strong to both males and females. The intriguing style of the film will make it stand out from the crowd, although fellow action options Jumper and Fool’s Gold will provide some competition. Plus many adults will be preoccupied with their last chance to see the Oscar nominees before Sunday night’s big show. The five Best Picture candidates banked $14M over Presidents’ Day weekend. Vantage Point should play to the same folks that came out for other star-driven non-special effects action and suspense pics from this time of year like Sahara ($18.1M), The Interpreter ($22.8M) and Premonition ($17.6M). Attacking over 3,000 locations, Vantage Point could open to about $21M this weekend.


Vantage Point

Jack Black and Mos Def star in the video store comedy Be Kind Rewind playing two men who recreate top Hollywood movies after their tapes get damaged. The PG-13 film from New Line comes from acclaimed French director Michel Gondry who after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep has built up his share of fans on this side of the Atlantic. A marketplace full of new comedies will split that crowd so Rewind will have to rely on fans of the director and stars to come out. Jumper and Vantage Point will also take mainstream moviegoers out of the picture. Breaking into roughly 800 theaters, Be Kind Rewind could bow to about $3M.


Mos Def and Jack Black in Driving Miss Daisy, er, Be Kind Rewind

Larry the Cable Guy returns for more blue collar humor in the Lionsgate comedy Witless Protection opening on Friday. The standup comedian plays a small town sheriff that kidnaps a woman in FBI custody for a road trip to solve a case. Rated PG-13, the pic has the goal of establishing the funnyman as a box office draw, but if the grosses of his last two films are any indication, this one will be gunned down quickly. Two years ago, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector debuted to $6.9M while last year’s Delta Farce slumped by half to a $3.4M bow. Diminishing returns could again be in order especially since Witless will not be released as wide. Opening in 1,333 locations, Witless Protection might collect about $3M this weekend.


Larry the Cable Guy and Jenny McCarthy in Witless Protection

After many delays, MGM releases the comedy Charlie Bartlett which stars that iron guy Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, and Anton Yelchin as the title character. The R-rated film tells of a private school kid who becomes an underground shrink and pill pusher in public school. Teens are a core component of the target audience, but the restrictive rating will keep many of them out. The marketing push has not been strong and a lack of starpower and excitement will keep the grosses low. Juno‘s brand of high school fun in its 12th weekend could see a bigger audience. Entering about 1,000 theaters, Charlie Bartlett may debut to around $2M.


Anton Yelchin and Robert Downey, Jr. in Charlie Bartlett

Fox’s sci-fi actioner Jumper should take a big jump down this weekend. Word-of-mouth is not all that great and Vantage Point will steal away much of the action crowd. Look for a 50% drop to about $13.5M which would give the Hayden Christensen flick $57M in eleven days.

The Spiderwick Chronicles got off to a solid start last weekend as the only major offering for families and with no new kidpics entering the scene, a smaller decline is assured. Sophomore drops for Disney’s own Presidents’ Day weekend films from the past two years were 37% for Bridge to Terabithia and 21% for 2006’s Eight Below. Spiderwick could fall in between with a 30% fall giving Paramount $13M for the frame and $44M after eleven days.

Following a potent debut, Step Up 2 The Streets will suffer a sizable drop. The dance sequel may lose 45% of its take and gross $10M pushing the eleven-day cume to $42M. Warner Bros. should see its comedy adventure Fool’s Gold drop by 35% to around $8M. Total would climb to $54M.

LAST YEAR: Spending its second weekend on top, Sony’s Ghost Rider starring Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage fell hard but still pulled in $20.1M to top the box office over Oscar weekend. Jim Carrey gave horror a chance with The Number 23 and debuted in second with a solid $14.6M bow. The New Line release eventually grossed $35.2M and was the first of many thrillers in 2007 that marked major Hollywood stars doing their first scary movies. Disney’s Bridge to Terabithia slipped one spot to third with $14.2M in its sophomore frame. Fox’s comedy Reno 911!: Miami debuted in fourth with $10.3M representing half of its eventual $20.3M final tally. Fellow comedy Norbit rounded out the top five with $9.8M in its third session. Opening at the lower rungs of the top ten were the Billy Bob Thornton drama The Astronaut Farmer with $4.5M and the slave trade drama Amazing Grace with $4.1M from a more limited release. Totals reached $11M for Warner Bros. and $21.3M for Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

The 8th Annual Golden Tomato Awards were announced today, and "Casino Royale" and "The Queen" are the best reviewed wide and limited releases, respectively. The worst-reviewed movie was "Basic Instinct 2," Sharon Stone‘s attempt to re-capture past glory.

With a new actor in the role of James bond, as well as a grittier, back-to-basics approach for the 007 franchise, "Casino Royale" has been overwhelmingly embraced by the critics, one of whom opined that the movie "is everything you could ask for in a Bond movie, and more." It scores an impressive 95 percent on the Tomatometer. "Die Another Day," Pierce Brosnan final movie as a double O, scores 59 percent in comparison.


New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz with his Golden Tomato trophy for "Wordplay." Photo credit: Kevin Tachman

Dame Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen are perfect in their roles in "The Queen." The movie is near perfect on the Tomatometer as well, scoring 98 percent. Mirren and Sheen anchor a movie that illuminates what goes on behind the scenes in Buckingham Palace at a time when the royals faced a crisis of confidence from the populace. New York Magazine’s David Edelstein calls the film "a small masterpiece."


No puzzle here. RT’s Senh Duong hands writing/directing team Patrick Creadon (left) and Christine O’Malley their well-deserved Golden Tomato trophy for best-reviewed documentary, "Wordplay." Photo credit: Mieke Kramer

Here’s how some of the award recipients responded to their Golden Tomato recognition:

"Critical acclaim is the lifeblood of a quality independent film like ‘The Queen‘ and it is a dream come true to be recognized as the best reviewed film in limited release by Rotten Tomatoes," said Daniel Battsek, president of Miramax Films, which distributed the film. "The award will take pride of place in the Miramax trophy cabinet and will hopefully be joined by many more in the future. Long live ‘The Queen!’ May she be forever fresh."

Guillermo del Toro, writer and director of Foreign Film winner "Pan’s Labyrinth," was equally pleased with his win: "The positive response to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ has been overwhelming. I can’t tell you how many times I have clicked onto Rotten Tomatoes and been bowled over by our positive rating. Rotten Tomatoes provides a much needed, though nerve-wracking service, to all filmmakers. I am proud and honored to accept this award on behalf of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth.’"

Neil Marshall, writer and director of "The Descent," winner of the Golden Tomato for Horror had this to say about his win, "This is by far the coolest award I’ve been lucky enough to receive!"


Director Michel Gondry cherishes his Golden Tomato trophy, but wishes it was a pen instead. Photo credit: Kevin Tachman

Michel Gondry, writer and director of the Golden Tomato winner for Romance, "The Science of Sleep," demonstrated that he can sling barbs as well as any critic when he said, "I am thrilled by this Rotten recognition of the critics. Although, one of them said I should not be allowed to hold a pen, so I wanted to know if I could be offered a Rotten Tomato pen as a trophy that I would gladly present to this critic to place in a not so romantic location."

Other major winners include "Borat" for Comedy; "The Departed" for Thriller; and "Cars" for Animation.

The Golden Tomato Awards honor the best-reviewed (as well as worst-reviewed) movies of the previous year by tallying critics’ reviews using a weighted formula to account for the variation in the number of reviews.

2006 Winners Complete List:

BEST-REVIEWED WIDE RELEASE:
"Casino Royale"

BEST-REVIEWED LIMITED RELEASE:
"The Queen"

BEST-REVIEWED ACTION/ADVENTURE:
"Casino Royale"

BEST-REVIEWED ANIMATION:
"Cars"

BEST-REVIEWED COMEDY:
"Borat"

BEST-REVIEWED DRAMA:
"The Queen"

BEST-REVIEWED HORROR:
"The Descent"

BEST-REVIEWED KIDS/FAMILY:
"Lassie"

BEST-REVIEWED ROMANCE:
"The Science of Sleep"

BEST-REVIEWED SCI-FI/FANTASY:
"Children of Men"

BEST-REVIEWED DOCUMENTARY:
"Wordplay"

BEST-REVIEWED FOREIGN FILM:
"Pan’s Labyrinth"

BEST-REVIEWED THRILLER:
"The Departed"

MOLDY TOMATO (Worst Reviewed Movie of the Year):
"Basic Instinct 2"

Click here to see the runner-ups.

Martin Scorsese scored the best opening of his career, and his first number one film in fifteen years, with the star-studded gangster thriller "The Departed," which led the North American box office over the Columbus Day holiday weekend.

Moviegoers also showed interest in the horror prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which debuted in second place, as well as the new comedy Employee of the Month which bowed in fourth with respectable results. The new releases helped to boost attendance at multiplexes as the top ten set a new record for the holiday frame selling just a bit less than $100M worth of tickets.

Starpower ruled the box office this weekend as the ultraviolent pic The Departed starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson opened convincingly at number one grossing an estimated $27M in its first outing. The Warner Bros. release averaged a vicious $8,954 from 3,017 theaters and set a new opening weekend record for acclaimed director Scorsese beating the $10.3M bow of his 1991 Robert De Niro thriller Cape Fear, which also happened to be the filmmaker’s last top spot opener. The 63-year-old director usually sees more narrow releases for his films. His last picture The Aviator took off in limited release before expanding nationally over Christmas weekend in 2004 with 1,796 theaters while his previous pic Gangs of New York bowed in 1,504 locations. Both were set in the past, starred DiCaprio, and released by Miramax. The Departed marked Scorsese’s first film ever to debut in more than 2,000 theaters.

A remake of 2002’s award-winning Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs, The Departed finds Nicholson as a crime boss who sends a mole (Damon) into the Boston police force. DiCaprio plays an undercover cop infiltrating the crime syndicate. Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg co-star in the R-rated feast. Critics drenched the pic with praise giving it some of the best reviews of the year. Starpower combined with strong reviews and a solid marketing push from Warner Bros. contributed to a powerful turnout from movie fans. Departed brought badly-needed good news to the distributor which is struggling through a year full of costly misfires. It ranks dead last among Hollywood’s big six studios in 2006 market share and has only generated two other number one debuts this year – V for Vendetta and Superman Returns.

Produced for a hefty $90M, The Departed does seem to have a promising road ahead of it. Not only have critics been giving it high marks, but so have ticket buyers. The gangster film has earned an encouraging A- grade from over 2,000 users on Yahoo Movies. Plus it has given DiCaprio only the third number one opener of his career and his first since Titanic set sail on its record-shattering voyage in 1997. Damon has enjoyed several top spots debuts in recent years most notably with his Bourne and Ocean’s flicks. Meanwhile, Nicholson proved once again why he remains the biggest box office draw of his generation.

Opening with strength in second place was another violent R-rated film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which bowed to an estimated $19.2M. Scaring audiences in 2,820 theaters, the New Line franchise pic averaged a strong $6,791 per venue. The opening was below the $28.1M debut of the 2003 remake of Chainsaw Massacre which went on to gross a terrific $80.1M. However, Beginning was never expected to reach the same neighborhood and with its relatively low $16M production cost, it should easily be yet another profitable horror film.

The new film benefited from a lack of scary movies in the current marketplace, but the road ahead should be tough with a pair of horror sequels set to attack the box office in the coming weeks. The Grudge 2 launches this Friday the 13th while Saw III will be unleashed on the weekend before Halloween. The new Leatherface frightfest performed just like another of New Line’s horror franchise pics from this year, Final Destination 3, which debuted to $19.2M in February on its way to a $54.1M final. The two scary movies have delivered the best openings for its distributor over the past year.

Sony’s hit toon Open Season fell from first to third place but managed to show good legs easing only 32% to an estimated $16M in its second hunt. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten, the PG-rated pic has upped its ten-day cume to a solid $44.1M and could continue to post impressive holds in the weeks ahead as there is little competition for its family audience until November. Look for Open Season to reach $80-85M from North America. Though impressive, Sony Pictures Animation’s debut venture still does not seem like it will reach the heights of other non-sequel non-summer digital toons like Ice Age ($176.4M), Shark Tale ($160.8M), Robots ($128.2M), or even 1998’s Antz ($90.7M).

The new Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month opened in fourth place with an estimated $11.8M from 2,579 theaters. Averaging a respectable $4,575 per venue, the PG-13 film stars Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, and Dax Shephard and tells of a love triangle among workers at a superstore. Reviews, not surprisingly, were mostly negative.

Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner dropped three spots with their Coast Guard actioner The Guardian which collected an estimated $9.6M in its second mission. Down 46%, the Buena Vista release has collected $32.4M in ten days and should find its way to $50-55M domestically.

The fall season’s top-grossing hit Jackass: Number Two dropped 56% in its third weekend to an estimated $6.4M pushing its stellar total to $62.7M in 17 days. Later this week, the Paramount sequel will fly past the $64.3M of its 2002 predecessor. The MGM comedy School for Scoundrels tumbled 60% to an estimated $3.4M in its sophomore frame. With $14M in ten days, the Billy Bob ThorntonJon Heder pic should wind up with around $20M.

The Rock‘s football flick Gridiron Gang followed with an estimated $2.3M, down 50%, for a $36.6M total to date for Sony. Jet Li was close behind in ninth place with Fearless which fell 56% to an estimated $2.2M putting its sum at $21.7M for Focus. Rounding out the top ten was the durable period mystery The Illusionist which slipped only 33% and took in an estimated $1.8M. Yari Film Group has taken in a respectable $34.1M after its eighth weekend, the last six of which were spent in the top ten.

In limited release, ThinkFilm launched its unrated sex romp Shortbus in only six arthouses but grossed an estimated $121,000 for a potent $20,108 average. Playing in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver, the John Cameron Mitchell-directed film will expand to ten more markets next weekend.

New Line premiered its Kate WinsletJennifer Connelly pic Little Children in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles and grossed an estimated $108,400. The suburban drama averaged a sturdy $21,680 and will expand over the weeks ahead.

Among holdovers expanding in limited release, Miramax’s The Queen reigned supreme taking in an estimated $401,000 from eleven theaters for a stunning $36,455 second weekend average. The acclaimed Helen Mirren drama widened from its three-theater debut in New York and has grossed $634,000 to date with a promising road ahead.

Fox Searchlight’s Idi Amin tale The Last King of Scotland expanded from four theaters in two markets to 30 sites in 14 markets and grossed an estimated $300,000. With a solid $10,000 average this weekend, the Forest Whitaker pic will invade 20 new markets on Friday expanding its dictatorship into more of North America. Cume to date is $541,000 after 12 days.

The Michel Gondry flick The Science of Sleep held steady in 221 theaters but dropped 39% to an estimated $680,000 in its third dream. Warner Independent averaged a mild $3,077 and pushed the cume to just $2.7M.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Fox Searchlight’s word-of-mouth hit Little Miss Sunshine grossed an estimated $1.3M in its eleventh weekend, down 36%, and pushed its total to a stellar $55M. Acquired at the Sundance Film Festival in January for a hefty $10.5M, the dysfunctional family comedy has become the second biggest grosser ever for the distributor and looks to end its run close to the $60M mark. That would also make it the second highest grossing R-rated film of the summer after the $63.4M of Miami Vice which cost tons more to produce and market.

MGM’s World War I adventure Flyboys crashed 56% in its third flight and took in an estimated $1M. With only $11.8M in 17 days, the James Franco flop should finish up with under $14M. The Black Dahlia, another of this fall’s historical dramas to be rejected by moviegoers, has collected just over $22M to date. Budgeted at $60M, the Universal release should close its case with a mere $24M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $99.7M which was up 23% from last year when Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit debuted at number one with $16M; and up 5% from 2004 when Shark Tale remained in the top spot for a second time with $31.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Ashton Kutcher ambushed the top two spots at the North American box office this weekend playing an animated mule and a Coast Guard rookie in Open Season and The Guardian, respectively. Both films enjoyed strong openings pumping in a combined $40M and helped the marketplace beat last year’s levels for the first time in four weeks. The weekend’s other new wide release, the comedy School for Scoundrels, saw more modest results with a fourth place bow.

Sony claimed its usual position atop the charts with the animated comedy Open Season which brought in an estimated $23M in ticket sales over the weekend. Hunting moviegoers in an ultrawide 3,833 theaters, the PG-rated film about funny forest animals fighting off hunters averaged a strong $6,001 per site. Open Season marked the first venture from the studio’s new in-house animation division which will compete in the years ahead with dominant players in CG toons like Pixar and DreamWorks. Martin Lawrence and Kutcher led the voice cast.

Sony research showed that 77% of the crowd consisted of parents with children under the age of 12, while girls were a bigger force making up 56% of the audience. A high 89% marked the film "excellent" or "very good". With strong exit polls and the Columbus Day school holiday coming up next week, the $85M film hopes to last throughout the month of October. For the studio, it was Sony’s record eleventh number one opening of the year. Of the company’s twenty film releases in the first nine months of 2006, half have debuted north of $20M.

Kutcher’s face and body showed up in the weekend’s number two film, the Coast Guard action drama The Guardian, which opened with an estimated $17.7M. Also starring Kevin Costner, the Buena Vista release averaged a solid $5,451 per theater from 3,241 sites. The starpower helped bring in moviegoers who in turn liked the film. The Guardian earned an impressive CinemaScore grade of A-. Studio research showed that 50% of the crowd was in the 26-49 age bracket while males outnumbered the ladies with 53% of the audience. For Costner, who has not been a major box office force in over a decade, it was actually his best opening since Waterworld‘s $21.2M debut in 1995. Kutcher has seen many films debut in the same ballpark like The Butterfly Effect with $17.1M, Just Married with $17.5M, and Guess Who with $20.7M.

Falling an understandable 52% from its top spot debut, Jackass: Number Two finished the weekend in third place with an estimated $14M. With $51.5M in ten days, the $12M production should deliver $70-75M for Paramount plus healthy DVD revenue down the road. The first Jackass film grossed $42.1M in its first ten days on its way to a $64.3M cume in 2002.

Earning passing grades in fourth place was the Billy Bob ThorntonJon Heder comedy School for Scoundrels which opened to an estimated $9.1M. Playing in 3,004 theaters, the PG-13 film about a young loser who seeks advice from an older pro on how to get women averaged a mild $3,032 per site. Reviews were not too encouraging for the MGM release.

Jet Li‘s Fearless dropped a steep 56% in its second weekend and placed fifth with an estimated $4.7M. The action star’s "final" martial arts epic has grossed $17.8M in ten days and looks headed for about $26M. Each of Li’s last five films also fell by more than half on its sophomore frame.

Sony’s football drama Gridiron Gang fell 52% to an estimated $4.5M pushing its cume to $33.2M. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten for the fourth consecutive weekend was the sleeper hit The Illusionist with $2.8M, off only 15%, for a total of $31.5M for Yari Film Group. MGM’s fighter pilot adventure Flyboys tumbled 61% in its second weekend to an estimated $2.3M. With only $9.9M in ten days, a final take of around $14M seems likely.

Yet another period drama The Black Dahlia followed with an estimated $2.1M, down 54%, giving Universal only $20.7M to date. Rounding out the top ten with the biggest cume on the list was indie sensation Little Miss Sunshine with an estimated $2M, off 28%, for a total of $53.2M for Fox Searchlight. The acclaimed comedy has now matched megablockbusters Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Da Vinci Code, and Cars by spending seven consecutive weekends in the top ten.

A pair of critically-acclaimed dramas about world leaders opened to fantastic results in limited release. Miramax launched its Helen Mirren starrer The Queen on Saturday and grossed an estimated $123,000 from just three New York theaters for a potent two-day average of $41,000. The story of Queen Elizabeth II after the death of Princess Diana was double-screened at a pair of the arthouse venues and opened a day later than usual since on Friday it screened as the opening night film of the New York Film Festival. Mirren won the Best Actress prize at the Venice International Film Festival and is considered a major contender for an Oscar nod.

Also a likely Academy Award nominee, but for the Best Actor trophy, was Forest Whitaker whose new film The Last King of Scotland debuted powerfully with an estimated $143,000 over three days from only four venues in New York and Los Angeles. The Fox Searchlight release finds Whitaker playing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the early 1970s. Since its Wednesday launch, Scotland has grossed $172,000 in five days and will expand into the top ten markets on Friday before spreading nationally on October 20.

Posting a respectable debut in moderate national release was the football drama Facing the Giants which collected an estimated $1.4M from 441 theaters for a mild $3,150 average. The PG-rated pic about a coach who finds inspiration from God was released by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Warner Independent Pictures expanded its Michel Gondry pic The Science of Sleep from 14 to 221 theaters nationwide and grossed an estimated $1.2M. Averaging a solid $5,475 per location, the R-rated drama lifted its sum to $1.7M. Lionsgate widened its doc The U.S. vs. John Lennon grossing an estimated $210,000 from 57 sites for a moderate $3,684 average. Cume stands at $361,000.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s big fall flop All the King’s Men crumbled 56% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.6M giving the political drama a puny $6.3M in ten days. Rejected by audiences, the Sean Penn flick should finish its run quickly with a horrendous $9M. The studio’s supernatural teen thriller The Covenant fell 59% to an estimated $1.3M and upped its total to $22.2M. A $25M final should result for the $20M production. Fox’s baseball toon Everyone’s Hero got crushed by the arrival of Open Season and sank 79% to an estimated $1M. With a modest $13.2M thus far, the animated film could end up with only $15M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.2M which was up 15% from last year when Flightplan remained at number one with $14.8M; but down 17% from 2004 when Shark Tale opened in the top spot with a fierce $47.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Young men returned to theaters in droves and powered the crude new stunts sequel Jackass: Number Two to the number one spot with the biggest opening weekend of any film in the past seven weeks. The martial arts actioner Fearless debuted impressively in second place playing to young men as well, but the new older-skewing period dramas Flyboys and All the King’s Men were mostly ignored.

Holdovers enjoyed small declines as the overall marketplace bounced back after two dismal weeks, even though ticket sales failed to reach last year’s levels for the third consecutive weekend.

Paramount scored a major victory with the chart-topping performance of Jackass: Number Two which grossed an estimated $28.1M in its first weekend in theaters. Crashing into 3,059 locations, the R-rated comedy averaged a stellar $9,188 per theater. Its predecessor, Jackass: The Movie, was a surprise number one hit in October 2002 with a $22.8M bow from 2,509 theaters and a similar $9,073 average. It went on to gross a fantastic $64.3M from a slim $5M budget. Number Two was produced for just under $12M and looks to become another highly profitable title for the studio proving that the franchise is still alive and well. The films are based on the popular MTV prank series.

With six historical films in the top ten, young movie fans were not in the mood to learn about yesterday and instead chose the immature and outrageous antics of present day jokester Johnny Knoxville and pals. Studio research showed that young men were the core audience, as expected. Those under the age of 25 made up a hefty 70% of the crowd and males accounted for 65%. Jackass also delivered the second biggest opening of the year for an R film trailing the $29M bow of March’s Inside Man. Critics were surprisingly upbeat with their reviews of Number Two.

Jet Li‘s Fearless flew into the number two spot over the weekend opening to an estimated $10.6M from 1,808 theaters with a solid $5,843 average. The PG-13 film about China’s most famous fighter from a century ago was marketed as the action star’s final martial arts picture ever and helped to get his loyal fan base out into the theaters. The Focus release marks Li’s seventh consecutive film to debut with an opening weekend average of more than $5,000. Critics were quite pleased with the Mandarin-language picture. Fearless opened in Hong Kong and most of Asia early this year and has kicked its way into other major markets like Australia, New Zealand, and France in recent weeks.

Dropping from first to third was The Rock‘s football drama Gridiron Gang which grossed an estimated $9.7M in its second play. The Sony sports flick held up exceptionally well considering the weekend’s formidable competition for male dollars and slipped only 33%. The Rock’s movies usually fall by at least 45% in their sophomore frames. After ten days, the $30M feel-good film has grossed $27.2M and should rush past the $50M mark domestically. Even though Gridiron began with the weakest opening ever for the actor, it looks to become his highest grossing film since 2002’s The Scorpion King ($90.5M) thanks to strong legs and positive word-of-mouth.

MGM’s Flyboys took off in fourth place with an estimated $6M from 2,033 theaters. The PG-13 pic about American fighter pilots during World War I averaged a mild $2,957 per theater. Starring James Franco, the adventure film skewed older as a very high 73% of the audience was over the age of 30. Men made up 59% of the crowd and reviews were not too favorable. Flyboys is the third consecutive period drama in as many weeks that has failed to excite today’s moviegoing public following disappointing results from competing Los Angeles-based murder mysteries The Black Dahlia and Hollywoodland.

A pair of not-so-strong sophomores followed. The animated baseball flick Everyone’s Hero grossed an estimated $4.8M, down just 22%, and raised its ten-day tally to $11.6M. Fox could finish with around $25M. Universal’s crime thriller The Black Dahlia crumbled 56% to an estimated $4.4M dropping from second place to sixth. The $60M Brian De Palma entry has taken in just $17.3M and might end up with a disappointing $25M as well.

Sony saw low voter turnout for its political thriller All the King’s Men which was defeated in a landslide this weekend opening to a poor $3.8M, according to estimates. Averaging a weak $2,510 from 1,514 locations, the PG-13 film stars Sean Penn as an outspoken politician who runs for governor of Louisiana. Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins and James Gandolfini co-star. The studio had high hopes for this remake of a Best Picture Oscar winner, but instead met with awful reviews across the board from critics which helped to fuel negative buzz. Only older adults had interest as studio research showed that a whopping 75% of the audience was 35 or older and 53% were women. All the King’s Men is just the latest in a series of historical films that Hollywood has been rolling out this fall that have had moviegoers yawning.

The supernatural chiller The Covenant dropped only 31% to an estimated $3.3M with a sum of $20.3M for Sony. For the fourth consecutive weekend, the long-lasting hits The Illusionist and Little Miss Sunshine ranked back-to-back on the charts. Yari Film Group’s Vienna-set mystery eased a scant 10% to an estimated $3.3M pushing its total to $27.5M. Fox Searchlight’s comedy smash slipped just 13% to an estimated $2.9M lifting the cume to $50.3M.

In limited release action, Warner Independent saw stellar results from its surreal drama The Science of Sleep which bowed to an estimated $347,000 from only 14 theaters for a sparkling $24,786 average. Directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the R-rated film scored good reviews and will expand to over 200 theaters on Friday in most major markets. Miramax saw a so-so start for its animated noir Renaissance which debuted to an estimated $10,000 from a pair of solo engagements in New York and Los Angeles for a mild $5,200 average.

Four more pictures were pushed out of the top ten this weekend. Two-time chart-topper Invincible grossed an estimated $2.6M in its fifth session. Off 36%, the Mark Wahlberg football pic has collected a solid $54.8M to date and might end up with around $60M for Buena Vista. The Zach Braff comedy The Last Kiss grossed an estimated $2.5M, down 45%, putting its ten-day total at a puny $8.5M. A final take of roughly $15M seems likely.

The murder mystery Hollywoodland fell 46% in its third frame to an estimated $1.5M for Focus. With only $12.9M in the bank, look for a weak $16M conclusion to its case. Lionsgate’s action thriller Crank tumbled 56% to an estimated $1.2M for a $26.6M cume. The Jason Statham pic should reach about $29M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $76.8M which was down 9% from last year when Flightplan debuted at number one with $24.6M; but up a healthy 38% from 2004 when The Forgotten opened in the top spot with $21M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Four new films open wide, but they may not be enough to stop the North American box office from suffering its third consecutive down weekend.

Leading the way is the Paramount sequel "Jackass: Number Two" which will enjoy the widest release by far. The rest of the films will take moviegoers back in time just as so many other recent releases have done. Focus Features unleashes Jet Li‘s martial arts epic "Fearless," MGM takes off with the World War I adventure "Flyboys," and Sony remakes the political thriller "All the King’s Men."

Four years ago, Paramount shocked the industry with the number one bow for its crude stunts flick "Jackass: The Movie" which managed to keep "The Ring" out of the top spot on the weekend right before Halloween. Its $22.8M debut and eventual $64.3M domestic take and DVD success helped to bring about a sequel, "Jackass: Number Two" which hopes to conquer the charts once again. The R-rated pic regroups the team from the hit MTV reality series including Johnny Knoxville and finds them taking part in another series of outlandish don’t-try-this-at-home antics. Males in their late teens and early twenties are the target audience here although slightly older guys who were devoted followers a half-decade ago might also be up for some nostalgia.

The first "Jackass" bowed to a muscular $9,073 average from 2,509 playdates which at today’s ticket prices would be over $10,000. "Number Two" is not likely to match that amount though. A wider launch will dilute the average a bit and the franchise has aged and is no longer at the peak of its popularity. But since Knoxville has found more mainstream success recently with films like "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Ringer," the studio is hoping that some new fans will give "Two" a try. Competition for males will be fierce with last weekend’s top film "Gridiron Gang" still playing to sports-loving boys and men while Jet Li’s new film "Fearless" will
steal away dudes who dig martial arts fighting, bones cracking, and necks breaking. Male dollars will be stretched to the limit this weekend and an already sluggish marketplace will mean that there will only be so much overall traffic. Busting into over 3,000 theaters, "Jackass: Number Two" will rank number one and may open with around $23M.


Mr. Knoxville and co. are back to cheat death and reason.

Also gunning for young men with R-rated fare is Focus Features with the historical martial arts actioner "Fearless" starring Jet Li. Already a hit at cinemas in Asia, Australia, and parts of Europe, the period pic tells the true story of a legendary fighter who inspired his nation in China at the start of the twentieth century. With a bigger star in the lead, "Fearless" is sure to perform better than Tony Jaa‘s Thai actioner "The Protector" which bowed to just $5M two weeks earlier. Li has a consistently loyal fan following that is likely to turn out especially since the marketing campaign is pushing the claim that this is his final martial arts film ever. This tactic gives the pic a level of urgency, although it should not mean much to those outside of his fan base. Crossover potential to mainstream action fans is not very likely, though the actor’s pull with urban males should not be underestimated.

Still, Li has posted some impressive numbers in his career. Each of his six films from this decade has launched with an opening weekend average of at least $5,500 with five having averaged more than $6,000. His last effort "Unleashed" bowed last summer to $10.9M and a solid $5,570 average while 2004’s Chinese blockbuster "Hero" conquered the North American charts for two straight weeks bowing to an impressive $18M and $8,865 average. Foreign language films pretty much never do that in the U.S. market. "Fearless" will not duplicate the success of "Hero" which used the "Quentin Tarantino Presents" tag to attract extra biz. Plus with "Jackass" taking away many young men this weekend, only the true followers will make it out. But reviews have been very positive (the best for any new
release) and advance buzz from overseas has been encouraging too. Kicking its way into roughly 1,806 theaters, "Fearless" might debut to about $9M.


Jet Li inviting us to his last Martial Arts flick.

World War I bi-planes are the draw in "Flyboys," a new historical action adventure being released by MGM. The PG-13 film stars James Franco as a courageous American pilot in France who devotes his life to fighting for the Allies. With a high pricetag and no proven stars that can sell in America, this is yet another risky period film packed into the slow month of September. The "inspired by a true story" description used by half of the films in the current top ten is once again in play here. With sex and bad language kept to a minimum, "Flyboys" hopes to appeal to a broad family audience so adults can bring their kids. However, the starpower and subject matter are both lacking making this a tough sell at the box office especially since the marketplace is already filled with mediocre product. Zooming into 2,033 theaters, "Flyboys" might climb to around $7M over the weekend.


The real star of "Flyboys": the CGI.

After taking a beating at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sony’s remake "All the King’s Men" enters the marketplace on Friday with more subdued expectations. The PG-13 reworking of the classic 1949 political thriller stars Sean Penn as a charismatic politician from the South who gains power and flirts with corruption in the process. The all-star cast also includes Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, and James Gandolfini. Distributors often utilize the Toronto fest to generate buzz for their Oscar contenders right before their fall commercial openings, but in this case, it seemed to have backfired with so many reviewers panning the pic. "Men" should play exclusively to a mature adult audience as teens will yawn at the premise. The marketplace has been flooded with period dramas in recent weeks with "The Black Dahlia," "Hollywoodland," and "The Illusionist" all going after the same audience. Competition will be a major factor.

Sony is not giving its usual saturation release to "King’s Men," but instead campaigning in just 1,514 theaters this weekend hoping some positive buzz will spread. The lack of screens will keep the gross in check and the bad reviews should sting even more. Last weekend, "Dahlia" found out the hard way how far a serious film for adults can go when the critics give a thumbs down. The film’s starpower is about its only major asset right now, but will it be enough to make moviegoers risk their dollars? With negative press, an abundance of direct competition, and only a moderate amount of theaters, "All the King’s Men" could find itself with only $7M this weekend and a rocky road ahead.


Sean Penn’s politician wins over his constituents, but not the critics.

In limited release, The Weinstein Co. unleashes its horror flick "Feast" in 140 theaters with special midnight shows across the country on Friday and Saturday. The latest winner from the Project Greenlight series is directed by John Gulager and finds a group of people trapped inside a bar fighting off flesh-eating creatures. Filmmaker Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") returns to the surreal with "The Science of Sleep," a new fantasy drama starring Gael García Bernal ("The Motorcycle Diaries") as a man whose dreams collide with reality. Warner Independent is opening the film on Friday in eight major U.S. markets and will expand it across the country next weekend. Miramax platforms its futuristic sci-fi toon "Renaissance" in New York and Los Angeles. Set in Paris in the year
2054, the R-rated tale is the latest film to bring the look of a graphic novel to the big screen.

Last weekend’s top film "Gridiron Gang" is sure to lose its first place ranking. The Rock‘s films never have very good legs on the second weekend as evidenced by the sophomore declines of his recent films – 48% for 2003’s "The Rundown," 46% for 2004’s "Walking Tall," and a horrendous 73% for last fall’s "Doom." While "Gang" was not a favorite with critics, it has been getting favorable responses from moviegoers so its drop this weekend may not be too bad. Competition for young males will be a factor with the dueling R pics "Jackass" and "Fearless," but younger boys may still be up for an uplifting football tale. "Gridiron Gang" might see a decline of 45% to around $8M giving Sony a reasonable ten-day cume of $25M.

Universal’s murder mystery "The Black Dahlia" was not too powerful in its opening last weekend and both critics and moviegoers are giving negative feedback. A 50% fall would leave the Brian De Palma flick with $5M for the frame and a weak $18M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: One A-list Hollywood blonde replaced another at the top of the charts. Jodie Foster‘s kidnapping thriller "Flightplan" flew to number one opening with a strong $24.6M. The Buena Vista release went on to gross $89.7M making it the top-grossing film in the September-October corridor for 2005. In second place, Warner Bros. expanded its animated film "Corpse Bride" nationally taking in $19.1M. The Tim BurtonJohnny Depp collaboration found its way to $53.4M. Reese Witherspoon fell from first to third with her comedy "Just Like Heaven" which collected $9.6M. Opening in fourth place with moderate results was the skating drama "Roll Bounce" which bowed to $7.6M on its way to $17.4M from less than 1,700 theaters. Close behind in fifth was the hit thriller "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" with $7.5M in its third round.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got antisocial behavior ("Jackass: Number Two," with Johnny Knoxville and the gang), hell-raising politicos ("All The King’s Men," starring Sean Penn), fearless warriors ("Fearless," starring Jet Li), and flying aces ("Flyboys," starring James Franco). What do the critics have to say?

For some, the perilous, grotesque antics of the "Jackass" posse offer inarguable proof of America’s cultural decline, if not a bellwether of the Apocalypse. For others (Critical Consensus included)… well, what can I say? Wasabi snooters? Off-road tattoo? Gets me every time. Now, Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O and the rest are back with "Jackass: Number Two," a film that promises to be as puerile as its title. But guess what? It’s getting pretty good reviews! The critics say this latest collection of stoopid stunts and bad behavior maintains a certain warped integrity in addition to its sophomoric laughs. At 64 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Jackass" may be worth a ride, provided you can stomach this stuff. And it’s better-reviewed than its predecessor (49 percent).


I want those #&^%@* snakes out of this #&^%@* ball crawl!

"All The King’s Men" has everything that makes for a compelling movie. It’s got a great cast (Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Anthony Hopkins, among others). It’s based on a great novel (by Robert Penn Warren). It’s got great cinematography. Unfortunately, critics say, the superlatives end there. Loosely based on the life of populist Louisiana Governor Huey "The Kingfish" Long, "All The King’s Men" tells the story of a small town rabble-rouser’s ascent in politics and descent into shady morality. Critics say the film is too bombastic to work, with too many vague characters and an over-the-top performance from Penn. The film received a muted reception in Toronto; it currently stands at 15 percent on the Tomatometer. And it’s well below the 1949 Oscar-winning original film (94 percent).


Sean Penn makes Howard Dean seem pretty chill.

Jet Li has come to personify a specific film subgenre: the historical martial arts epic. "Hero" and the "Once Upon a Time in China" movies were marked by sweeping visuals and Li’s remarkable athleticism. But the star says he’s no longer making that type of picture; if that’s the case, critics say "Fearless" makes for one heck of a swan song. The film tells the tale of a great martial arts master who looks inward after succumbing to his own ego and the murder of his family. The scribes say "Fearless" is quite a show, with remarkable action sequences and an interesting philosophical undercurrent. "Fearless" is currently at 70 percent on the Tomatometer. And it’s Li’s third consecutive fresh American release, following "Unleashed" (68 percent) and "Hero" (94 percent).


"Fearless": I had no idea people wore baseball hats in China in the early 1900s!

"Flyboys" tells an old-fashioned tale of courage and heroism with the latest in CG technology; unfortunately, critics say, the technology ends up overshadowing everything else. The film tells the story of a group of Americans who volunteered to fly in WWI alongside the French. According to the critics, "Paths of Glory" this ain’t; they note that the CG effects are excellent, and the dogfights are exciting, but the story and the characters are far less involving. At 37 percent on the Tomatometer, "Flyboys" doesn’t soar.


"And another thing… None of you better be making any wisecracks about ‘The Pink Panther!’"

Also in theaters this week in limited release: "American Hardcore," a documentary about the life and death of the louder-faster punk rock style, is at 100 percent; "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros," a coming of age tale set in Manila, is at 100 percent; "Jesus Camp," a documentary about evangelical Christian campers, is at 93 percent; "Old Joy," a meditative tale of eroding friendship starring indie darling Will Oldham, is at 88 percent; "Solo Con Tu Pareja," the debut of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" helmer Alfonso Cuaron, is at 80 percent; "The Science of Sleep," Michel Gondry‘s latest head trip starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, is at 69 percent; the "Project Greenlight"- approved horror flick "Feast" is at 57 percent; and "Renaissance," a visually remarkable French noir, is at 50 percent.


"I wish I could be as carefree and wild/ But I got cat class and I got cat style."

Recent Johnny Knoxville Movies:
—————————————–
41% — The Ringer (2005)
0% — Daltry Calhoun (2005)
15% — The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
54% — Lords of Dogtown (2005)
52% — A Dirty Shame (2004)

Recent Jet Li Movies:
—————————–
68% — Unleashed (2005)
94% — Hero (2004)
26% — Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)
14% — The One (2001)
49% — Kiss of the Dragon (2001)

Recent Dean Deviln-Produced Movies:
————————————————-
90% — Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)
54% — Cellular (2004)
47% — Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
61% — The Patriot (2000)
25% — Godzilla (1998)

Thanks to Joblo for pointing us towards RopeofSilicon.com‘s awesome interview with director Michel Gondry, where the fantastical French filmmaker shares info on his upcoming flick "The Science of Sleep," his soon-to-be-filmed comedy "Be Kind Rewind," and the extended DVD release of "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party."

Gondry has earned a reputation for mind-blowing, multimedia-mixing visual sensibilities (see his early music videos for Bjork, The Chemical Brothers, and more in his collected works), a signature he employed to great success with 2004’s "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." After a brief detour into concert documentary with this year’s "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party," Gondry is returning to the narrative form this summer with the whimsical romance "The Science of Sleep," which currently has a Fresh Tomatometer of 83 percent, thanks to a screening at Sundance earlier this year.

Check out the RopesofSilicon interview to read why Gondry goes for difficult camera tricks in "Science" ("You shoot underwater which is uncomfortable and dangerous but it would have been boring on blue screen"), what he’ll do with the cut scenes ("I’m going to do a B version of the movie on the DVD that’s made up entirely of the deleted scenes, it will be 45 minutes long") and why Kirsten Dunst didn’t sign on for the ambitious pic ("She was supposed to be in The Science of Sleep but she got a little scared and decided not to").


Gael Garcia Bernal holds his breath underwater for reals in "Science"

Gondry also dishes on the special effects (or lack thereof) he’ll use for "Be Kind Rewind," which follows a man (Jack Black) who accidentally demagnetizes all the tapes in his friend’s video store, then attempts to re-shoot all of the lost films:

"They are doing all the effects themselves. They take the tapes that have been erased, the VHS, they re-shoot them on top. Say it’s an old movie they shoot through layers of hanging string to pretend it is scratchy. They shoot through a fan to make it flickering. They use firecrackers for sound. It’s very fun. After all, I don’t do movies to get bored."

"The Science of Sleep" hits theaters in New York and LA August 4.

Director Michel Gondry and professional goofball Jack Black will soon be collaborating on a rather bizarre-sounding high-concept comedy called “Be Kind Rewind,” the plot of which should excite all the movie geeks out there…

Says The Hollywood Reporter: “Jack Black is set to star in Michel Gondry’s eccentric comedy “Be Kind Rewind,” playing a junkyard worker whose brain is magnetized, destroying every tape in his friend’s video store and forcing the pair to remake the lost films. Focus Features International has nabbed international sales rights to the under-$20 million Partizan production, which begins a two-month shoot Sept. 6 in New York.

In the film, Black plays Jerry, a man whose headaches lead him to believe his brain is melting. His brain is magnetized, leading to the unintentional destruction of movies in his friend’s store. In order to keep the store’s one loyal customer, an elderly lady with signs of dementia, the pair re-creates a long line of films including “The Lion King,” “Rush Hour,” “Back to the Future” and “Robocop.” Producer Georges Bermann of Partizan said Gondry, who has partnered with Partizan since 1989, came to him in November with several ideas. “Michel is a super-fast writer,” Bermann said. “He handed in a draft three weeks. Focus was interested the second they heard the pitch and made the deal within a week.”

—-

Well-known for his rather brilliant music videos, Michel Gondry is also the director behind “Human Nature,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” and the upcoming “The Science of Sleep.”

All I need to hear are the phrases "Dave Chappelle" and "concert," and I already know we’re talking about a movie I want to see. Throw some names like Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, and director Michel Gondry into the mix and you have an indie flick must-see from the fine folks at Rogue (Universal) Pictures. And here’s the trailer.

"Spotlights comedy superstar Dave Chappelle in all-new freestyle standup material, and also one-time-only performances by Kanye West, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Dead Prez, Jill Scott, and The Roots, among others. The unprecedented combination of comedy and music was shot on location, as Mr. Chappelle threw a party in downtown Brooklyn."

Directed by Michele Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the upcoming "The Science of Sleep"), "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party" opens on March 3rd.

Here are capsule reviews of some of the films we screened at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

"Thank You for Smoking" is a comedy for our troubled, intensely partisan times – a film about the ways in which framing an issue becomes more important than solving a problem. Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is the type of smarmy guy you want to punch – if only he weren’t so smarmily likeable. As a tobacco lobbyist, Naylor knows he’s in the wrong, but he’s just so good at spin — and hey, everyone’s got a mortgage to pay. And is William H. Macy‘s liberal senator — who berates an aide for not getting a more pitiable cancer patient on a talk show to square off against the lobbyist — really any better? "Thank You for Smoking" merrily skews the left and the right, making the point that sometimes solutions are less important to politicians than looking good.

Part gritty Western, part Jodorowsky-esque mystic journey, and part Cain and Abel parable, "The Proposition" is a terrific movie, a film loaded with blood, tears, and profound moral ambiguity. A Western tableau has rarely been as dirty as "The Proposition"’s 1880s Australian Outback; even in the relative affluence of the police captain and his wife’s home, there are flies everywhere. Guy Pearce stars as a criminal who’s been set free; the catch is that he must bring his (even more ruthless) brother to justice, or his (sweeter) younger brother will be hanged. But no plot description could do justice to the mood and feel of this film, one of the wildest and bloodiest odysseys in recent cinema.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: "Art School Confidential" is not as good as Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes‘ previous collaboration, "Ghost World," nor does it reach the dizzying heights of Zwigoff’s two documentaries about artists, "Louie Bluie" and "Crumb." Still, the film has its share of pleasures, particularly as a wry satire of how arbitrarily the art world selects its favorites for reasons that can have little to do with the art itself. Unlike "Ghost World"’s unsure heroines, whose aimlessness and cynicism go hand in hand with a search for their inner values, "Art School"’s insecure protagonist (Max Minghella) has ambition to burn, and descends into an amorality that pays dividends the lower he goes.

The reason urban legends hold such morbid fascination is that they’re largely in the mind; it’s the telling that makes them amusing. The main problem with "The Darwin Awards" (based upon the website that cites the stupidest deaths, thus maintaining a stronger evolutionary gene pool) is that the visual reputation of gruesome death makes this black comedy a bit hard to stomach. The filmmakers understand this on some level, as their protagonist Michael Burrows (Joseph Fiennes) plays a cop turned insurance claims investigator who faints at the sight of blood. But a subplot about a film student following Burrows around doesn’t work, and Burrows’ risk aversion comes across not as quirky but as labored slapstick.

The hottest film at Sundance, "Little Miss Sunshine," is barely a comedy for its first half, focusing more on the sad (but darkly amusing) quirks of an extremely dysfunctional family. But the film builds to a stunningly funny climax, one that is a moment of familial growth without an ounce of schmaltz. "Little Miss Sunshine" features deft performances from an ensemble cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, and Toni Collette; each cast member pulls off the neat trick of exuding familial concern and contempt for others with aplomb.

Michel Gondry‘s rep is largely due to his phantasmagoric visuals, but one would be hard pressed to find a more hopeless romantic at work in contemporary cinema. Like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," his latest, "The Science of Sleep," navigates the divide between the real world and dream states. Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg play neighbors who share whimsy, insecurity, and potentially love; the result is a film that is equally fanciful and haunting.

Check out Sundance features by Rotten Tomatoes:
Sundance Full Coverage
Sundance Blog
Sundance Discussion

Now that the Sundance Film Festival is starting to wind down, more films join the ranks of early pick-ups "Little Miss Sunshine" and "The Science of Sleep," acquired this week by Fox Searchlight and Warner Independent, respectively.

Bent Hamer’s "Factotum" originally had a distribution deal with Picturehouse after it premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but was dumped last month — Picturehouse reportedly wanted a television-friendly version (read: no sex or alcohol abuse). Luckily, the character study of a directionless, alcoholic womanizer proved worthy at it’s American debut this week and got picked up by IFC Films. Read Tim’s review of "Factotum" here.

IFC stood prouder yet as Miramax bought distribution rights to "The Night Listener," an IFC Films co-produced thriller starring Robin Williams as a late-night radio show host who develops a connection with a young caller.Co-written by "Tales of the City" writer Armistead Maupin from his own novel, "Listener" reportedly entertained offers from Sony Pictures Classics and Lionsgate before accepting Miramax’s offer of $3 million and becoming the company’s first major post-Weinstein acquisition.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate picked up rights to "Right at Your Door," a suburban disaster thriller starring Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack. "Door" follows a man who seals himself inside his home after a bomb goes off in LA, trying to keep out the toxic fallout and desperate people caught out of doors. The film, by first-time director Chris Gorak, went for $2 million — quite notable for a relative newbie filmmaker.

Finally, the first doc to break out this year turned out to be "Wordplay," a fondly humorous look at the world of crossword puzzles. IFC Films added to it’s strong Sundance presence this year by paying $1 million to distribute first-time director Patrick Creadon‘s pic, which features New York Times Puzzle Editor and crossword god Will Shortz, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns and more and follows the national crossword competition held annually.

With the festival in it’s second phase more deals are expected to be announced soon, including pending negotiations for the Edward Norton starrer "The Illusionist" and "Half Nelson," starring Ryan Gosling.

Check back for reviews of "The Science of Sleep," "Wordplay" and more.

Check out Sundance features by Rotten Tomatoes:
Sundance Full Coverage
Sundance Blog
Sundance Discussion

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