Best and Worst Basketball Movies

If you’re still amazed that one of the most beloved basketball movies of all time involved Looney Tunes helping to keep Michael Jordan from being imprisoned as an interplanetary sideshow attraction, you forget that basketball’s commercial movie breakthrough came in the form of the howlin’ 1980s Michael J. Fox fantasy Teen Wolf. Or that the Air Bud cinematic universe started with the Golden Retriever shooting hoops and marking his territory at the top of they key. Movies like Semi-Pro, Uncle Drew, and White Men Can’t Jump only further traveled this comedy route.

But after basketball movies exploded onto the scene in the ’80s, the sport also just as quickly got its first classic. One year after Teen Wolf, the underdog drama Hoosiers had audiences everywhere leaping up and cheering for a town no one’s ever heard of somewhere in Indiana. More Certified Fresh basketball hall-of-famers include Gina Prince-Bythewood’s directorial debut Love and Basketball, the Denzel Washington and Spike Lee joint He Got Game, and two of the best sports docs out there: Hoop Dreams and The Heart of the Game.

Now witness all the slam dunks — and a few air balls — as we line up the best and worst basketball movies, each with at least 20 critics reviews, and rank them by Tomatometer!

#39

Crossover (2006)
2%

#39
Adjusted Score: 3115%
Critics Consensus: This heartfelt but incompetent, cliche-ridden sports picture is the cinematic equivalent of an airball.
Synopsis: The lives of a gifted athlete (Wesley Jonathan) and his best friend (Anthony Mackie) change when they take a fateful... [More]

#38

The Cookout (2004)
5%

#38
Adjusted Score: 4736%
Critics Consensus: Good-natured but prepared with an absence of craft, The Cookout is an unappetizing collection of warmed-over jokes.
Synopsis: College basketball player Todd Anderson (Storm P) signs a $30 million deal with the New Jersey Nets and promptly moves... [More]
Directed By: Lance Rivera

#37

Celtic Pride (1996)
9%

#37
Adjusted Score: 8702%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Mike (Daniel Stern) and Jimmy (Dan Aykroyd) are disconsolate after watching their favorite team, the Boston Celtics, lose a game... [More]
Directed By: Tom DeCerchio

#36

Juwanna Mann (2002)
10%

#36
Adjusted Score: 11185%
Critics Consensus: With its tired premise, Juwanna Mann's jokes fall flat.
Synopsis: When pro basketball star Jamal Jeffries (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) gets booted from the big leagues after an outrageous on-court... [More]
Directed By: Jesse Vaughan

#35

Rebound (2005)
14%

#35
Adjusted Score: 17603%
Critics Consensus: Rebound ought to entertain its target audience, but there's nothing here for those who've seen The Bad News Bears or its countless derivatives.
Synopsis: Roy McCormick (Martin Lawrence) is a college basketball coach more famous for his temper than for his coaching ability. After... [More]
Directed By: Steve Carr

#34

Eddie (1996)
17%

#34
Adjusted Score: 18505%
Critics Consensus: Whoopi Goldberg may demonstrate that she can coach a basketball team with the best of them, but not even she can whip this dreary script into shape.
Synopsis: Chauffeur Edwina "Eddie" Franklin (Whoopi Goldberg) is fanatical about the New York Knicks basketball team. After she wins a contest... [More]
Directed By: Steve Rash

#33

My Giant (1998)
19%

#33
Adjusted Score: 18746%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Billy Crystal stars as Sammy, an agitated agent lost in the forest of the modern world, who happens upon a... [More]
Directed By: Michael Lehmann

#32

The Air Up There (1994)
21%

#32
Adjusted Score: 21862%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An American basketball coach (Kevin Bacon) learns how to play the Kenya way as he scouts a tall African (Charles... [More]
Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser

#31

Semi-Pro (2008)
22%

#31
Adjusted Score: 28227%
Critics Consensus: Semi-Pro is an intermittently funny, half-hearted attempt at sports satire, and one of Will Ferrell's weaker cinematic efforts.
Synopsis: In 1976, singer Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell) uses the profits from his only hit single to fulfill a longtime dream... [More]
Directed By: Kent Alterman

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 36983%
Critics Consensus: Despite LeBron James' best efforts to make a winning team out of the Tune Squad, Space Jam: A New Legacy trades the zany, meta humor of its predecessor for a shameless, tired exercise in IP-driven branding.
Synopsis: When LeBron James and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I., LeBron must... [More]
Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee

#29

The Hot Flashes (2013)
36%

#29
Adjusted Score: 36119%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A team of middle-aged Texas women, all former high-school basketball champions, challenges the current team of state champions to a... [More]
Directed By: Susan Seidelman

#28

Wolves (2016)
36%

#28
Adjusted Score: 36198%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Anthony is a standout player on his Manhattan high school's basketball team with seemingly everything going for him: a killer... [More]
Directed By: Bart Freundlich

#27

Blue Chips (1994)
37%

#27
Adjusted Score: 37163%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) is a college basketball coach who has to improve his team's standing -- by any means... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#26

Teen Wolf (1985)
42%

#26
Adjusted Score: 44216%
Critics Consensus: Though Michael J. Fox is as charismatic as ever, Teen Wolf's coming-of-age themes can't help but feel a little stale and formulaic.
Synopsis: When high school nerd Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) learns from his father, Harold (James Hampton), that being a werewolf... [More]
Directed By: Rod Daniel

#25

Space Jam (1996)
45%

#25
Adjusted Score: 49119%
Critics Consensus: While it's no slam dunk, Space Jam's silly, Looney Toons-laden slapstick and vivid animation will leave younger viewers satisfied -- though accompanying adults may be more annoyed than entertained.
Synopsis: Swackhammer (Danny DeVito), an evil alien theme park owner, needs a new attraction at Moron Mountain. When his gang, the... [More]
Directed By: Joe Pytka

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 46808%
Critics Consensus: In spite of its young leading man's heroic efforts to hold it all together, a muddled message prevents The Basketball Diaries from compelling as a cautionary tale.
Synopsis: Jim Carroll (Leonardo DiCaprio) is consumed by his life as a high school basketball star. Pressured by a wicked coach... [More]
Directed By: Scott Kalvert

#23

Air Bud (1997)
45%

#23
Adjusted Score: 45645%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Diffident in the wake of his father's death, high schooler Josh (Kevin Zegers) struggles to adapt to his new home... [More]
Directed By: Charles Martin Smith

#22

Just Wright (2010)
46%

#22
Adjusted Score: 50038%
Critics Consensus: Well-intentioned but formulaic, Just Wright has winning leads but can't overcome its preponderance of cliches.
Synopsis: Physical therapist Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) lands the dream job of working with basketball superstar Scott McKnight (Common). All goes... [More]
Directed By: Sanaa Hamri

#21

The Mighty Macs (2009)
47%

#21
Adjusted Score: 48197%
Critics Consensus: Its heart is obviously in the right place, but The Mighty Macs is too blandly formulaic to transcend the genre's many clichés.
Synopsis: In 1971, Immaculata College finds a new coach, Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino), to head its women's basketball team. Right from... [More]
Directed By: Tim Chambers

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 46692%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Increasingly estranged from his own daughter, a boozy busboy (Sam Rockwell) gets a shot at redemption when an old friend... [More]
Directed By: James C. Strouse

#19

Glory Road (2006)
55%

#19
Adjusted Score: 61539%
Critics Consensus: As formulaic as sports movies get, this underdog story still triumphs on the strength of its inspiring story.
Synopsis: After being appointed the new coach of the 1966 Texas Miners, Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) decides to build a team... [More]
Directed By: James Gartner

#18

Like Mike (2002)
57%

#18
Adjusted Score: 58675%
Critics Consensus: A pleasant and innocuous diversion for kids, but adults may have trouble sitting through the movie's predictable plotlines and schmaltz.
Synopsis: Fourteen year old, hoops-loving Calvin Cambridge (Lil' Bow Wow) has a dream: to be a famous basketball player -- to... [More]
Directed By: John Schultz

#17

Uncle Drew (2018)
60%

#17
Adjusted Score: 65420%
Critics Consensus: Kyrie Irving's crossover to comedy is amiable enough to score with basketball fans, but Uncle Drew is held back by formulaic plotting and too much product placement.
Synopsis: After draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem, Dax is... [More]
Directed By: Charles Stone III

#16

O (2001)
64%

#16
Adjusted Score: 68664%
Critics Consensus: Though well-intentioned and serious in its exploration of teen violence, O is an uneven experiment that doesn't quite succeed.
Synopsis: Moving the classic tale of "Othello" onto the basketball courts of a high school, the story focuses on a young... [More]
Directed By: Tim Blake Nelson

#15

Coach Carter (2005)
64%

#15
Adjusted Score: 69773%
Critics Consensus: Even though it's based on a true story, Coach Carter is pretty formulaic stuff, but it's effective and energetic, thanks to a strong central performance from Samuel L. Jackson.
Synopsis: In 1999, Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) returns to his old high school in Richmond, California, to get the basketball... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Carter

#14

Linsanity (2013)
65%

#14
Adjusted Score: 65221%
Critics Consensus: Linsanity offers a compelling enough look at its basketball star subject for fans and curious viewers, even if it never really delves below the surface.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Evan Jackson Leong chronicles the rise of basketball star Jeremy Lin, the first man of Chinese/Taiwanese descent to play... [More]
Directed By: Evan Leong

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 66475%
Critics Consensus: This sports bio documentary is given a few fresh angles, including culture clash issues, and the friendship that develops between Yao and his interpreter.
Synopsis: This documentary chronicles Yao Ming's first year of playing in the National Basketball Association. When Ming signs with the Houston... [More]
Starring:

#12

More Than a Game (2008)
71%

#12
Adjusted Score: 71484%
Critics Consensus: Though the film may not delve as deep as some would prefer, More Than a Game is an inspiring documentary featuring likable youngsters, a positive message, and some exciting in-game footage.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Kristopher Belman chronicles the early career of basketball superstar LeBron James. James and four other talented teammates were a... [More]
Directed By: Kristopher Belman

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 78868%
Critics Consensus: Despite the predictability of its plot and its similarity to Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester has an honest, solid feel to it and good rapport between Connery and Brown.
Synopsis: A unique relationship develops between an eccentric, reclusive novelist and a young, amazingly gifted scholar-athlete. After the novelist discovers that... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 80814%
Critics Consensus: White Men Can't Jump provides a fresh take on the sports comedy genre, with a clever script and a charismatic trio of leads.
Synopsis: Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a white basketball hustler who banks on black players underestimating his skills on the court.... [More]
Directed By: Ron Shelton

#9

He Got Game (1998)
81%

#9
Adjusted Score: 83041%
Critics Consensus: Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee near the top of his game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington.
Synopsis: Jake Shuttleworth (Denzel Washington) has spent the last six years in prison after accidentally killing his wife during a violent... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#8

Quantum Hoops (2007)
81%

#8
Adjusted Score: 80649%
Critics Consensus: Dry and upbeat, this story of overachieving academics struggling as underdog athletes is a winner (even if their basketball team isn't).
Synopsis: The men's basketball team at Caltech attempts to break a 21-year losing streak in the final game.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Rick Greenwald

#7
Adjusted Score: 83746%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Disney comedy about a professor who invents a revolutionary flying rubber, which he dubs "flubber". Not only does the professor's... [More]
Directed By: Robert Stevenson

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 86404%
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
Synopsis: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy,... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince

#5

The Way Back (2020)
84%

#5
Adjusted Score: 97941%
Critics Consensus: The Way Back's occasionally frustrating treatment of a formulaic story is often outweighed by Ben Affleck's outstanding work in the central role.
Synopsis: Jack Cunningham was a high school basketball superstar who suddenly walked away from the game for unknown reasons. Years later,... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 90765%
Critics Consensus: This group of high school girls and their eccentric basketball coach easily win your heart with their unusual humanity and dynamism.
Synopsis: Filmed over a period of seven years, director Ward Serrill profiles Bill Resler, a university professor who coaches a basketball... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Ward Serrill

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 87507%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The story of Lithuania's 1992 Olympic basketball team whose athletes won the bronze medal.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Marius A. Markevicius

#2

Hoosiers (1986)
91%

#2
Adjusted Score: 94988%
Critics Consensus: It may adhere to the sports underdog formula, but Hoosiers has been made with such loving craft, and features such excellent performances, that it's hard to resist.
Synopsis: Failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to direct the basketball... [More]
Directed By: David Anspaugh

#1

Hoop Dreams (1994)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 101750%
Critics Consensus: One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.
Synopsis: Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St.... [More]
Directed By: Steve James

After a busy MLK frame which concluded with the Golden Globe Awards, Hollywood lets the dust settle this weekend as only one new film enters wide release – the horror remake "The Hitcher."

Other distributors will take this opportunity to widen their awards contenders into more theaters taking advantage of the frame in between when the Globes were awarded and when Academy Award nominations are announced. Ticket sales could be a bit sluggish which will be good news for holdovers.

Focus unleashes its widest release in company history with the horror film "The Hitcher" from its Rogue genre unit which finds a young couple tormented by a most unfriendly hitchhiker. The R-rated film will target the fright crowd and play mostly to teens and young adults looking for a winter scare. No horror film has hit box office gold since the pre-Halloween release of "Saw III." Moviegoers are usually in the mood for happy subject matter around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but now the time is right for this audience to make its way back. Many fright flicks have scored solid openings in the January-February corridor as fans of the genre get back into the mood for blood and violence. However, Sunday sales could be impacted by the NFL conference championships which will take millions of males out of the picture for the whole day.

"The Hitcher" comes from producer Michael Bay and the folks who redid "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Now the 1986 Rutger Hauer predecessor was a popular film, but did not become a massive cult hit so interest in the new "Hitcher" may be more subdued. The marketing and distribution push has been heavy and Focus will greatly benefit from being the only new face at the marquees. Those films expanding into new markets are more for older adults and won’t be much of a threat. How many college kids would rather see a World War II drama in Japanese? "The Hitcher" should thrive and pick up lots of passengers during its journey up the box office charts. Opening wide in 2,831 theaters, the horror flick could collect about $15M over the weekend.


Only bad things can happen when you pick up Sean Bean on the side of the road.

With Oscar nominations right around the corner, a handful of distributors will expand their hopefuls into more markets in an effort to capitalize on Academy Award nods, if they come. Picturehouse’s sci-fi thriller "Pan’s Labyrinth" averaged $13,464 over four days last weekend from 194 sites and will more than double its run into 500 theaters on Friday. Guillermo del Toro‘s acclaimed Spanish-language fantasy could scare up around $3M this weekend.


"Pan’s Labyrinth," opening in not-quite-wide release.

Fox Searchlight has grossed a modest $3.7M for its Idi Amin drama "The Last King of Scotland" but hopes audiences will be more energized the second time around as it re-expands the pic into 400 locations. Forest Whitaker‘s Best Actor win at the Globes (and almost every other awards gala) has generated some heat for the film which many moviegoers passed up the first time around. The kudos could help "Scotland" take in around $2M this weekend.


Forest Whitaker exulting in his Golden Globe win.

Clint Eastwood took home the Globe for the best foreign language film on Monday for his war tale "Letters From Iwo Jima." While the film is not eligible for the same statue at the Oscars, it could pop up in a number of other categories given the Academy’s undying love for the Hollywood icon. Last weekend, the Japanese language pic averaged $12,856 from only 35 theaters and on Friday Warner Bros. will up the theater count to 300. Still a tough sell, "Letters" could shoot up a gross of just over $1M.


Golden Globe winner for best foreign language film "Letters From Iwo Jima."

Last weekend, "Stomp the Yard" kicked down the doors and surged into the number one spot attracting a bigger audience than anyone expected. Teen films typically drop hard on the second weekend and "The Hitcher" should take away a bit of the young adult crowd too so a decent fall should be expected. The Friday-to-Sunday gross for "Stomp" could decline by 45% to about $12M giving Sony a solid $40M in ten days.

"Night at the Museum" will face no new competition for its target audience of families. Fox will join the quarter-century club over the weekend and may slip 30% to about $12M for a cume to date of $204M.

LAST YEAR: Sony scored the first of a long string of number ones for the year with the vampire sequel "Underworld: Evolution" which bowed to a potent $26.9M. The Kate Beckinsale actioner faded fast but still walked away with $62.3M. The animated comedy "Hoodwinked" expanded and slipped just 16% ranking second with $10.4M. Disney’s basketball drama "Glory Road" placed third with $8.8M and was followed closely by Paramount’s "Last Holiday" with $8.7M. Focus added screens to "Brokeback Mountain" and inched up into fifth place with $7.4M. Smaller openings were seen by the dramas "End of the Spear" and "The New World" with $4.3M and $4M, respectively. Final tallies reached only $11.7M and $12.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Stomping into the number one spot over the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was the college dance drama "Stomp the Yard," which grossed an estimated $22M in its opening weekend to push three-week champ "Night at the Museum" into second place. Exceeding even the loftiest of expectations, the PG-13 step dancing pic averaged a loud $10,726 from only 2,051 theaters.

Over the past 22 months, only "Borat" has reached the top spot with fewer theaters. With Monday being a holiday, studios will release complete four-day weekend estimates then. "Stomp the Yard" was budgeted at only $14M and generated two-thirds of its business this weekend from African American moviegoers, according to studio research.

After ruling the box office for three weeks, the effects-driven comedy "Night at the Museum" slipped to second place but still posted healthy numbers grossing an estimated $17.1M. Fox has now collected a hefty $185.8M and saw its weekend tally decline by only 28%. Sliding only 29% was Will Smith‘s Golden Globe-nominated turn in "The Pursuit of Happyness" with an estimated $9.1M in its fifth frame. Sony has banked $136.5M while the popular Museum-Pursuit duo has grossed a stunning $322M together.

Paramount expanded its hit musical "Dreamgirls" from 852 to 1,907 theaters and climbed a notch into fourth place with an estimated $8.1M. Off only 6%, the DreamWorks production has taken in $65M thus far with the $100M mark expected to be broken in the near future. "Dreamgirls" is considered the frontrunner to win the Golden Globe award for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical on Monday night and is looking to secure several Oscar nominations next week which the studio hopes will allow the pic to have legs. But after four weeks of incredible averages, the PG-13 film saw its per-theater average slide to $4,259 from its nationwide release.

The studio also expanded its urban high school drama "Freedom Writers" from 1,360 to 2,179 sites and ranked fifth with an estimated $7.1M. The gross dipped by only 24% for the Hilary Swank flick while the average tumbled by 53%. Total stands at $18.4M.

Three of the top five films over MLK weekend featured predominantly African American casts while "Freedom" boasted a multicultural school saga. For the Hollywood film industry, it was a rare sight. However between the King frame and Black History Month, a handful of studios have discovered how to tap into the sizable African American moviegoing audience with the right films in the January-February corridor.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón followed in sixth with his futuristic drama "Children of Men" which grossed an estimated $6.4M, down 37%, for a $21.4M total to date. The Clive Owen thriller was given 299 more theaters, but suffered a slowdown as its average dropped 49% in only its second weekend of wide play. "Children" has also grossed $32.5M overseas.

Three new releases followed but ticket buyers were not too excited about any of them. The drug dealer drama "Alpha Dog" bowed in seventh place with an estimated $6.1M from 1,289 locations for a respectable $4,765 average. Justin Timberlake, who conveniently announced his breakup with Cameron Diaz just days before the film opened, stars in the ensemble cast of the R-rated drama.

The serial killer pic "Primeval" debuted close behind in eighth place with an estimated $6M from 2,444 theaters. Despite having the widest release in the freshman class, the R-rated chiller averaged a weak $2,450 for Buena Vista. MGM released The Weinstein Company’s kidpic "Arthur and the Invisibles" but bombed with an estimated $4.3M from 2,247 playdates for a poor $1,914 average. The PG-rated adventure featured both live action and animation plus featured the voices of Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and Robert De Niro. Audiences had no interest.

Rounding out the top ten was De Niro’s spy thriller "The Good Shepherd" with an estimated $3.9M, down 39%, for a $54.3M cume.

Sony Classics widened its Chinese historical epic "Curse of the Golden Flower" from 55 sites in limited release to 1,234 theaters nationwide and collected an estimated $2M. That gave the Zhang Yimou drama a flimsy average of only $1,624 with a total to date of $4.4M. Moviegoers were more in the mood for dancers stomping than daggers flying.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $90.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period which was off 3% from last year when "Glory Road" opened at number one with $13.6M; and down 20% from 2005 when "Coach Carter" debuted on top with $24.2M over three days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Can Ben Stiller and his living artifacts four-peat at the top of the North American box office, or will one of the new releases take the crown over the four-day Dr. Martin Luther King holiday weekend? Ticket buyers will decide.

Leading the freshman class is the dance drama "Stomp the Yard" which could have breakout potential. Also opening are the fantasy pic "Arthur and the Invisibles," the drug dealer pic "Alpha Dog," and the horror flick "Primeval." With so many schools closed on Monday, the new films are targeting students of all ages who will have extra time on their hands.

The west and east coasts meet in "Stomp the Yard," a story of a Los Angeles student enrolled in an Atlanta university who uses his unique style to help his fraternity compete in a step dancing contest. The PG-13 film is short on starpower, but makes up for that with terrific marketing which is the real ingredient that will put asses into the seats. Sony has cut exciting trailers and commercial spots which should spark lots of interest with teens and young adults. Plus, MLK weekend is the perfect time to open a black college film since interest will be high for this particular subject matter. African American students will especially be out in solid numbers. However, the opening of Justin Timberlake‘s "Alpha Dog" could take away some of the young adult crowd.

"Stomp" should appeal to the same audiences that delivered bigger-than-expected openings for "Drumline" ($12.6M opening, $6,865 average), "ATL" ($11.6M, $7,212), and "You Got Served" ($16.1M, $8,341). The urban youth of America possesses tremendous spending power and Hollywood has just woken up to this in recent years financing low cost flicks that return handsome profits through theatrical and DVD sales. "Stomp" also offers an appealing story relevant to today’s young people and looks to join this list. Stepping into 2,051 theaters, "Stomp the Yard" could collect about $16M over four days this weekend.


An action shot from "Stomp the Yard."

The weekend’s only new kidpic comes in the form of the French production "Arthur and the Invisibles," a groundbreaking feature which mixes live-action with animation in a fantasy tale. The PG-rated film from The Weinstein Co. is directed by action professional Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element," "Joan of Arc") and features the voices of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna. With so many young children across the country having a long school holiday, "Arthur" should get some play as the only new option for parents who have taken enough trips to the Museum. Of course "Happily N’Ever After" flopping last weekend shows that family audiences will not come out for just anything. With about 2,500 theaters, it is the widest of the new titles which could help it get into double digit millions over the extended frame. The marketing push has been admirable too. MLK weekend has often seen better-than-expected results for debuting kiddie flicks like "Kangaroo Jack," "Racing Stripes," and "Hoodwinked." "Arthur and the Invisibles" may carve out its share of the pie and gross roughly $11M over the four-day period.


Those troll dolls have found a new purpose in "Arthur and the Invisibles."

Pop music king Justin Timberlake joins an ensemble cast which includes Emile Hirsch, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis in the gritty drama "Alpha Dog." Directed by Nick Cassavetes, the R-rated film tells of a drug dealer who kidnaps the younger brother of a friend who owes a debt. The Universal release is based on true events and will target older teens and twentysomethings. The marketing makes the film look slick and cool plus JT provides a built-in audience of fans that can be tapped into.

However, two main obstacles are in the way – the rating and competition from "Stomp the Yard." A large portion of Timberlake’s fans are young teens and they will have a hard time buying tickets. Plus, "Stomp" will be distracting the urban youth with its slick look and milder PG-13 rating. On top of that, the studio’s release is not too wide. These factors should curtail the potential of "Alpha." Critics have given solid support which may help a little, although Time Out New York boldly calls the pic the worst movie of the year in its zero-star review. Opening in about 1,200 theaters, "Alpha Dog" might bite down on around $8M over the long weekend.


Timberlake gets down in "Alpha Dog."

Every horror film since Halloween has flopped and the streak looks to continue with "Primeval" from Buena Vista. The R-rated film about a news crew hunting down a killer boasts no starpower and lacks a compelling plot worthy of the ten-dollar bills of genre fans. Marketing support has been weak and awareness is not very high. The fright flick seems to have the same potential as last month’s "Turistas" which bowed to a weak $3.6M and $2,282 average. "Primeval" will open wider with about 2,000 theaters and has an extended four-day session so a gross of roughly $6M could result followed by steep drops.

Zhang Yimou has seen solid but not spectacular averages for his latest Chinese epic "Curse of the Golden Flower" which has already grossed $2.2M from its limited release in about 60 theaters. Its average of $6,104 last weekend will drop considerably as it expands nationwide into about 1,200 playdates. The Mandarin-language period piece seems to be going too wide too fast and with all the choices in the multiplexes, Sony Classics may find it difficult to get multiplex crowds into all those new seats. "Curse" will try to play to fans of the "Hero" director, but Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li are no Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi at the American box office. A $4M gross over the long weekend could result.


These horses must be suffering from "The Curse of the Golden Flower."

Ben Stiller and Will Smith have been inseparable blockbuster brothers atop the box office charts for the last three weeks. But the weekend’s new releases should finally cause a breakup. Stiller’s runaway smash "Night at the Museum" has been holding up incredibly well against any competition that has come its way and will attempt to become the first film since 2003’s "The Return of the King" to remain number one for four consecutive weekends. The only thing standing in its path is a possible teen explosion for "Stomp." "Museum’s" four-day holiday gross could slip 25% from last weekend’s three-day figure giving the Fox hit about $18M and a remarkable cume to date of $187M.

Smith has done pretty well for himself too with "The Pursuit of Happyness" which should see another solid turnout over MLK weekend. A 20% drop would give Sony a four-day tally of $10M boosting its total to a stellar $137M.

Since it opened nationally on Christmas Day, "Dreamgirls" has been posting the best per-theater averages of any wide release. Now, Paramount will more than double the run and expand the Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical from 852 to about 1,800 theaters. The Jamie FoxxBeyonce Knowles musical is the favorite to take home that honor, plus other statues, and the studio wants to make sure the product is available everywhere once the wins occur. Plus, films with African American casts routinely do very well over the King frame so a jump in sales is assured. For the four-day period, "Dreamgirls" may climb to around $11M putting the cume at $68M. If it wins the Globe for Best Picture and secures a sizable number of Oscar nominations the following week, the total domestic take could certainly surpass the $100M mark as it did for "Chicago" four years ago. The Richard Gere musical reached a similar $63.8M at the end of the weekend it went fully national into 1,841 locations and went on to a sensational $170.7M final total.

LAST YEAR: Disney kicked off the first of what would be many hit sports flicks in 2006 with the basketball drama "Glory Road" which opened at number one over MLK weekend with $16.9M over four days. The live action film barely beat out the animated comedy "Hoodwinked" which also grossed $16.9M over the Friday-to-Monday period, but was about $50,000 shy of the number one spot. The duo reached $42.6M and $51.2M, respectively. Third place also was held by a new release. Paramount’s Queen Latifah comedy "Last Holiday" bowed to a solid $15.5M on its way to $38.4M. Rounding out the top five were former number ones "The Chronicles of Narnia" with $12.8M and "Hostel" with $11.4M over the long weekend. Fox’s romance "Tristan & Isolde" found few lovers in its debut opening to $7.6M on its way to just $14.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got the return of Jigsaw ("Saw III," starring Tobin Bell), a tale of rebellion in apartheid-era South Africa ("Catch a Fire," starring Derek Luke and Tim Robbins), and a story of family dysfunction in the 1970s ("Running with Scissors," starring Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alec Baldwin). What do the critics have to say?

The sheer awfulness of South Africa’s apartheid system has been grist for Hollywood’s mill in recent years, but Phillip Noyce’s "Catch a Fire" may be one of the subgenre’s strongest entries to date. "Fire" tells the true story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a dedicated family man falsely accused of terrorism who in turn becomes a radical rebel fighter against the apartheid government. Critics say the film works as both a political thriller and as a potent history lesson, and it features a particularly strong performance from Luke. At 77 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to "Catch" this one. (Check out RT editor Jen Yamato’s review from the Toronto Film Fest here.)


"If you are the big tree/ We are the small axe/ Ready to cut you down (well sharp)/ To cut you down."

Augusten Burroughs’ memoir "Running with Scissors" struck a nerve as a bizarre depiction of dysfunctional families and a culture of therapy among the privileged. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the movie adaptation will do the same. The film is a coming-of-age story about a young man whose unstable mother sends him to live with her therapist’s family, at which point his life only gets weirder. The critics say the film features some sharp performances — particularly by Annette Bening — but also note the film is too awash with mannered eccentricity and cartoonish caricatures rather than fully developed characters. At 33 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s "Running" on fumes.


"Listen doc, let me start off by saying I hate your socks."

They say the first cut is the deepest. And if the fact that it hasn’t been screened for critics is any indication, it appears that in the case of "Saw III," the blade’s gotten pretty dull. So kids, it’s time to bust out the old crystal balls and play Guess the Tomatometer!


This guy is especially mad because he’ll be late to the office Halloween party.

Also in theaters this week in limited release: "Cocaine Cowboys," a documentary about drug smuggling in Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is at 100 percent; "Exit: The Right to Die," a documentary about assisted suicide, is at 86 percent; "Shut Up & Sing," a rockumentary about the Dixie Chicks, is at 83 percent; "Babel," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s globetrotting film about despair and interconnectivity, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, is at 72 percent; "The Wild Blue Yonder: A Science Fiction Fantasy," Werner Herzog‘s latest epic journey, is at 70 percent; "The Bridge," a doc about suicides on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, is at 63 percent; "Climates," an atmospheric Turkish import about the decline of a relationship, is at 46 percent; and "Death of a President," the incendiary mockumentary about a plot against George W. Bush, bombed with the critics, as it’s at 33 percent.


"Babel": "Though the mountains divide/ And the oceans are wide/ It’s a small world after all."

Recent Slasher Movies:
—————————-
18% — Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
57% — Feast (2006)
35% — Calvaire (2006)
20% — Mad Cowgirl (2006)
6% — See No Evil (2006)

Recent Derek Luke Movies:
———————————-
58% — Glory Road (2006)
82% — Friday Night Lights (2004)
65% — Spartan (2004)
83% — Pieces of April (2003)
22% — Biker Boyz (2003)

Recent Annette Bening Movies:
————————————–
33% — Mrs. Harris (2005)
76% — Being Julia (2004)
79% — Open Range (2003)
45% — What Planet Are You From? (2000)
89% — American Beauty (1999)

This week at the movies, we’ve got hoopsters with big dreams ("Crossover," starring Anthony Mackie), scary goings-on on remote islands ("The Wicker Man," starring Nicolas Cage), fast, fast vehicles ("Crank," starring Jason Statham and Amy Smart), and magic ("The Illusionist," starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel). What do the critics say?

If you want realism, go rent "The Bicycle Thief." Critics say "Crank" is a ludicrously over-the-top action flick with nary a moment of probability. And that’s a good thing. The story involves a hit man (Statham) who must stay awake to complete his mission and get out of the business. The critics say the film makes precious little sense and eschews both the laws of physics and political correctness. They also note that it is a lot of fun, with terrific action sequences and a knowing sense of humor. Why this movie wasn’t shown to critics beforehand is beyond us, since at 75 percent on the Tomatometer it’s the best reviewed unscreened film of the year, beating out "Snakes on a Plane" (69 percent).


It appears Jason Statham’s alarm isn’t working again.

"The Wicker Man" wasn’t screened for critics either, and this time, it looks like there was a good reason for that. Critics say Neil LaBute‘s remake of the 1973 cult classic subtracts most of the subtext of the original and replaces it with tons of unintentional laughs. Cage stars as a cop who gets ensnared in sinister rituals on a remote island while searching for his girlfriend’s missing child. Scribes say the film was misconceived from the get-go and contains a startling amount of sexism. At 11 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Wicker Man" is getting burned. It’s also well below the original (89 percent).


Movie critics tried a bunch of disguises in an attempt to sneak into screanings of "The Wicker Man."

One of the reasons streetball is so much fun to watch is its sheer unpredictability. The critics say the opposite is the case with the hoops drama "Crossover." The film tells the story of Noah (Mackie), a talented kid who hopes to get to med school with an assist from his hoops scholarship, but must deal with the full court press of some of his relationships. The critics are treating "Crossover" the way Dikembe Mutombo would handle a shot in his direction. They say the film is too by-the-numbers to be dramatic. At zero percent on the Tomatometer, "Crossover" is tied with "Zoom" (each of which have 46 rotten reviews) for the title of worst reviewed film of the year.


"Run, Anthony Mackie! Run for your life! Get help!"

"The Illusionist" goes wide this week, and the critics are largely under the spell of this Sundance-approved period mystery. The film tells the tale of Eisenheim (Norton), a magician who runs afoul with the authorities for his feats of illusion and his romance with the prince’s fiancée (Biel). The scribes are praising "The Illusionist" for its remarkable set design, sweeping romance, and its twisty plot. It currently stands at 75 percent on the Tomatometer, good enough for Certified Fresh status.


In "The Illusionist," Ed Norton plays a man outstanding in his field — or is it out walking? (Thank you. I’ll be here all week.)

Also out this week in limited release: hipster fave Andrew Bujalski‘s no-budget comedy "Mutual Appreciation" is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; Ric Burns‘ "Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film" is also at 100 percent; that lovable collie "Lassie" is at 90 percent; Kirby Dick‘s guerilla investigation of the MPAA, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," is at 83 percent; Zhang Yimou‘s latest, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles," is at 69 percent; Edward Burns‘ latest examination of suburban romantic angst, "Looking for Kitty," is at 38 percent; and Mike Judge‘s "Idiocracy," which is in limited release, was not screened for critics.


"Mutual Appreciation": As Sonic Youth might say, confusion is next and next after that is the truth.

Recent Neil LaBute Movies:
————————————
65% — The Shape of Things (2003)
64% — Possession (2002)
83% — Nurse Betty (2000)
76% — Your Friends and Neighbors (1999)
89% — In the Company of Men (1997)

Recent Jason Statham Movies:
—————————————
15% — London (2006)
27% — Revolver (2006)
50% — The Transporter 2 (2005)
73% — The Italian Job (2003)
53% — The Transporter (2002)

Recent Basketball Movies:
——————————–
90% — The Heart of the Game (2006)
58% — Glory Road (2006)
69% — Through the Fire (2005)
14% — Rebound (2005)
64% — Coach Carter (2005)

Racing into theaters across North America, the computer animated film Cars aims to take over pole position this weekend targeting family audiences. Those looking for a good scare can instead choose The Omen which already launched on Tuesday with some frightening results. The frame’s final new wide release is the Robert Altman comedy A Prairie Home Companion giving the weekend a wide assortment of titles for all audiences.

After a surprising top spot debut, the Vince VaughnJennifer Aniston comedy The Break-Up will surely fall from grace, but should still remain a formidable contender.

After a near-break-up of their own, Disney and Pixar are back together again in a committed relationship and have put their full parental support behind Cars which zooms into the marketplace on Friday with some red hot buzz. Directed by Pixar guru John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2), the G-rated film tells the story of a cocky race car who gets lost in a small town on the way to the big championship and meets a colorful group of vehicles who teach him some morals. Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy all lend their voices.

Recent Pixar films have been spaced out evenly using the Harry Potter year-and-a-half policy. In November 2001, Monsters, Inc. opened to $62.6M and was followed by Finding Nemo with $70.3M in May 2003 and The Incredibles with $70.5M in November 2004. The timing is just enough to make each film a new event of its own that generates excitement among fans of all ages. Disney’s marketing and cross-promotional efforts have been loud as usual and awareness is sky high. But Cars does have a longer running time than most toons clocking in at nearly two hours. Maybe all eight of the credited writers demanded that their bits make the final cut.

Disney has had only two number one hits so far this year, ruling the Dr. King and Presidents’ Day holiday weekends with Glory Road and Eight Below, respectively. This weekend, the third trophy should be in the bag as anticipation among boys and girls alike is high. Business from teens and adults should be solid as well since the Pixar brand name attracts millions of loyal followers of all types. Plus, NASCAR fans are sure to provide an additional push at the turnstiles. The only major competition will come from Over the Hedge which is now fading into its fourth weekend. It’s an open highway for Cars which races into over 3,800 theaters this weekend. A three-day tally of about $72M could result.

Three decades after the original terrorized movie fans, The Omen has been reborn with today’s stars and special effects in the Fox release which opened on Tuesday, 6/6/06. With horror fans now used to a steady string of remakes of fright classics, the novelty has worn thin. So, to make this one stand out, the studio plugged the R-rated film into the unorthodox Tuesday slot to take advantage of the Satan-style date which in turn became the focal point of the marketing campaign. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, and The Amityville Horror were all recent remakes that shot straight to number one. With The Omen, something new was needed to catch the attention of fans. Fox took a risk, tried something new, and won. The pic grossed a stellar $12.6M on Tuesday in its first day of release while playing in 2,660 locations.

The new Omen is hoping to attract the teens and young adults that typically power all of today’s horror hits, as well as older fans of the genre who are curious to see this new cover version. Critics have been mixed in their reviews complaining that it is too similar to the original and that there was no need to revisit this story. But money does rule Hollywood and horror films are very profitable so making newer versions of stories that worked in the past is just what studios are lining up to do. The marketing push has been commendable. Had Omen opened on a Friday, it would have been the umpteenth fright flick of the year. Instead, the date spooked people and caught the attention of the media that spread the hype.

Because this is a horror audience we are looking at, rapid erosion should follow the mid-week opening diluting down the weekend gross. Omen will burn through much of its audience in its first three days before the Friday-to-Sunday period arrives and it might even scare up more than half of its eventual domestic total in the first week. No other scary films are doing any serious biz so competition should not be much of a factor. Plus Omen is benefiting from Fox playing its trailer in front of the X-Men sequel which was seen by millions of sci-fi and horror fans over the past two weeks. For the three-day weekend period, The Omen might gross roughly $17M and over the six-day Tuesday-to-Sunday span, it could scare up around $36M.

In the weekend’s other unusual release pattern, Robert Altman’s latest film A Prairie Home Companion opens nationally on hundreds of screens instead of the typical arthouse platform release that the director’s films usually go out with. The legendary filmmaker’s latest ensemble cast brings together Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and teen queen Lindsay Lohan getting herself some indie cred. The PG-13 film about country music stars gathering for one final radio show performance has earned positive reviews and is being released by Picturehouse.

Altman films usually debut in New York and Los Angeles, build momentum through critical support, and slowly widen across the country. But Prairie is rocking its way into 725 theaters on opening day aiming to offer older adults a smart alternative to the super heroes and spies of summer. The film is sure to skew older than anything else out now which means it might also have legs if the target audience is pleased. Still, there is only so much of a built-in audience that the pic can tap into and the summer release means there will be no awards season to keep the buzz rolling along like with the helmer’s Gosford Park in early 2002. Prairie might struggle to find a broad audience this weekend given all the other high profile films targeting its audience. Adults may instead choose to take their kids to Cars, catch Jen and Vince in a shouting match, or get a weather forecast from Al Gore. An opening weekend gross of around $3M seems likely.

Universal’s The Break-Up spent just four days at the number one spot before being kicked to the curb by The Omen. Romantic comedies usually do not suffer large declines and the Aniston-Vaughn pairing has held up well during the week grossing $3.9M on Monday and $4M on Tuesday when it faced Damien. Also, the new crop of films this weekend should not steal away too much of its crowd of adult women. Still, Break-Up isn’t exactly generating a whole lot of love with audiences in the word-of-mouth department so a 45% drop could result. That would give the film about $22M for the frame and a solid $76M in ten days.

X-Men: The Last Stand has its cyclops eye on joining the $200M club this weekend. The Fox sequel suffered a stiff 67% freefall last weekend in its second frame, but should stabilize in its third fight. Wolverine and chums could see sales get sliced in half which would give the super hero pic around $17M for the weekend and a plump $203M in 17 days. That would shoot it past studio stablemate Ice Age: The Meltdown to reign as the top-grossing film of 2006.

Over the Hedge should take a bit of a beating this weekend as it no longer will be the only major digital toon in town. A 40% fall would give the Paramount release roughly $12M upping the cume to $132M. Sony could see a larger 45% drop for The Da Vinci Code and finish the frame with about $10M. That would put the total for the Tom Hanks starrer at $189M and counting.

LAST YEAR: Before Namibia, fans had to look to their local movie theater to find Brad and Angelina. The much-hyped action film Mr. & Mrs. Smith conquered the box office with a strong $50.3M in its debut frame. The Fox blockbuster enjoyed sturdy legs grossing $186.3M domestically and over $465M worldwide. A pair of former number ones followed with Madagascar taking second with $17.2M and Star Wars Episode III in third with $14.9M. Adam Sandler finished fourth with The Longest Yard which scored $13.9M. Opening in fifth place was the kid adventure The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl with $12.6M on its way to $39.2M for Miramax. Disappointing in their openings were the Paramount comedy remake The Honeymooners with $5.5M and the Lions Gate horror flick High Tension with $1.9M. Final grosses reached $12.8M and $3.7M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Weinstein’s "Hoodwinked" took on a trio of big studio rivals over the MLK holiday weekend, and early estimates for the four-day frame indicate that the little guy (er, girl) came out on top … if only by the slimmest of margins.

An animated comedy about the crazy goings-on over at grandma’s cabin, "Hoodwinked" pulled an estimated $16.6 million payday out of her goody basket, giving the relatively low-budget family flick the #1 spot. The company’s first animated feature debuted in December so as to qualify for Oscar consideration, but only in NY and LA. This weekend saw the flick hit 2,400 theaters.

Close behind in second place was Disney’s basketball drama "Glory Road," which scored about $16.4 million from 2,200 theaters. And not very far behind was Paramount’s Queen Latifomedy "Last Holiday," which made about $15.7 million from 2,500 theaters.

Still going strong in fourth place was Disney’s "The Chronicles of Narnia," which added another $12.2 million to its $263 million total, while the ferocious horror flick "Hostel" fell to fifth place with a haul of $11.6 million ($36.8m total).

Fox’s period romance "Tristan & Isolde" debuted somewhat solidly in 8th place, pulling in $7.8 million from 1,800 theaters.

And in massive primate news, Universal’s "King Kong" clocked in at 7th place with $9.2 million, but it also crossed over the $200m mark, which is something the Kongfans will be happy to learn.

Next week sees the unleashing of only one new wide release: Screen Gems romantic monster action thriller sequel "Underworld: Evolution," which stars several vampires, numerous werewolves, and one seriously hot female in black leather.

As always, you’re more than welcome to visit the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office for a closer look at the numbers.

This week at the movies brings us films about a risk-averse woman cutting loose ("Last Holiday"), a groundbreaking underdog basketball team ("Glory Road"), and an ancient folktale of grand passion ("Tristan & Isolde"). What do the critics have to say?

There are some actors and actresses who are so likable, they can pull off nearly anything, no matter how predictable. Queen Latifah is one of them. "Last Holiday," a remake of the Alec Guinness classic, tells the tale of a woman who, upon hearing dire medical news, decides to live every day as if it’s her last. Critics say a movie that could be a moderately entertaining rom-com about the virtues of believing in oneself becomes something altogether greater in the hands of Latifah, who brings a winning charm to every scene. At 68 percent, this is a "Holiday" to celebrate.

The Kentucky Wildcats were among the dominant programs in college basketball during coach Adolph Rupp’s 42-year tenure. But in 1966, an all-African American starting lineup from Texas Western defeated Rupp’s all-white squad. There is no doubt that this is an inspiring, true-life underdog tale, and many critics say "Glory Road," the big-screen adaptation starring Josh Lucas and Derek Luke, delivers the visceral thrills of our favorite sports flicks without skimping on the social commentary. But others say that inspiring true-life tales don’t necessarily make for exciting cinema; at 53 percent, this "Road" may be a little too well traveled.

Speaking of inspiring, there’s a Celtic folktale that has inspired some of the world’s most monumental artistic works, from "Romeo and Juliet" to one of Wagner’s most influential operas. But critics say the movie treatment of "Tristan & Isolde" isn’t poised to join the pantheon. A tale of romance in the war-torn aftermath of Roman control over England, critics say the film is too tepid and slow to pull off a sweeping romantic vision. At 32 percent on the Tomatometer, this is one love story that could use a little more passion.

Recent Queen Latifah Movies:
————————————
40% — Beauty Shop (2005)
33% — The Muppets: The Wizard of Oz (2005)
70% — Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)
3% — The Cookout (2004)
10% — Taxi (2004)

Recent Joshua Lucas Movies:
————————————
13% — Stealth (2005)
51% — An Unfinished Life (2005)
27% — Around the Bend (2004)
57% — Undertow (2004)
60% — Hulk (2003)

Lions Gate’s "Hostel," which was produced for less than 5 million clams, had a pretty spectacular opening weekend at the box office, bringing in an estimated $20.1 million from about 2,200 theaters. "Hostel" drew similar numbers to last year’s "White Noise," but had a tougher climb because A) it’s rated R, and B) it’s not as stupid.

Second and third place went to two multiplex juggernauts: Disney’s "The Chronicles of Narnia" tucked an additional $15.4 million into its $247.5 million collection plate, while Universal’s "King Kong" stuffed another $12.4 million into its $192.2 million banana patch.

The top five was rounded out by another pair of hang-arounders: Sony’s "Fun with Dick and Jane" made about $12.2 million ($81.3 million total) and Fox’s "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" raked in another $8.3 million ($66.4 million total).

Debuting (hilariously) in 13th and 19th place, respectively, were Fox’s "Grandma’s Boy" ($2.9 million from 2,000 theaters) and Romar’s "BloodRayne" ($1.2 million from 985 theaters). Expect both to be on DVD in time for tax day.

Next Friday sees the release of three new titles: Disney’s basketball drama "Glory Road," Paramount’s comedy "Last Holiday," and Fox’s romantic action drama "Tristan and Isolde."

For a closer look at the weekend numbers, please do stop on by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.

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