Underworld

(Photo by (c) Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection)

When Len Wiseman‘s Underworld was released back in 2003, the movie about a vampire-werewolf war and the very sexy vampires, werewolves, and humans caught up in it, never really got critics’ blood pumping. In the wake of Blade, which had nailed the R-rated horror-action mashup, and The Matrix, which had redefined trench-coat cool, Underworld – with its comic-book–style blood and plentiful trench coats – seemed “tedious” and “derivative.”

And yet the movie hit with genre fans, who would push its Audience Score to 79% (its Tomatometer Score is a Rotten 31%) and throw down enough cash at the box office to sustain a five-movie franchise, the most recent of which was 2016’s Underworld: Blood Wars.

What do they love about Wiseman’s hyper-stylized, action-packed movies? Well, all that style, for starters. And the movie’s solid and fascinating history and lore. And then there is Kate Beckinsale‘s Selene, the tough-as-nails vampire warrior with a strong sense of justice, incredible marksmanship, and an ability to land any jump while looking cool as f—k. Even critics who grumbled at the been-there-done-that-ness of some of the first movie’s plot points and set pieces praised Beckinsale, whose most celebrated role until Underworld had been in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. In Selene, everyone agreed, the world had been gifted the kind of iconic movie hero we hadn’t seen since Sarah Connor kicked liquid-metal ass in T2.

So, does Underworld deserve more love than that Rotten Tomatometer score is giving it right now? That’s what we’re asking in the latest episode of podcast Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong, where regular hosts Mark Ellis and Jacqueline Coley are joined by writer, host, producer, Underworld lover, and one third of YouTube’s “The Whirl Girls,” Steph Sabraw. Together, they’ll look at what critics were missing, the power of Kate Beckinsale (and those outfits), how Wiseman got some of Britain’s fanciest thespians to slum it in a genre flick, and why this series became so damn popular.


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Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”


If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at rtiswrong@rottentomatoes.com.


Meet the hosts

Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.

Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.


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(Photo by Marvel Studios / Disney, 20th Century Fox, Miramax, TriStar)

For their bravery, wit, general badassery, and unbroken spirit in the face of enormous challenges (be they gender discrimination or acid-hissing aliens), we pay tribute to 87 Fearless Movie Women Who Inspire Us.

How did we arrive at our top 87? With the help of a fearless panel of women critics made up of some of the best writers in the industry, including a few on the Rotten Tomatoes staff. Starting with a long list of candidates, they whittled down the list to an initial set of 72 amazingly heroic characters and ordered them, crowning the most fearless woman movie hero in the process. Want to know more about the ladies who voted? We included their bios at the end! Then, in addition to their contributions, which make up the bulk of the list, we also added a handful of more recent entries chosen by the RT staff.

The final list (you can watch every movie in a special FandangoNOW collection) gives compelling insight into which heroes have resonated through the years, women whose big-screen impact remains even as the times change. We have the usual suspects along with plenty of surprises (Working Girl, your day has come!), and the only way to discover them all is reading on for the 87 fearless women movie heroes — and groups of heroes — who inspire us!


ALIEN, Sigourney Weaver, 1979, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

 

Alien (1979) 98%

#1One of the appeals of science-fiction is the luxury to comment on modern issues and social mores, or even eschew them completely. Take a look at the diverse space crews in Star Trek, Sunshine, or Alien, where people are hired based on nothing but competence, and none have proven their competence under extreme pressure as well as Ellen Ripley. She’s tough, pragmatic, and cunning in Alien. Journey with Ripley into Aliens and we get to see her in a new light: mothering and nurturing with hints of deep empathy (Sigourney Weaver was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this performance), which only makes the Xenomorph-stomping side of her even more badass.


WORKING GIRL, Melanie Griffith, 1988 (20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

 

Working Girl (1988) 84%

#2And on the other side of the Sigourney spectrum, Weaver here plays Katharine, a particular kind of woman who’s nasty to the competition: other women. The object of her scorn is her secretary, Tess McGill (played by Melanie Griffith), who has her great ideas stolen by Katharine. The plucky Tess in turn pretends to be her boss’s colleague, and proceeds to shake things up in this corporate Cinderella story. Who doesn’t dream of one day suddenly arriving in a higher echelon of society? Of course, it’s what you do once you get there that’s important, and the glowing and tenacious Tess makes the most of it.


Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel)

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel)

 

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) 93%

#3Hard-drinking, ass-kicking Valkyrie makes no apologies for her choices and draws solid boundaries. Sure, she’s flawed, but that’s what makes her successes so sweet. That she’s played by Tessa Thompson doubles the fun.


Letitia Wright as Shuri (Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

(Photo by Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

 

Black Panther (2018) 96%

#4Letitia Wright proved that a sister doesn’t have to sit in the shadow of her sibling simply because he’s king. Her Shuri has the smarts and the sass to cut her own path, making her technical genius essential not only to the Kingdom of Wakanda, but also the Avengers’ recent efforts to take down the tyrant Thanos.


Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures (Fox 2000 Pictures)

(Photo by Fox 2000 Pictures)

 

Hidden Figures (2016) 93%

#5Don’t ask us to choose a favorite among Hidden Figures’ Space Race heroines: Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson. The Oscar-nominated drama tells the story of a real-life team of female African-American mathematicians crucial to NASA’s early space program.


Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (Jasin Boland/Warner Bros)

(Photo by )

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 97%

#6As Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron blazed a trail for enslaved post-apocalyptic cult wives in skimpy clothing – literally. With an assist from Max (Tom Hardy), soldier Furiosa set the road on fire to rescue her charges from madman Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), leader of the Citadel.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Daisy Ridley as Rey (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd)

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd)

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) 91%

#7Daisy Ridley gave girls everywhere – and full-grown women, in truth – a fresh new hero to adore when she debuted in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Of humble origins, scrappy Rey overcomes her circumstances living as an orphan in a harsh environment to become an essential component in the Resistance. It helps, of course, that The Force is with her.


 

WONDER WOMAN, Gal Gadot (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures)

(Photo by Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures)

 

Wonder Woman (2017) 93%

#8Despite her superpowers and privileged background, Gal Gadot as Diana – princess of Themyscira and the Amazons, daughter of Queen Hippolyta and King of the Gods Zeus – retains her humility and a genuine care for humanity. She’s also the most rock solid member of DC’s boys club of Justice League superheroes.


Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Carrie Fisher as Leia (20th Century Fox)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

 

Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi (1983) 82%

#9Come on…she’s Princess Leia. She leads the Rebel Alliance. She saves the galaxy again and again (with a little help from Luke, and Han, and Chewy). She eventually becomes a revered general, but from the very start – when she first confronts Darth Vader at the beginning of Episode IV – A New Hope – she shows a defiant, fiery nature that never dims. In her defining film role, Carrie Fisher brings impeccable comic timing to this cosmic princess.


Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, Winters Bone (Roadside Attractions)

(Photo by Roadside Attractions)

 

Winter's Bone (2010) 94%

#10Before she was Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence was Ree, the role that made her a star and earned her the first of four Oscar nominations. A no-nonsense teenager, Ree dares to brave the dangers lurking within the Ozark Mountains to track down her drug-dealing father and protect her siblings and their home. With each quietly treacherous encounter, she shows depth and instincts beyond her years, and a willingness to fight for what matters.


 

Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster as Clarice (Orion Pictures Corporation)

(Photo by )

 

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 96%

#11You can’t have any fear when you’re going up against Hannibal Lecter – or at least you can’t show it. He’ll sniff it out from a mile away. But what’s exciting about Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the young FBI cadet is the way she works through her fear, harnessing that nervous energy alongside her powerful intellect and dogged determination. Clarice Starling is a hero for every little girl who thought she wasn’t good enough.


Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (Universal Pictures)

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

 

Erin Brockovich (2000) 85%

#12Julia Roberts won a best-actress Oscar for her charismatic portrayal of this larger-than-life, real-life figure. Erin Brockovich is repeatedly underestimated because of the flashy way she dresses and the brash way she carries herself. But as a single mom who becomes an unlikely environmental advocate, she’s a steely fighter. What she lacks in book smarts, she more than makes up for with heart. Steven Soderbergh’s film is an inspiring underdog story.


BROADCAST NEWS, Holly Hunter (20th Century Fox)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

 

Broadcast News (1987) 98%

#13Jane Craig is the toughest, sharpest, most prepared woman in the newsroom at all times, but she isn’t afraid to cry to let it all out when the pressure gets too great. Writer-director James L. Brooks created this feminist heroine, this workplace goddess, but Holly Hunter brilliantly brings her to life. She’s just so vibrant. Even when she’s sitting still (which isn’t often), you can feel her thinking. And while two men compete for her attention, no man could ever define her.


FARGO, Frances McDormand (MGM Studios)

(Photo by MGM Studios)

 

Fargo (1996) 94%

#14It would be easy to underestimate Marge Gunderson. Sure, she’s in a position of power as the Brainerd, Minnesota, police chief. But with her folksy manner – and the fact that she’s so pregnant, she’s about to burst – she’s not exactly the most intimidating figure. But in the hands of the brilliant Frances McDormand, she’s consistently the smartest and most fearless person in the room, and she remains one of the Coen brothers’ most enduring characters. You betcha.


AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, Danai Gurira as Okoye (Marvel/Walt Disney Studios)

(Photo by Marvel/Walt Disney Studios)

 

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) 85%

#15Danai Gurira plays Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje who specializes in spear fighting and strategic wig flipping. Of late, Okoye has been seen keeping company with Avengers.


Bridget Jones's Diary, Renée Zellweger (Miramax Films)

(Photo by Miramax Films)

 

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) 79%

#16Things Bridget Jones is prone to: accidents, fantasizing about sexy coworkers, worrying about her weight, and running mad into the snow wearing tiger-print underwear. All totally relatable things, so it’s no surprise she’s the highest-ranked romcom heroine on this list. It also doesn’t hurt that, at their best, Bridget’s movies are what romantic comedies aspire to: They’re fun, cute, and just when it feels like everything’s about to fall apart, there’s the exhilarating little twist at the end that leaves watchers feel like they’re floating on air.


CLUELESS, Alicia Silverstone as Cher (Paramount Pictures)

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

 

Clueless (1995) 81%

#17It’s true that Cher is a little oblivious to the world at large, but she’s just so earnest and she tries so hard. She discovers a passion for doing good after successfully matchmaking a pair of teachers, and after a series of difficult lessons learned, she makes an honest effort to escape her privileged bubble and become a better person. Like we all should.


THELMA & LOUISE, Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis (MGM Studios)

(Photo by MGM Studios)

 

Thelma & Louise (1991) 85%

#18Thelma and Louise, best friends who stick by each other no matter what. And when their girls’ getaway weekend quickly turns from frivolous to frightening, they find even deeper levels of loyalty to each other. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon have an effortless chemistry with each other, and Ridley Scott’s intimate and thrilling film never judges these women for the decisions they make — or for the lengths to which they’ll go in the name of freedom.


THE COLOR PURPLE, Whoopi Goldberg (Warner Brothers)

(Photo by Warner Brothers)

 

The Color Purple (1985) 81%

#19Enduring racism, misogyny, and emotional, physical, and sexual violence, Celie (Whoopi Goldberg in her film debut) transcends her traumatic life in the rural South, finding friends, strength, and her own voice.


A FANTASTIC WOMAN, (UNA MUJER FANTASTICA), Daniela Vega (Sony Pictures Classics)

(Photo by Sony Pictures Classics)

 

A Fantastic Woman (2017) 94%

#20As a transgender waitress, Marina constantly endures cruelty and confusion from the ignorant people around her. When the one man who loves her for who she truly is dies unexpectedly, she finds herself in the midst of an even more emotional, personal fight. Transgender actress Daniela Vega initially was hired as a consultant on Sebastian Lelio’s film; instead, she became its star, and A Fantastic Woman deservedly won this year’s foreign-language Oscar.


Terminator 2, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor (TriStar Pictures)

(Photo by TriStar Pictures)

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 93%

#21Sarah Connor makes many want to be a better mother – or at least get to the gym and work on our triceps. The once-timid waitress crafts herself into a force of nature, a fearsome and visceral manifestation of pure maternal instinct. Played most memorably by Linda Hamilton in the first two Terminator movies, Sarah may seem unhinged, but she’s got laser-like focus when it comes to protecting her son, John, from the many threats coming his way.


Jackie Brown, Pam Grier (Miramax Films)

(Photo by Miramax Films)

 

Jackie Brown (1997) 87%

#22The return of blaxploitation queen, Pam Grier! What’s not to love? Especially in Quentin Tarantino’s killer love letter to South Bay Los Angeles. As Jackie Brown, Grier exudes classic cool with a tough exterior.


Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain (Richard Olley/Columbia Pictures)

(Photo by Richard Olley/Columbia Pictures)

 

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) 91%

#23Jessica Chastain has made a career of playing quick-witted characters with nerves of steel. Nowhere is this truer than in her starring role in Kathryn Bigelow’s thrilling depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Maya is obsessively focused in her pursuit of the al Qaeda leader. She’s a confident woman who has to be extra prepared to survive in a man’s world. But when the mission is over and she finally allows some emotion to shine through, it’s cathartic for us all.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Brothers/ Everett Collection)

(Photo by Warner Brothers/ Everett Collection)

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) 90%

#24She’s the smartest kid in the class, regardless of the subject. The hardest worker, too. And she’s proud of those qualities, making her an excellent role model for girls out there with an interest in math and science. But Hermione isn’t all about the books. Over the eight Harry Potter films, in Emma Watson’s increasingly confident hands, Hermione reveals her resourcefulness, loyalty, and grace. She’s a great student but an even better friend.


Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (Columbia Pictures/ Everett Collection)

(Photo by Columbia Pictures/ Everett Collection)

 

His Girl Friday (1940) 99%

#25Howard Hawks’ celebrated screwball comedy benefited from a not-so-small change to the stage play it was based on: In the original The Front Page, Hildy Johnson was a male. But thanks to Rosalind Russell’s lively performance, as well as a few script changes she personally insisted upon, the character blossomed into an early icon of the independent working woman who’s not only just as effective at her job as her male counterparts, but also equally adept with a witty comeback.


The Incredibles (Walt Disney/ Everett Collection)

(Photo by Walt Disney/ Everett Collection)

 

The Incredibles (2004) 97%

#26Elastigirl takes on all the trials of motherhood: She’s got hyper kids, a bored husband, and has to witness certain parts of her body unperkify. Elastigirl also just happens to be a superhero, with the fate of the world resting on her shoulders.


Gina Torres in Serenity (Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

 

Serenity (2005) 82%

#27Fans of the short-lived but beloved Fox sci-fi series Firefly were already familiar with Gina Torres‘ badassery as Zoe Washburne in Serenity. A veteran of the Unification War and second in command of the ship, Zoe is a strong and loyal ally who rarely pulls punches, whether she’s stating a controversial opinion or engaged in a literal fistfight. With her free spirit and deadly skills, it’s no wonder she became a fan favorite.


Dolly Parton in 9 to 5 (20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

 

9 to 5 (1980) 83%

#28Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and 9 to 5 allows her to light up the screen with her sparkling, charismatic personality. But while Doralee may seem like a sweet Southern gal, she’s got a stiff backbone and a sharp tongue, and she isn’t afraid to use them when she’s crossed. When she finally stands up to her sexist bully of a boss alongside co-workers Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, it’s nothing short of a revolution – one that remains sadly relevant today.


Geena Davis in A Legaue of Their Own (Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

 

A League of Their Own (1992) 80%

#29The story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is one that deserves to be told, and it’s Geena Davis Dottie Hinson who grounds this fictional account. She’s a talented local player who becomes the star of the Rockford Peaches, and it’s her quick thinking that brings publicity to the sport. When her decision to play in the World Series leads to a spectacular finish, she also demonstrates a very human vulnerability, making her a strong but relatable heroine.


Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice (Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection)

 

Pride & Prejudice (2005) 86%

#30Jane Austen’s classic heroine Elizabeth Bennet jumps off the page in the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley, who gives audiences an intelligent, down-to-Earth, sometimes literally dirty, but uncompromisingly steadfast leading lady.


Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde (courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Everett Collection)

 

Legally Blonde (2001) 70%

#31Never underestimate a sorority girl. They are organized and they know how to get what the want. In the case of Elle Woods, she goes after her law school goals with a smile on her face, a spring in her step, and an impeccably coordinated wardrobe. Reese Witherspoon is impossibly adorable in the role, with a potent combination of smarts and heart to shut down the naysayers who are foolish enough to judge her simply by her looks.


Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow (©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)

 

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) 91%

#32Talk brashly and carry a big sword. As Tom Cruise’s character unravels a complex time travel sci-fi story, a constant in his fluctuating world is Rita Vrataski aka the killer Angel of Verdun. But Emily Blunt gives life to Rita beyond burgeoning love interest. She takes the lead and makes the movie just as much her’s.


Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

(Photo by Marvel Studios)

 

Captain Marvel (2019) 79%

#33When Nick Fury sent that mysterious intergalactic text message right before disappearing into dust at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, eager fans knew what was in store. As played by Brie Larson, Captain Marvel is one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU — if not THE most powerful — and she’s in such high demand that she spends most of her time battling evil on other planets. She shows up when it counts, though, and she can rock a mowhawk like nobody’s business.


Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in A Quiet Place (Paramount /Courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Paramount /Courtesy Everett Collection)

 

A Quiet Place (2018) 96%

#34Though hit hard by tragedy and seemingly insurmountable odds of surviving an alien invasion, mother and daughter duo Evelin and Regan Abbott prove their mettle in A Quiet Place.


Nichelle Nichols in Star Trek: The Motion Picture Paramount Pictures / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

(Photo by Paramount Pictures / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) 44%

#35Played first in film by the groundbreaking star of the Star Trek TV series, Nichelle Nichols, the role was passed on to Zoe Saldana in the 2009 reboot film. Uhura, the USS Enterprise chief communications officer, was a critical crew member throughout the franchise in both TV and film.


Dafne Keen in Logan (20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

 

Logan (2017) 94%

#36Who can stand up to Hugh Jackman’s fierce Wolverine without flinching? His cloned daughter X-23. Dafne Keen imbued the preteen mutant, a.k.a. “Laura,” with a volatile mix of anger, despondency, obstinance, and hope – that we would very much like to see more of.


Kristy Swanson in Buffy The Vampire Slayer (20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection)

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) 36%

#37She’s Buffy. She slays vampires while juggling cheerleading and the SATs. But while Kristy Swanson gives the character a satricial bent, it’s the legendary TV adaptation that gives this character a lasting legacy. But the movie ain’t a bad place to start.

The huge success of The Matrix spawned a number of films with similar aesthetics: shiny, black leather wardrobes, lots of slow-motion, and action scenes that mixed martial arts with gunfighting. Take all of that and combine it with Blade, and you’ll see a path leading to one of the best action-horror franchises we’ve got — Underworld.

This original franchise chronicles the centuries-long secret war between vampires and werewolves, and while none of its five entries impressed critics — the highest-rated film is the first, at just 31% on the Tomatometer — there is more to it than meets the eye. Sure, it’s full of campy B-movie silliness, but it’s so devoted to its concept and its complex mythology that you can’t help but be enthralled by it. Plus, it gave us Kate Beckinsale as one of the most badass heroines of the 2000s. For the 15th anniversary of the franchise’s second entry, Underworld: Evolution, we’re throwing on our best black leather jacket and cranking up the nu-metal as we revisit why Underworld is the most underrated action-horror franchise.


It Takes Its Surprisingly Complex Mythology Seriously

Kate Beckinsale in Underworld: Evolution

(Photo by (c)Screen Gems courtesy Everett Collection)

A franchise about vampires fighting werewolves — otherwise known as “Lycans” — admittedly sounds silly, and it could have remained nothing more than that. But the Underworld franchise’s biggest strength is that it builds a big and complex mythology that it treats absolutely seriously. Because this is not a franchise about a single vampire or werewolf, but whole communities of them, we see how their weaknesses inform their way of life. The vampire covens’ castles have automatic sealing gates outside every window to prevent sunlight from entering. Rise of the Lycans, the third film in the series and a sequel, depicts captured Lycans who are forced to wear collars adorned with silver spikes to prevent them from transforming. We also see a fantastic escalation and evolution of weaponry being used by both sides, from more traditional artifacts like silver swords to UV bullets and grenades filled with liquid silver.

Though not necessarily groundbreaking, the Underworld franchise also introduces new concepts into both the vampire and werewolf mythos. In Evolution, we learn that the first generation of werewolves was not able to return to human form, making them generally more feral. On the vampire side, gone is the need for human blood (any blood is sufficient — even that of other vampires), but we learn that blood carries memory; one can see a another’s entire life flash before their eyes by ingesting some of their blood.

Each film doubles down on the mythology of the previous one while adding a new layer, and one could easily imagine a cinematic Underworld universe with spin-off material recounting the creation of the other covens or the first and second immortal purges of Awakening.


Its Supporting Cast Elevates the Silliness

If the franchise itself taking its mythology seriously helps bring you into its world, then hiring classy stage actors to elevate the sillier aspects of the story makes it feel like you’re watching a Shakespearean horror epic. This starts with Kate Beckinsale herself. Before she was the leather-clad Death Dealer Selene, the Oxford-trained actress played Hero in Much Ado About Nothing and had appeared in several West End productions.

Then there’s the villains. The moment Bill Nighy shows up in heavy makeup as the evil vampire overlord Viktor, curls his lip, and starts talking about the Lycans, you’re fully committed to this franchise. Nighy’s serious yet over-the-top performance is like watching him play Titus Andronicus one minute and Macbeth the next. His rapport with Michael Sheen’s slave-turned-freedom fighter-turned-villain Lucian was so great to watch that they made an entire prequel just to give Sheen a Spartacus speech to deliver to an army of Lycans.

Evolution brings in former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (Sir!) Derek Jacobi to play the first immortal man, Alexander Corvinus, and he similarly plays his role as if he were in a tragic stage play rather than a action-horror movie. Just listen to the somber way he speaks about how much it pains him that the war his two sons have begun has lasted for centuries, and that he can’t bring himself to kill one of them to end it all. The latter two movies of the franchise also introduce two Game of Thrones veterans: Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) plays a vampire noble who loves his son and gets to do some badass sword-fighting, while Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully) plays Lucian’s successor as the leader of the Lycans, boasting a commanding presence and a rather enviable hairstyle. It’s a simple yet very effective way to make the villains memorable and the conflict more compelling.


It Features Great Use Of Practical Effects

One of the biggest cinematic crimes in history is the decline of practical makeup and costume design in werewolf movies — something that extends to many other genres across the industry. But Underworld knows that there’s no beating a practical werewolf suit.

The design of the eight-foot-tall beasts that walk on two legs with grey skin, massive necks, and elongated heads are some of the most impressive werewolves in decades, and they are unique enough to be recognized among the crowd of movie werewolves. These Lycans have less fur compared to most other interpretations, with rather Mohawk-like manes that accentuate the beasts’ imposing musculature. Though they are meant to be doglike, the Lycans also possess some feline characteristics, which was the intention from the beginning, to give the Lycans a sense of agility.

The use of practical suits with yak fur and animatronic legs and faces, as well as the extensive wirework, make the action scenes hit harder and the gore feel more real. Sure, there is still a lot of CGI in the franchise, especially in the latter films, but it’s always a thrill to see a huge, practical Lycan chase Selene before she puts them down.


It Feels Like A Nu-Metal Music Video

Though it initially drew comparisons to The Matrix, the Underworld franchise quickly carved out its own gothic look that made the franchise instantly recognizable.

Its use of moonlight and shadow in the cinematography, its excess of black leather, and its use of elaborate sets and European castles make Underworld feel like you’re stepping into an early-200os Hot Topic store or a late-1990s nu-metal concert. Central to this aesthetic is Kate Beckinsale herself, who first pops on screen in a trench coat, perched in the rain like a gargoyle surveying the streets of Budapest with enough gothic glamour to create an iconic look for the franchise at large. We’re not saying the style is for everyone, but it’s difficult to deny the role it’s played as the signature look for the series; not every franchise can say the same.


It Knows How To Reinvent Itself

Every long-lasting franchise, at some point, has to evolve or die. The recent Fast & Furious movies have little in common with the very first film in the franchise, for example. Though Underworld hasn’t exactly turned into a Mission: Impossible-style spy thriller, it has still managed to change and adapt over time, providing different and exciting experiences for the audience with every entry.

After the first film ends with a change in the status quo for Selene and the worlds of both vampires and Lycans, the second entry dives deeper into the mythology by introducing us to the first of both species. Their look is unlike anything in the first movie, offering a proper winged nosferatu and a feral werewolf straight from a classic Universal monster movie. The third film goes full Romeo and Juliet by returning to the past, making tragic heroes of the Lycans, and trading UV bullets for swords.

Even the more maligned Awakening still offers something new, as it jumps forward in time to a dystopian future in which the Lycans are even bigger and more terrifying. Lastly, Blood Wars feels like a response to the rise in popularity of Game of Thrones, as it explores even more political intrigue and features an epic fantasy-heavy third act that’s basically an Arthurian myth mixed with the triumphant climax of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Seriously, there’s an army of pale, silver-haired vampires brandishing swords in the middle of a gunfight, and it rules.


Underworld: Evolution was released in theaters on December 17, 2010.

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Charlize’s hair apparent to her Furiosa character in Mad Max: Fury Road is Atomic Blonde, as she inhabits a new badass creation with a license to break bones and drub clowns across ’80s Germany. We could go Theron and on but let’s cut to the chase: Here’s 24 more female action movies, ranked by Tomatometer!

Bill Nighy in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

The world of Vampire and Lycan will once again clash with much nashing of teeth and bloody battle, but this time in the form of a prequel.   With the release of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans there are a number of familiar faces to be found amongst the warriors, including everyone’s favourite thousand year old vampire, Viktor, played by Bill Nighy.

RT, along with a small contingent of journalists, were invited into the heart of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans while it was filming in New Zealand where we were able to explore, first hand, the full scale castle set that acts as home to the privileged vampires and prison to the enslaved werewolf clan. We all took time out from snooping around the subterranean cages and scaling the castle’s parapets to talk to Bill Nighy about fang etiquette, skirt wearing and his repulsion of his own image.

On playing the role of Viktor for the third time…
It’s been great actually. I am very fond of these movies and I am not just saying that. Len Wiseman and Danny McBride and Richard Wright, the producer, are very decent guys and they are believers. They are not just making some vampire movie. They are committed. They come out of a graphic novel background and a design background and are deeply tutored in vampire lore. Anyone who writes about ‘daylight harnessed in bullet form’ is in pretty good shape as far as I am concerned. I love all that stuff. I love it when it gets technical. The phenomenon of vampires has always appealed to me. Everyone kind of likes a vampire story because it almost could be true. There are those moments when you get another report of some remains found in Transylvania that indicate that perhaps it was possible in 1107AD that there was a guy who existed purely on blood. It is almost true. It is just a funky kind of lore. The whole idea of them is great.

Bill Nighy, Underworld: Rise of the Lycons

On creating the character of Viktor…
Viktor is lordly in as much as he is king dog around these parts so I drew on that and from my experience of the genre and watching other movies. I wanted not to be too obvious. There is a sort of traditional way of playing such guys but I wanted to give it my own spin. I hate to start talking like this because it sounds so pompous whenever you start talking about acting. A lot of the choices I make are based on what I don’t want to be. It is just trying not to repeat stuff that is done elsewhere.  It is like when people do Shakespeare. For generations, when people have been asked to do Shakespeare they bend one leg, put their other hand on their sword, put their chin up slightly and start talking funny. It is like it is handed down in the DNA. It is really bizarre.  It is to be resisted because it is not good for anybody and it is not good for business. Apart from that I don’t know what I drew on. They put me in a skirt which always has a very profound effect on me. It is very liberating. I recommend it. Except in the wet. The problem with genre movies is everything is wet. You forget that. So when I said: ‘Yes, I will wear a full length velvet skirt’ it sounded like a good idea until I got on set. The set looks perfectly alright now but as soon as you start shooting the guys come in with the hoses and it starts dripping so everything is wet all of the time. It is a vampire world and it is a castle and you can’t have a dry castle. It’s got to be wet so you end up with a very soggy bum. You don’t need to know that detail but now you do. It is a battle skirt obviously. We should always preface the word ‘skirt’ with the word ‘battle’.

Bill Nighy in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

What he likes most about playing Viktor…
I do like hissing. I like giving it a bit of vampire cat. When you get your fangs in, when you get your battle fangs in I should say, because as you probably know there are two level of fang. There is your usual street fang and then there is when you get engaged and they suddenly become much longer and fiercer. When you get your battle fangs in and hiss, I enjoy that. There was a scene the other day with Michael Sheen where I don’t think there was any dialogue. It entirely consisted of him roaring at me and me hissing back him. I do enjoy that stuff.

On the pleasure of playing a villain…
Yeah, they are meant to have more fun. And in terms of acting it is great. You try to be as obnoxious as you possibly can which you never get to do in life. You never get to use the muscles in your face that make you completely obnoxious. So it is kind of refreshing in that way. And it is fun to see how bad and awful you can be.

When one hapless journo asked if it was hard to shrug off Viktor once the camera stopped rolling…
No it is not. How dare you. It is absolutely effortless. Actors always talk about taking their work home and I always think: ‘What are you on? You just turn it off. You are at work and then you go home.’ But maybe you should ask people’s wives and families because they are best placed to know. I don’t go back to the hotel and hiss at people. At least I don’t think I do.

On the experience of returning to a franchise with a new director and a new female star…
It is nice to welcome new people and they have all come with a respect for it. The director, Patrick Tatopoulos, has been associated with the movies anyway and he has been tremendous.  I don’t think of him as a first time director because he doesn’t seem to be a first time director. He has been completely brilliant. And you also feel doubly reassured because like Len he comes from a design background and a genre background so he is steeped in the language of these movies and movies like these movies. And Rhona Mitra has come in and she is brilliant and beautiful and lovely and can do all these things that I can’t do like fight, ride and look tough. She is always up for it with the sword or horses. She just rides about, does dialogue, hits the mark, gets the sword out, and gives someone a hard time effortlessly. She has been a brilliant addition to the whole series. It is a bit like returning to school and there are some new boys on the block. It is a vampire/werewolf movie and the people who are here dig vampire/werewolf movies otherwise they wouldn’t be here. It is a successful franchise and everyone is happy to be a part of it.  

Rhone Mitra, Underworld: Rise of the Lycons

On watching himself on screen…
I never watch my own films. I had to watch Love Actually once. I don’t know how other actors do it. I know actors are supposed to but if I can possibly avoid it, I do. I hadn’t seen Underworld until we were filming Underworld: Evolution. I watched it in the hotel a couple of nights before we started filming. I just can’t. I don’t know why everyone isn’t the same. There is nothing in it for me to watch myself. All I see is how far short it falls from what was going on in my head or what I was attempting and I don’t need that information. I would rather live without that information. There was one occasion when I was with my daughter when she was younger and I took her to see a movie and it was too weird for her to see her father hanging out in the lobby. I couldn’t rationalise it: ‘Well Dad goes away now because he finds the sight of himself physically repulsive’… you can’t really explain that to a child. ‘What is wrong, Daddy?’. Well, you can hardly respond with ‘It makes me nauseous when I lay eyes upon my own image’. You can’t do that. She held my hand the whole way through it and every time I came on she just squeezed my hand. That worked.

On being invited to play a thousand year old vampire…
Well, I tell you what, I was amazed to get the gig but then I am always amazed to get the gig. I do remember it was a very bad day when I got Underworld. I was on a tube in London town and it was very hot and someone threw themselves under the tube and died. I had to get off the tube and everyone was quiet and awful. And then I remember having to walk for miles to get to the place where I was meeting Len for the first time. Not that this means anything, I am just telling you because it was a horrible moment. And then I have to go for this job and I met this very nice man and I did my version of a vampire and then he walked away and you think: ‘that will be the end of that’. Like most actors I have done 690 of these things and you get maybe 12 or something. You get used to just walking away and thinking they won’t happen. But I did admire the script. I remember thinking this is serious because I really do like vampire stories and they are not always that great. There are obviously some very distinguished exceptions to that but a lot of them don’t do it justice and this one did. And I was keen, I was very keen.

 The thousand year old bit… had I known what the thousand year old bit meant… if I truly knew what being asleep for a thousand years in the first one meant I would never have turned up. It was six hours to put the prosthetic on. First of all they fly you to Los Angeles and pour a bucket of alginate over your head and just before they pour the bucket the young man says, ‘um… do you get… like… claustrophobic or anything’ and it is a little late for that actually. They put things up your nose so you can breathe and then they wait for it to harden. You can feel it hardening around your shoulders and head and they take that off and then they put it all over your torso and you stand up. And they all stop laughing at your jokes because you have to stand up for some time while it hardens around your rib cage and it all gets a bit spooky and a bit quiet and you’re wondering why it has all gone a bit quiet and then afterwards they crack you out of it and tell you that half the people faint apparently because it gets so tight around their ribs that they can’t breathe properly. They have to catch you when that happens which is why it all goes a bit quiet. By the time you leave the building they have a full length model of you and they can do anything to it. They can cut your head off, they can cut your legs off, anything they want.

I would love to have one in the hall actually; if it had the right skirt on.

Bill Nighy, Underworld: Rise of the Lycons

Last year’s Underworld: Evolution was given an old-fashioned reaming by critics when it reached theaters — but between box office and rental receipts, it’s grossed over $100 million, so it comes as no surprise that we’ll soon be treated to Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans.

As Variety reports, Underworld 3 will be helmed by well-known monster creator and first-time director Patrick Tatopoulos, “who developed the creatures for the first two films in the franchise,” and will be produced by series creator Len Wiseman. Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, and Rhona Mitra are attached to star, and the screenplay — written by Danny McBride — will take viewers back in time:

Prequel story traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. In the Dark Ages, a young Lycan named Lucian (Sheen) emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Nighy), the cruel vampire king who has enslaved them. Lucian is joined by his secret lover, Sonja (Mitra), in his battle against the Death Dealer army and his struggle for Lycan freedom.

Wiseman’s enthusiasm for the Underworld franchise remains undimmed by the critical brickbats. Variety quotes him as saying:

“For the first time we will experience the ‘Underworld’ universe through the eyes of the Lycans…Patrick has always played such an essential part in helping to create ‘Underworld’ from the start…So I feel it is both exciting and fitting that (he) now takes the helm.”

Source: Variety

One of the highlights of the super-long Whiteout panel at Comic-Con came when Kate Beckinsale popped in, fashionably late, and addressed a handful of roles she’s been rumored to play.

Beckinsale, whose turn as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko in next year’s Whiteout will give her some unfamiliar costuming choices — that is, fully covered and wearing a parka for much of the time — was game to answer questions about a number of roles that fans of her body of work would love to see.



Based on her past roles (and, more specifically, her costumes in Underworld and Underworld: Evolution), it’s not a stretch for Beckinsale herself to imagine slipping into another famous skintight suit — as Catwoman.

“Because I have a thing for black latex. I do, I know we all do. I think Michelle Pfeiffer was such an awesome Catwoman, I’d be really intimidated to get into that suit after she filled it. But I don’t know if my husband [Underworld director Len Wiseman] would talk to me if I were to get it and I turned it down. I’d have to take it into very heavy consideration.”

She also admitted to being offered a role as a Bond girl in the past, but turned it down so her daughter wouldn’t be too mortified at the surely scant wardrobe it would require. But maybe Beckinsale would reconsider for one super role in particular?

“I have, I can’t remember what it was. It wasn’t recently,” she explained. “I do feel like I’ve embarrassed my daughter enough, and notice you always have to be in your underwear at some point in a James Bond film. I’m becoming elderly, for that sort of thing. Maybe not me so much, but I think once the child gets into third grade…that was the whole question with Wonder Woman, because it’s still essentially underwear. So I don’t know, but…you never know.”

Action fans who have been waiting for more news regarding two of New Line’s major upcoming projects — specifically, the Gears of War adaptation and the Escape from New York remake — get a double shot of rumor juice with this item. According to IESB, the studio is close to announcing who will be behind the lens for both films, and a “reliable insider” has shared the scoop.

Ready to find out? Okay, here goes: Gears of War, the adaptation of the popular X360 game, will be helmed by Underworld and Underworld: Evolution director Len Wiseman. Meanwhile, duties for the Escape from New York remake, starring Gerard Butler as Snake Plikssen, will be handled by…Live Free or Die Hard director Len Wiseman.

No, that was not a typo. Do not adjust your sets at home. If IESB‘s anonymous source is to be trusted, Wiseman will end up behind the camera for both projects.

Thus far, reaction to both projects has been rather lukewarm; videogame adaptations are always iffy propositions at best, and there are plenty of people who don’t see the need for an Escape remake. The announcement of Wiseman’s involvement, if it actually comes to pass, could have a polarizing effect — Live Free or Die Hard has earned unexpectedly positive reviews, but the Underworld films haven’t fared as well, and although the director’s obvious love for Michael Bay-style action would be arguably well-suited for both films, it’s bound to concern fans who want more than pithy dialogue and shots of stuff blowing up.

For now, this is just a rumor, but if the article’s on target, it’s a rumor that should be proven or debunked relatively quickly.

Source: IESB.net

According to one source, the studio has the "Wolverine" director’s job down to a lead candidate … and a backup choice.

IESB.net informs us that "Disturbia" director D.J. Caruso is in the running for the "Wolverine" gig. His other films include "Two for the Money," "Taking Lives," and "The Salton Sea." But it looks like Mr. Caruso might have a different job lined up at DreamWorks, so Fox’s second option would be…

Len Wiseman, director of both "Underworld" movies and this summer’s "Live Free or Die Hard." Then again, Wiseman might be their first choice of "DH4" is a huge hit. How nice.

We do know that screenwriter David Benioff and leading man Hugh Jackman are on board. They just need a director.

Source: IESB.net

This word arrives by way of a British gossip column, so you know what to do with it, but here’s the dirt: Kate Beckinsale is apparently being considered for the lead role in Dino De Laurentiis‘ "Barbarella" remake. And you won’t hear any complaints from me.

Best known for kicking Lycan tail in leather in "Underworld" and "Underworld: Evolution," the British actress is also well-known for her work in "Van Helsing," "Pearl Harbor," "Serendipity," "The Aviator," and "Click." She’s also well-known for being stunningly hot, but that’s just one guy’s opinion.

Still no word on who’ll be directing the new "Barbarella," but we do know that "Casino Royale" screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are on adaptation duty. (They also wrote "Plunkett & MacLeane" and "Johnny English.") Just sayin’.

Source: Daily Express

A quartet of poorly-titled films will hit the multiplexes on Friday hoping to grab some business opposite a string of acclaimed releases fresh from earning their Oscar nominations.

Leading the newcomers with the most theaters is the spoof comedy "Epic Movie" which goes head to head against the crime drama "Smokin’ Aces." Horror fans get the werewolf pic "Blood and Chocolate" while those who prefer non-violence get the Jennifer Garner drama "Catch and Release."

Fox tries to tap into the immature crowd with its new comedy "Epic Movie" which spoofs many of the big-budget action and fantasy blockbusters of recent years. The "Scary Movie" series has ushered in more spoof flicks and Fox even saw solid results a year ago with its "Date Movie" which lampooned popular romantic comedies. That film bowed to $19.1M and found its way to $48.5M. Fans may be getting a little sick of the same template over and over again so the opening may not be as big, but the genre still works especially with young teens looking for mindless entertainment after a long week of classes. Commercials and trailers do not look that funny, but given the weak marketplace and the success rate of comedies with specific concepts, "Epic" may take in all the cash it needs to hit the number one spot. Holdovers do not seem like they will break into double digit millions this weekend. With a wide release in 2,801 playdates, the PG-13 pic could amass around $14M.


Lampooning Harry Potter in "Epic Movie."

The weekend’s solo R pic comes in the form of the mob thriller "Smokin’ Aces" from Universal. Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, and Alicia Keys star in this ensemble piece about a witness in protective custody being hunted down by a crime boss before he can testify. Young men are the target audience here in this Vegas-set flick that tries too hard to be cool. The NFL’s weekend off should make guys more available for ticketbuying which will help. The studio saw an underwhelming $6.4M three-day debut for another R-rated crime saga earlier this month – "Alpha Dog" – and will probably see many of the same customers this time around. An extra 1,000 theaters will ensure a bigger opening, but there is no A-list star or director in the film to truly attract a large crowd. A quick in and out of theaters should result. Opening in 2,204 locations, "Smokin’ Aces" might collect roughly $8M in its first hand.


Alicia Keys in "Smokin’ Aces."

Jennifer Garner plays a woman trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband in the new drama "Catch and Release." Sony proudly offers the only major new pic for female moviegoers and hopes to stand out from the crowd by going after an audience few others are targeting. The PG-13 film will test the starpower of the former "Alias" star who last hit screens two years ago with the big-budget bomb "Elektra." Her comedy "13 Going on 30" which she anchored solo performed well with a $21.1M bow, but "Catch" lacks the same fun factor and will probably draw fewer males too. Plus the studio is going into the marketplace with less than half the theaters they gave to "13." A supporting role by Kevin Smith is not likely to help bring in many dudes. But with so few films playing specifically to young women, a decent average is likely. "Catch and Release" hits 1,622 theaters on Friday and could take in about $7M.


Jennifer Garner, Kevin Smith, and some other dude in "Catch and Release."

Werewolf terror hits the multiplexes in the form of "Blood and Chocolate," a new supernatural fright flick aiming for teens and young adults. The MGM release carries a PG-13 rating which could work well in getting in younger teens, but the film lacks the zing or interesting concept that fans need in order to pay top dollar at the local theater. Every recent horror film has underperformed at the box office and this one does not seem like the savior that can turn things around. Plus other new releases will be distracting the target audience too. Opening in roughly 1,500 theaters, "Blood and Chocolate" could debut to around $4M.


"Blood and Chocolate."

After racking up over $200M through its five-week stay in the top two slots, "Night at the Museum" should get bumped down a bit. The Ben Stiller film once again faces no new competition for the family audience so a slim decline should result. A 30% fall would give Fox about $8M for the weekend and a towering cume of $215M. Sony’s "Stomp the Yard" looks to fall harder so a 40% drop to around $7M could occur pushing the cume to $50M.

After scoring the most Oscar nominations of any film with eight, the big-budget musical "Dreamgirls" shot up to the number one spot on Tuesday after finishing in third last weekend and on Monday. Although it missed out on the top prize of a Best Picture nomination, the Jamie FoxxBeyonce Knowles film is still getting media attention which is fueling the buzz and the studio has wasted no time in advertising the fact that no other film has more Academy Award nods. Still, the film is aging and many other awards contenders are expanding and trying to attract upscale moviegoers too. A small 20% slide to around $6M may occur giving "Dreamgirls" a solid $85M total.

LAST YEAR: Martin Lawrence topped the box office with his hit comedy sequel "Big Momma’s House 2" which bowed to a plump $27.7M. The Fox release went on to gross $70.2M. Debuting in second was the family film "Nanny McPhee" with $14.5M for Universal on its way to $47.1M. Sony’s "Underworld: Evolution" tumbled by 58% in its second weekend and placed third with $11.4M. The military drama "Annapolis" opened in fourth with a modest $7.7M before finishing with $17.1M for Buena Vista. The animated hit "Hoodwinked" rounded out the top five with $7.5M in its third caper.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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

British actor Michael Sheen is co-starring in a pair of high-profile dramas this season, "The Queen" and "The Blood Diamond," but when he sits down for an interview, the movie geeks want to know one thing. Will there be an "Underworld 3," and will Sheen be returning to play the Head Werewolf Guy?

From an interview at ComingSoon.net: "CS: We can’t end this interview without talking about your other big role, that of Lucian from "Underworld." I spoke to Len Wiseman earlier this year, and he mentioned wanting to do a prequel, though he’s now off doing "Die Hard 4." At this point in your career, would you still want to go back and play Lucian again?

Sheen: Oh, yeah, absolutely! I love playing that character. It’s great, and I’m always amazed by how popular the character is with people who are into that sort of genre thing. It always makes me laugh. At my local pub in London, there used to be a young guy who worked there, and I remember walking in at one time when he only started working there, and he freaked out because he suddenly realized I was Lucian from "Underworld." He couldn’t believe "Lucian" was in this pub, and he said, "Could you wait around because my boss looks like a werewolf and I want to see the two of you have a werewolf fight!" It’s an incredibly popular character, so I think the idea is that we’re trying to work out the whole idea of doing a third film. It would be a prequel and it would be about Lucian, the third film. Hopefully, we’ll get that together."

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The studios have been hiding movies from those pesky scribes all year long, but this time they’ve outdone themselves. This week, three movies won’t be screened before getting tossed into the theaters: Neil LaBute‘s remake of "The Wicker Man," starring Nicolas Cage; "Crank," another high-octane actioner starring Jason Statham; and Mike Judge‘s "Idiocracy," a "Futurama"-esque comedy starring Luke Wilson.

What’s odd about this batch of unscreened films is that two of them are directed by established helmers. They include the generally blameless Judge, the man behind such beloved creations as "Beavis and Butthead" and "Office Space," and LaBute, whose filmography is a bit darker ("In the Company of Men," "Your Friends and Neighbors") but has never been uninteresting. Even stranger, "Idiocracy" is opening in limited release, but is bypassing the normal release pattern by playing outside of New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area.


No, these aren’t the sad movie critics waiting in vain to see "The Wicker Man"….

So we’re going to play that increasingly popular party game: Guess the Tomatometer! (If the studios continue to stop screening movies beforehand, GTT may replace the NFL and Nascar as one of the most popular games in America.) But we’ll make it easier for you with some super unscientific calculations. The average Tomatometer of the movies not screened for critics is just under 15 percent; Basically, we’ve taken the average Tomatometer of unscreened films plus the average Tomatometer of the key participants’ films divided by two. By factoring in the combined Tomatometers of LaBute, and stars Cage and Ellen Burstyn, we’re guessing "The Wicker Man" will wind up around 42 percent. Utilizing Judge’s and Wilson‘s Tomatometers, "Idiocracy" may wind up in the area of 38 percent. And since the directors of "Crank" are relative newcomers, we’ll use Statham, Amy Smart, and Dwight Yoakam to guesstimate that "Crank" will end up around 32 percent. Feel free to knock as many points off as you feel is necessary.


…and no, this is not a metaphor for what the studios think those mean ol’ critics will do to the opening weekend grosses.

Films Not Screened For Critics In 2006 (Best To Worst Tomatometer Score):
————————————————
69% — Snakes on a Plane
28% — Silent Hill
27% — Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion
23% — Phat Girlz
16% — Grandma’s Boy
15% — Underworld: Evolution
11% — The Benchwarmers
10% — Ultraviolet
10% — When a Stranger Calls
7% — Date Movie
7% — Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector
6% — Material Girls
6% — See No Evil
5% — Doogal
5% — BloodRayne
5% — Stay Alive
0% — Zoom

This week at the movies, we’ve got Oliver Stone paying tribute to the heroes of 9/11 ("World Trade Center," starring Nicolas Cage); two youngsters trying to start a dance dance revolution ("Step Up," starring Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum); a school for young superheroes ("Zoom," starring Tim Allen and Courteney Cox); and an evil website ("Pulse," starring Kristen Bell). What do the critics have to say?

Oliver Stone has never been the subtlest of directors, nor has he shied away from controversy or conspiracy-mongering. So it’s something of a surprise to critics that with his latest, "World Trade Center," he has tackled a subject (the 9/11 attacks) rife with talk of dark machinations and created a straightforward, apolitical tale of heroism. Based on a true story, "World Trade Center" stars Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena as a pair of Port Authority police officers who became trapped in the ruins of the World Trade Center while attempting to rescue others. Critics say the narrow human focus is one of the strengths of the film, along with its stunning visuals and an old-fashioned sense of resilience and heroism. At 70 percent on the Tomatometer, "World Trade Center" may be a cut below Paul Greengrass‘ 9/11 film "United 93" (90 percent), but it’s a worthy examination of a day that will live in infamy. It’s also Stone’s best-reviewed film since "Nixon."


Nicolas Cage as real-life officer John McLoughlin in "World Trade Center"

"Step Up" tells the story of a hip-hop dancer from the wrong side of the tracks (Channing Tatum) and a privileged ballerina (Jenna Dewan) who overcome their differences to make beautiful music together on the dance floor. Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve seen "Saturday Night Fever," "Save the Last Dance," or "Dirty Dancing." Perhaps the Bee Gees presciently spoke for the critics of "Step Up" when they sang, "You should be dancing," for the scribes say the film is at its best in its electrifying dance sequences, but dramatically flat otherwise. At 21 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics are putting this baby in a corner.


"Step Up": Do fries come with that shake?

The studios apparently believe "Pulse" is pretty lifeless, and that "Zoom" is full of cinematic gloom. What else could explain the fact that the Kristen Bell J-horror remake and the Tim Allen superhero comedy, respectively, were not screened for critics? It’s time to bust out those crystal balls and guess those Tomatometers, people.


"Sometimes when we touch/ the horror’s just too much"

Also in theaters this week, in limited release: "Half Nelson," starring Ryan Gosling as a troubled inner city teacher, is at a whopping 95 percent on the Tomatometer; the Czech surrealist horror film "Lunacy" is at 80 percent; "House of Sand," a visually remarkable Brazilian epic, is at 80 percent; "Conversations With Other Women," a tale of a romantic reunion starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart, is at 70 percent; "The Trouble With Men and Women," a low-budget Brit relationship drama, is at 50 percent; "Poster Boy," a drama about the gay son of a senator, is at 43 percent; and "The Ordeal," a dark Belgian horror import, is at 43 percent.

Recent Oliver Stone Movies:
———————————–
16% — Alexander (2004)
50% — Comandante (2003)
48% — Any Given Sunday (1999)
51% — U-Turn (1997)
74% — Nixon (1995)

Recent Nicolas Cage Movies:
————————————
61% — Lord of War (2005)
59% — The Weather Man (2005)
42% — National Treasure (2004)
82% — Matchstick Men (2003)
90% — Adaptation (2002)

Films Not Screened For Critics In 2006 (Best To Worst Tomatometer Score):
————————————————
28% — Silent Hill
27% — Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion
24% — Phat Girlz
16% — Grandma’s Boy
15% — Underworld: Evolution
11% — The Benchwarmers
10% — Ultraviolet
10% — When a Stranger Calls
7% — Date Movie
7% — Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector
6% — See No Evil
5% — Doogal
5% — BloodRayne
5% — Stay Alive

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