In a move perhaps prompted by the success of, and publicity surrounding, last year’s "This Film is Not Yet Rated," Variety reports that MPAA chairman-CEO Dan Glickman met with filmmakers and studio executives in Sundance (check out our coverage) on Monday, both to express support for the board’s rarely-used NC-17 rating, and to announce the appointment of a liaison to help answer questions and add transparency to the ratings process.
The timing was appropriate, given that the day before, The Weinstein Company and Lionsgate purchased the rights to "Teeth," which the article describes as "a dark comedy about a girl who has teeth in her vagina."
At a press briefing after the meeting, Glickman told reporters:
"We are going to talk about this with the Directors Guild of America and the National Association of Theater Owners … It’s one of our ratings, and I’d like to see it used more."
The NC-17 rating, which was intended to help the commercial prospects of films too graphic to obtain an R, has largely failed to escape the stigma associated with the X rating.
Moviegoers had football on their minds for the second straight weekend as Disney’s true-life NFL tale "Invincible" remained atop the North American box office over the long Labor Day holiday weekend finishing off another summer movie season. New releases "Crank" and "The Wicker Man" opened in second and third, respectively, while the critically acclaimed films "Little Miss Sunshine" and "The Illusionist" both scored strong per-theater averages in moderate release. The holiday frame marked the first weekend in six long months where no new film debuted with at least $15M. Hollywood was happy to close the books on a summer movie season that was slightly better than than last year’s.
Retaining its first-place position, Mark Wahlberg‘s "Invincible" grossed an estimated $15.2M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend and remained the most popular movie in North America. After 11 days of release, the feel-good drama about a 30-year-old bartender who earned a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles starting lineup has grossed a solid $37.8M and could be headed for the neighborhood of $60-70M.
It was only fitting that Disney topped the box office charts as the summer came to an end. Since the summer movie season kicked off on May 5 with "Mission: Impossible III," Buena Vista has grossed $786M at the multiplexes beating out all other studios. Disney’s success was powered by the summer’s two highest grossing hits, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" ($414.2M) and "Cars" ($242M), but also included surprise late-summer winners like "Invincible" and "Step Up." It was a drastic turnaround from last summer when the Mouse House’s biggest film was "Herbie: Fully Loaded" with $66M.
Opening in second place was action star Jason Statham‘s new thriller "Crank" with an estimated $13M over four days from 2,515 theaters. Averaging a commendable $5,169 per site, the R-rated film features a poisoned hitman who will die if he can’t keep his adrenaline up constantly. The Lionsgate release opened better than Statham’s 2002 film "The Transporter" ($9.1M in three days) but did not reach the $20.1M bow of his action sequel "Transporter 2" which ruled the Labor Day frame a year ago. That number one hit carried a commercially friendly PG-13 rating and kicked its way into 800 more theaters. Over the Friday-to-Sunday span, "Crank" grossed $10.3M and averaged $4,095.
Nicolas Cage opened his new suspense thriller "The Wicker Man" close behind in third place with an estimated $11.7M in ticket sales over the Friday-to-Monday holiday session. The Warner Bros. remake about a cop who investigates a missing girl averaged a mediocre $4,210 from 2,784 theatrs over four days. The PG-13 film grossed $9.6M in three days for a mild average of $3,448. Cage appeared twice in the top ten as his previous film "World Trade Center" finished further down in ninth place.
Two smaller films successfully expanding into national release followed and scored the best averages among all the wide releases. Fox Searchlight’s road comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" ranked fourth for the weekend with an estimated $9.7M over four days with $7.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion. It was the second weekend in a row that actor Greg Kinnear had two films in the top five. He plays a supporting role in "Invincible" as well. "Sunshine" averaged a strong $6,071 from 1,602 theaters over four days pushing its total to $35.8M and counting. At its current rate, it should eventually surpass "Miami Vice" as the top-grossing R-rated film to come out of the summer.
Rookie distributor Yari Film Group did an excellent job expanding its period mystery "The Illusionist" into national release and jumped into fifth place with an estimated four-day gross of $8M. Expanding from 144 to 971 theaters, the Edward Norton–Paul Giamatti drama scored the best average in the top ten with a sturdy $8,261 per venue. Cume now stands at $12.1M. The distributor scored excellent averages during its two weeks in limited release allowing positive word-of-mouth to spread for a film that was not easy to sell at a time when there were plenty of good choices for mature adults. Another 400 theaters will be added on Friday.
A trio of comedies followed. Sony’s Will Ferrell hit "Talladega Nights" grossed an estimated $7.7M over four days and lifted its cume to a stellar $138.4M making it the top-grossing comedy of the summer. Paramount’s animated pic "Barnyard" took in an estimated $6.4M pushing its total to $63.6M. The teen flick "Accepted" placed eighth and collected an estimated $5.9M giving Universal $29.4M to date.
Rounding out the top ten were the 9/11 drama "World Trade Center" with an estimated $5.8M over four days and the dance saga "Step Up" with $5.5M, according to estimates. Paramount’s Oliver Stone film has taken in a solid $63.7M thus far while Buena Vista’s surprise hit has taken in $58.4M.
Opening quietly outside of the top ten was the street basketball drama "Crossover" with an estimated $4.5M over four days from a moderate release in 1,023 theaters. Sony averaged a decent $4,399 over the long weekend on the $6M film which played mostly to a young urban audience.
Platforming to muscular numbers was the IFC Films doc "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" which grossed an estimated $42,000 from solo houses in New York and Los Angeles for a potent $20,832 average. The unrated expose that examines the ratings board of the MPAA will continue to expand throughout September.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The raunchy comedy "Beerfest" tumbled to an estimated $4.6M over four days giving Warner Bros. only $14.8M in 11 days. A $20M final seems likely. Universal’s OutKast pic "Idlewild" took in an estimated $2.9M in its sophomore session giving the music-driven film only $9.9M in 11 days. Look for a $14M conclusion. New Line’s buzzworthy action-horror pic "Snakes on a Plane" has scared up just over $31M to date and is set to end with a final domestic gross close to its $35M production budget.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $89M over four days which was down 3% from last year when "Transporter 2" debuted at number one with $20.1M; but up 19% from 2004 when "Hero" remained in the top spot with $11.5M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
The summer movie season comes to an official end with the Labor Day holiday weekend unleashing three new releases plus the national expansion of a fourth.
Lionsgate offers the action crowd "Crank," Warner Bros. provides the suspense thriller "The Wicker Man," Sony takes a shot with the basketball drama "Crossover," and Yari Film Group goes nationwide with its period thriller "The Illusionist." Each is hoping that current champ "Invincible" will fumble the ball. The summer-ending frame is often a time when moviegoers catch up on hit films they haven’t seen yet so notable holdovers could see their four-day grosses grow beyond their three-day takes from last weekend. Overall, the marketplace remains overcrowded with too many films fighting to get a slice of the box office pie.
British action star Jason Statham attacks the U.S. for the second Labor Day weekend in a row with his latest pic "Crank." Co-starring Amy Smart, the Lionsgate release sees the actor playing a poisoned hitman who must keep his adrenaline up in order to stay alive. Unlike his PG-13 "Transporter" flicks, "Crank" carries a more restrictive R rating which could narrow its target audience. It’s been a tough summer for R-rated action films with movies like "Snakes on a Plane" and "Miami Vice" both underperforming. But if there’s any distributor who can successfully target young adult males with these types of films with intriguing concepts, it’s the "Saw" studio.
"Snakes" was the only pure action film in the top ten last weekend so competition for "Crank" may not be too fierce. Statham has seen his starpower grow in the last couple of years and that might benefit his latest pic too. Still, the marquees are jam packed with choices this weekend so it will be tough to fight off other films and convince moviegoers that their time and money should be best spent here. A year ago this weekend, "Transporter 2" opened at number one with a four-day tally of $20.1M. However, that Fox pic was a sequel, had a less restrictive rating, and bowed in 900 more theaters. Given "Crank’s" debut in about 2,400 locations, it could end up with around $13M over the long Friday-to-Monday period.
With his twin towers drama still in the top ten, Nicolas Cage hits the big screen for the second time in a month with the psychological thriller "The Wicker Man." The PG-13 film stars the Oscar-winning actor as a cop investigating a cult while looking for a missing girl. Labor Day weekend has been a good time for creepy thrillers, especially for ones that appeal to high school and college students like the "Jeepers Creepers" pics. "Wicker Man’s" rating will help its cause, but whether it can excite teens will determine how big it can become. With a half-dozen production companies, six producers, and seven executive producers all involved, it’s hard to say if this is really director Neil LaBute‘s film. Warner Bros. has given "Wicker" a decent marketing push, but it has not become a must-see thriller. A marketplace flooded with pictures will provide plenty of competition for adults and this one will have to work extra hard to stand out in the crowd. Ending a disappointing summer for the studio, "The Wicker Man" bows in over 2,500 theaters and could scare up around $12M over the four-day period.
Sony goes after the urban youth audience with its new basketball drama "Crossover" which finds two young streetballers competing in the world of underground hoops. The PG-13 film is getting a moderate release in 1,023 theaters which will limit its potential, however a solid per-theater average could result. Compared to reigning box office champ "Invincible," this new sports drama will attract a much more ethnic audience and should play primarily to teens and young adults. "Idlewild" will provide some competition for African American moviegoers, however the OutKast pic is playing to an older audience. With Anthony Mackie, Wesley Jonathan, and Wayne Brady heading up the cast, "Crossover" does not offer up much starpower. But it could be a short-term choice for the back-to-school crowd in urban markets. Over the Friday-to-Monday holiday span, "Crossover" might shoot up about $5M.
After two weeks of strong results in limited release, the period mystery "The Illusionist" expands wide from 144 theaters to approximately 1,000 sites across North America. One of the summer’s best-reviewed films, the Edward Norton–Paul Giamatti drama opened in 51 theaters with a powerful $18,195 average and widened on its second frame scoring a still-potent $12,745 average. Glowing praise from critics and solid word-of-mouth could help sell "The Illusionist" to moviegoers who would not ordinarily buy tickets to a film with these stars. Competition will be tough, though. For only the second time all year, ten films surpassed $5M last weekend and most are looking to remain relevant over the holiday session. "The Illusionist" could capture the same amount over four days this weekend pushing its cume to about $9M.
More new movies enter into limited release on Friday. IFC Films unveils the documentary "This Film is Not Yet Rated" in exclusive engagements in New York and Los Angeles. The unrated film (it was given an NC-17, but is going out with no official rating) explores the mystery behind the movie ratings system as determined by the Motion Picture Association of America. Writer/director Ed Burns returns to theaters as a private investigator searching for a missing woman in "Looking for Kitty." The R-rated drama is being released in one solo New York house by ThinkFilm.
Last weekend, Mark Wahlberg‘s football drama "Invincible" scored a number one opening and was the only film to attract more than $10M in ticket sales over the frame. Word of mouth has been good and the Disney release would like nothing more than to land another win over the holiday session. The four-day gross might see only a small drop from last weekend’s three-day bow. A decline to about $15M would give "Invincible" a total of $38M after 11 days.
Labor Day weekend has historically been a great time for hot late-summer indie films to reach out to broader audiences and "Little Miss Sunshine" hopes to be the latest one to capitalize on its buzz. Four-day increases over the previous three-day weekends in recent years have included 17% for "March of the Penguins" last year, 35% for "Garden State" in 2004, 80% for "Napoleon Dynamite" that same year, and a whopping 104% for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" in 2002. That PG-rated blockbuster added about 300 theaters over the holiday frame while the R-rated "Sunshine" will only increase its current count of 1,430 by a hundred or so. The Fox Searchlight hit could charm about $9.5M from ticket buyers over the long weekend and boost its cume to $36M.
LAST YEAR Jason Statham ruled the Labor Day weekend box office with the number one opening of his action sequel "Transporter 2" which grossed $20.1M over four days. The Fox hit went on to collect $43.1M. The comedy sensation "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" slipped to second place with $16.5M over four days displaying another great hold in its third frame. Debuting in third with $11M was the thriller "The Constant Gardener" from Focus which went on to gross $33.6M and become a major awards contender. Rounding out the top five were the DreamWorks suspense flick "Red Eye" with $9.4M and Miramax’s adventure pic "The Brothers Grimm" with $9M. Two new films opened with weak results outside of the top ten. Miramax’s "Underclassman" bowed to $3.1M on its way to $5.7M while Warner Bros. took in just $1.2M for "A Sound of Thunder" leading to only a $1.9M final.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
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).
"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).
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.
"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.
"Mutual Appreciation": As Sonic Youth might say, confusion is next and next after that is the truth.
In addition to a ton of low-budget, independent, documentary, and dramatic films, this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival promises a rather flashy infusement of high-end studio fare, too! So while it’s always important to shed some attention on the little guys (which we’ll be doing soon enough), it’s also fun to note that SXSW will be offering high-end "gimme" titles like "V for Vendetta," "The Notorious Bettie Page," "American Dreamz," and the geekily-anticipated "Slither."
As a movie nerd who’s covered SXSW for several years now, I can honestly opine that it’s one helluva good time. The people are friendly, the weather is nice, the BBQ is astonshing, and the movies … well, the movies are pretty awesome. Have a sneak peek at some of what this fest has to offer:
A Prairie Home Companion
Dir: Robert Altman
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Maya Rudolph
An adaptation of the popular radio program by Garrison Keillor, featuring an all-star cast.
Dir: Paul Weitz
Cast: Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Marcia Gay Harden, Mandy Moore, Willem Dafoe, Judy Greer, Chris Klein
A satire about American identity, set around a popular television singing contest called American Dreamz.
Dir: Mark Rydell
Cast: Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Kelsey Grammer, Nick Cannon, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, Carla Gugino, Tim Roth, Jay Mohr
Gambling addiction bring the stories of three otherwise unconnected people together as it destroys each of their lives.
The Notorious Bettie Page
Dir: Mary Harron
Cast: Gretchen Mol, Lili Taylor, David Strathairn, Cara Seymour
The story of Bettie Page, uber-successful 1950’s pin-up model, one of the first sex icons in America, and the target of a Senate investigation.
Dir: James Gunn
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry
A small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.
This documentary is a provocative investigation of the people, places, and decisions that constitute the movie ratings board.
A comedy/drama about how money, and the lack of it, affects and distorts relationships among a small group of Los Angeles friends.
Dir: Pierre Morel
Cast: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D’Amario, Bibi Naceri
District 13 is a violent Paris slum that is so out-of-control that the authorities have constructed a giant wall around it, allowing the occupants to fight it out for themselves inside.
V For Vendetta
Dir: James McTeigue
Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Rupert Graves
In the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, a man cloaked in mystery ignites a revolution and finds an unlikely ally in a seemingly mild mannered young woman.
…and that’s only ten of the 100+ titles on display. For a full rundown of the SXSW program, click right here and then try and figure out how many miles lie between you and Austin, Texas.
The South by Southwest Film Festival runs from March 10th – 19th, and you can certainly expect a few reports from the event next month.
With Senh, Jen, and Terrible Tim Ryan roaming the streets of Park City, the Tomato readers have had plenty of Sundance reports to pick through. But I thought I’d contribute my own two pennies to the coverage, and give you the best-to-worst lowdown on the myriad movies I took in.
Ratings run on a 1-5 scale. I’ll keep the commentary brief because I have a whole lot of work to do!
The Descent – ***** – I see every horror flick under the sun. And this one actually scared me. And it gets even better the second time around.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated – ****1/2 – Master documentarian Kirby Dick takes a few shortcuts in this demolition of the MPAA ratings board, but I can’t imagine a movie geek who won’t have a darn good time with this doco.
Awesome; I F–kin’ Shot That! – ****1/2 – For Beastie Boys fans only. Like me!
Art School Confidential – **** – First half: really, really funny. Second half: Focuses on a less than fascinating subplot and the laughs sorta dry up. Still, if you’re a "Ghost World" fan, or you just love seeing the "art kids" get a nice satirical skewering, you’ll dig it fine.
Little Miss Sunshine – **** – One or two unwieldly subplots prevent this one from getting a higher rating, but I still liked it a whole lot. Carell, Kinnear, and Alan Arkin deliver some really solid, weird laughs here.
Off the Black – **** – A low-key and melancholy character study with Nick Nolte at the top of his game. (He plays an emotionally isolated umpire who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a high school pitcher.)
Factotum – **** – Matt Dillon as a pseudo-Bukowksi, and the guy delivers one of his best performances ever.
Special – **** – Michael Rapaport plays a guy who may or may not have inherited "super powers" after testing a freaky new prescription drug. Imagine if Kevin Smith had directed "Unbreakable."
Sherrybaby – ***1/2 – A rough-edged and sobering character study with Maggie Gyllenhaal at the top of her game. (She plays a recovering junkie fresh out of prison who’s trying to re-connect with her young daughter.)
TV Junkie – ***1/2 – Comprised entirely of Jim Kirkham’s home movies, in which he laughs, cries, becomes famous, and builds a family … all while battling a ravenous crack addicion.
Wordplay – ***1/2 – A lightweight but colorfully entertaining doco about the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and the various people who adore it. The presence of a hilarious Jon Stewart helps a whole lot.
Wristcutters: A Love Story – ****1/2 – Patrick Fugit finds himself in a bleached-out purgatory after committing suicide and sets off to find his old girlfriend.
American Hardcore – *** – If you’re a fan of the early-80s hardcore punk scene, this retrospective documentary will curl your toes. Felt a little redundant to me, but then again I’m not a member of the target audience.
13 Tzameti – *** – A slow-starting French thriller about a clueless kid who somehow finds himself trapped in an underground Russian Roulette tournament.
Lucky Number Slevin – *** – Too clever for its own good, but packed with familiar faces, this one’s a familiar gangster flick that’ll feel right at home on HBO.
The World According to Sesame Street – *** – Alternately fascinating, self-congrulatory, and even a little dull, this doco takes a look at the ways in which Sesame Street branches out to new markets across the world.
Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out – *** – Feels like Police drummer Stewart Copeland pulled a lot of home movie footage out of his garage, recorded a narration track, and released the thing as is. A few recent interviews might have helped … especially from someone not associated with the band. Still, fans should enjoy it.
The Hawk Is Dying – *** – A dry and fairly bizarre character study with Paul Giamatti as a sad-sack weirdo who has a (very) big sister, a (mildly) handicapped nephew, and an obsession with the capture and training of hawks. Most of the Sundancers I talked to liked this flick a lot more than I did, so take my lack of enthusiasm with a grain of salt, I suppose.
Salvage – **1/2 – The first of two horror flicks that feel like short films stretched out to feature length … and it doesn’t quite work. This one’s about a girl who keeps dreaming of being slaughtered by a brutal madman … over and over and over.
Subject Two – **1/2 – A beautiful-looking but frequently slow-moving medical thriller about a mad scientist who tries to cheat death by way of some freaky formula, only he has to keep killing his subject before he can bring him back to life.
The Darwin Awards – **1/2 – Easily the most disappointing Sundance offering (in my book, anyway), this is a clumsily unfunny comedy that starts out with a great cast and a killer concept … and does next to nothing with either.
All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise – ** – Hey this just in: Same sex parents really do love their children. Now imagine that one simple message delivered for 90 straight minutes.
Somebodies – *1/2 – The first ten minutes offered some really big laughs … and then the wheels just came off. The resulting flick feels like a "House Party 6: The New Generation," only with no-name actors in the Cedric and Bernie Mac roles. But hey, Roger Ebert raved over this one, so don’t go by me…
The Call of Cthulhu – ****1/2 – One of the coolest Lovecraft adaptations you’ll ever see, this flick is 47 minutes of pure old-school style. It’s short, it’s silent, and it’s absolutely excellent.
The Other Side – ***1/2 – A winking b-movie composed of perhaps 12 other concepts, from "The Hidden" to "Jacob’s Ladder," but it’s still just enough fun to keep you watching.
Love Is the Drug – ***1/2 – A nice-guy semi-nerd who works in a pharmacy falls in with the wrong crowd … and does some really stupid things to earn the affections of Ms. Lizzy Caplan. (Like you wouldn’t do the same!)
Things to Do – ***1/2 – A bit heavy on the Napoleon Dynamite wannabeism, but still oddly amusing enough to earn my recommendation. This one’s about an awkward office drone who quits his job and returns home to live with Mom & Dad, only to fall in with a goofy old acquaintance who inspires him to make a list of "things to do."
Find Love – ***1/2 – A mostly improvised romantic drama about the ways in which love can strike at the worst imaginable moments … kinda like a disease.
The Guatemalan Handshake – *** – Weird stuff. I kept nodding off. My apologies to the filmmakers.
The Actress – *** – Three Aussie roommates welcome a new woman into their lives, and much sex ensues.
So that’s 30 movies in 6 days. Hmph. I’ve done better. For a closer look at my festival reports have a peek over at JoBlo’s, eFilmCritic, or just stick around here at Rotten Tomatoes and see if you can spot the pic of me in which I look like a crack-addicted zombie.
Also please note that the opinions offered above are mine only, and do not represent any of the other Tomato farmers, so make sure your hate mail goes to the right email address.