A Wrinkle in Time, adaptation of the Madeleine L’engle kids fantasy novel and Ava DuVernay’s sojourn into $100 million filmmaking, isn’t getting the best reviews. As the score settles in the lower-40s, Wrinkle would place somewhere in the middle of this week’s gallery: the 24 worst children’s book adaptations, each rated PG and ranked by Tomatometer.

A wave of new product hits the marketplace at a time when exciting films are desperately needed to end the current box office funk. The science fiction thriller I Am Legend leads the way but will be joined by the family comedy Alvin and the Chipmunks and the romantic comedy The Perfect Holiday. For only the second time all year, just two films managed grosses of more than $5M last weekend. Hollywood critically needs this weekend to turn things around if it wants to end the year on a happy note.

Gunning for his seventh consecutive number one opening, Will Smith headlines the sci-fi thriller I Am Legend, the latest Hollywood film based on the classic 1954 novel of the same name. The PG-13 entry finds the superstar playing the last man alive on Earth after a virus wipes out the entire human population in the not-so-distant future. Legend could prove to be Smith’s greatest box office challenge to date since there are no famous co-stars, no big director, and the novel it is based on is not exactly a hot item in today’s era. This film is Will’s to make or break.

But for millions of movie fans, the former Fresh Prince plus action equals a definite trip to the local multiplex. The actor is right at the top of the current A list and is arguably the most bankable star alive consistently drawing in audiences that cut across all race, gender, and age barriers. Will Smith can bring out paying audiences for sci-fi (I, Robot), comedy (Hitch), drama (The Pursuit of Happyness), action (Bad Boys II), and animation (Shark Tale). With Legend he now flirts with the boundaries of horror as battling killer zombies that attack at night is a far cry from being a date doctor.

Warner Bros. has good timing for I Am Legend. The marketplace has been about as dead as the world depicted in the film and audiences are hungry for an event film to get them back into the habit of moviegoing. Competition will not be much of a factor and business will be coming in from many directions with teens and young adults leading the way and fans of sci-fi and action delivering a big bang too. The studio’s massive marketing push will do the trick and adding more bite will be the simultaneous Imax release where higher ticket prices ($16 in New York City) will give the grosses a boost. Plus the strategic move of playing the new prologue for next summer’s much-anticipated Batman flick The Dark Knight with the Imax release of I Am Legend just fuels more excitement and guarantees more asses in the seats.

Will Smith is looking to score one of the biggest December openings ever for a non-Peter Jackson flick. A big drop next weekend is likely, but for now consumers are keeping all eyes on I Am Legend which attacks 3,606 theaters on Friday. An opening weekend gross of about $50M could result.


Will Smith and friend in I Am Legend

Some younger moviegoers may not be in the mood for flesh-eating mutants. Luckily, Fox had the bright idea of getting jiggy with its new kidpic Alvin and the Chipmunks which will give parents and smaller children some harmless fun for the holidays. The PG-rated film is the latest big-screen treatment of a popular kids property from yesterday that gets a makeover for today’s sensibilities. When done right, ticket sales pour in from multiple generations. But when done wrong, you get disasters like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Competition should not be too bad since Enchanted which is going into its fourth session is the only family film generating any decent dough right now. Instead, holiday shopping may be the real threat as many parents will wait until a little later before heading to the cinemas for this one. The property is not popular enough to create any true sense of urgency. But this is common in mid December. Last year, Charlotte’s Web got off to a slow start with a $11.5M bow but went on to make seven times that amount with a final tally of $82.6M. Fox’s marketing push has been aggressively targeting young kids and the studio knows that little success lies with teens and young adults. Going very wide with 3,476 playdates on Friday, Alvin and the Chipmunks could gross about $15M this weekend but hold on well over the holidays.


Alvin, Simon and Theodore

Christmas fun hits the multiplexes in another package with The Perfect Holiday from Yari Film Group. Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union star as single folks whose love lives cross while Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard play naughty and nice spirits along for the ride. The PG-rated film will play primarily to an African American audience which will make it a tricky sell at this moment in time. Though a very different film, Legend will steal away many in the target demographic and others who just saw This Christmas may not be looking for another story from the same category so soon. Poor reviews will also cause some box office headaches. Opening Wednesday in 1,306 locations, The Perfect Holiday could bow to about $7M over three days and $9M over five days.


The Perfect Holiday

Adding to the end-of-year frenzy that arthouse films find themselves in during awards season, Paramount Vantage’s The Kite Runner opens in 35 theaters in selected cities on Friday hoping to appeal to fans of the best-selling novel. The R-rated film in English and Dari tells of two young boys in Afghanistan whose lives take two very different paths after a violent incident right before the Soviet invasion of the country. Kite Runner has been included on some recent ten-best lists and scored two Golden Globe nominations. Reviews have been generally positive.


The Kite Runner

Following its not-so-explosive debut, The Golden Compass will have tough work cut out for it during the sophomore frame. The New Line adventure will see the sci-fi audience abandon ship and line up for Will Smith while parents looking for some fun for their kids will have some talking chipmunks to consider. A 50% drop could be in order for Compass which would give it about $13M for the weekend and a ten-day tally of $45M.

Disney’s Enchanted, which earned a pair of Golden Globe nominations, is slowly but surely making its way towards the $100M mark. Another moderate 35% decline would give the fairy tale pic around $7M which would push the sum up to $93M. Sony’s This Christmas will face direct competition from The Perfect Holiday so a 40% dip may result giving the pic $3M and $47M to date.

LAST YEAR: The man in black beat out some tough competition to conquer the box office. Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness led a wave of new releases with its top spot debut grossing $26.5M for Sony. The feel-good smash played well over the holiday season surging to $162.6M domestically and $294M worldwide – an impressive sum for a Smith vehicle not driven by guns or special effects. Fox’s fantasy actioner Eragon bowed close behind in second with $23.2M on its way to $75M from North America representing only 30% of the global take. Overseas the numbers were much stronger with $175M in ticket sales for a powerful $250M tally worldwide. Third place also featured a new release. Paramount’s family film Charlotte’s Web debuted to the tune of $11.5M but reached a solid $82.6M by the end of the run. Rounding out the top five were the penguin toon Happy Feet with $8.4M and the romantic comedy The Holiday with $8M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

One animated film will bump another from the number one spot at the North American box office. But the new warrior Beowulf is no B movie but an A-list production from an Oscar-winning director offering action audiences something new. Also opening this weekend but likely to see more modest grosses are the family pic Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the romantic drama Love in the Time of Cholera. Without a compelling selection of great films, the marketplace should once again fall well below year-ago levels.

Paramount looks to capture the box office crown without the help of DreamWorks this time with Beowulf, a computer-animated action adventure based on the ancient epic poem. The PG-13 film comes from Robert Zemeckis who expands upon the motion capture technology he used in 2004’s The Polar Express. This time around his film is aimed at somewhat older moviegoers as young children will be too frightened by the violence, gore, and yes, nudity. Beowulf aims to pry 14-year-old boys away from their videogame systems and into the multiplexes with a new type of action film that is presented in 3D in selected theaters. Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, and Angelina Jolie lend their voices and digital likenesses.

The marketing has been terrific on the part of the studio. The core audience of young males is excited and ready to buy tickets and the film might even pull in part of the literary crowd curious to see how this classic tale is adapted to the big screen. The marketplace needs something like this now with hits like American Gangster skewing more adult and kidpics like Bee Movie not offering enough violence. If last December’s Eragon could open to $23.2M, then surely Beowulf can target the same crowd and go higher. Launching in over 2,800 theaters, Beowulf could conquer the box office this weekend with about $32M.


The digitally-altered likeness of Ray Winstone in Beowulf

Dustin Hoffman stars as the eccentric owner of a magical toy store in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a new entry for family audiences from Fox. The G-rated film co-stars Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman. With Bee Movie and Fred Claus already out there doing solid business, and likely to collect a combined $30M this weekend, competition for Emporium will be intense. Bad reviews will make parents hesitate, but if kids respond to the TV commercials, then they will find a way to force their parents to take them. Opening wide in around 3,200 locations, Mr. Magorium could bow to about $11M this weekend and try to remain a relevant choice over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday session.


Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

To counter his current role as a brutal killer in No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem stars in the romantic drama Love in the Time of Cholera. The R-rated tale from New Line is getting a moderately wide release and will play to an older adult audience with a female skew. The Oscar buzz Bardem has been receiving for Country could rub off on Cholera helping its case. And Latino audiences are being counted on to show up as are fans of Oprah who has endorsed the book that the film is based on. But overall, the Columbia-set film has not generated enough excitement to deliver a solid debut. Plus poor reviews will turn away much of the target audience. A slot on the lower end of the top ten could await. Opening in about 800 theaters, Love in the Time of Cholera might gross around $3M over the weekend.


Love in the Time of Cholera

Bee Movie should fall from its spot at the top of the box office and slide by about 30% since there is not too much new competition for young kids. A weekend tally of $18M could result giving Paramount $97M to date. Universal’s American Gangster should drop by 40% to about $14.5M giving the crime saga a total of $102M. The holiday comedy Fred Claus could dip by 35% in its second weekend. That would leave the Warner Bros. release with a weekend take of $12M and a ten-day cume of $35.5M.

LAST YEAR: In a major pre-holiday showdown, the penguin toon Happy Feet edged out the new James Bond film Casino Royale for the number one spot with a strong opening of $41.5M. The Warner Bros. family hit went on to collect $198M domestically and a stellar $384M worldwide. Sony’s relaunched spy series still posted a muscular debut grossing $40.8M over the weekend on its way to $167M domestically and a sensational $595M globally making the Daniel Craig-starrer the top-grossing 007 flick ever. After two weeks on top, Fox’s Borat slipped to third with $14.6M. Rounding out the top five were Disney’s The Santa Clause 3 with $8.3M and the Sony release Stranger Than Fiction with $6.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

With the fifth "Harry Potter" movie now in theaters (and the final book due to hit stores real soon), the studios are looking for similar properties on which to hang their financial hopes.

And there’s already a few candidates: Warner Bros. will mount a movie version of Angie Sage’s "Septimus Heap" series. Variety says it "revolves around two babies switched at birth, a boy who discovers his birthright as son of a powerful wizard and a girl destined to be a princess." Gee, nothing too Potter-ish about that brief synopsis, is there?

Also, production company Relativity Media has optioned Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams’ "Tunnels," which is due for publication later this year, with (at least) two more books on the way. The plot on this one goes this way: It "centers on a 14-year-old whose father disappears down a tunnel. The boy investigates, only to discover a secret world of wizards."

That’s a lot of wizards. But what about the witches? Well, Walden Media just snatched up the rights to "Savvy," which is about a young, well, witch, of course. Once again Variety fills in the blanks: "Story centers on a family whose members discover, upon turning 13, that they possess supernatural powers that they’ll retain for the rest of their lives, such as making it rain for days or creating furious gusts of wind. When the latest family member is about to hit 13, her life’s turned upside down by a tragic accident."

So there you are. At least three more youth-oriented magical adventures to look forward to. Kinda like we all did with … "Eragon."

Source: Variety AND Variety

Here’s just a catch-all post filled with new photos, websites, promo clips, and trailer news. Fun stuff if you’re looking forward to "Hostel: Part 2," "Rambo 4," "The Dark is Rising," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," or "Evan Almighty."

Regarding "Hostel: Part 2" — If you decide to go see the William Friedkin thriller "Bug" on (or after) May 25th, you’ll be treated to a 5-minute clip from Eli Roth‘s horror sequel. Take this as either a promise or a warning, but now you know.

For "Rambo" fans, we have some snapshots from the set of the third sequel, which you can see here and here. As expected, he looks angry and sweaty.

Fans of "The Dark is Rising" will no doubt want to know what the movie version looks like, and those folks can click right here to pick through the first 11 photos from the film. (Looks pretty nifty; then again so did "Eragon.")

Those who lean more towards the "Harry Potter" persuasion will surely want to click through the newly-updated official sites. Here’s the U.S. site, and here’s the UK.

Last but not least: If you’re planning to watch "The Office" tonight, be sure to wait around after it’s over. That’s when you’ll catch an extended preview of Steve Carell‘s "Evan Almighty," which has been widely reported as the most expensive comedy ever made. (Really?) If you miss the promo tonight, you can check it out later at DotComedy.com.

Source: Las Horas Perdidas, Moviehole.net, ComingSoon.net

Moviegoers will have plenty to choose from over the long Christmas holiday weekend as four new star-driven wide releases hit the marketplace adding to an already crowded marquee.

The Ben Stiller fantasy pic "Night at the Museum" leads the way as the frame’s only new comedy while the Matthew McConaughey football drama "We Are Marshall" offers an inspirational story based on true events. Meanwhile, a pair of Italian Stallions hop into the director’s chair as Sylvester Stallone‘s boxing drama "Rocky Balboa" and Robert De Niro‘s espionage thriller "The Good Shepherd" offer even more choices to holiday moviegoers. As is typical of this time of year, Christmas Eve will hurt the box office on Sunday as last-minute shopping and early theater closings will take their toll. But the Monday holiday will see a major recovery since Christmas Day brings forth a surge in traffic to the multiplexes.

Blasting into nearly 3,700 theaters including 72 Imax venues is the comedy "Night at the Museum" which finds Ben Stiller playing the new night watchman at New York’s Museum of Natural History where all the artifacts and statues come to life each night. Director Shawn Levy ("Cheaper by the Dozen," "The Pink Panther") leaves behind Steve Martin to work with a younger funnyman and more special effects. The PG-rated film is aiming for broad audiences hoping to bring in entire families looking for a fun time this holiday season. "Museum" also plans to score with teens and young adults as the only major comedy option for them. With "The Holiday" being the only other laugher in the top ten to register with that lucrative group, look for a solid response.

Stiller brings considerable starpower to the film but he also gets backup from comedians like Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, and Dick Van Dyke. Plus with the prestigious ‘and’ credit already claimed by Williams, Owen Wilson takes a sizable supporting role but is so cool that he is nowhere to be found in the credits at all. Audiences want happy and funny films during the Christmas holidays and "Night at the Museum" should post muscular numbers thanks to its starpower, lack of comedy competition, mild rating, and formidable marketing and distribution push. Fox looks to close up the books on 2006 by taking over the number one spot this weekend. Attacking 3,688 locations, "Night at the Museum" could debut to about $34M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday period.

Ben Stiller in "Night at the Museum."

Sylvester Stallone brings the eye of the tiger back to the multiplexes one last time in "Rocky Balboa" which got a jumpstart on the holiday weekend with its Wednesday launch. The MGM release brings the iconic boxer back to the screen in what is supposedly the end of the franchise with Stallone back in the saddle as writer and director. In this tale, Rocky is brought back into the ring when media hype prompts fans to wonder who the best boxer is of all time. The underdog story on screen mirrored the one within industry circles. How could a franchise that died 16 years ago with the poorly-received "Rocky V" find its way back into the hearts of today’s moviegoers. MGM and the "Judge Dredd" star moved forward. Today, they proudly claim one of the best reviewed films of the Christmas season and the Wednesday bow is being counted on to get die-hard fans out early so they can spread positive buzz at work and in school going into the lucrative yet overcrowded weekend period.

With so many other films in the marketplace, and plenty with PG or G ratings aimed at luring in full families, "Rocky Balboa" will have to take its time at the box office as many moviegoers may need some convincing before spending money on the followup to the Tommy Gunn flick. Older adults are the ones who remember the excitement of the franchise, but the studio is hoping they could bring their kids with them for an uplifting tale that makes you feel good inside. "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "We Are Marshall" will be direct competitors in the feel-good genre and the latter will steal away many sports fans too. "Balboa" will have to rely on nostalgia and good word-of-mouth to carry it through round after round. Already playing in 2,752 theaters and adding more locations on Friday, "Rocky Balboa" may gross about $16M over four days and around $21M over six days.


Stallone is back for one more round in "Rocky Balboa."

For football fans this holiday weekend, Warner Bros. trots out another pigskin drama with "We Are Marshall" starring Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, and David Strathairn. The PG-rated film tells the true story of the football program at Marshall University in West Virginia which had to be rebuilt from scratch after a plane crash killed most of the players and coaches. Hollywood seems to have an endless line-up of sports dramas these days and since most of them become commercial successes, it’s no wonder that they keep getting churned out. Just a few months ago, moviegoers powered the football flicks "Invincible" and "Gridiron Gang" to the number one spot with bows of $17M and $14.4M, respectively. "Marshall" should play to much of the same audience and with its underdog feel-good story, the time of year will help since people are in the mood for that type of emotion.

Reviews have not been too good, but that should not matter much. "We Are Marshall" is meant for sports fans and those who love stories about overcoming adversity, regardless of how predictable they may be. Sales from the heartland should be solid and with the tame rating, entire families can come out together. Plus McConaughey is a reliable draw at the box office and is believable as a quirky football coach. Still, competition will be strong and coming from all directions so a blowout will not be possible. Opening in 2,606 theaters, "We Are Marshall" could score about $14M over the Friday-to-Monday frame.


They are Marshall.

Countering the parade of PG flicks is the R-rated CIA thriller "The Good Shepherd" directed by Robert De Niro. The Universal release stars Matt Damon as Edward Wilson, a loyal government agent who helped to create the agency during the Cold War. Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, John Turturro, and De Niro also star. "Shepherd" boasts solid starpower which could help the film have broad appeal. The subject matter appeals to the 30+ crowd, but Damon and Jolie should help to pull in twentysomethings. Teens and ethnic audiences will have minimal interest. Critics have been mixed on the film which could impact the overall turnout.

The last few months have not been kind to star-driven period dramas aimed at adult audiences. Pictures like "Hollywoodland," "All the King’s Men," and "Bobby" have all struggled to find paying audiences with none reaching the $15M mark in total sales. "Shepherd’s" cast is what will allow it to rise above those failures. But the fight for the attention and time of mature adults will be fierce and a running time of nearly three hours will allow for one less showtime per day on every screen further cutting into its commercial potential. Infiltrating 2,217 locations, "The Good Shepherd" might capture around $13M over four days.


Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin in "The Good Shepherd."

With the calendar year coming to a close, things continue to get crowded in the specialty arena this weekend. Clint Eastwood‘s award-winning war drama "Letters From Iwo Jima" debuted on Wednesday in limited release ahead of a January expansion similar to what Warner Bros. did two years ago with the director’s "Million Dollar Baby" which went on to reign at the Oscars. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts star in the period romance "The Painted Veil" from Warner Independent which also platformed on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles. Thursday brings the limited launches of Miramax’s "Venus" starring Golden Globe nominee Peter O’Toole and the Chinese period drama "Curse of the Golden Flower" from Sony Classics which stars Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat.


Zhang Yimou’s "Curse of the Golden Flower."

Last weekend, Will Smith scored a number one hit with "The Pursuit of Happyness" which continues to please audiences. Overall moviegoing should increase over the holiday weekend, but more choices for adult audiences will give Sony some competition. "Pursuit’s" four-day take could drop 25% from its three-day debut gross giving the film about $20M and a cume of $58M after 11 days.

As a sci-fi actioner, Fox’s "Eragon" is likely to see one of the largest drops in the top ten. The dragon adventure might fall by 35% to around $15M over the four-day session leaving the studio with $46M.

Kidpics score big points over Christmas so "Charlotte’s Web" might see many of those fans who skipped out last weekend actually show up this time. The Paramount release’s four-day tally may slip 10% from its three-day bow and bring in roughly $10M. That would give the family film a total of $27M after 11 days.

LAST YEAR: With Christmas falling on a Sunday, the observed holiday on Monday gave the box office an expanded four-day holiday frame allowing the mega holdovers to repeat atop the charts. "King Kong" spent its second weekend at number one and grossed $33.3M over four days and was closely followed by "The Chronicles of Narnia" with $31.7M in its third adventure. The combined haul for the pair soared to $285M with much more still to come. Newcomers rounded out the top five with Jim Carrey defeating Steve Martin in the battle of the comedies. Sony’s "Fun With Dick and Jane" opened in third with $21.5M over four days while Fox’s sequel "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" settled for fourth with $15.3M. Final tallies reached $110.3M and $82.6M, respectively. Sony also claimed fifth with "Memoirs of a Geisha" which expanded nationally and took in $10.2M over the long weekend. Also opening were Fox Searchlight’s Johnny Knoxville comedy "The Ringer" with $7.7M over four days, the Jennifer Aniston pic "Rumor Has It" with $7.5M in two days for Warner Bros., and Universal’s "Munich" with $6M in four days. The films went on to reach $35.4M, $43M, and $47.4M respectively. The debuting horror pic "Wolf Creek" opened outside the top ten with $4.9M in two days on its way to $16.2M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

John Malkovich sure isn’t shying away from the high-end special effects movies these days. While doing some press for his recent "Eragon," the veteran actor spilled a few beans regarding his work on Robert Zemeckis‘ adaptation of "Beowulf."

This project is officially starting to sound pretty excellent to me. Here’s some fairly interesting stuff from Malkovich and IGN Movies: "Malkovich pointed out that he is not simply providing a voice for the motion-capture film. "No, it’s not that. You do everything but then it’s given a form of computer animation afterwards. But, no, we were all on set. We were all acting. It’s not film. There’s no film, there’s no lights. There are video references that the specialists and technicians utilize, but it’s actually all recorded on computer and all the data is fed to the technicians and then they will animate it."

Click here for the rest of the report, which isn’t all that unique, but does paint a pretty compelling picture for "Beowulf."

Box office heavyweight Will Smith scored his sixth consecutive number one opening this weekend with his new rags-to-riches drama "The Pursuit of Happyness" which raced past two new kid movies to claim the top spot.

The mythical adventure "Eragon" opened well in second place while the family film "Charlotte’s Web" debuted in third with a modest launch. The one-two punch of "Pursuit" and "Eragon" kicked in a combined $50.5M and for only the second time in box office history, two December films opened to over $20M each on the same weekend.

Proving once again how strong his pull is with moviegoing audiences, Smith conquered the charts with an estimated $27M bow for "The Pursuit of Happyness" which on Thursday picked up two Golden Globe nominations including one for Best Actor in the drama category. Averaging a stunning $9,467 per theater in 2,852 locations, the PG-13 film tells the real-life story of a San Francisco man and his young son who become homeless and must try to get back on their feet. The former fresh prince’s real son Jaden plays his on-screen son in the uplifting, feel-good story.

With mixed reviews and no famous director or co-stars, "Pursuit" succeeded solely on the starpower of Smith and followed his last five films "Hitch," "Shark Tale," "I, Robot," "Bad Boys II," and "Men in Black II." Those five hits all opened at number one and went on to gross a jaw-dropping combined haul of $1.7 billion worldwide. With such a strong start, Will Smith should easily be able to score the tenth $100M domestic blockbuster of his career.

For Sony, "Pursuit" marked its record 13th number one opener of 2006 from a jam-packed slate of 27 releases. Sony also broke its own all-time studio box office record by crossing the $1.57 billion mark in domestic ticket sales with two full weeks still to go and three titles remaining in the top ten. The previous record was set by Sony in the "Spider-Man"-fueled year of 2002.

Opening in second place with some strength of its own was the dragon tale "Eragon" with an estimated $23.5M. Playing in 3,020 sites, the PG-rated film averaged a stellar $7,765 per theater. Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Djimon Hounsou, and Rachel Weisz star in the mythical adventure which was based on a teen author’s story. Driven by special effects, "Eragon" carried a reported production cost of more than $100M. With no "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," or "Narnia" films this holiday season, fantasy audiences had nothing else to rally behind and so Fox took advantage of the opportunity by placing its actioner into the pre-Christmas slot. With school kids leaving for their holiday breaks in the days ahead, the dragon pic aims to soar towards the land of nine digits.

The only other time two December openers bowed to more than $20M each on the same frame was on this very weekend in 1997 when "Titanic" debuted at number one with $28.6M followed by the launch of the James Bond flick "Tomorrow Never Dies" with $25.1M. This weekend’s two new releases also helped to keep the overall box office within striking distance of last year’s colossal frame when "King Kong" ruled with a $50.1M opening and "Narnia" in its second weekend contributed a stellar $31.8M. Despite not having any film of the same magnitude, the marketplace this weekend had great breadth and saw the Top 20 dip only 7 percent versus last year.

Paramount got off to a slow start with its big holiday season offering for families "Charlotte’s Web" which bowed to an estimated $12M from 3,566 theaters for a mild $3,372 average. Based on the popular children’s book, the G-rated film stars Dakota Fanning and features voices from Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and John Cleese. Studios never want to see an opening weekend average lower than its theater count, but Paramount is hoping that the upcoming school holidays will allow the well-reviewed film to have legs. Recent kidpics that the studio opened in mid-December went on to make six to seven times their opening weekend grosses. These include 2002’s "The Wild Thornberrys" with a $6M bow on its way to $39.9M and 2001’s "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" whch debuted to $13.8M and reached $80.9M. "Web," which cost over $80M to produce, hopes to follow and capture the attention of parents and their smaller children in the days and weeks ahead when they have more available time.

The penguin blockbuster "Happy Feet" followed with an estimated $8.5M, down just 34 percent, for a $149.4M sum. The Warner Bros. smash now ranks number eight among 2006 films and should climb into the top five after the holiday season. Sony’s Cameron DiazKate Winslet comedy "The Holiday" dropped only 36 percent in its second weekend to an estimated $8.2M pushing its ten-day cume to $25.3M. Overseas grosses for the films rose to $59.7M and $28.5M, respectively.

Last weekend’s number one film "Apocalypto" tumbled down to sixth place with an estimated $7.7M. Dropping 49 percent, the Mayan adventure has grabbed $27.9M for Buena Vista in ten days but also suffered the largest decline of any film in the top ten. Fellow sophomore "Blood Diamond" fared better in its second weekend sliding only 28percent to an estimated $6.3M. Earning its star Leonardo DiCaprio one of his two Golden Globe nominations this year for Best Actor – Drama, the Warner Bros. title has mined $18.4M in ten days. "Blood Diamond" got off to a slow start, but is now showing that it could have the legs to go the distance over the holiday season.

The James Bond actioner "Casino Royale" grossed an estimated $5.7M, off 36 percent, to put its total at $137.6M for Sony. New Line’s Biblical drama "The Nativity Story" once again enjoyed the smallest drop in the top ten dipping a mere 18percent to an estimated $4.7M for a $23.1M cume. The family comedy "Unaccompanied Minors" followed in the ten spot with an estimated $3.7M, off 37percent, giving Warner Bros. a poor $10.2M to date.

Opening to spectacular results, thanks in part to its $25 ticket price, was the big-budget musical "Dreamgirls" from DreamWorks and Paramount with an estimated $360,000 from only three theaters for an unprecedented $120,000 average. Winner of five Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture in the comedy/musical category, the PG-13 pic was given a special exclusive release in solo houses in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. For the extra cash, ticket buyers were given a Broadway-style experience with reserved seating and a limited-edition program book. At a more standard adult ticket price of $10, that would translate to an average of about $48,000 which is still phenomenal. The studios reported that all 21 shows over the weekend were sold out. Starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls" opens nationally on Christmas Day in over 800 theaters.

Also platforming this weekend was the George Clooney starrer "The Good German" which opened to an estimated $79,000 from just five locations for a solid $15,800 average. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the R-rated film co-stars Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire and follows an American war reporter’s escapades in Germany.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Denzel Washington‘s action thriller "Deja Vu" fell 50 percent to an estimated $3M in its fourth assignment putting the total at $57.8M. Buena Vista should find its way to the neighborhood of $65M. Opening just five days after rival action pic "Casino Royale" has proven to be a major obstacle for "Deja Vu" which will end up with less than half the gross of the better-received Bond flick.

Fox’s holiday comedy "Deck the Halls" has also faced stiff competition for its target audience. The Danny DeVito pic took in an estimated $2M this weekend, down 50 percent, for a $32.9M cume. A $40M final seems likely. Disney’s "The Santa Clause 3" dropped 43 percent to an estimated $1.9M giving the studio $79.8M thus far. Tim Allen and pals should reach the $85M mark, or about 40 percent below the $139.2M of "Clause 2" from four years ago.

Elsewhere below the top ten, Golden Globe nominees for Best Picture posted good numbers. Fox’s "Borat," nominated for both Picture and Best Actor in the comedy/musical category, slipped 39 percent to an estimated $1.6M for a $122.8M total to date. The raunchy comedy had fallen by more than 45 percent in each of the last two weekends. Miramax’s "The Queen" slipped only 22 percent to an estimated $685,000 for a $25.7M cume in its eleventh consecutive weekend in the Top 20. Fellow Best Picture nominee in the drama category "Babel," which led all films with seven total Globe nominations, saw its weekend gross inch up 7 percent to an estimated $490,000 despite losing over one-third of its theaters. Paramount Vantage has taken in $18.3M so far and hopes that the nominations will allow the ensemble film to remain a relevant box office player through the holidays.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $107.3M which was down 10 percent from last year when "King Kong" opened at number one with $50.1M; but up 13 percent from 2004 when "Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events" debuted in the top spot with $30.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Redefining Elves
Sienna Guillory on tackling the role of Arya in Eragon.

EragonShe may still be young, but Sienna Guillory’s acting chops have seen her working with the likes of Penny Woolcock, Richard Curtis and Iain Softley. And she couldn’t be more lovely, Rotten Tomatoes UK discovers as we meet her to talk about her latest role, as Arya the Elf in Eragon, based on the novel by Christopher Paolini.

Had you read the book before you signed on?

Sienna Guillory: No. I’d heard the myths of this fifteen year-old boy who’d written this epic journey and it was a big bestseller over in America and then I got sent the script for Eragon and it was just so inspiring and so beautiful. The relationship between the boy and the dragon, the female roles, the journey against evil, the hero with a thousand faces, it was all just so well told. I loved it.

I heard that it was actually the same thing and just assumed it had to be a Hollywood rewrite. After I eventually heard I’d got the job, I realised that it was the same thing and got a copy of the book in my hands and I was completely blown away. I didn’t move for six hours and just read it. I couldn’t put it down.

Have you read Eldest, the sequel?

SG: It’s amazing. The first third of it is pretty tough because it’s mostly about dwarves and dwarf stuff – their swords and knives and legends and religions – but then it just explodes and becomes mind-blowingly brilliant.

Does Arya have a bigger part in the second book? She’s obviously a key character in the story but she’s not given much time in Eragon…

SG: [laughs] No, she isn’t. I’ve been trying to explain to friends who’ve seen the trailer and said, “Oh wow, it looks amazing and you’re in it!” I’m like, “Well, yes, but that’s my whole part!” [laughs]

Roran comes into his own in Eldest and has his own story. It’s divided into three stories; Eragon’s, Roran’s and Queen Nasuada’s. Arya is part of the Eragon story.

What was it like working with someone who’s as fresh on-set as Ed Speleers?

SG: It’s incredibly inspiring because it’s not contrived. When you work with someone who’s so real… I did a film called The Principles of Lust which is one of my favourite acting experiences ever and most of the people that we worked with were non-actors. There’s a genuine thing going on with non-actors; you can’t pretend. And that’s what so brilliant about Ed; his talent is raw and you don’t know what to expect.

You know, he didn’t have a minute to think about anything. Everyone on set was saying, “Ooh, Ed, ooh his life’s going to change.” It’s like, “Shut up and let him get on with the job.” And that’s what he did; he put his head down and got on with the job. I love him; he’s great.

Eragon

You got to spend some time with Robert Carlyle too…

SG: He’s just one of my biggest heroes. He’s a complete actor; he’s phenomenal, he has enormous power. When you meet him he’s very handsome and very kind-of quiet and charming and sweet and intelligent. And then he came on as Durza and it was just… I mean it’s a bizarre set-up because you’re there and it’s pissing with rain and there are things on fire and people in cagoules huddled around heaters in tents miles away. But he takes all of that away; he’s electric to work with. He just powers it up and you can’t help but fight back.

You can’t stop and switch off in-between takes either. You really have to walk away and find somewhere to go. He really showed me that; it’s hard to switch from such a villainous character back to Robert in-between takes because everyone’s really good friends and it’s a good craic that we’ve got going on. Gas, gas, gas, chat, chat, chat and suddenly you realise that you’re not focussed on what you’re doing and you’re not giving it the due respect that it deserves.

And he’s really good like that and incredibly disciplined. He’ll just step around the corner and he’ll have a chair there and some water and a banana or whatever and he’ll just sit and stay where he needs to be emotionally and that’s a good person to have around.

You’ve had the chance to work with a great many talented actors and directors; do you have any favourites?

SG: My favourite director is Penny Woolcock. And I really loved working with Antonio Cuadri on a film I have coming up called The Heart of the Earth. And Tom Shankland. Oh, there’ve been so many wonderful actors and directors who I’ve loved. It’s just so wonderful when people enjoy what they do. You can work with someone who’s an amazing actor and if they hate the role they’re doing it’s uncomfortable to watch and uncomfortable to work with. When you’re working with someone who loves what they’re doing it’s just such a joy. We all really loved this project, this story and this journey. It felt like it needed to happen on its own and that’s what was so great about it. It was our own.

Eragon is out now.

Riding the Dragon
Ed Speleers on taking up the reins for Eragon.

EragonFull of fresh-faced charm, Ed Speleers greets Rotten Tomatoes UK with a firm handshake and a wide grin. It’s no wonder he’s so enthusiastic; we meet him on the day of the Eragon international press junket in London’s Dorchester Hotel; his first exposure to the dark and shady world of the interview. Only joking, we’re lovely really.

This is your first big junket experience…

Ed Speleers: The first full-on one, yeah. It’s not too shabby is it? The Dorchester’s better than a youth hostel!

By all accounts your casting was something of a revelation in the life of the project.

ES: When you put it like that it’s a bit bizarre! [laughs] I was sort-of minding my own business at school doing a play and I just heard about this audition. And I’d read the book – I was familiar with the book – so I knew the story. I was told to go to this audition and I met Stefan Fangmeier, the director, and we went through a couple of scenes together after which I was sent away with the script. He asked me back about a week later and then ten days after that my dad called me and told me I had the part.

And a week later I was in Hungary making the movie!

Did you ever consider that you might have been in with a shot during the audition process?

ES: No. I think you’d have to be a pretty arrogant bloke to think you got the part. I don’t like auditions, I get nervous and so I always going away thinking that I’ve ****ed up, basically! [laughs]

How has the part changed your life?

ES: Obviously I’m not at school anymore – that was a pretty big change – but then I wouldn’t be at school even if I hadn’t got it. I don’t think anything really has changed very much. I mean obviously I am doing things I didn’t do before – I seem to constantly be on a plane going places and going into interviews – but at the same time what I do with my life and with my friends is just the same.

As a young actor, it seems like a great opportunity to be put in this environment and learn your craft from guys like Jeremy Irons and Robert Carlyle…

ES: It’s a one-off opportunity and in many ways I guess I went to acting school. When you have Jeremy Irons playing your mentor in the movie it means you’re bound to be working closely with him and I was. He was a father figure for me and he was very good to me. Robert, Sienna, Djimon and Garrett were all very close to me, but with Jeremy I had a very special relationship.

Eragon

And how was your relationship with Saphira the dragon?

ES: It was bizarre! It’s such an unnatural thing to be behaving and acting with something that doesn’t exist, you know? When you’re talking to a tennis-ball it’s quite off-putting. But then you realise, “Hang on a second, I’m working with this so-called tennis-ball for months and months, I need to learn to appreciate it.” So you do, you go to the really simple place of a nine year-old or whatever and you just let your imagination go crazy.

Did they show you what she was going to look like before you started?

ES: They showed me some concept drawings but when I was imagining her I was more imagining her character than what she would look like. I was more imagining how she would think and feel and I think that’s more important when you’re trying to create emotion on an actor’s face. You need to think about the thinking process.

Were you disappointed you didn’t get a chance to work with John Malkovich?

ES: I was disappointed but, you know, beggars can’t be choosers; I was working with Jeremy Irons and Robert Carlyle, I couldn’t have asked for better!

Is it fun to play the squeaky-clean good guy?

ES: Is he squeaky-clean? I not sure he is. I think you can definitely tell that he’s going to grow into someone who’s a little bit more mysterious. At the end of the day he’s only seventeen; how rough and ready can he really be? In the next few years I think we’re going to see something more come out of him.

The film is obviously the first of three in the Inheritance trilogy; have there been plans for Eldest, the second film, yet?

ES: I think with these kinds of movies – when a studio’s investing so much time and money – you can’t just go in blind. We’ve got to wait and see what happens with the box-office. And at the end of the day I’d like to put some other projects together before we do Eldest too.

Eragon

Do you find yourself reading Eldest and wondering if you’re going to be doing some of those things eventually?

ES: I certainly hope I will be and you do read it like that, yeah. Actually in Eldest he does develop. He starts to move away from being a boy completely and he does become quite a darkish character.

Did you spend any time with the author, Christopher Paolini?

ES: Not during the filmmaking; we’ve spoken since. I met him in New York and we’ve emailed since. I met him again last night, actually, and we talked about how he felt about the movie.

And what does he feel about the movie?

ES: I think he likes it. It’s got to be so difficult to be an author and see your work translated onto film. He openly said there were things he might have done differently but generally I think he likes the movie and he’s happy with the performances. I think it’s very rare you get an author who’s so behind the project anyway.

It’s not necessarily an easy book to translate, too.

ES: Well yeah. If you look at Lord of the Rings I don’t think you’ll find many book fans who liked it initially. And that was a three-hour movie, the first one. It is hard, but the essence of the book is there. What Christopher’s trying to say and to demonstrate – the reality of it – is definitely there.

Eragon is obviously an effects-driven movie; is it difficult to keep track of what you’re doing while they’re setting up effects shots? Do you stay method in-character while they’re setting up?

ES: Not necessarily and I think it’s very hard to be a method actor anyway, but especially on a film like this. I think it’s important to be in the moment when you’re doing the job but I don’t think going to the extreme lengths of being method would have helped on this. It can be tough to be trying to do a really intense moment for twenty-five seconds and then cut because there’s a problem with the lighting or something so you have to start again. But it’s all a part of the job and something you just have to learn to deal with, really.

Eragon

What are your plans now?

ES: Well nothing’s concrete but I’d like to do some stage, professional stage. I’d love to do more movies but I don’t think there’s ever a specific role I’d want to play. For someone my age you’ve just got to go out and explore yourself and think about what’s going to be the best option.

Eragon has to be a good opportunity to launch yourself.

ES: Yeah, it’s a launching pad, basically. If the movie does well, great, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but I’m still going to be going out there and trying to find work.

Any particular theatre roles that intrigue you?

ES: I think it’s the same with theatre but I would want to do King Lear. I’d love to play Edmund in King Lear. But in terms of plays it’s the same with the films, I don’t think, at my age, you can know the types of characters and the genres that are going to suit you. Independent movies are great but you’ve got to dive into the big commercial pictures as well. You’ve got to do a bit of comedy. You’ve just got to find your feet and I’m just testing the water at the moment.

Eragon is out now.

Hollywood studios try to inject some juice into the North American box office this weekend by unleashing three big new releases aimed at getting people back into the habit of going to the movies.

Boys will be courted with the fantasy adventure pic "Eragon," girls will get to play with "Charlotte’s Web," and adults looking for a feel-good story to counter their holiday shopping blues will have the father-and-son Smith team in "The Pursuit of Happyness."

The dragon tale "Eragon" attacks the cinemas on Friday giving fantasy audiences the entertainment they’ve been missing this holiday season. Fox’s PG-rated actioner will try to fill a void in a season without a "Potter," "Narnia," or "Hobbit." Don’t expect grosses to come close to the numbers posted by those megahits, but if "Eragon" can still reach a portion of that huge audience, the studio will be happy. Ordinarily, the effects-driven film would probably have a tough time at the box office but thanks to a severe lack of competition, Fox has a golden opportunity. The marketing push has been strong and young males have little else to be excited by. Gamers might also be interested in seeing this adventure on the big screen and leave behind their new hardware for a couple of hours. A built-in audience of readers of the book will help too. Landing in 3,020 theaters, "Eragon" could open with around $23M this weekend.


The latest fantasy novel turned fantasy epic: "Eragon."

The beloved children’s story "Charlotte’s Web" hits the multiplexes with Hollywood’s favorite young girl Dakota Fanning in the lead role. Paramount’s G-rated tale will aim for family audiences and is using the starpower of voice actors Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and John Cleese to connect with parents. With "Happy Feet" being the only major family film to do well over the past few weeks, kids should be ready to move on to something new. Girls will probably outnumber the boys here especially with "Eragon" opening at the same time. But the brand is known and the rating is tame so parents will look at this as a safe bet for their younger ones. Good reviews will help too. With children going on their school holidays soon, look for long-term strength as many will wait until Christmas week to go and see it. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, "Charlotte’s Web" might take in about $21M this weekend.


"Charlotte’s Web," no longer in animated form.

Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden Smith hit the big screen together in Sony’s uplifting drama "The Pursuit of Happyness" which aims to give adult moviegoers something to see this weekend. Based on the true story of Chris Gardner, the PG-13 film tells the story of a man who hits hard times and becomes homeless and moonlights during the day in a stock broker training program hoping for a new lease on life. "Pursuit" has gotten Smith some notice for his acting performance (including a Golden Globe nomination) and the novelty of seeing father and son in a movie together will certainly help sell tickets. The man in black has some of the strongest pull among Hollywood stars at the box office with appeal that transcends all age, race, and gender lines. It’s no wonder that he is now pursuing his tenth $100M blockbuster.

Reviews have been mixed for the film overall even though Smith is hearing buzz about a possible Oscar nomination. Sony must have been hoping for better reactions from critics though. Instead, the studio will appeal directly to adult moviegoers and their desire to see an uplifting feel-good story anchored by a popular star at this time of year. Don’t expect "Pursuit" to reach the levels of the actor’s last film "Hitch" which bowed to $43.1M from 3,575 theaters for a $12,068 average. But if good word-of-mouth circulates, it could stay in the top ten throughout the holiday season and go on to be a winner. Appeal looks solid with both men and women plus a strong turnout from African Americans will help to boost the grosses. Opening in 2,852 theaters, "The Pursuit of Happyness" might debut with around $19M.


Will Smith and son, playing Chris Gardner and son, in "The Pursuit of Happyness."

Opening with special solo engagements in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco is the lavish musical "Dreamgirls" starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson. Paramount and DreamWorks are putting on a special live roadshow performance with these engageemnts for ten days before the film expands across the country on December 25. In New York City, "Dreamgirls" opens exclusively at the giant Ziegfeld theater which has already sold out its five weekend performances. With a giant auditorium of 1,200 seats and ticket prices of $25, look for this one theater to contribute over $100,000 to the weekend gross. West Coast venues hope to contribute similar numbers. Though the gross will be inflated by the ticket price, sky high demand thanks to critics awards, Globe nods, and Oscar buzz has already led to Friday’s opening night shows in California to sell out as well.


"Dreamgirls," opening in limited locations.

Other new films entering the marketplace in limited release include Steven Soderbergh‘s World War II drama "The Good German" starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire from Warner Bros. MGM counters with its Iraq War drama "Home of the Brave" starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Christina Ricci, and 50 Cent. The Weinstein Company platforms the Jude Law thriller "Breaking and Entering" from director Anthony Minghella in an Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles.


Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson in "Home of the Brave."

Among holdovers, last weekend’s top film "Apocalypto" moves into its all-important second weekend which will indicate what type of staying power Mel Gibson‘s latest film has. Curiousity and media hype helped to bring out moviegoers on the first weekend, but will they keep coming? The Buena Vista release fared much better than expected on Sunday grossing $840,000 more than originally expected. The studio expected a Sunday drop of 38% but was pleased to see the bloody epic dip only 23%. This weekend’s three new offerings do not look to give too much of a direct threat to "Apocalypto" so a 35% drop may in order. That would give the Mayan adventure about $9M for the frame and $29M in ten days.

Warner Bros. will see some competition for its penguin blockbuster "Happy Feet," but its hit toon has been holding up quite well each week. A 35% fall would leave "Feet" with around $8.5M and allow it to flirt with the $150M mark. Sony’s "The Holiday" got off to a decent but not spectacular start with its $12.8M bow. The Cameron DiazKate Winslet starrer may slide 35% to roughly $8.5M pushing the total to $25M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: Leaping into the number one spot, although with less muscle than expected, Peter Jackson‘s "King Kong" opened with $50.1M over the weekend and $66.2M over its five-day debut. Universal’s mega-budgeted ape flick went on to gross a commendable $218.1M domestically and $549M worldwide which fell a bit short of the film’s lofty expectations given its budget and filmmaker. "Kong" knocked fellow effects-driven actioner "The Chronicles of Narnia" to second place with $31.8M dropping 51% in its sophomore frame. "Narnia" would eventually climb back into the top spot. Debuting in third was the romantic comedy "The Family Stone" starring Sarah Jessica Parker with $12.5M on its way to $60.1M for Fox. Warner Bros. rounded out the top five with "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" which grossed $6M and "Syriana" which collected $5.6M. No other films dared to open against "King Kong," however the critically acclaimed "Brokeback Mountain" expanded to just 69 theaters in its second weekend and jumped into the top ten with $2.5M for a scorching $36,355 average.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got a barnyard full of talking animals ("Charlotte’s Web," starring Dakota Fanning and the voices of Julia Roberts and Robert Redford), a real-life rags-to-riches story ("The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will Smith), and a tale of dragons and swordplay ("Eragon," starring Edward Speleers and Jeremy Irons). What do the critics have to say?

If there’s one thing critics can agree on with "Charlotte’s Web," it’s how much they all loved the children’s novel. If there’s another, it’s how much they like the big screen adaptation, about a bunch of talking farm animals and a pig saved by a very literate spider. Though some feared that the simple story would be modernized with the ironic and brash attitudes afflicting recent kid flicks, the pundits are in awe of the quiet, humble replication of E.B. White’s genteel and distinguished prose. Also, they really like Robert Redford doing the voice of Ike the wussy horse. At 89 percent Tomatometer, this is some movie, indeed.


"How about you and I cruise in my Power Wheels sometime?"

Will Smith has been in pursuit of an Oscar for a while, and with "The Pursuit of Happyness" the critics think this could be where he catches up with the Academy. Smith, as a homeless single father trying to climb the corporate ladder, is garnering widespread praise for his performance, though said praise isn’t quite being doled out upon the film itself. The critics are calling "Happyness" a slick Hallmark card of a movie, a bit too obsessed with the desire to inspire. At 56 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics are split on whether "Happyness" is worth it for Smith’s heartfelt presence alone.


"Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Periodic Stock Dividends…"

Scribes have posited several excuses as to the overwhelming awfulness of "Eragon" (the movie’s source books were written by a teenager, it’s being directed by a first-timer, etc.), but few critics are terribly forgiving of the derivative plot. "Eragon" spins a tale of a peasant boy (Speleers) who is suddenly entrusted with a dragon and must, with the help of a mentor (Irons), train, grow strong, and defeat an evil emperor. The way the critics describe it, the makers of the "Star Wars"-esque"Eragon" should soon be expecting an annoyed phone call from George Lucas, though the movie’s current nine percent Tomatometer might be insult enough. (At the scene for "Eragon"’s London Premiere was RT-UK’s Joe Utichi; check out his writeup here.


"Wait, what movie are we from again?"

Also playing this week in limited release: Oscar hopeful "Dreamgirls," starring Beyonce Knowles, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy in the tale of a Motown group’s rise and fall, is at 83 percent (check out RT’s interview with co-star Jennifer Hudson here); "The Secret Life of Words," starring Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley in a tale of high drama on an oil rig, is at 80 percent; "Automatons," a zero-budget dystopian sci-fi flick, is at 67 percent; "Breaking and Entering," a story of the tangled webs weaved after a burglary starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, is at 48 percent; "The Good German," Steven Soderbergh’s "Casablanca"-esque drama set in post-WWII Berlin starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, is at 26 percent; and "Home of the Brave," about the trials of vets returning home from Iraq starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, and 50 Cent, is at 15 percent.


"I’m giving the wardrobe guy the evil eye."

Recent Will Smith Movies:
———————————
69% — Hitch (2005)
35% — Shark Tale (2004)
59% — I, Robot (2004)
25% — Bad Boys II (2003)
38% — Men in Black II (2002)

Recent Dakota Fanning Movies:
—————————————
63% — Dreamer (2005)
73% — Nine Lives (2005)
73% — War of the Worlds (2005)
13% — Hide and Seek (2005)
74% — In the Realms of the Unreal (2004)

The champagne flowed, the night was long, and a dragon flew about the Royal Courts of Justice. It could only have been the World Premiere of "Eragon," in London’s Leicester Square, and Rotten Tomatoes UK was there from the off; on the red carpet, at the pre-show cocktail party in the cinema and at the after-party at the aforementioned bastion of silly wigs.

Joining us on the guest list were a plethora of stars from the film and assorted Z-list Brittery affording us an opportunity to bump shoulders with the likes of Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle, Sienna Guillory, John Malkovich and, erm, Jono Coleman. But you can’t win ’em all.

But last night belonged to just one young man: Edward Speleers who plays the titular dragon-rider in the film. With friends, family and girlfriend in tow, he ran into us several times over the course of the evening, and each time we caught him with a slightly bigger grin on his face than the last. And yet as full of wide-eyed wonder as he might have been, when we finally harangued him into an interview there was no doubting how quickly he’d been picking up the craft. Though with Jeremy Irons at his side, that’s hardly surprising.

"It’s a one-off opportunity, basically, to work with someone like Jeremy," he told RT-UK, "and in many ways I guess I went to acting school. When you have Jeremy Irons playing your mentor you’re bound to learn a lot from him and he was a real father figure for me."

And for a good portion of filming he was alone on-screen with Irons; the addition of their third co-star, a twenty-foot dragon, to happen after shooting wrapped. Bringing Saphira to life might be one of the film’s proudest achievements, but getting to grips with the work-in-progress was a challenge, Speleers told us.

"It’s bizarre; it’s such an unnatural thing to be talking and acting with something that doesn’t exist" he said. "When you’re talking to a tennis ball it’s quite off-putting but then you realize, ‘Hang on, I’m working with this so-called tennis ball for months and months, I need to learn to enjoy it and to appreciate it.’ You go to the world of a nine year-old, basically, and just let your imagination go crazy and do the work for you."

Acting opposite an imaginary dragon didn’t present Speleers with his biggest challenge, though. That was reserved, he said, for working up the courage to watch the movie and brave the crowds at the premiere. "It’s overwhelming," he laughed. "I don’t think you can prepare yourself for this with the fans! But at the end of the day, I want to be an actor and it’s as simple as that. Everything else, if it comes with it, it’s a great bonus."

His co-star, the immensely beautiful Sienna Guillory, told RT-UK how impressed she was with Speleers’ natural gift for acting. "I did a film called "The Principles of Lust" before "Eragon" which is still one of my favourite acting experiences and most of the people were not actors and there was a genuine thing going on, you know, you can’t pretend," she told us, "And that’s what’s so brilliant about Ed’s talent; it’s raw and you don’t know what to expect."

And Ed wasn’t the only teenager to impress her in the "Eragon"-verse; the book’s young author, Christopher Paolini, is a prodigious talent, she says. "I was completely blown away by the book," she said, "I didn’t move for six hours; I just couldn’t put it down."

The party raged on until the early hours of this morning, the Royal Courts of Justice overtaken by giant projection screens throwing up clips from the film, a spotlight of a "Castlevania"-esque dragon-rider circling the hall and, naturally, a grand amount of media types. And we’re proud to report that we outlasted the best of them. Then woke up with very sore heads.

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