He’s gone from TV star to action hero to one of the biggest stars in Hollywood — on both sides of the camera. We’re talking, of course, about Clint Eastwood, and with his latest directorial effort, The 15:17 to Paris, reaching theaters this weekend, we at RT thought the time was right for a look back at the best-reviewed films of his career behind the lens.

You’ll find the expected entries here — no Eastwood list would be complete without Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, for instance — but the length of his directorial résumé might surprise you. We’ve reached back to the beginning, set the Tomatometer for “Make My Day,” and come up with a list that’ll take you from the high plains to the sands of Iwo Jima. Do you feel lucky, punks?


Use the arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!

100 Best War Movies of All Time

From peacetime to frontlines, from coming home to left behind: Rotten Tomatoes presents the 100 best-reviewed war movies of all time, ranked by Adjusted Tomatometer with at least 20 reviews each.

#100

Che: Part Two (2008)
79%

#100
Adjusted Score: 80412%
Critics Consensus: The second part of Soderbergh's biopic is a dark, hypnotic and sometimes frustrating portrait of a warrior in decline, with a terrific central performance from Del Toro.
Synopsis: Seven years after his triumph in Cuba, Che (Benicio Del Toro) winds up in Bolivia, where he tries to ignite... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#99
Adjusted Score: 75642%
Critics Consensus: Worthy themes and strong performances across the board make Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence an impactful story about bridging cultural divides.
Synopsis: During World War II, British soldier Jack Celliers (David Bowie) is captured by Japanese forces and held in a prison... [More]
Directed By: Nagisa Ôshima

#98

Black Hawk Down (2001)
76%

#98
Adjusted Score: 82806%
Critics Consensus: Though it's light on character development and cultural empathy, Black Hawk Down is a visceral, pulse-pounding portrait of war, elevated by Ridley Scott's superb technical skill.
Synopsis: The film takes place in 1993 when the U.S. sent special forces into Somalia to destabilize the government and bring... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#97

The Tin Drum (1979)
84%

#97
Adjusted Score: 85674%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Oskar Matzerath (David Bennent) is a very unusual boy. Refusing to leave the womb until promised a tin drum by... [More]
Directed By: Volker Schlöndorff

#96
#96
Adjusted Score: 83118%
Critics Consensus: A well-crafted and visually arresting drama with a touch of whimsy.
Synopsis: Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) is told that her fiancé (Gaspard Ulliel) has been killed in World War I. She refuses to... [More]
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

#95

American Sniper (2014)
72%

#95
Adjusted Score: 84403%
Critics Consensus: Powered by Clint Eastwood's sure-handed direction and a gripping central performance from Bradley Cooper, American Sniper delivers a tense, vivid tribute to its real-life subject.
Synopsis: U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) takes his sole mission -- protect his comrades -- to heart and becomes... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#94

Kelly's Heroes (1970)
78%

#94
Adjusted Score: 79773%
Critics Consensus: Kelly's Heroes subverts its World War II setting with pointed satirical commentary on modern military efforts, offering an entertaining hybrid of heist caper and battlefield action.
Synopsis: In the midst of World War II, an array of colorful American soldiers gets inside information from a drunk German... [More]
Directed By: Brian G. Hutton

#93

Braveheart (1995)
79%

#93
Adjusted Score: 83525%
Critics Consensus: Distractingly violent and historically dodgy, Mel Gibson's Braveheart justifies its epic length by delivering enough sweeping action, drama, and romance to match its ambition.
Synopsis: Tells the story of the legendary thirteenth century Scottish hero named William Wallace (Mel Gibson). Wallace rallies the Scottish against... [More]
Directed By: Mel Gibson

#92

War Horse (2011)
74%

#92
Adjusted Score: 83296%
Critics Consensus: Technically superb, proudly sentimental, and unabashedly old-fashioned, War Horse is an emotional drama that tugs the heartstrings with Spielberg's customary flair.
Synopsis: Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse, Joey, live on a farm in the British countryside. At the outbreak of... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#91

Coming Home (1978)
85%

#91
Adjusted Score: 87123%
Critics Consensus: Coming Home's stellar cast elevates the love triangle in the center of its story - and adds a necessary human component to its none-too-subtle political message.
Synopsis: The wife of a Marine serving in Vietnam, Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) decides to volunteer at a local veterans hospital... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#90
#90
Adjusted Score: 85725%
Critics Consensus: The Thin Red Line is a daringly philosophical World War II film with an enormous cast of eager stars.
Synopsis: In 1942, Private Witt (Jim Caviezel) is a U.S. Army absconder living peacefully with the locals of a small South... [More]
Directed By: Terrence Malick

#89

Lone Survivor (2013)
75%

#89
Adjusted Score: 83662%
Critics Consensus: A true account of military courage and survival, Lone Survivor wields enough visceral power to mitigate its heavy-handed jingoism.
Synopsis: In 2005 Afghanistan, Navy SEALs Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew "Axe"... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

#88

Private Benjamin (1980)
82%

#88
Adjusted Score: 84637%
Critics Consensus: Private Benjamin proves a potent showcase for its Oscar-nominated star, with Hawn making the most of a story that rests almost completely on her daffily irresistible charm.
Synopsis: A Jewish-American princess, Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn), is devastated when her husband (Albert Brooks) drops dead on their wedding night.... [More]
Directed By: Howard Zieff

#87
#87
Adjusted Score: 84626%
Critics Consensus: Benigni's earnest charm, when not overstepping its bounds into the unnecessarily treacly, offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.
Synopsis: A gentle Jewish-Italian waiter, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), meets Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a pretty schoolteacher, and wins her over with... [More]
Directed By: Roberto Benigni

#86

Fury (2014)
76%

#86
Adjusted Score: 87212%
Critics Consensus: Overall, Fury is a well-acted, suitably raw depiction of the horrors of war that offers visceral battle scenes but doesn't quite live up to its larger ambitions.
Synopsis: In April 1945, the Allies are making their final push in the European theater. A battle-hardened Army sergeant named Don... [More]
Directed By: David Ayer

Mel Gibson is getting the best reviews of his directorial career for Hacksaw Ridge, the World War II true story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss, who received the Medal of Honor for saving 75 men without ever carrying a gun or weapon. The legend of Doss inspires this week’s gallery: 24 Certified Fresh WWII movies!

(And before you ask, Grave of the Fireflies is Fresh but not Certified Fresh.)

Much has been made of the fact that Steven Spielberg produced J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 — and rightly so, given how strongly it seems to evoke memories of Spielberg’s classic past. But even though we think of Spielberg as a director first, he’s also had a very busy (and fairly distinguished) career as a producer — and to show you what we mean, we decided to dedicate this week’s Total Recall to films he didn’t direct. We ended up with a varied list that includes some huge hits, a handful of modern classics, and maybe even a few surprises. Read on!


1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 97%

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

In the early 1980s, when Spielberg and George Lucas were looking for someone to write them a big check for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paramount chief Michael Eisner didn’t blink — so when Eisner moved to Disney later in the decade and needed help getting a long-gestating live-action/animated noir project off the ground, Spielberg was happy to return the favor. The result was one of the decade’s defining films, a smash hit that blended cutting-edge technology with a well-written script and old-school slapstick — not to mention blink-and-you-missed-’em cameos from dozens of cartoon celebrities. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is, in the words of the Washington Post’s Rita Kempley, “as cunning as Wile E. Coyote and chipper as a flock of cartoon bluebirds.”


2. Back to the Future (1985) 96%

(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Even before they worked together on the Back to the Future trilogy, Spielberg had a long history with the writing duo of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale — but until they put Marty McFly behind the wheel of that fateful DeLorean, their partnership was a study in box office futility, producing the commercial duds I Wanna Hold Your Hand1941, and Used Cars. Not wanting to sully their association with Spielberg, Zemeckis and Gale resisted bringing him a serious pitch for Back to the Future — until they finally hit paydirt with Romancing the Stone. Suddenly, executives who’d rejected Future were eager to be a part of it, but Zemeckis and Gale gave first dibs to their old friend, and thus was a franchise born — as well as the film that Slant’s Eric Henderson called “one of the rare big-budget entertainments that’s improved with time.”


3. True Grit (2010) 95%

(Photo by Lorey Sebastian/Paramount Pictures)

When the marriage between DreamWorks and Paramount ended in 2008, the studios had to divvy up hundreds of projects in development — and when the dust settled, the Coen brothers’ True Grit remake stayed at Paramount, with Spielberg retaining an executive producer credit. A few Coens fans raised their eyebrows (or freaked out on their favorite Internet film forum) when they spotted Spielberg’s name in the IMDb credits, but ultimately True Grit remained, as cinematographer Roger Deakins promised one concerned commenter, “very much the Coens’ film and nothing else” — in other words, the 10-time Academy Award nominee that MSN’s Glenn Kenny called a “visually and sonically beautiful movie that uses space, distance and time to immerse you in a very particular world of mystery, awe and brutality.”


4. Men in Black (1997) 92%

It seems laughable now, but Men in Black spent a fair amount of time in development hell — until, that is, Spielberg hired writer-producer Walter F. Parkes and his wife, Laurie MacDonald, to head production at Amblin. Parkes, who had been struggling to gain traction with Men in Black at Columbia, saw his new gig as a golden opportunity to jump-start the picture — and he was right. With Spielberg’s name attached, Black found a clear path from the studio lot to the big screen, where the sci-fi buddy comedy racked up nearly $590 million in grosses and raves from critics like David Edelstein, who called it “The smartest, funniest, and best-looking sci-fi comedy since the movies learned to morph.”


5. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) 91%

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

When Spielberg decided not to direct Flags of Our Fathers and handed the reins to Clint Eastwood, he wasn’t just altering the course of one World War II drama — he was setting in motion the chain of events that would produce its companion piece. Inspired by his pre-production research, Eastwood came up with the idea to make a film that would present the Japanese side of the battle, and decided to shoot the two projects back-to-back. Letters from Iwo Jima ultimately suffered roughly the same middling commercial fate that befell Flags of Our Fathers, but was far and away the greater critical success, notching three Academy Award nominations and earning the admiration of writers like Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who called it “a work of whetted craft and judgment, tempered by Eastwood’s years of life, moviemaking and the potent tango of the two. It is the work of a mature filmmaker willing to entertain the true power of the cinema.”


6. Arachnophobia (1990) 93%

Spielberg’s longtime production partner (and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment) Frank Marshall made his directorial debut with this affectionate, cheerfully creepy tribute to classic Hollywood creature features, in which a deadly breed of spider terrorizes a small town whose residents include a lunatic exterminator (John Goodman) and, of course, a doctor with the titular phobia (Jeff Daniels). “That sound you hear in the background is the ‘ugh!’ heard round the world,” chuckled Janet Maslin of the New York Times, adding, “luckily, Arachnophobia will also be generating its share of boisterous, nervous laughter.”


7. Poltergeist (1982) 87%

(Photo by MGM courtesy Everett Collection)

Unlike a lot of the movies on this list, which benefited from his participation on a more or less ancillary level, Poltergeist was very much a Steven Spielberg production — starting with the script, which he co-wrote, and ending with his almost daily presence on the set, which sparked a DGA investigation and years of rumors about whether the credited director, Tobe Hooper, was merely a stand-in to help Spielberg wriggle out of a contractual agreement that prevented him from helming a film that would end up in direct competition with E.T. Whatever really happened behind the cameras, the result was a huge hit that spawned a franchise and won the unqualified praise of critics like Moviehole’s Clint Morris, who called it “One of the best horror flicks ever…bar none.”


8. Gremlins (1984) 85%

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

It earned nearly $150 million at the box office, marked Chris Columbus as a young screenwriter to watch, and resuscitated director Joe Dante’s ailing career — but Gremlins was also part of one of 1984’s biggest Hollywood controversies, sparking concern that the MPAA was giving PG ratings to films that were too intense for a younger audience (such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Spielberg suggested that an overhaul of the ratings system might be in order, and roughly a month after Gremlins‘ release, the PG-13 was born. Parental concerns over gremlin-related violence aside, the film was also a solid critical winner, earning praise from the likes of Roger Ebert, who wrote, “At the level of Serious Film Criticism, it’s a meditation on the myths in our movies: Christmas, families, monsters, retail stores, movies, boogeymen. At the level of Pop Moviegoing, it’s a sophisticated, witty B movie.”


9. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) 90%

(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Somewhat appropriately for a film inspired by the Beatles’ first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, this wacky 1978 comedy was a film of debuts — for Robert Zemeckis, notching his first feature-length directorial credit, and for Spielberg, who produced for the first time (under the watchful eye of Universal, who made him promise he’d step in and direct if Zemeckis faltered). Despite the lack of experience, it was smooth sailing for I Wanna Hold Your Hand — at least until the film reached audiences, who ignored it so completely that it couldn’t even earn back its $2.8 million budget. As far as critics were concerned, however, it was the audience’s loss: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand re-creates precisely the excitement the Beatles let loose 14 years ago,” wrote Time’s Frank Rich, adding that “it transports the audience back to the eye of a phenomenal social hurricane.”


10. The Mask of Zorro (1998) 83%

(Photo by Columbia Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

As executive producer of Martin Campbell’s swashbuckling Zorro reboot, Spielberg may not have had to take much of an active role in the day-to-day development of the film, but he was responsible for at least one key element: the casting of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who caught his eye with her performance in the CBS miniseries The Titanic. It proved a starmaking turn for Zeta-Jones, who upstaged Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins in the film that Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called “A lively, old-fashioned adventure yarn with just a twist of modern attitude” and “the kind of pleasant entertainment that allows the paying customers to have as much fun as the people on screen.”

For a guy who’s continually rumored to be done with acting, Clint Eastwood is doing a pretty good job of staying busy in front of the camera.

Variety reports that Eastwood has agreed to direct and star in Gran Torino, a just-announced Warner Bros./Village Roadshow film being targeted for a December release…and that’s about all we know, actually. From the article:

Details of “Torino” are being kept under tantalizingly tight wraps. Existence of the film, and Eastwood’s role, were only revealed on Tuesday when Warner quietly dated the movie for sometime in December.

As Variety points out, a December release will put Gran Torino up against another Eastwood film — he directed Changeling, the “child abduction drama” starring Angelina Jolie that’s reaching theaters November 7.

Though he hasn’t acted since directing himself in 2004’s Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood has remained busy behind the camera, directing Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima; according to Variety, he’s also confirmed to direct the Nelson Mandela biopic The Human Factor for Warners.

Source: Variety

The London Critics Circle has announced the nominees for its year-end awards, with Anton Corbijn‘s Control and Joe Wright‘s Atonement leading the pack at eight nominations apiece.

A full list of the nominees follows below, with Tomatometers in parentheses. Let the nitpicking begin!

FILM OF THE YEAR
No Country for Old Men (95 percent)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (75 percent)
There Will Be Blood (94 percent)
Zodiac (89 percent)
The Bourne Ultimatum (93 percent)

ATTENBOROUGH AWARD FOR BRITISH FILM OF THE YEAR
Once (98 percent)
Control (89 percent)
Atonement (85 percent)
Eastern Promises (88 percent)
This Is England (93 percent)

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

Florian Henckel von DonnersmarckThe Lives of Others (93 percent)
Paul Thomas AndersonThere Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan CoenNo Country for Old Men
David FincherZodiac
Cristian Mungui4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (96 percent)

BRITISH DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Anton Corbijn — Control
Paul GreengrassThe Bourne Ultimatum
Shane MeadowsThis Is England
Joe Wright — Atonement
Danny BoyleSunshine (75 percent)

ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Ulrich MuheThe Lives of Others
Casey AffleckThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
George ClooneyMichael Clayton (90 percent)
Tommy Lee JonesIn the Valley of Elah (69 percent)
Daniel Day-LewisThere Will Be Blood

ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Laura LinneyThe Savages (89 percent)
Marion CotillardLa Vie en rose (74 percent)
Maggie GyllenhaalSherrybaby (72 percent)
Angelina JolieA Mighty Heart (77 percent)
Anamaria Marinca4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

BRITISH ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Sam RileyControl
James McAvoyAtonement
Christian Bale3:10 to Yuma (87 percent)
Jim BroadbentAnd When Did You Last See Your Father (81 percent)
Jonny Lee MillerThe Flying Scotsman (51 percent)

BRITISH ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Samantha MortonControl
Julie ChristieAway From Her (95 percent)
Keira KnightleyAtonement
Helena Bonham CarterSweeney Todd (92 percent)
Sienna MillerInterview (57 percent)

BRITISH ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Tom WilkinsonMichael Clayton
Toby JonesThe Painted Veil (75 percent)
Alfred MolinaThe Hoax (86 percent)
Tobey Kebell — Control
Albert FinneyBefore the Devil Knows You’re Dead (87 percent)

BRITISH ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Saoirse RonanAtonement
Imelda StauntonHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (77 percent)
Tilda SwintonMichael Clayton
Kelly MacdonaldNo Country for Old Men
Vanessa RedgraveAtonement

SCREENWRITER OF THE YEAR
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — The Lives of Others
Joel and Ethan Coen — No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson — There Will Be Blood
Ronald HarwoodThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)
Christopher HamptonAtonement

BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH — ACTING
Saoirse Ronan — Atonement
Sam Riley — Control
Thomas TurgooseThis Is England
Benedict CumberbatchAmazing Grace (71 percent)
Dakota Blue RichardsThe Golden Compass

BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH — FILMMAKING
John Carney, writer and director — Once
Sarah Gavron, director — Brick Lane (68 percent)
Anton Corbijn, director — Control
Matt Greenhalgh, writer — Control
Stevan Riley, writer, director, producer — Blue Blood

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
The Lives of Others
Letters From Iwo Jima (91 percent)
Tell No One (93 percent)

Source: Variety

Did you know that Steven Soderbergh was making a movie about Che Guevara? Starring Benicio Del Toro in the title role? Yeah, me too. But somehow I missed the news that he was making TWO films about the historical figure.

According to Variety, Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) will join Oscar winner Del Toro (as well as Julia Ormond, Franka Potente, and Jorge Perugorria) in not one but two films from Mr. Soderbergh: Both The Argentine and Guerrilla will tell the Che Guevara story from two different perspective. I’m guessing here, but I’m getting a Flags of Our Fathers / Letters from Iwo Jima vibe on these projects.

Steven Soderbergh, as you probably already know, is one of those filmmakers who leaps between indie-style and big-budget whenever he feels like it. One one side he gave us sex, lies & videotape, The Limey, Full Frontal, and Bubble — and on the other side we got Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and the whole Ocean’s series. And then somewhere in the middle are The Good German and Solaris. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Soderbergh begins his dual-movie project later this month in Spain. For more info on the projects check out this page at Benicio Del Toro’s website.

Source: Variety

There’s two ways to predict the Oscars: (1) dissect the awards buzz, attempting to get a feel for the fickle machinations of the Academy voter. Or (2) use your powers of geek math to crunch box office numbers and awards statistics for some cold, hard facts. With both methods in full swing, here’s a rundown of the Internet’s major Oscar predictions.

Best Picture
As usual, the nominees have settled into their niches: two big flicks ("The Departed" and "Babel"), one major underdog ("Little Miss Sunshine"), and two wallflowers ("The Queen" and "Letters from Iwo Jima"). FilmJerk, having combed the last 28 years of Oscar winners for meaningful statistics, posits "The Departed" has history on its side. The Envelope, L.A. Times’ one-stop hub for Hollywood buzz, agrees.

But it ain’t over yet. After polling readers from over 20 blogs, Vizu Answers reveals that 54 percent believe "Babel" will emerge victorious. And in our own unofficial Rotten Tomatoes research of the past 15 or so Oscar ceremonies, we discovered that the best-reviewed nominee never wins, along with the ones that make less than the average gross of all the nominees combined. This knocks "Babel" out of the race and pits "The Departed" against "Little Miss Sunshine."


Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio with hats in "The Departed."

Best Director
Martin Scorsese.

All signs point that this is going to be his year (more so than the other million times that statement’s been made). And what if another nominee (probably that Iñárritu guy) swoops in? People will be angry, more Hitchcock comparisons will be made, Scorsese will make a quip and then go back to work.


Martin Scorsese in a "Departed" powwow.

Best Actor and Best Actress
Statistically, Leonardo DiCaprio has a lead on the Best Actor race for "Blood Diamond," but no one is expecting him to win. Peter O’Toole, always the rascal, might pull off an upset. But based on the strong reader and industry insider buzz, it’s hard to imagined the award won’t be going to Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland."

As for Best Actress, statistics argue that Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" has an advantage. Everything else is pointing towards heavy favorite Helen Mirren for "The Queen."


Peter O’Toole is old in "Venus."

Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
The Supporting races are the the most unpredictable ones this year. The Envelope recently bumped "Dreamgirls"’ Eddie Murphy down, replacing him with "Little Miss Sunshine"’s Alan Arkin as favorite to take home the statue. But blog readers want Murphy to win and the numbers also slightly favor him.

Jennifer Hudson looks to be a shoo-in for her performance in "Dreamgirls." But the buzz has been almost too good; something’s got to backfire at some point. Abigail Breslin from "Little Miss Sunshine" seems an unlikely contender, but the Academy does like to hand out the tot votes (Haley Joel Osment’s nom for "The Sixth Sense" and Anna Paquin’s win for "The Piano" being recent examples).


Jennifer Hudson hitting high notes in "Dreamgirls."

Best Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
"Babel" and "The Queen" are contenders, though the talk of the town is that the award’ll probably go to "Little Miss Sunshine." Recently, this category’s become the designated play area for quirky indie films ("The Squid and the Whale" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" anyone?). "Lost in Translation" won Best Screenplay but lost Best Picture in 2003, so if "Little Miss Sunshine" doesn’t nab Best Picture, it’ll get this consolation prize.

And Best Adapted Screenplay? Reader and Hollywood buzz and historical statistics are in favor for "The Departed." And why not? "The Departed"’s popular with critics, audiences, and picky "Infernal Affairs" fans. And it was written by only one guy (compare with "Children of Men"’s and "Borat"’s five apiece) so we won’t have to sit through a really long acceptance speech.


Steve Carrell and Toni Collette action pose for "Little Miss Sunshine."

Best Foreign Language Film
A strong crop have been nominated this year, including "Water," "Days of Glory," and "The Lives of Others," all Certified Fresh. But the award is likely to go to the critically lauded, record breaking "Pan’s Labyrinth." Since a "Pan" win for Best Screenplay isn’t going to happen, Academy members are going to want to pay their respects and dogpile the votes here.


A charming "Labyrinth" inhabitant.

Best Animated Feature
For the first time in maybe ever, Pixar doesn’t look to be a sure-fire bet. "Cars," despite being Certified Fresh and grossing nearly $250 million, in relative Pixar terms, it wasn’t a huge success like "Toy Story 2," "Finding Nemo," or "The Incredibles." The other big nominee, "Happy Feet," however, was a surprise hit, much like that other penguin movie. Academy voters are probably still thinking fondly about "Happy Feet," while "Cars" has the Ghost of Pixar Movies Past looming over it.


Owen Wilson as an unhappy car.

Best Documentary Feature
Each of the four major nominees have big positives going for them. "Iraq in Fragments" is timely and "Deliver Us From Evil" has a perfect Tomatometer. "An Inconvenient Truth"
may win on the sheer number of people who have seen it as opposed to the other nominees. "Jesus Camp" was an underground, word-of-mouth hit and actually resulted in the closure of the titular camp. You can’t buy better buzz and publicity than that.


Solidarity in "Iraq in Fragments."

Source: FilmJerk, The Envelope, Vizu Answers

Known as a big predictor of what’ll go down Oscar night, the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony took place last Sunday to a rapturous Hollywood crowd without a hitch (or surprises or upsets). Check out the full winners list below, along with analysis on how the SAG results affect the Oscar nominees’ chances.

The SAG Awards frequently mirror Oscar nominations and wins. And this year, they’re more similar than in recent memory. Of the 25 Acting and Best Picture nominations, the SAG and Oscar disagree only twice: the SAG reserved a Supporting Actor nom spot for Leonardo DiCaprio, while the Academy has eyes for Mark Wahlberg (both for "The Departed"). And in the Best Picture category, the SAG had "Bobby" whereas the Oscars have "Letters from Iwo Jima."

"There appears to be a developing unanimity about the year’s best actors," writes Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday. Indeed, who doubted that Forest Whitaker (Male Actor winner for "The Last King of Scotland"), Jennifer Hudson (the Supporting Female Actor winner for "Dreamgirls"), or Helen Mirren (Outstanding Female Actor for "The Queen") wouldn’t be going home empty-handed? They’ve dominated all the other awards shows prior to the SAG Awards.


"The Queen": Helen Mirren phones it in.

However, it’s hard to say that "Dreamgirls‘" Eddie Murphy, who took home the Outstanding Supporting Male Actor award, is guaranteed the same Oscar reward. According to OscarWatch, every actor nominated for the Supporting Actor Oscar have won roughly the same number of awards as he has.

The same can be said for the Best Picture Oscar. "Little Miss Sunshine" won Best Ensemble Acting (the SAG’s Best Picture equivalent), but the other Best Picture Oscar nominees have just about the same number of accolades. And "Little Miss Sunshine’s" directors snub from the Academy can be another problem. Risky Biz Blog points out that only twice has a Best Picture winner not also have its director(s) nominated (1932’s "Grand Hotel" and 1989’s "Driving Miss Daisy").


Eddie Murphy is SAGacious in "Dreamgirls."

Kilday also notes that "no one film has dominated the best picture race this awards season." Oscar nominess "The Departed," "Babel," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "The Queen" have all been accumulating accolades at about the same rate. "Letters From Iwo Jima", however, lags far behind.


The cast surveys the scene in "Little Miss Sunshine."

And in the case of "Little Miss Sunshine," it can also be said that comedies almost never win the Best Picture. Then again, stranger things have happened. Remember when a neurotic little dude single-handedly took down the Death Star?

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

"Little Miss Sunshine"

"Babel"
"Bobby"
"The Departed"
"The Queen"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland"

Leonardo DiCaprio for "Blood Diamond"
Ryan Gosling for "Half-Nelson"
Peter O’Toole for "Venus"
Will Smith for "Pursuit of Happyness"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Helen Mirren for "The Queen"

Penelope Cruz for "Volver"
Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal"
Meryl Streep for "The Devil Wears Prada"
Kate Winslet for "Little Children"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Eddie Murphy for "Dreamgirls"

Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine"
Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Departed"
Jackie Earle Haley for "Little Children"
Djimon Hounsou for "Blood Diamond"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Hudson for "Dreamgirls"

Adriana Barraza for "Babel"
Cate Blanchett for "Notes on a Scandal"
Abigail Breslin for "Little Miss Sunshine"
Rinko Kikuchi for "Babel"

Proving that there’s always money in spoof comedies, Fox’s "Epic Movie" shot straight to number one over the weekend in its debut frame beating out three other new releases plus a handful of expanding Academy Award contenders. In fact, the immature laugher outgrossed all five Oscar nominees for best picture combined.

The crime drama "Smokin’ Aces" and the Jennifer Garner dramedy "Catch and Release" both enjoyed good results in their opening weekends, however the new horror flick "Blood and Chocolate" failed to even make the top ten. Most holdovers remained strong as the overall marketplace bounced back from last weekend’s dismal results.

Matching the numbers it posted a year ago with "Date Movie," Fox struck again with "Epic Movie" which topped the charts with an estimated $19.2M from 2,801 theaters. The PG-13 film lampooned several recent box office action hits and averaged a solid $6,855 per site. "Date Movie" skewered numerous romantic comedies and bowed to a similar $19.1M last February over the three-day portion of the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, whose writing credits include "Date Movie," "Spy Hard," and the entire "Scary Movie" series, wrote and directed "Epic." Teenagers made up a large portion of the audience and both genders were well-represented. Critics who did bother to review it trashed the film.


"Epic Movie": 0 percent Tomatometer, $19 million opening

Opening in second place with impressive results and similar per-theater success was Universal’s mob thriller "Smokin’ Aces" with an estimated $14.3M from 2,218 locations. Averaging a commendable $6,430 per site, the frame’s only new R-rated pic connected with young men as its primary audience. According to studio research, 59% of the audience was male and 57% was 25 or older. "Smokin’" stars Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia, and Alicia Keys and cost less than $20M to produce which should make it a profitable venture when all worldwide rights are exploited. The film also opened at number one in Russia this weekend with $1.7M and has grossed an additional $5.3M from the United Kingdom after its third weekend.


Alicia Keys, in her big-screen debut

The unstoppable blockbuster comedy "Night at the Museum" enjoyed yet another small decline sliding only 21% in its sixth weekend to an estimated $9.5M. The Ben StillerRobin Williams smash has pumped its cume up to $216.7M and will soon join the top 50 domestic blockbusters of all-time.

Jennifer Garner generated respectable results for her latest film "Catch and Release" which was not given a very wide release, but still sold an estimated $8M in ticket stubs. Averaging a solid $4,932 from 1,622 playdates, the PG-13 film about a woman rebuilding her life after her husband’s death played heavily female. According to Sony’s research, an overwhelming 75% of the crowd consisted of women and 58% was 25 or older. "Catch" cost $25M to produce and opened smaller than her previous headlining efforts "13 Going on 30" ($21.1M in 2004) and "Elektra" ($12.8M in 2005). Reviews were mostly negative.


"Catch and Release": At 22 percent, it’s better than "Elektra"

Sony’s "Stomp the Yard," 2007’s top-grossing new release, slipped only 37% and took fifth with an estimated $7.8M. Total stands at an impressive $50.7M.

A quartet of Oscar-nominated films followed. Paramount’s musical "Dreamgirls," which led all films with eight Academy Award nominations, expanded from 2,214 to 2,785 sites and grossed an estimated $6.6M. That represented a slim 17% drop in sales from last weekend but a steeper 34% fall in the per-theater average which was $2,376. Cume to date is $86.7M. Despite not earning a best picture nomination, "Dreamgirls" is still holding up well and posting relatively low declines.


"And You, And You, And You…You’re Gonna Snub Me"

Also showing durability was Will Smith‘s "The Pursuit of Happyness" which earned the box office star an Academy nod for best actor. The Sony blockbuster dipped only 21% to an estimated $5M pushing its sum to $152.9M. "Pursuit" did not have any expansion, but instead lost 378 theaters and still witnessed a decline similar to that of "Dreamgirls" which scored many more Oscar nominations and added hundreds of playdates to its run.

The fantasy tale "Pan’s Labyrinth" widened from 609 to 823 sites and grossed an estimated $4.5M equaling its gross from last weekend. Nominated in six different categories, the Mexican film saw its per-theater average dip 26% from last weekend to a still-solid $5,474. Total is $16.3M for the Picturehouse release.

"The Queen" saw a healthy bump in sales and ranked ninth for the weekend with an estimated $4M, up 18%, for a $41.2M sum to date. Miramax added 244 additional venues and saw its average inch up 2% to $2,186.

Rounding out the top ten was a film that has approximately zero chance of earning any Academy Award nominations a year from now. The horror film "The Hitcher" tumbled 54% in its second weekend to an estimated $3.6M giving Focus only $13.4M to date. A $16-18M final seems likely.

Opening poorly outside of the top ten was yet another horror film, the werewolf thriller "Blood and Chocolate," which bowed to only $2.1M according to estimates. The PG-13 film attacked 1,200 theaters and averaged a weak $1,753 per venue for MGM.

With last Tuesday’s Academy Award nominations putting several films into the media spotlight, distributors took the opportunity to expand their contenders and saw increased weekend grosses, even though averages were mostly not very impressive. Best picture candidate "The Departed," which was near the end of its theatrical run after opening in early October, went back into national release and grossed an estimated $3M. Averaging $2,096 per site in 1,453 locations, the Martin Scorsese crime saga upped its cume to $124.9M. Its best picture rival "Babel" widened to 1,090 playdates and grossed an estimated $2.6M for a $2,368 average. Sales were up 25% from last weekend while the average inched up 2% with the total reaching $27.2M.

Clint Eastwood‘s "Letters From Iwo Jima," which has been holding back much of its release in anticipation of Oscar nods, added 55 theaters to its run and surged 26% to an estimated $1.7M. The Warner Bros. release averaged a decent but not spectacular $4,120 from 415 locations. The average increased a healthy 9% from last weekend and the subtitled film has collected $4.9M to date as "Letters" remained the lowest-grossing best picture nominee by far. But much potential could still be ahead of it.

Among films with high profile acting nominations, Fox Searchlight’s "Notes on a Scandal" more than tripled its run to 640 theaters and grossed an estimated $2.5M as the weekend take doubled. The Judi DenchCate Blanchett pic averaged $3,978 per playdate and has taken in $9M thus far. The distributor’s Forest Whitaker drama "The Last King of Scotland" remained mostly steady with its theater count and saw its gross inch up 3% to an estimated $1.7M for a $7.7M total. Sony Classics more than quadrupled the run of Penelope Cruz‘s "Volver" and took in an estimated $1.2M from 689 sites. The average was diluted down to just $1,671 as the total climbed to $8.9M.

The industry often looks at a film’s box office boost on the weekend after Academy Award nominations are announced to determine how much gold an Oscar nod is worth. But what is often overlooked is the additional marketing and distribution expense that is invested by a distributor to create new marketing materials, buy more advertising, and ship extra prints out across the country. Expanding these films in a crowded marketplace is not cheap, but studios do believe that there are long-term benefits to be gained by the added attention like extra momentum in overseas and video markets, plus possibly some added votes from Academy members. In addition, it is difficult to separate the sales that are due directly to the Oscar attention from those that would have occured anyway even if no nominations came through.

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount’s high school drama "Freedom Writers" dipped 33% to an estimated $3.5M in its fourth session. The Hilary Swank pic has grossed a respectable $31.3M to date and should finish with about $36-38M. The MGM family release "Arthur and the Invisibles" dropped 46% to an estimated $1.7M for a $11.5M cume. A disappointing $14M final seems likely.

Universal’s futuristic drama "Children of Men" scored three Oscar nominations, but it meant little to its ticket sales. The R-rated drama fell 46% to an estimated $2M lifting the sum to $30.7M. The Alfonso Cuaron-directed film should conclude with around $35M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.4M which was down 12% from last year when "Big Momma’s House 2" opened at number one with $27.7M; and down 16% from 2005 when "Hide and Seek" debuted on top with $22M.

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

Sound the alarms! Tonight’s telecast (8pm EST) of the 64th Annual Golden Globes Awards signaled the real start of Oscar mania, so check out our list of winners…and weigh in with your own two cents on who won, who should’ve won, and who definitely should not have worn what. RESULTS IN NOW!!

Royal thesps Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker took home Best Actor nods (for "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland," respectively) as expected, and "Dreamgirls" re-cemented its still-potent Oscar power with three wins (Jennifer Hudson for Best Supporting Actress, Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor, and "Dreamgirls" for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical).

"The Departed" director Martin Scorsese capitalized on his recent Awards Season favor by nabbing Best Director, while fellow nominee Clint Eastwood collected a Globe for Best Foreign Film (the Japanese-language "Letters From Iwo Jima").

"The Queen" also won for Best Screenplay, written by Peter Morgan; limited release period flick "The Painted Veil" threw its name into the public eye by winning the award for Best Score.

Sacha Baron Cohen‘s Best Comedy Actor win for "Borat" was one of the night’s highlights, with an acceptance speech that gave new meaning to the term "Golden Globes."

The show’s capper — presented by the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger (he used to be in the movies, right?) — awarded the Best Drama trophy to surprise pick "Babel," instantly renewing that film’s chances come Oscar time.

Find out who else won the hearts of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Monday night [scroll down for full list of winners and nominees]…

And check out Rotten Tomatoes’ Awards Tour for winners and nominees of this season’s other film awards and critics’ group picks (plus our handy-dandy Buzz chart combining Tomatometer, Awards Won, and Box Office numbers into an Oscar guide for you prognosticators)!

And the nominees for the 64th Annual Golden Globes Awards are (Winners in bold):

Best Original Song

44% Bobby
80% Dreamgirls
76% Happy Feet
23% Home of the Brave
66% Pursuit of Happyness

Best Supporting Actress, Drama



Adriana Barraza for Babel
Cate Blanchett for Notes on a Scandal
Emily Blunt for Devil Wears Prada
Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi for Babel

Best Animated Film



76% Cars
76% Happy Feet
74% Monster House



Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy

Annette Bening for Running with Scissors
Toni Collette for Little Miss Sunshine
Beyonce Knowles for Dreamgirls
Meryl Streep for Devil Wears Prada
Renée Zellweger for Miss Potter

Best Supporting Actor, Drama

Ben Affleck for Hollywoodland
Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson for Departed
Brad Pitt for Babel
Mark Wahlberg for Departed



Best Screenplay

Todd Field, and Tom Perrotta for Little Children
Guillermo Arriaga Jordan for Babel
Patrick Marber for Notes on a Scandal
William Monahan for Departed
Peter Morgan for The Queen

Best Foreign Language Film

65% Apocalypto
93% Letters From Iwo Jima
94% Lives of Others
97% Pan’s Labyrinth
90% Volver



Best Original Score

Alexandre Desplat for The Painted Veil
Clint Mansell for The Fountain
Gustavo Santaolalla for Babel
Carlo Siliotto for Nomad
Hans Zimmer for The Da Vinci Code



Best Director

Clint Eastwood for Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood for Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears for Queen
Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel
Martin Scorsese for Departed

Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Aaron Eckhart for Thank You For Smoking
Chjwetel Ejiofor for Kinky Boots
Will Ferrell for Stranger Than Fiction

Best Motion Picture, Musical/Comedy

91% Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
76% Devil Wears Prada
80% Dreamgirls
92% Little Miss Sunshine
86% Thank You For Smoking

Best Actress in a Drama

Penélope Cruz for Volver
Judi Dench for Notes on a Scandal
Maggie Gyllenhaal for Sherrybaby
Helen Mirren for The Queen
Kate Winslet for Little Children

Best Actor in a Drama

Leonardo DiCaprio for Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio for Departed
Peter O’Toole for Venus
Will Smith for Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland

Best Motion Picture, Drama

70% Babel
44% Bobby
93% Departed
82% Little Children
98% Queen

Best Television Series – Drama

"24"
"Big Love"
"Grey’s Anatomy"
"Heroes"
"Lost"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama

Patricia Arquette for "Medium"
Edie Falco for "The Sopranos"
Evangeline Lilly for "Lost"
Ellen Pompeo for "Grey’s Anatomy"
Kyra Sedgwick for "The Closer"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama

Patrick Dempsey for "Grey’s Anatomy"
Michael C. Hall for "Dexter"
Hugh Laurie for "House"
Bill Paxton for "Big Love"
Kiefer Sutherland for "24"

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

"Desperate Housewives"
"Entourage"
"The Office"
"Ugly Betty"
"Weeds"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Marcia Cross for "Desperate Housewives"
America Ferrera for "Ugly Betty"
Felicity Huffman for "Desperate Housewives"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "The New Adventures Of Old Christine"
Mary-Louise Parker for "Weeds"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock"
Zach Braff for "Scrubs"
Steve Carell for "The Office"
Jason Lee for "My Name Is Earl"
Tony Shalhoub for "Monk"

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

"Bleak House" (PBS)
"Broken Trail" (AMC)
"Elizabeth I" (HBO)
"Mrs. Harris" (HBO)
"Prime Suspect: The Final Act" (PBS)

Best Performance By An Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Gillian Anderson for "Bleak House"
Annette Bening for "Mrs. Harris"
Helen Mirren for "Elizabeth I"
Helen Mirren for "Prime Suspect: The Final Act"
Sophie Okonedo for "Tsunami, The Aftermath"

Best Performance By An Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

André Braugher for "Thief"
Robert Duvall for "Broken Trail"
Michael Ealy for "Sleeper Cell: American Terror"
Chiwetel Ejiofor for "Tsunami, The Aftermath"
Ben Kingsley for "Mrs. Harris"
Bill Nighy for "Gideon’s Daughter"
Matthew Perry for "The Ron Clark Story"

Best Performance By An Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Emily Blunt for "Gideon’s Daughter"
Toni Collette for "Tsunami, The Aftermath"
Katherine Heigl for "Grey’s Anatomy"
Sarah Paulson for "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip"
Elizabeth Perkins for "Weeds"

Best Performance By An Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Thomas Haden Church for "Broken Trail"
Jeremy Irons for "Elizabeth I"
Justin Kirk for "Weeds"
Masi Oka for "Heroes"
Jeremy Piven for "Entourage"

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

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