The Wild Life (or Robinson Crusoe as its known elsewhere in the world) swings into theaters this Friday, delivering a well-worn tale told from the perspective of the animals whose island sanctuary shatters with the arrival of a shipwrecked human. Set your survival instincts to “purrr” because this week’s gallery in a bottle marks the spot for 24 more stranded island movies!

The stars come marching out to do battle with the pirates for the number one spot this weekend.

For the sixth consecutive weekend, a threequel is poised to command the top spot at the North American box office as Warner Bros. rolls out the caper pic "Ocean’s Thirteen" reuniting Hollywood’s fun boys. Sony counters with the family offering "Surf’s Up" while Lionsgate goes after the horror crowd with "Hostel Part II." Each film should target its own audience so there should be space for all newcomers.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and their endless list of co-stars are back again as everyone’s favorite criminals in "Ocean’s Thirteen." The PG-13 pic finds the group back in Las Vegas on a heist driven by revenge against a real estate mogul, played by Al Pacino, who is launching his latest luxury hotel/casino. The first two in the series had December openings of $38.1M for 2001’s "Ocean’s Eleven" and $39.2M for 2004’s "Ocean’s Twelve." They also had little direct competition for adults. Although they opened in the same fashion, the sequel was not as well-liked and found its way to $125.5M, or about one-third less than the $183.4M cume of the original which itself was a remake.

"Thirteen" should play to the exact same audience of mature adults. Appeal is equally strong for males and females and even some teen interest should be there. Reviews have been generally positive but that should have little impact. Moviegoers know exactly what they are getting the third time around and will decide based on if they want to take another two-hour trip seeing slick actors, with slick hair, and slick clothes, acting cool. Those soured by "Twelve" may take a pass on "Thirteen." Plus "Pirates" and "Knocked Up" will provide some solid competition. But the sheer amount of starpower should make this entry hard to resist to many looking for a fun mature film without pirates, super heroes, and endless special effects. "Ocean’s Thirteen" rolls the dice in 3,565 locations this weekend and might win about $37M over three days.


Nerds!

For those kids who can’t get enough of talking cartoon penguins, Sony unleashes its big summer animation entry "Surf’s Up." Delivered in a mockumentary style, the PG-rated film tells the story of penguins that compete in a surfing competition, and of course crack jokes along the way. Arriving just three weeks after "Shrek the Third," "Surf’s Up" will have to deal with competition from the ogre toon and to some extent the other aging threequels which combined should gross north of $40M this weekend. The new penguin pic does not have the buzz or the starpower of a Robin Williams that helped "Happy Feet" shoot to number one last November with a $41.5M bow on its way to a terrific $198M.

Instead, "Surf’s Up" seems to be in the same middle category with recent films like "Open Season" and "Meet the Robinsons" which opened to $23.6M and $25.1M, respectively. With children in the process of ending their school years and starting their summer vacations, parents should be in the mood to take them to the movies for some non-violent fun. "Surf’s Up" lands in over 3,000 theaters on Friday and could debut with about $24M.


"Surf’s Up," aka "March of the Happy Feet."

Yet another horror sequel makes its way into theaters with Lionsgate’s "Hostel Part II." The first "Hostel" was a number one hit last year opening to $19.6M on its way to an impressive $47.3M off of a tiny budget. The new R-rated entry finds three American students in Rome who find themselves caught in a grisly game of torture and mayhem. Horror fans have been suffering from fright fatigue lately. The recent sequels "The Hills Have Eyes II" and "28 Weeks Later" both opened to just under $10M failing to match the bows of their predecessors. Other horror flicks like "Bug," "The Condemned," "The Reaping," and "Vacancy" all underperformed over the last several weeks and have helped to scare fans away from the genre.

But Lionsgate is among the best at selling this type of fare to older teens and young adults and the distributor is hoping to tap into a built-in audience. Just as with the first one, Quentin Tarantino whores his name out again with a ‘presents’ credit on the marketing materials. It would be interesting to know what kind of compensation, monetary or otherwise, he gets for these transactions. Locking up ticket buyers in 2,350 theaters, "Hostel Part II" may open with around $12M.


"Hostel: Part II," sure to warm the hearts of all.

Following its two frames at number one, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" should give up the top spot this weekend, although the runnerup slot is not necessarily a guarantee. The pricey Disney adventure fell by 62% last weekend and could see its drop dip to 50% this time. That would give Johnny Depp and his buddies about $22M for the session and $254M overall.

Last weekend’s number two flick "Knocked Up" raced past "At World’s End" to claim the number one spot on Monday and Tuesday thanks to great buzz and is prepared to see a solid hold this time around. Two summers ago, the R-rated comedies "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" both dipped by only 24% in their sophomore frames thanks to stellar word-of-mouth and no major competition from new releases. "Knocked Up" has the same great satisfaction from moviegoers, but will see much of its adult audience get tempted away by Brad and company. A 30% drop would still give it a great hold with about $21M for the frame. That would push the cume to a stunning $68M in only ten days.

"Shrek the Third" will face direct competition from rival toon "Surf’s Up" this weekend. That could lead to a 40% decline to roughly $17M boosting the cume to $282M.

LAST YEAR: Disney and Pixar joined forces for the number one opening of "Cars" which cruised into the top spot with $60.1M. The animated comedy raced to $244.1M domestically becoming the summer’s biggest non-Captain Jack flick, and over $462M worldwide. Universal’s comedy "The Break-Up" fell 48% in its second date grossing $20.3M and was followed by "X-Men: The Last Stand" with $16.1M. The horror remake "The Omen" bowed to $16M over the weekend and a creepy $36.3M over six days since its Tuesday launch on 6/6/06. Fox scared up $54.6M eventually. "The Da Vinci Code" rounded out the top five with $10.4M in its fourth lap. Debuting to solid results in a moderate launch was "A Prairie Home Companion" with $4.6M from 760 locations for a $6,008 average. The Picturehouse release found its way to $20.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

In the most lopsided box office victory in history, the hugely anticipated super sequel "Spider-Man 3" swung into theaters and monopolized the marketplace breaking the all-time records for both opening day and opening weekend in the process.

Sony unleashed its summer behemoth worldwide and also shattered the record for the biggest global debut ever as it conquered the box office in over 100 countries. The summer movie season could not have asked for a better way to begin.

Following a tidal wave of hype, "Spider-Man 3" exploded on the scene and grossed an eye-popping $148M during its opening weekend in North America, according to estimates, breaking the previous record of $135.6M set last summer by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest." The super hero flick opened in 4,252 theaters (also a record) and averaged a staggering $34,807 for Sony. The smash hit also set a new Imax record with $4.8M from those large-format engagements beating 300’s old mark set two months ago by 33%. Imax presentations, despite their higher ticket prices, were reportedly sold out from coast to coast.

Overseas, "Spider-Man 3" began its global assault on Tuesday May 1 in several key nations in Asia and Europe and has since grossed a mammoth $227M from 105 international territories putting its worldwide cume at a gargantuan $375M in a mere six days. In less than one week around the world, "SM3" has already reached nearly half of the total global gross of "Spider-Man 2" which hauled in $784M in 2004.

Domestically, the new webslinger adventure kicked things off on Friday with a record $59.3M in its first day beating the former record "Chest" set with $55.8M. Both figures included shows beginning at midnight on Thursday night. "Spidey" dropped 14% on Saturday to $51M and the studio estimated that Sunday sales will fall by only 26% to $37.7M. Final figures will be released on Monday after Sunday sales are tabulated. According to Sony research, the opening weekend audience skewed towards young men as expected. Males made up 54% of the crowd while 63% were under the age of 25.

"Spider-Man 3" reunited director Sam Raimi with his key actors Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. Joining the cast were Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Critics had mixed feelings with many calling it the worst of the series. Part "3" scored a 62% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com compared to 90% for the first "Spidey" flick and 93% for the second installment. Moviegoers, however, did not care as they showed up anyway in unprecedented numbers proving that "SM3" was indeed a critic-proof blockbuster. The film’s long-term success will rely more on word-of-mouth from fans, rather than a thumbs up or down from reviewers. Users of Yahoo! Movies have given it a mild B grade from over 17,000 votes which could mean that fans are not exactly ecstatic.

"Spider-Man 3" carries a reported production cost of $258M, although many industry watchers believe it to be much higher. Despite its sky high budget, the PG-13 film has enjoyed such a strong start that it has a good chance of surging past the $822M worldwide gross of the first "Spider-Man" and could even approach the $1 billion mark. Buzz from fans will of course be a major factor in helping the Venom pic spread.

Competition, or a lack of it, was a key contributor to the record opening. There were absolutely no other films that energized audiences as every wide release failed to reach an average of even $2,000. That allowed the newest "Spider-Man" pic to account for a jaw-dropping 80% of the entire box office pie and dominate the marketplace with ease. Led almost exclusively by Peter Parker and friends, the top ten powered its way to an incredible $174M — its highest level since the "Pirates" sequel bowed last summer. It was an astonishing reversal from the previous weekend when the box office slumped to a seven-month low.

With nothing else worthy to program, multiplexes had no problem opening up screens. Sony did not report its official screen count but industry insiders note that it was over 10,000. By comparison, screen counts for previous blockbuster openers were 9,400 for "Star Wars Episode III," 8,500 for "Dead Man’s Chest," and 7,500 for the first "Spider-Man" which opened five years ago this same weekend and also broke the all-time opening weekend record. The extra screens for the new film allowed Sony to absorb all demand right away and leave almost nothing on the table.

Next weekend, "Spider-Man 3" will have little to worry about as nothing huge is opening, but the week after that is when "Shrek the Third" launches, followed seven days later by "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" over the lucrative Memorial Day holiday frame. Peter Parker will grasp tightly onto his records for now since Captain Jack Sparrow would like nothing more than to swipe them once again.

A few moviegoers did in fact choose to see other films this weekend in auditoriums which offered plenty of space. Three-time chart-topper "Disturbia" was bumped to the number two spot, but held up well considering the new competition. The Paramount thriller dropped by only 37% to an estimated $5.7M and boosted its 24-day cume to $59.9M, or about what Spidey did in its first day. New Line’s courthouse thriller "Fracture" followed with an estimated $3.4M in its third weekend, down 50%, and lifted its sum to $26.5M.

The teen horror flick "The Invisible" ranked fourth and tumbled 60% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $3.1M. Buena Vista has scared up $12.3M in ten days and looks headed for a $16-18M finish. Nicolas Cage suffered the worst drop in the top ten as his latest action film "Next" crashed 61% and took in an estimated $2.8M this weekend. With a poor ten-day tally of $11.8M, Paramount will sputter to a horrendous $14-16M for the pricey star vehicle.

The much-delayed poker drama "Lucky You" had the unlucky fortune of opening against "Spider-Man 3" and suffered an embarrassing debut as it failed to average even $1,000. The Curtis Hanson-directed pic bowed to an estimated $2.5M from 2,525 locations for a dismal $996 average. The Warner Bros. release starring Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore met with bad marks from critics and total apathy from ticket buyers.

3D toon "Meet the Robinsons" fell 49% to seventh with an estimated $2.5M in its sixth frame for an impressive cume of $91.8M. Also in its sixth weekend, fellow spring hit "Blades of Glory" collected an estimated $2.3M, down 55%, giving Paramount $111.6M to date.

The action-comedy "Hot Fuzz" tumbled 58% in its third weekend to an estimated $2.1M. Focus has grossed $16.1M thus far. Rounding out the top ten was Sony’s "Are We Done Yet?" which dropped 51% to an estimated $1.7M leading to a total of $46.1M.

A pair of well-reviewed arthouse films aimed at adult women debuted to solid results in limited release as alternatives to the Spidey action. Fox Searchlight opened its Sundance acquisition "Waitress" to an estimated $91,000 from only four theaters in New York and Los Angeles averaging a potent $22,868 per location. The Keri Russell starrer directed by the late Adrienne Shelly will expand to 21 cities on Friday for a total of 62 theaters. Cume since the Wednesday launch is $111,000. The Alzheimer’s drama "Away From Her" from actress-turned-director Sarah Polley bowed to an estimated $56,000 from four locations for a sturdy $14,000 average for Lionsgate.

A pair of underachievers fell out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s motel terrorfest "Vacancy" dropped a steep 65% to an estimated $1.5M upping its cume to only $16.4M. The Lionsgate action pic "The Condemned" crumbled even further collapsing 72% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.1M for a weak ten-day sum of $6M. Final grosses should end up with disappointing totals of $19M and $7M, respectively.

The top ten films soared to an estimated $174.1M which was up an astounding 85% from last year when "Mission: Impossible III" opened at number one with $47.7M; and up a staggering 129% from 2005 when "Kingdom of Heaven" debuted on top with just $19.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Awaiting the arrival of their webslinging hero, North American audiences avoided the multiplexes and held onto their money rejecting the slate of new releases that Hollywood dumped into theaters. That allowed the hit suspense pic "Disturbia" to retain its number one position for the third consecutive weekend despite the fact that the overall box office tumbled to its worst showing of 2007.

For the third straight weekend, moviegoers made the teen thriller "Disturbia" the top choice spending an estimated $9.1M on the Paramount release. After 17 days, the PG-13 sleeper hit has raked in a impressive $52.2M and could be headed for a $70M final. Produced by DreamWorks for only $23M, "Disturbia" is the first film to stay on top for back-to-back-to-back frames since Ben Stiller’s holiday season smash "Night at the Museum." Also, Paramount got to enjoy five straight weeks at number one with the Shia LaBeouf hit which followed on the heels of the two-week reign of "Blades of Glory." The last studio to accomplish this feat was Buena Vista in 2004 when "The Incredibles" claimed the top spot for two weeks followed by a three-week reign for "National Treasure."

The best opening among the new releases came from the new supernatural thriller "The Invisible" which landed in second with an estimated $7.6M from 2,019 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,767 per location, the PG-13 chiller about a teen whose spirit must solve his own murder was the fifth scary movie of the month to hit cinemas. "Invisible" had the least starpower of the four new releases, but used its creepy premise to connect with teens and young adults.

Nicolas Cage suffered his worst action opening since becoming a hero in the genre with his latest offering "Next" which stumbled into third place with a weak $7.2M debut, according to estimates. The Paramount release, which was expected to top the charts this weekend, averaged a feeble $2,642 from 2,725 theaters. Cage scored a hit earlier this year with the comic book actioner "Ghost Rider" which has taken in nearly $116M to date, but he couldn’t get action fans to make a return trip to the multiplexes with "Next" which was equally panned by critics. The film about a Las Vegas magician who can see two minutes into the future opened in several international markets as well this weekend and hit the top spot in France, Russia, and the United Kingdom. In all markets, "Next" is trying to grab whatever business it can before "Spider-Man 3" makes its global launch this coming week.

The webslinger sequel is poised to shatter records around the world thanks to both intense anticipation and weak competition. The mega-budgeted franchise film will have the domestic marketplace virtually to itself next weekend since there is zero excitement for any other film. Sony has even planned out Spider-Man Week in New York City which kicks off on Monday with the special black carpet premiere in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival with director Sam Raimi and the stars attending. Just like with the first Peter Parker flick from a half-decade ago, "Spider-Man 3" is not only kicking off the summer movie season, but it is arriving in a marketplace on life support in desperate need of a hero. The first "Spider-Man" opened to a then-record $114.8M and accounted for a whopping 77% of all ticket sales in the top ten. The new installment is swinging into an even weaker competitive environment and on more screens which could lead to a more dominant launch.

The Anthony HopkinsRyan Gosling thriller "Fracture" dropped a reasonable 36% in its second weekend to an estimated $7.1M. With $21.3M collected in ten days, the New Line release looks to find its way to $35-40M domestically.

"Blades of Glory," the year’s second biggest comedy after "Wild Hogs," slipped 32% to fifth place and grossed an estimated $5.2M for Paramount. With a budget of just over $60M, the Will Ferrell hit has taken in $108.1M and should skate to a $120M finish. Disney’s animated film "Meet the Robinsons" held up well thanks to no new kids competition and dipped 31% to an estimated $4.8M pushing the cume to $88.4M. The year’s top-grossing toon looks to end its run a bit north of the $100M mark.

Focus widened the run of its British action-comedy "Hot Fuzz" by expanding from 825 to 1,272 sites and grossed an estimated $4.8M this weekend for a decent $3,758 average on the sophomore frame. That represented a slim 18% dip in the gross but a steeper 47% drop in the average with the cume rising to $12.5M. The $16M production could conclude its North American run with $21-23M adding to its $49M tally from overseas.

The horror flick "Vacancy" suffered the worst fall in the top ten dropping 45% from its poor debut to an estimated $4.2M. Sony’s $19M thriller starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale has taken in just $13.9M to date and looks to limp to around $20M overall.

Wrestling fans ignored the new "Stone Cold" Steve Austin action pic "The Condemned" which debuted in ninth with a wimpy $4M, according to estimates. The R-rated film about ten death row inmates in a contest for survival was dead on arrival averaging a pathetic $1,732 from 2,310 sites for Lionsgate. Rounding out the top ten was Ice Cube’s family comedy "Are We Done Yet?" with an estimated $3.4M, off 34%, for a $43.8M sum. Sony should reach about $50M.

Jamie Kennedy’s new comedy "Kickin’ It Old Skool" flopped in its first weekend as the Yari Film Group release bowed to an estimated $2.8M from 1,816 locations for a miserable $1,542 average. It was a far cry from the actor’s 2003 spring comedy "Malibu’s Most Wanted" which debuted to $12.6M on its way to a solid $34.4M. Kickin’ was the ninth wide release this year to fail to reach the top ten on opening weekend.

Three films fell out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s underperforming thriller "Perfect Stranger" dropped 46% to an estimated $2.2M putting the cume for the Halle BerryBruce Willis suspense pic at $21.6M. A disappointing $25M final seems likely for the star-driven bomb. The Warner Bros. chick flick "In the Land of Women" has grossed over $8M in its first ten days which is far from impressive. Look for a $12-14M finish for the Adam Brody clunker.

Buena Vista’s runaway smash comedy "Wild Hogs" finally left the top ten after eight long weeks. Starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy, the PG-13 pic took in an estimated $1.9M, off 33%, boosting the total to $158.8M. A final tally of $163-165M seems likely.

The top ten films slumped to an estimated $57.4M which was down 33% from last year when "RV" opened at number one with $16.4M; and down 26% from 2005 when "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" debuted on top with $21.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

For the fourth consecutive weekend, four or more new wide releases will cram into multiplexes trying to get at their piece of a dwindling box office pie.

Nicolas Cage targets his second trip to the top spot this year with the action film "Next," rival actioner "The Condemned" counters with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the lead, horror fans get yet another creepy tale with "The Invisible," and Jamie Kennedy goes for some laughs with "Kickin’ It Old Skool."

Mostly garbage titles were programmed into this weekend’s menu since any studio with a decent film would not risk getting crushed on the second weekend by the webslinger sequel. Including these newest films, the first four months of 2007 boasts 64 wide releases hitting the marketplace, up slightly from last year’s 60 but up sharply from the 42 over the same period in 2005. With a mass quantity of weak April films, look for the North American box office to plunge to its lowest point of the year this weekend during what is essentially the calm before Sandman’s storm hits next Thursday night at midnight.

Following his Marvel Comics hit "Ghost Rider," Nicolas Cage once again plays the action hero card with the sci-fi thriller "Next." The PG-13 film finds the Oscar winner playing a man with the ability to see into the future who is called in to foil a terrorist plot before it happens. Directed by Lee Tamahori ("Die Another Day," "Along Came A Spider"), "Next" has the advantage of having the most screens and the most starpower of any new release this weekend. Plus with current films rotting away quickly (9 of the 16 holdovers in the Top 20 last weekend plunged by more than 55%), competition will not be too fierce. Paramount has been giving "Next" a decent amount of marketing, that is for a film being dumped into the final weekend of a month starting with the letter A. In almost any other time of year this would get clobbered, but given the current alternatives it will make for the only reasonable choice for many moviegoers. Hence, a number one opening by default and quite possibly the weakest one of the year. Crashing into over 2,500 theaters, "Next" could reach the top with around $13M.


Cage and Biel required an escort when exiting the "Next" premiere.

"The Condemned" offers a reality show idea not likely to be on any network’s fall schedule. In the weekend’s sole R-rated film, death row inmates duke it out to the death in order to avoid being executed, all while television cameras capture every brutal moment. World Wrestling Entertainment head Vince McMahon produces behind the scenes while former superstar grappler Steve Austin stars in front of the camera. Other WWE stars who headlined recent feature films include Kane in last May’s "See No Evil" ($4.6M debut) and John Cena in last fall’s "The Marine" ($7.1M bow). Both films averaged less than $4,000 on their opening weekends. Young men will make up the only audience segment for the new Lionsgate title and "Next" will provide some direct action competition. Still some hardcore wrestling fans will turn up to theaters since a movie ticket will be cheaper than ordering a pay-per-view event. But overall, prospects seem bleak. "The Condemned" will attack 2,310 theaters and may end up with $6M.


Steve Austin and some unfortunate soul in "The Condemned."

As if moviegoers don’t have enough scary films to choose from, Buena Vista offers up one more with the supernatural thriller "The Invisible." The PG-13 film follows a high school student whose spirit wanders after a brutal accident. Fright flicks have been flopping left and right recently and there is no reason to believe that this one will turn things around. The marketing volume has been stuck on low as this remake of a Swedish pic is more of a spring cleaning film tossed into the marketplace hoping to be forgotten soon. With no starpower, there will be almost nothing driving in traffic. "The Invisible" will appear in over 2,000 theaters this Friday, but might only collect roughly $5M.


One of them is "The Invisible."

Jamie Kennedy headlines the new comedy "Kickin’ It Old Skool" playing a 1980s breakdancer that falls into a coma and awakens two decades later to a much different world. Yari Film Group is targeting teenagers with this PG-13 pic which essentially offers the same laughs as the comedian’s 2003 film "Malibu’s Most Wanted." That modest hit bowed in late April to $12.6M from 2,503 theaters on its way to a $34.4M domestic final. "Skool" does not have a big studio marketing push behind it but it may grab the attention of some young dudes killing time before Peter Parker busts into theaters. DVD is where most people will find this one. Breaking into 1,600 theaters, "Kickin’ It Old Skool" could find itself with around $5M over three days.


Jamie Kennedy and Webster kick it "Old Skool."

Among holdovers, two-time champ "Disturbia" will find it difficult to hold onto its crown given the arrival of Nicolas Cage. But Paramount won’t care as it should still claim the number one film for the fifth consecutive weekend. A 40% decline would give the Shia LaBeouf pic about $8M for the frame and a healthy $51M after 17 days. The Anthony HopkinsRyan Gosling thriller "Fracture" has been well-received and competition is not too fierce so a 40% drop could be in order as well. That would leave New Line with $6.5M and a ten-day tally of $21M.

LAST YEAR: Three new flicks topped the charts led by the family comedy "RV" starring Robin Williams which opened at number one with $16.4M. The Sony hit enjoyed stellar legs and went on to collect $71.3M. Universal followed in second with the 9/11 thriller "United 93" which debuted in half as many theaters with $11.5M. The critically acclaimed pic went on to gross $31.5M. Buena Vista’s gymnastics film "Stick It" bowed in third with $10.8M on its way to $26.9M. Rounding out the top five were "Silent Hill" with $9.3M and "Scary Movie 4" with $7.8M. Also opening was the spelling drama "Akeelah and the Bee" with a weak $6M leading to a $18.8M final for Lionsgate and its promotional partner Starbucks.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got clairvoyants ("Next," with Nicolas Cage and Julianne Moore), cons ("The Condemned," starring Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones), teen spirits ("The Invisible," starring Justin Chatwin), and breakdancers ("Kickin’ It Old Skool," starring Jamie Kennedy and Bobby Lee). Are the critics feeling it this week?

Another year, another slickly-produced Philip K. Dick adaptation. In "Next," Nicolas Cage stars as a Cassandra-like magician who can see terrible things happening two minutes in the future. (Sorta like "Memento," but the other way around. Or something.) The movie also features Julianne Moore as an FBI agent on his trail attempting to thwart a terrorist plot, and Jessica Biel as the love interest. The critics say the biggest problem with "Next" is that it fails to provide a consistent framework for Cage’s character’s remarkable powers. In addition, it lacks the nuance of source writer Dick’s text and features mediocre performances. At 33 percent on the Tomatometer, you may not want this one to be "Next" on you’re viewing schedule.


"Can you throw on a little ‘Ninth Symphony?’"

In the wrestling ring, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin made for a compelling antihero. In "The Condemned," his first starring vehicle? Not so much, but don’t entirely blame the noted purveyor of the stone cold stunner. Austin stars as a death-row inmate sent to a remote island, where he and nine other prisoners must duke it out on live television for the ultimate prize: freedom. Critics say this retread of "The Most Dangerous Game" and "The Running Man" is undone by its shopworn premise and its message, which is that vicarious, voyeuristic violence is bad (as the film itself traffics in vicarious, voyeuristic violence). At 12 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s been "Condemned," all right.


Slap fight!

Critics have been kept in the dark with regard to David S. Goyer’s latest, "The Invisible." This tale of a teenager trapped between the living and the dead wasn’t screened for the scribes. In addition, the pundits haven’t been allowed to bust a move with "Kickin’ It Old Skool," the Rip Van Winkle-inspired tale of a breakdancer (Jamie Kennedy) who gets his poppin’ and lockin’ crew together after a 20-year repose. Take a temporary break from listening to Run DMC and guess those Tomatometers.


You’re the best, Jamie Kennedy!

Also opening this week in limited release: "Triad Election," Johnny To’s star-studded Hong Kong gangster flick, is at 88 percent on the Tomatometer; "Diggers," a slice-of-life tale of clam diggers in Maine starring Paul Rudd and Lauren Ambrose, is at 86 percent; "The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez," a doc about the first soldier killed in Iraq, is at 83 percent; the French thriller "Poison Friends" is at 82 percent; "Snow Cake," a drama about the aftermath of a fatal accident starring Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss, is at 68 percent; "Zoo," an impressionistic doc about bestiality, is at 53 percent; and the Raymond Carver adaptation "Jindabyne," starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne, is at 56 percent.


"Heard any good clam jokes?"

Films Not Screened for Critics in 2007 (Best To Worst Tomatometer Score):
———————————————-
28% — Ghost Rider
24% — The Abandoned
21% — The Hitcher
20% — Dead Silence
16% — Primeval
14% — The Messengers
13% — The Hills Have Eyes 2
11% — Slow Burn
10% — Blood and Chocolate
3% — Epic Movie
0% — Redline

Recent Philip K. Dick Adaptations:
————————————–
66% — A Scanner Darkly (2006)
28% — Paycheck (2003)
92% — Minority Report (2002)
15% — Impostor (2001)
29% — Screamers (1995)

The WWE’s Steve Austin has his first starring role in Lionsgate’s "The Condemned," and IGN’s got the exclusive first peek at the trailer for this prisoners-on-an-island, battle royale action piece. Click here to watch!

"The Condemned" marks the man formerly known as Stone Cold’s first major screen role, pitting him against such towering mountains of muscle as Vinnie Jones ("X-Men"’s Juggernaut) and Nathan Jones ("Jet Li’s Fearless"). In the pic, Austin is one of a group of prisoners set free on a deserted island, forced into mortal combat for his freedom — while a television crew films the action and broadcasts the show for the entire world.


Check out more pictures of "The Condemned."

Click here for the trailer, courtesy of IGN Movies. And be sure to watch for Steve Austin’s land-to-air battle with a helicopter!

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