It’s a week of bravura performances among new releases, so pick your favorite headliner and go: Jodie Foster going vigilante (The Brave One), Casey Affleck turning traitor (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), or Cate Blanchett reigning supreme (Elizabeth: The Golden Age).


The Brave One

Tomatometer: 43%

Vigilante justice has a petite new heroine in Jodie Foster, who stars in and executive produced The Brave One. The victim of a random act of violence, nighttime radio host Erica Bain (Foster) survives but loses her fiancé (Lost‘s Naveen Andrews); arming herself with a gun, she finds her bloodlust increasing as she becomes the city’s mysterious dark angel while a cop (Terrence Howard) begins to piece together the puzzle. But despite a Golden Globes-nominated performance by Foster, critics were split; whether you’ll enjoy it may depend on your preference for exploitation films or intellectual character studies.

 

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Tomatometer: 75%

Turning in his second stellar performance of the year (after starring in brother Ben Affleck‘s Gone Baby Gone) is Casey Affleck, who plays titular gunman Robert Ford to Brad Pitt‘s outlaw Jesse James in Andrew Dominik‘s poetic Western. The true story of James’ death is fascinating in itself — James, famous for leading a gang of bank robbers with his brother Frank, was shot in the back by a member of his own inner circle. Dominik’s adaptation of Ron Hansen’s novel applies a dual focus to both Jesse James and his killer, “Bob” Ford, allowing the film to become not only a historical retelling but a meditation on self-destruction and celebrity. If you love the visual daring of Terrence Malick, and wonder what the heck happened to Britney Spears, this should make for an intriguing time.

 

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Tomatometer: 34%

Proving that critics can overwhelmingly scold a film but the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences will still deem it Oscar-worthy, Shekhar Kapur‘s follow-up to 1998’s Elizabeth finds the Virgin Queen (double-Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett) on the brink of war with Spain and dealing with her own forbidden attraction to the roguish Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). Viewers hungry for the film’s sumptuous production design and costumes will enjoy a bonus menu of behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and Kapur’s feature-length commentary.


 

Across the Universe


Tomatometer: 53%

The music catalog of the Fab Four has been used before to illustrate a storyline — we’ll forgive Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees their abuse of the Beatles’ songbook in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — but writer-director Julie Taymor makes magnificently poppy use of it in this splashy, epic musical. Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess star as young lovers who along with their friends get swept along with pivotal events of the 1960s (race riots, bohemia, Vietnam) via song, every number inventively designed to borrow meaning from the lyrics of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

2 Days in Paris


Tomatometer: 87%

Julie Delpy stars in her writing and directing debut about a dysfunctional couple (Delpy and Adam Goldberg) at the tail end of a vacation, and possibly their relationship, spending the titular time in the City of Love. Critics found the comedy of relationship errors sharply observed and charming; also of interest on the DVD release is a 16-minute interview with Delpy, who not only wrote and directed the film, but served as composer and producer.

Fierce People


Tomatometer: 23%

Teenager Finn (Anton Yelchin) would rather spend his summer studying the “fierce people” of South America with his anthropologist father, but must accompany his mother (Diane Lane) to live among the country club set with her former client (Donald Sutherland), based on the novel by Dirk Wittenborn.

Descent


Tomatometer: 24%

Rosario Dawson plays a co-ed rape victim who overcomes her subsequent social and psychological withdrawal to seek revenge upon her attacker; despite Dawson’s noble performance, critics can’t forgive the story its artful pretension or its degrading conclusion.

The Ten Commandments


Tomatometer: 16%

This week’s pick of CG offerings is also the number one choice for camp value: an all-new cartoon version of The Ten Commandments, featuring Christian Slater as Moses! Unfortunately (rather, even more unfortunately) the familiar tale of Red Sea-parting and tablets from God is poorly animated…giving voice actors Slater, Alfred Molina (Rameses), Elliott Gould (God) and Ben Kingsley (Narrator) an even harder sell.

‘Til next week, happy renting!

The nominations for the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced this morning. Did your favorite films, stars, and songs make the cut?

The nominees were read at the Beverly Hilton by a surreal panel consisting of Dane Cook, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Reynolds, and Quentin Tarantino. The film nominations follow below, with Tomatometers in parentheses:

Picture, Drama:

American Gangster (79 percent)
Atonement (85 percent)
Eastern Promises (88 percent)
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton (90 percent)
No Country for Old Men (95 percent)
There Will Be Blood (100 percent)

Actress, Drama:
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (34 percent)
Julie Christie, Away From Her (95 percent)
Jodie Foster, The Brave One (45 percent)
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart (77 percent)
Keira Knightley, Atonement

Actor, Drama:
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy, Atonement
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington, American Gangster

Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Across the Universe (52 percent)
Charlie Wilson’s War (92 percent)
Hairspray (92 percent)
Juno (92 percent)
Sweeney Todd (92 percent)

Actress, Musical or Comedy:

Amy Adams, Enchanted (94 percent)
Nikki Blonsky, Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose (74 percent)
Ellen Page, Juno

Actor, Musical or Comedy:

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl (78 percent)
Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages (89 percent)
John C. Reilly, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (80 percent)
Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson’s War
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (93 percent)
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (75 percent)
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
John Travolta, Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Director:
Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)
Ridley Scott, American Gangster
Joe Wright, Atonement

Screenplay:
Diablo Cody, Juno
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War

Foreign Language:
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Romania (96 percent)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, France and U.S.
The Kite Runner, U.S. (65 percent)
Lust, Caution, Taiwan (64 percent)
Persepolis, France (100 percent)

Animated Film:
Bee Movie (52 percent)
Ratatouille (97 percent)
The Simpsons Movie (88 percent)

Original Score:
Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder, Into the Wild (82 percent)
Clint Eastwood, Grace Is Gone (70 percent)
Alberto Iglesias, The Kite Runner
Dario Marianelli, Atonement
Howard Shore, Eastern Promises

Original Song: Despedida from Love in the Time of Cholera (28 percent)
Grace Is Gone from Grace Is Gone
Guaranteed from Into the Wild
That’s How You Know from Enchanted

Walk Hard from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Source: Associated Press
Source: Golden Globes

This week at the movies we got lawyer types (Michael
Clayton
, starring
George Clooney
and Tilda
Swinton
), dueling brothers (We Own the Night,
starring Joaquin Phoenix and
Mark Wahlberg),
virgin queens (Elizabeth:
The Golden Age
, starring
Cate Blanchett),
baseball hopefuls (The
Final Season
, starring
Sean Astin and
Powers Boothe),
Beatles-inspired lovers (Across the Universe,
starring Evan Rachel
Wood
and
Jim Sturgess),
and reunited college friends (Tyler Perry’s Why Did I
Get Married?
). What say ye, critics?

Critics frequently bemoan the fact that movies are no
longer made for adults. Who better to come to their rescue than
George Clooney,
oft-called the Cary Grant of our generation? Clooney stars in
Michael Clayton
as
a washed-up legal consultant caught up in a pesticide case that isn’t quite what
it seems, with support from Tilda
Swinton
,
Tom Wilkinson, and
Sydney Pollack.
With strong performances all around, critics call this a challenging but
rewarding movie that also doesn’t skimp out on the popcorn factor.
At a Certified Fresh 89 percent, critics sustain Michael Clayton‘s appeal.



Wilkinson preparing to celebrate Bastille Day for the next 17
years.

Actors frequently re-team with directors they’ve worked with before. But two principal actors? Only once in a blue moon. Such an
event strikes for
We Own the Night
, a crime drama/thriller about two brothers on
opposite sides of the law. The film reunites
Joaquin Phoenix and
Mark Wahlberg
with director James Gray, who all previously created 2000’s
The Yards. But the
trio isn’t having as much luck the second time around: critics say Night cribs from
The Godfathers and
The Departed, while relying too heavily
on improbable plot turns to fuel the action.  But moviegoers who don’t expect
anything particularly original can have a reasonably good time. At 50 percent,
Night gets close, but doesn’t quite Own.



Who makes Mark Wahlberg a star? Who owns the night? We do, we do!

Cate Blanchett
is one of the best actresses on the planet today, and with
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
,
she revisits the role that made her a star. Big mistake, critics say. Age
picks up where its predecessor left off, with the Virgin Queen navigating the
rough waters of political unrest in 16th Century Europe, as well as palace
intrigue closer to home. The pundits say the costume and set design are
impeccable, but otherwise, this is a campy, bombastic flick, filled with silly
dialogue and featuring a script that’s more hysterical than historical. At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, this one ain’t golden. And it’s a steep drop from
the Certified Fresh
original
(at 79 percent).



Elizabeth contemplates conquering Narnia next.

It’s October, and that means it’s time for some
super-dramatic baseball action. Unfortunately, we’re talking about the MLB
playoffs, not
The Final Season
, which critics say is as predictable as
Alex Rodriguez failing in the clutch. Directed by
David Mickey Evans (who helmed
the cult-fave The Sandlot), Season is the story of a tiny Iowa
high school with a proud baseball tradition that may come to an end because of
redistricting. Season features a strong cast that includes
Sean Astin,
Powers Boothe, and
Rachael Leigh Cook, and the film oozes sincerity. But pundits
say it’s as safe as an intentional walk and as clichéd as a post-game interview.
At 11 percent on the Tomatometer, The Final Season is way below the
cinematic Mendoza line.



"11 percent?"

Is there anybody going to listen to this story, all about
Julie Taymor‘s attempt to capture the zeitgeist of the 1960s through the music
of the Beatles? As far as
Across the Universe
goes, some critics say
stop, others say go, go, go. Universe is the story of Lucy (Evan Rachel
Wood
) and Jude (Jim Sturgess), a young couple who stalk across the political and
social landscape of the tumultuous decade to the tune of such classics as "Come
Together," "Helter Skelter," and "All You Need is Love." The critics are pretty
split on Universe: some say the film is an audacious, beautiful movie
that will make you feel all right. But others say it’s all wrong (that is, they
think they disagree), calling the film an exercise in excess with bland
characters. We hope the film’s 52 percent Tomatometer will
Help!
you decide to see it or not.



An early incarnation of The Blue Man Group.

With his heartfelt domestic dramedies, Tyler Perry has
established himself as a commercial sure thing. But he’s yet to win over
critics, which may be why his latest,
Tyler Perry’s Why Did I
Get Married?
,
wasn’t screened before release. It’s the story of a reunion of college friends,
who, over the course of a long weekend together, begin to question their
marriages. Guess the Tomatometer.



"What happened to Steve Buscemi?"

Also opening this week in limited release:
Control
,
a
biopic of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, is at 90 percent (check out our interview with director Anton Corbijn
here);
Terror’s Advocate
,
Barbet
Schroder
‘s documentary portrait of an
attorney for the undefendable, is at 83 percent on the Tomatometer;
Lars and
the Real Girl
, starring
Ryan Gosling as a delusional guy dating a female doll, is at 78 percent (check out our review from Toronto
here);
Canvas,
a drama about a family dealing with one member’s schizophrenia, is at 71
percent;
Golda’s Balcony
, about the Israeli prime minister, is at 64
percent; and Sleuth, an update of the 1972 murder mystery starring
Michael Caine and
Jude Law, is at 48 percent.



"We couldn’t quite afford Jessica Alba. But we got a good
replacement."

Recent Cate Blanchett Movies:

————————————-

69% —
I’m Not There
(2007)
32% —
The Good German
(2006)
87% —
Notes on a Scandal
(2006)
68% — Babel (2006) 
85% —
Little Fish
(2006)

Recent Mark Wahlberg Movies:

—————————————-

48% —
Shooter
(2007)
92% —
The Departed
(2006)
70% —
Invincible
(2006)
52% —
Four Brothers
(2005)
61% —
I Heart Huckabees
(2004)

Two new films were met with enthusiasm from North American moviegoers who
powered each film past the openings of their respective predecessors. Fans of
action and horror lined up for the threequel
Resident
Evil: Extinction
which bowed at number one while those in search of a
laugh spent their dollars on the romantic comedy
Good Luck Chuck
.
Both opened with averages of more than $5,000 each and helped to fill the entire
Top Five with R-rated fare as the overall marketplace bounced back after recent
sluggish weeks.

Gamers still love to go to the movies. That’s what Sony learned with its
estimated $24M opening weekend for
Resident
Evil: Extinction
, the third and supposedly final chapter of the popular
movie franchise starring
Milla Jovovich.
If the estimate holds, it will give the latest chapter the best debut of the
series. 2002’s original premiered with $17.7M while its 2004 sequel
Resident
Evil: Apocalypse
bowed to $23M. Final grosses reached $39.5M and $50.7M,
respectively. In a world where third parts rarely enjoy the biggest opening in a
series (The Bourne Ultimatum is the only other of this year’s seven threequels
to do so), Extinction‘s performance is noteworthy in that it generated
its strong gross from 456 fewer theaters than Apocalyspe had three years
ago.





Dane Cook and
Jessica Alba
made a popular couple as their new romantic comedy
Good Luck Chuck

opened in second place with a solid $14M, according to estimates. Lionsgate
released the R-rated pic in 2,612 locations and averaged a commendable $5,360
per site. Critics trashed the film but moviegoers paid no attention. The debut
was 23% better than the $11.4M opening of Cook’s last comedy,
Employee of the
Month
, which the distributor bowed last October. In Chuck, the actor
plays a man who women find lucky since all his ex-girlfriends go on to get
engaged after dating him.
 




Jodie Foster
dropped two spots with her vigilante thriller
The Brave One
which
fell 45% to an estimated $7.4M in its second weekend. The Warner Bros. release
has grossed $25.1M in ten days and should reach the vicinity of $44M, or a
little less than half of the grosses of the last starring roles for the actress
– $89.7M for Flightplan
and $95.3M for Panic
Room
. The Lionsgate Western
3:10 to Yuma

continued to have good legs easing only 29% to an estimated $6.4M for a 17-day
cume of $37.9M.
 



The mob thriller
Eastern Promises
starring Viggo Mortensen expanded into nationwide
release and jumped into fifth place with an estimated $5.7M. Widening from 15 to
1,404 venues, the Focus title averaged a respectable $4,093 per site. Eastern
did not show the same strength as director
David
Cronenberg’
s last film
A History of
Violence
(another Viggo pic that opened limited in September) which
grossed $8.1M and averaged $6,047 when it expanded nationally in its sophomore
frame two years ago. Cume for Eastern stands at $6.5M.
 





Stumbling into sixth place was the new
Amanda Bynes
teen comedy Sydney
White
which bowed to an estimated $5.3M from 2,104 locations for a weak
$2,530 average. The Universal release sets the classic Snow White story on a
modern-day college campus and attracted half the business of Bynes’ last comedy
She’s the
Man
(an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night) which opened to
$10.7M in March 2006. Sydney skewed to a young female audience, as expected.
 


New Line’s
Billy Bob Thornton
comedy
Mr. Woodcock

dropped 43% in its second weekend to an estimated $5M putting the ten-day total
at $15.7M. A $25-28M final seems likely. Fellow comedy
Superbad
grossed an
estimated $3.1M, off 39%, giving Sony $116.2M to date. The studio also crossed
the $1 billion mark in domestic tickets sales for the sixth year in a row.
 



Universal’s assassin smash
The Bourne Ultimatum

dipped only 32% to an estimated $2.8M pushing the domestic haul to $220.2M.
Universal can now claim the only two summer films to spend eight weeks in the
top ten as the Matt Damon smash joined studio stablemate
Knocked Up
.
Rounding out the top ten was the fantasy adventure
Dragon Wars
with an
estimated $2.5M, down 50%, for a ten-day cume of only $8.6M.
 





Debuting to scorching results in limited release was
Sean Penn‘s
latest directorial effort
Into the Wild

which banked an estimated $207,000 from only four theaters for a potent $51,649
per site. The Paramount Vantage release stars
Emile Hirsch,
earned strong reviews, and helped critics get the bad taste of Penn’s
All the King’s Men

out of their mouths. Wild expands to the top dozen markets next weekend.
 



Warner Bros. got off to a solid start with its Old West tale

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
which made
off with an estimated $144,000 from 15 theaters for a $9,600 average. Ten of the
locations were in Austin with most double-screening the nearly-three-hour outlaw
tale. The Brad PittCasey
Affleck
starrer earned generally good notices from reviewers and will widen
on Friday.
 





With all the new films in wide release, four pictures dropped out of the top ten
over the weekend. New Line’s
Rush Hour 3
took
in an estimated $2.2M, off 33%, giving the
Jackie ChanChris
Tucker
vehicle $136.1M to date. Look for a final domestic gross of about
$142M. Fellow franchise flick
Halloween
tumbled
56% to an estimated $2.2M as well giving MGM $54.6M to date. A finish of $58M
seems likely.
 



A weekend estimate of $1.7M greeted the comedies
Balls of Fury

from Focus and
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
from Universal. The ping pong pic fell 47% for a cume
of $31.3M while the
Rowan Atkinson
Eurotrip eased 36% and has gathered $30.8M to date. A final domestic tally of
$35M should result for each.
 





Expanding successfully was the Sony musical saga
Across the
Universe
with an estimated $2.1M from only 276 theaters for an
impressive $7,428 average. The
Julie Taymor-directed
pic expanded from its platform debut in 23 venues last weekend and has raised
its total to $3M.
 





Paramount launched the summer megahit
Transformers

in Imax theaters over the weekend and saw its weekend take jump 196% to an
estimated $1.4M (including sales from standard-format screens). That pushed the
cume to $313.6M putting the robots in disguise at number 21 on the list of
all-time domestic blockbusters and less than $1 million away from tossing

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
($314.2M) out of the
Top 20.
 





The top ten films grossed an estimated $76.2M which was off 1% from last year
when Jackass:
Number Two
debuted in first place with $29M; and down 10% from 2005 when
Flightplan opened in the top spot with $24.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,
www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

For the second straight weekend, a star-driven action drama aimed at adult
audiences opened at number one with $14M in ticket sales from roughly 2,700
theaters. This time it was
Jodie Foster‘s
The Brave One
which topped the charts bumping former champ
3:10 to Yuma
to
the runner-up spot.
Billy Bob
Thornton
‘s new comedy
Mr. Woodcock

opened respectably in third while the fantasy actioner
Dragon Wars
bowed to
weak results in fourth place.

Warner Bros. captured the top spot with the vigilante thriller
The Brave One
this
weekend averaging a solid $5,087 from 2,755 theaters. The Jodie Foster film’s
gross was enough to claim the number one spot, but was a far cry from the
numbers that the Oscar-winning actress has seen from recent films. The R-rated
pic’s bow was 43% weaker than her last film
Flightplan
‘s
$24.6M launch in September 2005 and down 53% from the $30.1M debut of
Panic Room
in
March 2002. All were adult-skewing thrillers anchored solo by Foster playing a
strong woman who takes care of problems on her own.
 



Two elements that may have dampened the grosses for Brave were lukewarm
reviews and a better-than-expected hold from
3:10 to Yuma

which is also playing to a mature adult crowd. Foster was aggressively promoting
the Neil Jordan-directed
film on every TV and print outlet over the past two weeks but that did little to
prevent the revenge pic from posting one of her worst openings in recent years.
In fact, over the last decade, her only wide release to debut weaker was 1999’s
Anna and
the King
with $5.2M.
 





The Brave One was the first number one hit of the year to be anchored by
a woman. It could be followed by another next weekend when
Milla Jovovich‘s
action sequel
Resident
Evil: Extinction
attacks.
 




Audiences kept lining up for
Russell Crowe
and Christian
Bale
in the Western 3:10 to Yuma which enjoyed a strong hold in its
second weekend dropping only 35% to an estimated $9.2M. That gave Lionsgate a
solid $28.5M after ten days with $50M possible by the end of the run which will
make it one of the distributor’s top-grossing non-Saw
films.





Opening with a decent showing in third place was the
Billy Bob ThorntonSeann
William Scott
comedy
Mr. Woodcock

with an estimated $9.1M. Averaging $4,079 from
2,231 theaters, the PG-13 pic performed slightly better than Thornton’s last
comedy
School for Scoundrels
which bowed to $8.6M despite playing in 773 more
theaters last September. Critics were understandably harsh.





The fantasy adventure film Dragon Wars debuted with weak results in fourth with
an estimated $5.4M from 2,269 sites for a poor $2,371 average. The PG-13 film
from Freestyle Releasing attracted poor reviews. Teen sensation Superbad spent its fifth straight weekend in the Top Five
grossing an estimated $5.2M and boosted Sony’s cume to $111.3M. MGM’s horror
redo Halloween fell 47% to an estimated $5M in its third scare and lifted its
sum to $51.3M.
 


Dipping only 27% was
The Bourne Ultimatum
which grossed an estimated $4.2M
pushing the massive cume to $216.2M. Only one 2007 release has performed better
in its seventh weekend — Wild Hogs with $4.7M in April. Overseas, the Universal
hit collected an estimated $20.8M from 4,333 theaters in 46 territories and
enjoyed number one debuts in France, South Korea, Belgium, Norway and the
Netherlands. That lifted the international total to $125M and the global tally
to $341M making it the biggest Bourne ever. Look for the $400M barrier to fall
later this fall.
 



The sports comedy Balls of Fury drooped down to eighth place with an estimated
$3.3M, off 41%, for a $28.9M total after 19 days for Focus. New Line’s action
sequel Rush Hour 3 held up well again sliding 32% to an estimated $3.3M for a cume of $133.2M to date. The family comedy
Mr Bean’s Holiday eased only 22% to
an estimated $2.7M for a $28.5M sum for Universal.
 



There was plenty of activity in the arthouses as Oscar season got underway with
strong limited launches from a handful of early contenders. Director
David
Cronenberg
‘s crime thriller
Eastern Promises
generated the best average with its
estimated $553,000 bow from 15 theaters for a muscular $36,867 per site. The
R-rated tale won the top audience prize at the Toronto International Film
Festival on Saturday boosting its industry profile and will expand on Friday to
more than 1,300 locations nationwide. This weekend’s results were almost
identical to the platform bow of Cronenberg’s last film
A History of Violence

which opened in mid-September two years ago in 14 theaters to a $515,992 frame
and $36,857 average before expanding wide the following weekend with $8.1M from
1,340 venues and a $6,047 average. Coincidentally, Jodie Foster was number one
at that time with Flightplan.



Sony’s musical extravaganza
Across the Universe
was red hot also with a debut of
an estimated $685,000 from 23 venues for a potent $29,783 average. Studio data
showed that the Julie Taymor-directed pic skewed towards young women as the
audience breakdown was 62% female and 57% under 25. Universe also widens on
Friday and will be in roughly 400 playdates.



The Tommy Lee Jones military mystery
In the Valley of Elah opened to solid
results with an estimated $150,000 from nine locations for a $16,667 average.
Warner Independent reported that the audience was more male and older. Directed
by Paul Haggis,
Elah will expand to 250-300 runs next weekend. The
distributor’s
Daniel Radcliffe drama
December Boys did not fare as well and
grossed an estimated $18,000 from four theaters for a mild $4,500 average in New
York and Los Angeles. Pic will widen to 10 theaters on Friday and will have a
tough road ahead given the avalanche of limited-release options on the horizon.



Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. New Line’s stylish
action thriller Shoot
‘Em Up
tumbled 55% in its second weekend to an estimated
$2.6M giving the Clive Owen pic only $10.3M after ten days. A $15M final seems
likely. The Nanny Diaries grossed an estimated $2.2M, off 31%, for a cume of
$24M. The MGM release should finish up with just under $30M. Paramount’s
expensive flop Stardust took in an estimated $1.4M, down 25%, for a domestic
tally of only $36.4M. With a reported production cost of $65M, the adventure
film looks to end its run with a disappointing $40M.




The top ten films grossed an estimated $61.3M which was up 9% from last year
when Gridiron Gang debuted in first place with $14.4M; but down 8% from 2005
when Just Like Heaven opened in the top spot with $16.4M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru

This week at the movies, we’ve got vigilantes (The Brave One, starring
Jodie Foster), gym teachers (Mr. Woodcock, starring
Billy Bob Thornton and
Susan Sarandon), war correspondents (The Hunting Party, starring
Richard Gere and
Terrence Howard), and
flying menaces (Dragon Wars, starring
Jason
Behr
). What do the critics have to say?

In Taxi Driver,
Robert DeNiro played a cabbie that went on a killing
spree to "protect" a teenage hooker played by Jodie Foster. Now, with
The Brave One, it’s Foster’s turn to take the law into her own hands. She plays
a talk radio host whose significant other is killed in a random attack,
triggering an impulse to arm herself and "avenge" her husband’s killing.
Terrence Howard plays a detective who’s on the trail of this vigilante. Critics
say The Brave One‘s an-eye-for-an-eye message is problematic, but the
material is slightly elevated by
Neil Jordan‘s direction and strong performances from Foster
and Howard. At 43 percent on the Tomatometer, Brave may not be one to watch.
(Check out our review from the Toronto Film Festival

here
.)




"Hi, can you guys tell me where the frozen banana stand is?"


Some couldn’t climb a rope, others got pelted with dodge balls: It’s safe to say
a lot of us have negative associations with gym class, the most Darwinian of
middle school educational pursuits.
Mr. Woodcock
taps into that feeling,
but not quite successfully, say the pundits. The movie stars
Seann William Scott
as a self-help author who’s never quite gotten over the ritual abuse he suffered
at the hands of his P.E. teacher, the sadistic Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob
Thornton); the trauma continues when he learns his mom (Susan Sarandon) is
dating his old nemesis. Critics say Woodcock lacks the energy to make the
most of its intriguing premise, and underutilizes a talented cast. At 18 percent
on the Tomatometer, Mr. Woodcock isn’t in very good shape.




"Remember when I gave your son an atomic wedgie in the locker
room?"


The Hunting Party
tells the story of two veteran war correspondents
(Richard Gere and Terrence Howard) on the trail of a Bosnian war criminal — and
the story that could make their careers. The Hunting Party isn’t the
first movie to attempt to mine bleak humor from the Bosnian conflict (the
Oscar-winning No Man’s Land also found some grim laughs in the midst of
that bitter war). But critics say director
Richard Shepard‘s follow-up to
The
Matador
is awkward at a tonal level, shifting from dark satire to serious
discussions of international politics to create an uneven film, despite the best
efforts of its game leads. At 46 percent, this Party isn’t quite as
swinging as it should be. (Check out our interview with Shepard

here
.)



Don’t hold your breath for this one.


Far be it from us to question the collective taste of the good folks in South
Korea. It’s just that Dragon Wars, which made out like gangbusters at the
Korean box office, wasn’t screened for critics in the U.S. of A. Dragon
Wars
tells the story of a TV reporter (Jason Behr) who discovers that
earthquakes around Los Angeles are not the work of plate tectonics but a dragon
possessed with the spirit of a 500-year-old warrior. No, it’s not a documentary.
Yes, you should attempt to Guess the Tomatometer.

Also opening this week in limited release:
The Great World of Sound,
a
drama about a pair of traveling music producers, is at 82 percent;
Forever
,
a documentary about Paris’s famed Pere-Lachaise cemetery, is at 80 percent;
David
Cronenberg
‘s
Eastern Promises
, starring
Viggo Mortensen as a member
of London’s underworld, is at 79 percent (check out our interview with Cronenberg and Mortensen
here);
King of California, starring
Michael
Douglas
and
Evan Rachel Wood as a father and daughter on a quest for gold, is at
75 percent; Paul Haggis
In the Valley of Elah, starring
Tommy Lee Jones
and Charlize Theron, about a war vet’s search for his missing son who recently
returned from Iraq, is at 63 percent;
Ira & Abby
, a rom-com about a
whirlwind courtship that takes a dark turn, is at 50 percent;
Across the
Universe
,
Julie Taymor‘s ambitions musical that chronicles the 1960s through
the music of the Beatles, is at 45 percent (check out our Beatles movie feature
here);
December Boys, a story of orphaned teenagers in Australia starring
Daniel Radcliffe, is at 43 percent; and
Silk, a period romance starring
Keira Knightley and Michael Pitt, is at zero percent.




"Who are we?" "The Wildcats!" "Who are we gonna beat?" "The
Wildcats!"


Recent Jodie Foster Movies:
————————————
87% — Inside Man (2006)
38% — Flightplan (2005)
77% — A Very Long Engagement (2004)
76% — Panic Room (2002)
51% — Anna and the King (1999)

Recent Billy Bob Thornton Movies:
——————————————-
59% — The Astronaut Farmer (2007)
25% — School for Scoundrels (2006)
45% — The Ice Harvest (2005)
46% — Bad News Bears (2005)
79% — Chrystal (2004)

This week, Across the Universe hits theaters. Julie Taymor‘s film, starring Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess as a young couple in the midst of the heady, chaotic 1960s, utilizes the Beatles‘ music to evoke the time period. With that in mind, it’s a good time to take a closer look at the Beatles’ cinematic legacy.

A number of films have attempted to distill the influence and essence of the Fab Four, some from the perspective of their fans (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, 82 percent on the Tomatometer), others from the enduring appeal of the group’s music (the notorious Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 17 percent); still others poke mild fun at Beatle history (The Rutles: All You Need is Cash, 88 percent). Even the group’s first bassist, Stu Sutcliffe, was the subject of a biopic (Backbeat, 74 percent). Ultimately, though, it’s the films in which the Beatles themselves star that remain the best testament to the group’s legend; like their records, the Beatles’ best movies are replete with bold innovation, a mischievous sense of humor, and a sheer joie de vivre.

The first Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night (100 percent), is also the greatest. The famous opening scene of the group running down the street, chased by crazed fans, sets that tone; it’s a headlong rush that instantly changed the synthesis of music and film forever. Utilizing quick-cut editing techniques, director Richard Lester created musical interludes that act as proto-music videos (the sequence in which the boys horse around in a field, to the tune of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” is probably the best, but “I Should Have Known Better,” “She Loves You,” and “All My Loving” also get memorable treatment as well) and remain influential to this day. A Hard Day’s Night went a long way toward establishing a public perception of the individual Beatles that, however unfairly, carried over into the general consensus of their musical contributions: John, sarcastic and witty; Paul, the showman; George, quiet but inquisitive; Ringo, always up for a laugh.

It’s the personalities of the Beatles that keep the rest of A Hard Day’s Night from aging. The movie follows a day in the life of the young Beatles on their way to a television performance; it sounds simple enough, but the group must outwit its rabid fans, management, and the police, as well as overcoming the dissent sewn by Wilfrid Brambell as Paul’s crotchety grandfather. A Hard Day’s Night has a sophistication and formal daring that remains unmatched in the world of rock film; it’s “a comedy classic that cross-pollinated Jean-Luc Godard with the four Marx brothers,” wrote John Anderson of Newsday.

After the mold-breaking brilliance of A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles’ second film, Help! (89 percent), is far less consequential. Once again, Lester is at the helm, and once again, the film is a virtually plotless assortment of gags and musical performances. The narrative centers around a religious cult that needs a ring to perform a human sacrifice. Unfortunately for Ringo, he’s just added some new bling to his collection; the band goes on the run, raising some (gentle) Cain in the Alps and the Caribbean.

But something’s missing this time out. Despite the Beatles’ good humor, reasonably funny jokes, and several remarkable songs (including “Ticket to Ride,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and the title tune), Help! lacks the easy charm and stylistic daring of Night. (And in this age of political correctness, some may find the exotic religious cult plotline a bit questionable). Still, Help! makes for moderately pleasant viewing; the Austin Powers films would later draw from this swingin’ spy movie parody. “While it’s true that it’s more Richard Lester’s vision than the group’s, it must be noted that Lester’s anarchic absurdity and quick cut camera gags make for a pretty good whole,” wrote Brad Laidman of Film Threat.

Magical Mystery Tour (60 percent), on the other hand, doesn’t really work as a whole; this hour-long, made-for-TV flick is generally considered to be the weakest Beatles film. Inspired by the antics of Timothy Leary and the Merry Pranksters, Magical Mystery Tour finds the Beatles driving across the English countryside in a bus full of magicians, family members, and oddballs. The jokes are dated, the antics shapeless, and the plot nonexistent. Still, any film in which the Beatles simply play music is of interest, and the proto-videos for “I Am the Walrus,” “Your Mother Should Know,” and “Blue Jay Way” are stunning, showing a formal discipline lacking in the rest of the movie. “I would recommend a new generation of Beatle fans to put [Magical Mystery Tour] near the bottom of their to-do list, but never to scratch it off entirely,” wrote Colin Souter of eFilmcritic.com. “It remains a necessary curiosity item and slightly ahead of its time.” Mystery gets bonus points for Lennon’s storybook-esque narration; even at their trippiest, the Beatles maintain a sense of innocent wonder.

That childlike essence was brilliantly distilled in the Beatles’ next film, the dazzling, richly inventive Yellow Submarine (94 percent). Unenthusiastic about making another live-action film, the Fab Four utilized the cartoon medium in order to fulfill their three-picture deal with United Artists (none of the Beatles performed their voice roles for the movie). However, the result was a swirling phantasmagoria of colors and inspired animation techniques; Director George Dunning and a crack team of artists utilized psychedelic visuals and some heavily-stylized live action footage to bring such Beatles classics as “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Nowhere Man,” and “All You Need Is Love” to vivid life. The plot is simple: The music-hating Blue Meanies attack the colorful Pepperland, rendering it a cold, joyless place. One resident, Old Fred, escapes in the titular craft and collects the Beatles, who travel through a series of dreamworlds to save the town with their songs. (The group liked the final result so much they agreed to appear in the flesh for the movie’s coda).

Though some of the animation may seem somewhat dated by today’s standards, the sense of daring contained within Yellow Submarine still seems fresh; the film exerted an influence on the films of Wes Anderson, particularly The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. (Those who see it as a stoner film miss the point; as the Beatles themselves knew, children are often unconscious surrealists). The film embodies “exactly what the Beatles represented emotionally and philosophically in the mid-’60s: artistic daring, cheeky non-sentimentality, a new generation taking over, naively confident the world was ‘getting better all the time,'” wrote William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Evidence of the Beatles’ exuberance would be in short supply in their next film, Let It Be (73 percent). A documentary about the making of the album of the same name, Let It Be finds the group (with Billy Preston sitting in on organ) going through the motions. The exuberance and communal spirit of A Hard Day’s Night appears to be long gone (even Ringo seems dour throughout the proceedings). It comes as something of a shock when one remembers the fact that none of the Beatles had yet turned 30; they seem ravaged, exhausted, and not particularly happy to be in each other’s company. Hints of domestic concerns seep in; Yoko Ono is often seen at John’s side, and Paul’s stepdaughter Heather provides some fleeting moments of levity, dancing with happy abandon to the Beatles’ jam sessions.

In fact, it’s only when the band is playing that the old spirit of excitement and teamwork is revived; the group runs through its new material, which includes “Get Back,” “Two of Us,” and the title track, as well as some loose, ragged covers of R&B classics like “Kansas City” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” And the famous rooftop concert that concludes Let It Be has a giddy, raucous air; you can feel the excitement of the crowd that gathers on the street below, and the brief respite for the Beatles from the bad feelings in the studio. (The rooftop concert was memorably recreated for U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” video.) Even though it ends on a note of triumph, Let It Be is a document of the dissolution of the Beatles, and as a result, it’s a bittersweet experience. “This was the only time the Beatles were not working for the camera in the characters associated with their respective personalities,” wrote Phil Hall in Film Threat.”The raw emotion on screen makes for unsettling yet hypnotic viewing.”

Apart from the group, the Beatles’ film work was almost as disparate as the members’ solo albums. Lennon starred in Lester’s anti-war satire How I Won the War (55 percent); though he disliked the experience of making the film, Lester thought Lennon could have made it as an actor nonetheless. As a solo artist, McCartney was twice nominated for an Oscar (for “Live and Let Die” and “Vanilla Sky”). His best-known movie as an actor is Give My Regards to Broad Street (23 percent), in which he plays a version of himself. Ringo lent his amiable personality to oddities like The Magic Christian (46 percent), Frank Zappa‘s 200 Motels (67 percent), and Caveman (15 percent). Ironically, it was George, the “quiet Beatle,” whose work in film was most memorable. As co-founder of Handmade Films, Harrison helped produce such edgy, important work as Monty Python’s Life of Brian (98 percent), Time Bandits (94 percent), and Withnail & I (94 percent).

Time will tell if Across the Universe sets off another wave of Beatlemania. But one thing’s fore sure: when it comes to rock movies, nobody can top the Fab Four.

Well, it certainly hasn’t been a dull festival. Tons of films big (Michael Clayton) and small (Juno) have screened to kudos, and on the whole there haven’t been very many outright disappointments (notwithstanding George Romero‘s Diary of the Dead and a few others).

It’s now a week into the Toronto Film Festival, and we definitely have our favorites. They include, in no particular order: the Ian Curtis biopic Control, the quirky teen comedy Juno, Lars and the Real Girl starring Ryan Gosling, and Julie Taymor‘s ambitious Beatles-infused Across the Universe. Many other entries are good as well (No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, Lust, Caution, Disengagement). A few in particular are unconventionally enjoyable (Sukiyaki Western Django, Nothing is Private).


Across the Universe

I just came from a press screening of Brian DePalma‘s Redacted, anticipation of which stemmed from its second-place showing last week at the Venice Film Festival (where Ang Lee‘s Lust, Caution took the Golden Lion prize). With an unconventional format that combines a French-narrated faux-documentary, a deployed soldier’s home videos, local Arab television reports and fictional video-hosting websites, Redacted tells the (based-on-a-true) story of a group of U.S. Army soldiers involved in the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl. DePalma’s film is at least rife with meaning, though there are so many divisive issues concerning Iraq in Redacted that it’s hard to know where to start. Are U.S. peace-keeping procedures dangerously confusing to Iraqis? Does mutual misunderstanding often lead to tragic civilian casualties? Do the media keep the rest of us adequately informed about a war that is happening on the other side of the world? Redacted is likely to split critics (one journalist warned me off, calling it straight-up “bad,” while a smattering of applause erupted at the end of my screening).

Plenty of other films have gotten mixed receptions as well. Julie Taymor notoriously battled with studio execs over her Across the Universe, which combines a 1960s-1970s love story with historical events, all set to a near non-stop soundtrack of Beatles songs. Sound good to you, fellas? Unsurprisingly, Across the Universe seems to leave many male reviewers cold, while women (and predisposed lovers of musicals) enjoy it much more. The film is out in limited release this week. Full review to come!

Speaking of high profile cinematic gambles, I’m headed out to the late night screening of Todd HaynesI’m Not There. Cate Blanchett nabbed Venice honors for her portrayal of Bob Dylan; six more actors take on different aspects of the legendary musician’s life and persona, including Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Richard Gere. More on that very shortly.


Passport? Check. Pants? Check. Camera, laptop, and voice recorder? Check, check,
and check. The Toronto International Film Festival (September 6 – 15)
may still be a few weeks away, but we’re already planning out our itinerary.
Below are a few films we’ll be lining up for in Canada.

With the minor controversy
surrounding
Across the
Universe
(director
Julie Taymor
reportedly had final cut taken away from her), we’re curious to see how the
Beatles-inspired epic turned out.  Universe is among numerous major films
world premiering at Toronto, including
Eastern Promises

(which reunites
History of Violence
‘s
David
Cronenberg
and
Viggo
Mortensen
) and
Lars
and the Real Girl
, whose trailer suggests a delicately twisted time
with Ryan
Gosling
and a blow-up doll. 





While this only recently
registered on our radars, we’re already intrigued with the comedy-drama,
Juno
.  It stars
Ellen Page and
Michael Cera,
as two soon-to-be teenage parents reassessing their lives, and
Jason Bateman

Arrested Development
fans, rejoice!

After squandering his
Match Point
cred
on Scoop, can
Woody Allen
make another late-career recovery?  We’ll see with his new drama,
Cassandra’s Dream
,
about two warring brothers (Ewan
McGregor
,
Colin Ferrel
).  In addition, both rising heavyweights — like
Noah Baumbach
(Margot
at the Wedding
) and
Garth Jennings
(Son of Rambow) — and contemporary masters — such as the
Coen Brothers (No
Country For Old Men
) and
Ang Lee (Lust,
Caution
) — will be hosting their North American premieres.





While we enjoy the festival
night parties as much as anyone else, we may have to cut the nocturnal
revelries short: this year’s Midnight Madness program looks impossibly
awesome.  It’s going to be a marathon of premiering cult cinema, like
Sukiyaki Western Django
(directed by
Takashi Miike),
Stuck (Stuart
Gordon
), The Mother of Tears (Dario
Argento
), and
George A.
Romero’s

The Diary of
the Dead
.  Toronto Film Fest: come for the art, stay for the gore!

Click here for the full TIFF program list. And remember to keep an eye out for our
coverage once the festival starts September 6!

A mega-memorable summer comes
to an end and studios are now in the finalizing stage of their fall release schedule.  But you know what
that means for us right now: new pictures.  Lots of ’em! Think autumn movies are just stuffy
Oscar bait?  We’ve got the vampires, comedies, torture porn, and British
Invasion tunes to prove you otherwise.

Author Richard Matheson is no
stranger to the movies, but it’s been a while since a story of his got the big
screen treatment.  That’s set to change this holiday with
I Am Legend
,
starring Will Smith as a lone post-apocalyptic survivor fighting hungry, hungry
vampires. Sound familiar?  It was previously adapted as
The Omega Man
starring
Charleston Heston, and then memorably spoofed by
The Simpsons.  One of the new
pictures has a worried (and bald) Smith peering through a hole from inside a
fortress.  Vampires?  Survivors? A wig master?  We’ll find out December
14.



Click for I Am Legend hi-res pictures!

We know you hear a lot about
how Judd Apatow can do no wrong.  But, seriously, the dude can do no wrong.  He
co-wrote and produced
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
(a biopic spoof starring
John C. Reilly) and presented its first five minutes at Comic-Con. What the audience saw was like a hilariously surreal cartoon come to life.  These photos, while amusing in
their own right, don’t quite pinpoint how weird the movie might be (assuming it
retains the same outrageous tone of its opening). I’m looking forward to some
hot Cox action when it comes out December 14.




Click for Walk Hard hi-res pictures!


Since Sir Paul’s recent Starbucks-sanctioned album didn’t set the world ablaze, it
now falls upon
Across the Universe
to kick start the new wave of Beatlemania. 
The film zeroes in on two star struck lovers as their paths cross and diverge
against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s and a helluva lot of Fab Four
covers.  Director
Julie Taymor reportedly had final cut taken away from her by
Columbia so it’s unknown whose version we’ll see on September 14, but the
trailers and these new pictures reveal the weird gritty whimsy Taymor’s known
for.




Click for Across the Universe hi-res pictures!


And how fitting is it that
while Across the Universe pushes the Beatles on us,
Wes Anderson shows up to
champion The Kinks?  We’ve all seen
The Darjeeling Limited
trailer that was
filled to the edge with classic Kinks rock, and now we’ve got the pictures to go
along with it.  The latest flick from king of quirk Anderson spins the tale of three brothers
(Jason Schwartzman,
Adrien Brody, and
Owen Wilson) on a bonding trip across
India.  The new photos, like the one below, pronounce the visual dreaminess
Anderson’s come to be known for.  The Darjeeling Limited arrives September 28,
and would probably make a wild double feature with Across the Universe.




Click for Darjeeling Limited hi-res pictures!

We know we have a lot of
Saw

fans (or, at least, a lot of people who like to argue about Saw) ’round these
parts. Production stills remain scarce, but Lionsgate has seen it fit to release the newest
poster for Saw IV.  This is exactly like the previous IV poster, except
the image has been cropped to now only imply a wrinkly, decapitated head.  Stay
classy, Lionsgate, and we’ll show up every Halloween.




Click for Saw IV hi-res pictures!

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