(Photo by Open Roadt/courtesy Everett Collection)

All Liam Neeson Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

After a major film debut with 1981’s Excalibur, Liam Neeson spent the rest of that swingin’ decade slowly climbing the acting ladder. (See him randomly in Krull, The MissionThe Dead Pool, and more, for example.) But after holding his own opposite Patrick Swayze in 1989’s Next of Kin, Neeson was at last upgraded to star for Sam Raimi’s dark superhero movie Darkman…where he spends most of the movie disfigured and fully covered in bandages. Still, Darkman was a financial success, especially for an original superhero IP in this era, and Neeson carried on with lending his baritone gravitas in dramas like the Certified Fresh Husbands and Wives.

In 1994, Neeson nabbed his only Oscar acting nomination with the monumental Schindler’s List, which would go on to win Best Picture for producer Steven Spielberg, who of course also got Best Director. Neeson took on another significant title historical role a few years later with Michael Collins, before entering the pop cultural fray as the decidedly unhistorical (though we suppose it depends on who you ask) Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. And after that, just into the 21st century, Neeson appeared in Gangs of New York, Kingdom of Heaven, and Batman Begins. A resume that includes working with Raimi, Spielberg, Allen, Lucas, Scorsese, Scott, and Nolan? Sounds like that’d be a career peak for most…

And yet 2008’s Taken was still to come, which would transform Neeson into the go-to mid-budget action guy, create a cottage industry of similar flicks to follow in its wake. Some were pretty good (Cold Pursuit, A Walk Among The Tombstones), others came out decent (The Commuter, Non-Stop), a few were god-awful (Taken 2, Taken 3), and some were one was amazing (The Grey).

We also recently saw Neeson’s softer side resurface with Ordinary Love, his first romantic film since 2003’s Love Actually and one of the best-reviewed films of his career, proving he remains as versatile as ever. To celebrate his birthday, we take a look back on all Liam Neeson movies ranked by Tomatometer!


The Nut Job (2014)

Adjusted Score: 15558%
Critics Consensus: Hampered by an unlikable central character and source material stretched too thin to cover its brief running time, The Nut Job will provoke an allergic reaction in all but the least demanding moviegoers.
Synopsis: After he accidentally destroys the winter food supply of his fellow Liberty Park residents, Surly (Will Arnett), a squirrel, is... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lepeniotis


Taken 3 (2014)

Adjusted Score: 17462%
Critics Consensus: Hampered by toothless PG-13 action sequences, incoherent direction, and a hackneyed plot, Taken 3 serves as a clear signal that it's well past time to retire this franchise.
Synopsis: Ex-covert operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), are enjoying a reconciliation when Lenore is brutally... [More]
Directed By: Olivier Megaton


The Other Man (2008)

Adjusted Score: 15749%
Critics Consensus: Despite the best efforts of a talented cast, The Other Man is talky, witless, and tension-free.
Synopsis: When his shoe-designer wife, Lisa (Laura Linney), disappears while on one of her frequent business trips, computer executive Peter (Liam... [More]
Directed By: Richard Eyre


The Haunting (1999)

Adjusted Score: 20198%
Critics Consensus: Sophisticated visual effects fail to offset awkward performances and an uneven script.
Synopsis: This horror tale focuses on visitors to the secluded mansion of Hill House who have been called to the isolated... [More]
Directed By: Jan de Bont

Adjusted Score: 3927%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Scottish miner Danny Scoular (Liam Neeson) loses his job, and, when his past as a political activist prevents him from... [More]
Directed By: David Leland


Taken 2 (2012)

Adjusted Score: 29092%
Critics Consensus: Taken 2 is largely bereft of the kinetic thrills -- and surprises -- that made the original a hit.
Synopsis: Two years ago, retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) used his "particular set of skills" to rescue his daughter,... [More]
Directed By: Olivier Megaton

Adjusted Score: 42856%
Critics Consensus: Amiable yet forgettable, MiB International grinds its stars' substantial chemistry through the gears of a franchise running low on reasons to continue.
Synopsis: The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe but so have the villains of the universe. To keep... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray


Under Suspicion (1991)

Adjusted Score: 8860%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In the late 1950s, British police officer Tony Aaron (Liam Neeson) resigns from the force after sleeping with Hazel (Maggie... [More]
Directed By: Simon Moore


After.Life (2009)

Adjusted Score: 26380%
Critics Consensus: It has an interesting premise and admirable ambitions, but After.Life fails to deliver enough twists or thrills to sustain its creepy atmosphere.
Synopsis: Following a terrible car crash, a woman (Christina Ricci) awakes to find an enigmatic mortician (Liam Neeson) preparing her for... [More]


Third Person (2013)

Adjusted Score: 29028%
Critics Consensus: Third Person finds writer-director Paul Haggis working with a stellar cast and a worthy premise; unfortunately, he fails to fashion a consistently compelling movie out of the intriguing ingredients at his disposal.
Synopsis: An acclaimed novelist (Liam Neeson) struggles to write an analysis of love in one of three stories, each set in... [More]
Directed By: Paul Haggis


Gun Shy (2000)

Adjusted Score: 25906%
Critics Consensus: A dark comedy of the low brow nature -- filled with fart and gay jokes. Even Liam Neeson and Sandra Bullock cannot save this failure.
Synopsis: Legendary undercover DEA agent Charlie Mayough (Liam Neeson) has suddenly lost his nerves of steel. On the verge of a... [More]
Directed By: Eric Blakeney

Adjusted Score: 33186%
Critics Consensus: Its 3D effects are an improvement over its predecessor's, but in nearly every other respect, Wrath of the Titans fails to improve upon the stilted acting, wooden dialogue, and chaos-driven plot of the franchise's first installment.
Synopsis: Ten years after defeating the Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is living a quieter life as a fisherman and sole parent... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman

Adjusted Score: 37306%
Critics Consensus: An obviously affectionate remake of the 1981 original, Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans doesn't offer enough visual thrills to offset the deficiencies of its script.
Synopsis: Perseus (Sam Worthington), the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), is caught in a war between gods and is helpless to... [More]
Directed By: Louis Leterrier


High Spirits (1988)

Adjusted Score: 26344%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Irish hotelier Peter Plunkett (Peter O'Toole) attempts to fill the chronic vacancies at his castle by launching an advertising campaign... [More]
Directed By: Neil Jordan


Before and After (1996)

Adjusted Score: 31360%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The lives of Carolyn Ryan (Meryl Streep), a small-town doctor, and her artist husband, Ben (Liam Neeson), are shaken up... [More]
Directed By: Barbet Schroeder


Krull (1983)

Adjusted Score: 32330%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: On the planet of Krull, an evil creature called the Beast decimates the world's army and kidnaps the lovely Princess... [More]
Directed By: Peter Yates

Adjusted Score: 41962%
Critics Consensus: While it offers a few laughs and boasts a talented cast, Seth MacFarlane's overlong, aimless A Million Ways to Die in the West is a disappointingly scattershot affair.
Synopsis: Mild-mannered sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) feels certain that the Western frontier is trying to kill him, then he... [More]
Directed By: Seth MacFarlane


Battleship (2012)

Adjusted Score: 42586%
Critics Consensus: It may offer energetic escapism for less demanding filmgoers, but Battleship is too loud, poorly written, and formulaic to justify its expense -- and a lot less fun than its source material.
Synopsis: Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a weapons officer aboard the destroyer USS John Paul Jones, while his older brother,... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

Adjusted Score: 41389%
Critics Consensus: Mark Felt may dramatize the man behind Deep Throat, but its stodgy treatment of history offers little insight into the famous whistleblower.
Synopsis: Lifelong G-Man Mark Felt, aka "Deep Throat," leaks information to the press that helps to uncover the Watergate scandal of... [More]
Directed By: Peter Landesman


The Marksman (2021)

Adjusted Score: 44154%
Critics Consensus: The Marksman benefits from having Liam Neeson in the lead, but this formulaic action thriller should have aimed higher.
Synopsis: Hardened Arizona rancher Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) simply wants to be left alone as he fends off eviction notices and... [More]
Directed By: Robert Lorenz


Honest Thief (2020)

Adjusted Score: 45863%
Critics Consensus: Guilty of first-degree squandering, Honest Thief returns Liam Neeson to late-period action thriller mode but neglects to supply much of a story.
Synopsis: Hoping to cut a deal, a professional bank robber agrees to return all the money he stole in exchange for... [More]
Directed By: Mark Williams

Adjusted Score: 46533%
Critics Consensus: Although it's an objective and handsomely presented take on the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven lacks depth.
Synopsis: Still in grief over his wife's sudden death, village blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) joins his long-estranged father, Baron Godfrey (Liam... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

Adjusted Score: 40572%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Liam Neeson) conducts a covert operation behind enemy lines to infiltrate North Korean headquarters.... [More]
Directed By: John H. Lee


Khumba (2013)

Adjusted Score: 37217%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After his herd rejects him for having only half his stripes, a young zebra (Jake T. Austin) sets out on... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Silverston


Shining Through (1992)

Adjusted Score: 31139%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Spirited New Yorker Linda Voss (Melanie Griffith) goes to work for international lawyer and secret Office of Strategic Services operative... [More]
Directed By: David Seltzer


Made in Italy (2020)

Adjusted Score: 50085%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A London artist and his estranged son try to mend their relationship as they work together to repair a dilapidated... [More]
Directed By: James D'Arcy


The A-Team (2010)

Adjusted Score: 56211%
Critics Consensus: The A-Team assembles a top-rate cast only to ditch the show's appealingly silly premise for explosive yet muddled blockbuster filmmaking.
Synopsis: A man who loves when a plan comes together, Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) leads a close-knit team of elite operatives.... [More]
Directed By: Joe Carnahan


The Good Mother (1988)

Adjusted Score: 50074%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A Boston woman's (Diane Keaton) ex-husband sues for custody of their daughter after an incident over her live-in lover (Liam... [More]
Directed By: Leonard Nimoy

Adjusted Score: 56089%
Critics Consensus: Its leisurely, businesslike pace won't win the franchise many new fans, but Voyage of the Dawn Treader restores some of the Narnia franchise's lost luster with strong performances and impressive special effects.
Synopsis: Visiting their annoying cousin, Eustace, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) come across a painting of a majestic... [More]
Directed By: Michael Apted

Adjusted Score: 56183%
Critics Consensus: Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks give it their all, but their solid performances aren't quite enough to compensate for The Next Three Days' uneven pace and implausible plot.
Synopsis: Life for John and Lara Brennan (Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks) is miserable after she is convicted of a murder she... [More]
Directed By: Paul Haggis


Chloe (2009)

Adjusted Score: 55928%
Critics Consensus: Despite its promising pedigree and a titillating premise, Chloe ultimately fails to deliver the heat -- or the thrills -- expected of a sexual thriller.
Synopsis: Catherine and David Stewart (Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson) are a well-to-do couple living in a posh area of Toronto, but... [More]
Directed By: Atom Egoyan

Adjusted Score: 62032%
Critics Consensus: Burdened by exposition and populated with stock characters, The Phantom Menace gets the Star Wars prequels off to a bumpy -- albeit visually dazzling -- start.
Synopsis: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a young apprentice Jedi knight under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) ; Anakin... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas


Ethan Frome (1993)

Adjusted Score: 50163%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A farmer (Liam Neeson) with an invalid wife (Joan Allen) falls in love with her cousin (Patricia Arquette) in snowy... [More]
Directed By: John Madden


Nell (1994)

Adjusted Score: 55614%
Critics Consensus: Despite a committed performance by Jodie Foster, Nell opts for ponderous melodrama instead of engaging with the ethical dilemmas of socializing its titular wild child.
Synopsis: Cut off from the modern world, Nell (Jodie Foster) is a wild child, who has lived her entire life with... [More]
Directed By: Michael Apted


Seraphim Falls (2006)

Adjusted Score: 58080%
Critics Consensus: A brutal, slow-moving drama that unfolds among some great-looking scenery.
Synopsis: Gideon (Pierce Brosnan), a former Union officer, finds himself the prey of a manhunt led by Carver (Liam Neeson), Gideon's... [More]
Directed By: David Von Ancken


Unknown (2011)

Adjusted Score: 61875%
Critics Consensus: Liam Neeson elevates the proceedings considerably, but Unknown is ultimately too derivative -- and implausible -- to take advantage of its intriguing premise.
Synopsis: After a serious car accident in Berlin, Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakes to find his world in utter chaos.... [More]
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra


The Commuter (2018)

Adjusted Score: 67878%
Critics Consensus: The Commuter's cast is better than its workmanlike script - which helps make this reasonably diverting Liam Neeson action thriller worth the price of a matinee ticket or rental, if not a full-price ticket.
Synopsis: Insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a... [More]
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra


The Dead Pool (1988)

Adjusted Score: 55954%
Critics Consensus: While it offers its fair share of violent thrills and tough wit, The Dead Pool ends the Dirty Harry series on an uninspired note.
Synopsis: In the fifth installment of the Dirty Harry series, gritty cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is fresh off the conviction... [More]
Directed By: Buddy Van Horn


Next of Kin (1989)

Adjusted Score: 48024%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When their brother Gerald (Bill Paxton) is murdered by a Chicago mobster (Adam Baldwin), Truman (Patrick Swayze) and Briar Gates... [More]
Directed By: John Irvin

Adjusted Score: 61450%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted if monotonous drama about a transvestite prostitute in London during the 1970s.
Synopsis: As a baby, Patrick (Cillian Murphy) is left by his mother on the steps of the rectory in their small... [More]
Directed By: Neil Jordan


Taken (2008)

Adjusted Score: 65053%
Critics Consensus: Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.
Synopsis: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former government operative, is trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Then his... [More]
Directed By: Pierre Morel


Run All Night (2015)

Adjusted Score: 66327%
Critics Consensus: Liam Neeson is in typically fine form, but Run All Night suffers from a convoluted plot and workmanlike execution.
Synopsis: Longtime hit man Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson), best friend of mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), has seen better days.... [More]
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra

Adjusted Score: 65449%
Critics Consensus: A gripping drama even though the filmmakers have taken liberties with the facts.
Synopsis: Follows Captain Alexi Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) who, at the height of the Cold War, is ordered to take over command... [More]
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow


Leap of Faith (1992)

Adjusted Score: 64132%
Critics Consensus: Steve Martin's layered performance transcends the somewhat undercooked narrative of Leap of Faith.
Synopsis: Touring Christian evangelist Jonas Nightengale (Steve Martin) and his cohorts tend to put on their bogus faith-healing revivals in major... [More]
Directed By: Richard Pearce


The Mission (1986)

Adjusted Score: 67929%
Critics Consensus: The Mission is a well-meaning epic given delicate heft by its sumptuous visuals and a standout score by Ennio Morricone, but its staid presentation never stirs an emotional investment in its characters.
Synopsis: Jesuit priest Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) enters the Guarani lands in South America with the purpose of converting the natives... [More]
Directed By: Roland Joffé


Love Actually (2003)

Adjusted Score: 71836%
Critics Consensus: A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms.
Synopsis: Nine intertwined stories examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Among the characters explored are... [More]
Directed By: Richard Curtis

Adjusted Score: 68852%
Critics Consensus: Kahlil Gibran's the Prophet is a thrillingly lovely adaptation of the classic text, albeit one that doesn't quite capture the magic of its source material.
Synopsis: A dissident being kept under house arrest recounts valuable lessons in a series of vignettes while a mischievous young woman... [More]
Directed By: Roger Allers

Adjusted Score: 73698%
Critics Consensus: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is an entertaining family adventure worthy of the standard set by its predecessor.
Synopsis: One year after their previous adventure, the Pevensie children (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) return to the... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Adamson


Suspect (1987)

Adjusted Score: 66731%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Carl Anderson (Liam Neeson), a deaf, mute and homeless war veteran, is arrested for the murder of a prominent judge's... [More]
Directed By: Peter Yates

Adjusted Score: 73754%
Critics Consensus: A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn't entirely transcend its genre clichés, but it does offer Liam Neeson one of his more compelling roles in recent memory, and that's often enough.
Synopsis: Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson), formerly part of the NYPD, now works as an unlicensed private detective. His latest client is... [More]
Directed By: Scott Frank


Cold Pursuit (2019)

Adjusted Score: 79213%
Critics Consensus: Cold Pursuit delivers the action audiences expect from a Liam Neeson thriller -- along with humor and a sophisticated streak that make this an uncommonly effective remake.
Synopsis: Nels Coxman's quiet life as a snowplow driver comes crashing down when his beloved son dies under mysterious circumstances. His... [More]
Directed By: Hans Petter Moland


Rob Roy (1995)

Adjusted Score: 74418%
Critics Consensus: Rob Roy is an old-fashioned swashbuckler that benefits greatly from fine performances by Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, and Tim Roth.
Synopsis: In 18th century Scotland, Robert Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is the head of a proud Highlands clan that herds cattle.... [More]
Directed By: Michael Caton-Jones

Adjusted Score: 79190%
Critics Consensus: Though flawed, the sprawling, messy Gangs of New York is redeemed by impressive production design and Day-Lewis's electrifying performance.
Synopsis: Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young Irish immigrant released from prison. He returns to the Five Points seeking revenge... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese


The Bounty (1984)

Adjusted Score: 73808%
Critics Consensus: Thanks in large part to its cast, and Anthony Hopkins in particular, The Bounty's retelling of the mutiny on the HMS Bounty is an intelligent, engaging adventure saga.
Synopsis: Captain Bligh (Anthony Hopkins) struggles to restore discipline among the crew of the HMS Bounty after the ship has an... [More]
Directed By: Roger Donaldson


Les Miserables (1998)

Adjusted Score: 76846%
Critics Consensus: This intelligent, handsomely crafted adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel condenses the story's developments without blunting its emotional impact.
Synopsis: After serving a lengthy prison sentence, Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson) turns his life around after an act of kindness opens... [More]
Directed By: Bille August

Adjusted Score: 75999%
Critics Consensus: Oliver Hirschbiegel's dramatic take on "The Troubles" is an actor's showcase -- and Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt are more than up to the challenge.
Synopsis: In 1970s Northern Ireland, young Joe Griffin watches in horror as the teenage leader of a UVF cell shoots Joe's... [More]
Directed By: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Adjusted Score: 83784%
Critics Consensus: With first-rate special effects and compelling storytelling, this adaptation stays faithful to its source material and will please moviegoers of all ages.
Synopsis: During the World War II bombings of London, four English siblings are sent to a country house where they will... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Adamson


Michael Collins (1996)

Adjusted Score: 79508%
Critics Consensus: As impressively ambitious as it is satisfyingly impactful, Michael Collins honors its subject's remarkable achievements with a magnetic performance from Liam Neeson in the title role.
Synopsis: In the early 20th century, Michael Collins (Liam Neeson) leads the Irish Republican Army with the help of his friends... [More]
Directed By: Neil Jordan


The Grey (2012)

Adjusted Score: 86833%
Critics Consensus: The Grey is an exciting tale of survival, populated with fleshed-out characters and a surprising philosophical agenda.
Synopsis: Following a grueling five-week shift at an Alaskan oil refinery, workers led by sharpshooter John Ottway (Liam Neeson) are flying... [More]
Directed By: Joe Carnahan


Excalibur (1981)

Adjusted Score: 80415%
Critics Consensus: John Boorman's operatic, opulent take on the legend of King Arthur is visually remarkable, and features strong performances from an all-star lineup of British thespians.
Synopsis: The magical sword of Excalibur starts off in the hands of British lord Uther Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne) and then, years... [More]
Directed By: John Boorman


Silence (2016)

Adjusted Score: 103532%
Critics Consensus: Silence ends Martin Scorsese's decades-long creative quest with a thoughtful, emotionally resonant look at spirituality and human nature that stands among the director's finest works.
Synopsis: Two 17th-century Portuguese missionaries, Father Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), embark on a perilous journey... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese


Darkman (1990)

Adjusted Score: 87222%
Critics Consensus: Gruesome and deliciously broad, Sam Raimi's Darkman bears the haunted soulfulness of gothic tragedy while packing the stylistic verve of onomatopoeia springing off a comic strip page.
Synopsis: When thugs employed by a crime boss lead a vicious assault on Dr. Peyton Wilder (Liam Neeson), leaving him literally... [More]
Directed By: Sam Raimi


Batman Begins (2005)

Adjusted Score: 95911%
Critics Consensus: Brooding and dark, but also exciting and smart, Batman Begins is a film that understands the essence of one of the definitive superheroes.
Synopsis: A young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels to the Far East, where he's trained in the martial arts by Henri... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan


A Monster Calls (2016)

Adjusted Score: 105983%
Critics Consensus: A Monster Calls deftly balances dark themes and fantastical elements to deliver an engrossing and uncommonly moving entry in the crowded coming-of-age genre.
Synopsis: Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones)... [More]
Directed By: J.A. Bayona

Adjusted Score: 103035%
Critics Consensus: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs avoids anthology pitfalls with a consistent collection tied together by the Coen brothers' signature blend of dark drama and black humor.
Synopsis: An anthology of six short films that take place in 19th-century post-Civil War era during the settling of the Old... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen


Kinsey (2004)

Adjusted Score: 96185%
Critics Consensus: A biopic of the sex researcher is hailed as adventurous, clever, and subversive, with fine performances by Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.
Synopsis: Biology professor Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) has a perfectly respectable life teaching and doing research at Indiana University along with... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon


Widows (2018)

Adjusted Score: 116985%
Critics Consensus: Widows rounds up a stellar ensemble for a heist thriller that mixes popcorn entertainment with a message - and marks another artistic leap for director Steve McQueen.
Synopsis: A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows -- Veronica, Linda,... [More]
Directed By: Steve McQueen


Ponyo (2008)

Adjusted Score: 96826%
Critics Consensus: While not Miyazaki's best film, Ponyo is a visually stunning fairy tale that's a sweetly poetic treat for children of all ages.
Synopsis: During a forbidden excursion to see the surface world, a goldfish princess encounters a human boy named Sosuke, who gives... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki


Ordinary Love (2019)

Adjusted Score: 100529%
Critics Consensus: Led by strong performances from Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson, Ordinary Love wrings heartrending drama out of one couple's medical travails.
Synopsis: Joan and Tom have been married for many years. An everyday couple with a remarkable love, there is an ease... [More]

Adjusted Score: 96168%
Critics Consensus: Husbands and Wives is a blistering, emotionally raw snapshot of two marriages self-destructing.
Synopsis: Gabe (Woody Allen) and his wife, Judy (Mia Farrow), are shocked to discover that their best friends, Sally (Judy Davis)... [More]
Directed By: Woody Allen


The LEGO Movie (2014)

Adjusted Score: 105889%
Critics Consensus: Boasting beautiful animation, a charming voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, The Lego Movie is colorful fun for all ages.
Synopsis: Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary LEGO figurine who always follows the rules, is mistakenly identified as the Special -- an... [More]


Schindler's List (1993)

Adjusted Score: 108406%
Critics Consensus: Schindler's List blends the abject horror of the Holocaust with Steven Spielberg's signature tender humanism to create the director's dramatic masterpiece.
Synopsis: Businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) arrives in Krakow in 1939, ready to make his fortune from World War II, which... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

Luc Besson’s return to the big space opera scene with Valerian and the Thousand Planets comes at a hefty price: a reported $180 million, easily making it the most expensive French production ever. And such fiscal modesty inspires this week’s gallery of the 24 most expensive movies ever made! (Budgets and box office are adjusted for inflation, with the base numbers from Box Office Mojo, natch.)

The 35th annual People’s Choice Awards were handed out on January 7, 2009. A complete list of film nominees, with winners in bold, follows below.

Favorite Movie:
The Dark Knight

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man

Favorite Comedy Movie:
27 Dresses

Get Smart
Mamma Mia!

Favorite Movie Drama:
The Secret Life of Bees

Eagle Eye

Favorite Family Movie:
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Kung Fu Panda

Favorite Independent Movie:
The Secret Life of Bees

The Duchess
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Favorite Action Movie:
The Dark Knight

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man

Favorite Cast:
The Dark Knight

Mamma Mia!
Sex and the City

Favorite On-Screen Matchup:
Christian Bale & Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Shia LaBeouf & Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler (Baby Mama)

Favorite Male Movie Star:
Will Smith

Harrison Ford
Robert Downey, Jr.

Favorite Female Movie Star:
Reese Witherspoon

Angelina Jolie
Keira Knightley

Favorite Male Action Star:
Will Smith

Christian Bale
Robert Downey, Jr.

Favorite Female Action Star:
Angelina Jolie

Anne Hathaway
Cate Blanchett

Favorite Leading Man:
Brad Pitt

Christian Bale
Mark Wahlberg

Favorite Leading Lady:
Kate Hudson

Anne Hathaway
Queen Latifah

Favorite Superhero:
Christian Bale (The Dark Knight)
Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder)
Will Smith (Hancock)

Source: People’s Choice Awards

In a corner of the Weta Cave, happily surrounded by monsters, robots, ray guns and mythical dinosaurs, sits Richard Taylor. He has five Academy Awards, a few BAFTAs, a handful of Saturns and goodness knows how many other trophies and plaques on a shelf somewhere. He is the Director and co-founder of Weta Workshop, one of the best known creative arts studios in the world, and his business is more than likely a corner-stone of the New Zealand economy during times of large film productions. He is also a man accustomed to playing God. He creates worlds: Narnia; Middle Earth; Skull Island; and whatever crazy world Meet the Feebles exists in to name a few, and he does it all from within the walls of the Weta Workshop in Wellington, on the North Island of New Zealand.

For all of his successes he appears quite shy and a little bemused by the fuss being made by the small band of journalists who have descended upon the Weta Cave to find out more about the making of Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. RT took the opportunity to speak with him about what goes into creating a world, the importance of good weaponry and how his six year-old son became a king.

You are an expert in many different areas: design; anthropology; anatomy; history etc. What is your true passion?

Richard Taylor: We call ourselves momentary experts. You have to get this incredible wealth of knowledge for a very short moment in time but the moment the movie finishes your cup is in overflow, your cup of a brain, and you can only get more drips of water to flow if you let something flow out. If you asked me any of the details about square riggers for The Master and Commander today, I wouldn’t have a clue [laughs], but in the two years we were working on the film there was almost no detail I couldn’t recall about square riggers and how you build them.

My particular love is the creative arts. If we have any business plan it is – pursue the creative first and hopefully good business will follow. If everyone is inspired by the creative journey then good stuff will come along. There is no great plan to it really. I love sculptural arts as you see around you. Everything that we do ends up in some way being conceptualized sculpturally in the workshop now. I always dreamt of being surrounded by sculpture and the workshop is now dense with it. It is lovely to know that you can communicate creative ideas through sculpture, illustration and decision. I love world design; that is, the ability to take a holistic view of the world. We don’t design a creature until we know what the environment, the fauna, the flora, the carnivores, and the herbivores that surround them are like. We take an overview of their world before we dig down into the detail. On movies like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, King Kong or even Lord of the Rings, it is a lovely way to work because we can look at the whole culture, history and the environment of the world before we start.

Richard Taylor in the Weta Cave.

When you created Narnia, did you draw inspiration first from the books or did you work with the director just from the script?

RT: Narnia was a really interesting film to design. People often say that after Lord of the Rings, Narnia would be a bit of a doddle but of course it is not because CS Lewis comes from a very different place. If Tolkien was recognized as drawing strongly from cultural references from our own history, CS Lewis draws from an amazingly broad spectrum of cultural and mythological references across thousands of years. If you read about the creatures of Narnia you can see creations from a man-headed bull to a gorilla and then something as abstract as a centaur or minotaur.

It interests me that the first place we went to in our research was to the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. I had grown up on this little farm in New Zealand and the one piece of artwork I had was the Garden of Earthly Delights above my bed and I used to fascinate at the incredible inventions of Hieronymus Bosch. So when we came to make the movie and design this whole world and the director, Andrew Adamson referenced Hieronymus Bosch, it was like a door opening back to my childhood. The further we got into it, the further we realized that it couldn’t be so broad; that all the fauna, the flora, the creatures, and the cultures had to be tied together visually and symbolically. We probably did six months of exploratory design to find out what wasn’t going to work in Narnia. When you step through the wardrobe you step into a childhood dream state. The imaginings of a group of young children opens up the world to an immense level, but we were still restricted in that it was the imagining of a group of young children born in London and living in the 1940s. They knew a time without the filmic references that have influenced us over the last 50 years and we were respectful of that. We tried to seep them somewhere with a physical reality and a little bit of mythology. It is different from Lord of the Rings too, because Lord of the Rings is a completely lived in world. You’ve got to feel like when you entered the world it existed for thousands of years before. Everything is worn, or in some way worn out and starting to feel aged. But in Narnia things are fresh and new and bright and the spring is coming and you have to give the feeling that the children are experiencing a world that is just beginning to bud and that was a delightful challenge.

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, 1503-1504.

Prince Caspian takes place in a different time. Did you feel like you had to start over or did you find continuity?

RT: We knew Andrew‘s vision and we knew the world because of course we had two and a half years of studying it for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but we go into the world again hundreds and hundreds of years in the future. The Telmarines are an interesting race because they’ve come through a portal as well at some point. We wanted to play to all of the influences of their seafaring past. We tried to find mentions in the back writing of CS Lewis to give us points of reference. We took the seafaring to a much greater level during the design concept and then pulled it back a bit but it is still there for all the filigree, the points of the compass and the shield. The reference to their journey is emblazoned around objects like at the top of Miraz’s shield.

And of course the Narnians have turned back into animals and almost forgotten their own culture. It is the children who reinvigorate that culture and help them to be everything they can be. The resurrection story speaks of that point as once again Narnia unfolds from a very futile, deeply political and bitter world into something that can bud and flourish.

Can you talk about how the design you do here helps build the characters in the film?

RT: I never want our crew to think they are making props. I think that is critical for us. We are making an artifact that will be layered onto the actor to become the character. We are playing some small part in offering elements that allow that character to believe in who they are. Of course actors will bring that 10 fold anyway, but if we don’t go there then we are in some way lessening their ability rather than adding to it. A weapon is not a prop, a weapon was used to save one’s life and save one’s livelihood. You live and die by your ability to wield that object, so they must feel like real swords, like real daggers. Lucy could do some serious damage if she chose to stab that thing into someone’s neck. She is only carrying it on her side because that act might be asked of her. This isn’t play fighting back home in England. This is serious stuff so you try to build things that have credibility and an artistry and cultural reference through the history of Narnia.

The Pevensie children, armed for battle.

The Narnian history has been a lovely thing to play to. The Magician’s Nephew, of course, allowed us to and weave through so much of CS Lewis’ thoughts. We also looked at literary points of reference about his life to try and think of things that might have influenced the culture through the story. We wrote a book called The Crafting of Narnia: The Art, Creatures, and Weapons From Weta Workshop in an effort to try and acknowledge the very things that might not be so apparent in the movie. The oak leaves are used in designs not because they make a nice motif; the oak leaves are there because they have a reference point back to Peter’s life and his journey. It may be spiritual or it may be ethereal, whatever it is it has some point of reference.

Was there a specific challenge on Prince Caspian that you had not encountered before?

RT: Prince Caspian was surprisingly challenging at a design level. In the first film the core of the world was the Narnians and the creative excitement of delivering this group of highly-sophisticated speaking animals and putting them into believable armor emblazoned with their culture. Then comes Prince Caspian and that has all been swept away by bitter in-fighting and political intrigue and men overbearing the natural world and all the motifs he wrote of so beautifully. Suddenly we were making a movie about war and factions and all of the ceremonial pomp and arrogance that goes along with a dominating race of people. They had allowed their military might to become much more ceremonial and grand so we focused on that first and foremost. It was a challenge not to keep thinking and reminiscing about everything that was the Narnians. When we approached the Narnians we had to draw them right back to a guerilla fighting force so they are primitively armored and crudely equipped. It was a psychological challenge letting go of those beautiful characters that had been developed so much.

I thought Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian as a film was astounding. I love it. I’ve seen it twice now, the second time with my six-year-old boy who is completely enraptured by the world. I felt that the second film was a very strong and forward movement from the first. I thought the children had found a completely believable place in the world and I found it to be a very adult movie. It didn’t trivialize the motifs we were trying to communicate.

Just a little side note; I took my children to Prague for the filming. My son had seen The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe but he doesn’t yet understand what cinema is or that it is make-believe. He thinks you are looking at a document, a reality. William Moseley to him is a king. When we walked on set William was dressed in full military regalia. He drew a sword, kneeled at my son’s feet and welcomed him as a fellow king. My son to this day thinks that he met the King of Narnia and he talks about how he went to the palace to see the queen. It is bloody marvelous.

Read more about RT’s behind-the-scenes tour of the Weta Workshop

RT enters the Weta Cave…

Join us on a photo tour of the Weta Workshop and locations for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian


More of this summer’s films come to DVD this week, led by the extras-packed fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. If bullet-bending is more your style, you’ll want to pick up Timur Bekmambetov’s super-charged actioner, Wanted; for raunchy, man-child laughs check out Will Ferrell’s Step Brothers. And if your leanings are a tad more sophisticated, see the latest from the revamped Criterion Collection and a special set from the greatest cinematic romance of all time: Casablanca.

1. Wanted Limited Edition Collector’s Gift Set — 73%

If the prospect of watching the director of Russia’s impressive sci-fi films Night Watch and Day Watch make his Hollywood debut wasn’t enough to make you watch Wanted, perhaps it was the idea of seeing Angelina Jolie as a tattooed, deadly assassin; either way, Timur Bekmambetov’s bullet-bending action film exceeded expectations in theaters last summer and, accordingly, will be looking for a place on your DVD shelf this week.

Adapted from Mark Millar’s comics of the same name, Wanted follows the young, bookish Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) as he learns from a mysterious woman named Fox (Jolie) that his father belonged to a secret society of assassins and he’s next in line to join. Packed with visually-stunning set pieces and silly-but-fun action, Wanted won over critics; Universal Home Entertainment aims to do the same with fans by offering a plethora of bonus features on its 2-Disc DVD (a cast and character guide, plus featurettes on the film’s stunts, special effects, graphic novel roots, and more) as well as picture-in-picture interviews, trivia, and extra angles on its Blu-ray release. In another unique BD-Live feature, record and share your own commentary track during key scenes from the film.

Below, watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the Wanted DVD in which the film’s visual effects team explains how they created the impressive train sequence — entirely in CG.

Next: Return to Narnia with Prince Caspian

2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — 66%

The Pevensie kids get get geared up for battle in this sequel to Disney’s popular Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, although at 66 percent on the Tomatometer critics found Prince Caspian slightly less thrilling than its predecessor. With more action, a smidge of romance, and a new, dreamy hero (the Orlando Bloom-ish Ben Barnes), Prince Caspian still serves up the same level of high-class effects that distinguished this franchise from the get-go — and more importantly, the folks who put together this DVD release have collected tons of behind-the-scenes goodies for fans.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian arrives this week on DVD in one of the most complete, fan-pleasing packages of the year; pick up the three-disc release for a commentary track by director Andrew Adamson and his young cast, bloopers, deleted scenes, and a host of featurettes on topics like the sets, production, concept art, and CGI-enhanced animals of Narnia. A digital copy of the film is also included.

Meanwhile, Blu-ray owners will find that Disney has put the format’s capabilities to good use, resulting in a truly immersive experience. In addition to all of the above standard edition features, the Blu-ray title includes BD-Live functionality and the specially-designed “Circle-Vision,” an interactive tour of the Prince Caspian sets with trivia, behind-the-scenes video, and more to be discovered.

Next: Will Ferrell’s Step Brothers shenanigans

3. Step Brothers — 54%

Will Ferrell + John C. Reilly = Comic gold, right? According to the Tomatometer, maybe not. With a theoretically hilarious premise, Step Brothers could have been another instant Ferrell classic, a la Ron Burgundy; instead, it fell a few shades below fresh.

In Step Brothers, two immature, overindulged man-children (Ferrell and Reilly) are forced to room together when their parents marry; their initial hatred for each other leads naturally to shenanigans, until a family crisis forces them to band together. Upon its theatrical release, at least one pair of prosthetic genitals made a brief appearance. We recommend picking up the 2-disc Unrated DVD for even raunchier offerings, a music video entitled “Boats ‘n Hoes,” making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, and a commentary track by Ferrell, Reilly, director Adam McKay, and NBA star-cum-filmmaker Baron Davis. Go Boom Dizzle.

Next: The X-Files: I Want(ed) To Believe

4. The X-Files: I Want To Believe — 32%

Let’s just call it The X-Files: I Want(ed) to Believe. The long-awaited return of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had X-Files fans excited, agitated, and — most importantly — hopeful that the once-great franchise could be revived after nine seasons on the air and one decent 1998 feature film. Sadly, those hopes went the way of the Chupacabra, and the result was a standalone, non legacy film that more closely resembled a Sci Fi Channel creature feature than any episode of the X-Files. The Single-Disc DVD contains special features only a fan will love, including concept art, a commentary track, comments on “green” film production, and for some reason, a music video by co-star and rapper Xzibit.

Next: Sam Fuller’s White Dog and the new and improved Criterion Collection

5. Criterion Collection: White Dog – 83%

Director Sam Fuller (The Naked Kiss) was no stranger to controversy; this week, the folks at the Criterion Collection release one of the most controversial films of his career. Adapted loosely from a nonfiction book by French writer Romain Gary based on an experience he shared with his then-wife, actress Jean Seberg, White Dog explores the nature and reality of American race relations with a story of a young woman (Kristy McNichol) who takes in a stray dog that’s already been well trained — trained to attack black people, that is. An animal trainer (Paul Winfield) attempts to re-train the dog as a personal challenge, with dangerous results.

The film, completed in 1981, was shelved by Paramount Pictures on the advice of the NAACP and has never been officially released on home video until now. In grand Criterion fashion, a host of hard-to-find extras accompany the newly-restored film, including production photos, video interviews with producer Jon Davison, co-writer Curtis Hanson, and Fuller’s widow Christa Lang-Fuller, essays by critics J. Hoberman and Armond White, and a “rare 1982 interview in which Fuller interviews the canine star of the film.”

And while we’re on the subject, check out the new and improved Criterion website, where you can read Hoberman’s White Dog essay and join the Beta version of The Auteurs, a new “online movie theater” and social networking site.

Next: A kinder, gentler Metalocalypse: Season Two

6. Metalocalypse: Season Two

Season Two of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim staple Metalocalypse comes to DVD this week, with all 18 episodes of metal-rocking goodness included. Watch as Skwisgaar, William Murderface, Nathan Explosion, Pickles the Drummer and Toki Wartooth continue their streak of world domination as the world’s most powerful and violent metal band, designing their own clothing line, experimenting with Amazonian hallucinogens, and encountering more rampant death and destruction as they attempt to record their new studio album.

Next: The perfect movie lover’s holiday gift: Casablanca The Ultimate Collector’s Edition

7. Casablanca: Ultimate Collector’s Edition — 98%

One of the greatest films ever made is re-released this week in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition perfect for your favorite movie lover this holiday season: Casablanca. A classic tale for movie lovers (and lovers of all kinds), the 1942 war drama took home Oscars for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture and comes housed in a beautiful box that packs in not only movie memorabilia but collectible items and special features related to the Golden Era of Hollywood.

In addition to production-related extras like outtakes, deleted scenes, and galleries, the set includes an audio commentary by Roger Ebert and an introduction by Lauren Bacall and her 1988 TCM tribute to her late husband, Casablanca star Humphrey Bogart — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. An audio accompaniment includes alternate takes of the film’s most iconic songs, including “As Time Goes By,” while the set’s many collectible items include a replica of Victor Lazlo’s Letter of Transit, internal studio memos, and branded luggage tags.

Next: The wild and crazy fourth season of Saturday Night Live

8. Saturday Night Live: The Complete Fourth Season

Relive the magical early days of Saturday Night Live with Season Four, out this week on DVD. The 1978-1979 season includes the last regular appearances of cast members John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, with plenty of laughs from the likes of Gilda Radner and Bill Murray and the debut of Father Guido Sarducci. Also witness the comic chops of special hosts Milton Berle, Kate Jackson, Monty Python’s Michael Palin, Carrie Fisher, Walter Matthau, Steve Martin, Gary Busey and Margot Kidder, with musical guests like Devo, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, and the Talking Heads.

Until next week, happy renting!

The Weta Cave

To celebrate the release of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, RT went all the way to Narnia, or at least New Zealand, to bring you back a glimpse of a world that really does seem to exist on the other side of the wardrobe.

In a tiny, suburban nook of Wellington, New Zealand there stands a simple weatherboard house. It is differentiated from the other homey cottages in the area by the fact that it is filled with enough weaponry for numerous mythical armies. That and the two wrought-iron dragons that guard its doors. Here stands the Weta Cave, home to the five time Academy Award winning Weta Workshop and one of the coolest museums of movie collectibles and memorabilia in the Southern Hemisphere.

Weta Workshop worked closely with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian director, Andrew Adamson and the Los Angeles based creative team leaders, production designer Roger Ford and costume designer Isis Mussenden, to design and produce weapons, armor, miniatures and costuming for the film.

Some of Weta’s work included:

  • Two-hundred polearms
  • Two-hundred rapiers
  • Over one-hundred falchions
  • Two-hundred and fifty shields
  • Fifty-five crossbows
  • Soft shields and stunt gear for the Telmarine army to use with live horses
  • Stunt-safe faceplates for the warhorses
  • Faceplate helmets for the soldiers
  • Individual swords, scabbards and sculptured faceplate helmets for the Glozelle, Miraz and Prince Caspian
  • A crossbow for Prunaprismia’s room
  • Refitting and restoring much of the children’s armory after The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • New armor for Edmund and a new vambrace for Susan
  • Swords and daggers for Nikabrik and Trumpkin
  • Aged the feral rebel force that was once the grand Narnian army
  • Provided highly detailed 1/24th and 1/100th scale miniatures of Miraz’s great castle and its environment. 

RT was invited in to find out what life is like behind-the-scenes on a film like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Join us for our pictorial tour of Weta Workshop, and some amazing locations.

Inside WETA

On entering The Cave, visitors are greeted at the door by a familiar face. Unnerving? Yes. Incredibly cool? Most definitely. Weta are well known around the world for their work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Inside WETA

The Weta Cave is open to the public. As well as giving fans the chance to see memorabilia from the Weta Workshop archive, visitors can buy collectibles and sculptures handcrafted by the Weta artists. There is a lot more here than just items relating to Weta’s enormous body of work, however, as the artists are also licensed to produce a wide range of pieces including the characters from The Muppets. Browsers will also find a collection of pop-culture products from around the world including work from Doctor Who, Alien and Halo 3.
Inside WETA

The Cave may be small but no space is left unused. Even the ceiling is a bloody work of art.

Inside WETA

You’ve got to love an actual cave inside a house. This doorway leads to the best room in the building.

Inside WETA

For those who are interested in looking beyond Narnia and Middle Earth, there are some astounding early pieces in the museum from films such as Dead Alive (Braindead), Heavenly Creatures, Meet the Feebles, Xena: Warrior Princess and The Frighteners to name a few.

Inside WETA

Some aspects of the Weta Cave are a little scary. This lovely chap, for example, can be found leering above the counter.

Inside WETA

The Weta screening room. Visitors can watch a film revealing life and work behind-the-scenes at Weta. Having spoken to a few members of the Weta family, there does not seem to be much of a division between life and work at Weta. It is exciting to speak to people with such passion for their work. It is also exciting to watch a film surrounded by swords and armoury. The local multiplex is just not going to be the same after this.

Inside WETA

Speaking of people who are passionate about their work, please meet Weta Workshop Designer, Greg Broadmore. From this man’s mind was born The Rayguns: Dr Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators. He can be seen here brandishing one of his 1:1 scale antique-styled sci-fi weapons. He was a designer and sculptor on Peter Jacksons King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and was also one of the illustrators and concept writers for Weta Workshops’ first publication, ‘The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island’.

Inside WETA

The man himself: Richard Taylor. Richard is the Director and co-founder of Weta Workshop, along with his partner and Workshop Manager, Tania Rodger. Weta Workshop is co-owned by director, Peter Jackson and editor and producer, Jamie Selkirk.

Inside WETA

It all gets a bit more corporate as we are taken upstairs to the offices to meet some of the artists. If you were wondering, the weta is an oversized insect native to New Zealand. According to Wikipedia it is a cross between a cockroach and a cricket with the addition of large legs. Nice.

Inside WETA

Beige walls? Check. Nondescript furniture? Check. Desks laden with broadswords, helmets and Narnian vials holding life-giving cordial? Offices at Weta really aren’t like other offices.

Inside WETA

Sitting on the desk, Susan’s horn looks like it has been carved from ivory. On picking it up, however, it feels very much like the urethane prop it is.

Paul Tobin and Christian Pearce, two designers from the Weta Workshop, created many of the children’s gifts for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, including Susan’s horn which then re-appeared in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The concept behind this horn was that it should look as if it were a pair with Susan’s other gifts, the quiver and the bow. They decided the design should indicate that they were all carved from the same ivory tusk and when slung on her back, become one unit. The very tip has a mother of pearl inlay while the horn itself is carved in Aslan’s likeness.

Inside WETA

Also lying on the desk for our grubby mitts to play with was Lucy’s vial. Lucy received this vial of life-giving cordial as one of her gifts in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was designed by Weta Workshop designer, Christian Pearce.

The stopper is a lion’s head, much the same as Peter’s sword and Lucy’s dagger. The colours are red and gold which are the colours used to symbolise Aslan. Amazingly, when you open it up, on the inside there is delicate design and illustration that will never be seen in detail in the film. Weta Workshop designers don’t create something just to be pretty; it must have a reason for existing. The design has Lucy’s monogram, surrounded by a stylised image. In order for the designer to construct that image he had to think about the justification for it. In one of the other Narnia books, it is mentions that the contents of the vial are made from fire-berry flowers. The fire-berry flower only grows in the Mountains of the Sun so part of the illustration is of a bird bring the flower back from the mountain.

Sadly this is as far as we could go at Weta, despite asking, then pleading, closely followed by attempted acts of subterfuge, we could not get ourselves into the privacy-clad workshop.

Never-mind, the next step on our behind-the-scenes tour of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian would prove itself to be quite the adventure…

Inside WETA

This is the moment where this Rotten Tomatoes Editor became all action. A number of locations for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian could only be reached by helicopter so, thinking not of our own safety but only of the pursuit of behind-the-scenes knowledge for the RT reader, we took to the skies in our little, physics-defying bumble-bee helicopter.

Inside WETA

As we soar over the breath-takingly beautiful waterways of New Zealand, slowly coming in to land at one of the pivotal locations of the film, this RT Editor was repeating the same question over and over in her head: “How does this thing stay in the air?”. Seriously. It doesn’t make sense.

Inside WETA

Welcome to Narnia.

Otherwise known as the Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Inside WETA

This is where the children first stepped back into Narnia by way of The Strand tube station. It is not hard to understand why director, Andrew Adamson, chose this location. Even on a warm afternoon, the beach is strangely unaffected by the human world.

Inside WETA

Inside WETA

After yet another helicopter ride, bus trip and hike, we reach the site of Cair Paravel. Looking at this empty, green plot of land it is at first hard to imagine this as a place of ruins of the four thrones of High King Peter Pevensie the Magnificent, Queen Susan Pevensie the Gentle, King Edmund Pevensie the Just, and Queen Lucy Pevensie The Valiant.

Inside WETA

And yet, the moment you peer over the side and see the cliffs rising above the flat, turquoise sea, you know you could not possibly be anywhere but on an island by the Great River of Narnia.

The site feels pristine; like it may indeed have been left alone to ruin over many centuries. In reality, it is just under two years since this site was a filmset teaming with people. While we hiked up the hill, the crew built roads over the private property in order to facilitate filming. Once they left, however, the roads were lifted and slowly consumed by nature.

There is something undeniably Pevensie about standing on a beautiful hilltop and feeling like you may be the first Daughter of Eve to ever have done so.

We hope you have enjoyed RT’s behind-the-scenes visit to Narnia. While we were there we were lucky enough to speak to some of Weta Workshop’s talented designers.

Read more about RT’s behind-the-scenes tour of the Weta Workshop

RT Interview: Richard Taylor on Weta Workshop and Prince Caspian

Richard Taylor talks about creating new worlds, the importance of good weaponry and how his six year-old son became a king.


Ben Barnes

Are you getting more of a sense of how big the scale of this thing is now that you’re doing the junkets?

Ben Barnes: Yes. I got a real scale shock in LA last week when I saw the first billboard. It was the size of a building, and with just me on it. I mean, it’s exciting, and terrifying, and slightly freaky; it leaves you really speechless. It’s sort of awesome in the sort of traditional sense of the word “awesome,” but also really frightening.

Does it feel like it’s going to be this big when you’re on set?

BB: Well, we finished shooting in September, so we didn’t really get any of that sort of press stuff whilst we were shooting, and the Narnia set really does feel like a different world anyway, because you’ve got all these people with three hours of makeup, and dwarves, and giants, and you know, it just generally feels like a different planet anyway. So, to come out of that into this, which is a totally different world to me again, is very exciting. I mean, I haven’t even seen the film, so I’m just really looking forward to it like any sort of Narnia fan.

Did you watch the BBC show when you were growing up?

BB: Yeah, I did. I found my copy of the book again recently, and I have the book with that cover on it:”now a major BBC TV series.” I was eight when that came out, and I watched it with my dad, and loved every second of it, and thought it was magic. I watched a little bit of it again recently, and I had to switch it off because it was just ruining my memory of it. It’s just a puppet. There’s no cool CGI, it’s just a puppet.

And Warwick Davis, who plays Nikabrik in this film was Reepicheep in the TV show and he was just a dwarf in a mouse costume. Like, a little nose on the end, but no attempt to even vaguely make him mouse-like.

At the time, brilliant, amazing. It had that little Harry Pottery music, and it panned over the map at the beginning of it, and those loveable but irritating kids. I mean, Lucy, oh my god. I thought it was brilliant, I was a fan.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

So was that your first introduction to Narnia, or did you read the books?

BB: I read them when I was eight, and then I watched the TV series. This was all at the same time, I think. With these films they do a lot of book campaigning, to get people to read it before you see it, I think that kind of stuff doesn’t really change.

It’s always been like that though, if there’s a film coming out that’s some kind of adaptation, I’ll try and read that book quickly if I can, because I like to read it first if possible.

How did you first hear about the project?

BB: I didn’t know it was happening until I got called for an audition. I was doing The History Boys in the West End, and one of the casting directors saw me in that, and asked if I’d like to come in for an audition, which I duly did. Then I did a screen test, and a week later, I had the part. I mean, it was very quick from start to finish, because they were about to start making the film, and they didn’t have a Caspian, so it was great for me.

Slightly worrying to leave it that late, is it not?

BB: Well, they were looking for a year, they just hadn’t found the right person, so either I was the right person, or they were running so late, they were like “right, whoever walks in next, we’ll give them the part”. It was one of those two things.

So from the moment you first heard about the project, to the moment you were on the set, how long was that, roughly?

BB: About five weeks? Six weeks. Let’s say five or six weeks.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

They threw you in at the deep end, then?

BB: Well, once I got onto set, I had a week or two of horses and swords, whilst they were filming some of the Pevensie stuff that’s at the beginning.

Overwhelming is probably the right word. My very first shot, there’s an opening chase sequence where I get knocked off the horse and dragged along by the horse for a bit, and my opening shot was that drag. So I literally had to lie down on the floor, and some stuntmen attached a piece of rope to my leg and pulled me into frame. So I was literally dragged into the movie.

How well did you get on with Andrew?

BB: He’s fantastic. He has this extraordinary ability, because he comes from this sort of animation background, and he’s got this eye for pre-visualisation and detail and all that, but he’s also got the bigger picture in mind all the time. There’s a very useful talent; that he is able to focus on minute details, and also the vastness that is a Narnia story at the same time.

And so it’s amazing to have someone like that on the set, who just understands every single facet of what’s going on, because everyone else is pretty confused most of the time.

And they have a great AD team. That first day when I walked on set, the first AD went, “this is Ben Barnes, he’s playing Caspian, do not look him directly in the eye, do not come within five feet of him without permission, okay?” and literally for the next few days there were still a few people who were a bit wary, they thought he was serious.

Do you have the time you need to spend with your director when you’re making a film as complex as this?

BB: Less so on this one, because I come from a theatre background, I’m used to a month’s rehearsal, which obviously on a film you don’t get, at all. But they’re very good, it’s a very patient set, because you’ve got special effects, animals and children. So it’s a very patient family feel to the set. If you need the time, you can certainly have it.

But at the same time, there’s a lot of pressure on such a big budget movie, to get every shot on time. Often, you might have to sit on the horse, and look slightly up and to the left, as opposed to, “what’s my motivation for this bit.” Sometimes you just have to do that. And it’s frustrating as an aspiring, eager actor, wanting to do everything by the book, but then you watch a couple of tiny bits back and you realise that, “actually, I should have looked up and to the left, and just shut up.”

Sometimes I think there’s definitely a case for that, but at the same time when you come from theatre, from sort of through lines and motivations, there are moments when it’s frustrating, you know, when you feel you’ve done a great take, but you the horse was a little antsy during it so you have do redo it for the horse, so whatever.

When you first read the book, what did you think of Prince Caspian as a character?

BB: Well, obviously I had a slightly different image of him, because when you’re eight, you imagine him being around your own age. That’s how you read books like that, when you’re that age, and he also has curly blonde hair, and all this. So you imagine something slightly different, and obviously my image of it was tainted from the TV series.

But Caspian is also a character that things basically just happen to, C.S. Lewis doesn’t really spend time fleshing out character. He might describe it in an adjective, like Susan the gentle, or Peter the magnificent, but Caspian doesn’t get one, so you’re blind from that point of view. He’s more of an everyman, than a proactive hero or proactive anything, really.

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So we had to find our way with it and we made the decision to make the Telmarines… you know, in the book it says “descended from the Pacific islands, and women and pirates”, so they made a decision to make them that swarthy European bearded race. And I’m the only young one. So obviously when they decided to make them Spanish-esque, that gives you a different sort of view on what they’re trying to achieve. And so I could draw inspiration from the actors playing the rest of my family, and playing the generals, who presumably I’ve been trained by as a young man, and all this.

So I’m guessing you did get an opportunity to define who this guy was?

BB: Yeah, from my point of view, absolutely. It was a new take on it, and by necessity, because the kid actors have grown up now, because William is 21, and Caspian’s the same age as Peter. We had to make a decision to make them the same age and slightly more mature, slightly older, because otherwise you’ve got 20 year olds running around, pretending to be kids, which is insane.

And also because in the Dawn Treader, you’ve got more of an established man; because they were intending to shoot them back to back, it was more sensible to have a 26 year old playing younger, than a 15 year old trying to play a king. It would be farcical in this day and age, and I think with all these stories, you have to make them more accessible and more contemporary for the audience it’s aimed at, and also audiences who have enjoyed the first one have grown up slightly too, to I think it’s a valid change.

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But it was all those things I was telling you about earlier; his ambivalence about being a leader, his concern about whether vengeance is the best policy, his discovery that he has to turn in his own family because they’ve murdered his own father, those are the things that are really interesting about Caspian to me. And I’m sure those weren’t the things that were interesting to me about Caspian when I was a kid. I’m sure when I was eight, the thing that was cool was the fact that he was a kid who had a sword, and a horse.

Are you hoping to carry on and make the next film? Are you signed on for that?

BB: I am, I’m signed on for the Dawn Treader, we start at the end of the year, in November I think.

That’s quite a quick turnaround after the release.

BB: Well it was going to start straight away, but then we had problems with the strike, and exam schedules for children, and little things like that, so we’re taking our time with it, which I think is probably sensible. The first one was great, and this one’s going to be even better, no doubt. You have to take the time to make the next one better.

And presumably at least it’ll give you a chance to rest after what’ll be some incredibly intensive international press and PR.

BB: Well you know, I’m 26, who wants to rest? I want to make films, so we’ll have to see what’s on the horizon.

William Moseley What can we expect from Prince Caspian?

William Moseley: In very simple terms, the first film was a children’s Narnia. This film is going to be an adult Narnia, and I say that with every implication as in we’re fighting adults this time, we’re not fighting mythical creatures anymore. Even Tilda Swinton as an actress is definitely a mythical creature! We’ve got a whole army of humans to fight this time.

Narnia’s changed. It’s 1300 years later, it’s not pastoral anymore, or idyllic. It’s dark and nasty and all the creatures we once knew, who roamed the land freely, have been pushed into the forest and the woods and forced to live this closed lifestyle. It’s about Caspian calling the kids back to save everyone from that and to bring this light, almost, back into it.

Of course we couldn’t do it without Aslan and he helps out, so that’s good. But I think this film is going to be very different for audiences, I have to say.

You guys are charged to bring the magic back to Narnia, but you were the least magical people in the first film…

WM: Right! I suppose we were the least, least magical out of everybody and that was sort of because we were going through it with the audience and taking the audience into this world – as we were seeing it, they were seeing it. In some ways Susan was everyone’s cynical voice, you know, which was quite funny. But this time it’s like, “Well, you did it last time, do it this time for us.”

Everyone expects it of us. For Peter, especially, his journey has completely changed. He used to be a very nice, considerate, moral person. Very selfless. And this time he’s quite selfish, I have to say, and he’s quite angry and frustrated and thinks he deserves more. The film starts with this huge fight sequence where he’s just angry and he’s lashing out and nobody respects him as a High King in London, of course – they think he’s a bit of a dick to be honest with you – and so he ends up going to Narnia and nobody respects him there, either, which he finds out just as he’s thinking all his dreams have come true. He has to learn this very important lesson of humility and that shapes his judgements from then onwards.

It’s also sad for him and Susan because this is their last journey into Narnia.

WM: It’s really sad, actually. I remember doing the scene with Aslan at the end and I said to Andrew, “Should we be crying in this?” Anna and I both wanted to bawl out – it was pretty much the final scene we did of the whole film and he was like, “Um… No, just be very stoic and reserved.” He was definitely right, because it’s sad for the audience and sad to say goodbye to Narnia but it’s also very hopeful. To some degree we’re passing Narnia on to Caspian. It’s almost like we’re passing the torch and going on to something else. We’re going back to England and doing what we have to do. We’ve learnt our lessons from Narnia.

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Very nice of them to schedule it as one of the last scenes you shot.

WM: I know! It was one of the last scenes we did as the four of us and it was a really brilliant scene but it was a hard scene for me. I didn’t really know where I was going with it at the time. I didn’t know whether to play it sad or to play it hopeful or both, and for me at that point it was even like, Am I ever going to get another acting part again? [laughs] This is going to be it for me, forever! As an actor you’re always thinking that. I figured you get to Anthony Hopkins’ age and think, “Of course I’m going to get parts,” but I even read interviews with him where he says he feels he’ll never get another part again.

I guess that’s the challenge of the profession you’ve thus far been able to avoid having started in a big franchise.

WM: I know, it’s true. The only thing you can really hope for is just to keep going on the same line of quality. I really 100% believe, and I hope everyone else does too, that Narnia is a quality film and that it isn’t just there to make a bunch of money. I think that’s always been the drive of the director and the producer and all of the actors as well. So that’s really what I want to do next; something of quality and something I can be proud of.

But perhaps something on a slightly smaller scale?

WM: Yeah, I think so! [laughs] I can’t imagine myself doing something like Narnia again. I would love to do something with Ridley Scott, you know, some action/adventure or something like that. But I’d also love to do a dramatic piece. It’s really just whatever you read and take to.

I’d love to do a Michel Gondry film. That would ideal! I’d love to do an Almodovar film, you know, I think he’s very, very talented. I don’t care that people say he’s pretentious. So what? He’s a good director, he can be pretentious. Paul Thomas Anderson I really like – I loved There Will Be Blood. I’ve always loved the Coen brothers. There’s been a lot of depressing films out this year but they’re bloody brilliant films. Depressing as hell, but bloody brilliant.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Do you have an idea of what you’re going to be doing next?

WM: I’ve been reading loads of scripts but I really have no idea. For me, my taste isn’t limited to magical films, whatever I read and I like I go up for and a lot of the time it’s an American accent which can be quite trying, but I’m working on it as much as I can. Who knows what I’m going to do next, you know, there’s this Roman Legion project that I love that I might be too young for. There are so many things involved.

Do you enjoy auditioning?

WM: Yeah, I love taking meetings because I love hearing what other people have got to say. I used to not listen that much, but I’ve really learnt to listen to other people and to really listen to what they’re saying. I’ve found especially being on a film set, people have so many different stories, if you just listen you can pick up so much stuff. I try to listen as much as I can.

Peter and Susan pass the torch onto Prince Caspian at the end of the movie – has it felt like that in real life? Obviously, Ben Barnes will be continuing with Skandar and Georgie on Voyage of the Dawn Treader…

WM: I do, actually, it does feel like I’m passing it on to him. There was always this joke on set about how his sword was bigger than mine and all this kind of stuff, and finally I passed my sword onto him and I think he knows what the responsibility is.

It sounds weird and ridiculous, because I know we’re just actors in a film, but when you put so much of your heart into something and you spend so much time with someone – I even spent eighteen months auditioning for the part, let alone all the filming on top – you really do want to pass it over and to have them accept it with respect and I really think Ben Barnes will pull up trumps and if he doesn’t then I think Skandar will knock him into shape and get him there!

He’s yet to go through the whole world premiere experience, and I was there at the Royal Albert Hall for the premiere of the first and it was massive – there must be some knowledge you can impart to him there to prepare him!

WM: That premiere was mad, wasn’t it? But I don’t want to seem like I’m patronising him because he’s hugely experienced, you know, and he’s got loads to teach me. But to be honest, Narnia is huge. It’s colossal. And I think when Ben starts to see what it’s like in Japan, for instance, I think he’s just going to think how lucky he is. That’s all I thought. I’m so lucky to be here, so lucky I got the part and so lucky I had the chance to work so hard. I’m sure the same thing will strike him no doubt.

You’ve shot quite a bit of the film in Eastern Europe this time – how changed will Narnia be?

WM: Yeah, we had a different D.P. on this one – Karl Walter Lindenlaub – and he shot it really well. His shots are just beautiful – really, really stunning. Everything in every shot is absolutely beautiful. I think just because it was bigger this time and they had more to work with. People always ask if we shot it on green screen, which is a D.P.’s nightmare, but we really shot most of it on location. They literally just built everything. It was a battle scene, fine, we’ll built it. Aslan’s How, we’ll built it. Castle, we’ll build it. The D.P. has so much to work with, and so many angles to get and I think they’re struggling now to bring the film down because it’s so many minutes over because there’s so much good stuff in there!

Have you seen it yet?

WM: I haven’t, I’ve seen little bits here and there. I did ADR voiceover stuff, and I saw bits like the battle and the fights. It’s pretty epic, I’ve got to say. This one-on-one fight I do with Miraz – I know I’m completely biased and don’t take my judgements as sold, but I really think it’s going to be one of the best one-on-one fights anyone’s ever seen on screen. As a kid, that’s all I’d watch, action films. I watched this battle scene and I’ve never seen anything like it. We even had the camera on a 360 degree dolly and they had three cameras pitched in. I was with the head stunt guy because he wanted to do it with me. We’re spinning around fighting, and there are these three cameras filming at 90 frames a second so it’s in slow motion spinning all around and it looks so cool! This huge battlefield in the background. It’s pretty epic.

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In the first film when you think of that scene with Peter and the wolf on the ice, he’s very nervous – this is really his chance to go back and have fun with everything he learned in Narnia the first time around.

WM: Yeah. The producer would always joke to me, “You know, I think Peter likes killing a little too much!” [laughs] I was loving it, you know, I love all the physical stuff. I was getting in there and getting stuck in and learning all of these cool physical moves. You could fully see that I was really into it. They were like, “I think we should pull that back a bit!”

Is the stunt work your favourite part?

WM: Well, it’s very satisfying for me and it sounds weird but it’s very easy for me, I don’t find it that hard. But the acting is definitely my favourite bit, and the most rewarding. When I’ve worked on a scene like crazy and I’ve worked on these lines and I’ve given all I can to it and I come off and the director says it was really nice, that means so much to me. Acting isn’t easy – whoever tells you acting is easy is lying because it’s not easy at all and you have to work at it – when you get that sense of achievement at the end of the day where you know you’ve done a good job and you’ve done your scene well, it’s really uplifting and that’s pretty much why I’m in it.

How has your relationship with Andrew developed?

WM: Andrew’s a very visual director. He sees everything before he shoots it. I suppose he’s a bit like Alfred Hitchcock, who’d storyboard everything to the smallest detail. For Andrew, everything has to be perfect down to the last branch on a tree, you know, he even sees that. It’s so hard for him, I think, on a film as big as Prince Caspian, to give his time up for each of us, so it’s very much like we do our thing and then Andrew gives us the time and we have to respect that he has to go off and he can’t spend time having a cup of tea with us. I remember even at lunch they’d bring a laptop up to him to have him approve things at lunchtime. He worked his guts out and I take my hat off to him for doing that, you know.

Is it a career that’s ever appealed to you?

WM: Yeah, you know, I really would love to direct and but feel like everything’s a mountain. I feel I’m very-much still at the bottom of this acting mountain, you know, trying to work my way up that one. Hopefully, maybe half way up, we’ll see if I might be able to do some directing.

I’ve so many ideas for films but it’s so hard trying to script them in a concise way and in a way that people might like. You don’t know what people might like, you just try to do what you can, you know. It’s really hard. You’re trying to get this idea out that you think is great and you tell someone and they’re like, “That sounds crap.”

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

I’m sure it’s all to come – to have Disney put their faith in you for these two giant movies is a great achievement. Because, without wanting to be intimidating, these are massive movies…

WM: Well it’s definitely intimidating and I wouldn’t want to say it isn’t. You mess up a take on a small film, you can maybe go back and do it in a couple of minutes. You mess up on this kind of film and it can maybe take an hour to reset one shot. You fall over while you’re running and 2,000 people just collectively groan. There’s definitely a lot of pressure.

But I’ve always been a competitive person to some degree. When there’s a bit of pressure I can sometimes either do well under it or not do well, it depends. When it doesn’t go well you have to use music or something like that to help you into it. When it is going well you can embrace the pressure and use that energy in your scenes, your fight scenes especially because you can really give it some.

I was thinking today, I was playing a game of snooker with my friend and I’m really terrible at snooker – I’m not patient enough–

Hang on, you’re an actor and you’re not patient enough for snooker?

WM: [laughs] I know, I know! I get really emotional because I just want it to happen, you know, I want it to happen. So I was playing this game of snooker and it comes down to, I’ve got to pot the pink and black to win the game, and I can’t even miss it. I pot the pink and I’ve lined up the black and he’s looking down and you can feel the pressure. I just whacked it and luckily it went it, but sometimes I’ll whack it and it might just come out, you know… It’s the story of life, isn’t it?!

Skandar Keynes

You get to become an action hero in this film, that’s got to be pretty cool…

Skandar Keynes: It was really, really great doing that side of it. It was such a relief after the first film because I didn’t get to do that much after having done all the training. It was really great this time to actually put it on screen.

And for me, personally, it’s like a giant-sized home video that I can watch and have those memories. When the DVD comes out there’ll be even more.

It’s quite a long experience, shooting a film like this — something like a year or more?

SK: I think for them it takes a year, but for me it was only about seven months. I got off lightly!

You get to tour the world in those seven months, though.

SK: Yeah, we started off in New Zealand, spent two months there, and then we were based in Prague and we would go all around Europe. We went to Slovenia, Poland, all around the countryside of the Czech Republic — some really stunning places.

There were some places where we were staying in these strange industrial towns in the middle of Eastern Europe and you’d think it’d be the last place they’d shoot some of these beautiful locations, but it really was incredible and it really wasn’t that far away, in Eastern Europe.

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A great chance to see places that are off the beaten path…

SK: Yeah, it was a great chance to live there but it’s also a great chance for audiences to have a look around.

I imagine you learnt a lot on the first film — when you came back for Caspian was it easier to get going? Were there fewer nerves?

SK: Yes, there are less nerves and it’s also great because on the first day of the first one you have to start establishing bonds with people. You’re young, not really experienced in the industry and you’re suddenly thrown into this group. The first day is kind-of daunting.

In this film it was so much easier because we walked straight back in and re-established these bonds that we already had. It was a relief and it was so relaxing. It just felt like we didn’t have to waste time with those sorts of things; we could get straight to work and we could really go forward to create a better film.

Does it make it easier for you to have those relationships off-screen that you’re trying to show on-screen?

SK: The relationships you have on set really do help you overall, because if you hate everyone you’re going to go there and there’s not going to be anyone to cheer you up if you’re down. It’s going to be grim on screen and not energetic. But even if you’re tired after seven months, you’re such good friends with everyone there that you never feel like being grumpy — everyone cheers you up. It was a really good, supportive community that was built up between the first and the second film.

You mention you like the action; do you enjoy the risk of it?

SK: Yeah, and I just love doing the active stuff. I felt so cheated because one of my very first action scenes was the very beginning of the battle when I run and I jump off a block and get on a horse as it’s going by. On one take I missed the horse. I basically didn’t manage to land on it but I managed to hold on and I was flung around and almost smacked into one of those stone columns.

I slammed on the ground and bruised my heel so badly that I couldn’t walk on it and it was throbbing constantly. I had to do the rest of the battle with a bruised heel. Sometimes if you watch my running it looks a bit odd; I wonder if other people notice it or if it’s just me noticing! I had to do a lot of that sequence high on pain medication!

Other than that it was really great. For me, getting two swords and just getting into the thick of it and being around such a great stunt department was really fun.

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But there are plenty of more intimate moments with his family for Edmund too, there’s a nice balance between action and drama.

SK: There is a nice balance, and I think that’s something that Andrew Adamson has done so well throughout the entire film. He’s managed to really get the cohesion between all of the different departments and all the different aspects of the film and really get it to perfection.

People talk about it being darker and being more action-packed, but I feel that all of that is balanced out by the increased amount of light relief with characters like Reepicheep and Trumpkin. You do feel like they’ve upped the stakes significantly and gone much deeper into this world of Narnia.

Your journey gets to continue onto Dawn Treader; are you looking forward to that?

SK: Yeah, I think it’s going to be great. We’ll have a new director in and I think that’s going to be a really big change — probably the biggest change of all — because he’s going to employ pretty-much a different team. The set itself is going to change radically. I’m not saying I’m going to hate the new people who come in but there will be a process of establishing those bonds we were talking about earlier.

But it’ll be great, also, to have some different experiences and be able to explore different aspects of it by having new people come in with different takes on it and different attitudes.

The Narnia books themselves; every one of them is slightly different.

SK: Yeah, I think that’s what’s so great is that people coming back to see this film aren’t just seeing a repeat of the previous one like some franchises. This one, when you go back, the tagline they’ve put on the posters, “Everything you know is about to change forever,” is very relevant. They’re going into a world you think you know, but actually it’s been turned on its head and the whole thing of discovery and exploration and the magic of the first film is portrayed again in a way you wouldn’t think would be possible.

Our Narnia features continue with an interview with Anna Popplewell, right here. Join us on the site tomorrow when we’ll be talking to Ben Barnes and William Moseley.

Anna Popplewell

This is your second time in Narnia, are you more used to the scale of it all now?

Anna Popplewell: I suppose I should be used to it by now, but the scale has upped itself pretty-much proportionately. It’s still a huge deal. Filming it was kind-of a bigger deal as well because the story means that there are more cast and more main characters, which meant more of everything. Even the armies we had, having another fantasy race of people in the Telmarines, meant that we had hundreds and hundreds of extras playing soldiers on set. That meant bigger cameras and bigger departments and it just meant that everything was upped in terms of the scale. I was thinking, “Right, we’ve done a huge movie, and this’ll be huge again,” but it was actually humungous!

Do you feel the pressure of the success of the first?

AP: Well I’m not a producer, so I don’t have to worry about the box-office takings, but obviously we want people to like it and we want to make a good movie and we were all very happy and proud of the first film. There’s no point in making it unless you’re going to make it better and bigger and more. It does set a big challenge.

How does Susan develop into this film?

AP: In the first movie, Susan took on a very motherly role because the children had been evacuated – she feels very responsible for her siblings. In this film, as before, Peter takes charge quite a lot and I think although Susan, being quite a bossy person, would love to take charge if she had the opportunity, she has to put up with some of Peter’s not-so-wise decisions. That’s quite frustrating for her. In the first film, where it was more a journey into Narnia and accepting that it existed, this time she knows it exists but it’s more about the fact that she’s already been ripped out of it once and there’s an underlying fear of, “I’m back, but I’d better not be too happy because someone might take it away again.”

I think one of the major developments in this is the fact that Peter and Susan are told at the end of the movie that they’re not coming back to Narnia. That’s obviously a really big deal and is a mark of the fact that they’ve grown up and learnt a lot.

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Of course that also means it’s your last chance to enjoy the Narnia experience too…

AP: Yeah, it was a weird and bittersweet moment when we filmed that scene with Aslan because it was pretty-much at the end of filming. It really drove it home, you know, “OK guys, you’re not coming back.” [laughs]

At the same time I’ve had such a great time making these movies but I don’t think I need to spend another six months making another. I think two is probably enough for me; I’d like to play different characters and do things that aren’t so technical and with real characters rather than imaginary ones! It has been brilliant, and it was obviously sad leaving lots of friends, but I keep in touch with people, so it’s great.

Is it a different take on Narnia in this film?

AP: Narnia has changed massively. The Telmarines have taken over and Caspian’s father was king but was killed by his horrible brother, Caspian’s uncle, Miraz. King Miraz has been in a lord protector role over Caspian, but at the start of the film Miraz has a son and he obviously wants his new son to be heir to the throne so it stands to reason that he’s going to want to kill Caspian off. Caspian has to fly the castle and he’s been told by his tutor Cornelius about the Narnia of old – the talking creatures, the kings and queens – and he gets hold of Susan’s horn and blows it and calls back the four Pevensies. They team up along with Trumpkin and Nikabrik, the dwarves, and a couple of badgers and they raise an army. It’s the story of trying to save Narnia so that a new king will be able to rule it. Susan and Peter know they’re going to be handing over their thrones once they save the country.

Narnia has become less magical, hasn’t it?

AP: I don’t think it’s become less magical I think it’s more that the magic is hidden. The talking animals are all in hiding and the negative influence of the Telmarines who aren’t magical at all – they’re brutes – has taken over. I guess in that sense it’s less magical, but part of trying to save it is in trying to uncover the hidden magic and bring it all to the forefront again.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

You shot much of the last movie in New Zealand but you moved around for this one…

AP: We did two months in New Zealand – a month in a studio in Auckland and then a month traveling around all over the place – and then we did four months in Eastern Europe – mostly Prague but bits in the Czech Republic, bits in Slovenia, bits in Poland…

A good opportunity to see the world, then, through these films.

AP: It was great. I wish I’d had more time to travel on the weekends actually. I thought, with New Zealand, that I’d seen a lot of it, but we discovered so many new places and I still don’t feel as though I’ve seen it all. It’s a wonderful country.

Is Narnia going to look different this time?

AP: Yeah, and I think that’s really going to show up in the cinematography, just in terms of the colours. The big buzz word for sequels is always, ‘darker,’ which is such a cliche, but actually in terms of the colours we’re using this is going to be darker in the literal sense. The first film was very green and blue and yellow and red – it was very primary – whereas this is going to be darker in pictorial tone. The Telmarines are wearing a very dark armour, the landscape isn’t so lush to begin with, everything’s in the shadows. It’s going to look darker and like a slightly different Narnia.

Are you more used to dealing with the technical aspects of the film?

AP: My experience with the first one – talking to beavers that weren’t there and that sort of thing – did set me up for this one and the fact that actually you’re not going to have a talking mouse. So that wasn’t quite so strange for me, but there were plenty of new things to deal with.

Probably the most difficult technical thing this time was stunts, because Susan gets to fight a lot in this movie, and I think stunt work was a surprise to me because it wasn’t how I thought it’d be. You rehearse routines and you choreograph stuff and you think you’ve got it all down and then actually it’s, “Wait, we can only shoot from this angle so we need to change that, and we need to move this and you’ve put a costume on now and a leather bodice isn’t going to allow you to swing your arm that way!” So that’s quite technical and that was something that came as a surprise because I hadn’t done that before.

Surely it’s quite exciting, though…

AP: It’s really exciting! It was great actually. I loved the horse riding; I’ve ridden a horse once or twice when I was younger…

And never in time of war!

AP: [laughs] Exactly! I was quite worried, actually, because the boys had both done quite a bit of stunt work before and Georgie Henley doesn’t really do any fighting so I’m kind-of the only girl in the battle – apart from some female centaurs – and I was quite worried that I was going to pass out in the heat or not be fit enough and not be up to it. I made sure, before I went out there, that I had about three times as many riding lessons as anyone else so that when I turned up and was able to do it they’d be wowed! I don’t know if they know that, actually, that I had more lessons. They do now!

But it was fine in the end, and I really enjoyed it, actually, it was a great thing to be a part of. Although fighting in a long skirt is a bit difficult! It’s prettier, but it’s a bit more challenging!

Do they throw you completely to the lions though (no pun intended) or did you at least have a stunt double for the more difficult bits?

AP: Well the first stunt I did was in New Zealand, maybe a month into filming, and it was before we’d really got into any of the battle stuff, it was just a stunt scene. It involved me fending off five Telmarines who are charging towards me, solo. I sent Lucy off on my horse and jump off and stand my ground and start firing arrows. The idea is that I can’t quite draw quick enough and so a horse knocks me over after I’ve shot the Telmarine off it. I’m on the ground and all these horses are charging over me.

I turned up, quite worried, and they had a stunt double there who was going to do it all, and they said, “Well, you try Anna and we’ll see happens. If it’s too difficult, we’ll get the stunt double to help you out…” And I did it and they were all completely shocked and they said, “OK, you do it then!” So I did do it and I just have this memory of lying on the floor with these horses without riders charging over my head while I’m thinking, “Yeah, I think we’re going to get this one in only a couple of takes!” [laughs]

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

They couldn’t have used CG!?

AP: Ooh, I don’t know. You start wondering if they could have used CG and you have to wonder whether they’ll need actors anymore! Dangerous ground!

Is it good to have that sort of stuff to do this time?

AP: It’s really good, and I learnt a lot from the others as well. Will’s really hot on his stunts I’m sure if you ever meet him he’ll tell you about it because… he would! He did this one incredible stunt where this horse is galloping and he runs up beside it and jumps on to it while it’s galloping, which sounds dramatic but it’s really dramatic to try and do on a concrete floor, and he was incredible. He was always full of tips about how to cheat stuff and make stuff look good. He was always cheering people on.

You’re siblings in the film, but as you go into Prince Caspian is your relationship with Will, Skandar Keynes and Georgie strengthening?

AP: Of course; when you spend six months working on a movie with someone you get to know them very well whether you like it or not. And luckily we all get on really well. Of course you get even closer if you make another movie with them.

I think the nice thing about our relationship is that we all know and understand each other’s good bits and bad bits and we’re all able to tolerate the bad bits. When I’m grumpy they just get it – they’re like, “OK, fine, Anna’s having a grumpy day, everyone tread carefully,” – and we know how we tick. I don’t see Georgie so much in between filming, because she lives a bit further out of London so it’s harder to get to them, but Skandar actually lives around the corner from me and Will’s always in and out of London so he calls me up. We keep in touch, which is really nice.

Are you at all involved in Dawn Treader?

AP: I don’t think so. I think there’s a scene in Dawn Treader in which Lucy talks about Susan and they could do a flashback, but I’ve not been talking to them about it at all and I’m not attached to it yet.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Georgie and Skandar are going to be without you then…

AP: Yeah… I think Will and I are going to do a planned visit and storm in and hijack the whole thing! Rewrite it! No, It’s sad that we’re not going to be shooting the next one but at the same time I felt at the end of the last one that I was ready to move on and do other things. I’m at university at the moment which I’m really enjoying and I think Will would like to play different parts as well. It felt right, actually. Andrew isn’t directing the next one either and it really felt like he was an integral part of the team and it would be a big change anyway.

When we met Ben, who’s playing Caspian, we knew that he was going to be doing the next one with Georgie and Skandar so we felt kind of responsible to ensure he was a nice guy who would look after them and everything! But he’s really great and I think those three will have a good time together.

I like the fact that the Narnia books aren’t the same characters in every story. I think it’s a really clever structure that they dot around and if we were in every film it wouldn’t have that.

Ben’s yet to experience the scale of the Narnia press experience and the premiere and all of that stuff, have you been teaching him the ropes?

AP: I don’t think I have anything to teach Ben! I guess in terms of the publicity, we certainly would have told him about it, but to be honest, I never really know what’s going to happen. The Disney machine that produces this is constantly throwing up new tricks and you always find yourself in completely surreal situations. I’m not sure I’m really one to give advice about it… I think we were really lucky with Ben. Well, it’s not luck, it’s skill in casting, but I feel so lucky because the four of us got on so well and then to have someone new come in to that and really fit in well is a big ask, so that’s great.

How has your relationship with Andrew Adamson evolved into Prince Caspian?

AP: Obviously we’ve all grown up a bit. On the first one Andrew felt very protective of us because while I’d done stuff before, for the others it was their first film. He felt like he was really bringing a new group of young actors into something. He’s always treated us with maturity, but this time I was 18 and Will was 20, you know, everyone’s grown up a bit and he treated us all accordingly. He’s such a nice man and I really have such a lot of respect for Andrew. He’s a good-tempered, funny guy and he always says thank you at the end of the day even though you feel like you should be thanking him. He really does make for a fun and happy set.

What’s the next step for you as an actor?

AP: I’m not sure, really. I’m reading a lot of stuff and I’m trying to find things that fit into my summer holidays and work around university, but I’d love to do some stage. I’m really enjoying doing student drama in Oxford. But I’d like to do something small and character-based and maybe work up from that. Perhaps something period but I’m not sure.

Our Narnia features continue with an interview with Skandar Keynes, right here. Join us on the site tomorrow when we’ll be talking to Ben Barnes and William Moseley.

Two big doses of comedy from a pair of Hollywood’s funniest men will hit the multiplexes across North America on Friday in a fierce battle for the number one spot. For family audiences there is the animated extravaganza Kung Fu Panda starring Jack Black while Adam Sandler counters with his latest laughfest aimed at young men, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. The new choices will offer some variety to a marketplace dominated by the female-skewing event pic Sex and the City and the old-school adventure tale Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. With so many worthy choices, and four movies likely to top $20M, it looks to be a sizzling session at the box office as the top five films alone have the strength to beat the entire Top 20 from a year ago.

Jack Black leaps into theaters anchoring Kung Fu Panda playing a Chinese panda bear who trains to become a martial arts expert in order to save his village. The PG-rated toon features voices from a wide array of actors including Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Ian McShane, and Jackie Chan. The marketplace is certainly ready for a major family film right now. Since March’s Horton Hears a Who, there really hasn’t been anything major to excite this lucrative audience segment. Last month saw two high profile PG-rated pics, but the dark and violent The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has attracted half of the crowd of its predecessor while Speed Racer was an all-out disaster. With summer vacations getting closer and closer, children of all ages are pumped for something fun and exciting to go and see.

In the DreamWorks stable, Kung Fu Panda should post one of the largest openings for a non-sequel animated entry. It even has the potential to set a new high. Currently, 2004’s Shark Tale and 2005’s Madagascar are tops with $47.6M and $47.2M, respectively. At today’s ticket prices those would be in the low $50M range. Panda has similar features like having a popular comedian in the lead. Dramatic actors add little to the box office strength of an animated film with their voices, even big A listers. But when comedians are at the center and are allowed to improvise and add their own sense of humor, moviegoers cheer. Panda also has the type of comedy that will be loved by adults as well as by kids. Good marks from critics won’t hurt either.

The marketing has been solid. The concept is familiar with a young talking animal going after his dreams while the Asian setting adds something new. Big business should be had with kids of single-digit age since recent family offerings have been too risqué for parents to buy tickets for. Plus direct competition is close to zero making for a perfect time to strike. Attacking over 3,600 theaters, Kung Fu Panda may eat up around $52M this weekend.

Jack Black as the voice of Po in Kung Fu Panda

For zany humor from characters that are more human ticket buyers have another choice this weekend as Adam Sandler returns with his latest escapade in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. The PG-13 film reunites the comedy superstar for the fourth time with director Dennis Dugan after Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, and last summer’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Zohan finds the former SNL star playing the title character, a first-rate commando in Israel’s armed forces who escapes to New York to pursue his true passion of hairstyling. Sandler hopes this will do for him what Coming to America did for Eddie Murphy two decades ago this very month.

No comedian has been more consistent at the box office this decade than Sandler who has scored $100M+ grossers over the last six consecutive years. Aside from Will Smith, no other Hollywood star can claim such a streak. Plus not since the Harold and Kumar sequel has there been a comedy aimed at young males. And after all the media attention that Carrie Bradshaw and pals have gotten in the past week, guys may be ready for some testosterone-fueled fun.

However, Sandler fans are not known to be all that into Israeli soldiers or hairdressers so subject matter could be a problem. Last July’s Chuck and Larry bowed at number one with $34.2M, but it was also the funnyman’s lowest opener for a broad comedy since 2000’s Little Nicky. Maybe the combination of a ridiculously long title and a not-so-macho storyline could prevent Sandler from reaching his usual $40M debut mark again this weekend. In addition, the comedian is straying from his natural voice for the first time since Nicky which doesn’t bode well either. Fans like it best when Adam plays Adam, just a regular American dude getting himself into comical situations. Infiltrating over 3,300 theaters, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan could debut with around $35M.

Sandler is The Zohan

Panda and Zohan kick off an unusually light June release schedule which will see fewer wide releases than normal. In fact across all four of the month’s weekends only two competitors enter wide release each session for a total of eight major players. Looking at the last several years there have always been 10 to 12 wide releases over the same time period. Studios are hoping that each film this June will have some extra breathing room to find its audience and not get stomped on a week later by a barrage of four pictures cramming into multiplexes at the same time.

In limited release, Picturehouse will platform its Oscar-nominated historical epic Mongol in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The subtitled story of the rise of Genghis Khan features a cast assembled from across Asia and is directed by the acclaimed Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov. Though it lost out to The Counterfeiters in the foreign language race this year, it still is being aggressively marketed to arthouse moviegoers and fans of world cinema. Mongol expands to major markets on June 20.

Sergei Bodrov’s Mongol

Last weekend, the 179 years of life experience of ParkerCattrallDavisNixon pulled an upset victory over the 190 years of FordSpielbergLucas as it was truly no country for old men. But the boys will try to beat out the girls this time around for the title of top holdover in what will certainly be a much closer race.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will face some competition for young men from Zohan while families will be tempted away by Paramount’s own Panda. But adult men will still be focused on the Communist-fighting whip man so a 45% drop could result leaving a $24M frame. That would propel the cume to a stunning $254M after 18 days.

Sex and the City shocked the industry with its stellar $56.8M bow last weekend. Also impressive were the sturdy grosses of $5.5M a piece on Monday and Tuesday this week. But the sizable 34% Friday-to-Saturday tumble showed how much demand was absorbed on that first day which was essentially an after-work girls-night-out for fans. Word-of-mouth has been good, but so much of the target audience has already been reached so a big drop is likely even though the new releases are not direct competitors. Panda however will take many thirtysomething and fortysomething mothers out of the picture. A 60% fall could occur giving the New Line-Warner Bros. flick roughly $23M – still a full-figured number. That would give Sex a fabulous $100M in just ten days.

Universal’s The Strangers was a surprise hit last weekend posting the best horror movie opening of 2008. But a fast fade is likely so sales could slump by 55% to about $9.5M. That would give the Rogue production a solid $37M in ten days. Iron Man is steadily closing in on that triple-century mark. The super hero smash should dip by 35% to around $9M boosting the cume to $290M.

LAST YEAR: The summer of threequels moved forward with Ocean’s Thirteen which bowed at number one with $36.1M for Warner Bros. on its way to $117.2M domestically and $311M worldwide. That put the bad boys behind the $363M of Twelve and the $444M of Eleven. Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End dropped to second after two weeks on top with $21.1M breaking the quarter-billion mark in just over 17 days. Universal’s Knocked Up, the first of two pregnancy comedy hits in 2007 to sail past $140M, followed with $19.6M in its sophomore frame. Sony’s animated penguin film Surf’s Up debuted in fourth with a respectable $17.6M leading to a $58.9M final. Rival toon Shrek the Third sat in fifth with $15.3M. The horror sequel Hostel Part II struggled in its opening weekend taking in $8.2M or less than half the bow of its predecessor a year earlier. Lionsgate reached $17.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This weekend a quartet of New York City gals will try to boot Indiana Jones out of the number one spot at the North American box office as the much-hyped comedy Sex and the City makes its way into multiplexes on Friday backed by an army of fans. Lovers of horror will have the chance to see the Liv Tyler thriller The Strangers which will try to scare up some business of its own. The new releases kick off what could be a banner summer for R-rated fare. Overall, the marketplace stands a realistic chance of beating last year’s performance.

Leaping from HBO to DVD to basic cable to syndication to the big screen is the heavily-promoted entry Sex and the City which stands as a major event film for female moviegoers. The New Line pic reunites Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis as four white women in New York looking for love in their busy lives. The cable series built up millions of fans over the years which has only increased in numbers in the four years since the series finale thanks to the various platforms where it still lives on. Women over 30 will make up the bulk of the audience but the film’s must-see status will help bring in older teens and twentysomethings too. Jennifer Hudson was added to the cast to help boost appeal with African Americans and the under-30 set, but her limited role and weak acting will probably only go so far commercially.

There are a small handful of female-skewing comedies that Sex can be compared to. Last summer’s R-rated hit Knocked Up bowed to $30.7M while the previous year’s Jennifer AnistonVince Vaughn vehicle The Break-Up with its PG-13 debuted to $39.2M. Opening weekend averages were $10,690 and $12,772 respectively and both Universal releases used the weekend after Memorial Day as its launching pad. Women on opening weekend made up 57% of the Knocked Up crowd and 67% of the Break-Up audience. City could up the share to 80%. The timing helped those pics as the first wave of summer testosterone films had passed and underserved female audiences were eager to see a movie that spoke to them. Also a summer hit was New Line’s R-rated Wedding Crashers in 2005 with a $33.9M launch. Though it was not met with as much pre-release anticipation as Sex, it did have significant male appeal.

It would be an understatement to say that Sex and the City lacks male appeal, but the format of the story will not lead to too many straight men being dragged in to buy extra tickets. This is a leave-your-husbands-behind type of picture. The marketing has been superb and the secrecy around the story has only fueled excitement with the target audience. Grosses this weekend will show the film industry how powerful chick flicks can be and international prospects are bright too given the widespread popularity of the brand. Wednesday’s opening in the U.K. brought in a stellar $4M on a weekday. Reviews have been pretty good, but even negative notices from critics won’t stop the flow of traffic.

Advance ticket sales have been brisk, especially in Manhattan. As of Thursday morning, 21 of Friday’s 26 showtimes at the centrally-located Regal E-Walk were sold out. The multiple screens show how much demand is anticipated.

Males dominate the world of box office forecasting so don’t be surprised if most underestimate the power of this film. And it’s only appropriate for a movie about fortysomethings to reach the forties on opening weekend. If it really explodes, it may even reach Kim Cattrall’s age. Debuting in 3,285 theaters, Sex and the City could premiere to around $43M this weekend.

They’re back.
Horror films usually flop in May but Universal doesn’t care. It’s releasing The Strangers starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman anyway as a counterprogramming choice for those not interested in action or comedy. The R-rated film about masked intruders that terrorize a couple in their vacation home will face a tough time at the box office. The marketing push has not been too strong, starpower is lacking, and the concept isn’t very compelling. And between Carrie Bradshaw and Indy, adults of both genders have much more interesting characters to spend their money on. A small portion of true horror fans may be the only takers. Invading 2,469 playdates, The Strangers could bow to about $8M.

See Liv Tyler get scared in The Strangers

Films usually fall pretty hard when coming off of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Chart-topper Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should be no exception despite its older skew. Last year, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End tumbled by 62% on the same frame while the previous year’s X-Men: The Last Stand crumbled by 67%. Both of those sequels launched over the Memorial Day session. Even 2004’s non-sequel The Day After Tomorrow fell by 60%. The new Spielberg adventure seems to be liked by audiences a tad bit more so a 55% drop could result. Plus competition from the newcomers is not really direct so there will be no distractions for adult men. Look for Indiana Jones to take in about $45M boosting the cume to $216M after 11 days.

Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has not been a winner with audiences as witnessed by its huge second weekend tumble. A 50% fall in the third frame would yield a $12M weekend raising the total to $114M. Iron Man will see a smaller decline thanks to its durability. The super hero flick could dip by 35% to about $13M for an impressive cume to date of $275M.

LAST YEAR: Johnny Depp and friends held the number one spot captive for a second straight weekend with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End which grossed $44.2M on its way past the $200M mark. Bowing in the runnerup spot with strength was the pre-Juno pregnancy comedy Knocked Up with $30.7M for Universal on its way to $148.8M. It became the second biggest R-rated film of 2007 after 300. Shrek the Third dropped down to third with $28M in its third round. Kevin Costner opened his new film Mr. Brooks in fourth with $10M leading to a $28.5M final for MGM. Rounding out the top five was the third threequel of the list Spider-Man 3 with $7.6M in its fifth session.

Author: Gitesh Pandya www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

The summer movie season gets a big shot in the arm as the highly anticipated launch of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull kicks off the extended Memorial Day holiday weekend a day early with its Thursday bow. The rest of Hollywood steered clear of opening anything against the SpielbergLucasFord reunion so a towering total is expected over its five-day debut period. Paramount unleashed the PG-13 adventure sequel in a mammoth 4,260 theaters making it the third widest opening in history after only Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which bowed in 4,362 and 4,285 locations last summer, respectively.

The new tale arrives 19 years after the previous installment Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That film debuted to a then-stunning $37M from 2,327 theaters over the same four-day holiday on its way to a powerful $197.2M making it the second biggest grosser of 1989 trailing the $251.2M of Batman. The Caped Crusader and the Joker will give Indy a run for his money during this summer’s box office race as well. At today’s ticket prices, Crusade‘s tally would stand at roughly $330M.

Crystal Skull puts Steven Spielberg back in the director’s chair, George Lucas back to his writing and executive producing chores, and Harrison Ford back into the starring role. Shia Labeouf and Cate Blanchett join the cast to help diversify the film’s appeal and help it stay relevant to younger folks who have never seen an Indiana Jones flick on the big screen before. In fact Shia was in diapers when Dr. Jones went on his last adventure. The story fast forwards from the past films by two decades to 1957 and finds the whip-cracking adventurer trying to solve the mystery behind ancient skulls that wield a mysterious power and must be returned to their rightful place in South America.

Dr. Jones and the crew are back.

There are numerous box office records that Crystal Skull will try to break in the coming days. The largest Memorial Day holiday opening was generated a year ago by At World’s End with $139.8M over the Friday-to-Monday span. That sequel also enjoyed the biggest worldwide launch with a gargantuan $404M in six days globally. The best five-day start for any film was the $172.8M hauled in by Star Wars Episode III in May 2005. That would amount to roughly $190M at today’s prices.

Reviews for Crystal Skull have generally been positive. For a much-awaited sequel with tons of hype, they are more than good enough to drive in foot traffic. And if all the publicity wasn’t enough, the extra jolt of buzz from its star-studded world premiere at Cannes only made the spotlight brighter.

Competition that Spielberg and gang will face this weekend will be weaker than anyone would have guessed just a couple of weeks ago. With both Speed Racer and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian performing below expectations, the field is basically clear for Skull to not just rule, but to dominate with an iron fist. Plus no other film opens in wide release this weekend. The rest of the top five combined looks to gross roughly $80M over four days which would be the worst showing for this holiday weekend since 1999. Normally there is much more depth in the marketplace at this time.

With the Thursday opening, Paramount is letting hardcore fans see the film a bit early allowing for more seats over the weekend to open up for the rest of the public. Sure it dilutes down the weekend figure, but the strategy is more about making as much money as possible and not about setting records. Lucas launched his Star Wars prequels with mid-week May bows as well and is too old to care about commercial milestones anymore. Skull‘s Thursday may not break the opening day record currently held by Spider-Man 3‘s $59.8M. Since Indy skews older more of the audience will wait for the weekend to see it. Typically films heavy on digital effects draw the biggest crowds on opening day like Spider-Man, Pirates, Star Wars, and Harry Potter films. Indiana Jones is old-school Hollywood that is more driven by stunts like the James Bond and Jason Bourne pictures. A Thursday debut in the neighborhood of $40M could result. The official four-day weekend might reach the vicinity of $125M giving Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull around $165M across the five-day opening weekend span.

Indiana Jones finds himself in familiar territory.

For the last five consecutive years, the number two film over the Memorial Day holiday frame managed to gross over $40M over four days. That streak might come to an end if Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian doesn’t post a strong hold this weekend. PG-rated family films typically witness small declines on this session, however Caspian may play more like a sequel and nostalgic parents could be more in the mood to take the gang to see Dr. Jones despite the PG-13 rating. The first Narnia, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, fell by 51% when it faced the launch of King Kong in December 2005. For Prince Caspian, its four-day holiday tally this weekend could fall by 30% from its three-day debut and hit about $38M. That would boost the 11-day total for the fantasy flick to $107M.

Iron Man has been nothing short of an overachiever for Paramount this month. A third-place finish is guaranteed and even though the studio is launching a new Indy saga, its effects-driven super hero film will remain a popular entry with those who have heard great buzz plus with others who will line up for repeat viewing. The Robert Downey Jr. vehicle might drop by 25% to roughly $24M and lift its domestic haul to $256M as it becomes the 45th film to join the quarter-billion club.

Fox has had great legs for its star-driven comedy What Happens in Vegas which will be a formidable choice for young women not interested in a geezer archaeologist, kids in fantasyland, or a metallic comic book dude. As the Sex and the City crowd waits a week for SJP and her gal pals to hit the multiplexes, a date with Cameron and Ashton could be in order over the holiday weekend. Look for the Friday-to-Monday take dip 15% from last weekend’s three-day figure to about $12M. That would put boost the winnings to $57M.

Poor Speed Racer has been neglected by moviegoers in every country. Nobody has interest in paying top dollar for this colorful concoction. A 35% fall to around $5M could result giving Warner Bros. a dull $38M to date.

LAST YEAR: Johnny Depp and mates conquered the Memorial Day holiday box office with a record haul of $139.8M over four days for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and $153M including Thursday grosses from showtimes that began at 8pm. Worldwide the adventure sequel shattered another record with a stunning $404M in global sales in the first six days accounting for 42% of its eventual $961M tally. In North America, the Disney smash sailed to $309.4M which narrowly edged out the first Pirates and fell $114M below the total of the middle installment. Dropping to second was Paramount’s Shrek the Third with a massive $67M sophomore take, however sales tumbled by 56% thanks to bad word-of-mouth. The month’s other mega threequel Spider-Man 3 ranked third with $18.1M and vaulted past the triple-century mark. Moviegoers spent a jaw-dropping $225M on seeing the trio of threequels over the holiday frame. Rounding out the top five with $4M each were the horror flick Bug and the indie comedy Waitress with the latter posting a much stronger average.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

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