(Photo by Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures)
From his teen idol days in the early ’80s to his status as a marquee-lighting leading man today, Tom Cruise has consistently done it all for decades — he’s completed impossible missions, learned about Wapner time in Rain Man, driven the highway to the danger zone in Top Gun, and done wonders for Bob Seger’s royalty statements in Risky Business, to offer just a few examples. Mr. Cruise is one of the few honest-to-goodness film stars left in the Hollywood firmament, so whether you’re a hardcore fan or just interested in a refresher course on his filmography, we’re here to take a fond look back at a truly impressive career and rank all Tom Cruise movies by Tomatometer.
(Photo by Brigitte Lacombe / TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection.)
Meryl Streep landed her first Oscar nomination for just her second on-screen role: 1978’s The Deer Hunter, opposite John Cazale. A few more performances after that and she’d find herself standing before Hollywood’s elite, accepting the gold trophy for her complex “villain” role in 1980’s Kramer vs. Kramer. Stardom came within that decade, as she made her mark across disparate films and genres, becoming versatility personified in the acting game, as featured in a Best Picture winner (Out of Africa), rom-coms (Heartburn), political social thrillers (Silkwood), dramas (Sophie’s Choice), and period pieces (Ironweed).
This canny ability to wedge and dissolve into roles that sparked her attention has been rewarded with a record 21 Oscar nominations over decades, winning three for Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, and The Iron Lady. Yes, there were noms for so-called Oscar bait like Doubt, The Post, and the actually-Rotten Iron Lady, but Streep pulled nominations out of more unique genres, like musicals (Into the Woods), broad comedies (The Devil Wears Prada, Florence Foster Jenkins), and wherever you want to categorize Adaptation.
Streep’s most recent films have been Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation, and the mostly-ignored The Laundromat. She must’ve enjoyed the Steven Soderbergh experience on Laundromat, because she’s teaming up with him again for comedy Let Them All Talk next. Additionally, she’s got another musical (along with the Mamma Mia! movies, they’ve been a late-career boon) in the works in The Prom, from Ryan Murphy. And now, we’re celebrating with all Meryl Streep movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
P. T. Anderson’s Oscar-winning oil opus There Will Be Blood hits shelves this week, so if you missed Daniel Day-Lewis’ astounding turn as the prospector with a heart as black as crude in theaters, now’s the time to play catch up. Also new to DVD are the musical spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Leonardo di Caprio’s environmental doc The 11th Hour, the parking lot thriller P2, and more.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most consistent young auteurs around (his films in order: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love) so it was no surprise when his latest, There Will Be Blood, proved predictably exceptional. The epic character study of oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning role) striking it rich in turn-of-the-century California captivated the hearts of critics with Robert Elswit’s handsome Oscar-winning photography; Plainview’s greed-fueled descent into bitter loneliness — and his rivalry with evangelist Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) — mesmerized their minds. All of which makes There Will Be Blood, released this week in both single- and double-disc versions, a must-own for any true cinephile. We recommend the 2-disc release, of course, which includes deleted scenes and a government-produced vintage silent film about the oil industry scored anew by Radiohead guitarist (and TWBB composer) Jonny Greenwood.
While Walk Hard suffered the ignominious label of “box office bomb” following a dismal and surprising theatrical run last December, the Judd Apatow-produced musical comedy deserved a better fate, according to critics. Perhaps the time for glory is now. Co-writer and director Jake Kasdan, whose sharp industry satire The TV Set also opened quietly earlier in 2007, skewers the musical biopic genre (Walk the Line, Ray) with the rollercoaster rock ‘n roll life of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, who does his own rocking and rolling), a doughy musical prodigy with a tragic past who goes from rockabilly to psychedelia to Dylanism and everything in between as fame, fortune, groupies, and drugs facilitate his rise and fall. The best part of this DVD release — besides the inclusion of American Cox: The Unbearably Long, Self-Indulgent Director’s Cut — is the better-than-average bonus menu stuffed full of backstage and specially-produced extras.
Hollywood’s attempts to address the Iraq war have thus far fallen flat with ticket buyers, a trend that Lions for Lambs didn’t help reverse. Robert Redford directs and co-stars in this talky anti-war drama, penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother to Joe and writer of The Kingdom) and also starring Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. In three intertwined stories, a professor, his student, two soldiers, a journalist, and a politician hash out ideas about war, democracy, the media, and terrorism; the question is, do you care? While it’s a noble attempt at provoking discourse, critics say Lambs is not the stuff of great cinema. A director commentary on the DVD might be the film’s most useful feature.
Unless cleavage and gore rank higher than plot and realism on your movie checklist, P2 is likely to disappoint. In any case, it can’t be a good thing to be unfavorably compared to Saw and Hostel (“[P2] at least does its predecessors the service of making them look masterful by comparison,” wrote the Toronto Star‘s Geoff Pevere). The yuletide tale of a career woman (Alias‘ Rachel Nichols, whose eleventh hour addition to that cast couldn’t save the series) trapped by an obsessive parking garage attendant (Wes Bentley, who really deserves better roles than this) on Christmas Eve garnered the scorn of most critics, though powerhouses like Roger Ebert gave it their thumbs up. Watch P2 to scope out first time director Franck Khalfoun, who appeared in producers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur’s High Tension, and will next co-script a remake of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Two families are ripped asunder when one fatal hit-and-run drives two fathers toward a final conflict in Terry George’s adaptation of the novel of the same name. George (In the Name of the Father) previously directed the South African drama Hotel Rwanda to multiple Academy Awards nominations; his follow-up here, starring Rwanda actor Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo (and Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino as their respective wives) might have been going for awards season gold but fell far short of the mark. Critics called this dramatic thriller insufferably dark and dull, and worse — predictable.
Leonardo di Caprio hosts a gaggle of experts in this alarming documentary about the Earth’s depleting resources. Unfortunately for producer di Caprio, who doubtless took on the project to lend his celebrity power to the cause, the film is a bit of a bore. That said, wearied scribes appreciated the thought behind the effort, if not so much the final product; for actionable reasons to go green, you might be better off watching a PowerPoint presentation by Al Gore. Over an hour of additional featurettes on how to do your part to help Mother Earth accompany the disc.
New York filmmaker Jason Kohn crafts a lurid, sobering peek into wealth and corruption in Brazil in this festival favorite, which nabbed the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year. Stylized camera work exposes the country’s surreal reality by focusing on, among other subjects, a politician-owned frog farm that serves as a money-laundering front; a plastic surgeon who specializes in reconstructing the cut-off ears of kidnap victims; and a businessman who opts to bullet-proof his car. A filmmaker commentary accompanies the release; find out why Kohn calls Brazil’s cycle of street violence and political corruption akin to “a non-fiction RoboCop.”
‘Til next week, Qvod cibvs est aliis, aliis est wenenum.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Redford’s on-again, off-again adaptation of the 1998 Bill Bryson travelogue is on again, this time with Barry Levinson attached to direct. Redford will produce and star as Bryson. At one point, it seemed as though Paul Newman was likely to co-star, but this is apparently no longer the case.
The bestselling book chronicles — in typically droll fashion — Bryson’s attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail with a friend. (We don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but the trail is 2,100 miles long, and neither Bryson nor his hiking companion were young men at the time of their trip.)
Settling on a script now becomes the issue for Redford, who is no stranger to the pitfalls of literary adaptations; he spent years in an ultimately ill-fated attempt to bring Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to the screen. The writers’ strike is slowing things down, of course, and according to the Reporter, Redford could first end up filming “an untitled Jackie Robinson project” that would find him starring as Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Add The Weinstein Company to the list of studios that have signed interim agreements with the Writers Guild of America.
Harvey Weinstein confirmed the deal in an interview this morning, saying “It’s important for the business to get the ball rolling and get back to work.” According to the Los Angeles Times, The Weinstein Company’s deal “mirrors the pacts that the union recently signed with United Artists…and David Letterman‘s production company, Worldwide Pants Inc.”
Between inking various interim deals, shrinking the Golden Globes down to press-conference size, and wreaking havoc with Oscar plans, the WGA seems to be having a pretty good week for itself — but, as the Times notes, “Without one of the big players making such a deal, these interim agreements are unlikely to have much influence in ending the strike, according to industry executives.”
Of course, that’s according to industry executives — they’d probably say the strikers were going to burst into flames from picket friction if they thought anyone would believe them — but it’s a point well-taken. United Artists and The Weinstein Company, though both certain to benefit from their WGA deals, are also two of the more hit-starved studios in Hollywood, and unless they can do better with the scripts currently deluging their offices than they did with recent releases such as Lions for Lambs and The Nanny Diaries, those smug “industry executives” could wind up being right on the money. Literally.
Source: Los Angeles Times
No one is setting down their picket signs just yet, but Variety reports that Cruise and Wagner, who run United Artists, have followed in the footsteps of David Letterman‘s Worldwide Pants production company, brokering an interim deal with the Writers Guild of America. The terms of the deal, though not immediately available, will follow the precedent set by the Worldwide Pants agreement. From the article:
For UA toppers Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, it’s a major declaration of independence from MGM and underlines that the duo — who have a 35% stake in UA — have the final say in operations. The deal affords the revived studio an opportunity to move forward on projects after initially stumbling out of the gate with “Lions for Lambs.”
Though MGM had no comment about the deal, sources said over the weekend that MGM topper Harry Sloan has opposed the UA interim deal and added that it was highly unlikely that MGM would break ranks from the congloms and sign its agreement before the strike ends.
The deal comes too late to save Oliver Stone‘s Pinkville, which ceased production after the strike started and has already lost star Bruce Willis to another project, and it won’t bring an end to the strike all by itself; United Artists, under the terms of its current financing arrangement, is only set to release “15-18 films over the next five years.” It does open the door, however, for the WGA to continue its “divide and conquer” strategy, proving the Guild’s terms are reasonable enough to function at the indie level — and making UA highly attractive to investors who may not want to wait for the strike to end before making their next film.
According to Variety, Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company “are viewed as the most likely to sign interim deals with the guild”; the Weinsteins have been vetting a WGA proposal for the last couple of weeks, and Lionsgate has a deal on the table as well. From the article:
Such a deal would not be surprising for the Weinsteins, who have been strong supporters of screenwriters. The brothers formed the indie operation two years ago after a dozen years of working for Disney.
For Lionsgate, a pact with the WGA could be more complicated than for UA or TWC since the company also has TV operations. Lionsgate’s been in an expansion mode, taking stakes in Mandate Pictures, Break.com and Roadside Attractions and setting a $400 million, 23-picture theatrical slate financing agreement.
Three new releases failed to steal attention away from last weekend’s top two
films which continued to rule the North American box office swapping chart
positions in the process. Jerry Seinfeld’s animated hit
Movie enjoyed the better hold and jumped into first place while the
Crowe crime drama
suffered a moderate decline and claimed the runnerup position. Ticket buyers
have spent nearly $153M on the duo over the past ten days. Among newcomers, the
Vaughn generated respectable results while
suffered his worst opening in twenty-one years with the political drama
Lions for Lambs
which finshed a weak fourth for the frame. The overall marketplace struggled
once again as for the first time in five years, a November top ten failed to
break the $100M mark.
Paramount and DreamWorks missed out on a top spot debut last weekend with their
new toon Bee
Movie, but this time they managed to grab the number one slot. The
PG-rated film slipped 32% and collected an estimated $26M boosting the ten-day
tally to a robust $72.2M. Though a good hold, especially with the opening of
rival family flick Fred Claus, the decline was somewhat larger than the
drops of other recent animated kidpics that bowed on the first weekend of
November. Last year,
Flushed Away dipped by only 12%, 2005’s
slid just 21%, and 2004’s
dropped 29%. The Veterans Day holiday was observed on a Friday last year giving
a large number of school children a day off which helped deliver the sensational
hold of Flushed. This year, the holiday will be observed on Monday when
Bee is still expected to score solid results. Look for the insect pic to reach
the neighborhood of $120M domestically with international prospects also looking
Dropping an understandable 44% to second place was former champ
with an estimated $24.3M in its sophomore frame. After only ten days, Universal
has shot up a remarkable $80.7M and has already surpassed the total grosses of
most of Washington’s previous films. Gangster currently ranks as the
pic ever behind
The Pelican Brief
Tide ($91.4M), and
drama also stands as the fourth highest grossing film in Russell
Crowe‘s career after
Beautiful Mind ($170.7M), and
Master and Commander ($93.9M). At its current pace, American Gangster
should find its way to $130-140M from North America making it the studio’s third
biggest hit of 2007 after
The Bourne Ultimatum
and Knocked Up.
End-of-year awards attention could send it higher though.
Opening in third place was the Christmas comedy
which took in an estimated $19.2M from an ultrawide release in 3,603 locations.
Averaging a mediocre $5,336 per site, the PG-rated flick about Santa’s older
Vince Vaughn and
and played to a family audience. The Warner Bros. release is one of only two
films this year to launch in more than 3,500 theaters and fail to gross at least
$30M on opening weekend. The other was the animated penguin pic
Surf’s Up which
debuted to $17.6M in June. Instead, Fred performed in line with last
November’s yuletide laugher The
Santa Clause 3
which bowed to $19.5M on its way to a $84.5M final.
suffered one of the worst opening weekends of his career with the poor turnout
for his political drama
Lions for Lambs
which stumbled into fourth place with an estimated $6.7M. The R-rated pic
Robert Redford and
Lions averaged a feeble $3,029 from 2,215 theaters and was panned by most
critics. Despite the starpower, bad reviews and the subject matter which dealt
with war in the Middle East helped to repel paying customers.
Magnolia in which Cruise had a supporting role, Lions attracted
the smallest debut for the actor since Ridley Scott’s
opened with just $4.3M in 1986. It also ended the star’s streak of thirteen consecutive number one openings over fifteen years and is guaranteed to stop his industry-leading streak of seven straight years of having $100M+ grossers. The Redford project marked the first film for United Artists which is now run by Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner. Parent company MGM took distribution duties in North America with Fox handling the release in the rest of the world where the film also launched this weekend to mixed results.
The woman-in-peril thriller
P2 debuted poorly in
eighth with an estimated $2.2M from 2,131 locations for a pitiful $1,032
average. The R-rated film about a workaholic stalked by a killer in a parking
garage on Christmas Eve is the first release from Summit Entertainment which was
testing its distribution operation ahead of its real slate of films which will
hit theaters in 2008.
Vampires and martians rounded out the top ten. The horror flick
30 Days of Night
grossed an estimated $2.1M, down 44%, and placed ninth. Cume is $37.4M for Sony.
Child fell a troubling 48% in its second weekend to an estimated
$1.8M. The New Line release has collected only $6M in ten days and should end up
with a weak $9-10M.
Three modestly-budgeted films were bumped out of the top ten this weekend.
Michael Clayton dipped 40% to an estimated $1.7M bringing its cume
to a decent $35.6M. The $22M film should find its way to about $40M for Warner
Bros., but has the chance to go higher if it scores some major award
Miramax generated a sizzling debut for
No Country for
Old Men, the newest film from the Coen Brothers. The R-rated entry
grossed an estimated $1.2M while playing in only 28 theaters for a sensational
average of $42,929 per site. Co-produced by Paramount Vantage, it will expand to
more markets on Friday.
Tyler Perry’s latest hit
Did I Get Married? grossed an estimated $1.6M, off 38%, and boosted
its total to an impressive $53.3M. The profitable $15M Lionsgate title looks to
end with roughly $57M. It’s been a tougher road for Miramax’s crime drama Gone
Baby Gone which took in an estimated $1.5M, down 33%, giving
directorial debut only $17.1M to date. Produced for $19M, the
Freeman drama should end its run with about $22M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $95.6M which was down 10% from last
year when Borat
remained in first place with $28.3M; and down 11% from 2005 when Chicken
Little stayed in the top spot with $31.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandaya,
With documentaries on the war in Iraq satisfying a need for “on the spot” journalism, Hollywood’s recent stabs at war movies have been long on crowd pleasing and short on message. Actor/director Robert Redford‘s war drama Lions for Lambs puts its money where its mouth is. Maybe that’s why people are having such a hard time with it.
Robert Redford‘s war drama Lions for Lambs makes no attempts to disguise itself. It’s not, for example, a family drama about a fallen soldier, or a sexy spy thriller that takes place in Iraq, or even an action film about oil and terrorism. In fact, the most polarizing thing about Lions for Lambs is its unwillingness to be anything but a film about America at war. Be it loved or hated, Lions represents an old brand of lefty awareness-raising that makes its agenda plain and its (self) criticisms perfectly clear. Ironically it’s just this simplicity of purpose that inspires division. Maybe this brand of “straight talk,” isn’t one audiences are used to, but Redford has a conviction and a plan to bring the film to young audiences. “Fundamentally and in the end,” Redford says, “this film is about the future.”
The story of Lions revolves around the fate of new recruits Ernesto Rodriguez (Michael Peña) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke). While these two soldiers are deployed to a new strategic “point” (far smaller than a base), their former professor Malley (Redford) tells their story to his present student Todd (Andrew Garfield) to caution against apathy. Meanwhile, Republican Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) exposes his confidential strategy to veteran Journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), even as Irving’s strategy is underway.
Redford lends a loving patriotism to this “head, hands, heart” story. “It’s legitimate,” he insists, “every point of view addressed in this film.” On the theoretical side, Streep and Cruise battle over the loss of political and journalistic integrity. In the spirit of loving concern, professor and student pit new cynicism against weatherworn idealism. And as expected, the angle of action is painfully burdened with consequences that this national body can neither afford nor avoid. And this national body is the one Redford cares about. “I’m worried about my country, obviously.”
“I’ve never in my lifetime, and I’ve lived through some pretty great events — WWII, McCarthyism, assassination of a president and a vice president, Iran [Contra] and other upheavals — I’ve never seen my country in as bad a shape as it is now,” Redford said. “How it’s seen on the world stage. How we’re perceived. What one single administration can do to trash so many categories. It breaks my heart.”
“[The enemy] is not the point of the film — we’ve seen the enemy in documentaries and TV shows and many films dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan,” Redford explained. This explains why we never see the enemy; their representation “was meant to be like a concept — the enemy is the enemy is the enemy, like a rose is a rose is a rose.” Far more concerned with turning an understanding camera towards the turmoil at home, Redford chose to deal with the enemies “more impressionistically” because he “wanted to stay focused on the guys and their effort to do the right thing: see them [the soldiers] struggle against impossible odds, to stay alive and to be soldiers, not knowing what was happening. Focusing on the enemy would have been another distraction.”
Though Lions for Lambs revolves around the story of the two recruits, the larger part of screen time is dedicated to the debates of the three main stars: Redford, Cruise and Streep. In its overview of cultural debates, the film is strikingly comprehensive, but to get there, it has to do a good bit of talking. But even in its moments of self-conflict Lions is not off limits to self-criticism. Redford said when he first read the script, “I thought, ‘This could be tough.’ Talking heads in a room is not where audiences are these days. And then that challenged me. Can you make people care? That became a challenge I decided to go for.”
So how then, can a diligently sincere film that proffers engagement manage the fact that it’s swimming in speech? “You’re dealing with the very issue the film’s talking about, and you’ve got it on yourself,” he said with a recognizable gentility, proving the highest honor at Redford’s table is reserved for personal conviction.
Originally a stage play, Matthew Michael Carnahan’s (The Kingdom) script “had been around for a while, I think about a year and a half, and nobody was willing to make it.” The script is accessible but dense and makes a clear effort to both legitimize and display the sorts of arguments normally reduced to categories like “red state versus blue state.” [Read how Carnahan became politically engaged by penning Lions for Lambs here.]
Through Lions, Redford found a connection back to the politically inspired films he’s participated in throughout his career. “I’ve always tried to make diverse films but there’s usually a fundamental theme underneath all of it. I’m always interested in the political scene and have been since 1970 when I made The Candidate, All the President’s Men,…Quiz Show. They’re various films that are about the power of media and so on, but times have changed so drastically since I started [making films]. It’s like there’s always a new film to be made about the new condition. [Lions for Lambs] was different because this is about what is fundamentally unchanged.”
What that fundamentally unchanged thing is, is a way of thinking. “What are the conditions that lead us into this situation we found ourselves in during McCarthy, Watergate, Iran-Contra? What’s underneath it that creates this? Not this but what’s underneath. It’s a mindset: It’s a sentiment that belongs to a certain kind of character and a way of thinking. And they don’t go away. You would have thought after Watergate that those people who did all the dirty tricks for Nixon and lied and cheated and his effort to withhold, hide and conceal the truth, and the press going out after him — you would have thought that once that high point was reached that would never happen again. It is [happening now], only worse.”
Though Redford speaks openly against these breaches of public trust (Iran-Contra, Watergate, McCarthyism), he doesn’t speak through his film. True to that model of lefty awareness raising, Lions doesn’t lead you to any conclusions at all. “We didn’t tie it up with a ribbon. Could have been very easy to do that. You could have had a scene at the end where the student comes into the classroom and the teacher looks up and he comes in the door and you know he’s come back. We don’t know what he [Todd] is going to do but we do know one thing: he’s thinking. So therefore you’re asking the audience to think about how they feel. When Tom Cruise’s character finishes with Meryl Streep’s character he sweeps her right out the door. He’s gonna go on doing what he’s gonna do the way he’s gonna do it.”
In retrospect, the film can be read as a battle between people who act on their conscience and those who carry their consciences in tow. And, it’s worth noting, the battle is meant to play onscreen as well as in the minds of each audience member. “We can ask ourselves about 9/11 all we want: How did we get there? Did we have warnings before? But the fact is, we’re here now. We’ve got to think about how to move forward. So he [Senator Irving] has got a point and she [journalist Roth] has got a point. Then you put it to the audience and you let the audience figure out what their position is.”
Among the film’s multitude of opinions there is one thing Lions doesn’t provide. “We don’t provide the answer,” Redford said. “It’s simply meant for you to think about it, and so why not put that in front of students and see what they have to say?”
Redford’s goal with the film involves a myriad of outreach screenings to college campuses. This, Redford says, was his idea. “I said, I’d rather go to the areas and meet with groups and take time. And I would be particularly interested, because of the film and what the film is about, to involve young people, to go to schools and colleges and find out what they think.”
“There’s a general idea that young people over the last 10 or 15 years have grown more apathetic, more cynical — which I think is true — but probably for some good reason. But now it’s dangerous because if that’s the way it’s going to be for young people they’ll move farther and farther away from involvement in a system that’s getting worse and worse and worse.” This makes the possibility of engagement (to say nothing of theater attendance) among college age audiences seem all the more indigestible. But Redford explains that, love it or leave it, the question Todd asks Professor Malley (“Why would I want to get involved in a system that’s this diseased or corrupted?”) should be followed by the retort “Precisely because it is.” Because as Redford states, “You’re the one that’s going to have the future, not me.”
This week at the movies, we’ve got Santa’s not-so-little helper (Fred
Vince Vaughn and
Paul Giamatti), geopolitics (Lions for
Tom Cruise, and
Meryl Streep), and one scary
parking garage (P2, starring
and Wes Bentley). What do the critics have to
Claus hit theaters two weeks before Thanksgiving, hoping to spread
some early Yuletide cheer. Unfortunately, the critics have made a list, checked
it twice, and determined this one’s a lump of coal.
Vince Vaughn stars as
Santa’s no-good brother, a repo man who’s lived in the shadow of St. Nick (Paul Giamatti); after a run-in with the law, Santa agrees to help his bro on the
condition that he do some hard labor at the North Pole to help with the
seasonal demand for toys. It’s a pretty funny premise, and the cast includes
such able thespians as
Bridges, and Rachel Weisz. But the pundits say Fred never settles on a
workable tone, awkwardly vacillating between wacky slapstick and sappy
sentiment. At 32 percent on the Tomatometer, ’tis not the season for Fred
Fred Claus isn’t the only Christmas-themed movie in theaters this week.
is the story of a woman who’s late to Christmas Eve dinner because she’s tied up
— literally. In order to see what Santa has delivered for her this year, she
must escape the clutches of an evil security guard. Some critics say P2 is
much better than it sounds, a game of cinematic cat and mouse with a dark sense
of humor. However, others say it’s still essentially a genre exercise, and pretty gory to
boot. P2 currently stands at 46 percent on the Tomatometer.
Also opening this week in limited release: the documentary
Steal a Pencil for
Me, about a strange love affair during the Holocaust, is at 100 percent on
No Country for
Old Men, a dark, tense crime film from
the Coen Brothers, is at 89 percent (check out our review from Cannes
our feature on the Coens’ filmography
Holly, a drama about child
prostitution in Vietnam, is at 86 percent;
Note By Note, a documentary
detailing the manufacture of a Steinway piano, is at 80 percent;
a doc about a music festival in the midst of war-torn Uganda, is at 67 percent;
and Nightmare Man, a horror flick about a woman being attacked by an evil
spirit, is at 50 percent.
Robert Redford-Directed Movies:
41% — The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
71% — The Horse Whisperer (1998)
96% — Quiz Show (1994)
78% — A River Runs Through It (1992)
58% — The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)
89% — Ordinary People (1980)
Vince Vaughn and Tom Cruise go head to head at the North American box office this weekend with their latest releases. The dodgeball champ goes for holiday laughs with Fred Claus while the top gun offers up a serious political tale in Lions For Lambs. For those looking for a scare, the horror flick P2 also attacks the multiplexes. Add in last weekend’s holdover titles and the marketplace should deliver three $20M+ grossers for the first time since mid-July.
Taming down their comedy for a family audience, the Wedding Crashers team of Vince Vaughn and director David Dobkin offer up Christmas cheer with the holiday comedy Fred Claus. The PG-rated pic features the comic actor playing the brother of Santa (Paul Giamatti). Rachel Weisz and Kathy Bates both scored a ‘with’ credit while Kevin Spacey‘s agents landed the coveted ‘and’ credit for their client. Family audiences will make up the bulk of the business but Warner Bros. is hoping to draw teens and young adults with Vaughn’s humor.
Reviews have been sour, but these types of holiday films are sold more on the comedy and the marketing. The studio is giving Claus a big jolly push and there are no major live-action options for parents to take their kids to. Bee Movie‘s second weekend will provide most of the competition, but usually two high-profile star-driven family pics can co-exist at this time of year. Debuting ultrawide in more than 3,400 theaters, Fred Claus may laugh up about $28M this weekend.
In a smart move, Lions has downplayed its political storyline involving the Middle East as most others that have gone down that path have crashed and burned at the box office this fall. Audiences have told Hollywood on numerous occasions that they are not interested in paying top dollar for that kind of entertainment. Instead, the film is being positioned as a dramatic thriller with great acting performances almost the same way Cruise’s A Few Good Men was marketed 15 years ago. Lions will skew older than most other releases in the marketplace and will face intense competition for adults from American Gangster. Plus bad reviews will have a big impact too since the target audience plays close attention to the opinions of critics. This could very well be Tom Cruise’s lowest-grossing film in ages. Landing in 2,200 locations, Lions For Lambs might debut with around $10M.
LAST YEAR: Moviegoers kept annoying friends with their best Kazakh impressions as Borat tripled its theatercount and remained at number one for the second week with $28.3M for Fox. Disney’s The Santa Clause 3 and Paramount’s Flushed Away enjoyed sensational holds and stayed put in their spots as well with $16.9M and $16.6M, respectively. Will Ferrell‘s Stranger Than Fiction bowed in fourth with $13.4M on its way to $40.1M for Sony. Lionsgate rounded out the top five with Saw III with $7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
While many recent films concerning Iraq have taken a political stance, writer Matthew Michael Carnahan sought to do something different. The result, this week’s Lions for Lambs, attempts to engage the audience in as non-partisan a debate as you’ll find in Hollywood. Whereas Carnahan agrees he doesn’t like the idea of war, he tries to make the case for how we can pull out, and why it is important for the American public to be less apathetic towards the war and to do something.
Carnahan is the brother of Narc director Joe Carnahan, to whom he attributes much of his success. Yet it is hard to say Hollywood has treated him like the nepotistic brother; his first film, The Kingdom (which also involved the war on terror) was an $80 million affair directed by Peter Berg, and another political potboiler script, State of Play, is currently filming under director Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland). Remarkably, Carnahan began writing Lions for Lambs as a stage play before the script fell into the hands of actor-director Robert Redford; the rest, as they say, is history. Soon the busy scribe will pen a big-screen version of The Zebra Murders, about the racially-motivated serial killings in 1970s San Francisco, and collaborate with his brother on an adaptation of James Ellroy’s White Jazz.
RT caught up with Carnahan at a roundtable in Los Angeles, touching base on the war on terror, the apathetic nature of youth, and what it means to write a call to action.
How did Robert Redford get attached to direct?
Matthew Michael Carnahan: It was really a Hail Mary. I had heard it was going to Redford and thought it would be wonderful if he even flipped past the title page. And then it came down that he had actually read the whole thing and responded to it. And then I got a message from him and saved it for as long as I could: “Matt, Bob Redford. Let’s talk about this.”
With The Kingdom and now Lions for Lambs, do you have any more projects involving political drama or the war on terror?
MMC: Nothing right now. Because I really do feel like I’m tapped out. I’ve said pretty much everything I can say. And I don’t even know if at the end of the day it’s going to make much of a difference, but just from the sheer fact that I was able to write it down and get it out there, I’ll take it. But I am writing a story called the Zebra Murders, a true story in San Francisco about a mass murder that nobody really remembers. It was lost in the Watergate, Vietnam, Zodiac kind of time. And the one I’m supposed to write after that is Guest of the Ayatollah, which is the Bowden book on the Iran hostage crisis. Which is really one of my earliest memories.
And if/when the WGA strike goes?
MMC: Who knows when I’ll get to it?
Where did the idea come for Lions for Lambs? From your own indifference or a consciousness of the indifference of others?
MMC: Both! My indifference is the thing that pushed the button. I’m the first to rant and rave about fighting a war on two fronts. I mean that’s the last thing you want to do. And here we are fighting on two fronts in a war where the only thing that separates those two fronts is a country (Iran) that might despise us more than the two countries we’re fighting in. And yet with all of that I never did anything about it.
I’m a graduate of USC and searching the channels for the SC game, and I past a news report about a Humvee that had flipped into a river. And four or five American soldiers had drowned. I thought, what an awful way to die, when you’re at war and you die in what is essentially a traffic accident. And I couldn’t get past it fast enough, because God forbid it ruin my experience of watching the game. And it hit me that I’m just as much a part of the problem as everyone I like to point the finger at.
Would you say this movie is a call to action?
MMC: I can’t really come up with a better way to put it. A call to action in so far as I wrote this down to see if it would resonate with anybody else.
But then don’t you face the same thing that that news report did, with people passing over it?
MMC: Hopefully [when] you get three of the biggest movie stars alive involved, maybe that will trump at least some of that intransigence to go to yet another movie about the middle east and the war on terror.
So then if it’s a call to action, what’s the “action”?
MMC: To make this war, and the loss of American lives… and the fact that four thousand of my countrymen…the fact that they are dying and it’s not a part of our daily lives. That it’s not a daily cognition on my part that as we are having this discussion there are people a lot younger than us fighting and dying and going through some of the most terrifying moments imaginable. Basically I just wanted us in our daily lives to become cognizant of that.
What were some of the biggest difficulties you came across in writing?
MMC: The biggest challenge was having originally written it as a stage play. And the more I started to write the military scenes, particularly the helicopter scenes, I realized there’s not a stage in existence that could do that justice. I kept visualizing the scene in Rushmore. (Laughs) And I think when you watch it, it still feels like a stage play. And whether or not that’s good or bad I don’t know. I just didn’t know how to get into those subjects without talking.
Was the Todd character [played by Andrew Garfield] anything like you at that age?
MMC: It was completely autobiographical. That Todd character is me in college. I had the idea early on… that I could do less and still get by. I wish I had a teacher that put his foot in my back side. Maybe I would have listened.
Who would you most like to see this movie? Who was it made for?
MMC: Students. And the test screenings we did all over the country at universities went extremely well. And now it’s just a matter of, can we get them in there to see it?
What do you think the response of the administration will be?
MMC: Frankly, I don’t really care. I don’t want to piss people off, just to piss them off. I wanted to talk about these questions in the most balanced way I possibly can.
Lions for Lambs hits theaters Friday.