This week on DVD we’ve got a sweeping historical epic from Down Under (Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, plus an exclusive deleted scene), a tale of talking pooches (Beverly Hills Chihuahua), and a Certified Fresh drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long). For those whose interests are piqued by the words “direct to DVD,” we’ve also got two new animated adventures (Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic, Wonder Woman) and a titillating vengeance pic (Stiletto, starring Stana Katic, Tom Berenger, and Michael Biehn), plus a bayou thriller adapted from a James Lee Burke bestseller (In the Electric Mist, starring Tommy Lee Jones). Lastly, we offer the latest from Crow T. Robot and Co. (Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. 14) and a Blu-ray offering that will go well with some fava beans and a nice Chianti (Silence of the Lambs on Blu-ray).
Baz Luhrmann‘s epic tale of war and love in mid-century Australia was, to say the least, an ambitious undertaking; addressing the nation’s history of class inequality and its people’s can-do spirit against the backdrop of World War II via an opposites-attract romance and a dash of Aborigine mysticism — with an homage to The Wizard of Oz thrown in to boot — sounded complicated enough on paper, let alone brought to life onscreen. And yet, for better or worse, that is precisely what Lurhmann did.
Australia isn’t for everyone; cynics thought it cloying, while fans thought it wondrous, although all agree its nearly three-hour-runtime is an endurance test. But if you’re a fan of stars Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman (or want to watch young Brandon Walters’ breakthrough debut performance, a child actor debut to rival those in Slumdog Millionaire) then Australia might be your cup of tea.
Unfortunately, your options are limited as Australia is available only as a single-disc DVD (with two deleted scenes and nothing more) or on Blu-ray, with a handful of extra featurettes. Below, watch one of the deleted scenes, in which Lady Ashley (Kidman) is served a rude dinner by her angry household staff.
Next: You know you want it — Beverly Hills Chihuahua
If you, like us, secretly chuckled to yourself when those Taco Bell commercials came on, then you might get another sly kick out of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The dog-out-of-water tale follows a spoiled LA pooch (voiced by Drew Barrymore), who gets lost in Mexico and must find her way home with the help of some canine friends. Photo realistic pups talking with the aid of CG — and, unfortunately, often in stereotypical accents — sound silly, but will no doubt warm over the kiddies (moreso than most adults). A handful of bonus extras will keep fans entertained for an extra hour or so after watching the film, including the darn-catchy “Chihuahua!” song sung by a horde of choreographed Mexican Chihuahuas.
Next: Kristin Scott Thomas in I’ve Loved You So Long
Philippe Claudel’s quiet character study reveals Kristin Scott Thomas as you’ve never seen her before, makeup-free and haggard-looking (but still gorgeous), distant and tortured (and speaking fluent French) in the role that earned her nominations from the BAFTAS, César, and Golden Globe Awards. Thomas plays Juliette, a woman struggling to re-enter society after serving a prison sentence for killing her own child; Elsa Zylberstein plays her sister Lea, a mother herself who is the only friend Juliette has left in the real world. While bonus materials are sparse, you can watch deleted scenes and access an alternate audio track dubbed in English.
Next: Our Direct-to-DVD Pick of the Week — Stiletto!
Stana Katic (The Spirit, Quantum of Solace, and the upcoming ABC show, Castle) stars in this direct-to-video action thriller as Raina, a gorgeous assassin who sets her sights on a former lover, a Greek crime boss (Tom Berenger), and a circle of ill-fated goons. Her weapon of choice? A stiletto knife, naturally. But wait, that’s not all! This R-rated vengeance flick not only hearkens back to the days of the female exploitation tales of the 1970s, it stars a veritable Walk of Fame of bad-ass actors (most of whom have seen better days): Michael Biehn, William Forsythe, Tom Sizemore, D.B. Sweeney, Kelly Hu, and Dominique Swain. Give Stiletto a rental and chalk it up as another guilty pleasure.
Next: Tommy Lee Jones Goes Direct To Video With In the Electric Mist
Joining Stiletto in direct-to-video land is In the Electric Mist, a fantasy- thriller that boasts a decidedly stellar cast led by Tommy Lee Jones. Adapted from James Lee Burke’s bestselling novel of the same name and directed by European auteur Bertrand Tavernier (‘Round Midnight), In the Electric Mist is born of impressive pedigrees, yet missed out on a theatrical release after screening at the Berlin Film Festival. In it, Detective Dave Robicheaux (Jones) is on the hunt for a serial killer in the Deep South, an investigation complicated by encounters with a band of Confederate soldiers…
Next: Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic
Like a visual version of a book on tape, Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic serves up the landmark Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel as a page-by-page story, enhanced with Flash animation and narrated by actor/veteran audio book narrator Tom Stechschulte, who even does the female voices. While the appeal of this 2-disc set might extend only to Watchmen diehards — probably the only people willing to sit through this 5-hour-plus version of Watchmen — it also comes with a sneak peek at this week’s Wonder Woman and $7.50 towards a ticket for Friday’s Watchmen.
Next: DC’s Animated, Feature Length, and Feminist Wonder Woman
A host of Hollywood all-stars (Rosario Dawson, Virginia Madsen, and…Vicki Lewis) lend their voices to this direct-to-video animated film, which tells the origin story of DC Comics’ super-heroine, Wonder Woman, and gives her a modern-day adventure to boot. Keri Russell voices Princess Diana (AKA Wonder Woman), the heir to a race of Amazon women who is charged with returning a wayward pilot (Nathan Fillion) to New York City while defeating the evil god Ares (Alfred Molina); violent enough to earn a PG-13 rating, Wonder Woman also serves as a devoutly feminist diatribe (and is directed by a woman, Superman: Doomsday co-director Lauren Montgomery), for better or worse. Bonus episodes of Justice League, a commentary track, two feature-length documentaries and a sneak peek at DC’s next animated flick, Green Lantern, highlight the special features.
Next: Mystery Science Theater 3000 is Back!
Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot are back in the latest installment of the adventures in movie watching known as Mystery Science Theater 3000. Volume 14 comprises episodes with four MSTK3K classics, each with its own case: Mad Monster (the 1942 mad scientist-werewolf flick), Manhunt in Space (a multi-episode feature from the Rocky Jones, Space Ranger television series), Soultaker (starring Joe Estevez, who also gives a new interview on the disc), and Final Justice (a Joe Don Baker vehicle directed by Greydon Clark, who also graces this set with an interview).
Next: Wong Kar-Wai’s Ashes of Time Redux
Unlike many of his peers in Asian cinema, Wong Kar-Wai is not a director known for action spectacles or historical epics. But in 1994, he made just that: Ashes of Time, the story of an embittered ex-swordsman and the people who come in and out of his life, all adrift and consumed with their memories, lost loves, and their own selfishness — like an emo wuxia film, if such a hybrid could exist. A box office failure during its initial release, Ashes of Time got a shiny new redo from Wong himself in 2008, resulting in a much shorter, remastered version of the flick, also bolstered with new music from Yo-Yo Ma. Retrospective making-of interviews with Wong, longtime DP Christopher Doyle, and cast members like Tony Leung Ka-Fai highlight the DVD, along with an extensive Q&A session between Wong and Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman.
Next: Silence of the Lambs Blu-ray
We close this RT on DVD by recommending one of the standout Blu-ray releases of the week: MGM’s Silence of the Lambs Blu-ray, which has been delayed numerous times so far. Was it worth the wait? If you’re a Hannibal Lecter fan ravenous for tons of bonus materials and behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Jonathan Demme’s serial killer thriller, you’ll enjoy the assortment of deleted scenes (count ’em — 22 total!), featurettes, outtakes and making-of documentaries included here. Add to that the film’s lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and 1080p visual presentation, and you’ve got the perfect way to revisit this chilling classic — along with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Until next week, happy renting!
The 14th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards were given on January 8, 2009, to honor the finest achievements in 2008 filmmaking. A list of nominees follows below, with winners in bold:
Best Actress (Tie):
Kate Beckinsale, Nothing But the Truth
Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Best Supporting Actress:
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Vera Farmiga, Nothing But the Truth
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader
A trio of new releases and a hearty menu of popular holdovers made for a robust Thanksgiving weekend at the North American box office. The holiday comedy Four Christmases led the way with a stellar number one opening while sophomores Bolt and Twilight were in a virtual tie for second place with nearly identical grosses. The top ten films grossed $154M – the best tally for the turkey holiday in eight years.
Superstars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon contributed their producing and acting talents to Four Christmases and were rewarded with a potent debut grossing an estimated $31.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a fantastic $46.7M over five days since opening on Wednesday. The New Line pic was distributed by Warner Bros. and averaged a stellar $9,571 from 3,310 sites over the three-day period. The PG-13 film about a couple that must attend yuletide events at the homes of each of their divorced parents was just the type of comedic entertainment that moviegoers were in the mood for during the long holiday weekend. Ticket buyers ignored the bad reviews and instead responded to the starpower, the unique premise, and the comedy. Look for both actors to add another $100M blockbuster to their resumes in the coming weeks.
Jumping up one notch from last weekend, Disney’s animated flick Bolt posted a slight uptick in ticket sales for a solid holiday performance. The PG-rated toon grossed an estimated $26.6M inching up 1% from its $26.2M bow last week. Though the canine star opened weaker than expected, it made up for that shortfall by generating a sensational second weekend take. After ten days, Bolt has grossed $66.9M. The studio is hoping that it will continue to see strong legs since there will be no new kidpics released over the next two weekends.
Last weekend’s top film Twilight experienced a hefty decline as expected and ranked third with an estimated $26.4M. Falling 62%, the Summit release has now banked a stellar $119.7M which is quite an impressive sum for a no-star film budgeted at only $37M. The PG-13 film averaged a sturdy $7,699 from 3,425 locations.
James Bond was still a popular draw for movie fans over the holiday weekend with Quantum of Solace dropping only 27% to an estimated $19.5M. That put Sony’s domestic total at a robust $142.1M after 17 days which is 23% ahead of Casino Royale at the same point in its run and 18% ahead of 2002’s Die Another Day. The overseas total for Quantum vaulted to $340.1M lifting the global haul to a stunning $482.2M.
Fox’s big-budget historical epic Australia debuted with an estimated $14.8M over three days and $20M across five days. The Hugh Jackman-Nicole Kidman film opened in 2,642 locations and averaged a respectable $5,607. But given the cost of the massive production (the studio kicked in $78M of the $130M budget) the Baz Luhrmann-directed film will need strong legs and spectacular international grosses in order to break even. According to studio research, 65% of the audience was over 25 while 52% was female. Competition for adult audiences was fierce over the holiday weekend with many choosing to spend their dollars on Four Christmases and Quantum of Solace while young women were still distracted by Twilight. Reviews were mixed for Australia and the running time of 165 minutes meant fewer showtimes per day.
Paramount ranked sixth with its toon entry Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa which slipped only 7% to an estimated $14.5M boosting the overall cume to $159.5M. The sequel’s final domestic haul looks like it will end up a bit below the $193.2M of its 2005 predecessor.
Delivering a seventh-place debut was Jason Statham’s action sequel Transporter 3 which grossed an estimated $12.3M over the weekend and $18.5M over the extended holiday period. The franchise showed signs of age as the five-day bow failed to match the $20.5M four-day debut of Transporter 2 which launched over the slower Labor Day holiday frame. The third chapter in the series played in 2,626 locations and averaged a decent $4,695 over the Friday-to-Sunday span. Fox released the first two pics in the franchise while Lionsgate distributed this new chapter.
Universal’s hit comedy Role Models dropped by 28% to an estimated $5.3M giving the Seann William Scott-Paul Rudd pic a solid $57.9M to date.
Specialty films filled up the next three positions on the charts. The Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas expanded again from 406 to 582 locations and grossed an estimated $1.7M this weekend. The Miramax release averaged a mild $2,904 but raised its sum to $5.2M.
Sean Penn’s highly praised performance in the Focus Features release Milk helped to deliver the weekend’s best average thanks to an estimated $1.38M from only 36 theaters. Averaging a sizzling $38,361, the R-rated film about the first openly gay elected official in America won rave reviews from critics and has generated Oscar buzz for Penn who hopes to score his fourth Best Actor nod from the Academy this decade and fifth overall. The Gus Van Sant-directed film’s five-day total since opening on Wednesday is $1.9M. On Friday, Milk will expand to nearly 100 theaters and will add more runs on December 12.
Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire continued its impressive limited run widening from 32 to 49 theaters for a weekend gross of $1.37M, according to estimates, putting it a hair behind in eleventh place. Cume is now $3.6M. The Fox Searchlight title averaged a potent $27,898 and will add more theaters each week in December.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $154.1M which was up 10% from last year’s Thanksgiving frame when Enchanted opened in the top spot with $34.4M over three days; and up 10% from 2006’s holiday when Happy Feet remained at number one with $37M in its second weekend.
Author: Gitesh Pandya,
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend sees a wide variety of films in the multiplexes giving all kinds of moviegoers something to see over the extended five-day session. Leading the trio of star-driven new releases opening on Wednesday is the holiday comedy Four Christmases which is joined by the historical epic Australia and the action entry Transporter 3. Twilight will try to spend a second frame at number one and will come off of a huge opening while fellow sophomore Bolt aims for a much stronger hold. Despite the selection of offerings, the overall box office will have to work hard to match last year’s turkey frame when eleven different films grossed more than $7M each over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
Hoping to make people forget Rendition, Reese Witherspoon returns to her bread and butter – comedy – by pairing up with Vince Vaughn in Four Christmases which is the widest of the new openers and looks to have the best shot at making a play for the number one spot. The PG-13 laugher about a couple that must visit the homes of all 4 divorced parents on the same day should rake in impressive numbers this weekend. The stars certainly sell in this genre, the concept is appealing, and the holiday theme is just want people are looking for right now. Vince and Reese give the film broad appeal to many age groups and to both genders. Plus moviegoers are looking for escapism and want to spend their money to have a good time. Reviews may be bad, but effective trailers and commercials promise laughs and that’s all this film needs to make its case to the voting public.
Competition is not too strong. Role Models is the only other live-action comedy doing any business right now. Twilight and Australia will split the female vote, but June Carter can stand up to those chicks. Four Christmases is about as mainstream as any film out in theaters this weekend gets and by pleasing all the different audience segments, it should be a winner with large groups. Teens and young adults will be at the core of the success. The New Line title will be released by Warner Bros. in more than 3,200 locations and might find itself in the neighborhood of $26M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $36M over five days.
Hugh Jackman was just named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. Could it be coincidence that his new film opens at the same time? That pic would be Australia starring the X man opposite Nicole Kidman in a historical epic that mixes a love story with a little history lesson on that land Down Under around the start of World War II. The PG-13 film from director Baz Luhrmann is an old school piece of filmmaking and should skew older and more female. But the big-budget Fox production has five factors working against it at the box office.
First, the subject matter is a problem since Americans really aren’t very interested in learning about the history of Australia. Second, these stars may grace every magazine cover around, but they often do not sell tickets unless the project is truly exciting. Also competition is a factor since Four Christmases is clearly the more fun option this weekend and it has more cross-gender appeal to satisfy couples. Add in a running time that nears three hours when including trailers plus reviews that can be described as mixed at best, and it’s easy to see that it will be an uphill battle.
The kickoff of holiday shopping over Thanksgiving weekend also will help to keep women over 30 busy during the coming days. But the long weekend does give people extra time on their hands so Australia may reach its audience over time and not immediately in its first day like a certain vampire love story. Fox needn’t worry as Yanks represent the gravy for this movie. The bulk of the business will come from the U.K., Europe, Asia, and Australia and this particular slice of entertainment will sell much better outside of North America. Landing in 2,617 theaters, Australia might take in about $15M over the weekend and $22M over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period.
Jason Statham returns in his signature franchise with Transporter 3 which took a detour off the Fox lot and settled into Lionsgate territory. The shift in distributors makes sense given the new home’s strong track record with films that skew towards young men. The PG-13 actioner has a very specific audience in mind and is not likely to convert new followers. Transporter 2 bowed three years ago with $16.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its four-day Labor Day opening weekend, although Fox launched it in 700 more theaters than what Lionsgate has in store this week with the new installment. Statham’s last pic Death Race debuted to $12.6M in August. Transporter 3 will no doubt pull in a large share of its five-day gross in the first two days meaning that comparing Friday-to-Sunday takes across various Statham flicks would not tell a real story. Quantum of Solace will provide some direct competition, but overall the film should be welcomed given all the female-skewing films filling up multiplexes. Landing in 2,626 locations, Transporter 3 may debut with a $14M weekend and $22M across five days.
For the first time in five years a woman directed the number one film at the box office thanks to Catherine Hardwicke‘s Twilight dominating the multiplexes last weekend. A disproportionately large part of the fan base came out on its opening day which accounted for half of the weekend bow. That signals a steep sophomore decline but Friday’s holiday will help to prevent a ridiculously hefty dropoff. New films from Reese and Nicole could pull away the vampire love story’s female audience too. A 60% fall could result giving Twilight about $28M for the Friday-Sunday span and around $115M after ten days.
The superspy known as Bond was met with a crushing 60% decline last weekend in its second mission but should stabilize this week and pull in some dollars from older adults that have more leisure time due to the holiday. The new releases should all have some impact though. Still, a 40% drop could occur putting Quantum of Solace at roughly $16M for the frame and $136M after 17 days.
Bolt had a slower than expected start last weekend but Disney is hoping that its crowd was just waiting for the turkey frame to go out and see the TV star pooch. Family films routinely have the lowest declines over Thanksgiving thanks to strong Friday sales so a 20% weekend dip may be in order. Declines for recent animated flicks during this particular holiday include 16% for Bee Movie, 11% for Happy Feet, and 15% for Chicken Little. That would leave Bolt, which seems like a less liked piece of entertainment, with around $21M over three days and a respectable ten-day start of $57M.
LAST YEAR: Disney’s princess comedy Enchanted ruled the weekend which was the post-Thanksgiving frame as overall ticket sales were sliced in half compared to the previous holiday session which fell earlier on the calendar. The Amy Adams hit grossed $16.4M and was followed by fellow holdovers Beowulf with $8.2M, This Christmas with $7.9M, and Hitman with $6M. Debuting in fifth was the Hayden Christiansen thriller Awake with a weak $5.9M on its way to $14.4M for MGM.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week at the movies, we’ve got yuletide yucks (Four Christmases, starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon), an epic from Down Under (Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman), and deadly deliveries (Transporter 3, starring Jason Statham). What do the critics have to say?
There’s nothing wrong with misanthropic holiday comedies — as long as they generate laughs. Otherwise, they just seem dispiriting, which is how critics describe Four Christmases. The movie stars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as an unmarried couple that tends to spend holidays on vacation (disguised as charity work) to avoid each of their divorced parents’ less-than-festive yuletide celebrations. However, when they’re left stranded at the airport, they decide to suck it up and pay all four of their parents a visit, with embarrassing situations ensuing. The pundits say Four Christmases is a sour, broad collection of stereotypes and clichés, and even if Vaughn and Witherspoon try their best, they don’t have much to work with, script-wise. At 27 percent on the Tomatometer, this Christmas isn’t a gift.
“We loved it. It was much better than Cats. We will see it again and again.”
Baz Luhrmann is not a director known for his restraint. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge were big, bombastic entertainments that took bold stylistic chances. The critics say his latest, Australia, is similarly audacious, but doesn’t totally cohere, despite some excellent moments. Set just before World War II, Australia stars Nicole Kidman as an English aristocrat who falls for a cattleman (Hugh Jackman) who works on her late husband’s ranch; later, they attempt to care for a half-Aboriginal child, but are stymied by the government’s cruel racial policies. The pundits say Australia is an elegant, genre-hopping romp with much to enjoy; unfortunately, they also note its lurches in tone make the film less than the epic it intends to be. At 50 percent on the Tomatometer, you may not want to say “g’day” to Australia.
If you were ever considering messing with Hugh Jackman, now would not be the time.
The first two Transporter films, while not terribly realistic or character-driven, were efficient, brisk action pictures buoyed considerably by the presence of Jason Statham. However, critics say the third time’s definitely not the charm for this franchise. In Transporter 3, Statham again plays Frank Martin, an expert driver who delivers high-value packages for mysterious clients; this time, it’s the kidnapped daughter of a Ukrainian official. Unfortunately, both Martin and his cargo are wearing bracelets that are set to explode if they venture too many feet away from his Audi. The scribes say the third installment is lacking the sense of zippy fun that Transporter fans have come to expect, and the result is noisy, sometimes morose, and generally uninspired. At 26 percent on the Tomatometer, Transporter 3 is the series’ worst-reviewed entry. (Check out Statham’s five favorite movies here.)
Despite warnings from saftey officials, Jason Statham really doesn’t want to wear a bike helmet.
Also opening this week in limited release is Gus Van Sant‘s Milk, starring Sean Penn as the first openly gay major officeholder in the United States; it currently stands at 97 percent on the Tomatometer.
Recent Vince Vaughn Movies: