The movie business is difficult; that shouldn’t surprise anyone. A lot of thought and care and preparation — not to mention money — goes into the filmmaking process, and sometimes the end result just doesn’t quite turn out the way its creators intended. But even when a film production goes sideways, for whatever reason, there’s often a glimmer of something incredible hidden beneath the botched line deliveries, mediocre special effects, and general ineptitude on display. Sometimes, there are great scenes to be found in truly Rotten movies.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled an initial list of 30 examples in which an inspiring exchange, an ingeniously staged action sequence, or a hilarious performance helped shine a light on otherwise mediocre productions. We’re talking about genuinely outstanding moments — not ones we find ironically amusing — that might feel right at home in more expertly crafted films. There are, of course, countless more we could have included, but we’ll save those for the next installment of this series. And, if there are any that you think belong here, let us know in the comments!


20th Century Fox

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace (1999) 52%

DARTH MAUL vs. QUI-GON AND OBI-WAN
The long-awaited Star Wars prequel introduced us to such inexplicable horrors as Jar Jar Binks, midi-chlorians, and mind-numbing Galactic Senate debates, but the film did offer an awesome glimpse of what it could have been. The final battle pitting Darth Maul against Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the most dynamic lightsaber duels we’ve ever gotten, thanks in part to the martial arts talent of Ray Park as the Zabrak Sith Lord. Not only is the fight kinetic and inventive, who can forget the iconic moment when that second crimson beam emerges from Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber?


Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) 35%

WINGSUIT FLIGHT
The Transformers franchise is largely a jumbled mess of CGI, explosions, stilted dialogue, and perfunctory storytelling. That said, Michael Bay knows his way around visual spectacle, and while Dark of the Moon features its fair share of incomprehensible robot mayhem, there is one practical stunt (read: they did it for real) in the film that is genuinely thrilling. Bay enlisted the aid of experienced wingsuit flyers to jump off the Sears Tower and soar between Chicago’s skyscrapers as chaos unfolds all around them. It’s impressive, it’s majestic, and it’s just cool as hell. If only the rest of the movie could match this three-minute sequence…


Final Destination 2 (2003) 48%

OPENING HIGHWAY PILEUP
None of the Final Destination movies is particularly well-reviewed (Final Destination 5 is the only Fresh one at 62%), and for the most part, they all feel like a series of morbid Rube Goldberg-esque vignettes strung together by the thinnest of plots. A few of those gory scenarios, however, are surprisingly inventive, and none of them tops the opening to Final Destination 2, which sets its wheels in motion with an immaculately staged, over-the-top highway pileup that is equal parts ridiculous, harrowing, and literally explosive. Nothing else in the film even comes close.


Distant Horizon

(Photo by Distant Horizon)

Flashpoint (2007) 40%

DONNIE YEN vs. COLLIN CHOU
You may know Donnie Yen from Ip Man or Rogue One, and you may know Collin Chou as Seraph from the Matrix sequels, but chances are you haven’t seen this Hong Kong action thriller by Wilson Yip (who also directed the Ip Man movies). The story is a predictably rote potboiler about a loose-cannon cop who takes on a crime syndicate, but the climactic battle between Yen’s Detective Ma and Chou’s gangster Tony is savage and visceral, with bone-crushing stunt work and Yen adding MMA techniques to his more traditional martial arts style.


Death Sentence (2007) 20%

PARKING GARAGE SINGLE TAKE
Since directing and co-writing the first Saw, James Wan has introduced the world to the Conjuring universe, brought us the best-reviewed Fast and Furious movie, and earned the right to bring DC’s Aquaman to the big screen. Before all of that, though, he did direct this fairly absurd action thriller about a grieving father (Kevin Bacon) out for revenge against the gang who murdered his son. It’s a violent film with a ridiculous plot, but it does feature one sequence that demonstrates Wan’s potential for greater things. A two minute-long single take follows Bacon’s character as he attempts to lose his pursuers in a multi-level parking garage, with seamless camerawork that weaves up and down the ramps and alongside the outside of the garage to capture perfectly timed appearances by different characters. It’s impressive, and it far outshines everything else in the movie.


The Ridiculous 6 (2015) 0%

ABNER DOUBLEDAY INVENTS BASEBALL
Adam Sandler began his stint on Netflix with a bang, garnering a rare 0% with this joyless — and casually racist — spoof of The Magnificent Seven. There is one gloriously effective moment of inspired comedy, though. In a scene that riffs on the invention of baseball, John Turturro cameos as Abner Doubleday, who invites the titular sextet and a dozen others to play a new game with him, only to make up all of the sport’s rules and terminology on the spot just to ensure he wins. It may be the only joke in the movie that lands, but it lands superbly.


New Line Cinema

(Photo by New Line Cinema)

Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) 53%

AUSTIN GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
By the time the third installment of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers series hit theaters, the world had just about had its fill of “Yeah, baby!”s and shagadelic double entendres, but the cameo-filled opening scene of Goldmember is pure magic. The film begins with an action-packed Hollywood adaptation of Austin Powers’ life story, starring Tom Cruise as the titular spy, Gwyneth Paltrow as Bond girl stand-in Dixie Normous, Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, and Danny DeVito as Mini Me. To top it all off, as the scene ends, the cameras pull back to reveal the man at the helm is none other than Steven Spielberg. Genius.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) 53%

THE FIGHT FOR THE KEY
The first Pirates of the Caribbean film was a pleasant surprise, able to silence most of those who thought it silly to build a movie around an amusement park attraction. Every film since then has been a gradual step down, and it all began with the first sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, an overstuffed bombardment of spectacle with little but Johnny Depp’s performance to hold it all together. That said, the extended swordfight for the key to the titular chest is the high point of the film, making use of some fine stuntwork and clever setpieces to deliver a top-notch action scene.


Scream 3 (2000) 41%

“I WAS UP FOR PRINCESS LEIA.”
The Scream formula was getting creaky by the time they shifted the setting to Hollywood for the most meta entry in the series (the cast of a Stab film, based on the real events of Scream, start getting plucked off by a real-life ghostface). The laughs were still there, thanks mostly to a killer performance by Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie, the actress playing Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers; the scares, not so much. But kudos to Wes Craven and whoever else convinced Carrie Fisher to make a cameo as the disgruntled, and loyal-to-a-point, studio archivist Bianca. When approached by Jolie and Weathers on the hunt for details on a former starlet, Bianca stops them before they even get a chance to ask if she’s you know who. “I was up for Princess Leia,” Fisher explains. “I was this close. So who gets it? The one who sleeps with George Lucas.”


Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007) 51%

“LA MER” ON THE BEACH
It’s hard to deny that Mr. Bean is something of a cultural icon, and it’s essentially defined the career of Rowan Atkinson. While the early-’90s series was hugely popular, the character’s big screen outings didn’t quite measure up. 2007’s Mr. Bean’s Holiday found the endearing man-child stumbling his way through France, and it largely consisted of watered-down slapstick and his trademark buffoonery. But it was also intended to be an unofficial send-off for the character, and the film’s final moments absolutely shine in that respect. As Bean makes his way across a picturesque beach, everyone around him joins him in an uplifting rendition of “La Mer,” and it’s equal parts triumphant and bittersweet. Love him or hate him, his goodbye was perfect.


Burlesque (2010) 37%

CHER’S SOLO
If you thought Cher singing “Fernando” to a man named Fernando in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was as good, cheesy, and Cher-y as it gets at the movies, you clearly didn’t stick around for the second half of 2010’s Christina Aguilera vehicle Burlesque. The movie, which is Rotten at 36%, overflows with small pleasures for those in the just right mood (read: at least three Chardonnays into your evening), among them Kristen Bell as the vampy, villainous dancer Nikki. But when club owner Tess (Cher), fretful for the future of her business, belts out the Dianne Warren-penned survival anthem, “You Haven’t Seen the Last Of Me,” singing it to no one in particular, but somehow touching anyone who hears it, well… all hail the queen.


I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) 44%

THE CHASE
Poor man’s Scream, rich man’s Urban Legend, I know What You Did Last Summer was one of the defining slashers of the mid-to-late ’90s – even if it was one of the most generic and uninspired, sitting at 35%. Most remember it for its laughably hysterical moments (“What are you waiting fooooor!?”) and that weird Anne Heche business, but even the most discerning of genre fans give credit to director Jim Gillespie for the sequence in which the guy with the hook chases Sarah Michelle Geller’s Helen Shivers all over town. It’s genuinely scary (beware the mannequin jump scare), giggle-inducing (did she really just drop the keys), and a tiny bit moving in the end. Why the hell did she turn around?


20th Century Fox

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) 38%

LOGAN AND VICTOR THROUGH THE WARS
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was Fox’s first attempt at a solo story based on one of their beloved Marvel properties, and other than hiring Liev Schreiber to star opposite Hugh Jackman, the film has precious few things going for it. (Seriously, who thought letting will.i.am speak — and shutting Ryan Reynolds up — was a good idea?) At least we got a pretty great opening credits sequence out of it: after revealing the origin of Logan’s (Jackman) relationship to Victor Creed (Schreiber), the film depicts the half-brothers fighting alongside each other in the US Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War, illustrating Victor’s violent descent in the process. That’s the movie we all wished we could have seen.


Hannibal (2001) 40%

GARY OLDMAN WAXES NOSTALGIC ABOUT DISFIGUREMENT
Neither director Jonathan Demme nor star Jodie Foster returned for this 10-years-later sequel, but most assumed it was in capable hands, with Ridley Scott taking the helm, David Mamet penning the script, and Julianne Moore taking Foster’s place as Clarice Starling. The end result wasn’t expected to live up to its predecessor, but few foresaw the smug, unsatisfying tale of gore we ultimately got. However, in an initially uncredited role, an unrecognizable Gary Oldman plays disfigured Lecter victim Mason Verger, whose macabre retelling of his encounter with Lecter is chilling, gruesome, and a testament to Oldman’s ability to captivate an audience, even with a slab of play-doh stuck to his face.


Gamer (2009) 30%

“I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN”
Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor made names for themselves with the Crank series, so it was evident from the start they weren’t exactly interested in high art. Right after Crank: High Voltage, in fact, they came back with this futuristic thriller starring Gerard Butler that plays more like a CGI-blasted update on The Running Man, but with far fewer genuine thrills. Rotten at 28%, the movie is kind of a slog to get through, but when Butler’s Kable infiltrates the mansion of evil game developer Castle (Michael C. Hall), something almost magical happens. Castle reveals himself to Kable via a choreographed dance routine set to Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You under My Skin,” complete with a troupe of mind-controlled brawlers. As Kable fends off his attackers and Castle continues lip-syncing in the background, you can’t help but wonder, “Why couldn’t the rest of the movie have been this interesting?”


Columbia Pictures

(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

White Chicks (2004) 15%

TERRY CREWS LOVES VANESSA CARLTON
Despite the cult popularity of In Living Color during the early 1990s, the various members of the Wayans family have struggled to achieve the same kind of success on the big screen. Much of their output has been defined by spoof movies and sub-subpar comedies like White Chicks, built from interesting enough ideas for a sketch or two, but a bit too flimsy for an entire movie. In this case, though, the presence of Terry Crews does help liven things up, and he is at his absolute best when he gleefully lights up as Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” comes on the radio and he begins to lip-sync with it. It’s a small chunk of comedy gold in the middle of a stale, moldy, powdered-sugar donut.


Doom (2005) 18%

THE “FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER” SEQUENCE
Back when he was still going by “The Rock,” Dwayne Johnson paid his dues in stinkers like 2005’s Doom, which did little to inspire confidence in video game adaptations on the big screen. At a measly 19% on the Tomatometer, Doom is an incoherent mess of a sci-fi action flick and an unfortunate stain on the resumes of all involved. But there is one instance of blatant fan service that, well, actually kind of works. The camera takes on the first-person viewpoint of Karl Urban’s character, Reaper, for several minutes as he tears through the research facility, blasting mutated baddies along the way. It’s a carefully planned and choreographed sequence that’s not only true to the game, but incredibly ballsy to attempt, and they managed to pull it off with pizazz.


Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (2008) 49%

THE 15-MINUTE FINAL BATTLE
After he brought a fresh new take on martial arts films with 2003’s Ong Bak, Tony Jaa co-directed and starred in its “sequel,” Ong Bak 2, which was neither set in the same time period as the first nor really related to it in any way outside of its title. Ong Bak 2 left much of its predecessor’s playfulness by the wayside in exchange for an overly serious and familiar tale of revenge that exposed Jaa’s shortcomings behind the camera. With that in mind, it’s still worth fast-forwarding to the final battle of the film, a glorious display of Jaa’s martial arts prowess that sees him utilizing multiple fighting styles and weapons techniques to take down an entire village of assassins over 15 brutal minutes of non-stop action. It’s visceral and awe-inspiring, and it highlights not only Jaa’s immense skill but also the dedication of his stunt team, who no doubt took a massive beating during the shoot.


Lou Faulon/STX Entertainment

(Photo by Lou Faulon/STX Entertainment)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) 47%

OPENING SCENE
This is not Luc Besson’s first space rodeo, but working with a $200 million budget, he evidently felt compelled to throw every wacky idea he ever had at the screen. The end result is a visually exquisite but narratively slipshod adventure, but it features another standout opening scene that hints at the film’s true potential. Set to the music of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” it chronicles the history of technological advancement that eventually leads to the film’s intergalactic setting, and it reflects a refreshingly hopeful, wholesome future of peace and cooperation that’s both touching and clever. And then the rest of the movie happens.


Hot Rod (2007) 39%

ROD’S QUIET PLACE
Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer have amassed a huge following, thanks to their work as The Lonely Island, and fans of their brand of humor are often quick to come to the defense of this cult comedy (we get it; some of you love it). Unfortunately, critics didn’t quite feel the same way, calling Hot Rod a loosely threaded collection of hit-or-miss sketches that fails to live up to its stars’ potential. The biggest “hit” of the lot, though, is clearly the scene when Rod (Samberg) escapes to his “quiet place” in the woods to blow off some steam and ends up tumbling down a hill for nearly a full minute. It begins as a spoofy Footloose homage before it suddenly turns into one of the greatest — and probably the longest — pratfalls ever filmed, and it’s pretty glorious.


The Boondock Saints (1999) 28%

“THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!”
Perhaps the only good thing about The Boondock Saints is the opportunity to see Willem Dafoe at full tilt (though, to be fair, when is that ever not a good thing?). Much of the film is dedicated to macho posturing and childish fantasy wish-fulfillment — not a surprise considering its notoriously toxic writer-director — but there is a brief moment that lingers long after the credits roll. As Dafoe’s FBI agent Smecker arrives on the scene of a shootout, he begins to visualize what took place, passionately conducting a chorus that only exists in his mind and proclaiming, “There was a firefight!” The whole scene falls somewhere between unhinged and insane, and Dafoe’s exclamation is the cherry on top.


Warner Bros.

(Photo by Warner Bros.)

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995) 25%

A RHINO GIVES BIRTH
Before he really began to demonstrate his range in movies like The Truman Show during the 1990s, Jim Carrey had to wade his way through a number of films that almost solely relied on his gift for physical comedy. His outlandish antics weren’t for everyone, though, particularly when you’d seen them before, and so the Ace Ventura sequel, When Nature Calls, settled at a measly 33% on the Tomatometer. While the movie feels like a somewhat stitched-together series of vignettes, the scene when Ace becomes trapped in a mechanical rhino, strips naked, and escapes through a tiny hole in the rear is… Well, as Simon Pegg put it, “It is one of the single most genius pieces of comedic writing that will never be given its due because it’s part of a ridiculous, vaguely racist, silly comedy.”


The Interview (2014) 51%

THE  EMINEM INTERVIEW
Eminem is no stranger to controversy, and his most recent album reignited a familiar one about his use of homophobic slurs in his lyrics. Say what you will about his word choice, but the man is essentially besties with Elton John, and he even skewered himself on the issue in what is certainly the best scene in the 2014 comedy The Interview. As James Franco’s talk show host Dave Skylark interviews Em on his show, the contentious rapper casually reveals that he’s gay, and that he’s surprised no one has figured it out yet, considering the “breadcrumb trail” he’s left behind in all his lyrics. It’s a rather surprisingly effective moment that only works because of all the controversy he’s attracted, and his deadpan, matter-of-fact delivery is pitch perfect, making him the funniest man in the room.


Speed Racer (2008) 41%

FINAL RACE
After the success of the Matrix trilogy, the Wachowskis had carte blanche to work on whatever they wanted, and they chose to take on this long-in-development feature adaptation of the classic animated series. Despite their impressive technical wizardry and the candy-colored dreamscape they brought to life, the film bombed both critically and commercially. Even if you don’t love the movie as a whole, it’s hard to deny the power of the climactic race, an unexpectedly heartfelt finale bursting with top-notch special effects that not only boasts kinetic thrills but also provides closure on a key plot point. The film has gone on to inspire a cult following, and this ending is a big part of it.


20th Century Fox

(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) 35%

THE WET BANDITS GET BRICKED
The law of diminishing returns is very real, but when it comes to movies, it’s difficult to argue with a moviegoing public that saw something it liked and simply wanted more of the same. Enter Home Alone 2, which essentially repurposes the story from its predecessor but changes its setting from Chicago to New York. The silly shenanigans here are so familiar that it all essentially feels like a lazy rehash of the same movie. That said, the scene where little Kevin (Macaulay Caulkin) displays Hawkeye-level brick-throwing accuracy just gets funnier with every painful crunch, if only because Daniel Stern’s googly-eyed desperation and concussed mumbling reaches vaudevillian heights.


Reign of Fire (2002) 42%

QUINN AND CREEDY DO STAR WARS
Nowadays, a fantasy action film headlined by Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale might be met with fierce anticipation, but that’s exactly what we got in 2002’s Reign of Fire, and it was far less than the sum of its parts. Despite an intriguing, if somewhat goofy, take on post-apocalyptic humanity and some fairly successfully realized CGI dragons, the film bombed with critics and audiences alike. But in one scene, Bale’s Quinn and Gerard Butler’s Creedy reenact the climactic battle from The Empire Strikes Back for a crowd of awestruck children, playing it as an oral tradition, a campfire tale told from generation to generation. It’s an inspired nod to the power of Star Wars and a wink to the audience that hits its mark much more effectively than much of the rest of the film.


Jurassic Park III (2001) 48%

THE MISSING PHONE
By the time the third Jurassic Park movie came along, it was already clear the franchise was starting to run out of ideas (gymnastics battle, anyone?), and putting dinos onscreen was deemed sufficient. At least JP3 had a pretty formidable new breed in the Spinosaurus, and one scene in particular hints at how much better the film would have been with a bit more ingenuity. After Paul Kirby’s (William H. Macy) satellite phone goes missing earlier in the movie, his newly reunited son Eric reveals it was the sound of that phone that alerted them to their location. Cue the ominous ringing of the phone… and the Spinosaurus that swallowed it.


Universal Pictures

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

The Mummy (2017) 16%

MEET MR. HYDE
Last year’s reboot of Universal’s classic monster movie franchise performed so dreadfully that the studio’s plans for its own “Dark Universe” were almost immediately eighty-sixed. That was, in itself, a pretty incredible feat, considering they had the talents of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe to work with, but at the very least, the latter provided arguably the one standout moment of the movie. Crowe brought a complex intensity to the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, sophisticated in one breath and savage the next, and it left many of us asking if we couldn’t at least see a bit more of him, regardless of what happened to the Dark Universe.


Any Given Sunday (1999) 52%

PACINO’S SPEECH
Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday could have been so much more than it was, and at over two and a half hours, it was already a lot. Its overlong run time isn’t the only issue the film has, though; it also reiterates timeworn sports movie cliches and attempts to cast a critical eye on pro football even as Stone fetishizes it. All that aside, when you’ve got Al Pacino at your disposal, the smartest thing you can do is set him loose on some meaty lines, and that’s exactly what happens when Pacino delivers a pregame pep talk late in the film. It’s a powerful moment that really cements what Stone saw when he cast Pacino in the role of a head coach. Who wouldn’t follow that man?


The Perfect Storm (2000) 47%

THE BIG WAVE
It’s always a little tricky to turn real-life tragedy into a blockbuster production, but Wolfgang Petersen gathered a top-notch cast and gave it a go anyway. The Perfect Storm provided a pre-Pirates opportunity for Petersen to practice his nautical storytelling skills, but he proved he was more interested in the spectacle of it all. At the very least, he delivered an epic climax that ramped up the drama and pitted George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, and the rest of the Andrea Gail crew against a monster wave they couldn’t hope to survive. It’s an amazing image, and the fact that it isn’t an exaggeration of what the open sea may hold makes it that much more terrifying.

Tasty treats are in store for us this week at the video counter, where you’ll find an action-packed Western (3:10 to Yuma), a 2007 space odyssey (Sunshine), new stoner laughs (Smiley Face), a creature feature (Dragon Wars), and a quirky rom-com (Eagle vs. Shark). Dig in!


3:10 to Yuma

Tomatometer: 88%

The last time we saw Christian Bale playing cowboy, he was singing and dancing his way through turn-of-the-century New York selling newspapers. (Raise your hand if you’re obsessed with Newsies!) Not so in James Mangold‘s heady remake of the 1957 classic Western, which pits the intense Welsh actor against Aussie thesp Russell Crowe — a foreign-born pair who scratch out grimy, pitch-perfect performances in the most American of genres. The action-packed tale of a poor farmer (Bale) who volunteers to escort a deadly criminal (Crowe) to the titular prison-bound locomotive, 3:10 to Yuma comes to DVD with a passel of deleted scenes, director commentary, and featurettes that discuss the well-traveled ground of the film Western.
 


Sunshine

Tomatometer: 76%

As he demonstrated with 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle can craft tense atmospherics, and for some audiences, movies don’t get any tenser than those set in deep space. At long last, his science fiction thriller Sunshine is out on DVD, rife with genuinely stunning visuals and surprisingly believable “movie science” (save a contestable last-act turn of events). At once action thriller and psychological exploration, Boyle’s tale of a crew of scientists trying to reignite the sun to save Earth is a good bet for viewers who love spaceship drama, eye-popping images, and Cillian Murphy. Loads of bonus materials comprise the release, but for those lucky PS3 owners, watch the Blu-Ray version. As IGN DVD editor Christopher Monfette tells us, “It’ll destroy your retinas.”

 

Smiley Face

Tomatometer: 67%

If, like us, you long for the days of stoner comedies like Half Baked and the entire Cheech & Chong oeuvre, you might enjoy this day-in-the-life adventure starring a bunch of young Hollywood actors. As Jane, an out-of-work actress who accidentally on purpose eats an entire tray full of pot cupcakes, Anna Faris hazily stumbles her way across Los Angeles in an effort to make some money, buy more weed, replace the cupcakes, save an original manuscript of the Communist Manifesto, and other stuff we can’t exactly recall, all while riding the biggest high in film history. Bravo, Gregg Araki. You’ve done it this time!

 

Dragon Wars (D-WAR)


Tomatometer: 25%

The Host this ain’t; Korea’s second greatest monster movie in recent history is a bit of a far cry from…well, a good movie, according to most critics, but is perhaps a must-see for those to whom the terms “guilty pleasure” and “so bad it’s good” carry weight. And that includes us!

Eagle vs. Shark


Tomatometer: 25%

Independent cinema has thrived lately, thanks largely to the popularity of the sweet quirky comedy; now see the trend as filtered through the mind of New Zealand director Taika Waititi. Oddball characters in love? Check! Deadpan line delivery? Check!

White Noise 2: The Light


Tomatometer: N/A

Now, you may think that the original White Noise, starring Michael Keaton as a widower communing with the dead via everyday household appliances (yes, yes, we know it’s a “real” occurrence called Electronic Voice Phenomenon), truly needed no sequel. But you’d be wrong. Check out White Noise 2: The Light, starring Nathan Fillion and Katee Sackhoff, then spend a few hours listening really closely to your toaster.

Death Sentence


Tomatometer: 16%

It’s time for another round of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, who stars in Death Sentence as a vengeful father alongside Kelly Preston, who is married to John Travolta, who was in Look Who’s Talking Too with Roseanne Barr, who was in Backfield in Motion which was a funny women-playing-football movie. Wait, how do you play this game?

Until next week, fruitful renting to us all!

After struggling at the box office over the last few years, Russell Crowe scored his first number one film in more than seven years with the critically-acclaimed Western 3:10 to Yuma which bumped fellow Hollywood remake Halloween out of the top spot. The weekend’s other new releases, the action film Shoot ‘Em Up and the comedy The Brothers Solomon, both failed to make much of a dent into the typically-slow early September marketplace. The top ten slumped to its lowest point since late April while aside from Yuma, no wide release managed a per-theater average of more than $3,000.

Lionsgate scored its first top spot debut of the year with 3:10 to Yuma which shot up an estimated $14.1M in its opening frame from 2,652 theaters. Averaging a solid $5,317 per venue, the R-rated drama stars Crowe as a captured outlaw and Christian Bale as the man set to accompany him to the train that will take him to prison. Not since his career-making turn in 2000’s Oscar-winning picture Gladiator has Russell Crowe inhabited the number one spot at the box office. Last year’s dramedy flop A Good Year bowed to an embarrassing $3.7M on its way to a puny $7.5M while 2005’s well-reviewed Cinderella Man debuted below expectations with $18.3M leading to a $61.6M domestic total. Critics were very supportive of Yuma giving much praise to the two lead actors as well as to director James Mangold (Walk the Line).

After a record Labor Day weekend launch, the horror entry Halloween plunged 62% and dropped a notch to second place with an estimated $10M in ticket sales. The Rob Zombie-directed film pushed its ten-day cume up to a rosy $44.2M which already makes it the top-grossing R-rated fright flick of the year. Halloween seems on track to finish with roughly $60M for MGM.

Sony’s teen hit Superbad became the 20th film of 2007 to cross the $100M mark over the weekend. The raunchy sex romp collected an estimated $8M, dropping only 36%, and pushed its total gross to a stellar $103.7M. A final gross in the neighborhood of $125M seems likely for the inexpensive $18M production.

Rival comedy Balls of Fury lost half of its opening weekend audience and placed fourth for the frame with an estimated $5.7M pushing the 12-day tally to a respectable $24.3M. The Focus release should end up with $35-38M.

Matt Damon‘s third blockbuster in less than a year, The Bourne Ultimatum, followed in fifth with an estimated $5.5M, off 47%, lifting the cume to $210.1M from North America. The assassin pic joins Shia LaBeouf‘s Disturbia as the only 2007 films to spend six weeks in the Top Five. Worldwide, Ultimatum climbed past $300M making it the top-grossing film in the Bourne series globally with many international markets still to come.

The new Clive OwenPaul Giamatti action pic Shoot ‘Em Up debuted in sixth place with a disappointing $5.5M gross, according to estimates. Making its way into 2,108 theaters, the R-rated film averaged a weak $2,585 per site for New Line. Reviews were mixed.

New Line’s action sequel Rush Hour 3 followed in seventh with an estimated $5.3M, down 37%, boosting the cume to $129.3M. Fellow funny franchise flick Mr Bean’s Holiday dropped 43% to an estimated $3.4M giving Universal a domestic total of $25.1M. The global gross has now risen to a stunning $215M.

A pair of female-skewing pics rounded out the top ten. The Nanny Diaries grossed an estimated $3.3M in its third weekend, off 35%, giving MGM $21M to date. Leggy musical smash Hairspray dipped only 28% which was good enough to allow the John Travolta hit to climb back into the top ten with an estimated $2M. Cume stands at $114.9M for New Line.

Opening terribly in wide release outside of the top ten was the R-rated comedy The Brothers Solomon which bowed to an estimated $525,000 from 700 theaters for a dismal $750 average. The $10M production failed to even make the Top 20.

A pair of films enjoyed encouraging and almost identical launches in arthouses over the weekend. The lunar mission documentary In the Shadow of the Moon bowed to an estimated $41,200 from four sites for a solid $10,300 average. The ThinkFilm release was “presented” by Ron Howard and will add more theaters within New York and Los Angeles and expand to Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C. on Friday. MGM’s Richard Gere war drama The Hunting Party debuted in four venues as well and grossed an estimated $40,000 for a strong average of $10,000 per theater.

Two competing late-August action titles were tossed out of the top ten. Fox’s Kevin Bacon revenge pic Death Sentence tumbled 62% to an estimated $1.6M in its sophomore frame for a ten-day sum of only $7.9M. Look for a $10M final. The Jet LiJason Statham actioner War has done somewhat better and took in an estimated $1.4M in its third session. Crashing 68%, the Lionsgate release has taken in $20.5M thus far and should conclude with around $23M.

Among summer megahits still climbing the list of all-time domestic blockbusters, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix rose to $288.2M after its ninth weekend while Transformers inched up to $311.4M after its tenth attack. The July releases now sit at 31 and 21, respectively, on the all-time list.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $62.7M which was up a healthy 28% from last year when The Covenant debuted in first place with $8.9M; but down 11% from 2005 when The Exorcism of Emily Rose opened in the top spot with $30.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

A record summer box office ended on a high note
with a record Labor Day weekend led by
Rob Zombie‘s new take on the horror
classic Halloween which scored the biggest opening ever for this holiday frame.
The R-rated creepfest grossed an estimated $31M over the four-day
Friday-to-Monday period for MGM and The Weinstein Co. from an ultrawide 3,472
theaters for a powerful $8,932 average. That was enough to slash through the
previous holiday best of $20.1M from 2005’s
Transporter 2
by a stunning 54%.
Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion, the pic scored $26.5M and a $7,622 average.
The gross for the Michael Myers fright pic surged ahead of industry expectations
and ranked as the best horror opening since
Saw III‘s three-day tally of $33.6M
from last Halloween.

Marking the end of summer and a time when students begin going back to school,
Labor Day weekend is typically the weakest of all the holiday weekends during
the year. But the overall summer movie season was anything but. The domestic box
office generated over $4 billion led by seven blockbusters that crossed the
$200M mark with four sailing past the $300M milestone. Both were new industry
highs.
 






Sony’s two-time champ
Superbad
held up well in its third frame this weekend and grossed an
estimated $15.6M for a 18-day cume of $92.4M. Another comedy aimed at young
people, Balls of
Fury
, opened in the third spot with an estimated $13.8M from 3,052
locations for a decent four-day average of $4,534. Since its Wednesday launch,
the ping pong pic has taken in $16.8M for Focus.
 




For the fourth consecutive weekend the threequels
The Bourne Ultimatum
and
Rush
Hour 3
were back-to-back on the charts. The
Matt Damon assassin smash took in an
estimated $13.2M for a total of $202.6M while the
Jackie ChanChris Tucker
action-comedy dropped to an estimated $10.4M for a $122.2M sum. Bourne crossed
the $200M mark on Labor Day.
 






Following in sixth was Universal’s
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
with an estimated $8.1M
for $21.1M to date. The Nanny Diaries fell to an estimated $6.4M for MGM giving
the comedy just $16.5M in ten days.
Kevin Bacon stumbled into eighth place with
his vigilante thriller
Death Sentence
which bowed to an estimated $5.2M from
1,822 sites for an average of only $2,854 for Fox.
 





Jet Li and
Jason Statham followed in ninth with
War which crumbled in its
sophomore frame to an estimated $5.1M giving Lionsgate $18M in ten days.
Paramount’s fairy tale adventure
Stardust
rounded out the top ten with an
estimated $3.9M for a $31.9M total.
 





Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend.
The Simpsons Movie

laughed up an estimated $3.5M and boosted its sensational domestic haul to
$178.4M on its way to what should be a final tally of about $185M. Overseas, the
Fox smash broke through the $300M barrier this weekend and hopes to see its
global gross surge past $500M.
 





New Line’s hit musical
Hairspray
posted another strong performance banking an
estimated $3.5M over four days to raise its cume to $112.3M. A final domestic
gross of at least $120M seems likely. Not faring well was the Nicole Kidman
sci-fi thriller The Invasion which tumbled down to an estimated $1.5M for a poor
$14.1M total after 18 days. Paramount should end up snatching a miserable $16M.
 



The top ten films grossed an estimated $112.7M over four days (a new Labor Day
weekend record) which was up 26% from last year when
Invincible
remained in
first place with $15.4M in its second session; and up 23% from 2005 when
Transporter 2 opened in the top spot with a then-record $20.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,
www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

 

The four-billion-dollar-plus summer comes to a close over the long Labor Day holiday weekend with three new wide releases all targeting male moviegoers. Slasher fans get to relive old days with the latest incarnation of Halloween, teens looking for a laugh get the ping pong comedy Balls of Fury, and adults interested in Kevin Bacon‘s brand of revenge have the action thriller Death Sentence. With target audiences for the new pics having lots of overlap, and the existing holdovers also catering to similar crowds, the marketplace will have to work hard to expand as many of these titles will eat into each other.

Setting a new industry record for the widest opening ever over Labor Day weekend, rock-star-turned-director Rob Zombie‘s Halloween attacks theaters aiming to connect with horror movie fans. The R-rated entry marks the first new installment in five years for a franchise about to hit the three-decade mark. 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection bowed to $12.3M and a solid $6,291 average in mid-July of that summer proving that Michael Myers still had the muscle to draw in his fans. The arrival of a new Halloween flick coupled with the selection of a buzzworthy director makes for an interesting combo that will spark interest with genre fans.

To say that horror has hit some bad luck at the box office this year is putting it lightly. R-rated fright flicks in 2007 have struggled but Halloween will try to change that. Excitement among fans is considerable and with no other gorefests out there, competition will come mainly from the many action films or teen comedies. The Jeepers Creepers films proved how successful Labor Day weekend could be for a horror pic and now MGM and The Weinstein Company hope demand will still be there for their newest entry. Attacking 3,472 theaters, Halloween might collect about $20M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend.


Rob Zombie’s Halloween

The ping pong pic Balls of Fury, enters the marketplace in a good position as the frame’s only new comedy and only new PG-13 flick. The Focus release should stand out as a viable option for teenagers looking to kill some time with goofy immature fun. Starring Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, and Aisha Tyler, Balls is trying to market itself as a film that fans of Dodgeball would dig. Of course it doesn’t have the star wattage of a Vince or a Ben so the grosses will be much smaller. But as a B-list comedy, it does its job and should satisfy its target audience in the short term. The marketing push has been good and perfectly matches the silly nature of the film. Focus moved up its release date from a Friday opening to a Wednesday bow hoping to take advantage of most schools still being out of session. Plus the distrib expects some good word-of-mouth midweek could help its chances come the weekend. Playing in 3,052 theaters by Friday, Balls of Fury could launch with about $14M over four days and $17M over six days.


Dan Fogler in Balls of Fury

Aisha Tyler stars in another film opening this weekend taking a supporting role in the Kevin Bacon revenge thriller Death Sentence. Directed by Saw‘s James Wan, the R-rated pic finds the Footloose star playing a mild-mannered executive pushed to the edge to protect his family. Co-starring Kelly Preston and John Goodman, the Fox release should skew to an older adult audience which makes the long-lasting hit The Bourne Ultimatum a direct threat despite being in its fifth frame. The weekend’s other male-skewing pics will also steal away some biz so a modest bow is likely. Opening in roughly 1,900 theaters, Death Sentence might debut with about $7M over the long weekend.


Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence

Sony’s hit comedy Superbad, which has become must-see viewing for high school and college students heading back to school, should lose its crown after two weeks on top. But the raunchy teen smash will still post a solid gross despite heavy competition from new releases. Superbad‘s four-day take might drop 25% from last weekend’s three-day tally to around $13.5M which would boost the 18-day cume to a sensational $90M.

Since Labor Day weekend tends to be a catch-up time when people see popular flicks they’ve missed out on, another strong performance is likely to greet The Bourne Ultimatum which has easily been the top-grossing film of the past month. The new films will cause a distraction with younger moviegoers, but mature adults who may not have had time for Jason Bourne’s identity-revealing saga are sure to line up. Look for the four-day gross to dip by only 10% from last weekend giving the Universal blockbuster about $11M for the long weekend which would allow the assassin pic to cross the $200M mark on Monday.

Fellow threequel Rush Hour 3 should experience a larger drop and could fall by 25% to about $9M. That would put the total at $121M for New Line.

LAST YEAR: Mark Wahlberg scored back-to-back box office touchdowns with his sports drama Invincible which remained at number one for the second straight time with $15.4M over the four-day holiday weekend. Opening in the runnerup spot was Jason Statham‘s action pic Crank with $12.9M over the long weekend which edged out the debuting Nicolas Cage drama The Wicker Man which took in $11.7M. Final grosses reached $27.8M for the Lionsgate film and $23.6M for the Paramount pic. Rounding out the top five were Little Miss Sunshine with $9.6M and The Illusionist with $8.1M over four days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got ping pong (Balls of Fury, starring Dan Fogler and Christopher Walken); revenge (Death Sentence, starring Kevin Bacon); and the return of Michael Myers (Rob Zombie’s Halloween). What do the critics have to say?

It’s been a good couple years for sophomoric sports comedy; Dodgeball and Blades of Glory each earned cackles by taking the seriousness of athletic competition to absurd heights — and throwing in plenty of raunch. But juvenilia only goes so far; you need a little something more to generate laughs… And critics say laughs are in short supply in Balls of Fury. Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) is a washed-up pro table tennis player recruited to infiltrate the deadly world of underground extreme ping pong, in which the diabolical Feng (Christopher Walken) oversees a deadly tournament of serve-and-volley. It’s a funny premise, but critics say despite some yucks, Balls runs out of steam pretty quickly, and lacks the sharp comic edge of other sports comedies. At 28 percent on the Tomatometer, Balls of Fury is getting paddled. (Read our interview with Fogler here.)

Balls of Fury

One can’t fault James Wan for trying to branch out a little. With Death Sentence, the man behind Saw and Dead Silence moves from straight horror to the realm of the psychological thriller. After his child is brutally murdered, devoted family man Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) aims for revenge, and goes gunning for a violent gang that committed the crime. It’s not a bad premise; heck, it worked pretty well in Death Wish, and A History of Violence ventured into the darker realms of an everyman’s outwardly placid façade. But critics say as Death Sentence goes along, it slides into the land of unintentional comedy, gruesome violence, and a mixed message about the nature of vigilantism. At nine percent on the Tomatometer, Death Sentence is facing the critical firing squad. (Check out our interview with Wan from Comic-Con here.)

There can be only two reasons for the fact that the folks behind Halloween didn’t screen the film before its release. Either it’s so scary that movie critics wouldn’t be able to handle it, or they don’t think the pundits will dig it at all. Rob Zombie takes a look at the origins of one of cinema’s greatest psychopaths, Michael Myers, in this remake of the 1978 classic. Kids, Guess that Tomatometer! (Also, check out our rundown of Rob Zombie’s sources of inspiration here.)

Halloween

Also opening this week in limited release: Quiet City, Aaron Katz’ atmospheric film about a chance meeting in New York City, is at 86 percent; The Nines, a Lynchian, numerological mind-bender starring Ryan Reynolds and Hope Davis, is at 71 percent (check out our review from Sundance here); Exiled, Johnny To‘s tale of conflicted hit men, is at 69 percent; Freshman Orientation, the story of a college student who pretends to be gay to attract a girl, is at 60 percent; Self-Medicated, a semi-autobiographical account of a young man’s battle with addiction, is at 55 percent; and the heist flick Ladron que roba a ladron, about two expert thieves who plan to rob an infomercial host, is at 50 percent.

Finally, props to our homie unbreakable_samurai for coming the closest to guessing War‘s 18 percent Tomatometer. U_s is currently one of RT’s favorite U.S. Americans.

Halloweens:
—————–
89% — Halloween (1978)
19% — Halloween II (1981)
33% — Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)
14% — Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
10% — Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
4% — Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1996)
49% — Halloween: H20 (1998)
11% — Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Recent Kevin Bacon Movies:
———————————–
18% — Loverboy (2006)
39% — Where the Truth Lies (2005)
89% — Forces of Nature (2005)
40% — Beauty Shop (2005)
86% — The Woodsman (2004)

Modest yet gregarious,
James Wan
appears more like a fan of the movies than someone who directs them. And as the
instigator of the modern torture porn genre, he fits the bill even less.  Shot
for $1.2 million and grossing over $100 million globally in 2004, Wan’s
Saw
paved the way for its
increasingly grisly sequels and a host of splatter flicks like
Turistas
,
Captivity
, and the
Hostel franchise.

Wan’s subsequent movies, like
his straight-forward horror
Dead Silence
,
have calmed significantly.  His latest,
Death Sentence
,
opens this Friday and stars
Kevin Bacon
as a father protecting his family from brutes. Rotten Tomatoes caught up with
Wan in San Diego, broaching the topics of action films during the American New
Wave, directing Bacon, and growing up in suburbia.

Rotten Tomatoes: Death
Sentence
‘s action scenes are shot very matter-of-factly, with low-key music.

James Wan: One of my
influences was the action films of the 1970s. Today’s action movies, when the
action scene kicks in, they’re so bombastic.  I didn’t really want that. I
wanted to create [something] realistic and gritty.  I want the violence to be
really shocking, really hellish in that it’s not supposed to be fun.

RT: How much CG did you
use?

JW: Very
little. Mostly for cleanup. Maybe we’d paint up a wire for safety.

Look at this summer.  If
people want to watch a CG movie, there’s plenty out there.  If people want an
action movie that is realistic, that harks back to the old-school — you know,
stunt work, choreography — then that’s what I was going for. I wanted to make
an action movie that was [also] scary.

RT: It reminded me of
Straw Dogs
.

JW: I love
Sam Peckinpah.
So Straw Dogs is about an oppressed man, who’s unconfrontational on the
surface level but gets pushed too far. Death Sentence has shades of that. It
kind of goes the extra step.  We get stories like [that] all the time:
mild-mannered man goes on some crazy rampage. And you go, "How did they do
this?"

I guess, deep down, there’s a
dark side to us. I guess that’s why movie fans really love the revenge drama. 
We like to go into dark movie theaters and fantasize.  Do what Kevin Bacon does!
It’s a very cathartic experience. And you come out of the theater, and think, "I
got that out of my system.  I don’t need to do that for real." [laughs]

But [Death Sentence]
really is a drama before the action starts. This movie is a tearjerker. I think
people are going to be surprised.  People are going to be crying.  Hopefully
because of the story, and the strong performances. [laughs]



Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence.

RT: Did you consult the
book by
Brian
Garfield
?

JW: No, I didn’t want
to be influenced by the book.  The book is very different from the script, and
it was the script that I fell in love with.  [But I love] the title!  It’s a
very commercial title. Has a B-movie slant to it.

RT: In your movies, a
little in Saw but especially in Death Sentence, there are elements
of suburbia as a place of safety and complacency.

JW: I come from a very
straight and adjusted suburban background.  Very middle class while growing up in
the suburbs of Australia. With Asian parents [laughs]. So it was, "You must
study hard, you must work hard so you can go to a good school and get a good
job," and all that stuff.  So, yeah, I do find that theme creeping into my
films a bit.

RT: Kevin Bacon is also a
director.  Did he specifically contribute that experience while shooting?

JW: At first I was a
bit apprehensive knowing that he’s directed a few things. But he was a true
professional.  He treated me like I was
Clint Eastwood,
like Ron Howard,
or some of the bigger directors he’s worked with. I can’t believe he would
listen to this punk kid telling him what to do. But he did, and I respect him
for that.

RT: You worked with
animation while studying film. How far did you get?

JW: I don’t do it much
anymore.  I’m a big fan of cel animation, I’m a big fan of computer animation,
and, most of all, I’m a big fan of stop-motion animation.

RT: Would you consider
doing an animated movie?

JW: Yeah, definitely. 
I’m a big fan of anime and manga and all that. I would love to.  Stop-motion
animation mixed with 2D.

With only a week to go before the annual geek-fest known as San Diego Comic Con, one of the major studios has bailed on the event: Fox!

The original plan was to share some promotional materials from upcoming Fox projects like Doug Liman’s Jumper, Vin Diesel’s Babylon A.D., Timothy Olyphant in Hitman, the highly-anticipated The Dark Is Rising, and (of course) this winter’s Alien vs. Predator 2.

While all the other studios will be neck-deep in marketing tricks and enthusiastic nerds, Fox will be hard at work getting their packages ready. From the L.A. Times: “The material wasn’t ready and we only want to go out when we can put our best foot forward,” Sean Dudas, the studio’s vice president of national publicity, said on Wednesday.”

Fox’s “Atomic” division will still be on hand to hype the Kevin Bacon revenge flick Death Sentence and the Rainn Wilson comedy The Rocker. Comic con attendees should take note, though: Word is that Fox still has a few ‘surprises’ in store for the event. So keep your eyes peeled for aliens, predators, and Vin Diesel.

UPDATE: According to CHUD.com, there might be another reason for Fox’s last-minute plan-change. Apparently the “con” does not approve of R-rated materials, and since most of the studio’s fare will be leaning in that direction, they figured it wasn’t necessarily worth all the expense. Interesting theory.

Source: L.A. Times, CHUD.com

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