(Photo by Jonny Cournoyer / © Paramount Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection)
Emily Blunt‘s first two Rotten Tomatoes-rated movies were Certified Fresh: My Summer of Love, which you’ve never heard of, and The Devil Wears Prada, which you definitely have. The $124-million grossing and decidedly unromantic comedy paved a path for more female-led films and served as a launching vector for actresses like Anne Hathaway and Blunt. Her appearances in high-profile Charlie Wilson’s War, The Wolfman and The Muppets kept the momentum going, but it wasn’t until releasing Looper that Blunt got that most coveted of validations: internet fan cred. Following that up with Edge of Tomorrow and A Quiet Place has cemented her image of poise and natural radiant strength. She was Mary Poppins, y’all.She was even Tempest Shadow in My Little Pony: The Movie. That’s cross-generational.
The critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men comes to DVD this week, accompanied by a litany of fellow Fresh films (Lake of Fire, Summer Palace, Dan in Real Life) as well as a gaggle of critical duds (Hitman, Bee Movie, August Rush, and more).
Joel and Ethan Coen add another celebrated film to their resume with this four-category Oscar-winning thriller about a bag of stolen cash, a man on the run, the killer on his tail, and the old lawman desperately trying to make sense of it all. While we’ll get no commentary track on this initial DVD release (just wait for the inevitable super-sized special editions), three features comprise the bonus menu, but the film itself is its own reward — just ask those Academy voters.
Jerry Seinfeld‘s bid for post-Seinfeld success came last year in the form of a honeybee: a neurotic, rather Jerry-esque bee named Barry Bee Benson, to be exact, who leaves corporatized hive life for the great big world of humans in New York City’s Central Park. When Barry discovers that humans have been stealing the hard-earned honey of his buzzing brethren, he takes the most American action there is — he sues the human race. With a supporting voice cast that includes Chris Rock, Renee Zellweger, Patrick Warburton, and Matthew Broderick — and cameos by Sting, Ray Liotta, and Oprah Winfrey — Bee Movie is full of that familiar Seinfeld sardonic humor, although, as the critics say, it’s fairly forgettable.
Dan in Real Life
Steve Carell‘s trademark hangdog deadpan finds appropriate anchor in this romantic comedy from Peter Hedges (Pieces of April). Carell stars as Dan, the widowed father of three girls who writes an advice column for a living; when Dan meets his dream girl (Juliette Binoche) during a family get-together, he’s elated — until he learns she’s his brother’s new girlfriend. A soundtrack by Swedish singer-songwriter Sondre Lerch underscores Dan’s comic heartache, though some critics found the script to be occasionally too flat and contrived. A decently packed bonus menu with director commentary, deleted scenes, and outtakes round out the disc.
Freddie Highmore, Britain’s omnipresent kid actor, stars as a musically-gifted orphan on a quest to find his birth parents — and exposure any and every person he meets along the way to the magic of music. Sound schmaltzy enough for you? Well, throw in Robin Williams (channeling his doppelganger, U2 front man Bono) as a musical street pimp named Wizard, salvation in the form of a choir, and lines like “The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen,” and you’ve got one heckuva a saccharine smorgasbord.
If, like some of us, you were an avid fan of the Nancy Drew mystery books — over 170 stories published under the pseudonym “Carolyn Keene” since 1930 — then you might have felt some apprehension when a feature-length film about the classic sleuthing teen was announced. Unfortunately for us purists, the reviews confirm those fears. Emma Roberts stars as the titular teen, whose prudish, Type-A manner clashes with the spoiled kids she encounters when she and her dad (Tate Donovan) move to Tinseltown. A Hollywood mystery surfaces, of course, but grown audiences will remain unspooked. I say, bring on the Choose Your Own Adventure movie instead!
The gimmick of casting this cat-and-mouse thriller is intriguing on its own; having starred as a young adulterer opposite Laurence Olivier in 1972’s Sleuth, Michael Caine now plays the older role opposite Jude Law in Kenneth Branagh‘s remake. Unfortunately, the script by Harold Pinter, adapting Anthony Shaffer’s play, fails to serve the two leads well, making for a tedious time — unless you enjoy watching two distinguished British actors out-act one another. Law, Caine, and Branagh make recompense in a jointly recorded commentary track in the special features.
With a title like Hitman, you know what you’re getting into with this video game adaptation from French director Xavier Gens (Frontier(es)). Timothy Olyphant stars as a bar coded professional killer named Number 47 dealing with his sinister bosses, a Russian politico, and a hot prostitute (Olga Kurylenko) on the run. Overwhelmingly derided by the critical set, who might alternately recommend the film to a PS2-obsessed pre-teen boy, Hitman at least serves one purpose: bringing you a closer look at future Bond girl Kurylenko half a year before Quantum of Solace hits theaters.
When Nirvana covered the Meat Puppets’ “Lake of Fire” in their Unplugged album session, they sang that the Biblical body of water was “where bad folks go when they die.” In his sprawling documentary on abortion, director Tony Kaye brings us a comprehensive look at the often violent, always vehement hot button debate that has raged for 25 years since Roe vs. Wade. Kaye, who filmed the doc over a period of 17 years, is the same director who earned Hollywood’s praise for directing the 1998 skinhead drama American History X (then disappeared from view following his bitter falling out with New Line and star Edward Norton). Be warned that Lake of Fire contains graphic images; a commentary with Kaye accompanies the DVD.
A young rural woman gets accepted to Peking University and encounters sexual awakening, politics, and discontent against the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square protests in controversial director Lou Ye‘s epic drama. Actress Hao Lei gives a brazen performance as the film’s restless protagonist, who spends over two decades (the late 1980s to the 2000s) struggling to get over the lost love of her life. At over two and a half hours, Ye’s film could be split into two stories — one of the young woman and another of her adult years) — but his film captures the zeitgeist of an entire generation forever marked by Tiananmen-era experiences, at times recalling the verve of Godard and the French New Wave. Shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival without government approval, the sexually-explicit film was subsequently banned in China, its filmmakers censured from further filmmaking for a five year span.
So there you have your new releases for this week. In the words of the ancient Romans, “Amicule, deliciae, num is sum qui mentiar tibi?”
When they sit down on January 15th to determine the Best Song nominees for this year’s Oscars, voting members of the Academy’s Music Branch will have plenty of tunes to choose from — 59, to be exact.
While a number of the contenders were written by film-music vets — including Alan Silvestri, Alan Menken, and Diane Warren — this year’s field also boasts submissions by big pop names (John Legend, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer), rock superstars (Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters), and critically beloved songwriters (Marshall Crenshaw, Mike Viola, Dan Bern).
According to Variety, August Rush leads the crowd with four contenders, followed by Dan in Real Life, 56 Drops of Blood, Enchanted, Good Luck Chuck, Into the Wild, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story with three apiece.
On January 15th, the Academy will randomly screen clips featuring each song for voters, who will then have the unenviable task of narrowing the group of 59 down to three, four, or five nominees.
Following a sluggish fall season, November kicks off with a bang this weekend with two high profile films both reaching for the number one spot while appealing to vastly different audiences. Paramount and DreamWorks target kids with the animated comedy Bee Movie from Jerry Seinfeld while Universal goes after adult audiences with its crime drama American Gangster which pits Denzel Washington against Russell Crowe. With little overlap in business, the overall North American box office should surge and finally beat out year-ago levels leading to a solid kickoff for the holiday movie season.
A decade after conquering the television world, Jerry Seinfeld aims to take over the land of film with Bee Movie. The PG-rated toon tells the story of a bee that must try to save his world from those nasty humans that take their honey. Also lending vocal talents are Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Oprah Winfrey, and Chris Rock who snagged the coveted ‘and’ credit for what amounts to about 60 seconds of dialogue. Timing for the Paramount/DreamWorks release is as good as it gets. Not only is early November a hot time for kids movies to score at the box office but the marketplace has suffered a virtual drought when it comes to family-friendly entertainment this fall with The Game Plan being the only major contender. Parents are dying to take their kids to something else, anything else.
Bee Movie falls into the lucrative category of digitally animated comedies about talking creatures featuring the voice of a popular comedian. Last November’s Happy Feet with Robin Williams opened to $41.5M, the previous year’s Chicken Little bowed to $40M, and 2004’s Shark Tale debuted with $47.6M. Bee has the slick animation and funny situations that kids like but also features humor that adults will enjoy too so it will play to a broad audience. And the millions of Seinfeld fans that have had nothing but DVD box sets every Thanksgiving will finally have some new material they can check out from their favorite comic. Critics have not been very kind but that should not affect the grosses that much. The studio’s marketing blitz will be enough to make children demand a trip to the local megaplex. With a highly commercial product, no competition for the family audience, and an ultrawide launch in over 3,500 theaters, Bee Movie could win the box office battle this weekend and gross about $42M.
Gangster should play out like a Denzel movie more than anything else since his box office track record is the strongest and has more consistency than those of Scott and Crowe. Having scored ten career number one openings to date, Washington has seen his top bow come from last year’s Inside Man which debuted to $29M and a $10,275 average. Last fall’s organized crime hit The Departed opened to $26.9M and a $8,912 average and makes for a good comparison given its genre, starpower, acclaim, rating, and length. Gangster will attract a larger African American audience than Scorsese‘s award winner did so an opening north of $30M seems likely. Appeal to men and women will be equally strong. Many adult dramas have struggled at the box office this fall but American Gangster has the firepower to go out there and pull in paying audiences. Plus the weekend’s other major offerings will not eat into its customer base by too much. Heading into 3,054 theaters, American Gangster might debut with around $34M this weekend.
Look for a better hold from Steve Carell‘s dramedy Dan in Real Life. The Buena Vista title enjoyed a solid average and has generated good word-of-mouth. The weekend’s new releases may not provide too much competition so a decline of 35% could result. That would put Dan at around $7.5M for a total of $22M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: Crashing into multiplexes on a tidal wave of buzz was the raunchy comedy Borat which only debuted in 837 theaters but scored a potent top spot bow of $26.5M for a sizzling average of $31,607. The Fox blockbuster was the only film in 2006 to hit number one while playing in less than 2,000 venues. Final grosses reached $128.5M domestically and over $260M worldwide. Two new kidpics split the family audience and followed in second and third. Disney’s Tim Allen sequel The Santa Clause 3 bowed to $19.5M on its way to $84.5M while Paramount’s animated comedy Flushed Away debuted close behind with $18.8M before finishing with $64.5M. Falling to fourth was Saw III with $14.8M for Lionsgate while the Warner Bros. crime thriller The Departed rounded out the top five with $7.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com,
For the third straight year, the weekend before Halloween was ruled by a
$30M+ opening from the Saw
franchise proving that the horror series is still the top choice for those
looking for a scare. While
Saw IV debuted at number one with a brutal box office bow, the romantic
dramedy Dan in
Real Life starring
opened impressively in second place and made for a popular counter-programming
choice for those not interested in blood and gore. Overall, the North American
box office came back to life as the top ten was about even with this same
weekend in each of the last two years when by no coincidence earlier Saw
installments reigned supreme.
Lionsgate’s wildly successful fall movie slate welcomed another hit with
Saw IV which topped
the charts with an estimated $32.1M launch taking in more ticket sales than the
next four films combined. It was the largest debut for any film since the comedy
mid-August, the best opening for any horror film this year, and proved that the
distributor’s highly profitable franchise was still a big hit with fans.
Premiering in 3,183 theaters, the R-rated torturefest averaged a gruesome
$10,088 per site. The performance was a bit below the $33.6M opening of
Saw III from this
weekend last year and ahead of the $31.7M start for
Saw II in 2005. Those
films reached $87M and $80.2M, respectively in the domestic market. As the
fourth installment in a horror franchise, Saw IV should suffer rapid erosion in
the weeks ahead, but a muscular final gross of $70-75M could still result.
Buena Vista delivered a strong start for its comedy-drama offering
Dan in Real Life
which bowed to an estimated $12.1M from 1,921 theaters for a solid $6,289
average per venue. The Steve Carell vehicle about a widower who falls for his
brother’s girlfriend posted impressive numbers given its moderately wide release
and benefited from the studio’s sneak previews last weekend which helped to
spread word-of-mouth for a film that was not necessarily an easy sell. Critics
had mixed feelings but were generally pleased with Dan.
With Saw IV stealing away the horror crowd, the vampire thriller
30 Days of Night
fell sharply in its second weekend dropping 58% to third place with an estimated
$6.7M. Sony’s $30M fright flick has scared up $27.3M in ten days and looks
headed for about a $40M finish.
Disney’s family comedy
The Game Plan
enjoyed a great hold in its fifth frame sliding only 24% to an estimated $6.3M
for a $77.1M cume. Lionsgate found itself in fifth with
Did I Get Married? which grossed an estimated $5.7M, off 53%, giving
the Tyler Perry
hit $47.3M to date. So far this fall, the distributor has opened four films with
debut averages of over $5,000 including two with averages north of $10,000.
The sports spoof comedy
collected an estimated $3.5M in its second weekend, down a moderate 38%, and put
its sum at $10M after ten days. A $17-19M final is likely. Sony’s crime drama
We Own the Night
followed dropping 37% to an estimated $3.4M giving the
Wahlberg pic $25.1M thus far. Rounding out the top ten was the latest
re-release of Tim
Nightmare Before Christmas which fell 37% to an estimated $3.3M
giving the Disney title $10M from its limited engagement.
Two star-driven underachievers dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The
Rendition declined by 42% in its second frame taking in an estimated
$2.4M for a ten-day tally of just $7.8M. A $13-15M final should result for New
Ben Stiller flop
The Heartbreak Kid
tumbled 54% to an estimated $1.8M leaving the pic with only $35.1M overall. The
Farrelly brothers project will struggle to reach $39M.
Generating a scorching bow in a platform launch in New York was
critically acclaimed drama
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead which grossed an estimated
$73,500 from only two houses for a strong $36,750 per site. ThinkFilm reported
that numerous moviegoers were turned away at sold out shows on Friday and
Saturday and that the film will expand into six additional markets for a total
of 50 locations this Friday.
Also showing strength in its debut was the inspirational tale
Bella with an
estimated $1.3M from 165 playdates for a solid $8,026 average. The Roadside
Attractions release targeted the Latino and faith-based audiences and won the
Audience Award at Toronto last year.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $82M which was off 2% from last year when
Saw III debuted in first place with $33.6M; and down a scant 1% from 2005
when Saw II opened in the top spot with $31.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandaya,
Jigsaw’s twisted games return for another late-October round of torture fun with Saw IV which should allow the lucrative franchise to claim the biggest horror opening of the year for the second straight time. The R-rated gorefest follows last year’s Saw III which bowed to $33.6M this very weekend setting a new debut record for the series. Jigsaw’s death in that installment did not stop a fourth flick from being produced since the most popular horror movie villains never truly die anyway. Although III set a new opening weekend record for the Lionsgate series, it did not match Saw II‘s overall $87M gross and instead finished a bit behind with $80.2M. Still, with small budgets (Saw III was produced for $12M) this cash cow continues to churn out profits and shows no sign of stopping.
The audience for Saw IV is clearly defined and new fans are not likely to be generated. Competition will come primarily from last weekend’s number one opener 30 Days of Night which will suffer a sharp fall this weekend. Otherwise, there is not much to distract genre fans on the weekend before the pumpkin holiday. The marketing has been on par with previous films, but as the franchise ages it risks losing fans who may have had enough with three helpings already. Plus this year has seen a wide assortment of horror films crash and burn which has led to some fright fatigue. Another factor could be the World Series which last year only affected Saw III‘s Friday bow but this year will cut into both Saturday and Sunday business. Many young adults may opt for the torture that the Red Sox are inflicting on the Rockies instead. Saw IV opens on Friday in 3,183 locations and could take in about $29M over three days.
LAST YEAR: Like clockwork, Saw III came in and dominated the pre-Halloween box office with a franchise-best $33.6M debut grossing more than the rest of the top five combined. The Jigsaw pic eroded fast and ended up trailing Saw II‘s total tally and finished with $80.2M. Holding tight in second place was Martin Scorsese‘s crime saga The Departed with $9.8M in its fourth assignment and the lowest drop in the top ten. The magician drama The Prestige followed closely in third with $9.6M. The war drama Flags of Our Fathers ranked fourth with $6.3M while the animated hit Open Season placed fifth with $5.9M. Opening to dismal results outside the top ten was the Tim Robbins drama Catch A Fire with only $2M on its way to a horrible $4.3M. Platforming in only seven sites was the ensemble drama Babel which went on to gross $34.3M and win the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week at the movies we have a lovelorn single dad (Dan
in Real Life, starring
Steve Carell and
brothers on a train (The Darjeeling Limited,
Owen Wilson and
and the return of Jigsaw (Saw IV,
Scott Patterson). What do the critics have to say?
The perpetually awesome
Steve Carell and
Juliette Binoche team up for
in Real Life, a rom-com about an advice columnist who falls for his
brother’s significant other. It sounds good on paper: who wouldn’t be intrigued
by the pairing of the brilliantly guileless Carell with Binoche, an actress of
uncommon range and depth? Though Life suffers from an uneasy mix of sitcom wackiness and sentimentality, director Peter Hedges has a clear love for the film’s characters, with most critics agreeing Carell and company overcome the weak script. At 60 percent, Dan looks to survive his mid (Tomatometer) Life crisis.