Judd Apatow isn’t just a producer, of course; he’s also a director and writer, and many of his movies find him occupying all three chairs. Still, it’s his list of production credits that runs longest – and may contain a few surprises for those who haven’t been following his career closely – so we thought this weekend’s Apatow-produced Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping would be the perfect time to give them the Total Recall treatment. We did get a little technical, and cut out the films where he served as an executive producer (bye bye, Heavyweights, Celtic Pride, Kicking and Screaming, and The TV Set) as well as associate producer (thus excising 1992’s Crossing the Bridge), and popular favorites like Anchorman, Pineapple Express, and Step Brothers didn’t make the cut. Don’t worry, though – that still leaves us plenty to discuss. Ready to get started? It’s Total Recall time!


Get Him to the Greek (2010) 72%

Get-Him-To-The-Greek
Before he launched a second career as an agitator for social justice and economic equality, Russell Brand was a pretty funny guy — and although his particular shtick definitely wasn’t right for every role, it could be quite effective in the proper context. For example, there’s Brand’s scene-stealing supporting turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which he played the cheerfully hedonistic rock star that the title character hooks up with after dumping poor Jason Segel — a role he reprised a couple years later for Get Him to the Greek. Here, Brand’s Aldous Snow must be shepherded to a crucial gig through a landmine of bad decisions and irresponsible behavior, with responsibility for his whereabouts falling to an increasingly overmatched label rep (Jonah Hill). “The movie’s a good, rude commercial comedy,” argued the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips. “How many good movies have we even seen this year?”

Watch Trailer


Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) 74%

Walk-Hard
Judd Apatow productions are known for their skillful use of humor that feels real — sometimes squirm-inducingly — so the news that he was co-writing and producing a mock biopic of a legendary musician named Dewey Cox (and that Cox would be played by the mercilessly funny John C. Reilly) was greeted with enthusiasm by critics and fans hungry for more 40-Year-Old Virgin-style laughs. Ultimately, expectations for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story proved slightly unreasonable; although critics applauded the film, moviegoers chose not to follow Apatow down this particular path, and it failed to recoup its budget. Still, despite being one of Apatow’s rare commercial misfires, Walk Hard is one of the better-reviewed entries on his resume, and boasts the approval of no less a critical luminary than Roger Ebert, who applauded its restraint when he wrote, “instead of sending everything over the top at high energy, like Top Secret or Airplane!, they allow Reilly to more or less actually play the character, so that, against all expectations, some scenes actually approach real sentiment.”

Watch Trailer


Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016) 80%

Pee-Wees-Big-Holiday
Pee-Wee Herman entered the 1990s as a fairly tired joke (and an unwillingly dirty one at that), but given enough time and nostalgia, almost everything old is new again. Herman’s creator, Paul Reubens, discovered as much after exhuming the character for a series of public appearances that led into a revival of his stage show — and a lengthy development process for a third Pee-Wee movie. Reubens ultimately hooked up with Apatow to produce Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, a 2016 release that bowed on Netflix alongside its theatrical run. While the movie’s rollout might have been cutting edge, the story — and Pee-Wee himself — remained substantially the same as his heyday, adding up to a film offering a high-grade flashback to a franchise many critics remembered so fondly they were willing to let its narrative deficiencies slide. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Wiegand put it, “After all these years — his and ours — Pee-wee Herman is still a Peter Pan who can lead us back to innocence with a corny joke or a childish jape.”

Watch Trailer


Begin Again (2013) 83%

Begin-Again
Judd Apatow isn’t the first person you’d think of to produce a movie from the guy who gave us the tenderly mournful indie drama Once, but that’s just what we got with 2014’s Begin Again — and it was pretty darn good, too. Admittedly, the movie offered something of a slicker spin on Once‘s story of two damaged souls connecting through music, but while there were similarities between the two films, they weren’t overwhelming. And as he had with his previous outing, Carney showed a tremendous flair for following the tentative, skipping beat of a developing relationship — not to mention a knack for assembling a fine cast (led here by Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, and Adam Levine) and a soundtrack worthy of repeat listens. “Carney deserves great credit for the movie’s clever, layered structure, and for resisting a few obvious plot turns along the way,” wrote Moira MacDonald for the Seattle Times. “Lightning doesn’t strike, but sunshine works, too.”

Watch Trailer


Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) 83%

Forgetting-Sarah-Marshall
As the title of his latest feature suggests, Judd Apatow knows funny people — and he has a knack for working with his comedic leads at exactly the right time. After helping Steve Carell and Seth Rogen cross over to superstardom, Apatow added his magic producer’s touch to Jason Segel’s breakout feature, 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which deftly combined the elements we’ve come to expect from Apatow-branded comedies (painfully real humor, uncomfortable nudity) with utterly unique ingredients (singing vampire puppets). The results proved, once again, that if they’re assembled properly, movies that skirt the rim of lowbrow humor can squeeze a couple of hours’ worth of laughs out of even the most highfalutin critics. In his review, the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern echoed Sarah Marshall‘s many accolades when he wrote, “Halfway through I realized that I’d lost most of my standards, maybe under my seat, and was enjoying the erratic evolution of the nonsense.”

Watch Trailer


The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) 85%

40-Year-Old-Virgin
Judd Apatow seemed to come out of nowhere with 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, his directorial debut — but the reality, of course, is that his ascension was far more gradual; he landed his first associate producers’ credit with 1992’s Crossing the Bridge, and his name surfaced throughout the 1990s and early aughts in connection with projects both well-received (The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared) and, well, not (Celtic Pride, The Cable Guy). But Apatow’s signature brand of comedy didn’t really reach full bloom until Virgin — and its awkward pauses, creative profanity (“Kelly Clarkson!”), and off-the-wall pop culture gags (Asia! Michael McDonald!) arrived at the perfect moment for a moviegoing public starved for smart adult humor. The result left Steve Carell with a new level of fame, made Judd Apatow a household name, and helped resurrect the R-rated comedy. It didn’t do too badly with critics, either; Bill Muller of the Arizona Republic was solidly in line with the sentiments of his peers when he wrote that Virgin was “a nostalgic, sentimental and wholly bawdy comedy that will make you laugh until your sides hurt.”

Watch Trailer


Trainwreck (2015) 84%

Trainwreck
Apatow has proven himself a reliable incubator for young comics over the years, and although he can’t take credit for the rise of Amy Schumer, there’s no denying the sharp eye for talent he again displayed when he hitched his wagon to her star for the 2015 hit Trainwreck. Directing from a script written by Schumer, Apatow once again helped assemble a picture offering a distaff twist on the boundary-pushing comedy he’d turned into big business a decade before — and although the story was basically just a gender reversal on the same old story about a lovable lout who finds happiness by growing up and embracing commitment, the end result was charming and well-written enough for the vast majority of critics to forgive the familiarity. In fact, argued the New York Post’s Sara Stewart, “Trainwreck is a corrective to a lot of outdated clichés. It’s very funny and sweet and even a little weepy, and it has maybe the best scene ever filmed of dirty talk gone wrong.”

Watch Trailer


Superbad (2007) 88%

Superbad
Having been a staunch supporter of Seth Rogen’s from their days together on the set of Freaks and Geeks, Apatow was already well acquainted with Rogen’s comedic talents even before they teamed up to make a ton of box office cash with Knocked Up — which doubtless had a lot to do with why Apatow was interested in producing Superbad, a high school loss-of-virginity flick in the grand tradition of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Pie. Superbad‘s premise, which teamed Jonah Hill and Michael Cera with newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse on a quest to secure booze for a house party, may have been embarrassingly familiar, but Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, nonetheless managed to squeeze fresh laughs (and plenty of ticket receipts) from it — not to mention kudos from critics like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, who wrote, “for pure laughs, for the experience of just sitting in a chair and breaking up every minute or so, Superbad is 2007’s most successful comedy.”

Watch Trailer


Knocked Up (2007) 89%

Knocked-Up
Schlubby dudes that inexplicably manage to score with babes have been a comedy staple for decades, on screens both small (Newhart, According to Jim) and silver (everything Woody Allen has ever done). Into that rich tradition stepped 2007’s Knocked Up, Apatow’s wildly successful directorial follow-up to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which paired rumpled slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) with gorgeous E! Network employee Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) for a look at what can happen when you head to a club, have a few too many drinks, and don’t give a lot of thought to who comes home with you. (This is Hollywood, of course, so what ends up happening is everlasting love, but not before a lot of funnier, more unpleasant consequences.) An enormous box office success, Knocked Up kickstarted Rogen’s career, cemented Apatow’s standing as a purveyor of fine adult comedies, and earned the adoration of critics such as Stephanie Zacharek of Salon, who called it “Hilarious from moment to moment, but leaving behind both a warm glow and a sting. This is a picture that refuses to fetishize either the ability to conceive or the significance of our place in the universe once we’ve done so.”

Watch Trailer


Bridesmaids (2011) 90%

Bridesmaids
Apatow made a name for himself with crass humor largely brought to life by man-child protagonists, but the bros took a back seat for 2011’s Bridesmaids, in which director Paul Feig corralled a crew of hilarious ladies — including Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo) — to depict their bawdy misadventures during the days leading up to a wedding. After helping make the box office safe for R-rated comedy, Apatow helped prove audiences were just as willing to turn out for grown-up laughs of the female-driven variety — and nearly $300 million in receipts later, the end result looked like the beginning of a paradigm shift in Hollywood. “It’s not a movie for people looking for a decorous night at the movies,” admitted the Newark Star-Ledger’s Stephen Whitty. “It is a film, though, for folks eager for some good dirty jokes, some refreshingly real female characters – and, just maybe, a new comic voice.”

Watch Trailer

P. T. Anderson’s Oscar-winning oil opus There Will Be Blood hits shelves this week, so if you missed Daniel Day-Lewis’ astounding turn as the prospector with a heart as black as crude in theaters, now’s the time to play catch up. Also new to DVD are the musical spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Leonardo di Caprio’s environmental doc The 11th Hour, the parking lot thriller P2, and more.


There Will Be Blood


Tomatometer:
92%

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most consistent young auteurs around (his films in order: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love) so it was no surprise when his latest, There Will Be Blood, proved predictably exceptional. The epic character study of oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning role) striking it rich in turn-of-the-century California captivated the hearts of critics with Robert Elswit’s handsome Oscar-winning photography; Plainview’s greed-fueled descent into bitter loneliness — and his rivalry with evangelist Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) — mesmerized their minds. All of which makes There Will Be Blood, released this week in both single- and double-disc versions, a must-own for any true cinephile. We recommend the 2-disc release, of course, which includes deleted scenes and a government-produced vintage silent film about the oil industry scored anew by Radiohead guitarist (and TWBB composer) Jonny Greenwood.


Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story


Tomatometer: 74%

While Walk Hard suffered the ignominious label of “box office bomb” following a dismal and surprising theatrical run last December, the Judd Apatow-produced musical comedy deserved a better fate, according to critics. Perhaps the time for glory is now. Co-writer and director Jake Kasdan, whose sharp industry satire The TV Set also opened quietly earlier in 2007, skewers the musical biopic genre (Walk the Line, Ray) with the rollercoaster rock ‘n roll life of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, who does his own rocking and rolling), a doughy musical prodigy with a tragic past who goes from rockabilly to psychedelia to Dylanism and everything in between as fame, fortune, groupies, and drugs facilitate his rise and fall. The best part of this DVD release — besides the inclusion of American Cox: The Unbearably Long, Self-Indulgent Director’s Cut — is the better-than-average bonus menu stuffed full of backstage and specially-produced extras.




Lions for Lambs


Tomatometer: 27%

Hollywood’s attempts to address the Iraq war have thus far fallen flat with ticket buyers, a trend that Lions for Lambs didn’t help reverse. Robert Redford directs and co-stars in this talky anti-war drama, penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother to Joe and writer of The Kingdom) and also starring Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. In three intertwined stories, a professor, his student, two soldiers, a journalist, and a politician hash out ideas about war, democracy, the media, and terrorism; the question is, do you care? While it’s a noble attempt at provoking discourse, critics say Lambs is not the stuff of great cinema. A director commentary on the DVD might be the film’s most useful feature.


P2



Tomatometer: 35%

Unless cleavage and gore rank higher than plot and realism on your movie checklist, P2 is likely to disappoint. In any case, it can’t be a good thing to be unfavorably compared to Saw and Hostel (“[P2] at least does its predecessors the service of making them look masterful by comparison,” wrote the Toronto Star‘s Geoff Pevere). The yuletide tale of a career woman (Alias‘ Rachel Nichols, whose eleventh hour addition to that cast couldn’t save the series) trapped by an obsessive parking garage attendant (Wes Bentley, who really deserves better roles than this) on Christmas Eve garnered the scorn of most critics, though powerhouses like Roger Ebert gave it their thumbs up. Watch P2 to scope out first time director Franck Khalfoun, who appeared in producers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur’s High Tension, and will next co-script a remake of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night.


Reservation Road



Tomatometer: 36%

Two families are ripped asunder when one fatal hit-and-run drives two fathers toward a final conflict in Terry George’s adaptation of the novel of the same name. George (In the Name of the Father) previously directed the South African drama Hotel Rwanda to multiple Academy Awards nominations; his follow-up here, starring Rwanda actor Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo (and Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino as their respective wives) might have been going for awards season gold but fell far short of the mark. Critics called this dramatic thriller insufferably dark and dull, and worse — predictable.


The 11th Hour



Tomatometer: 66%

Leonardo di Caprio hosts a gaggle of experts in this alarming documentary about the Earth’s depleting resources. Unfortunately for producer di Caprio, who doubtless took on the project to lend his celebrity power to the cause, the film is a bit of a bore. That said, wearied scribes appreciated the thought behind the effort, if not so much the final product; for actionable reasons to go green, you might be better off watching a PowerPoint presentation by Al Gore. Over an hour of additional featurettes on how to do your part to help Mother Earth accompany the disc.


Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)



Tomatometer: 80%

New York filmmaker Jason Kohn crafts a lurid, sobering peek into wealth and corruption in Brazil in this festival favorite, which nabbed the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year. Stylized camera work exposes the country’s surreal reality by focusing on, among other subjects, a politician-owned frog farm that serves as a money-laundering front; a plastic surgeon who specializes in reconstructing the cut-off ears of kidnap victims; and a businessman who opts to bullet-proof his car. A filmmaker commentary accompanies the release; find out why Kohn calls Brazil’s cycle of street violence and political corruption akin to “a non-fiction RoboCop.”

‘Til next week, Qvod cibvs est aliis, aliis est wenenum.

Nicolas Cage‘s
latest action adventure film

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
claimed the number one spot at
the North American box office during what was a red hot session at the
multiplexes. Along with the powerful sophomore holdovers
I Am Legend

and

Alvin and the Chipmunks
, the awesome threesome accounted for
two-thirds of all business in the marketplace. Four new releases aimed at adult
audiences debuted to mixed results over the final shopping weekend before
Christmas. The top ten flirted with the $150M mark for the second consecutive
weekend as the box office showed incredible strength in the final days of the
year.

Cage posted
one of the best openings of his career with

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
which debuted on top with an
estimated $45.5M from an aggressive launch in 3,832 theaters. The Disney sequel
averaged a stellar $11,874 which was almost identical to the first weekend
average of $11,648 for its predecessor
National Treasure

which opened in November 2004 with $35.1M from 3,017 playdates. That film went
on to gross $173M domestically and $347M worldwide. Book of Secrets hopes
to exceed both totals by the end of its run giving the studio another lucrative
franchise. Cage’s previous best bow was $45.4M for last February’s
Ghost Rider so if
estimates hold, Secrets will eke out a new career high for the actor.




With its PG rating, Book of Secrets played to a broad audience. Studio
research showed that the action pic’s crowd was 54% male while those over the
age of 25 accounted for 55%. With so many R-rated and adult-skewing films in the
current marketplace, Treasure was one of the only pics that people of all
ages could go and see together. Reviews were mostly negative for the sequel.




Following its record-breaking number one launch last weekend,
Will Smith‘s
sci-fi blockbuster

I Am Legend

dropped to second place with an estimated $34.2M losing an understandable
56% of its audience. The Warner Bros. smash has taken in a stunning $137.5M in
only ten days and could shoot past the $200M mark after the holidays giving
Smith his fourth trip past the double-century mark. Overseas, Legend opened at
number one in seven new countries collecting an estimated $25.3M from all 15
territories. That boosted the international sum to $54.3M and the global tally
to a spectacular $192M with many more major markets like Germany, Australia, and
the United Kingdom still to come.




Alvin and the Chipmunks
scored a terrific second weekend dropping
only 35% to an estimated $29M for a potent ten-day cume of $84.9M. With few
other options for young kids, the PG-rated comedy faced little direct
competition and should continue to attract large amounts of families for the
rest of the year. Alvin should be able to blast past the $150M mark and
could even go much higher.


Far back in fourth place was the
Tom HanksJulia
Roberts
entry
Charlie Wilson’s
War
which led all other new releases this weekend with an estimated
$9.6M. Playing in 2,575 theaters, the R-rated pic averaged a mediocre $3,736 per
venue. Universal is hoping that this older-skewing film will find its audience
in the long run over the holidays and into January. Charlie nabbed five
Golden Globe nominations, the second most of any film after
Atonement
s
seven, and cost $75M to produce. Reviews were generally positive. Studio
research showed that 52% of the audience was female, 88% was Caucasian, and 80%
was over the age of 30.




Paramount gave the DreamWorks musical

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
a moderate national
roll-out in 1,249 theaters and found itself with a solid fifth place bow with an
estimated $9.4M. The
Johnny Depp
film directed by
Tim Burton
averaged an impressive $7,486 per site and earned good reviews
from critics along with four Golden Globe nods. Studio research showed that
Todd
played slightly more female with 52% of the audience being women. Those
over the age of 25 accounted for 65% of the crowd. The $50M film will expand
further on January 11, however the road ahead could be bumpy given its
surprising 25% plunge in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday. Other films saw
their Saturday numbers match or exceed Friday’s. Paramount is hoping this
musical plays more like
Dreamgirls
than
like Rent.




Also opening this weekend but to little fanfare was the romance
P.S. I Love You

which bowed in sixth with an estimated $6.5M. The
Hilary SwankGerard
Butler
drama averaged a mild $2,651 from 2,454 theaters and played mostly to
adult women. Critics were mostly underwhelmed. Disney’s princess tale Enchanted
dipped only 25% to an estimated $4.2M and boosted its cume to $98.4M. The
Amy Adams hit
will join the century club by Christmas.




The pre-holiday weekend’s biggest casualty was the comedy
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox
Story
which stumbled into eighth place with a dismal $4.1M,
according to estimates. Produced by comedy king
Judd Apatow
and starring
John C. Reilly
, the R-rated film averaged a measly $1,547 per site Reviews
were generally positive. By comparison, Apatow’s other R-rated comedy hits this
year Knocked Up
and Superbad
opened to $30.7M and $33.1M, respectively. Sony marketed Walk Hard as
being from the man responsible for comedy hits like Superbad and

Talladega Nights
, but audiences did not bite this time. Walk Hard cost
$35M to produce and proved that Apatow does not always have the golden touch.



The fantasy adventure

The Golden Compass
tumbled 55% in its third weekend to an estimated
$4M and placed ninth. The New Line release has grossed only $48.4M domestically
but has already taken in over $100M from outside of North America.



Rounding out the top ten was the indie comedy hit
Juno
with an
estimated $3.4M from just 304 locations for a stellar $11,184 average. Fox
Searchlight expanded the award-winning teen pregnancy pic from 40 locations last
weekend and is still generating a strong average. With $6.4M in the bank,
Juno
is turning out to be the little-engine-that-could hit of the holiday
season and will widen to 998 sites on Tuesday, Christmas Day.


A six-pack of films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The period
piece
Atonement
saw
its sales inch up by 9% to an estimated $2M putting the total for Focus at
$5.8M. Fellow awards season contender
No Country For
Old Men
fell 40% to an estimated $1.7M giving Miramax a cume of
$36.7M.




The Perfect
Holiday
tumbled 56% to an estimated $1M in only its second weekend
for a weak $4.5M for Yari Film Group. Sony’s
This Christmas
has fared much better this season and grossed an estimated $925,000 pushing the
cume to a solid $47.7M.
 



Warner Bros. saw steep drops for a pair of its releases.
Vince Vaughn‘s Fred
Claus
crashed 66% and made an estimated $755,000 while
August Rush

fell 74% to an estimated $455,000. Totals to date stand at $70.5M and $29.5M,
respectively.
 



The top ten films grossed an estimated $149.8M which was up a sturdy 45% from
last year when
Night at the
Museum
opened at number one with $30.4M over three days; and up a
stunning 58% from 2005 when
King Kong
remained
in the top spot with $21.3M in three days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got unruly history buffs (National Treasure:
Book of Secrets
, starring
Nicolas Cage), fake rockers (Walk Hard: The
Dewey Cox Story
, starring
John C. Reilly), rogue senators (Charlie
Wilson’s War
, starring
Tom Hanks,
Julia Roberts, and
Philip Seymour
Hoffman
), bon mots from beyond the grave (P.S. I Love You,
starring Hilary Swank and
Gerard Butler), and demon barbers (Tim
Burton
‘s
Sweeney
Todd
, starring
Johnny Depp). What do the critics have to say?


National
Treasure
posited that there was a secret code hidden within the design of
U.S. legal tender. And the movie garnered enough legal tender so that a
sequel,
Book of Secrets
could be made. For the second installment,
adventurer Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is again on the trail of secrets from the
past, as new evidence has implicated his great grandfather in the
assassination of Abraham Lincoln; thus begins a globetrotting trek loaded with
mystery and intrigue. Ridiculous? You’d better believe it, pundits say,
although they also note that Secrets occasionally has enough giddy momentum to make
viewers overlook its absurdities. At 53 percent on the Tomatometer, this Book
might be worth cracking open for series fans. It’s certainly a cut above its
predecessor’s 41 percent.




“So Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton AND Lincoln?”

Charlie
Wilson’s War
delves into one of the stranger stories of the Cold War era.
Based on a true story, War shows how a free-wheeling congressman (Tom Hanks), a wealthy socialite (Julia Roberts), and Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour
Hoffman
), a CIA agent who didn’t play by the rules, joined forces in
an attempt to liberate Afghanistan after it was invaded by the Soviets (and,
in doing so, laid the groundwork for the Taliban to take over the country
later). Critics say director
Mike Nichols has made War both a smart
look at realpolitik and a screwball comedy, with plenty of help from Hanks and
Hoffman. At 79 percent on the Tomatometer, this War is good for quite a
bit.




“I have a vision: The Afghan people enjoying freedom,
choice, and Lipps Inc."

This
has been a golden year for
Judd Apatow:
Knocked Up
(90 percent), which
he directed and wrote, and
Superbad
(87 percent), which he produced,
are two of the best-reviewed and most commercially successful comedies of 2007. With
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, pundits say he’s scored a
hat trick. A satire on musical biopics, Walk Hard tells the inspiring
story of a Southern boy (John C. Reilly) and his up-and-down career in the
music biz — which includes lots of groupies, rehab, and meetings with such
luminaries as Elvis, the Beatles, and the Ghostface Killah. Critics say Walk
Hard
works because Apatow and director
Jake Kasdan maintain a nimble
balance between homage and parody, celebrating the rock film’s conventions
while deftly (and smuttily) satirizing them. And they say the film is loaded
with good performances, most notably from Reilly, who may graduate from
character roles with his work here. At 78 percent on the Tomatometer, Cox
rocks. (Check out
this
week’s Total Recall
, in which RT explores other music-related comedies.)




Happy holidays from Dewey Cox and RT!

In the
case of romantic movies, one is generally not compelled to head to the theater
in search of realism but escapism. Still, internal logic is usually required,
something critics say
P.S. I Love You
lacks.
Hilary Swank
stars as a woman whose husband (Gerard Butler) succumbs to a brain tumor.
Before his death, however, he wrote her a series of letters that will act as
her guide to a better life — and possibly, a brand new love. Critics say P.S.
contains more sap than a Canadian forest, and the lack of chemistry between Swank
and Butler undermines the film’s notions of a sweeping, timeless romance. At
14 percent on the Tomatometer, critics are saying P.S. I Love You
should be returned to sender.




“Where do you want to dine tonight? That new Indian
place…or IN HELL!?"

If
what you’re looking for this holiday season is a heavy dose of the macabre,
you’re in luck. Critics say
Sweeney Todd:
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
,
Tim Burton‘s adaptation of
Stephen Sondheim’s musical of the same name, is tasty as one of Mrs. Lovett’s
meat pies. Sweeny tells the gruesome tale of Mr. Todd (Johnny Depp),
who vows revenge on the world after being unjustly sent to prison; with the
help of his landlady (played by
Helena Bonham Carter), he uses his barber shop
as a place for murder, and she uses the bodies he accumulates to make her
pies. The pundits say Sweeny Todd is a demented wonder, full of
stunning visuals, a mordant sense of humor, well-staged musical numbers, and
dedicated performances. At 85 percent on the Tomatometer, Sweeny Todd
cuts deep. And it’s the best-reviewed Tim burton film since
Ed Wood
.




“This’ll cost you an arm and a leg, but at least you get a
complimentary pie."

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The District!, an
    animated Hungarian import about gang conflicts, is at 86 percent on the
    Tomatometer.

  • Steep, a doc about the perils of big mountain skiing, is
    at 56 percent.

  • Flakes, a comedy about an all-cereal café starring
    the always lovely
    Zooey Deschanel, is at 11 percent.




    Christopher Lloyd after eating some "vintage" Nintendo
    cereal.

Recent
Julia Roberts Movies:
————————————
78% — Charlotte’s Web (2006)
63% — The Ant Bully (2006)
68% — Closer (2004)
55% — Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
34% — Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Recent
Johnny Depp Movies:
————————————-
45% — Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
91% — Deep Sea (IMAX) (2006)
54% —
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
(2006)
32% — The Libertine (2005)
83% — Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005)

Moviegoers are in for a feast as studios will unleash a wide menu of new options on Friday trying to reach holiday patrons on the weekend before Santa comes to town. Disney leads the way with its adventure sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets which is getting the widest launch by far of the five new films. The Nicolas Cage actioner will face off against other star-driven movies like Charlie Wilson’s War with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and Johnny Depp‘s Sweeney Todd. Comedy comes in the form of Walk Hard while romance pops up in P.S. I Love You. With so many choices, there should be something for everyone allowing the overall box office to remain healthy. Plus with Christmas Eve falling on a Monday, Sunday sales will be stronger than usual giving the weekend numbers an added boost.

Nicolas Cage hit a career high in 2004 with National Treasure which bowed to $35.1M on its way to $173M, his highest gross ever. Now Disney and superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer reteam for the PG-rated sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets which aims to target the same broad audience that made the first such a big hit. The rating and the studio’s name help to attract families and younger kids while Cage and the action element bring in teens and young adults. Competition from I Am Legend‘s second weekend will cut into some of the action business, but history has shown that two high-profile action movies can indeed survive at the same time. Secrets delivers the entertainment that the target audience is looking for and the marketing push has been strong. The built-in fan base knows what it’s getting so expect a big opening. Reviews will be mostly irrelevant. Invading over 3,500 theaters, National Treasure: Book of Secrets might take in about $44M this weekend.


Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger in National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Capping off a landmark year that saw his films Knocked Up and Superbad gross a combined $270M, Judd Apatow ends 2007 by waving his producing and writing wands around Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Like the two previous hits, this Sony title carries the R rating thanks to envelope-pushing humor that audiences crave. John C. Reilly headlines the pic as a rock star who lives an up and down life. Normally a Reilly-led film would fail miserably at the box office since he has no track record of anchoring successful films. However, it is the Apatow name that provides the starpower here and so older teens and young adults should come out in solid numbers. There are no other comedies for that demographic right now plus a trim running time of 96 minutes will ensure plenty of showtimes.
Positive reviews will help too. Some may find the film through word-of-mouth so a prolonged run looks to be in order. Opening in over 2,500 theaters, Walk Hard may gross around $15M this weekend.


John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer in Walk Hard

Universal will find out this weekend what means more at the box office, starpower or subject matter. The studio opens Charlie Wilson’s War, a new comedy-drama starring Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman about a covert U.S. operation that supplied weapons and training to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. The topic is just about the last thing audiences want to pay to see on the big screen right now as evidenced by the horrendous grosses for other politically-themed dramas dealing with the Middle East.

To find success, the studio is using two tactics. It is pushing the comedy element to show ticket buyers that they will not be in for a serious lecture, and it is promoting the A-list stars heavily. Hanks and Roberts have sold billions of dollars worth of tickets worldwide and this is their first pairing. The R-rated film will appeal mostly to older adults which means there will still be plenty of potential over the next two weeks. The final gross will not rely entirely on the opening weekend results. With Roberts delivering a very flattering line about the Golden Globes in the film, it was no surprise that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association returned the favor by honoring War with five Globe nods including Best Picture – Comedy or Musical. Those nominations have become a key element in the marketing. Reviews have been strong too. Launching in roughly 2,500 theaters, Charlie Wilson’s War could collect about $14M over the weekend.


Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson’s War

Setting a new record for most throats sliced open in a Hollywood musical, Paramount and DreamWorks give a moderate national roll-out to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Directed by Tim Burton, the R-rated film stars Johnny Depp in the title role along with new mom Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Sacha Baron Cohen. Musicals are often tough sells at the box office but Depp-Burton concoctions almost always score big bucks. Like most song-and-dance pics, Sweeney Todd should skew slightly more female but appeal seems broader across many age groups.

Although Paramount is marketing the revenge flick like a 3,000-theater bow, it is only going into about 1,000 locations this weekend. That should lead to sold out
shows and a very high average. Plus with so many other films releasing at the same time, getting second and third screens within multiplexes will be difficult. The gruesome pic should bring out hard-core fans first and then reach a more mainstream crowd after Christmas when seeing blood and gore will not be as bad of a thing. Positive reviews and four Globe nominations will also help to convince audiences, but the starpower of Depp and Burton is the film’s biggest asset. Look for a debut of around $10M this weekend followed by good legs in the coming weeks.


Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd

Following his career-making turn in one of the year’s most memorable hits 300, Gerard Butler turns to the world of flimsy grosses in the romantic drama P.S. I Love You starring opposite two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank. The weekend’s only new PG-13 film will play to an adult female audience which may be a bit tough to reach this weekend. Holiday activities will provide a distraction as will Tom, Julia, and Johnny who will steal away much of the potential of P.S. Negative reviews will only help keep ticket buyers away. Overall excitement is not too high and starpower is certainly low. Most fans who bought tickets for the Spartan actioner will be elsewhere this weekend. P.S. I Love You opens in about 2,200 locations and could gross about $5M this weekend.


Hilary Swank in P.S. I Love You

Will Smith has dominated the box office since last Friday’s explosive launch for his sci-fi thriller I Am Legend. However, the sophomore frame is likely to see a steep fall for a number of reasons. Competition will be a big factor with the freshman class stealing away different audience segments. The Batman factor will also be gone since fans of the Caped Crusader either have already seen the trailer for The Dark Knight with Legend last week, or are watching it online whenever they want. Plus sci-fi films typically attract the bulk of the business upfront leading to a large sophomore drop. A 60% tumble for I Am Legend could result giving the Warner Bros. pic about $31M for the weekend and $133M after ten days.

Alvin and the Chipmunks is in a much better position since all kids will be out of school for the rest of the year. Business this week, all next week, and the session before New Year’s will be sizzling. National Treasure will take away some ticket sales, but with so many R-rated films filling up screens, parents will keep looking at the Chipmunks as the only game in town for small children. Alvin and the Chipmunks could decline by 40% and collect around $27M over the weekend pushing the ten-day total to a sensational $80M.

LAST YEAR: Ben Stiller and Robin Williams rocked the box office with the action comedy Night at the Museum which debuted powerfully in first place with $42.2M over the four-day holiday frame with Christmas Day falling on a Monday. Fox found itself with a megahit as the effects-driven pic topped the charts for
three straight weeks, ended up with a mammoth $250.9M domestically, and even conquered overseas multiplexes with an eye-popping $574M worldwide haul. Will Smith‘s uplifting drama The Pursuit of Happyness dropped a spot to second with a strong $22.6M over four days. Opening with muscle in third was Sylvester Stallone‘s Rocky Balboa with $17M over the four-day weekend and a potent $26.7M across its six-day debut period. The MGM release became a solid hit for the franchise earning great reviews plus an impressive $70.3M. Universal followed with its new CIA thriller The Good Shepherd starring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, and Robert De Niro which launched with $14.1M on its way to $59.9M. The kidpic Charlotte’s Web ranked fifth with $9.6M in its sophomore session. Opening in eighth place with mild results was the football drama We Are Marshall with $8.6M over four days for Warner Bros. The Matthew McConaughey flick ended up scoring $43.5M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

On Friday, you’ll finally be able to see
John C. Reilly
take center stage. He’ll be playing Dewey Cox in
Walk Hard
(94
percent on the Tomatometer), an absurdist spoof
on troubled musicians and the Hollywood biopics that their life stories spawn,
and for this week’s Total Recall, RT takes a look at some of the memorable
fictional troubadours that have crooned the silver screen.

It doesn’t take a Grammy winner to see why actors are drawn
to biopics. Good actors make a living playing made-up characters, but it
takes a great one to convince a crowd of millions that they can emulate the
mannerisms, speech patterns, and attitude of a musical legend. Plus, said great
actor gets to sing, play an instrument, go through a "dark period,"
and then
get saved or die a gnarly death. Pull all of this off and critics will dish out the
praise. There might even be a gold statuette waiting in the wings come February. Gee,
all that attention wouldn’t go to an actor’s head, would it?



Walk Hard: Meet the Beatles.

While acting calisthenics and musical artist movies go hand
in hand, spoof humor enters the equation just as easily. We can mention films
and groups like
A Hard Day’s
Night
(100 percent),
The Rutles
(88 percent), and The Monkees,
but let’s jump forward to 1984. The year’s headliner: the loudest (and funniest)
band in the world, Spinal Tap!

It’s hard to overstate the impact of
This is Spinal
Tap
(96 percent) on both cinema and pop music. Though it wasn’t the first mockumentary, Spinal Tap was such a perfect embodiment of the form that
the fake doc became a subgenre onto itself. Then there’s the sheer accuracy of
the whole thing; Spinal Tap was so merciless and informed as a send-up of
the rock universe that, according to This is Spinal Tap: The Official
Companion
, rock stars like Sting, Yes’ Jon Anderson, and Guns ‘n’ Roses’
Slash have all commented on the starling resemblance to their experiences. (It’s
also rumored that Steven Tyler and Eddie Van Halen didn’t get that Tap
was supposed to be a comedy.)

Spinal Tap is the story of a witless, second-string
British hard rock band (played by
Michael McKean,
Christopher Guest, and
Harry
Shearer
) in the midst of a sharp decline. A tour to promote their latest album,
Smell the Glove, has hit a number of snags, including low ticket sales,
concerns that their new album cover is sexist (not sexy!), internal tensions,
malfunctioning and/or poorly designed stage props, and the fact the band’s
drummers consistently die under bizarre circumstances. Director
Rob Reiner also
stars as a filmmaker shooting a documentary about the band; in interviews, he
gleans profound insight into why the band’s amps go up to 11, and how much more
black one of their album covers can be. (The answer is none. None more black.)



Spinal Tap: Stonehenge — No one knows who they were…or what they were doing.

Perhaps the most undervalued aspect of the film is that
Spinal Tap’s songs are good. Gleefully stupid, filled with profane double
entendres, such cuts as "Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight," "Big Bottom," and
"Heavy Duty" may not be in the same league as AC/DC, but they’re far more
entertaining — and tuneful — than your average Whitesnake record. "It stays so
wickedly close to the subject that it is very nearly indistinguishable from the
real thing," wrote Janet Maslin in the New York Times.

What Spinal Tap did for the world of hard rock,
Fear
of a Black Hat
(85 percent) attempted to do for hip hop. This unjustly
underrated 1994 satire follows a tumultuous year in the life of N.W.H. (N—- With
Hats), a group that melds Public Enemy’s radical politics with the 2 Live Crew’s
smutty rhymes. N.W.H. consists of rappers Ice Cold (Rusty Cundieff, who also
directed) and Tasty Taste (Larry B. Scott) and DJ Tone Def (Mark Christopher
Lawrence
), all of whom spout pretentious banalities and wildly un-PC vulgarities
(often in the same sentence) to documentarian Nina Blackburn (Kasi Lemmons).
(When asked why their song "Kill Whitey" is not racist, Ice Cold responds
incredulously that the group was referring to a specific person: their former
manager, whose first name is Whitey.)

In addition, the film features hilarious parodies of
classic rap videos (send-ups of C&C Music Factory-style hip-house and PM Dawn’s
hippie-rap are especially devastating) and some sublimely silly moments
(especially a scene in which a "Rap Against Violence" presentation to an
elementary school class quickly devolves into a brawl between N.W.H. and a rival
crew). Some of the jokes are a bit dated, while others (as when the group gets
lost backstage, or the fact that the group’s managers are constantly being
killed) are almost direct rips from Spinal Tap. But anyone who loves
rap’s golden age will find a lot of big laughs here. And even some of the
throwaway gags — Tasty Taste has a necklace with a bowling trophy on the end;
one of the groups on tour with N.W.H. is an all-female ensemble called Parsley,
Sage, Rosemary ‘n’ Thyme — are at least good for a chuckle. "It’s sad that this
film has been relegated to cult oddity status," wrote Mike Bracken of Mike
Bracken’s Horror Films
. "If you like rap music, biting satire, or are just
looking for something different, check this out."




Fear of a Black Hat: Rappers Against Violence.

Woody Allen‘s career from the mid-1990s up until his
breathtaking comeback,
Match Point
(79
percent), is frequently considered a morass of light
comedies and experimental failures. Some deserve their reputation (Hollywood
Ending
[47 percent],
Celebrity

[39 percent]) and some are actually overrated (Deconstructing Harry), but
there’s treasures nestled here that recall Allen’s ’80s output and hinted at
the tenuous upswing he’s currently on. Case in point:
Sweet and Lowdown
(78 percent), Allen’s
1999 tender biopic of fictional guitarist and all-around bastard, Emmett Ray.
 Sean Penn earned an Oscar nomination for his role as
motormouth Ray, and
Samantha Morton, as Hattie, earned her first nomination as Ray’s mute love
interest. A low-key comedy with some gut-wrenchingly dramatic moments and
delectable jazz tunes, Sweet and Lowdown has been called "undeniably pleasant.
[Morton’s] performance is like nothing I’ve seen in recent years." (Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.)

Most artists pay respects to the masters in subtle homages.
Woody Allen, on the other hand, wears his inspirations on his sleeve. One
doesn’t have to look further than Isaac Davis rattling off his favorite things
in the world into a tape recorder in
Manhattan
(97
percent), or the color recreations of
Marx
Brothers
skits in
Everyone Says I Love You

(82 percent) for evidence. Sweet and Lowdown is
quick to call Emmett Ray "the second greatest guitar player in the world" — a
droll joke and direct reference to guitar maestro Django Reinhardt. Ray passes
out during a chance encounter with Reinhardt and several facets of Ray’s
behavior — he’s reckless, a gambler, and has just as much luck as he does
talent — mimics Reinhardt’s. But it could be said those are common strains in
any musician’s life. After all, moral disintegration makes for great idols.




Sweet and Lowdown: You have underwear and socks to wash.

If you can’t get your fix from these fictional musical biopics, there are a number of other notables sure to tickle your funnybone and
tap your feet. There’s the Beatles-skewering mockumentary The Rutles: All You
Need is Cash
(88 percent), featuring cameos from
George Harrison,
Mick Jagger,
Paul Simon, and
Bill Murray.
Tom Hanks‘ sweet, energetic
That Thing
You Do!
(91 percent) tells the
story of a fictional Beatle-esque band’s brief moment in the sun.
Chris Rock
lampoons gangsta rap in CB4 (63 percent), and the
Roger Ebert-penned,
Russ Meyer-helmed
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(62 percent) is the
X-rated tale of the trials and tribulations of an all female rock band. Rock on!

The nominations for the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced this morning. Did your favorite films, stars, and songs make the cut?

The nominees were read at the Beverly Hilton by a surreal panel consisting of Dane Cook, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Reynolds, and Quentin Tarantino. The film nominations follow below, with Tomatometers in parentheses:

Picture, Drama:

American Gangster (79 percent)
Atonement (85 percent)
Eastern Promises (88 percent)
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton (90 percent)
No Country for Old Men (95 percent)
There Will Be Blood (100 percent)

Actress, Drama:
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (34 percent)
Julie Christie, Away From Her (95 percent)
Jodie Foster, The Brave One (45 percent)
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart (77 percent)
Keira Knightley, Atonement

Actor, Drama:
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy, Atonement
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington, American Gangster

Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Across the Universe (52 percent)
Charlie Wilson’s War (92 percent)
Hairspray (92 percent)
Juno (92 percent)
Sweeney Todd (92 percent)

Actress, Musical or Comedy:

Amy Adams, Enchanted (94 percent)
Nikki Blonsky, Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose (74 percent)
Ellen Page, Juno

Actor, Musical or Comedy:

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl (78 percent)
Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages (89 percent)
John C. Reilly, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (80 percent)
Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson’s War
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (93 percent)
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (75 percent)
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
John Travolta, Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Director:
Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (94 percent)
Ridley Scott, American Gangster
Joe Wright, Atonement

Screenplay:
Diablo Cody, Juno
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War

Foreign Language:
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Romania (96 percent)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, France and U.S.
The Kite Runner, U.S. (65 percent)
Lust, Caution, Taiwan (64 percent)
Persepolis, France (100 percent)

Animated Film:
Bee Movie (52 percent)
Ratatouille (97 percent)
The Simpsons Movie (88 percent)

Original Score:
Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder, Into the Wild (82 percent)
Clint Eastwood, Grace Is Gone (70 percent)
Alberto Iglesias, The Kite Runner
Dario Marianelli, Atonement
Howard Shore, Eastern Promises

Original Song: Despedida from Love in the Time of Cholera (28 percent)
Grace Is Gone from Grace Is Gone
Guaranteed from Into the Wild
That’s How You Know from Enchanted

Walk Hard from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Source: Associated Press
Source: Golden Globes

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