(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
After drawing some mainstream attention for her role in the preposterous, very ’90s guilty pleasure Hackers, critical acclaim came for Angelina Jolie with 1998’s Gia. That biopic of the tragic ’70s supermodel was an HBO movie, limiting its reach, but Jolie would only have to wait one more year to cross the megastardom threshold. 1999 not only saw her first box office smash (The Bone Collector, co-starring Denzel Washington), but also her first (and only) Oscar win, as Supporting Actress in Girl, Interrupted.
After that, it was pedal to the metal for Jolie’s career. Literally, her next role was the grand-theft-auto blockbuster Gone in 60 Seconds. She would quickly go on to star as Lara Croft in two Tomb Raider movies, attempt to revive the swords-and-sandals epic with Alexander, and release the action crowd-pleaser Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Jolie had her best run with the critics at the end of the 2000s with Wanted, Kung Fu Panda, Beowulf, and A Mighty Heart all released next to each other, all Certified Fresh. In A Mighty Heart, Jolie stars as Mariane Pearl, wife of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Pakistan in 2002. The film appeared to mark a new humanitarian drive to part of her work; the specter of war hangs heavy over three movies Jolie has directed since: In the Land of Blood and Honey, Unbroken, and First They Killed My Father.
Jolie was nominated for an Oscar thanks to Changeling, and Salt was a credible action effort, but The Tourist with Johnny Depp in 2010 was a high-profile misfire. Ditto By the Sea, which she directed with then-husband Brad Pitt. But no worries! She’s been accepted with welcoming arms into the Disney family after kickstarting the Disney live-action remake trend through 2014’s Maleficent, as well as its sequel Mistress of Evil. She joins the MCU later this year with Chloé Zhao’s The Eternals, but before that releases, we’re celebrating her birthday by looking back on all Angelina Jolie movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
(Photo by Universal / courtesy Everett Collection)
Martin Scorsese followed his Best Picture and Director-winning The Departed with his most directly entertaining, plot twist-heavy movie, a psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio investigating a remote asylum with a missing patient. Of course, it’s apparent from the beginning things aren’t as they seem…
If you’re looking for more movies like Shutter Island, why not start with the grandaddy of unreliable narrator movies: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It may be 100 (!) years old, but it still has the power to spook and captivate.
Part of Shutter Island‘s fun is that it encourages viewers to participate in solving the mystery, poke holes in the movie’s established reality, and look for the actual truth. It requires filmmaking mastery to create these puzzle boxes, so it’s not surprising some of our most beloved directors built their reputation on these: Alfred Hitchcock (Rebecca, Vertigo), David Fincher (The Game, Gone Girl), Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), and David Lynch (Mulholland Drive).
Movies like Shutter Island are all about building paranoia, like the hero has tapped into something true and sinister that nobody else is taking seriously. And frequently they’re told from a female perspective: Along with the already mentioned Black Swan, there’s also The Girl on the Train, the classic Diabolique, and Clint Eastwood’s Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, who’s convinced the missing son the police have returned to her is not her boy.
Psychological thrillers like Shutter Island differ from typical mysteries in that the nature of the film itself is the central mystery, as opposed to, say, figuring out who the murderer is. Movies in this vein include Open Your Eyes (remade as Vanilla Sky), John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (which helped drive Brian Wilson over the edge in real life), the sci-fi noir Dark City, the relentlessly scary Jacob’s Ladder, and A Scanner Darkly, arguably Keanu Reeves’ best movie made in that period between The Matrix and the Keanussance.
And if you’re looking for something more basic and primal, check out Identity or Secret Window. Not too taxing on the mind, but they’ll still give it a good twist.
A cleanly shaven J. Michael Straczynski greeted the packed room with a loud “howdy.” The popular creator, almost unrecognizable without his signature goatee, was clearly in a good mood. He opened by sharing with a crowd an anecdote about being at a previous panel for another convention, where he made a joke that there should be shirts that said “Joe you suck!” He then proudly held up a new shirt with his joke slogan that someone had made in the time between conventions.
Straczynski explained his newly-shaved face as being the result of a shaving accident. Apparently, the cleaning people at his hotel knocked his electric shaver onto the ground, and when they picked it up, they accidentally changed the length setting, so when he woke up to shave, he ended up taking a whole chunk of his beard off.
It was a laid back, fun panel as Straczynski let fans pepper him with questions. The first fan opened by mentioning they had just finished a first draft of their screenplay and wondered how many more drafts it usually takes until you have a final one. “You have a long way to go,” the writer replied, elaborating that it takes work to make a complete, tight story. His advice was to “find someone who doesn’t like you, and have them read it,” because they have no reason to lie to you or protect your feelings like a close friend or family member.
Straczynski moved the discussion into his recent screenplay work from there, saying Underworld 4 is finished and will release soon, “World War Z is currently filming and he recently sold a script to DreamWorks based on the real life friendship between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. The new script idea came to him over Christmas vacation, and once complete, it took less than a week for the script to be picked up by the studio.
Saying, “I do what I love for a living,” throughout the panel Straczynski told the audience to follow their dreams and find a way to do what you love for a living.
Before anyone had a chance to ask, Straczynski announced happily, “The Twelve is done!” All the scripts are completed, and Chris Weston has only few pages left to draw of the last issue. “It’s frickin’ done!”
The future of Babylon 5 is still being negotiated, Straczynski said in response to one questioner, explaining that two years ago, when he was last asked to work on a new Babylon 5, he told the producers, “I need three things. Two to $3 million per episode, a full season commitment and creative control.” At the time, they seemed amiable to his plan, but some parts of the deal fell apart. That said, negotiations are still ongoing.
Straczynski also sold a television series to Will Smith’s production company titled Epidemic. Not much was revealed about the story, but it was described as an adventure mystery.
Asked about World War Z, the writer described the adaptation as tough to write, “because there is no main character.” His breakthrough came when he realized that the book, presented as an after-action report, had to be written by someone. Someone had to interview all those people, and thus he figured out his central character for the film. He isn’t completely sure, but Straczynski assumes it will be out sometime in 2012.
The writer then took a moment to share something personal, telling the crowd that growing up he had to move 21 times in 18 years, that he had a horrible father, whom he described as both a drunk and wife beater. Straczynski had not seen any of his family in 25 years, even when his father passed away last February. The happy ending to his story is that right before the panel started, he saw his sister for the first time in years. He pointed his sister out in the audience, eho was clearly touched and teary eyed by her brother’s words.
Moving along to his original graphic novel Superman Earth One, Straczynski proudly stated, “It did really, really well!” It made so much money for DC Comics that they told him to drop everything he was doing and get started on the next one, which he said was why he had to suddenly stop writing Wonder Woman and Superman. The second graphic novel will be out in mid-2012, “depending on when DC needs the profit points.”
Straczynski also said he would be taking a two to three year sabbatical from writing monthly comic books. He wants to improve as a writer before he returns to monthly work, as he prefers having a longer lead-time to complete a script and improve on drafts.
The time it takes for him to finish a script varies per medium, but on average it takes him about five days to complete a comic script, after he has thought about the idea from beginning to end, having the story fully realized in his head before he sits down to type. Screenplays for film usually take about “eight to 12 weeks, which is pretty fast.” As an extreme example of this timetable, his said the rewrite of the Wachowski brothers’ film Ninja Assassin was done in a week, only sleeping about two hours each night.
Also on the film front, JMS has written four drafts of The Lensmen for Universal, but the studio is unsure if the property is known enough by the public to be a success.
Lastly, Straczynski will not be involved with Thor 2, explaining he just isn’t available, but he made certain to stress that the new writer, Don Payne, has done a terrific job on the screenplay.
It’s a good week for mediocre films (Body of Lies, Changeling, Quarantine and Flash of Genius, all walking a fine line between Fresh and Rotten) and an even better one if you’re a Wildcat fan (High School Musical 3: Senior Year)! Horror fans have an enticing two-fer to consider (Quarantine and the better-reviewed Midnight Meat Train), while left-wingers get the political Borat (Bill Maher’s Religulous). See what else is new this week on DVD.
If there’s a tween or teen girl in your family, chances are they’ll be on their best behavior this week in hopes of snagging the third and final chapter of Disney’s High School Musical franchise, which comes to home video in three different piggy bank-draining versions. Should the kids spring for a single-disc’s worth of Troy Bolton, a double-disc DVD, or go all the way to Blu?
We recommend picking up the 2-disc DVD over the single-disc because, let’s face it, if you’re going to buy High School Musical 3, you might as well get more bang for your buck. Where only a single bonus feature appears on the single-disc DVD, more featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, and a sing along bolster the 2-disc and enrich the musical tale of PG-rated teen angst (Play basketball or be in the school play? Start college early or go to prom?). It also includes a digital copy of the extended cut of the film. EXTENDED CUT — that means even more Wildcat singing and dancing!!!
Blu-ray buyers get all of the above, plus a few additional featurettes and the wonderment of seeing Vanessa Hudgens’ Neutrogena-sponsored pores in high definition.
Below, check out two exclusive behind-the-scenes clips in which the HSM3 cast learns to waltz and Zac Efron learns the ropes behind the camera. Is a career change in order?
Next: Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies falls short of Fresh
Despite boasting the combined powers of Leonardo di Caprio, Russell Crowe, Departed screenwriter William Monahan and celebrated director Ridley Scott, Body of Lies was brimming with more promise than it ultimately delivered. Critics were split neatly down the middle on this politically-charged thriller about a CIA agent (Di Caprio) enmeshed in a Jordanian anti-terror plot; even with its solid cast (including scene-stealer Mark Strong as the head of Jordanian intel), Body of Lies couldn’t truly deliver. While the Blu-ray release comes packed with an enviable amount of bonus material (some of which must be played as interruptions to the film, instead of Picture-in-Picture), a commentary track by Scott, Monahan, and original author David Ignatius will do just fine, and appears along with a few featurettes on the standard disc release.
Next: Clint Eastwood’s Changeling
3. Changeling — 61%
One of the lowest-rated films to be nominated for an Academy Award this year (thanks to Angelina Jolie’s Best Actress nomination, plus nods for Cinematography and Art Direction), Changeling should be an intriguing pick up for Oscar prognosticators this week. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Changeling tells the story of a working class mother who loses her child in 1928, only to be told months later by insistent cops that another boy is her son. Conventionally-told but compelling nonetheless, this should be an interesting rental for anyone who missed the film in theaters; in addition to two making-of featurettes on the standard release, the Blu-ray disc contains archival materials of the real-life story upon which Changeling is based, plus a feature that compares the Los Angeles-area period settings to their modern day locations.
Next: Flash of Genius not so genius
Period biographical pictures about men struggling on the brink of greatness sometimes do well (A Beautiful Mind, Tucker: The Man and His Dream) and sometimes fall short of the mark. Unfortunately, Marc Abraham’s Flash of Genius — the true story of Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), who invented the intermittent windshield wiper in 1967 — is of the latter category, earning middling marks from critics on its way to DVD shelves. If windshield wipers (or Kinnear’s co-star, the awesome Lauren Graham) intrigue you, we recommend a rental, though beware that only a director commentary and deleted scenes accompany the film. Universal is also releasing Flash of Genius day-and-date On Demand.
Next: Dakota Fanning in Hounddog
Even I’m getting tired of referring to Hounddog as “The Dakota Fanning Rape Movie,” so let’s accept the fact of its early and lasting reputation and move on, shall we? Hounddog stars the then- 12-year-old Fanning as a Southern tomboy in the 1950s with a fondness for Elvis; when the controversial event occurs, she finds comfort and redemption in the blues. Deborah Kampmeier’s drama made waves at Sundance, though most reviews were overwhelmingly negative; try and let that stop you from indulging your morbid curiosity.
Next: Simon Pegg loses friends and alienates people
As in The Devil Wears Prada, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People aims to satirize an insider industry with a lead character begrudgingly working their way up the corporate ladder — only this time it’s not Anne Hathaway, it’s British comic actor Simon Pegg, and his work is in entertainment journalism, not fashion. Critics were mostly un-amused by this slap-sticky adaptation of former Vanity Fair contributor Toby Young’s memoirs, citing an irregular tone, too much crudeness, and a mediocre script. However, a feature-length commentary with director Robert D. Weide and star Pegg accompanies the disc, which might be worth a gander thanks to the always-amusing (in real life, anyway) Pegg.
Next: I Served the King of England
Czech New Wave director Jiri Menzel (Closely Watched Trains) returns to form with this World War II-set dramedy about an ambitious waiter whose personal fortunes rise and fall as the country succumbs to the Nazis, then the Communist party, in the mid-20th century. This multiple festival award-winner, based on the novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, is the week’s standout Certified Fresh release.
Next: Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train
When Lionsgate unceremoniously dumped Midnight Meat Train into a very limited theatrical run last summer, horror fans were outraged, and rightly so; the adaptation of a Clive Barker short story was actually Fresh — so why hide it from the movie-going public? This month, Midnight Meat Train finally makes it to DVD, and those eagerly anticipating the Ryuhei Kitamura-directed slasher can take solace in the fact that they can finally see the tale in a DVD-only unrated cut. Bradley Cooper (He’s Just Not That Into You, Wedding Crashers) stars as a shutterbug on the trail of a subway killer (Vinnie Jones); three featurettes accompany the film.
Next: Hollywood remakes Spanish horror with Quarantine
A television reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman (Steve Harris) are the only people able to document the mysterious happenings inside a Los Angeles apartment building in this remake of the Spanish horror film, REC (94%). Atmospheric scares enhance this Blair Witch-styled tale, although critics agreed it fell short of the mark of the original. Director John Erick Dowdle and producer Drew Dowdle, who co-wrote the screenplay, contribute a commentary track, while additional features flesh out the bonus menu.
Next: Bill Maher meets Borat in Religulous
When director Larry Charles teamed up with Sacha Baron Cohen, the result was Borat. When he joined forces with Bill Maher, the result was Religulous, a comedy-documentary whose main focus is to satirize organized religion, and satirize it hard. A commentary track in which Charles and Maher explain their filmmaking methods and experiences highlights the extras.
Until next week, happy renting!
The 14th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards were given on January 8, 2009, to honor the finest achievements in 2008 filmmaking. A list of nominees follows below, with winners in bold:
Best Actress (Tie):
Kate Beckinsale, Nothing But the Truth
Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Best Supporting Actress:
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Vera Farmiga, Nothing But the Truth
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader
It’s Friday, there’s a new raft of movies in the UK cinemas this week, but are any of them any good? This week the UK film hacks give us their opinions on Clint Eastwood‘s latest directorial film starring Angelina Jolie, Changeling. Also out this week is Hollywood satire What Just Happened, and an early Christmas present in the shape of a festive flick starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon in Four Christmases. So what did the critics think?
Based on a true story, Changeling stars Angelina Jolie as an overworked single mother who fights for the truth following the disappearance of her son, and is ably directed by veteran cowpoke Clint Eastwood. At a – just-below-Fresh – 59% on the Tomatometer, Changeling doesn’t have the pedigree of previous Eastwood outings, but most critics agree that Angelina Jolie’s assured performance has Oscar-bait written all over it. If we were just counting the UK critics responses the film would stand at a much healthier 83% on the Tomatometer, which just goes to show the difference in tastes on either side of the Atlantic.
What Just Happened is a Hollywood satire starring Robert De Niro as an outrageous movie producer, and is based on the real life memoirs of Art Linson, who also adapted his book for the big screen. Most critics agreed that De Niro is on fine form, following the disastrous Righteous Kill (21% on the Tomatometer), who puts in a classic performance as the back stabbing producer. But old Bobby can’t do enough to save What Just Happened from the ignominy of a Rotten 53% rating on the Tomatometer. Critics accuse the film of lacking the necessary satirical bite needed to do the source material justice, with many suggesting that the film has fallen prey to the Hollywood practices and foibles that the film itself seeks to criticise.
Vince Vaughn stars in his second festive holiday vehicle, after the dismal Fred Claus of Christmas 2007 (21% on the Tomatometer), alongside Reese Witherspoon in Four Christmases. Helmed by the director of the highly-praised but little-seen documentary King Of Kong (97%), Seth Gordon, hopes were high for Four Christmases, but unfortunately at 26% on the Tomatometer, it’s more of a Turkey than a Christmas pudding. The UK scribes have criticised the lack of Christmas cheer, the miscasting of the two principle actors and the horrific waste of a fine supporting cast. Christmas comes earlier every year, Four Christmases probably shouldn’t have come at all.
Quote Of The Week
” “Hang on lads, I’ve got a great idea…” said Michael Caine at the end of The Italian Job. Presumably he didn’t mean waiting 40 years before pulling off a caper that wouldn’t blow the bloody doors off a rabbit hutch.”
Flawless. Elliot Noble, Sky Movies.
This weekend Sony and MGM shattered the record for the biggest James Bond opening in franchise history with their latest installment Quantum of Solace which audiences powered to a massive top spot debut. Fellow franchise flick Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa dropped to the runnerup spot in its second weekend and joined forces with the super spy to generate over $100M in ticket sales continuing a boom in business at North American multiplexes that Hollywood hopes will last throughout the rest of the holiday season.
Aiming to become the biggest Bond ever in every way, Quantum of Solace attacked theaters and hauled in an estimated $70.4M this weekend exceeding industry expectations. Averaging a scorching $20,400 from 3,451 venues, the PG-13 film flew past the old record for the largest debut in the four-decade-old franchise which was held by 2002’s Die Another Day with $47.1M. Quantum‘s debut was a whopping 50% bigger and even adjusting for ticket price increases it was still a healthy 23% stronger. The new globe-trotting saga also bested the last film Casino Royale‘s opening by an amazing 72% (60% adjusted).
Solace marked Daniel Craig‘s second turn as the British secret agent and featured a continuation of the direction away from the glossy clean-cut James of old who had a cheesy one-liner for every situation, and towards a vengeful younger man with no need for fancy gadgets. Much has changed since the Brosnan administration. Reviews for Quantum were mixed and were certainly not as glowing as those for Royale. Nevertheless, Craig proved himself two years ago as moviegoers spent $167.007M domestically and over $595M worldwide on the spy flick making it the top-grossing Bond ever, without adjusting for ticket price increases. That good will transferred over to Quantum as fans all showed up right away without having to wait to see if this new blond Bond was any good. Having no new wide releases to compete against also helped.
If estimates hold, Quantum of Solace will also set a new opening weekend record for a spy actioner edging out the $69.3M of last year’s The Bourne Ultimatum. Word-of-mouth will need to be stellar if Quantum wants any shot at beating Ultimatum‘s $227.5M domestic total. This weekend, the new 007 banked $27M on Friday, dipped 4% to $26M on Saturday, and is estimated by Sony to drop 33% to $17.4M on Sunday. With a production budget estimated to be $200M or more, Solace also ranks as the fourth biggest opener of 2008 and the fifth best November bow ever. Studio research showed that 54% of the audience was male while 58% was over 25.
Overseas, Craig and company raked in another $56.1M on 10,460 screens in the third weekend of international play to boost that tally to $252M putting the worldwide cume at an eye-popping $322M. Look for the $400M barrier to crumble as soon as next weekend as Quantum eventually makes its way past Casino Royale to set a new high for the lucrative franchise, especially with major markets like Japan and Australia still to open.
Last weekend’s top film Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa held up well for a sequel in its second frame falling 43% to an estimated $36.1M. Still averaging a stellar $8,888 from 4,065 theaters, the PG-rated comedy upped its ten-day total to $118M and became the first film since August’s Tropic Thunder to join the century club. Both were distributed by Paramount. Escape 2 Africa has a reasonable shot at matching the $193.2M of the first Madagascar flick from 2005 and will be tested next weekend when Disney unleashes its digital 3D toon Bolt which will target the same audience.
The R-rated buddy comedy Role Models followed its potent debut with a solid hold in its second weekend dropping 39% to an estimated $11.7M. With $38.1M in ten days, the Universal release could find its way to $65-70M. Off 36% in its fourth term was High School Musical 3 with an estimated $5.9M boosting the cume to a robust $84.4M for Disney.
With Bond stealing away older adults, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling dropped harder than it did in past weeks falling 41% to an estimated $4.2M. Universal’s Angelina Jolie starrer has collected $27.6M to date and is running somewhat behind the pace of the director’s 2003 pic Mystic River which had grossed $33.5M at the same point in its run. Sliding 49% to an estimated $3.2M was the comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno which has taken in $26.5M to date for The Weinstein Co.
A pair of films led by African American stars followed. MGM’s Soul Men starring Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac tumbled 55% in its second weekend to an estimated $2.4M. With $9.4M in ten days, look for a disappointing $15M finish. The Secret Life of Bees continued to enjoy some of the best legs of any fall film slipping only 22% to an estimated $2.4M boosting the cume for Fox Searchlight to $33.7M.
Rounding out the top ten were two fright flicks with similar weekend grosses, but vastly different overall totals. Lionsgate’s Saw V took in an estimated $1.8M, down 56%, for a $55.4M sum. After 24 days, the latest torture flick is running 31% behind the pace of Saw II, 26% behind Saw III, and 10% behind Saw IV. The Haunting of Molly Hartley scared up an estimated $1.7M, off 50%, for a $12.7M sum for Freestyle Releasing.
Opening to sizzling results in limited release was Danny Boyle’s critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire which debuted in only ten theaters in six cities but grossed an estimated $350,000 for a muscular $35,000 average – tops among all films in the marketplace. Since its Wednesday bow, the Fox Searchlight release about an uneducated orphan from Mumbai who gets to within one question of winning the top prize on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire has collected $418,000 over five days. Slumdog has earned some of the best reviews of any film in 2008 and expands to ten more major markets this Friday.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $139.8M which was up a stunning 55% from last year when Beowulf opened in the top spot with $27.5M; and up 8% from 2006 when Happy Feet and Casino Royale debuted with $41.5M and $40.8M, respectively.