(Photo by Angela Weiss / Getty Images)
The X-Files returns to Fox this week in a six-episode event series. Fans have been waiting 14 years to see Scully and Mulder again and only had one movie sequel, The X-Files: I Want To Believe to tide them over. The cast and creator Chris Carter met with the Television Critics Association to introduce the new series, where Carter revealed he actually wrote a third movie script and scrapped it to conceive this six-episode series instead.
Rotten Tomatoes joined a group of reporters speaking to David Duchovny about his return to the role that made him famous, FBI agent Fox Mulder. When we pick up with Mulder, an internet conspiracy theorist (Joel McHale) convinces him to resume his pursuit of the truth. While back on the FBI payroll, Mulder and Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigate some other new cases too, including a were-monster.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Has it been fun to play Mulder as the skeptical one in a role reversal?
David Duchovny: It’s difficult because Mulder was always the engine of the show, was the guy putting his foot on the gas. It was more familiar to me once Mulder got reinvested in The X-Files after the first episode.
Rotten Tomatoes: Even in the third episode, for comedic purposes, he’s like, “This can’t be a monster.”
Duchovny: That’s a Darren Morgan episode. In these six — and it’s a very interesting thing because we always did it on the show — it was really like doing a different show almost from week to week on The X-Files even back in the day. It’s very tricky as an actor to try to find the right tone all the time on this particular show. A thriller, a horror, a mystery, a quest, a comedy. You’re right to point that out. I was skeptical; I’m skeptical in the first episode and I’m playing it again in a comedic way. Think about it as a gift to the actors and a real challenge to try to play it in different keys.
Q: Do you look forward to playing Mulder more and more, revisiting him again?
Duchovny: When I left the show and when we ended the show, the idea that I was talking about with Chris was to come back and do movies. We did the second one in 2008 and there just didn’t seem to be an appetite at Fox for the movie anymore, which surprises me, because we’re a homegrown property. It’s not some crappy comic book that you’re going to dig up and breathe life into. I’ve never understood. I think there’s probably more money in television, for them. That’s probably why they want to do it. When television reinvented itself in terms of its seasonal quality and the amount of episodes it demands, it became obvious to all of us that we could come back and do it in a way that would suit us at this point in our lives. As much as I would’ve wanted to get away from Mulder at a certain point, I always hoped and knew that if there was a demand we’d be able to come back and revisit from time to time. This would be now.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you ever read Chris’s third movie script?
Duchovny: No, that’s the first I heard of it. I’m going to ask him for that later.
Q: What do your kids think of this? Have they seen The X-Files?
Duchovny: They’ve seen some. My son has seen more than my daughter. They’re excited about it coming on. They’re very excited about it coming on. I’m kind of happy. The last very visible thing I would’ve done is Californication. There’s no way they’re going to watch that. So I’m happy that they’re going to get a chance to see this. Although, they watched Aquarius, but this is more up their alley.
Q: Could you ever see somebody else playing Mulder?
Duchovny: My role? No, I don’t know how you could.
Q: Would you ever want to go back to The X-Files as a series?
Duchovny: Not a full series, no. Not every year. I think we could do more than six. We could do eight or 10. It depends on how it does. It depends on if people really want to see it. I feel like they do. I feel like it’s going to do really well so I imagine I would bet that we would come back and do another iteration. I’m not sure how many but it’ll never be 22 or 24 episodes. We’re just too old to work that hard.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you ever think you’d see the day when conspiracy theorists like Mulder were so prolific and had so many forums to express their views?
Duchovny: That sounds like a nightmare. Is that happening? That is kind of the world we live in, isn’t it? It has its good points and its bad points, I guess. There’s so much information available, and there’s not a real vetting process of what’s true and what’s false. I’m much more old school, pre-Google. We had an encyclopedia in my house. That’s kind of where I got my information. I think I still live in that world.
Q: What was it like going to the cemetery with headstones for Kim Manners and Jack Hardy?
Duchovny: I knew Kim very well. Jack less so. Kim is a part of the show and he’s missed. He’s missed as a person and obviously as a director on the show. It was probably Darren. It might’ve been Chris but it was probably Darin Morgan because it was his episode. It’s sad but sweet as well.
Q: Do you prefer standalone episodes to mythology episodes?
Duchovny: I don’t say I enjoy one more than the other. They have different challenges. It’s just that’s what keeps the show fresh for an actor. It’s a cop show. It’s an FBI show, but it’s not really a procedural in that way. Procedurals can get pretty dull for the actors. Aside from having an interesting relationship to play within the procedural, there’s also, as I said, these changes of tone, these changes of subject matter. The frame of the show itself is incredibly flexible. I can’t think of any other show that had the same actors in it. You’ve got something like The Twilight Zone, that’s different actors. When you think about it, it’s very challenging and interesting to an actor to have to go in and do one of Chris’s episodes and then turn around and do one of Darren’s episodes. I think because it’s natural to us, just because we’ve been doing it for so long, it seems de rigueur, but it’s quite crazy when you think about it, and scary. I would be in middle of a Darren episode and somebody described it as a sitcom. It’s like, “Holy s–t, what are we doing? Is this really working?” We don’t know. It’s a little trippy.
Q: After all these years, when did this new series become real for you?
Duchovny: Just right now. Just this moment. I think when I received the first script, you know, obviously I knew I was going to do it. We were signed to do it at that point. But the work or the kind of imaginative reality of it, which is always, to me, the only reality of it. Probably when I got that first script and started to think about, “How are we going to do this? What do we do? What do we do now?”
Q: Did you have to be convinced to come back?
Duchovny: Well, for me, the experience of doing The X-Files, obviously from the beginning, I had no say in what was going on. It was one of my first jobs, and I was just happy to be working and happy that the scripts were interesting and good. But later on, I had more interest in writing or in adjusting sometimes with the scripts. But the trust that I have in Chris as the runner of the show, as the creator of the show, as the conceiver of the show, is complete. I don’t question Chris. If he says he’s got an idea and it’s going to work, six, eight, ten episodes, whatever, Chris is a serious person and an artist. If he says he’s got a way to make it work, I trust that.
Q: Did you discover anything new about Gillian working with her this time?
Duchovny: I think being able to have that history and to let it play in a scene. I think at this point, having known each other and worked together so much for over 20 years, we’ve gone beyond chemistry into history, which is a really cool thing to play as well, because you don’t have to play either. Well, if you don’t have chemistry, you’ve got to figure out a way to make it happen, but if you have history, we’ve all seen movies and television shows where you see a mother and daughter or father and son and you’re like , “There’s no way. It doesn’t feel right. There no history. It doesn’t feel like history.” Gillian and I actually have history, so we don’t have to play it.
Season ten of The X-Files premieres on Sunday, January 24 on FOX after football. Read reviews here.
When we last saw Scully and Mulder, in the 2008 movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe, they were married. To most fans, the question was: what took them so long? Their chemistry in every episode of the show was palpable. But six years later, we get to see them again in the new six episode X-Files series. SPOILER ALERT — We’re sorry to report that Scully and Mulder have split in the time since their last adventure.
Actually, it gives the new show a great place to start when they are reunited. An internet conspiracy theorist (Joel McHale) presents Mulder (David Duchovny) with some convincing evidence of a new conspiracy. Scully (Gillian Anderson) remains skeptical, but even she finds reasons to believe. Anderson sat down with Rotten Tomatoes and other Television Critics Association reporters for a round of questions.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Were you as excited as all of us were to find out where Scully and Mulder were after all these years?
Gillian Anderson: I was. I don’t think I had any expectations when I went into reading the first script and into the series at all. But when I read it, I thought, “You know what? That feels exactly right. That feels exactly where we need to be with this at this juncture.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Was it bittersweet to find out that they had parted?
Rotten Tomatoes: Is it actually better dramatic material this way?
Q: Some people shy away from returning to a famous character of theirs. Were you ready to inhabit Scully again?
Anderson: I think so. I’ve worked really hard to shed her for such a long time, and I think felt like I had enough other work under my belt that, perhaps by taking it on again, it wouldn’t pigeonhole me. So hopefully that will be the case. I think it took me a long time to embrace it after we were done with the series. I think it took a good decade for me to suddenly start thinking of it as the gift that it was and to properly appreciate the opportunity that I had and also how fortunate I was to play such a great iconic character in a show that was iconic in and of itself, and for such a long time and that it could have been something else. It could have been something that I hated or had bad reviews. So I was very lucky, and I think it suddenly hit me some time later.
Q: Scully is still the skeptic but she’s finding hard evidence. How does that change the characters?
Anderson: We’re going to have to see as the series goes on a little bit further, because we’re only at the very beginning. Not all of the episodes deal with that part of the storyline and the mythology in that way. I think almost in the next episode it might be that didn’t necessarily even happen. As they used to, we jump very much in time. You’ll know when we get back to that subject matter, but it might not necessarily be in order, so to speak.
Rotten Tomatoes: When Chris Carter told you there was going to be a comedy episode, what did you think of that?
Anderson: I expected it. There had to be. I wouldn’t have done it if there wasn’t!
Rotten Tomatoes: What sort of funny things do you get to do in it?
Anderson: I can’t tell you anything. Just the same old, a lot of things like we used to do. So there were a lot of moments where we’re like, “Oh my God, we’re doing this again!”
Q: Are there going to be any horrifying episodes in this six?
Anderson: It’s so hard to tell because when we’re in it, it’s not until there’s audience reaction. We knew “Home” was freaky, but we didn’t realize that people were going to find it so freaky. So I’m not sure if I’m always the one who has the right perspective on it, because when we’re in it, I might get the sense of it to a degree when I’m reading it, but I’m not even sure if I do anymore in that respect. It’s after everything else has been added, so I don’t know.
Rotten Tomatoes: Were you excited by the idea that conspiracy theorists have become a lot more public than they were since The X-Files?
Anderson: I don’t know if I’ve ever had that thought before you just said that right then. The fact is that people have always approached us about it. It’s been a topic of our lives more than probably most people’s lives, so I’m so used to it. It doesn’t actually make me flinch.
Q: What are some ways that the ability to dig up this information has changed?
Anderson: I think you have to talk to Chris about that, because I’ve never really been a part of that research. Even on the episode I did, we had researchers. Obviously, with the world of the world wide web right now, it’s going to be easier to access stuff than it ever had before, but I don’t know what their process was.
Q: Has anything fundamentally changed about the way Scully pursues information?
Anderson: I’m trying to figure out whether there’s any examples of it in the episodes that we have. They go to their phones to find stuff like everybody does. That’s different. Having the laptop open to search stuff in the episodes, that’s different.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you develop any new skills doing The Fall and Hannibal that you were able to apply to Scully this time around?
Anderson: I think it was actually more important to let go of those skills in order to get back to the essence of who she was, so that I didn’t get held up. That was more challenging than I expected.
Q: Was it really difficult to let go of Dr. Du Maurier from Hannibal?
Anderson: No, it’s not that. No, no, no. Not at all. I guess more with Stella [in The Fall] and playing Stella so much more recently. Here we’ve got another, for all intents and purposes, investigative officer at some point. Remembering how they differ and to what degree and what it is that makes them differ, so that when I’m answering questions or even just listening, that it’s Scully’s listening face and not Stella’s listening face. It’s that stuff.
Q: The X-Files was very much of its time. How is this arc of 2016?
Anderson: Well, I think the subject matter that is evident in the first episode, which is again, conspiracy, etc. but the climate of not just conspiracy especially by government, but in terms of how we’re listened to and how we’re controlled and how events have manifested around the world in a completely different way because of that information, etc. are all parts of this first episode. We touch on it, as you have seen, everything that is current that has to do with the things that we have always been interested in. So it’s almost as if the culmination of our fears have manifested themselves in our current world. We’re telling that truth.
Season ten of The X-Files premieres on Sunday, January 24 on FOX after football. Read reviews here.
More of this summer’s films come to DVD this week, led by the extras-packed fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. If bullet-bending is more your style, you’ll want to pick up Timur Bekmambetov’s super-charged actioner, Wanted; for raunchy, man-child laughs check out Will Ferrell’s Step Brothers. And if your leanings are a tad more sophisticated, see the latest from the revamped Criterion Collection and a special set from the greatest cinematic romance of all time: Casablanca.
If the prospect of watching the director of Russia’s impressive sci-fi films Night Watch and Day Watch make his Hollywood debut wasn’t enough to make you watch Wanted, perhaps it was the idea of seeing Angelina Jolie as a tattooed, deadly assassin; either way, Timur Bekmambetov’s bullet-bending action film exceeded expectations in theaters last summer and, accordingly, will be looking for a place on your DVD shelf this week.
Adapted from Mark Millar’s comics of the same name, Wanted follows the young, bookish Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) as he learns from a mysterious woman named Fox (Jolie) that his father belonged to a secret society of assassins and he’s next in line to join. Packed with visually-stunning set pieces and silly-but-fun action, Wanted won over critics; Universal Home Entertainment aims to do the same with fans by offering a plethora of bonus features on its 2-Disc DVD (a cast and character guide, plus featurettes on the film’s stunts, special effects, graphic novel roots, and more) as well as picture-in-picture interviews, trivia, and extra angles on its Blu-ray release. In another unique BD-Live feature, record and share your own commentary track during key scenes from the film.
Below, watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the Wanted DVD in which the film’s visual effects team explains how they created the impressive train sequence — entirely in CG.
Next: Return to Narnia with Prince Caspian
The Pevensie kids get get geared up for battle in this sequel to Disney’s popular Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, although at 66 percent on the Tomatometer critics found Prince Caspian slightly less thrilling than its predecessor. With more action, a smidge of romance, and a new, dreamy hero (the Orlando Bloom-ish Ben Barnes), Prince Caspian still serves up the same level of high-class effects that distinguished this franchise from the get-go — and more importantly, the folks who put together this DVD release have collected tons of behind-the-scenes goodies for fans.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian arrives this week on DVD in one of the most complete, fan-pleasing packages of the year; pick up the three-disc release for a commentary track by director Andrew Adamson and his young cast, bloopers, deleted scenes, and a host of featurettes on topics like the sets, production, concept art, and CGI-enhanced animals of Narnia. A digital copy of the film is also included.
Meanwhile, Blu-ray owners will find that Disney has put the format’s capabilities to good use, resulting in a truly immersive experience. In addition to all of the above standard edition features, the Blu-ray title includes BD-Live functionality and the specially-designed “Circle-Vision,” an interactive tour of the Prince Caspian sets with trivia, behind-the-scenes video, and more to be discovered.
Next: Will Ferrell’s Step Brothers shenanigans
Will Ferrell + John C. Reilly = Comic gold, right? According to the Tomatometer, maybe not. With a theoretically hilarious premise, Step Brothers could have been another instant Ferrell classic, a la Ron Burgundy; instead, it fell a few shades below fresh.
In Step Brothers, two immature, overindulged man-children (Ferrell and Reilly) are forced to room together when their parents marry; their initial hatred for each other leads naturally to shenanigans, until a family crisis forces them to band together. Upon its theatrical release, at least one pair of prosthetic genitals made a brief appearance. We recommend picking up the 2-disc Unrated DVD for even raunchier offerings, a music video entitled “Boats ‘n Hoes,” making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, and a commentary track by Ferrell, Reilly, director Adam McKay, and NBA star-cum-filmmaker Baron Davis. Go Boom Dizzle.
Next: The X-Files: I Want(ed) To Believe
Let’s just call it The X-Files: I Want(ed) to Believe. The long-awaited return of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had X-Files fans excited, agitated, and — most importantly — hopeful that the once-great franchise could be revived after nine seasons on the air and one decent 1998 feature film. Sadly, those hopes went the way of the Chupacabra, and the result was a standalone, non legacy film that more closely resembled a Sci Fi Channel creature feature than any episode of the X-Files. The Single-Disc DVD contains special features only a fan will love, including concept art, a commentary track, comments on “green” film production, and for some reason, a music video by co-star and rapper Xzibit.
Next: Sam Fuller’s White Dog and the new and improved Criterion Collection
Director Sam Fuller (The Naked Kiss) was no stranger to controversy; this week, the folks at the Criterion Collection release one of the most controversial films of his career. Adapted loosely from a nonfiction book by French writer Romain Gary based on an experience he shared with his then-wife, actress Jean Seberg, White Dog explores the nature and reality of American race relations with a story of a young woman (Kristy McNichol) who takes in a stray dog that’s already been well trained — trained to attack black people, that is. An animal trainer (Paul Winfield) attempts to re-train the dog as a personal challenge, with dangerous results.
The film, completed in 1981, was shelved by Paramount Pictures on the advice of the NAACP and has never been officially released on home video until now. In grand Criterion fashion, a host of hard-to-find extras accompany the newly-restored film, including production photos, video interviews with producer Jon Davison, co-writer Curtis Hanson, and Fuller’s widow Christa Lang-Fuller, essays by critics J. Hoberman and Armond White, and a “rare 1982 interview in which Fuller interviews the canine star of the film.”
And while we’re on the subject, check out the new and improved Criterion website, where you can read Hoberman’s White Dog essay and join the Beta version of The Auteurs, a new “online movie theater” and social networking site.
Next: A kinder, gentler Metalocalypse: Season Two
Season Two of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim staple Metalocalypse comes to DVD this week, with all 18 episodes of metal-rocking goodness included. Watch as Skwisgaar, William Murderface, Nathan Explosion, Pickles the Drummer and Toki Wartooth continue their streak of world domination as the world’s most powerful and violent metal band, designing their own clothing line, experimenting with Amazonian hallucinogens, and encountering more rampant death and destruction as they attempt to record their new studio album.
Next: The perfect movie lover’s holiday gift: Casablanca The Ultimate Collector’s Edition
One of the greatest films ever made is re-released this week in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition perfect for your favorite movie lover this holiday season: Casablanca. A classic tale for movie lovers (and lovers of all kinds), the 1942 war drama took home Oscars for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture and comes housed in a beautiful box that packs in not only movie memorabilia but collectible items and special features related to the Golden Era of Hollywood.
In addition to production-related extras like outtakes, deleted scenes, and galleries, the set includes an audio commentary by Roger Ebert and an introduction by Lauren Bacall and her 1988 TCM tribute to her late husband, Casablanca star Humphrey Bogart — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. An audio accompaniment includes alternate takes of the film’s most iconic songs, including “As Time Goes By,” while the set’s many collectible items include a replica of Victor Lazlo’s Letter of Transit, internal studio memos, and branded luggage tags.
Next: The wild and crazy fourth season of Saturday Night Live
Relive the magical early days of Saturday Night Live with Season Four, out this week on DVD. The 1978-1979 season includes the last regular appearances of cast members John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, with plenty of laughs from the likes of Gilda Radner and Bill Murray and the debut of Father Guido Sarducci. Also witness the comic chops of special hosts Milton Berle, Kate Jackson, Monty Python’s Michael Palin, Carrie Fisher, Walter Matthau, Steve Martin, Gary Busey and Margot Kidder, with musical guests like Devo, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, and the Talking Heads.
Until next week, happy renting!
The summer movie season of 2008 ended last weekend, and boy, was it a good one. Led by box office smashes like Iron Man, Wall-E, and The Dark Knight, Hollywood raked in the dough week after week — and, surprisingly, scored major Freshness on the Tomatometer in the process. Rotten Tomatoes takes a look at the Summer in Review to revisit the critical and commercial hits and misses of the summer.
Inside find out which movies fared the best and the worst with critics, which films made box office magic and which earned less than enchanting returns, and how each of the major studios measured up over the course of the season. Also, see which films Rotten Tomatoes’ own editors picked as their favorites of the summer! Chime in below with your thoughts on Hollywood’s summer of ’08.
Summer comic book movies are usually based on established heroes — as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and Batman can attest — but Universal wanted something out of the ordinary. Their first step? Hire upstart Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch), who infused the film, about a new inductee into a super-powered ring of assassins, with his signature visual flair. Combined with a script loosely adapted from the comic of the same name, uber geek elements like “bullet bending,” physics-defying set pieces, and Angelina Jolie as a sultry killer, Wanted turned out to be one of the more unabashedly entertaining — and simultaneously critically approved — popcorn flicks of the summer.
Say what you will about the long-awaited return of Indiana Jones, but even almost two decades after his last crusade, critics decided that the fedora still fit. Director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas seemed to revisit a lot of familiar ground in the fourth big-screen franchise outing, but their 1950s Area 51-esque plotline — and the sheer coolness of seeing Harrison Ford reprise his trademark role — provided enough thrills to delight longtime fans. Could Indy’s newly introduced son (Shia La Beouf) don the fedora in further sequels? $780 million in worldwide returns point to “yes.”
Woody Allen’s latest effort opened quietly in limited release before expanding into theaters nationwide, allowing the ebullient enthusiasm of critics to spread. Considering the mixed results of Allen’s work of late (going from the Oscar-nominated Match Point to the uneven Melinda & Melinda, to the disappointing Scoop, to the middling Cassandra’s Dream), critics discovered that watching the Spanish-set Vicky Cristina Barcelona was like unearthing a gem. At 80 percent, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Allen’s best reviewed film since 1997’s Everyone Says I Love You (83 percent).
Critics (and parents) often groan inwardly when they sit down to watch a family film, but Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Mystery proved a surprisingly good watch for all ages. Credit for much of the film’s success goes to Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin, but we can also thank director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park) and scribe Ann Peacock (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) for infusing the kid mystery with wholesome smarts.
Ben Stiller’s Vietnam-set Hollywood satire brought up the rear of this summer’s line up, opening mid-August as (arguably) the last event movie of the season. And it surely did pay off. Audiences loved Tropic Thunder; critics made it Certified Fresh. Even protests over its controversial “Simple Jack” and blackface plot devices couldn’t get this war comedy down. Tropic Thunder also notably became the best-reviewed summer film to open since The Dark Knight debuted a month prior, and the first film to topple The Bat’s stronghold on the box office.
Let it not be said that Pixar has a stronghold on doing animation well; DreamWorks SKG proved otherwise with Kung Fu Panda, starring Jack Black as a rotund bear destined for martial arts greatness. Prior to release, DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg hinted at the possibility of five or six Kung Fu Panda films, a la Shrek; one 88 percent Tomatometer and $577 million later, we’d say a Kung Fu Panda franchise looks very likely, indeed.
While previous summers saw sequelized blockbusters rake in the dough but fall far below Fresh on the Tomatometer (see last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), this summer boasted sequels aplenty that were also critically loved. Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army was one such movie, not only returning its beloved cigar-chomping hero to the screen, but improving on the first film in the process (Hellboy, 80 percent).
While the summer of 2008 will be remembered for the domination of The Dark Knight, let’s not forget another comic book superhero that made his mark on critics and audiences: Iron Man. The Marvel character sprang to life in May, thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s witty star turn and Jon Favreau’s glossy direction. Just one point and about 40 reviews shy of The Dark Knight, Iron Man could even potentially catch up and surpass Batman on the Tomatometer…
When Christopher Nolan rescued the oft-silly Batman franchise from campy irrelevance in 2005, critics took note: Batman Begins introduced a gloomier dark knight and went Certified Fresh at 85 percent on the Tomatometer. This summer’s eagerly anticipated The Dark Knight followed suit, and then some; it scored an impressive 94 percent on the Tomatometer and dominated the summer box office for weeks, breaking records — and expectations — left and right. Not bad for a comic book movie!
In grand Pixar tradition, Wall-E not only charmed the pants off of critics and audiences alike, it blasted its way to the top of the Tomatometer to become the best-reviewed film of the year so far. (Recent Pixar movies Ratatouille and The Incredibles also opened to critical acclaim and went on to become the best-reviewed wide releases of their respective years.) The tale of a lonely little robot is well positioned to win this year’s Golden Tomato Award…and if the Academy follows suit, Pixar might just have a few more of those gold statuettes to put on their mantle.
Next: The 10 Worst Tomatometers of the Summer
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Critics and audiences alike have been mourning the apparent passing of classic Eddie Murphy for several years now, citing the likes of The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Norbit as examples of the dismal turns his career has taken. Unfortunately, Meet Dave isn’t the movie that’s going to change that trend. Settling in at 20 percent on the Tomatometer, it sadly doesn’t qualify as the lowest-rated film in Murphy’s career, but most assert that the clever premise (devised by a Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumnus, Bill Corbett) gets bogged down by stale writing and sitcom-level humor. Meet Dave has its handful of moments, but they just weren’t enough to propel the movie out of our worst-reviewed list.
Intended to be an introduction to the TV series of the same name that will debut later this year, The Clone Wars might just have been the least anticipated “Star Wars film” ever released. After disappointing many a fan with the prequel trilogy, George Lucas came right back with this animated feature and failed to rally anyone but his most faithful of followers. To be fair, the movie does suffer from the fact that it was originally supposed to air as the first three episodes of the TV show, and as far as animation goes, The Clone Wars looks great for television but subpar for the big screen. Many critics seem to agree that it will do much better when it transitions to its half-hour episodes, but for now, the feature film debut sits at 20 percent on the Tomatometer, making it #7 in our list.
We were already becoming a little skeptical of M. Night Shyamalan after The Village underperformed and Lady in the Water downright flopped, but even as audiences grew disillusioned about the suspense director, few could have expected the depths to which he would fall with his latest, The Happening. The trailers were intriguing, especially considering this was Shyamalan’s first R-rated feature, but the overall premise of the film was kept secret fairly effectively, and with a couple of hits under Shyamalan’s belt, the hope was that this would be a return to form. Unfortunately, while it offered some of his trademark chills, Happening mostly fell flat, due to a poorly crafted script, some wooden acting, and what some ultimately deemed to be a silly premise. If this downward trend continues, Shyamalan may earn himself the title of “one-trick pony.”
Asian horror remakes are a dime a dozen in Hollywood these days, but that doesn’t stop enterprising directors and studios from consistently making them happen. Mirrors, originally a Korean film, is the latest of the appropriated imports, but with a respectable cast (Kiefer Sutherland, Amy Smart, Paula Patton) and an experienced horror director (Alexandre Aja — High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) at the helm, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect a halfway decent frightfest. Unfortunately, the movie was dull, with few scares and an overly convoluted plot, thus earning it a 16 percent on the Tomatometer and a #6 spot on our Worst Reviewed list.
After doing mostly voice work as Shrek and appearing in a few film cameos, Mike Myers came back in The Love Guru with his first starring vehicle since The Cat in the Hat in ’03. Unfortunately, critics weren’t feeling the Love in his latest feature, complaining that the character didn’t work, that the writing was lazy, and that the jokes were juvenile and, even worse, simply not funny. All things considered, The Love Guru still performed better overall than the aforementioned Cat in the Hat, earning a 14 percent Tomatometer score to Cat‘s 12 percent, but it was enough to place it as the fifth worst-reviewed film of the summer.
Last summer’s Superbad was such a breakout hit, MGM decided to remake it for this summer season…only by “remake” we mean cop a poor imitation of that flick and just about every other college-set comedy ever made. Teen idol Drake Bell (of Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh fame), whose attempt at crossing over into “mature” roles began with this year’s inane Superhero Movie, dug himself even deeper into Rotten territory in College, which opened last week, the dumping ground of the summer season. Gross-out humor in the vein of Porky’s failed to impress critics, who found the teen buddy comedy to be overly vulgar, homophobic, and sexist — all of which might have been more acceptable if it were only funny.
After achieving big-screen success with 2007’s widely acclaimed Enchanted, Patrick Dempsey tried again to bank on his “McDreamy” persona in Made of Honor. Unfortunately, the movie felt just a little too familiar (My Best Friend’s Wedding, anyone?) to most of its viewers, and with nothing particularly unique or interesting to set it apart from its recycled plot, stale humor, and romantic comedy clichés, Made of Honor found its way to our worst-reviewed list for the summer. Scoring a dismal 12 percent on the Tomatometer and prompting such criticisms as “cookie-cutter” and “stew of mediocrity,” the movie is notable for, if nothing else, being the final film appearance of the late Sydney Pollack.
Seven years after its first sequel was released, the Mummy franchise returned this year with its third installment. While neither of the first two movies could be considered critical darlings themselves, Dragon Emperor brought the series to a new low, earning a paltry 11 percent on the Tomatometer, compared to 54 percent and 47 percent for its predecessors. Many cited the formulaic, poorly written script and the heavy use of CGI as reasons why Dragon Emperor ultimately fell flat. It’s difficult to go wrong when you’ve got Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, dragons, and abominable snowmen, but Tomb of the Dragon Emperor somehow managed to secure one of the lowest Tomatometers of any movie this summer.
You know you’re in for a bumpy ride when a director publicly denounces his own film, as Babylon A.D. helmer Mathieu Kassovitz did a week before its release. Once the world took a gander at the sci-fi actioner, it seemed to agree wholeheartedly. With unintentionally cheesy dialogue, poorly staged set pieces, and a silly, muddled plot, the Vin Diesel vehicle played exactly as many people expected — which might be good enough for Diesel fans, but certainly not for critics. Just how bad is Babylon A.D.? Were it not for two lone positive reviews — U.K. critics James Christopher of The Times and Xan Brooks of The Guardian — the flick would be looking at double zeroes on the Tomatometer.
Speaking of zero percent Tomatometers…we’ve got Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, quite possibly the most reviled cinematic duo since Hitler and Riefenstahl. (Though Triumph of the Will would probably be Certified Fresh given enough reviews.) Friedberg’s and Seltzer’s long-standing assault on spoof comedy (and cinema, in general) appears to be hitting its stride with Disaster Movie, a film so hastily thrown together that it spoofs trailers, which currently holds a zero percent Tomatometer. This year has been rife with the goose eggs (Witless Protection, Deal, Strange Wilderness, One Missed Call), but this Tomatometer is especially important for Friedberg and Seltzer: after getting single-digit percentages on their previous movies, they’ve finally hit the coveted rock-bottom. Enjoy, guys, you’ve earned it.
Next: The Best and Worst Box Office Earners of the Summer
While capturing both critical and commercial success seems to be as difficult an achievement as capturing lightning in a bottle (moreso for a summer blockbuster), the summer of 2008 saw an unusually high number of well-reviewed hit movies. Christopher Nolan’s grown-up superhero movie The Dark Knight struck that rare confluence of art and commerce, driving Bat-fans the world over into a ticket-buying Bat-frenzy, but it also earned raves and Oscar-buzz, and could end up one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Furthermore, The Dark Knight was in good company with its fellow top money-makers, as only two Top Ten films — the femme-driven event flick, Sex and the City: The Movie and Will Smith’s Hancock — earned a rotten Tomatometer rating.
Top 10 Box Office Earners (Gross)
|1.||The Dark Knight||$493,671,047|
|6.||Kung Fu Panda||$212,958,340|
|7.||Sex and the City||$152,440,062|
|9.||The Incredible Hulk||$134,426,930|
Bottom 10 Box Office Earners (Gross)
*Films released prior to the week of August 29, 2008
|2.||Fly Me to the Moon||$4,733,063|
|4.||Vicky Cristina Barcelona||$9,783,911|
|8.||Kit Kittredge: An American Girl||$17,408,308|
|9.||The House Bunny||$19,551,243|
|10.||The X-Files: I Want to Believe||$20,750,074|
Next: Which Studio Came Out on Top?
3. Warner Bros.
Next: RT’s Editors Pick Their Favorite Films of the Summer
Here in the RT office we all had our favorite films this summer. And we didn’t always agree with the Tomatometer. But hey, that’s what favorite means — rhyme or reason aside, these movies spoke to us. Below, our editors share their picks!
Join in below and let us know what you think were the best and worst films of the summer season.
The Dark Knight, picked by Editor in Chief Matt Atchity
My pick for best movie of the summer? I’m going to have to go with The Dark Knight. It’s not perfect; Bale’s Bat-voice is a bit much after a while, and it runs perilously close to overstaying its welcome, but those (very minor) complaints aside, it’s a fantastic film. As with Batman Begins, this film is as much a psychological crime drama as it is a comic book movie, and continues to take a sort of realistic look at the idea of a costumed vigilante. And if Batman Begins showed us a plausible scenario that could result in the creation of the Batman, then The Dark Knight shows us how the world would respond; the citizens of Gotham both embrace and condemn him. But if the Batman represents the extreme avatar of order amidst chaos, then it’s inevitable that someone will rise to Batman’s challenge. Which brings me of course to the Joker. Heath Ledger‘s Joker is simply the best comic book villain ever to menace the screen. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Ledger’s Joker is going to stick with us as an iconic villain, along the lines of Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, and Norman Bates. It’s truly a tragedy that Ledger isn’t with us anymore, if for no other reason than that he’ll never experience the acclaim he so richly deserves.
Iron Man, picked by RT Australia Editor Joanna Cohen
I first loved Robert Downey Jr. in Less than Zero as a spoiled new romantic with deep, glassy eyes and a pastel blazer. Since 1987 I have remained devoted through every dive of his cardiac-like celebrity Tomatometer graph. Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr. and vice versa. The flawed genius, the troubled vulnerability…I adored every misogynistic, world-dominating, politically incorrect moment. He shone. And someone should give Gwyneth an award for best acting of a pencil skirt.
Gonzo, picked by Editor Sara Schieron
Telling you it inspired my summer reading list will make Alex Gibney‘s Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson sound a lot less hot than it is. A doc about Hunter S. Thompson, the miserable genius, self-titled “Dr.” and inventor of Gonzo Journalism, Gonzo paints a crystal portrait of an era and a man that in some light looks golden and in others looks leaden. Thompson and his stories teeter between snark and melancholy, fascinating always, by page or by screen.
Mongol, picked by
Community Manager Ryan Fujitani
This summer brought us several wildly entertaining blockbusters, but the one movie that got me hitting up Wikipedia and updating my “countries to visit” list was Mongol, a moderately successful indie biopic chronicling the life and times of Genghis Khan. It may have had something to do with my fascination for ancient cultures and fallen empires, but Mongol grabbed me from the start and wrapped me up in its epic story until the credits rolled. While the movie isn’t without its problems (questionable editing choices, a somewhat abrupt ending), the cinematography was appropriately gorgeous, the action was visceral and cathartic, and Mr. Khan himself was fascinating to watch. Oh, and it inspired me to grow a beard and move every three months.
The Dark Knight‘s better-crafted, and WALL-E got me a little teary, but I haven’t had as much plain ol’ movie fun all year than watching Pineapple Express the first two times. (Yeah, here’s that rare movie that’s beckoned me back to the theater multiple times.) The movie’s alternately breezy and intense, while director David Gordon Green‘s loving care towards fringe characters makes Pineapple Express feel earthy and organic, a rarity for so-called stoner flicks.
Is WALL-E more poignant than City Lights? Is it a more potent allegory than Metropolis? Is it as powerful a reflection on what it is to be a cognizant being than 2001? Time will tell if Pixar’s latest marvel is mentioned alongside those classics in the cinematic canon, but let the debate begin here. Achingly romantic, darkly funny, and blessed with some of the most remarkable visuals ever committed to celluloid, WALL-E is one for the ages — and great summer fun to boot.
This particular pick is bound to stir some controversy (bring it on, haters!), but so be it: Speed Racer was my favorite summer flick of 2008. Inventive, innovative, intriguing, spectacular — the Wachowski brothers’ live-action, anime-based adventure is everything I hoped it would be, and more. It’s a “kid flick” I’d have enjoyed as much as a tyke as I do today, a film that transcends the medium as we’ve known it, bursting through traditional boundaries of moviemaking to create an entirely absorbing, eye-popping, immersive alternate reality. It is the movie equivalent of mixing Coca Cola and Pop Rocks. Or like BeDazzling your cerebral cortex. Which would be awesome, were it only possible…
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In this week’s Weekly Ketchup, we’ve got the latest spin-offs, remakes and trilogies, and Disney’s lofty plan for a video game adaptation.
#1 SONY HAS VENOM-OUS PLANS
Following up on rumors from a few months back, Sony has announced that they are developing a Venom movie, spinning off from the villain’s appearance in last year’s Spider-Man 3. The project started with a script by Jacob Estes (Mean Creek) but the studio is now looking to go in a different direction, and is currently looking for a new screenwriter. They’re also looking for a new star, reportedly on the belief that Topher Grace is not a big enough star to carry Venom by himself. As for what is motivating Sony to pursue Venom, I’ve got to think that they are looking at the Joker in The Dark Knight, and thinking that in Venom, they have a charismatic villain (with a huge, grisly smile) that could be spun in a similar direction. Except he’s a huge black goo monster. For more insight, check out the CHUD piece on this story, which I thought was particularly inspired.
#2 MARVIN THE MARTIAN TO BLOW UP YOUR THEATRE. IT OBSTRUCTS HIS VIEW OF CASH.
Warner Bros. has aligned with Alcon Pictures (My Dog Skip, Racing Stripes) to produce a live action / CGI feature film version of Marvin the Martian, the strange little alien with the roman-style helmet that was always trying to blow up Earth in classic Looney Tunes cartoons. There’s no script, or a director, but the pitch concept is that it will be a Christmas movie in which Marvin’s plans to destroy Earth are disrupted when he becomes trapped in a gift box. I can’t quite picture what that last part means, exactly, but I can see why WB would be looking to their Looney Tunes characters for future feature films, as there’s some great untapped quality there. Or it could be another Space Jam.
#3 THE X-FILES 3: I WANT TO MAKE MORE MOVIES
Talking to IGN, X-Files creator Chris Carter talked about where the series would go if they have the chance to make a third movie, this time focusing more on the alien plot. The X-Files: I Want to Believe opened to only $10 million, and was considered a critical failure as well (32% on the Tomatometer), but Carter downplays the importance of box office, it seems, arguing that they weren’t aiming for a blockbuster release, or they wouldn’t have been put in theaters so soon after The Dark Knight. I have a feeling there might indeed be more X-Files movies in the future, but they might not be getting theatrical releases, but that might be a good thing. I’m not sure The X-Files ultimately needs to, or even works, as a huge theatrical experience.
#4 GUILLERMO DEL TORO NOT AFRAID OF THE DARK
Guillermo del Toro (in his producer role) and Miramax are teaming up to develop a feature film version of the early 1970s TV horror movie, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which was about a family moving into a new house that is haunted by strange little furry demon things that live in the basement. This is actually a pretty awesome movie for del Toro to have under his wing, because it fits in very nicely with his theme of a world where magical creatures coexist in the shadows (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army). Another horror movie announced this week that seems to have a somewhat similar premise is The Home, which marks the entry into the actual movie business of two of the writers for AICN (Quint, writing and Kraken, directing), with Peter Jackson‘s WETA doing the special effects. The Home is about a firefighter who is nearly killed in a fire, and is recuperating in a nursing home, where he discovers that the residents are being terrorized by something evil that resides in the home. This actually sounds a lot like Bubba Ho-Tep too.
#5 ISAAC ASIMOV’S FOUNDATION: A NEW TRILOGY FOR LOTR PRODUCERS
New Line Cinema founders Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne have a new company, Unique Features, which has a deal with Warner Bros, and one of their first projects is going to be an attempt to do for Isaac Asimov‘s super brainy science fiction epic, The Foundation Trilogy, what they did (or helped do) for J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings, starting with a movie version of the first book, The Foundation, and from there, if it is a hit, adapt the other two books for a full trilogy. The project has been in movie development for decades, mostly at Fox, where Asimov’s I, Robot was produced, but they put it into turnaround a while ago (probably deciding to get out of the Asimov business after I, Robot). The Foundation is a challenging project, as it starts off with a mathematician who develops a way of predicting events on a massive scale, and uses his knowledge of impending galactic chaos to create two “Foundations” on opposite ends of the galaxy, where all the good things of culture can be preserved. As science fiction, it’s top notch. As popcorn munching eye candy… who knows. This is definitely, I think, a movie that you could tie to the success or failure of Watchmen, as that’s another movie that is similarly daring in its intellectualism (or it should be, at least).
#6 THIS WEEK IN ANCIENT MOVIES
Director John Boorman (Excalibur) has announced plans to revive his long planned movie about Hadrian, one of Rome’s “Good” emperors, who is famous for having spent time in England in the 2nd century AD, which included the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, separating England from Scotland. Possibly to be titled The Memoirs of Hadrian (after the novel that it is based upon), the project has a fairly decent budget of $50-60 million, and is scheduled to start filming in Morocco, Rome and Spain in early 2009. Boorman hasn’t had a success in recent years to match his early films like Deliverance and Hope and Glory, but I’ve always thought that this project seemed like one that might do it for him again. That’s it for the Romans this week, but the Greeks got some love as well. Sony has picked up a pitch for a movie about Anabasis, a historical work by the ancient Greek writer, Xenophon, about the journey home of a force of 10,000 Greek soldiers who were sent to assassinate the Persian emperor, failed, and then had to fight their way home across thousands of miles of enemy territory. Curiously, this was supposedly the inspiration for the plot of The Warriors. Although it sounds sort of 300-ish, I could see how this could be a pretty cool premise for a movie. And hey, it’s not a remake.
#7 JOHNNY DEPP AND TIM BURTON MAKING A MOVIE TOGETHER? NO WAY!
Surprising absolutely no one if it is true, AICN is reporting a rumor that Johnny Depp has signed to play the Mad Hatter in director Tim Burton‘s new Alice in Wonderland movie, which will start filming in 2009 for a release on March 5th, 2010. It is true that Burton has been doing casting for the movie recently (Mia Wasikowska was cast as Alice), and obviously, Depp and Burton work together a lot (this would be their 7th film together, and Depp is also reportedly likely to play Barnabas the vampire in Tim Burton’s movie version of Dark Shadows). It would be cool to see Johnny Depp apply his madness to the hatter, but I’m sure the challenge, each time he takes on a bizarre creature like the hatter, is that he has to find a way to do it so that this isn’t a repeat channeling of Willy Wonka, or Jack Sparrow, Ed Wood, etc.
#8 THIS WEEK IN 1970S ROCK AND ROLL MOVIES
Production is scheduled to start this fall on an independently produced musical biopic about The Runaways, the 1970s all-girl rock group that gave the world Joan Jett, who is executive producing. Also lurching closer to production is Howard Stern‘s remake of Rock n Roll High School, which co-starred the Ramones, and is now being written by Alex Winter, AKA Bill from the Bill & Ted movies. The remake was announced several years ago, at the same time as Stern’s plans to remake Porky’s, but this is really the first news about either project since then.
#9 NICOLAS CAGE TO BE SCARED STRAIGHT
Famed horror/thriller director John Carpenter is scheduled to start filming in October of Scared Straight, about a teenager who is at a prison as part of the “Scared Straight” program, when a riot breaks out, and it is up to a convict played by Nicolas Cage to protect him. Carpenter hasn’t had a movie in theaters since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars, but there was a time in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s when he was not only prolific, but revered as one of the best damn horror directors ever. Halloween, The Thing, Prince of Darkness, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live, Escape from New York… all classics. I’m not alone, I’m sure, in wishing Carpenter was as prolific today, but I guess the movie budget money just isn’t there for him anymore, or something.
#10 PRINCE OF PERSIA TO INHERIT THE BIGGEST WEEKEND OF 2010?
With filming already underway, Disney has decided to add another year to the wait to see the video game adaptation, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Disney moved the movie from June 19th, 2009 where it would have gone up against the second Transformers movie, all the way to May 28th, 2010, boldly claiming the Memorial Day weekend, often the date where the biggest movie of the summer is released. Right now, only two other movies have claimed May, 2010 dates: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (5/7/10, also a Disney release) and Shrek Goes Fourth (5/21/10). So, the question is whether Disney is so impressed by the visuals that Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and crew are coming up with, that they think it can hold onto that date and rake in tons of cash?
David Duchovny started playing Special Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files in 1993. Together with Gillian Anderson as Agent Scully, the duo explored paranormal phenomenon on a weekly basis for nine seasons and a feature film, entertaining audiences the world over and turning the show into a cultural phenomenon.
It’s been six years since we last saw Mulder and Scully together on screen, and with the release of The X-Files: I Want to Believe, David Duchovny sits down to tell us what the agents have been up to in the interrim and tease us on the next season of his other hit show, Californication.
How important were the fans in shaping this project?
I don’t think in shaping it. I think in the ability to get it done in a business sense. I think that Fox would probably look at what the gift of the fan base is in order to make this movie. We didn’t make the movie just for fans, we tried to make a movie that would stand alone and be understandable and enjoyable to fans and non-fans alike, so its really a question of Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz and how they conceive of a story that might reach out and satisfy the fans at the same time as reaching out to new people.
But as a performer, as the guy playing Mulder in the movie, not only do I not have to think about, but it would be silly to have to think about it.
Did the transition back into playing Mulder happen easily?
Yeah, it did. I would think that it always will. We’ve spent so much time doing it, and have so many days and hours under our belts, that we know how to do it. And we might be a little rusty at times but there’s a baseline of competence and understanding in the characters that we’ll always have.
What was the most important thing you knew you had to get right if you were going to revisit this character?
I didn’t want to do an imitation of something I started in 1993. I don’t think I’d be capable of playing that character the same way. He’s not a comic book character, he’s not James Bond or Indiana Jones, he is supposed to change like a human being changes.
The decision was made by Chris and Frank to pick up the story six years after the show had ended, so six years had passed for Mulder as well. That became a very interesting thing for me to try to play: What has the six years done? And what has fifteen years done to this guy? So I didn’t have to try to figure out what it was I was doing in 1993.
These characters are very different from the people we saw in the series. They’re in a completely different place now. How did that change your approach on a day to day basis?
These were all kind of instinctual and unconscious choices motivated by feel and trust.
I think the important part of the change in Mulder was that he was just not working at the beginning. He’s a guy who should be working, and he’s not working because he’s tried to make this relationship with Scully work, so what you get in the movie besides from the caper, the case, the thriller, the X-File, is a discussion of what it means to be in a relationship and also to be obsessed with their work. Or what it means to give up your work for a relationship, or sabotaging your relationship with work.
Especially for a guy like Mulder – it’s not good for him not to work, and although he’s trying his best when we see him, it takes a certain kind of life out of him. So for me there was an arc to explore, as he got more involved in his true passion, and then you know there is a sacrifice to be made at the end of the movie, and i think it’s a very romantic one.
The movie doesn’t revisit the show’s mythology. Was that, at all, a decision made to allow more time with the characters and their development?
I think less a decision for the development of the characters and more a decision to make the movie understandable to somebody who didn’t know anything about the mythology. The decision to make it a stand-alone movie that was a whole world in itself and totally understandable in itself, is basically a business decision to try and reach out to new fans, and I think a smart one.
You know you can’t just assume that even fans are going to remember, all of those details. I don’t remember. I wouldn’t assume that anybody else did either. I mean I’m sure there’s a handful, but you want to reach out.
You’re one of very few actors who can claim one successful American TV show, let alone two. What can we expect from the second season of Californication?
More of the same, you know, I think we struck a really interesting tone with that show, which was partly crass, partly very smart and partly very sentimental, and I can’t think of how we pulled that off. It’s really a testament to Tom Kapinos who’s the showrunner. I think its a very unique kind of show.
It’s a certain magic that you can’t easily write.
Yeah, and I think we did it again this year. I think we now understand what we’re doing. At first, when we did the first twelve, you’re just finding your way, and there’s a certain kind of energy to that. It’s just great and it can work. But we just finished this season on Wednesday, and I think we knew better what we were doing in terms of this show, and I think we just get better. I got one of my co-stars from the X-Files movie, Callum Rennie, to guest star in ten out of the twelve episodes, as a legendary record producer. He’s a really good actor.
What do you think Fox Mulder and Hank Moody would make of each other?
I don’t know, I guess they’d be really surprised at how similar they look! I think Mulder would say “It’s like looking in the mirror, look at you.”
That’s all I can do for you, sorry!
Are we going to see any more of you as a director?
I’d love to direct more. I had a great, great time doing that; I think I’ve been happier doing that than almost anything I’ve ever done. If that’s any indication of what you should be doing with your life – your happiness when you’re doing that – then I should. I directed the season opener of Californication, but I would like to do another movie, it’s just a matter of finding the time.
FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are assigned to the X-Files, the department dealing with inexplicable phenomena — flying saucers, killer mutants, werewolves, bigfoot, etc. — the bureau can’t officially acknowledge. Meanwhile, other factions in power know all about aliens and monsters, and pull strings to frustrate Mulder’s quest for a truth which is ‘out there’. And factions within factions betray the conspiracy by doling out information to the heroes.
Writer-producer Chris Carter was inspired by earlier paranoid sci-fi/horror shows (The Invaders, Project UFO, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Twin Peaks) but spun The X-Files into a ten-year run by combining weird stuff which industry wisdom deemed a turn-off with police procedural business in the manner of Thomas Harris and, crucially, a developing but ambiguous relationship between coolly sexy leads David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson which evoked successful TV teamings like Steed and Mrs Peel on The Avengers, Maddie and David on Moonlighting and Starsky & Hutch. They were professional partners, but undercurrents suggested they were potentially a lot closer.
When the show first aired, the nascent Fox network thought a comedy western with Bruce Campbell (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.) would be their break-out hit and were surprised by its runaway success. Among other things, The X-Files brought TV fantasy back from the wilderness (leading to such hits as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroes and revivals of Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica) and put imported American series back on UK primetime TV.
The mannerisms were always easy to parody, though the show was among the first to salt slyly satiric jabs at itself in the occasional comedy episodes (“that’s supposed to be a name?” a suspect responds when presented with a card reading ‘Fox Mulder’), and its ‘mythology’ episodes (an ongoing storyline about alien abductions and the hero’s complicated family) eventually strangled the series to the point when few could actually follow successive, contradictory revelations (and Duchovny’s semi-escape from later seasons didn’t help).
But the series managed more than enough outstanding episodes to qualify among the greats of pop TV — as a cop show, a horror show, a conspiracy saga and a workplace romance.
FOX MULDER (David Duchovny)
Obsessive seeker for truth, motivated by the unsolved disappearance of his sister (aliens took her), Mulder is ostracised in the bureau but more often proved right than not. Duchovny had previously played a transvestite FBI agent on Twin Peaks, and Chris Carter gave his hero some interesting kinks, including a subscription to Celebrity Skin magazine and a prophecy that he would die due to auto-erotic asphyxiation.
DANA SCULLY (Gillian Anderson)
Instinctive sceptic, but also a devout Catholic, Scully is given the X-Files gig initially in the hope of debunking Mulder’s crusade, and also to use her medical qualifications to help out with autopsies and other icky business. At first, Scully seemed modelled on Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, but then-unknown Anderson imprinted so strongly on the character that she became her own woman. A problem was that, after three or four episodes, Scully’s scepticism became hard to take — she saw a werewolf last week, so why is she doubting the human fluke this week? Later plots had her recover from terminal illness, and perhaps become immortal.
WALTER SKINNER (Mitch Pileggi)
Assistant Director of the FBI, and the traditional gruff but steadfast boss — like Alexander Waverley on The Man From UNCLE or the Chief on Get Smart. A porn star once listed the character as the sexiest bald man on television, which must have made up for all the frustrating cover-up and bawling-out scenes Pileggi had to play. At first a possible baddie, the character eventually became one of the show’s heroes and earned a few spotlight episodes. Aside from Duchovny and Anderson, he’s the only actor to have reprised his role in both X-Files films.
THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN (William S. Davis)
At first, just one of the Canadian bit-players retained to sit around darkened rooms looking sinister as cabals discussed thwarting Mulder, the CSM became the continuing villain of The X-Files, rewarded with a solo show (‘Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man’) and eventually revealed to have a name (C.G.B. Spender) and to be Mulder’s biological father (though, like all the other big reveals, this was probably provisional).
THE LONE GUNMEN (Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood & Dean Haglund)
A trio of ill-assorted conspiracy theorists, computer hackers and knowalls introduced in the episode ‘E.B.E.’ in the ‘Huggy Bear’ role of hero’s comedy informant — delivering helpful exposition and eccentric humour in one package. The geeks caught on with fans who perhaps saw the Lone Gunmen as more likely role models than the conventionally attractive heroes and became fixtures on the show, getting a showcase episode (‘Unusual Suspects’) and a short-lived spin-off series.
JOHN DOGGETT (Robert Patrick) & MONICA REYES (Annabeth Gish)
When Duchovny left the show and Anderson took a lessened role, Patrick and Gish were brought in as new agents assigned to the X-Files and shouldered the burden for the final seasons. Though seen as a sign of the series petering out, the new blood actually helped the show get over a hump — both actors were excellent, and the characters weren’t burdened by backstory the way Mulder and Scully became after six or seven seasons.
ALEX KRYCEK (Nicholas Lea) and JEFFREY SPENDER (Chris Owens)
Boo hiss. Both characters started out as FBI agents assigned to work with Mulder, but actually had their own evil agendas and popped up again as ambiguous villains. Krycek kept losing bits of himself and Spender might have been Mulder’s brother.
DEEP THROAT (Jerry Hardin), MR. X (Steven Williams) and MARIA COVARRUBIAS (Laurie Holden).
Mulder’s informants, who helpfully loitered in dark places passing on files, information, misinformation and plot spoilers for batches of episodes.
Season 1, Episode 3; 1993.
After a couple of ‘UFO’ stories, The X-Files really showed how strange it could be with its third episode, featuring Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchison), a long-lived liver-eating mutant who resembles Reed Richards gone wrong as he stretches and contorts through tight places. He returned in a sequel ‘Tooms’, and later mutants ate cancer, brains, fat and melanin…
Season 1, Episode 8; 1993.
A miniature of The Thing (or a throwback to 1960s Doctor Who), with a small cast trapped in an arctic base which has been wiped out by larval worms which prompt psychotic behaviour.
BEYOND THE SEA
Season 1, Episode 13; 1994.
The first show to concentrate on Scully’s backstory — a recently-deceased father (Don S. Davis, formerly of Twin Peaks, later of Stargate SG1) — and give her character more to do than trot out a soon-disproved rational explanation. Brad Dourif creepily homages his role from Exorcist III as a psychic on death row.
Season 2, Episode 5; 1994.
The first part of a two-episode story (followed by ‘Ascension’) and, as is often the case, much better in the build-up than the resolution. Guest star Steve Railsback offers a possible glimpse into Mulder’s future as a former X-Files agent who has cracked up completely and become a gun-waving hostage-taker.
CLYDE BRUCKMAN’S FINAL REPOSE
Season 3, Episode 4; 1995.
Peter Boyle is brilliant as Bruckman, who has the unhappy knack of foreseeing the circumstances of everyone’s death — including his own. A serial killer is targeting seers, fortune-tellers and psychics. Often classed as one of the ‘comedy’ episodes, it has a surprisingly affecting finish.
JOSE CHUNG’S FROM OUTER SPACE
Season 3, Episode 20; 1995.
The cleverest of the ‘post-modern’ X-Files episodes, with Scully interviewing a writer who has an interest in UFO stories — and a Rashomon-like series of alternate versions of the truth coming out, involving Men in Black, government conspiracies and the possibility that it’s all a put-on. Chung (Charles Nelson Reilly) returns in the Millennium episode ‘José Chung’s Doomsday Defence’.
Season 4, Episode 2; 1996.
The most gruesome horror show ever aired on mainstream US TV (and often censored in repeats) and a rare X-File in which sheer human nastiness is at the bottom of the mystery. It’s inbred-mutants-on-the-farm territory, and manages to compete in the Hills Have Eyes/Texas Chain Saw Massacre stakes.
Season 5, Episode 3; 1997.
The Lone Gunmen showcase episode, a period piece set in 1989 (when Mulder’s cell-phone was the size of several bricks) at a hackers’ convention in Baltimore, this gives comedy characters (especially Byers) depth and boasts a guest shot by the great Richard Belzer as Detective Munch, the character he originated on Homicide: Life on the Street and holds a trivia record for reprising on more other crossover shows than anyone else has managed (Law and Order, The Wire, The Beat, Arrested Development, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Trial by Jury).
Season 7, Episode 12; 2000.
A parody of the reality TV show Cops, this has a TV crew following Mulder and Scully around a bad area of Los Angeles as they deal with a shapeshifting killer that can appear as whatever its victims fear most. It’s a neat pastiche, but also offers a surprisingly good monster-of-the-week story.
Season 7, Episode 19; 2000.
Writer-director David Duchovny‘s supreme in-joke show takes place on the set of an X-Files movie starring Garry Shandling and Téa Leoni as Mulder and Scully, with the originals on hand to give advice on tricky subjects like how to chase a monster while wearing high heels.
More records were smashed into bits by the unstoppable megahit The Dark Knight which remained at number one by a comfortable margin for the second straight time. Moviegoers had mixed feelings for the two new releases with the Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers scoring a solid second place bow while the sci-fi sequel The X-Files: I Want to Believe underperformed barely reaching double-digit millions.
Audiences once again filled theaters all weekend for the superhero blockbuster The Dark Knight which grossed an estimated $75.6M dropping a reasonable 52% from its record-breaking opening weekend. With the cume soaring to an eye-popping $314.2M after only ten days, the Warner Bros. release shattered the $300M mark in record time. The old record was held by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest which banked $258.4M of loot over its first ten days and crossed the triple-century mark in 16 days.
The new Batman film also set a new record for the largest second weekend gross outdistancing the $72.2M that Shrek 2 hauled in back in May 2004. Knight has now virtually matched the $314.9M collected by Iron Man over the last three months and will become the year’s highest grossing blockbuster on Monday. On the all-time list, the new Joker saga has quickly climbed up to number 23 sitting right next to 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Dark Knight‘s hold was impressive considering how much business it already absorbed on the first weekend. Looking at the largest opening weekends in movie history, second weekend drops were 62% for Spider-Man 3, 54% for Dead Man’s Chest, and 56% for Shrek the Third. Word-of-mouth has been strong for the Christopher Nolan-directed sequel and the Imax showings continue to be a major event creating even more excitement and repeat business.
Given its sturdy hold, Knight now looks to be on a trajectory that will see it zoom past the $400M mark by the end of its third week of release. With most of the summer’s tentpole titles already played out, and a full month before students go back to school, the Caped Crusader now has a realistic shot of breaking through the $500M mark domestically joining only Titanic in that exclusive stratosphere.
Overseas, The Dark Knight was a dominant force grossing an estimated $65.6M and ranking number one in 43 markets. The opening in the United Kingdom which followed last week’s glitzy London premiere led the way with $22.3M, including previews, while holdover markets dropped by an average of only 38%. The early international cume rose to $126.3M putting the global tally at a stunning $440.5M with major territories like Japan, Germany, Korea, and France still to open. A worldwide haul of more than $1 billion is certainly possible for Bruce Wayne and pals.
Sony scored a solid opening with the new comedy Step Brothers starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly which premiered in second place with an estimated $30M. It was the fourth best opening ever for Ferrell trailing Talladega Nights ($47M), Blades of Glory ($33M), and Elf ($31.1M). Brothers averaged a potent $9,696 from 3,094 locations and its R rating didn’t seem to hurt its box office punch. The story of two 40-year-old slackers forced to live together after their single parents marry doubled the $15.1M bow of the comedian’s last film Semi-Pro which also carried the R rating.
Produced for $65M, Step Brothers played to young men as expected. Studio research showed that 54% of the audience was male while 66% was under 25. Sony found a great slot on the calendar following a seemingly endless string of superhero and action movies from late June into July so moviegoers were in need of some star-driven comic relief. Plus the sibling rivalry film reached the marketplace ahead of two other R-rated comedies – Sony’s own stoner flick Pineapple Express opening August 6 and Paramount’s war romp Tropic Thunder launching a week later on August 13.
The ABBA musical Mamma Mia! held up remarkably well in it second weekend slipping only 36% to an estimated $17.9M for third place. The Meryl Streep-led pic has now grossed a stellar $62.7M in its first ten days and has been playing to female moviegoers at a time when so many other films in theaters are targeting guys. Mamma delivered slightly better results than last summer’s Hairspray which dropped 42% in its sophomore frame to $15.9M for a $59.7M ten-day tally. A final tally of $120-125M could result for Mamma Mia!
Opening to weak results in fourth place was Fox’s sci-fi sequel The X-Files: I Want to Believe with an estimated $10.2M from 3,185 locations for a mild $3,203 average. The disappointing debut was just a fraction of the $30.1M bow that its predecessor generated ten years ago in June 1998. Factor in higher ticket prices and the new adventure for Mulder and Scully attracted less than one-fourth of the audience of the first X-Files.
Audience erosion, direct competition from The Dark Knight, mixed reviews, and a weak marketing push all contributed to the lackluster performance. Budgeted at just $30M, the PG-13 film played evenly between males and females and saw adults 25 and older make up 70% of the crowd, according to studio research. Fox now looks to end the summer as the only major studio without a $100M hit this season.
New Line’s 3D adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth enjoyed the best hold in the top ten dipping only 24% to an estimated $9.4M in its third session. The total for the Warner Bros. release is now a solid $60.2M. Will Smith followed close behind with Hancock which became the superstar’s fifth career blockbuster to cross the $200M domestic mark. The Sony title grossed an estimated $8.2M, off 42%, for a cume to date of $206.4M.
The animated comedy WALL•E slipped 37% to an estimated $6.3M pushing its sum to $195.2M. After its fifth weekend, the G-rated pic is running 9% ahead of Pixar’s Ratatouille from last year but 5% behind the pace for the company’s 2006 summer offering Cars. The superhero flick Hellboy II: The Golden Army ranked eighth with an estimated $4.9M, down 51%, giving Universal a mediocre $65.9M to date.
Fox’s intergalactic toon Space Chimps dropped 39% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.4M putting the ten-day total at just $16M. A final tally of $25-30M seems likely. Rounding out the top ten was the Angelina Jolie actioner Wanted with an estimated $2.7M, falling 46%, putting the assassin thriller at a robust $128.6M to date
Author: Gitesh Pandya,
This week at the movies, we learn that the truth is out there (The X-Files: I Want to Believe, starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) and that step-sibling rivalry can be treacherous (Step Brothers, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly). What do the critics have to say?
After a long layoff, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are back in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Unfortunately, critics say the famed paranormal investigators have found themselves in a middling police procedural, one that would be better suited to the boob tube. The plot finds Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), now retired from the FBI and living together; they come out of retirement to solve a case of a missing agent, with help from a defrocked priest (Billy Connelly) who is having visions of the vanished lawman. The pundits say X-Files lacks the evocative atmosphere of the series, and too slavishly follows a hackneyed serial-killer plot while skimping on suspense. At 31 percent on the Tomatometer, The X-Files may leave both diehards and neophytes Wanting more. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we cover our favorite movie conspiracies.)
“Turns out The Truth was on Wikipedia all along.”
Step Brothers may be the latest in a string of comedies about juvenile man-children whop refuse to grow up, but critics say it’s got enough crazy laughs to be worth another go. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly star as two aggressively slothful middle-aged dudes whose parents get married. The two are forced to move in together, and their mutual antipathy threatens their parents’ happiness. The pundits say Step Brothers is not the place to turn for sophisticated comedy — it’s loaded with sophomoric smuttiness and surprisingly violent slapstick — but the antics are so relentless that resistance may be futile futile for some, especially if you have a soft spot for the hi-jinks of Ferrell and Reilly. It’s currently at 53 percent on the Tomatometer.
A brain teaser for you: which of these men drives a Dodge Stratus?
Also opening this week in limited release:
Crosby Stills Nash & Young: neither burning out nor fading away.
Recent Gillian Anderson Movies:
39% — Straightheads (2007)
87% — The Last King of Scotland (2006)
91% — Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2006)
60% — The Mighty Celt (2005)
82% — The House of Mirth (2000)
Batman faces two new villains each trying to grab some share of business in a marketplace dominated by The Dark Knight. Will Ferrell is back with his latest comedy Step Brothers from Sony while Fox counters with the thriller The X-Files: I Want to Believe. The Joker will sit back and laugh as he makes his two victims compete for the runnerup spot. Knight should face a steep decline, but will have no problem ruling the North American box office once again as more records are bracing to be smashed into bits.
The first in a trio of R-rated late-summer comedies hits theaters on Friday with Step Brothers. Ferrell and John C. Reilly reteam two years after their Talladega Nights became a $148M blockbuster and this time play slackers pushing 40 who must move in together when their single parents marry. Adam McKay, who directed Ferrell in the summer hits Talladega and Anchorman, helmed while comedy guru Judd Apatow produced. The marketplace certainly needs a star-driven comedy right now so the positioning for Step Brothers will help. Audiences have been bombarded with superhero and action films over the past month so some variety is needed.
But the R rating will hurt it especially with all the younger teens out of school and looking for a laugh. Sure past Apatow films like Superbad, Knocked Up, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin all worked, but they were much funnier films and had more buzz. Ferrell hit number one but still underperformed in February with the R-rated Semi-Pro which bowed to just $15.1M. Step Brothers should fly a bit higher thanks to a slightly funnier trailer, lack of comedy competition, and the busier July playtime. The Dark Knight of course will be a factor pulling away many potential customers, but the pseudo-siblings should snuggle into a second place debut. Step Brothers will have to find its audience fast since rival R-rated comedies Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder both moved their releases up by two days from Friday to Wednesday bows on August 6 and 13, respectively. Launching in around 2,800 locations, Step Brothers may gross about $21M this weekend.
Believe plays out like a mildly entertaining extra-long episode of the show with a story that barely includes any actual science fiction and that’s no way to energize old fans or even gain new ones. This is a TV property that has faded over the years and is no longer very relevant. Expect numbers closer to Speed Racer‘s rather than like Sex and the City‘s in this summer’s TV-to-movies game. In the years since the Fox program signed off, the Batman franchise was reborn and stars like the Wills (Smith and Ferrell) have been providing new entertainment every year. All will be factors at the box office this weekend with the male-skewing X-Files audience.
The previous film bowed to $30.1M which would amount to $45M at today’s prices. Many of those fans have tuned out and moved on with their lives. There’s no doubt that The Dark Knight‘s second weekend will steal over $60M, maybe even more than $70M, away from the same folks that Fox is targeting for its action offering. Plus Believe has not had the big push that the studio gave the franchise a decade ago. Reviews are not very warm either. Awareness and excitement outside of the sci-fi fan base is not very high at all. A year ago this very weekend it scored a gigantic opening for the movie version of its other Sunday night Fox Network show The Simpsons. Lightning will not strike twice. Opening in 3,185 theaters, The X-Files: I Want to Believe could bow to around $19M.
The Warner Bros. smash hauled in a mammoth $24.5M in sales on Monday and followed that up with a stellar $20.9M on Tuesday. That puts Knight on course to generate an eye-popping $235-240M in its first full week of release obliterating the old record of $196M set by another July juggernaut of a sequel – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. With so much demand absorbed on the first weekend, especially from those round-the-clock showtimes that many exhibitors programmed last Friday morning, a steep sophomore decline is sure to occur. Even Chest which was well liked by audiences fell by 54% on the second voyage to $62.3M as it faced a pair of new releases that each bowed to $21-22M. Spider-Man 3 tumbled by 62% after its record-breaking opening even though none of the openers against it reached double-digit millions.
Word-of-mouth for Heath Ledger‘s final complete performance has been electric and there is still a big audience out there to reach, not to mention the fans who are lining up for seconds and thirds, plus those who are finally getting their hands on Imax tickets. The X-Files has plenty of audience overlap, but Batman isn’t worried in the least. It’s clear which film offers more entertainment for the dollar. Competition from new releases should not be too intense so The Dark Knight may witness a 55% drop this weekend to about $70M. That would allow the ten-day cume to skyrocket to $308M which could allow the Caped Crusader to fly past Iron Man in an astonishingly quick eleven days to become the highest grossing blockbuster of 2008 with so much cash still ahead of it.
Universal countered Batman with its musical Mamma Mia! and scored a big hit with adult women. The Meryl Streep starrer should not face too much competition for its core audience this weekend from debuting pics so a 40% drop to about $16.5M could occur. That would leave the ABBA songfest with roughly $58M after ten days with a good shot at joining the $100M club just like past musicals Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Hairspray.
Will Smith is no longer America’s favorite superhero, but he can smile because Hollywood’s most bankable star will score his fifth career $200M blockbuster this weekend. Hancock should slip by 50% to about $7M for a cume to date of $204M for Sony. Brendan Fraser‘s adventure flick Journey to the Center of the Earth is playing well to younger kids so a good hold is likely. Look for a 35% dip to $8M and a cume of $57M.
LAST YEAR: Generating the biggest opening for a non-ogre toon, Fox’s The Simpsons Movie exploded to a stunning $74M grossing as much as the next five movies combined – a hard task in July. The global blockbuster went on to take in $183.1M domestically and a stellar $527M worldwide. Dropping to second was Adam Sandler’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry with $19.1M followed by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with $17.7M and Hairspray with $15.9M. Opening in fifth was the romantic comedy No Reservations which bowed to $11.7M for Warner Bros. on its way to $43.1M. Debuting poorly much lower on the chart was Sony’s Lindsay Lohan flop I Know Who Killed Me with $3.5M and the MGM comedy Who’s Your Caddy with $2.8M. Final tallies reached just $7.5M and $5.7M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com