Repent, sinners: Earth Day is nigh! From toxic pollution to bottled water, nature has had just about enough of mankind’s thirst for convenience, as seen in this gallery of 24 tales of eco-terror!

Inspired by The Green Inferno, this week’s 24 Frames treks deep into some of the most dangerous and deadly jungle settings ever captured on film.


This week, we dispense with the news and cut to the chase to bring you two huge new gift sets timed perfectly for this summer’s Bat-mania. What will earn you more geek cred: whipping out the Batman flash drive or watching the Dark Knight prologue in high definition, awash in the glory of Blu-ray?


The Batman Begins Gift Set: It’s Christmas In July!

July 18 is right around the corner, which means you’ll soon see plenty of Batman merchandise coming your way (look for the animated Batman: Gotham Knight to hit shelves this week). But if you want a sneak peek at the upcoming sequel The Dark Knight, you can have it with the Batman Begins Limited Edition. Both the 2-Disc Standard and Single-disc Blu-ray releases feature the main attraction: a sneak peek at Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight! (Edit: The six-minute opening prologue originally screened in front of I Am Legend IMAX is only available on Blu-ray; a two-minute sneak peek accompanies the standard release.)

As a refresher, said prologue opens The Dark Knight with one of many sequences shot in IMAX: a full bank heist scene. We won’t spoil it here, but there are robbers with clown masks, plenty of double-crosses, and your first extended look at Heath Ledger‘s critically acclaimed performance as the Joker.

Each version also comes with its own set of goodies, so you have a choice to make. In the standard disc release, find five collectible postcards, printed key art, $7.50 towards seeing TDK in theaters, and a 128MB branded Batman flash drive. In the Blu-ray release, you’ll get lenticular 3-D art, a comic book adaptation of the TDK prologue, and a booklet detailing the making of the TDK prologue. Our advice: given the choice, opt for Blu-ray — if only to watch the TDK prologue in as close to its intended IMAX glory as possible.

Bat-alternatives: Make it a Mummy Week

But Batman’s not the only superhero making a push on DVD this week to build buzz for his summer adventure. Get a sneak peek at The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor before it hits theaters this August by picking up the newly restored The Mummy and its sequel, The Mummy Returns. (Those cheeky folks at Universal are also releasing a special edition of Boris Karloff‘s 1932 classic, The Mummy, with a handful of commentaries and featurettes by the likes of Rick Baker, a documentary on the legacy of the Mummy, and another doc about Universal monster movies narrated by Kenneth Branagh.)

In addition to their own respective bonus materials (a combination of previously released cast and crew commentaries, plus new storyboard-to-film comparisons and features) both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns include the three-minute Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Sneak Peek.

Here glimpse finished footage (seen in the trailer) and unfinished wire work and fight choreography from behind-the-scenes, as well as on-set snippets with director Rob Cohen, producer Stephen Sommers, and stars Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, and Michelle Yeoh. Both Mummys, the Boris Karloff version, and a new Collector’s Edition of Van Helsing also come with a free movie coupon to see The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in theaters.

Click for this week’s new releases!

The Ruins

Tomatometer: 44%

Horror fans with green thumbs might be doubly delighted by this tale of four American coeds terrorized by — yup — killer plants high atop an ancient Mayan temple. With all the tired ghost stories, J-horror remakes, and psychopaths-with-knives in recent memory, homicidal vines and makeshift amputations in a gory R-rated flick like this are almost a breath of fresh air! But while The Ruins scored surprisingly high considering its genre, anyone but true horror mavens are likely to be turned off.

Bonus Features:

If The Ruins even remotely appeals to you, then opt for the Unrated Edition for gorier scares and an alternate ending (Duh duh duhhhhn!). Featurettes on the handsomely constructed ruins set, the killer vines effects, and a feature-length commentary provide insights into the making of a modern day horror film, and a taste of the classic exploitation films that influenced the filmmakers.

(Watch a deleted scene from The Ruins here.)

Stop-Loss

Tomatometer: 65%

Director Kimberly Peirce made her feature debut with the Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry; nine years later, her long-awaited sophomore effort focuses on another hot-button issue: the military practice of returning soldiers to duty after their contract has ended. Theatrically, Stop-Loss made less than half of its $25 million budget, but critics agree that the film and its controversial topic deserve further discussion, one likely to be had in a second life on DVD.

Bonus Features:

In addition to a making-of featurette and a peek into the boot camp experience of star Ryan Phillippe and his fellow cast members, Peirce lends her thoughts to 11 deleted scenes and a feature commentary (with co-writer Mark Richard) that offers further insights into why she made Stop-Loss.

Superhero Movie

Tomatometer: 13%

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s another spoof movie, from the mind behind such previous spoofs as Scary Movie 4 and Scary Movie 3. This time, writer-director Craig Mazin serves up an unfunny cocktail of the expected lame pop culture jokes and genre gags that we all see coming as soon as each “Fill in the Blank” Movie is announced. Shockingly, even the participation of producer David Zucker (Airplane!) can’t make the sight of Leslie Nielsen dry-humping a corpse hilarious.

Bonus Features:

As if we needed more Superhero Movie, the DVD comes in an Extended Edition that also proclaims itself “Longer, Funnier, and More Outrageous.” We’re sure it’s longer; it may be even more outrageous. Just don’t count on it being funnier.

The Tracey Fragments

Tomatometer: 38%

Before she melted geek hearts the world over with her pregnant teenage one-liners, Ellen Page filmed this experimental Canadian indie by film and television vet (and sometimes-Degrassi director) Bruce McDonald. Watch her wander the streets of Toronto wearing a shower curtain, losing her mind and manipulating yours in the twisty, non-linear psychological drama.

Bonus Features:

Watch the making-of featurette (a film-school lesson in itself, considering McDonald combines non-linear storytelling, flashbacks, and literal fragments on the screen) and interviews with MacDonald and Page, plus entries from the Tracey Re:fragmented contest, where contestants could download and remix footage from the film with their own, or re-edit the film itself.

Jet Li’s Fearless: Unrated Director’s Cut

Tomatometer: 73%

Jet Li‘s “last” martial arts epic opened to modest success in 2006 and may already occupy a spot in your video collection, but there’s a new reason to seek it out this week on DVD: the Director’s Cut features 30 more minutes of footage, including scenes with Michelle Yeoh that were deleted from the original release cut. Li plays Huo Yuanjia, the real-life martial arts master who took on the world’s best fighters, helped revive the practice of wushu in turn-of-the-century China, and whose life gained mythological status long after his death.

Bonus Features:

Three versions of Ronny Yu‘s film come in the new release: the original U.S. theatrical cut (104 minutes), an internationally-released version (110 minutes), and the full director’s cut featuring scenes with Yeoh and Thai fighter Somluck Kansing (140 minutes).

Fastlane: The Complete Series

Tomatometer: 73%

If you were watching television in 2002, then you might remember the series Fastlane. If not, here’s the premise: two hotshot cops (Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy) are recruited to bring down bad guys in L.A. with the help of a smokin’ supervisor (Tiffani Thiessen) and a “candy store” of impounded cars, guns, and cash — Miami Vice meets The Fast and the Furious. With creator McG (Charlie’s Angels) to guide it, how could this show go wrong? (Cut to the end of Season One, when the show was cancelled. I guess huge car chases, elaborate sets, and over $2 million an episode was too rich for WB and Fox’s blood.)

Bonus Features:

The fact that Fastlane is available for the first time since airing is a bonus in itself. Watch all 22 episodes for their mix of hot bodies, fast rides, and pure adrenaline, plus see guest stars like Jay Mohr, Krista Allen, Ali Landry, Robert Forster, Bill Duke, Naomi Campbell, and Mischa Barton. Featurettes and bloopers are also included in the six-disc release.

‘Til next week, happy viewing!

This week at the movies, we’ve got gridiron giggles (Leatherheads, starring George Clooney and Renée Zellweger), isle imagination (Nim’s Island, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin), and archeological anxiety (The Ruins, starring Shawn Ashmore and Jena Malone). What do the critics have to say?

George Clooney gets compared to Cary Grant all the time, so it’s only natural he would try his hand at Grant’s prime métier — the screwball comedy. Unfortunately, critics say the football laffer Leatherheads, in which Clooney stars and directs, is something of a mixed bag. Set in the early days of pro-pigskin (in the days when college was king), Leatherheads tells the tale of the struggling, ragtag Duluth squad, which has scored a major coup by tapping a college gridiron hero (played by John Krasinski) to team with aging pro Dodge Connolly (Clooney); however, the team is also under fire from an aggressive beat reporter (Renée Zellweger). The pundits say Leatherheads is a funny, amiable affair, but it could take some pointers from the no-huddle offense, which, like screwball comedy, emphasizes quick thinking, deft interaction, and risk. At 54 percent on the Tomatometer, Leatherheads is being thrown for a loss. And it’s Clooney’s worst-reviewed directorial effort to date — well below Good Night and Good Luck‘s 94 percent. (Check out our interview with George Clooney here.)


“Look, we’re running a flea flicker, and that’s final! Do I look like I’m negotiating?

A sort of Swiss Family Robinson crossed with Indiana Jones, the critics say Nim’s Island is solid family fare — with the pros and cons that implies. Abigail Breslin stars as Nim, a precocious girl who lives on a South Pacific island with her father (Gerard Butler), a scientist; when he goes missing, Nim turns to the hero of her favorite book (also played by Butler) — and the tome’s author (Jodie Foster) — for help. Critics say Nim’s Island has an old-fashioned sense of wonder and adventure — as well as a healthy dose of girl power — that makes for an above-average kids’ adventure. But they also note the movie offers a predictable storyline and some hackneyed slapstick. Nim’s Island currently stands at 48 percent on the Tomatomenter. (Take a look at a clip from the film here.)


Abigail Breslin won’t be so joyous when she realizes she’ll need to eat grubs and berries to survive.

It appears the folks behind The Ruins feared its critical reputation would be left in ruins, since it was barely screened before its release. Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, and Shawn Ashmore star in this tale of a group of tourists who find danger lurking at a remote archaeological site — an obvious oversight by the Lonely Planet people. Kids, take your noses out of that atlas and guess the Tomatometer!


“We should have brought a tent!”

Also opening this week in limited release:

The French import Water Lilies, a delicate coming-of-age drama involving a trio of middle school girls, is at 90 percent (check out our take from Cannes here);

Jellyfish, which follows three Israeli women as their lives intersect at a wedding reception, is at 87 percent;

Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese‘s document of the Rolling Stones live (with special guests like Jack White and Christina Aguilera), is at 82 percent (check out this week’s Total Recall for a look at some of Scorsese’s lesser-known work);

Flight of the Red Balloon, Hou Hsiao-hsien‘s remake of the French classic starring Juliette Binoche, is at 69 percent;

Wong Kar-Wai‘s latest, My Blueberry Nights starring Norah Jones, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman, is at 49 percent (check out our take here, and our interview with Jones here);

And Sex and Death 101, a black comedy starring Winona Ryder and Simon Baker, is at 40 percent.


“While I’ve got you guys here, I wanted to talk about my vision for Freejack 2…”

And finally, props to Grendel-san for correctly guessing Superhero Movie‘s 17 percent Tomatometer, presumably while doing battle with Beowulf-san. One question for ya, G.S: is it hard to type with only one arm?

Recent Jodie Foster Movies:
———————————–
43% — The Brave One (2007)
87% — Inside Man (2006)
38% — Flightplan (2005)
77% — A Very Long Engagement (2004)
77% — The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002)

Recent George Clooney Movies:
—————————————–
91% — Michael Clayton (2007)
70% — Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
33% — The Good German (2006)
73% — Syriana (2005)
94% — Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

George Clooney, the Mayor McCheese of Hollywood, leaves behind Oscar season and returns to the big screen with lighter fare with the period sports comedy Leatherheads. The PG-13 pic also stars Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski while the former Caped Crusader directs. Given the story of the origins of football in the 1920’s, turnout should come mostly from older adults although The Office star is being counted on to pull in some younger moviegoers. In Los Angeles, Clooney is a God. But the other 99% of the U.S. population doesn’t necessarily bow down to him (unless pals Brad and Matt are along for the ride). Michael Clayton, which creatively was one of the actor’s best films, only managed $10.4M in ticket sales during its first wide weekend. And it was backed by plenty of Oscar buzz and glowing reviews.

Reviews for Leatherheads have been lukewarm at best which spells bad news since the target audience will be reading up on the opinions of critics and taking their warnings. Plus Zellweger is no A-lister when it comes to drawing in paying audiences. Add in a period setting that will turn many off and you’ve got a spring film that will have to work hard for the money. To its credit, Universal has backed the title with a solid marketing push doing what it can to generate excitement and the current top five will not provide too much direct competition. But a lack of momentum in the current marketplace will also have a negative effect on all films. Rushing into 2,778 theaters, Leatherheads may take in around $15M this weekend.


John Krasinski in Leatherheads

A young girl’s imagination is at the heart of Nim’s Island, the new kid adventure from Fox Walden. Abigail Breslin stars as the title character in the PG-rated tale while Jodie Foster and 300‘s Gerard Butler co-star. The family audience is the target here with sales likely to skew more towards girls than boys. The lack of male appeal could turn out to be a major liability. Foster usually brings plenty of starpower with her, but this is not the type of role her core fans will be all that excited about. This isn’t a single-woman-fighting-male-oppressors movie. Competition will come from Fox’s own Horton Hears A Who, but Nim‘s trailers in front of the Seuss toon over the last three weeks have also raised awareness with the same crowd. So consider that a wash. Overall buzz is not too high so despite the very wide launch, potent numbers are not likely. Opening in 3,511 sites, Nim’s Island could debut to about $14M.


Abigail Breslin in Nim’s Island

Paramount gives horror fans a new offering with The Ruins which finds a group of young Americans in Cancun discovering terror. The year’s first fright flick to not be a remake of an Asian horror hit carries an R rating which will hurt its chances with younger teens. Overall interest is not very high and a lack of starpower won’t help its cause much. The film should appeal to the same folks who bought tickets to The Descent and Turistas. Both lacked star names and underperformed with openings of $8.9M and $3.6M respectively. The Ruins opens in over 2,500 theaters and should fall into the same range. Look for a $8M debut.


The Ruins

The Rolling Stones and Martin Scorsese join forces for the year’s third major concert film with Shine A Light. The PG-13 pic covers an intimate New York concert given by the supergroup with the Oscar-winning director orchestrating a team of A-list cinematographers to capture all the magic. Paramount Classics is rolling out the film in limited release with about 270 total theaters including 93 Imax sites making it the widest launch ever for the large-screen format. Marketing materials have been highlighting the starpower of all the popular senior citizens involved here in a effort to tap into older adults and rock music fans. Hannah Montana and U2 found success earlier this year with their concert pics and the higher-priced Imax tickets will help to beef up the averages. Shine A Light could rock to around $2M this weekend.


Scorsese and The Stones in Shine a Light

Only two holdovers will be able to post double-digit millions this weekend. 21 got off to a great start last week and will not see too much of its teen and young adult audience taken away since Leatherheads will skew older and Nim will play younger. Still a moderate 45% drop is in order which would put the blackjack drama at about $13M for a ten-day tally of $45M.

Fox’s animated blockbuster Horton Hears A Who will find its competition coming from the studio’s own new Jodie Foster adventure. But the Dr. Seuss comedy has been holding up well so a 30% fall to $12.5M could result. That would up the cume to a robust $134M.

Superhero Movie stumbled out of the gate last weekend and is not likely to have legs. A 45% drop would give The Weinstein Company roughly $5M and a sum of $17M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: With Easter falling on the first weekend of April, the box office was vibrant thanks to a pair of solid sophomores and a slate of new releases. Will Ferrell‘s skating comedy Blades of Glory spent a second frame on top with $22.5M while the Disney toon Meet the Robinsons held onto second with $16.7M. Leading the newcomers was the Ice Cube sequel Are We Done Yet? with $14.3M on its way to $49.7M for Sony. Opening in fourth was the two-for-one special Grindhouse with $11.6M followed by the new supernatural thriller The Reaping which bowed to $10M. Final grosses reached $25M and $25.1M, respectively. Failing to excite family audiences was Firehouse Dog which debuted in tenth with just $3.8M leading to a weak $13.9M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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