DreamWorks Animation’s first movie was Antz, released two months before A Bug’s Life, and thus this studio was born into incessant comparison to Pixar’s output, molded by it, becoming the snarky and sarcastic foil to its competitor’s earnestness.
DreamWorks Animation would forge most of its identity and formula on the back of one giant, smelly, green ogre: Shrek, which has generated sequels, tie-ins, theme park rides, and billions of dollars, while ensuring Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” never leaving the pop culture’s ironic curriculum.
The studio’s other franchises include Kung Fu Panda, which introduced a whole new world of visual flair and surprising emotional depth to the DreamWorks movie canon, and Madagascar, which pulled off the mega-rare feat of each movie being higher-rated on the Tomatometer than the last. At least the mainline movies. (Penguins of Madagascar 73% is lower than the 79% Madagascar 3 has, but that’s a spin-off.)
Their latest releases were Spirit Untamed and Boss Baby: Family Business, with The Bad Guys and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish on the horizon. Now, we’re ranking all DreamWorks Animation movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: It's nowhere near as inventive as its off-the-wall premise might suggest, but Turbo boasts just enough colorful visual thrills and sharp voice acting to recommend as undemanding family-friendly fare.
Synopsis: Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) is a speed-obsessed snail with an unusual dream: to become the world's greatest racer. This odd snail... [More]
Critics Consensus: It regurgitates plot points from earlier animated efforts, and isn't quite as funny as it should be, but a top-shelf voice cast and strong visuals help make Megamind a pleasant, if unspectacular, diversion.
Synopsis: Though he is the most-brilliant supervillain the world has known, Megamind (Will Ferrell) is the least-successful. Thwarted time and again... [More]
Critics Consensus: With a tidy plot, clean animation, and humor that fits its source material snugly, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is entertainment that won't drive a wedge between family members.
Synopsis: George Beard and Harold Hutchins are two overly imaginative pranksters who spend hours in a treehouse creating comic books. When... [More]
Critics Consensus:Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts the requisite visual splendor, but like its rotund protagonist, this sequel's narrative is also surprisingly nimble, adding up to animated fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he's going to... [More]
Critics Consensus: While simultaneously embracing and subverting fairy tales, the irreverent Shrek also manages to tweak Disney's nose, provide a moral message to children, and offer viewers a funny, fast-paced ride.
Synopsis: Once upon a time, in a far away swamp, there lived an ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers) whose precious solitude... [More]
Critics Consensus:Chicken Run has all the charm of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit, and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular.
Synopsis: This engaging stop-motion, claymation adventure tells the story of an American rooster who falls in love with a gorgeous hen... [More]
(Photo by Columbia Pictures/ courtesy Everett Collection)
All Seth Rogen Movies, Ranked By Tomatometer
One-season wonder Freaks and Geeks had a startling amount of its young alums go on to have successful Hollywood careers, Seth Rogen chief among them. He followed mentor Judd Apatow into the movie game with The 40 Year-Old Virgin, starring in a memorable supporting role. Rogen was then upgraded to lead status for Apatow’s follow-up Knocked Up, and the movie’s critical and box office success showed Virgin was no fluke, heralding a significant sea change in mainstream American comedy. Rogen has remained the face of this bong- and bro-tastic style of comedy, also featuring big rips of heartfelt emotion – like Animal House by way of James L. Brooks – in repeated movie hits like Superbad, Pineapple Express, This Is the End, Neighbors, and The Disaster Artist.
He’s been amassing an impressive résumé as producer (not just on his own starring films, but also the likes of Blockers and Good Boys) and director, helming This Is the End, The Interview, and episodes of Future Man and Preacher. His latest comedy was An American Pickle. And now we’re looking at all of Seth Rogen’s movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand have enough chemistry to drive a solidly assembled comedy; unfortunately, The Guilt Trip has a lemon of a script and is perilously low on comedic fuel.
Synopsis: Before embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip, Andy Brewster pays a visit to his overbearing mother, Joyce. That proves to... [More]
Critics Consensus: While it can take pride in its visual achievements,The Lion King is a by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved--though for some fans that may just be enough.
Synopsis: Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But... [More]
Critics Consensus: Brisk, funny, and sweetly raunchy, For a Good Time, Call... adds to the recent string of R-rated female comedies while serving as an overdue coming out party for the charming Ari Graynor.
Synopsis: Reserved Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller) and bubbly Katie (Ari Graynor) are polar opposites and past enemies. However, when both gals... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Night Before provokes enough belly laughs to qualify as a worthwhile addition to the list of Christmas comedies worth revisiting, even if it isn't quite as consistent as the classics.
Synopsis: For the last 10 years, lifelong buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gathered on... [More]
Critics Consensus:Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts the requisite visual splendor, but like its rotund protagonist, this sequel's narrative is also surprisingly nimble, adding up to animated fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he's going to... [More]
Critics Consensus: Deftly balancing vulgarity and sincerity while placing its protagonists in excessive situations, Superbad is an authentic take on friendship and the overarching awkwardness of the high school experience.
Synopsis: High-school seniors Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) have high hopes for a graduation party: The co-dependent teens plan... [More]
Thumbnail image: Columbia Pictures, Universal / courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by Fox Searchlight/ courtesy Everett Collection)
All Reese Witherspoon Movies Ranked
Reese Witherspoon rose to prominence in the late 1990s, a receptive era for twisted comedies (Freeway), teen thrillers (Fear, Cruel Intentions), and quirky satires (Pleasantville, Election). And Witherspoon would become a household name just a few years later through box office hit comedies Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama.
Johnny Cash-biopic Walk the Line would net Witherspoon her first Best Actress Oscar nomination and win for her portrayal as June Carter Cash. Going for more indie-focused, challenging material in the immediate years afterwards produced mixed results, with the likes of Mud and Inherent Vice at the top of that cult-movie pile.
Water for Elephants and Wild (which earned her a second Oscar nom) have been her most recent film glories, but Witherspoon is fully occupied now with her production company, getting women-led television projects off the ground like Big Little Lies, Truth Be Told, Little Fires Everywhere, and The Morning Show. Meanwhile, a third Legally Blonde has long been in the works; for now, we’re ranking all Reese Witherspoon movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus:A Wrinkle in Time is visually gorgeous, big-hearted, and occasionally quite moving; unfortunately, it's also wildly ambitious to a fault, and often less than the sum of its classic parts.
Synopsis: Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever... [More]
Critics Consensus: Delightfully sweet like a lollipop, Just Like Heaven is a dreamy romantic comedy that may give you a toothache when it attempts to broach difficult end of life issues by throwing a cherry on top.
Synopsis: David (Mark Ruffalo) is a recently widowed architect moving into a new apartment in San Francisco. But the apartment isn't... [More]
Critics Consensus: Oliver Parker's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic play is breezy entertainment, helped by an impressive cast, but it also suffers from some peculiar directorial choices that ultimately dampen the film's impact.
Synopsis: Two young gents have taken to bending the truth in order to put some excitement into their lives. Worthing (Colin... [More]
Critics Consensus: It suffers from a frustratingly deliberate pace, but with nuanced performances from Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, and Reese Witherspoon to fall back on, Twilight can't help but be compelling.
Synopsis: Harry (Paul Newman), a retired private eye, lives in an apartment on the grounds of the estate owned by his... [More]
Critics Consensus: If it falls short of the deadly satire of Bret Easton Ellis's novel, American Psycho still finds its own blend of horror and humor, thanks in part to a fittingly creepy performance by Christian Bale.
Synopsis: In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as... [More]
Critics Consensus:Inherent Vice may prove frustrating for viewers who demand absolute coherence, but it does justice to its acclaimed source material -- and should satisfy fans of director P.T. Anderson.
Synopsis: In a California beach community, private detective Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) tends to work his cases through a smoky... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Good Lie sacrifices real-life nuance in order to turn its true story into a Hollywood production, but the results still add up to a compelling, well-acted, and deeply moving drama.
Synopsis: After their village is destroyed and their parents killed by Northern militia, Sudanese orphans Theo, his siblings and other survivors... [More]
Critics Consensus: It's sentimental, and some viewers may feel manipulated by the melodramatic final act, but The Man in the Moon offers a finely drawn coming-of-age story with an excellent cast -- including Reese Witherspoon in her film debut.
Synopsis: Maureen Trant (Emily Warfield) and her younger sibling Dani (Reese Witherspoon) share a strong connection, but local boy Court Foster... [More]
When the first of January hits, chances are you’ll be stuffed with holiday goodies, full of various meats and/or cheeses, and all partied out. You’ll also probably be looking for something to watch as you recover from all the festivities. Luckily, Netflix is releasing a ton of new stuff, particularly on January 1, that should keep you entertained. See below for the full list of new movies, TV shows, and originals coming to Netflix in January.
Song Kang-ho (The Host) and Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) star in South Korean director Kim Jee-woon’s (I Saw the Devil; The Good, the Bad, the Weird) period thriller about two men on opposite sides of Korea’s fight for independence from Japan.
Al Pacino and Marlon Brando lead an ensemble cast in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s mob family epic, widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. All three chapters of the Godfather saga will be available to stream on January 1.
Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon star in Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning historical drama about the ill-fated titular space mission, during which an on-board explosion forced three astronauts to abort a trip to the moon.
Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and a slew of stars breathe life into Woody Allen’s dreamy romantic comedy about an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to an idealized version of the city in the 1920s.
Based on the novel of the same name by Laura Esquival, Alfonso Arau’s magical romantic tale centers on the forbidden love between a man and a young woman who can make others feel what she feels through the food that she cooks.
Gene Wilder offers an iconic performance as Roald Dahl’s slightly nutty candy mogul, who welcomes a handful of children to his sweets factory with the intention of bequeathing his company to one of them.
Christian Bale and Michael Caine star in Christopher Nolan’s beloved reboot of the Batman mythology, a supremely effective but dark and brooding affair that set an ill-advised precedent for DC superhero movies to come.
Naomi Watts and Jack Black star in Peter Jackson’s update on the original monster movie, about a giant ape on a remote island who is captured and brought back to civilization for the amusement of humans.
Based upon Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel and featuring an all-star cast, this fantasy follows a young man who embarks on a journey through a forbidden kingdom to prove his love to the girl of his dreams by presenting her with a fallen star.
Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, and Hugh Laurie lend their voices to this DreamWorks animated film about a group of abnormal creatures who come to the aid of humanity when Earth is invaded by an alien robot.
One of the most hyped movies in Hollywood history, Batman found director Tim Burton jettisoning the plots (if not the dark tone) of Bob Kane’s original comics, and utilizing set designs reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and freakish, brooding characters similar to… well, a Tim Burton movie.
In this romantic comedy that essentially inspired How I Met Your Mother, Ryan Reynolds stars as a man who recounts his past conquests (played by Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz) to his daughter when his impending divorce makes her insufferably inquisitive.
Remember how innocent the Biebz was back in 2011, before all the tattoos and poopy-diaper pants? Watch this naively optimistic documentary about Ju-Bieb’s improbable rise to stardom from the gritty streets of Ontario to the echo chamber of YouTube and beyond.
Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku star in this tongue-in-cheek look at the competitive high school cheerleading scene that was so acceptable it lead directly to an MCU gig for director Peyton Reed (Ant-Man).
Thanks in part to its luminous cast, which includes Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Andrew “CORRRRALL” Lincoln, Richard Curtis’ yuletide romantic comedy has become a seasonal cult favorite.
Showtime’s show business satire stars Matt LeBlanc as an exaggerated version of himself, tapped to play the lead in a new sitcom imported from the UK, and Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan as the put-upon husband-wife creators of said sitcom.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star in this supernatural horror story based on true events about a family experiencing unexplained disturbances in their new home who call upon paranormal investigators for help.
Matthew McConnaughey won an Oscar for his portrayal of unlikely AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in Jean-Marc Vallée’s drama about the Texas man who was diagnosed with HIV and took matters into his own hands to find treatments wherever he could.
Ever since 1998 and into this Friday’s release of Kung Fu Panda 3, DreamWorks Animation has emerged as one of the dominant forces in animated storytelling worldwide, whose blend of state-of-the-art tech and raucous contemporary humor has carved their own identity in our current cartoon renaissance. Kung Fu Panda 3 inspires this week’s 24 Frames gallery, in which we explore the nearly two-decade history of DreamWorks Animation.
She’s one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood, with dozens of films to her credit and a lifetime box office gross total topping a billion dollars — and this weekend, Reese Witherspoon will add to that impressive sum with Hot Pursuit, an action comedy pairing her with Sofia Vergara. To celebrate Reese’s return to the big screen, as well as a terrific 2014 that included her Oscar-nominated work in Wild as well as a small supporting appearance in Inherent Vice, we decided to dedicate this week’s Total Recall to an appreciative look back at some of her best-reviewed releases.
Critics tend to vilify the romantic comedy, but it’s an undeniable rite of passage for twentysomething actresses in Hollywood, and with 2001’s Legally Blonde, Witherspoon managed to enjoy the perks of the genre (such as the pay raise that comes with toplining a $141 million smash hit) without succumbing to its worst pitfalls (including dreadful scripts and scathing reviews). While Legally Blonde is far from groundbreaking, and its plot hinges on any number of silly contrivances, it’s never less than likable — largely thanks to a magnetic performance from its talented leading lady. In the words of Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, “As an actor of distinction who’s all of 25, Reese Witherspoon reveals interesting dark roots even as she plays golden girls.”
In real life, Reese Witherspoon is a hair under five feet, two inches tall, which might be why the idea of playing a freakishly tall woman nicknamed “Ginormica” appealed to her — or maybe it was just the chance to score one of those cushy voice acting gigs that all the major celebrities seem to get these days. Either way, the result was Monsters vs. Aliens, Witherspoon’s only film of 2009 and a $381 million 3D hit for DreamWorks Animation. Alongside the famous voices of Seth Rogen, Kiefer Sutherland, Steven Colbert, Rainn Wilson, Will Arnett, and others, Witherspoon helped wreak family-friendly cartoon havoc — and helped earn praise from critics like the Houston Chronicle’s Amy Biancolli, who wrote, “True, the story doesn’t amount to much, but the plot tends to take a back seat when you’ve got a not-quite-50-foot version of Reese Witherspoon duking it out with a mighty alien robot alongside the Golden Gate Bridge.”
She’d made a few movies by the mid-’90s, but it was Reese Witherspoon’s work in 1996’s Freeway that really made critics sit up and take notice. At the center of this modern take on Red Riding Hood, playing a juvenile delinquent whose trip to her grandmother’s house is impeded by a wolfish sexual predator (Kiefer Sutherland), she essentially used her smoldering performance as a challenge, daring viewers to look away. It was a challenge unmet by many critics, including the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Margaret A. McGurk, who wrote, “I didn’t particularly want to like Freeway, but I couldn’t help myself. Reese Witherspoon made me.”
Witherspoon joined the ranks of Oscar-winning leading ladies for her sensitive portrayal of June Carter Cash in this Johnny Cash biopic, which follows the early years of the Man in Black (played by Joaquin Phoenix), including the beginning of his career and the romance that would endure through more than four decades of his life. One of the year’s biggest hits and a five-time Academy Award nominee, Walk the Line wasn’t without its concessions to Hollywood formula — or without its critics, including Cash’s daughter Rosanne — but most scribes had plenty of praise for the film, including Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer, who wrote, “I advise you catch up with Walk the Line, if only for Ms. Witherspoon’s transcendent joyousness as a still-growing legend within a legend.”
Gary Ross’ Pleasantville could easily have been nothing more than a gentle, simple satire about the way nostalgia changes our memories, but beneath the surface of the story — which sends a pair of squabbling modern teens (played by Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire) into the world of a 1950s sitcom — there’s some thoughtful commentary on civil rights and the cruelly arbitrary ways society can oppress those who don’t fit in. Pleasantville wasn’t a blockbuster hit, but it earned some of the best reviews of the year from critics like Louis B. Hobson of Jam! Movies, who wrote, “This wondrous little fable is a cross between The Truman Show and Back to the Future — and it’s better than both.”
Befitting its title, The Good Lie practiced a bit of well-meaning subterfuge with its marketing materials, selling this fact-based drama about the American lives of Sudanese refugees once known as “lost boys” by putting Witherspoon’s face front and center on the poster. But if her character — a Kansas City settlement worker given the life-altering task of helping her charges adjust to their new environment — isn’t truly central to the story, her performance remains a solid anchor in a film whose ingredients run the gamut from Hollywood gloss to real-life horror. “This is very much a mainstream movie meant to shine a light on the plight of people who were ignored for too long,” wrote the Arizona Republic’s Bill Goodykoontz. “For that reason alone, it’s well worth seeing.”
For her first film, Witherspoon found herself in good company, including director Robert Mulligan (concluding a career that included To Kill a Mockingbird and Summer of ’42) and co-stars Sam Waterston and Tess Harper. But in this sweet coming-of-age drama, it’s Witherspoon’s character that largely drives the story, and she carried the film with an assured performance that belied her youth and lack of experience. Man in the Moon “gets an outstandingly natural performance out of Miss Witherspoon, who has no trouble carrying a lot of the film single-handedly,” wrote Janet Maslin for the New York Times. “It falls to her to remind the audience that this story is at heart about a family, and she does.”
The sort of physically and dramatically demanding role that an actor can spend an entire career waiting to score, Wild gave Witherspoon the opportunity to shoulder an entire film pretty much on her own — and she more than delivered, bringing Cheryl Strayed’s unflinching memoir to the screen with a suitably fierce drama (directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from a screenplay by Nick Hornby) that takes viewers on a harrowing hike along the Pacific Crest Trail while reliving key moments from its protagonist’s bumpy past. At the forefront of it all are solid performances from Witherspoon and Laura Dern, both of whom picked up Oscar nominations for their efforts. As Mick LaSalle wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle, “This pensive, reflective, complicated Witherspoon feels more real than the one she left behind — and more in keeping with how she started, in hard-hitting independent movies 20 years ago.”
It takes a special type of young actress to embody a character who is both seductive enough to destroy one high school teacher’s career and irritating enough to turn another teacher into an election-fixing madman — and that’s exactly what Witherspoon did as Election‘s Tracy Flick, the overachieving senior whose steamrolling campaign for student body president inspires one of her teachers (Matthew Broderick) to take desperate measures to keep her out of office. Critics expected great things from writer/director Alexander Payne after 1996’s Citizen Ruth, and Election delivered — and it also helped cement Witherspoon’s burgeoning reputation, thanks to reviews from critics like CNN’s Paul Clinton, who wrote, “Reese Witherspoon is proving to be one of the most versatile actresses of her generation.”
Just when it seemed like she might be forever doomed to a lifetime of romantic comedies like Four Christmases and This Means War, Witherspoon turned up next to her fellow rom-com refugee Matthew McConaughey in 2013’s Mud — and although he received much of the movie’s accolades for one of the roles that helped spark his so-called “McConaissance,” there really are no false notes or out-of-place performances in writer-director Jeff Nichols’ tale of a mysterious man who claims to be on the run from bounty hunters and desperate to flee with the love of his life. Calling it “More than a mere tribute to Twain and Dickens,” the Vine’s Alice Tynan wrote, “This has all the makings of a modern classic.”
This week on home video, we’ve got a bunch of ’09 films hitting DVD shelves (Monsters vs. Aliens, Away We Go, The Brothers Bloom, and more), as well as a couple of fantasy classics for those who grew up in the 80s (Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal) that are getting the high definition treatment for the first time. Then we’ve got one iconic film receiving a brand new anniversary edition (The Wizard of Oz) and a first-time complete collection of a movie-based cartoon series (The Real Ghostbusters). As usual, we’ve tried to bring a good variety to the list while still highlighting the brand new releases, so have a look and see if anything tickles your fancy.
Dreamworks Animation may not have the consistency of Pixar, but they’re doing well nonetheless, with a couple of high profile franchises (Shrek and Madagascar) and last year’s hit Kung-Fu Panda. Monsters vs. Aliens was its next big winner, making over $350 million worldwide at the box office and garnering enough critical praise to earn a 72% Tomatometer — not too shabby. Starring the voice talents of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, and Hugh Laurie among others, Monsters vs. Aliens centers around Susan Murphy (Witherspoon), who is transformed into a giant by a meteorite on her wedding day. Taken into custody by the government, she meets other quarantined “monsters,” and when an invading alien threatens the planet, Susan and her new friends are called upon to defend the Earth. Monsters vs. Aliens was noted for its particularly effective use of 3D, and if you pick up either the Blu-Ray version or the DVD “Ginormous Double Pack,” you’ll get four pairs of 3D glasses and a bonus adventure starring B.O.B. the blob (Rogen), in addition to all the special features. FYI, if you grab the standalone DVD of the movie, you won’t get the glasses or B.O.B.’s bonus adventure.
After his powerful suburban melodrama Revolutionary Road, director Sam Mendes decided to lighten the mood a bit with road trip comedy starring John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live), who play young couple Burt Farlander and Verona De Tessant. Just a few months away from having their first child, Burt and Verona decide to leave their home in Colorado in search of a better place to settle down, crossing paths with family and friends along the way. The film earned a 66% on the Tomatometer, with most critics willing to dismiss some of its familiar indie comedy elements for its sweetness and the likeability of its main characters. Special features include a couple of featurettes, including one on environmentally friendly “green” filmmaking, and a feature commentary with Mendes and writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. You can pick it up on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
Another film that opened earlier this year and flew under the radar of most moviegoers is The Brothers Bloom, a quirky, darkly comedic take on the caper movie. It stars Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weisz in a story about two brothers (Brody and Ruffalo) in the con business who plan a final job to swindle an heiress (Weisz) out of her fortune. When the heiress expresses interest in joining the brothers in their business, their plan meanders into unpredictable territory; emotions develop, people are arrested, and the trio soon find themselves struggling for their lives. The film earned marginally Fresh status at 62%, with critics noting that the actors delivered fine performances, but the story left something to be desired. It drops this week on DVD and Blu-Ray, with special features such as a commentary track and deleted scenes. *Note – This title is only being made available for rental on 9/29; you’ll have to wait a bit longer to buy it for your own collection.
Say what you will about Steven Soderbergh: he certainly doesn’t play things safe. Sandwiched between his epic Che Guevara biopic and The Informant! was the lo-fi drama The Girlfriend Experience. Adult film star Sasha Grey stars as a high-priced call girl who provides a unique service: for a price, she’ll pretend to be your significant other. The reviews were mixed, but more than a few critics found The Girlfriend Experience to be an interesting experiment, as well as an unconventional metaphor for the current economic crisis. The DVD features an unrated cut of the film, as well as a making-of documentary.
Steve Zahn has played dozens of supporting roles in films, regularly stealing scenes with his goofy, offbeat humor, but in Management, he gets the opportunity to play the lead opposite Jennifer Aniston. What’s more, the movie is an attempt to paint stalkers in a sympathetic light, and if anyone can make stalking lovable, it’s probably Steve Zahn. Zahn plays Mike, the manager of a motel his parents own in Arizona. When Sue (Aniston), a traveling saleswoman, ends up at the motel, the two share a few nights together, and Mike becomes instantly obsessed, following Sue home across the country in hopes of winning her heart for good. Unfortunately for Zahn, the film failed to perform very well with audiences or critics, some of whom nevertheless thought both actors played their parts endearingly. Still, for those looking for an unconventional rom-com, you could certainly do worse.
What more is there to say about The Wizard of Oz? It remains of the crowning achievements of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with its combination of visual splendor, enduring musical numbers, and its strange, fantastical story of equal parts wide-eyed wonder and dark melancholy. Obviously, a movie of this magnitude requires some bells and whistles for its 70th anniversary, and that’s what you get with the four-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition, which features a new transfer of the film, commentary tracks, earlier cinematic versions of Frank L. Baum’s tale, and a number of documentaries about the making of the film, its principle cast and crew. It’s available on both standard DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
Back in the 80s, a slew of imaginative and sometimes creepy fantasy films for children (The Neverending Story, Legend, Return to Oz, etc.) showed up in cinemas everywhere, and many of them seemed to strive for the same aesthetic. This meant lots of creative set decoration and advanced puppetry (this was before the age of mass CGI). Arguably two of the best known of these are Labyrinth, starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, and The Dark Crystal, and this week, both films are blessed with the hi-def treatment. In doing so, both films come with a few new HD-exclusive goodies: for Labyrinth, you’ll get a picture-in-picture function with interesting tidbits about the movie, and for The Dark Crystal, there’s an interactive function to learn fun facts as the movies playing, as well as a trivia game and a picture-in-picture storyboard that displays concept art as the movie plays. If you passed on these two films before, this might be the time to pick them up.
Recent direct-to-video productions based on comic franchises have met with mixed results, and we have yet to gather enough reviews for Superman/Batman: Public Enemies to generate a Tomatometer score. But a few details might be telling enough to convince fans to pick up this latest from the DC universe. First, it’s based on the opening six-part storyline of the Superman/Batman series, in which the two heroes must work together to thwart newly elected President Lex Luthor’s plans to utilize an approaching Kryptonite meteor for his own purposes. Second, the voice cast from both respective television shows has been brought on board to bring life to the characters. Third, the special features include a couple of new items that will be of interest to fans, like an examination of the two heroes from a psychological standpoint and an interview piece featuring Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray.
Brutal straightforwardness in advertising is a novel concept that sometimes works, but the same approach typically denotes farce or satire when applied to movie titles (e.g. Scary Movie). So when people began to realize that Snakes on a Plane was not, in fact, simply the working title for the film, audiences had to wonder, “What exactly is this movie? A thriller? A comedy?” In the end, most were content to watch Samuel L. Jackson battle legless reptiles and exclaim things like, “I’ve had it with these mother****ing snakes on this mother****ing plane!” over the course of an hour and forty minutes, and before we knew it, we had something of a cult phenomenon on our hands. This week, the over-the-top actioner comes out on Blu-Ray, and while there aren’t any brand new special features to speak of, at least you know you’ll get a crystal clear view of a snake swallowing a bald man’s head.
Continuing with the 80s childhood theme, we end with another gem hitting stores this week. Ivan Reitman scored comedy gold when Ghostbusters proved to be a legitimate blockbuster hit in 1984, and it wasn’t long after that an animated daytime TV show soon followed. The Real Ghostbusters debuted in ’86 and ran successfully for 5 seasons, featuring cartoon versions of Egon, Ray, Peter, and Winston, as well as a more friendly, endearing incarnation of Slimer. Starting Tuesday, you can pick up the Complete Collection, which is being released by Time Life Records. The hefty box set arrives in nifty packaging that resembles their firehouse headquarters, includes all 147 episodes of the series, and comes with a truckload of goodies, such as show introductions, episode commentaries, a detailed and informative booklet, and a handful of featurettes, all totaling twelve hours of extra material. It’s also got a relatively hefty price tag, but with this much goodness, we dare say it’s worth it for any fan of the show.
Following a very pricey marketing campaign, DreamWorks Animation’s 3D
Monsters vs. Aliens delivered on its promises and attracted the largest
opening weekend of any film this year leading the overall marketplace to its
best performance in over a month. Big muscles were also flexed by Lionsgate
which enjoyed one of its biggest horror openings ever with The Haunting
in Connecticut which landed in second place with a powerful launch of
its own. The top ten films sold $135M worth of ticket stubs making it the best
non-holiday tally of 2009.
As the main event at the multiplexes this weekend, Monsters vs.
Aliens captured an estimated $58.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period to
lead a busy frame at the box office. Paramount released the PG-rated hit in an
ultrawide 4,104 locations averaging a stellar $14,181 per location. The numbers
were helped by higher-priced tickets from the 1,550 theaters that featured the
3D presentation with most charging an extra $3 or so per stub. Many exhibitors
allocated screens for both the 2D and more expensive 3D versions offering their
customers a choice although most moviegoers chose to pay more for the extra
dimension. Real D, the leading supplier of 3D equipment, reported that its
screens accounted for about $25M, or 43%, of the total weekend gross.
Produced for $165M, Monsters got off to a superb start with $16.8M on
Friday followed by a 45% surge on Saturday to $24.4M and an estimated 30% dip on
Sunday to $17M.
It was the best opening of the year so far surpassing the $55.2M of Watchmen from the
beginning of the month. For DreamWorks, it was the second largest opening for a
non-sequel toon trailing Kung Fu Panda‘s
$60.2M from last June by a slim margin. And for the month of March, Monsters
delivered the third highest bow after 300 ($70.9M) and Ice Age: The Meltdown
($68M). Looking at admissions however, Monsters attracted about as many
people as the first Ice Age and Shark Tale reached
in their debut frames. Fox’s Ice Age opened
to $46.3M in March 2002 which would amount to roughly $58M at today’s 2D ticket
prices. The DreamWorks hit Shark Tale bowed to $47.6M in October 2004, or
roughly $56M today.
But with schools taking breaks for Easter in the coming weeks, the long-term
outlook seems bright for Monsters vs. Aliens. Fox has routinely scheduled
family-friendly toons around the spring holiday with past March titles like Horton Hears a Who, Robots, and the
Ice Age pics finishing with at least three times their opening weekend
takes. That would put Monsters on course to reach the neighborhood of
$175M domestically. Overseas markets should also generate plenty of heat given
how strong toons do abroad. DreamWorks vaulted past the $400M mark overseas
twice last year with Panda and
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, although each had an internationally-set
story. A global box office gross north of $500M for Monsters would not be
Young women looking for a scare powered the new supernatural thriller The Haunting
in Connecticut to a stellar second place debut spending an estimated
$23M over the opening weekend. With a teen-friendly PG-13 rating, the Lionsgate
spookfest averaged a muscular $8,422 from 2,732 sites giving the distributor its
best horror movie opening ever outside of the Saw franchise. Studio
research indicated that 62% of the audience was female while 44% was between the
ages of 17 and 24. Friday got off to a solid start with $9.6M, Saturday dipped
9% to $8.7M, and Sunday is estimated to fall by 46% to $4.7M. A creepy marketing
campaign helped to excite the target audience which helped Haunting score
the second biggest debut of the year for a fright film after only Friday the
13th’s $40.6M from last month.
Last weekend’s trio of new releases got bumped down two notches each but
remained in the same order. The Nicolas Cage hit Knowing enjoyed a
solid second weekend hold dropping just 40%, a low decline for a
critically-panned sci-fi actioner, grossing an estimated $14.7M. After ten days,
Summit has banked a solid $46.2M and could be headed for a $75-80M finish.
The smallest dip in the top ten was generated by the buddy comedy I Love You, Man
which slid only 29% to an estimated $12.6M giving Paramount $37M after ten days
of play. Julia
Clive Owen witnessed a larger 46% fall for their spy pic Duplicity
which followed with an estimated $7.6M for a cume of $25.6M. Final grosses
should reach around $70M and $45M, respectively. Starpower may help Universal’s
caper flick do better in international waters.
With families getting their 3D kick this weekend, Disney’s Race to Witch
Mountain took a big hit falling 56% to an estimated $5.6M. Total is
$53.3M in 17 days.
Opening poorly in seventh with an estimated $5.3M was the cop actioner 12 Rounds which
averaged a mere $2,274 from 2,331 locations. Starring wrestler/actor John Cena, the
PG-13 film played to young males and came in below the $7.1M bow his film The Marine from 2006.
Though drawing big numbers on television and even pay-per-view, producer World
Wrestling Entertainment has struggled to make the leap to the big screen with
its ventures. Fox handled distribution duties on 12 Rounds.
Following in eighth with an estimated $2.8M was Watchmenwhich
tumbled 60% lifting the sum to $103.3M. The Warner Bros. release has fallen by
at least 60% every weekend since debuting at the beginning of the month and now
looks to finish its domestic run with $105-110M meaning more than half of its
overall total will have been grossed during the opening weekend. Fox’s sleeper
hit Taken grossed an
estimated $2.7M, off 34% in its ninth frame, for a cume of $137.1M. Rounding out
the top ten with an estimated $2.6M was the horror flick The
Last House on the Left which dropped 55% pushing the total to $28.5M for
Continuing to show considerable strength in limited release was Overture’s indie
Cleaning which expanded from 64 to 167 theaters in its third weekend and
grossed an estimated $1.3M jumping up to eleventh place. The R-rated hit
averaged a solid $8,048 which is an impressive figure given the theater count
and age of the film. Cume to date is $2.5M. Also doing well was the Mexican gang
Nombre with an estimated $68,512 from only six sites for a $11,419
average. The Focus title has taken in $184,000 in ten days.
With the first quarter of 2009 almost complete, the North American box office is
sizzling once again with total ticket sales at an estimated $2.4 billion, up a
terrific 11% from a year ago. Ten of the thirteen weekends have been up versus
2008 with eight of those enjoying double-digit jumps. But amazingly, this
improvement has occurred despite a decrease in actual films being released. The
first quarter has seen 36 films open in wide release, down 16% from the 43 over
the same period last year. Fifteen hits debuted north of $20M compared to only
ten from a year earlier. And four have topped the $100M mark in total grosses
versus just one from 2008 at this same point. This excludes films that reached
wide release in December and were still playing well into the new year like Slumdog
Millionaire and Juno
last year. Studios have done a commendable job streamlining their marketing
efforts on a smaller slate of films and have walked away with more ticket sales
in the process.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $135.1M which was up a whopping 58% from
last year when 21
opened in the top spot with $24.1M; and up a healthy 20% from 2007 when Blades of Glory
opened at number one with $33M.