Pugilists have been popular camera subjects since the start — boxing, at the time, being arguably the most interesting thing you do to another person in public. In the odd century-plus that’s passed since, boxing cinema has evolved past mere punching for spectacle. It’s about personal toil. Training. Strength. Sacrifice. Undying commitment to the physical vision. And then it’s about hitting somebody for money. Or respect, sure.
Tonight’s title bout: The best-reviewed boxing movies ever! In one corner, we have heavyweight classics like Rocky and Raging Bull. In the other, hungry newcomers like Creed and Million Dollar Baby. And in another corner (we have a lot of corners): hard-hitting documentaries, repped by When We Were Kings and Unforgivable Blackness. And, yes, we’re going international in this corner: see Knuckle all the way from Ireland, and China Heavyweight, all the way from, er, China. To be a contender, the movie needed to put up a Fresh rating after 20 reviews, before we ranked them with our weighted formula calculating a film’s Tomatometer score, its number of reviews, and year of release.
Think you got what it takes to take on the champs? Hit ’em where it counts! Hit ’em right in the 33 Best Boxing Movies of All Time!
Man’s best friend, the giant robot, gets a little more love as Netflix drops its third season of Voltron: Legendary Defender. In celebration, we’ve bolted together one heckuva mecha list: Choose and upvote your favorite giant robots from TV and movie history.
After nearly 20 years and a slew of X-Men franchise installments, Hugh Jackman walked away from Wolverine (presumably) with this past weekend’s Logan. In celebration of his impressive run as one of comics’ most popular characters, we decided to devote this week’s list to a fond look back at some of the brightest critical highlights from a wonderfully eclectic filmography that looks like it’s only begun to tap into his prodigious potential. Snikt! It’s time for Total Recall!
Looking at its premise on paper — giant robots boxing! — you might expect Real Steel would be the sort of critic-proof flick that takes a tumble on the Tomatometer while luring action enthusiasts to the cineplex in blockbuster-sized droves. The reality, however, was surprisingly complex; it’s actually a family drama with sci-fi overtones, starring Hugh Jackman as a washed-up boxer who becomes a promoter after robot boxers take over, and Dakota Goyo as the estranged son who helps him build a pugilistic machine that’ll rule the ring. Laced with enough grit to keep from becoming a total CGI fest while still making room for a handful of adrenaline-inducing set pieces, Steel earned a somewhat muted response from audiences, who turned out in respectable but not spectacular numbers — and a surprising amount of admiration from critics like NPR’s Linda Holmes, who argued, “Real Steel is ridiculous, but it is not dispiriting. If you’re going to make this movie, it should be made just this way, with commitment, verve and a complete disregard for physics, robotics and environmentalism.”
Round up a bunch of dramatic actors, hand them a classic musical, and ask them to sing — live in front of the camera, no less — and if nothing else, you’re bound to get points for audacity. Les Miserables director Tom Hooper courted disaster with this approach to his 2012 adaptation of the Broadway favorite, but emerged largely unscathed, winning a pile of Golden Globes and picking up eight Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) while racking up more than $440 million in worldwide grosses. Not bad for yet another version of a story just about everyone had already seen, and although a number of critics were unmoved by the movie’s unabashed efforts to wring tears from the audience, the majority found all that huge drama impossible to resist. An acknowledged singing talent in a cast notably short on them, Jackman earned an Academy Award nomination for his work as the long-suffering Jean Valjean — but Glenn Kenny of MSN Movies thought he “should get a Nobel Prize for the way he carries pretty much the whole undertaking on his shoulders, so protean and virile is his singing and acting throughout.”
The homicidal streak that makes Wolverine such a fascinating character in the comics is also what’s made him relatively problematic on the big screen, and its PG-13 neutering is part of what rendered Hugh Jackman’s previous solo outing as the clawed superhero, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, such a disappointment for longtime fans. Director James Mangold had the benefit of lowered expectations when it came time to helm the follow-up, The Wolverine, but the end result — which drew inspiration from a beloved ‘80s comics story that sent the character to Japan — earned more than a slow clap from critics; as Mick LaSalle enthused for the San Francisco Chronicle, “Somewhere along the line somebody must have had a crazy idea, that The Wolverine required a decent script, and shouldn’t rely only on action, audience goodwill and the sight of Hugh Jackman with his shirt off. The team delivers with this one.”
After Batman Begins hit big, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale had their pick of projects to choose from — and they opted to reunite for The Prestige, a film Nolan had been eyeing since his post-Memento days. In this adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel, Bale stars opposite Jackman in the tale of two early 20th century magicians driven to dangerous lengths in their personal and professional feud. With a plot hinging on a series of progressively more unpredictable twists and turns, The Prestige was bound to provoke a number of divergent responses, but with gross receipts over $100 million and a Certified Fresh 76 percent Tomatometer, it packed enough of a suspenseful flourish to earn praise from scribes such as Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, who observed, “there are nifty tricks galore up the sumptuous sleeve of this offbeat and wildly entertaining thriller.”
An inspirational sports dramedy about a Winter Olympics hopeful with slim chances of success and a coach who also happens to be a disgraced former competitor, Eddie the Eagle has some obvious similarities to Cool Runnings — and in fact its protagonist, real-life British ski jumper Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, competed at the same Olympics that hosted Runnings‘ Jamaican bobsled team. But no sports movie is purely original anyway, and beyond those undeniable similarities to stories we’ve heard before, this good-natured dramatization of Edwards’ story — starring Taron Egerton in the title role and Jackman as his hard-drinking coach Bronson Peary — has no shortage of individual charm. “A tad sugary sweet,” admitted the Toronto Sun’s Liz Braun, “but thanks to the performances of Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, the end result is a family film that’s highly entertaining.”
Today, Hugh Jackman is pretty much synonymous with the role of Wolverine, but he wasn’t Bryan Singer’s first — or second — choice for the part; in fact, it only fell to him after Russell Crowe’s salary demands and Dougray Scott’s scheduling conflicts kept both of them from bringing the clawed, cigar-chomping antihero to the screen. Jackman, an unknown at the time, represented a bit of a gamble for the long-in-development X-Men adaptation, but with an ensemble cast that included Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto, and Halle Berry as Storm, the summer of 2000 brought Marvel’s favorite mutants to the big screen in style, racking up almost $300 million in worldwide grosses and a healthy stack of positive reviews from critics like New York Magazine’s Peter Rainer, who deemed it “A rarity: a comic-book movie with a satisfying cinematic design and protagonists you want to watch.”
How far would you go to find — or find justice for — your child? That dark dilemma sits at the heart of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, a taut 2013 drama starring Jackman as Keller Dover, a father frantic with worry after his daughter disappears. When the police release their first suspect, Dover abducts the man (Paul Dano) and holds him captive, intent on gathering information by any means necessary — even though his prisoner has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old and might not even be responsible for the crime. Surrounded by a stellar cast that included Jake Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, Jackman anchored this unflinching descent into every parent’s nightmare with the palpable anguish needed to make the story tick. “The plot raises complicated moral questions about how far an anguished person will go for the love of a child,” wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today. “At the same time, it sets up an intricate, horrifying mystery with breathtaking skill.”
Given the long odds it faced just getting to the screen, let alone pulling off the transition so successfully, it seemed altogether unlikely that X-Men’s inevitable sequel would be able to achieve the same standard, let alone exceed it – but that’s exactly what 2003’s X2: X-Men United did, both at the box office, where it grossed over $400 million, and among critics, who praised it even more highly than its predecessor. This was, appropriately, accomplished two ways: One, the screenplay satisfied critics and longtime fans by tackling the comic’s long-running sociological themes, most explicitly the fear of “outside” elements (in this case, sexy super-powered mutants) and how that fear is channeled by xenophobic authority figures; two, the sequel ramped up the original’s gee-whiz factor by introducing characters like the teleporting, prehensile-tailed Nightcrawler – and daring to tease at the Marvel title’s Phoenix storyline, one of the most beloved, brain-bending plots in the publisher’s history. The result was a film that remains both a fan favorite and a critical benchmark for writers like Variety’s Todd McCarthy, who lauded X2 as “bigger and more ambitious in every respect, from its action and visceral qualities to its themes.”
Unlike the majority of film franchises that reboot themselves with younger casts, the X-Men series has the built-in advantage of drawing from comics mythology that makes room for time travel as well as superhumanly slow-aging mutants — which is how Jackman found himself called upon to once again do battle as Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The plot, which involves Wolverine going back in time to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from carrying out a political assassination that spells certain doom for mutantkind, includes all manner of tangled threads that could have sent the movie tumbling into the weeds, but director Bryan Singer tied it all nimbly together in his triumphant return to helming the franchise, uniting the OG X-Men with their younger counterparts in a blockbuster extravaganza that even managed to retcon the much-maligned X-Men: The Last Stand out of the official timeline. “Everything is of a piece,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern, “and it’s dazzling.”
Third time’s the charm. After whiffing on their first opportunity to give Wolverine a compelling solo outing with the calamitous Origins, then inching a little closer to snikt-worthy cinema with The Wolverine, Fox finally gave fans a properly grim and gritty third installment. Logan peers into a dark future for our favorite mutants, with most of the X-Men dead after a mysterious tragedy and Wolverine reduced to working as a driver while caring for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and saving up enough money to buy a boat and sail off into aquatic exile. Fate has less peaceful plans for our heroes, of course; in short order, Logan finds himself embroiled in a dangerous plot involving a mysterious lab and a young girl on the run (Dafne Keen). It’s a classic Wolverine caper, loosely inspired by the Old Man Logan comics arc, and delivered with all the hard-hitting, hard-R panache fans waited patiently to see — not to mention the vast majority of critics. “Entertaining as they are, Marvel movies aren’t expected to be this mature, this dark or this human,” wrote Colin Covert for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is a bold, coherent story inspired by a comic book, not slavishly based on it.”
This weekend, the worldwide protests against remakes came out in full force as the robot boxers of Real Steel squeaked out a victory over the 80s remakes of Footloose and The Thing, while the weekend’s other new release The Big Year crashed and burned. Overall the box office dropped nearly 37% from last year.
Holding on for a second straight weekend at the top of the charts was the Hugh Jackman robot boxing family drama Real Steel which fell a respectable 40% from last weekend to an estimated $16.3M, bringing its total to $51.7M. With two more weeks before Puss in Boots comes gunning for the family audience, a final in the $90-100M range is likely, with that century mark a definite possibility.
The heavily hyped remake Footloose landed in second place this weekend with an estimated $16.1M from 3,549 dance halls, for a per screen average of a so-so $4,536. The film opened at #1 on Friday, but lost steam as the weekend went along and families came out to see Real Steel, which was #1 on Saturday and Sunday. With a CinemaScore of an astounding A, it seems the people who actually went out to see Footloose really liked it, but getting past the stigma of remaking a beloved 80s classic was apparently a bit too much to overcome for Paramount.
Another 80s remake landed with a thud in third place as Universal’s horror flick The Thing grossed an estimated $8.7M from 2,996 screens, for a per screen average of a very sad $2,904. Other horror remakes have done reasonably well with tremendously front-loaded opening weekends before falling apart (Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street to name a couple) but it seems the name recognition of The Thing didn’t have quite the cache of the others. With a CinemaScore of a B-, expect The Thing to see a quick trip to DVD.
Holdovers took the next five spots on the charts, each falling less than 31% from last weekend. Fourth place belonged to George Clooney with his political thriller The Ides of March which dropped a slim 28% in its second weekend to an estimated $7.5M, bringing its cume to $22M. A final in the $50M range seems likely unless it manages to pick up a bunch of year-end awards, at which point the idea of a re-release (or re-expansion) seems likely to happen, which could push its total higher. Fifth place went to the dolphin tale Dolphin Tale, which took in an estimated $6.3M bringing its total to $58.7M. And the film it’s been running neck and neck with since their openings last month came in close behind in sixth as Moneyball took in $5.5M, according to estimates, seeing its total rise to $57.7M
Two tales of courage took seventh and eighth this weekend. The cancer dramedy 50/50 had the lowest drop in the top 10, falling only 23.7% to an estimated $4.3M, bringing its cume to $24.3M. And the religious-themed Courageous held on well in its third weekend, falling 30% to an estimated $3.4M, bringing its total to $21.4M for distributor Sony.
We had to take out a pair of binoculars to see the Steve Martin/Owen Wilson/Jack Black comedy The Big Year on the charts, but there it is, tucked into 9th place this weekend with an estimated $3.3M from 2,150 screens, for a dismal per screen average of $1,547. With a CinemaScore of a B- this is another film that won’t last very long in theaters. Apparently it’s not just sequels and remakes that people are protesting against. Rounding out the top 10 was the animated mega-hit The Lion King which roared its way to an estimated $2.7M in the 5th weekend of its 2-week limited release. Its total for the re-release is $90M, with its overall total now at $419M, putting it at #9 on the all-time blockbuster list, just ahead of Disney stablemate Toy Story 3 ($415M in 2010) and just behind yet another Disney film, 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($423.3M).
Outside of the top 10, Sony Picture Classics had a limited release for the Pedro Almodovar thriller The Skin I Live In starring Antonio Banderas. Released on only 6 screens, the film grossed an estimated $231,000 for a scorching per screen average of $38,500.
The top ten films grossed $74.2M which was down 36.6% from last year when Jackass 3D opened in the top spot with a new October record of $50.4M; and down 40.5% from 2009 when Where the Wild Things Are debuted at number one with $32.7M.
Compared to projections, Footloose, The Thing and The Big Year all debuted below Gitesh’s respective predictions of $20M, $13M and $6M.
This weekend, Hugh Jackman scored an easy victory over George Clooney in the battle of People magazine’s former sexiest men alive as the robot boxing actioner Real Steel punched up a number one debut well ahead of the political thriller The Ides of March which played in one-third fewer theaters. Overall box office during the Columbus Day holiday weekend was decent but not exceptional with holdovers filling up the rest of the top ten.
Topping the charts for six of the last eight weeks, Disney enjoyed another number one hit with the big-budget pic Real Steel which bowed to an estimated $27.3M marking the third largest opening ever over the Columbus Day holiday frame. The PG-13 film starring Jackman averaged a muscular $7,936 from 3,440 theaters and got some help from higher-priced tickets from its 270 IMAX locations. Produced for more than $100M by DreamWorks, Steel follows the sleeper sensation The Help in the Spielberg company’s recent rebound after a string of films that struggled at the box office.
Jackman also found good news from the opening as his past non-Wolverine roles have never generated big numbers in the American market. Mixed but generally positive reviews from critics helped but audiences mostly responded to the exciting look of the marketing of the picture. Plus it was the first major action film with broad appeal to hit theaters since the summer. According to studio research, males made up 66% of the audience while 70% were under 35. Real Steel earned an encouraging A CinemaScore grade which could bode well for the long-term run of the film.
Overseas, the robotic pic grossed an estimated $22.1M from 19 territories making for a $49.4M global debut. Russia, where the cast and crew traveled to for a lavish premiere, led the way with $6.9M while Jackman’s home country of Australia saw a $5.3M bow. Given that the star and the action genre play much better abroad, Real Steel could continue to post impressive global numbers as it rolls out into more markets. That will be crucial to the film breaking even since the marketing push has been elaborate and pricey.
Opening in second place with a good but not stellar performance was the political thriller The Ides of March with an estimated $10.4M from 2,199 theaters for a respectable $4,729 average. The R-rated election pic starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney (who also directed), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, and Evan Rachel Wood earned very good reviews from critics, however it did not wow paying audiences as the Sony release scored only a B grade from CinemaScore. Ides played exactly like a Clooney vehicle as its gross and average were in line with the actor’s recent films including The American ($13.2M opening, $4,668 average), Michael Clayton ($10.4M, $4,131), The Men Who Stare At Goats ($12.7M, $5,201), and Up in the Air ($11.3M, $5,947). Without Brad Pitt at his side adding extra box office muscle, the polarizing actor/director’s films only sell to so many people.
Sony is expecting a strong multiple given the Oscar buzz for Ides and the fact that Clayton also opened to the same gross in mid-October finishing with $49M for a multiple of nearly 5. However, $10M of that figure was collected during the film’s re-release when Oscar nominations were announced. The lawyer flick grossed $39.4M during its initial run giving it a multiple of 3.8 in that period. Sony’s other fall awards contender Moneyball is on course to finish its run with a multiple of about 3.7 while last fall’s well-reviewed dramas The Town and The Social Network enjoyed multiples of 3.9 and 4.3, respectively.
Ides, the story of a press spokesman for a presidential candidate who finds himself swept into the vicious world of politics, is a lower cost film so it carries less financial risk thanks to a production cost of only $12.5M. Sony acquired domestic rights to the title for an undisclosed amount and paid for the marketing. Having Clooney and Gosling certainly upped the female interest as exit polls showed that a very high 58% of the audience consisted of women. The thriller skewed much older as 60% was over 35. Over the last three months, Gosling has won raves from critics for his performances in Ides, Drive, and Crazy, Stupid, Love but still eluding him is the abiliity to draw in a sizable crowd at the multiplexes. If Ides succeeds in earning a Best Picture nomination, a January re-release would certainly be possible especially since it would be right at the start of the 2012 presidential primaries.
For the third weekend in a row, Seven co-stars Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt were side by side on the charts with their inspirational films which have grossed the same amount of money over the last 17 days. The Warner Bros. release Dolphin Tale dropped from first to third with an estimated $9.2M, off 34%, for a $49.1M cume. Sony’s Moneyball fell 38% to an estimated $7.5M giving the baseball drama $49.3M to date. Both look set to end up with around $70M.
The cancer comedy 50/50 enjoyed the best hold among last weekend’s four new releases dipping only 36% to an estimated $5.5M. The Summit release has collected a modest $17.3M in ten days and hopes to reach the $30M vicinity. The faith-based fatherhood pic Courageous lost 49% of its crowd and took in an estimated $4.6M giving Sony $15.9M. The low-budget $2M drama is headed for $25M or so.
Two-time chart-topper The Lion King 3D followed with an estimated $4.6M tumbling a steep 57% now that the updated film is available in stores on Blu-ray. Still, the re-release has banked an impressive $86M to date boosting the lifetime total for Simba and pals to $414.5M. Later this week, it will surpass the $415M of last year’s Toy Story 3 to reclaim the title of top-grossing animated film ever for Disney. 2004’s Shrek 2 from DreamWorks still holds the crown for all toons with $436.7M.
Universal’s spookfest Dream House dropped 45% after its lousy debut to an estimated $4.5M for a ten-day tally of only $14.5M. Falling 44% from its dismal start was the Anna Faris comedy What’s Your Number? which collected an estimated $3.1M and $10.3M across ten days. Final totals should reach $25M and $15M, respectively. Taylor Lautner’s action vehicle Abduction rounded out the top ten with an estimated $2.9M, down 48%, for a $23.4M sum for Lionsgate.
The top ten films grossed $79.4M which was up 3% from last year when The Social Network remained in the top spot with $15.5M; but down 14% from 2009 when Couples Retreat debuted at number one with a new Columbus Day weekend record of $34.3M.
We here at Rotten Tomatoes spend a lot of time reading and posting reviews from professional critics, but we don’t actually review movies ourselves. That changed early last year, when I started appearing on “What the Flick!?”, a web-based movie review show. If you aren’t familiar with the show, it’s a pretty irreverent discussion about what’s good and bad in theaters; the show boasts professionals like Christy Lemire (AP, Ebert Presents At the Movies), Ben Mankiewicz (Turner Classic Movies) and Alonso Duralde (The Wrap), and I’ve been sharing my own personal (and half-baked) reviews with them each week.
We figured it was high time that we started showing those video reviews here on RT, and from now on, we’ll be sharing the What the Flick!? show with you each week. Feel free to tell us what you think of the reviews, either here or on the What the Flick!? YouTube channel. And in case you’re concerned about a possible conflict of interest, don’t worry; my own reviews don’t count towards the Tomatometer.
George Clooney’s fourth directorial effort has him tackling the world of politics in this adaptation of a play called Farragut North. Clooney’s got a great cast here, including Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood.
Some people have been calling this “Rock’Em, Sock’Em Robots: The Movie,” but this film is actually based on a story by Richard Matheson (author of I Am Legend). No one on What the Flick!? likes it much, but at least one person thinks it’s a decent movie for the kids.